Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 125 / JANUARY 1991 / PAGE A32

What's hot: Amiga or Sega? (Amiga Resource) (evaluation)
by Rhett Anderson, Randy Thompson

SEGA! Almost seven years ago, Amiga Corporation started work on the ultimate game machine. But the videogame market faded, and the game machine was released as a computer. This schizophrenic birth has always been the pride and embarrassment of the Amiga community. While its heritage made it the most powerful home computer, the Amiga has always been seen as a game system by computer users and a computer by game players.

Still, Amiga owners could take consolation in the fact that their system played the best games around. But that's no longer the case. Three new videogame systems--the Sega Genesis, NEC TurboGrafix, and SNK's NeoGeo--have surpassed the Amiga as a game machine. Another up-and-comer, the Nintendo SFX (known in Japan as the SuperFamicom), will blow it away. Meanwhile, after seven years the Amiga still has the same palette, the same eight sprites, and the same four audio voices.

Let's take the case of the Sega Genesis. It has a 68000 microprocessor, running at about the same speed as the Amiga 500's 68000. Like the Amiga, it has a dual-playfield mode and hardware fine scrolling. It can display 64 colors at once on a screen with a 320 X 224 resolution. Like the Amiga, the Sega supports overscan.

But the Sega has more. Nine sound channels, so that you can hear, for example, four channels of music and five sound effects, all at the same time. A game controller with three buttons instead of the Amiga's one-button joystick. Cartridge games that load instantly. Unit sales that make it worthwhile to invest time and money in the development of the game. And a price tag less than $200.

But it's Sega's sprite engine that makes the Amiga seem dated. The Sega supports eighty 15-color sprites at 32 X 32 pixels each. Compare that with the Amiga's eight 3-color sprites at 8 pixels wide.

Electronic Arts has shown that even computer-style games like Populous are just as good on the Sega as they are on the Amiga. And for arcade-style games, the Amiga doesn't even come close.

Looking over at Mr. Thompson's side, I hear the prototypical Amiga apologist. He will still be saying the Amiga is the best game machine ten years from now.

No, the Genesis won't have genlock or MIDI support. Surprise. What counts in games is color and action, and the Amiga's custom chips just don't measure up. In short, the Genesis has better game hardware, better game software, and better game programmers.

AMIGA! Unlike Mr. Anderson, I don't own a Sega Genesis. Sure, I've used one--I've even used his. As far as dedicated game machines go, the Genesis is tops. But does that make it better at playing games than the Amiga? Hardly.

Yes, technically the Genesis has superior sprite capabilities (they're larger, and there are more of them), comparable color (nothing comparable to 4096-color HAM mode, however), and arguably better sound features (although I've yet to hear a Genesis game match the sound and music found in most Amiga game software). Sega has also persuaded most of the best game developers to write software for its new machine. So at first glance, the Sega may appear to be the game player's choice. However, this $199 Toys 'R' Us wonder lacks one very important feature: interactivity.

The Amiga doesn't just have a joystick; it has a mouse, a keyboard, and even a disk drive. These items may not be considered standard equipment for gamesters, but they go a long way toward making entertainment software and more entertaining.

Take adventure games, for example. How do you save a game in progress on the Genesis? Answer: You don't. How do you add additional courses to your favorite golf game if you can't insert a course disk? Cartridges just don't cut it here. And can you imagine trying to control a flight simulator with one of those tiny controllers? Of course, with the Amiga, you can choose from a wide variety of input devices--the keyboard, the mouse, a light gun, and any of several types of joysticks.

While the Genesis may eventually gain such amenities as a light gun or keyboard, I'll bet my hard drive that it'll never have genlock support for combining video with computer graphics or MIDI support for controlling synthesizers in the creation of music. Why do you think companies such as Mastertronic and Battletech are using Amigas as the basis for stand-alone arcade machines? Because if you're looking for more than shoot-'em-ups, the Amiga blows the Genesis away.

Looking over at Mr. Anderson's side, I notice he conveniently left out a few facts while laboriously extolling the virtues of his favorite new toy. Has he forgotten about the Amiga's blitter, which blasts graphics across the screen at incredible speed; the copper, which allows the Amiga to switch video modes in midscreen; and the severe memory limitations of Genesis cartridges, which keep the graphics and sound quality to a minimum? The Sega Genesis is great for the price, but it's no match for an Amiga.