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"Soulless" consoles

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ooooooo, Dreamcast? Soul remnants definitely, but an intact soul?

Nah.

 

Hey! The Dreamcast may have been seriously wounded, but the soul still burns.

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soul seems a fair thing to rate a game system up on. Car reviewers generally use it to describe sporty Italian cars, and they're considered legit. It's about the 'little something extras'

 

When I consider a system's soul, I think of the sum total of the experience. The games are a part of that, but only in a very vague, generalized way. What is more important to 'the soul' are the little quirks a system possesses that tend to carry from game to game. Hardware tricks, color handling, quickness of the controllers, even pride of ownership and heritage. I also feel there are very competent and fun systems out there that just don't have that little something extra. They get gaming done, and the games are even fun, but there's just no soul.

 

Sometimes I even think that it's possible to make something better, by making it just a tad worse. Liking something for its flaws rather than in spite of them.

 

I really think Sega Saturn vs PSX was a perfect example of soul making the difference. Similar hardware, but the saturn often gets the fond memories. The hardware felt better to use--colors always seemed a little brighter and controllers felt crisper (simple ergonomics or internally did they handle better?). Sure the psx looked more detailed with its dingy colors and realistic shadows, it even plays games well, but I'd just rather be in front of the saturn. it has the gaming soul.

Edited by Reaperman

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To me, these kinds of systems seem to have the least amount of "soul" put into them:

 

 

Odyssey 2

 

Fairchild/Channel F/Emerson Arcadia (they all seem the same)

 

Bally Professional Arcade (excellent example as they couldn't/wouldn't secure their own arcade titles)

 

 

 

3DO - the XBox of the time. Had most of their titles not also been cross platform and the system's price cut in half - I might feel differently about it.

 

TG-16 to an extent. Hard to explain, but the gameplay has a "feel" to it that's rather one-dimensional or "flat". Didn't help that NEC/Hudson of America totally botched the marketing of this system of here. Could have been a real NES/Genny killer - but nope. The greatest games from the PC Engine never made its way here and a majority of the CD based titles sucked.

 

All Sony game systems, although I'd give more props to the PS1 than the latter two, just for its early library

 

Neo*Geo CD - Idiots. Now we have to wait forever for 64+megabit games to load. Yawn.

 

Amiga CD32 (for the same reason as Neo*Geo's CD: cheap, quick & lazy ports with nothing new)

 

 

XBox 360 - just an incredibly defective generic PeeCee to me.

 

 

 

These are all excellent systems with amazing games. I am going to assume you're just jealous because you don't own them. :D :P

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Philip's CDI, RCA Studio 2, Emerson Arcadia 201, Epox Computer System and PC Engine Super Grafx because only 5 games made for it. RCA Studio 2 had a decent football game though.

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I think a good way to judge a console's "soul" is how it does in it's afterlife, i.e. is there a large homebrew/emulation support for it after it dies out.

 

Dreamcast seems to have a bit of soul there as do the Genesis and SMS, and so does the 2600, 7800, and to a lesser extent the 5200.

 

can't say as much for the Nintendo or Sony products. I honestly look at them as being favored by "casual gamers" who like easy stuff and don't invest a lot of effort into it.

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I think a good way to judge a console's "soul" is how it does in it's afterlife, i.e. is there a large homebrew/emulation support for it after it dies out.

 

Dreamcast seems to have a bit of soul there as do the Genesis and SMS, and so does the 2600, 7800, and to a lesser extent the 5200.

 

can't say as much for the Nintendo or Sony products. I honestly look at them as being favored by "casual gamers" who like easy stuff and don't invest a lot of effort into it.

 

PSX net yaroze:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_yaroze

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I think a good way to judge a console's "soul" is how it does in it's afterlife, i.e. is there a large homebrew/emulation support for it after it dies out.

Excellent definition! The more interest is shown after a console is 'dead', the more 'soul' it has. A perfect example is the Vectrex; I think most of us would agree that it is a very unusual and interesting system with plenty of soul - and the homebrew scene for it is fairly healthy.

