Tagged: fourth generation

Refers to video game consoles in the period 1987-1999, also known as the 16-bit era

SNK Neo Geo MVS (1990 – 2004)

The Neo Geo MVS (for ‘Multi Video System’) was a cartridge-based arcade game system released in 1990 by SNK.

The MVS was a coin-operated arcade console that could accept up to six cartridges in a single cabinet (1,2, and 4 slot versions were also available). Different games could be selected by players. and arcade operators could easily swap the cartridges inside the machine and change the exterior artwork. It was a successful product in the 1990s due to its low cost, compact size and the ability to offer different games in the same cabinet. When released, it was also the most powerful arcade system available.

A home version of the Neo Geo system, the AES (for ‘Advanced Entertainment System’) was made available for rental in 1990, and later for sale in 1991 when it was discovered people were willing to pay the high price.

Software is compatible with either system as they had the same specifications, but although the large cartridges look very similar they have different pin configurations and require an adaptor to use in the other system.

Neo Geo memory cards were available to allow players to save a game to return to at a later time, or continue play on either the MVS or AES systems.

Although hardware for the MVS and AES ceased production in 1997, game software was released until 2004 with the last official game being Samurai Shodown V Special. The Neo Geo MVS was replaced by the Hyper Neo Geo 64.

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Nintendo Game Boy (1990 – 1999)

The Nintendo Game Boy was a handheld video game console, introduced by Nintendo in 1989 (reaching Europe in 1990).

It competed with other handheld devices such as the Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx and the NEC TurboExpress that offered colour screens compared to the original Game Boy’s monochrome display. Despite this, the Game Boy outsold them all. This was partly due to the popularity of the puzzle game Tetris that came bundled with the Game Boy.

A smaller, lighter variant, the Game Boy Pocket was released in 1996, and in Japan a variant called the Game Boy Light was introduced in 1998, that included a backlit (but still monochrome) screen.

The Game Boy was superseded by the Game Boy Color in 1998, and was discontinued in 1999.  Cartridges (called ‘Game Paks’ by Nintendo) for the original Game Boy could be used in the Game Boy Color.

Some Game Paks contain a small battery to allow game data to be saved. A notch on the top of the cartridge allowed the power switch to lock the cartridge in place while the unit was switched on. Cartridges designed specifically for the Game Boy Color lacked this notch so they could not be used in the original Game Boy.

When the Game Boy Color was introduced, a third type of cartridge was introduced that could be used in the Game Boy, but would also play in colour on the Game Boy Colour. These cartridges (known as dual-mode or class B) were usually black and the same shape as Game Boy cartridges.

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Sega Game Gear (1991 – 1997)

Sega Game GearThe Sega Game Gear was a handheld game console introduced by Sega in 1990 (subsequently launched in Europe in 1991).

It was a fourth-generation, 8-bit device, and primarily competed with the Nintendo Game Boy, Atari Lynx and the NEC TurboExpress. With an adaptor (the Master System Converter) the Game Gear could play titles from the Sega Master System.

Containing a full-colour backlit screen with a landscape format, Sega positioned the Game Gear as technologically superior to the Nintendo Game Boy. However, due to issues with its short battery life, lack of original titles and weak support from Sega, the Game Gear was unable to surpass the Game Boy, selling approximately 11 million units.

Over 300 games were released for the Game Gear (compared with over 1000 for the Nintendo Game Boy), although at the time of its launch, there were only six software titles available. The casings were moulded black plastic with a rounded front to aid removal.

The Sega Game Gear was discontinued in 1997.

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LD-ROM (1993 – 1996)

LD-ROM (top)LD-ROM (for LaserDisc Read-Only Memory) was a variation of LV-ROM introduced by Pioneer in 1993 for use in its LaserActive home entertainment system.

LD-ROM had a capacity of 540 MB, higher than that of the LV-ROM and made possible by the use of constant linear velocity (CLV). Like LV-ROM, 12-inch discs were used, but some 8-inch discs were also available.

LD+G disks were also made available for use in the LaserActive, and like the CD+G format were used for karaoke. Add-ons for the LaserActive allowed other games for other systems on LD-ROM discs to be used, including the Mega LD (for Sega Mega CD software) and the LD-ROM² (for PC-Engine CD-ROM² software).

The LaserActive was an expensive system and a commercial failure. The last LD-ROM title was released in 1996.

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Sega 32X (1994 – 1995)

The Sega 32X was not a console in itself, but a short-lived add-on introduced in 1994 for the Sega Mega Drive. It allowed users to play 32-bit games on the 16-bit Mega Drive, to extend the life of the Mega Drive system whilst the user base of the Sega Saturn grew.

Sega 32X cartridges are plugged into the 32X unit, and Mega Drive cartridges can also be used in the 32X, allowing it to be permanently attached to the Mega Drive.

32X cartridges are fundamentally the same as Mega Drive cartridges with some small differences in the plastic casing.

The last games for the 32X were released in 1996, but the system itself was cancelled in 1995 so Sega could concentrate its efforts on the Saturn.

Atari Lynx (1989 – mid 1990s)

Introduced in 1989, the Atari Lynx was a colour handheld game console.

In 1991, the Lynx II was introduced, with improved hardware and battery life, and a sleeker look.

It was outsold by competitors such as the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Game Gear, and discontinued in the mid-1990s as Atari focused efforts on the Atari Jaguar. Fewer than 500,000 were sold in its lifetime.

Game cards were initially flat, but as this caused problems extracting them from the console, later cartridges had two tabs, followed by a curved lip in the final redesign. Most game cards contained either 128KB or 256KB of ROM, but with bank-switching it was possible for them to contain up to 512KB.

Sources / Resources

Wikipedia entry for Atari Lynx

Entry for Atari Lynx at FAQ.com

Atari Lynx review on YouTube

SNK Neo Geo AES (1990 – 2004)

The AES (for ‘Advanced Entertainment System’) was a catridge-based video console released in 1990 by SNK. When released, it was one of the most advanced consoles available, since its hardware was largely identical to an arcade system (the Neo Geo MVS). It enjoyed cult status due to its high price.

Initially available only for rental, it became available for sale in 1991.

Although hardware for the MVS and AES ceased production in 1997, game software was released until 2004. The last official game by SNK for the Neo Geo system was Samurai Shodown V Special.

Later ROM cartridges for the system used bank switching memory technology to increase the maximum capacity to 89 MB.

AES consoles and cartridges are popular with collectors, and fetch high prices particularly for rare titles.

Sega Mega Drive (1990 – 1998)

Released in 1990 in Europe, the Sega Mega Drive was also know as the Sega Genesis in North America. It was the successor to the Sega Master System, and Master System cartridges could be used on the Mega Drive by using a Power Base Converter.

Several add-ons were available, such as the Sega Mega-CD/Sega CD and Sega 32X which extended the Mega Drive’s capabilities.

Sega created the first content rating system for video games, the Videogame Rating Council (later to become the Entertainment Software Rating Board), due to the controversy over the content of games such as Mortal Kombat.

The last new licensed game was released in 2002 in Brazil, but support for the console in Europe had ended by 1998.