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I think a good way to judge a console's "soul" is how it does in it's afterlife, i.e. is there a large homebrew/emulation support for it after it dies out.

 

Dreamcast seems to have a bit of soul there as do the Genesis and SMS, and so does the 2600, 7800, and to a lesser extent the 5200.

 

can't say as much for the Nintendo or Sony products. I honestly look at them as being favored by "casual gamers" who like easy stuff and don't invest a lot of effort into it.

 

That's a weird definite soul/soulless, but by that definite - the NES definitely has soul. The RE for the NES is probably more crazy than I've seen for any other system. Not to mention the emulation, demo, music/NSF (which is huge). and homebrew scene. It's very-very active. Check out the nesdev forums for yourself.

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The Atari Jaguar when I bought it on clearance. When you popped in Checkered Flag, the game was like "ok, here you go, quit bothering me now"

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The Atari Jaguar when I bought it on clearance. When you popped in Checkered Flag, the game was like "ok, here you go, quit bothering me now"

 

And how is that related to a console having no "soul" exactly?

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yeah jaguar had a soul. You can't play games on a it without 'just knowing' it's a jag.

I will say that a lot of the time I don't care for that soul, but it's there with jag, more than a lot of systems.

 

soulless systems are practically invisible. They play games, but other than that they're a non-experience.

NES strikes me as a solidly good system, with some great games, that just tried to make its hardware a non-experience. Neither good enough, nor bad enough, at anything to really stand out.

Edited by Reaperman

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soulless systems are practically invisible. They play games, but other than that they're a non-experience.

NES strikes me as a solidly good system, with some great games, that just tried to make its hardware a non-experience. Neither good enough, nor bad enough, at anything to really stand out.

When the hardware was new (1983) it was pretty impressive. 3/4-color tile graphics at relatively high resolution with multiple (8) indexed palettes from a fairly broad palette (actually much larger than what was normally used too as there was additional chroma/luma control over the default entries in the master palette, though few games went beyond the default palette), 8 hardware sprites per line (and hardware multiplexing to manage 64 sprites per frame), pretty common CPU for the time, rather good sound chip with 2 variable pulse wave, noise, a somewhat limited triangle, and 7-bit DPCM channel, hardware scrolling. The closest thing prior to that would either have been the A8/5200 or the C64: both having capable sound chips and hardware scrolling, but the former having more limited on-screen colors (generally) and only 4 mono sprites, while the latter had a much more limited palette (though more flexible use on-screen in some respects), larger sprites (but no hardware multiplexing), a slower CPU, and both had lower resolutions in higher color modes.

 

By 1985/86 when released in the US (launched in early/mid '86), it wasn't so impressive on the hardware side with 16-bit home computers gaining popularity, the SMS released shortly after, and the 7800 out too (though it gennerally wouldn't make the NES look bad other than the lack of flicker or stiff character based software sprites, and both the SMS and 7800 were weaker in terms of audio -other than POKEY carts) but the software and marketing were the factors there, of course. (Atari didn't have the budget and Sega didn't get the marketing right -that and they didn't have the Japanese 3rd party support Nintendo had already established in the previous 3 years)

 

 

Games certainly have a unique look and sound to them, like with several other systems.

 

Hmm, perhaps that could be the definition of "soul" here: platforms which are instantly recognizable when a game is shown or played with a generic controller and/or emulated. (in most cases, at least if you have some experience with the console beforehand).

-VCS/2600: You pretty much know it's a 2600 game when you see it, and if there's any doubt, hearing it will usually confirm things.

-Intellivision: maybe a bit harder to distinguish, but the graphics and sound have a unique sound (the AY sound chip was common on a number of other platforms and distinctive for those who know it, but it's the combination of that with the graphics which tie things together)

-Colecovision... Hmm, a tougher one since it used off the shelf parts in common with the TI99/4 and later MSX and SG-1000.

 

Astrocade, yes

 

O2, yes.

 

5200 and 8-bit for sure.

 

Vectrex, obviously.

 

NES, yes, distinctive graphics and sound and general style. (not just the hardware but trends in how it was used)

 

SMS, again, yes, distinctive graphics and sound. (a common off the shelf sound chip, but it's the overall presentation which defines it)

 

TG-16/PCE, yes, though with some CD games it could be tougher.

 

Genesis/MD, yes.

 

SNES, yes.

 

Jaguar, yes, in most cases. (in some cases it might be hard to distinguish from a PC/Amaga game though, or other 32-bit platforms)

 

3DO, maybe, but getting tougher (CD audio being part of that)

 

Saturn, generally yes, but with some exceptions. (someone detial oriented might be able to pick out things in some cases, but there are some multiplatform ports which are generally indistinguishable -first party games are obvious though)

 

PSX, maybe, there was a general style, and if there was any streaming video you could likely tell by the way it looked or sounded (somewhat like VCDs and distinct from Cinepak). A lot of Saturn games shared the twitchy polygons, but generally had some style differences, and PC games generally either rendered in 256 colors (distinct) or for accelerated stuff, had perspective correction and filtering to distingush from contemporary console stuff. (and FM/midi/mod music was distinctive, of course, but CD/WAV audio blurs more)

 

N64, yes there was a distinctive sound and look to things (low res textures, but perspective correct and filtered).

 

Dreamcast, getting a bit hard to say now, a lot of games that went multiplatform (or were ported to the platform in the first place) and ended up very similar, but when it was first on the market, it was very distinctive, and with enough console specific games to still distinguish it from high end gaming PCs of the time. (though that gap was fast closing)

 

PS2, tons of multiplatform games and exclusives: if you knew the common shortcomings of the hardware, you might be able to pick things out without a direct side-by-side comparison. (there are a number of areas PS2 games tend to look weaker than GC or Xbox games, or even DC in some respects -in part driving the trend for dark/desaturated looking games, though you got cases where the PS2 version was really optimized and looked better than contemporary ports) If a game had 4-player local support, you could usually bet it wasn't on the PS2. ;)

 

GC was distinguishable by software exclusives, but in terms of general look and feel of games tied to hardware it wasn't that easy to tell, software being the deciding factor there.

 

Xbox, maybe: it was clearly distinguishable from PC in the context of resolution (even on an HDTV or monitor, most games were 480p, while PC games were commonly 1024x768 or higher) and general lack of antialiasing being used, plus the lack of programmable controls. (though that might be going pas the context of a blind comparison I was speaking of)

 

 

360 and PS3... probably the closest yet, and most indistinguishable from PCs other than the still lower resolution much of the time and sparing use of antialising. (it really does give a different look to things, especialy for games rendering in 720p -1080p being pretty close to the higher limit for PC games)

 

Wii... Hmm in this context it would probably apply due to the rather disctive difference to contemporaries; however, if you take away the context of the input device and don't limit yourself to current generation contemporaries, it is quite tough to distinguish games on it from older PC games, GC games, Xbox, and even PS2 or DC to some extent.

 

 

In that line you might as well consider home computers as well:

TRS-80 and CoCo most certianly have their own look and sound.

 

Apple II, yes

 

Atari 8-bit, most definitely

 

VIC-20, yes

 

C64, yes (sound alone is enough in most cases)

 

ZX Spectum, most definitely

 

Amstrad CPC, yes

 

Amiga, yes

 

Atari ST, yes

 

Mac, to a point, but once you get to the 90s it blurs with PC

 

PC/Clones: GGA, EGA, and Tandy/PC Jr graphics and sound with PC Speaker, Tandy sound, Adlib/SB were quite distinctive (less so for midi and MOD players, but still at least somewhat distinctive), even VGA games are distinctive, and some early windows games (especially non accelerated ones in 256 color) But once you get into 3D acceleration and streaming audio, then things start to blur quickly, with the only consistent factor being higher resoltion than consoles. (unless you take input devices into account)

 

(plus Japanese home computers: PC8801 and FM7 were pretty similar at times but distinctive, MSX was to an extent though the MSX1 did bleed together with several platforms with similar off the shelf configurations- X68000 probably, and FM Towns too)

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Hmm, perhaps that could be the definition of "soul" here: platforms which are instantly recognizable when a game is shown or played with a generic controller and/or emulated.

 

I refer you to post #27 ;)

 

I think we're on the same wavelength. It's about the only way I would define "soul". It's not a good or bad thing. If I say the PS2 lacks soul because it's games are practically indistinguishable from Xbox that doesn't mean I dislike the games or system. I'm not sure if I'm keeping in spirit (no pun intended) with the thread but I prefer a more scientific method to defining a video game system's "soul" (which I'd rather refer to as "character") rather than how "evil" the company was that made it, whether the media was CD, etc. I mean, if we're going to discuss "souls" of inanimate objects maybe we should start by defining it. :lol:

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I pretty much agree and that was exactly how I described it in the other thread and earlier in this one.

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Great post, Kool Kitty. I pretty much agree with what you had to say, especially about how modern systems seem to have less soul because their technology is so advanced it's hard to tell them apart. But just on appearances and the games, I think the Gamecube "wins" in my book as having the least soul. I just hate that system. The only thing good about it was it was the strongest of its generation (as evidenced by that G4 video with Morgan Webb).

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Great post, Kool Kitty. I pretty much agree with what you had to say, especially about how modern systems seem to have less soul because their technology is so advanced it's hard to tell them apart. But just on appearances and the games, I think the Gamecube "wins" in my book as having the least soul. I just hate that system. The only thing good about it was it was the strongest of its generation (as evidenced by that G4 video with Morgan Webb).

 

I've seen arguments between the GC and Xbox, though it's clear that they're more powerful than the PS2 and DC (and far easier to tap said power than the PS2, though not so much the DC which is just 3 years older tech and less powerful), and most seem to point more to the Xbox in sheer technical capability. (CPU for sure, so it's more up to the GPU and audio as well as the memory configurations -Xbox has unified RAM vs dedicated buses on the GC, but the Xbox is dual channeled DDR and there's a full 64 MB)

Xbox gets the win from most tech guys I've talked to. (overall, as there are tradeoffs)

 

 

Most multiplatform games look and play better on GC and Xbox than PS2 (with some exceptions, namely tied to simple ports of PS2 optimized games), and you also get a ton more games with 4 player local support (something differentiating them both from the PS2 and most PC games). I like both for their party games in particular, a progression of the 4-player action so prominent on the N64. (DC had it too, and it would likely have shown a lot more had it persisted)

The Xbox also had the whole online multiplayer thing going on too (though Halo missed that until the delayed PC/Mac version finally got out- I think the Xbox version supported LAN play though), but that's another PC-like aspect. (and I much prefer loacal multiplayer, be it split screen, or LAN)

 

That and I like the controllers a lot more than Sony's (which is a big part of why I left those off my comparison earlier -and some 3rd party controllers address the problem to some extent)

I actually really like the Duke (though I've got the hands for it), though the buttons (at least on some early model dukes) require a lot of force (a weird membrane switch mechanism rather than dome switches used for the d-pad and start/select) and super convex buttons to make things worse: the contour, general button placement, and d-pad/analog stick as well as triggers are awesome, the left thumb stick is one of the few that I never get sore from (PSX-dual, N64, GC, DC, Xbox-s, 360 all tend to have issues making my thumb sore and/or cramped -PSX mainly the latter, GC mainly the former): in some cases concave thumsticks are nice, but that mostly round, rubberized (satin textured) hemispherical shape with a small dimple at the center and at a high/far mounting point on the controller really is the best. (for the right thumbstick in the lower position is fine with the concavity)

It's a shame on the buttons, especially in games like Spyro or Burnout where you're constantly using them (not like Halo where it's more occasional), perhaps there's some modification I could make to convert it to conventional carbon/rubber dome switches.

 

I totally understand hoe the dunk is generally impractical for people with smaller hands (basically anyone with much less than a 9" span), though in that respect, the GC is one of the best, with a small design that fits well for a wide range of hand sizes. (unlike PSX or Xbox-s which feel more cramped to me)

Edited by kool kitty89

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This thread definitely gave me pause. What constitutes "soul" in a game machine? Is it the hardware? The software? The marketing behind it? All the above? Then nostalgia factors in along with location: does the TurboGrafx-16 have soul, even though it seemed to be a mere afterthought in the US market? If I was in Japan, with the plethora of games for that platform I might say "yes". Then there are the games-but do they give the console "soul"? Oh sure, there's style-like a Genesis is known for arcade ports and a Xbox 360 is known for FPS titles, but that doesn't necessarily mean the console has soul.

 

About the best thing I can think of, and I think others have touched on this thread, is what was "put into" a console. As in what developers did to make those games and that particular console shine. The VCS wasn't the most technologically advanced out of the gate but over its long retail life span, developers massaged that system to do things I bet the original engineers didn't think of. The system itself is pure simplicity, from a handful of switches to the singular button controls. It was a complete package from the get go and quite the venture to get to retail.

 

The INTV is another that's got that soul as it was able to crank out games that didn't seem possible on the competitions' console of that generation. What the VCS has in its simplicity, the INTV was the opposite in sophistication. And that sophistication wasn't just there as a bullet point, it was USED with a large variety of games. The Odyssey2 was trying to be the "in between" the two consoles, gaining that soul that kept chanting "I think I can, I think I can.."

 

Beyond that generation, the "soul" of the console I think has waned. Not that latter consoles weren't good, I mean I love the Atari 5200, NES and Genesis and such, but to say they had soul that was like those consoles of the golden age, no. It was just evolution. The 5200 was a quick grab at the market with its Atari computer guts and enhanced ported games from the VCS. Style beget soul. Marketing beget soul. It'd be easy to say the NES has soul but deep down it really doesn't. Genesis has attitude. The TG-16 barely had heart in the US. The only thing that gave the consoles any real soul was the work developers put in to squeeze the games onto cartridges to give the best play possible on the platform.

 

Modern consoles really don't have any soul. The PS3 and 360 are practically interchangable. If you turned on a multiplatform game and hid what system it was playing on, most people wouldn't know. The Wii only stands out because it's got funky controls that don't work proper all the time and doesn't have the graphical oopmh of its competitors.

 

That's alls I got for that bit of rambling.

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About the best thing I can think of, and I think others have touched on this thread, is what was "put into" a console. As in what developers did to make those games and that particular console shine. The VCS wasn't the most technologically advanced out of the gate but over its long retail life span, developers massaged that system to do things I bet the original engineers didn't think of. The system itself is pure simplicity, from a handful of switches to the singular button controls. It was a complete package from the get go and quite the venture to get to retail.

Actually the VCS was probably the most advanced home video game system in existence when it was released, the Astrocade came the same year and was more advanced in some ways though limited in some others, but it had supply issues that meant it effectively didn't reach consumers until 1978.

Indeed there were games that went well beyond the originally projected use of the hardware (some requiring expansion on cart, usually RAM, but an actual audio/video coprocessor in the case of Pitfall II). I'm not sure if things like modifying the playfield or sprite colors every line would have been thought of initially, but by the line based nature of the architecture, it's a rather natural feature, things like mid-screen playfield modification would likely qualify more as tricks. (and RAM expansion requires a bit of hacking due to limitations of the cart pinout, but bank switching is rather trivial -cost of ROM was the biggest issue)

 

Beyond that generation, the "soul" of the console I think has waned. Not that latter consoles weren't good, I mean I love the Atari 5200, NES and Genesis and such, but to say they had soul that was like those consoles of the golden age, no. It was just evolution. The 5200 was a quick grab at the market with its Atari computer guts and enhanced ported games from the VCS. Style beget soul. Marketing beget soul. It'd be easy to say the NES has soul but deep down it really doesn't. Genesis has attitude. The TG-16 barely had heart in the US. The only thing that gave the consoles any real soul was the work developers put in to squeeze the games onto cartridges to give the best play possible on the platform.

Remember that it was largely the marketing budget put forth by Warner that really made the VCS what it was, so marketing is always a factor. (it's the main reason the Astrocade was relatively obscure)

 

 

Modern consoles really don't have any soul. The PS3 and 360 are practically interchangable. If you turned on a multiplatform game and hid what system it was playing on, most people wouldn't know. The Wii only stands out because it's got funky controls that don't work proper all the time and doesn't have the graphical oopmh of its competitors.

And a lot of games do (or should) have conventional controls on the Wii anyway, and generally look and feel like GameCube or Xbox games (graphics are noticeably better than most PS2 contemporaries and DC games, of course).

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I don't think ammount of homebrew, or emulation really has much to do with the soul of a system. Mostly because it's very hard to impossible to emulate, or make homebrews (worth a damn) for more modern consoles.

 

The only Post 2k systems to have good emulation are all handheld (which really is understandable, since handhelds have always been a few generations behind what consoles can do anyways. Look at the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube, they all have sucky to nonexistent emulation and very little homebrew.

 

That's not to say they won't, say, 10-20 years down the road. (or maybe even 5) If that's really a measure of a consoles soul, then you're goinng to have to wait years, or even decades after a system dies to find out if it really has one :P

 

Someone mentioned the ability to tell what console a game is for, specific graphic issues, or sounds, etc. That's more personality than soul IMO. Part of what so many people love about old systems is that personality....and yeah, that really is going away in newer consoles.

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What about the console with the most "soul"? I'd have to give that title to the SNES. I can't explain why, though :ponder:

 

While I have learned to reconsider the SNES in recent years, I just can't go that far. It invokes that "I'm glad Sega kicked those smug, arrogant, complacent, monopolistic bastards off of their pedestal" reaction in me. And when it doesn't invoke that one, it invokes the, "they had two damn years to improve on the Genesis and this is the best hey can do????" reaction.

 

Army of good games aside, those two reactions will always keep it from having the 'most soul' title for me.

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What about the console with the most "soul"? I'd have to give that title to the SNES. I can't explain why, though :ponder:

 

While I have learned to reconsider the SNES in recent years, I just can't go that far. It invokes that "I'm glad Sega kicked those smug, arrogant, complacent, monopolistic bastards off of their pedestal" reaction in me. And when it doesn't invoke that one, it invokes the, "they had two damn years to improve on the Genesis and this is the best hey can do????" reaction.

 

Army of good games aside, those two reactions will always keep it from having the 'most soul' title for me.

 

I couldn't agree more, the SNES would be pretty far down my list too.

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What about the console with the most "soul"? I'd have to give that title to the SNES. I can't explain why, though :ponder:

 

While I have learned to reconsider the SNES in recent years, I just can't go that far. It invokes that "I'm glad Sega kicked those smug, arrogant, complacent, monopolistic bastards off of their pedestal" reaction in me. And when it doesn't invoke that one, it invokes the, "they had two damn years to improve on the Genesis and this is the best hey can do????" reaction.

 

Army of good games aside, those two reactions will always keep it from having the 'most soul' title for me.

 

It's annoying when people talk about how the Snes had a vastly superior graphics chip than the Sega Genesis. I look at games trying to see the vastly superiorness but I just can't! If you compare spec sheets, the Snes's sPPU apears vastly superior than the Genesis's VDP, but once you check hardware docs you discover that the Genesis's graphical specs are honest, while the Snes's graphical specs are half truths.

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The Genesis/Megadrive was easier to push beyond its specs thanks to its CPU, the 68k is a great chip and is much as the same as the ST in that respect. Both have a modest chipset apart from the CPU but could be both be pushed to match machines that were supposedly superior. The big advantage of the Genesis/Megadrive was that its CPU was also a hell of a alot quicker than the SNES.

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