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The Sega Nomad (Also called Sega Genesis Nomad or just Nomad) was a handheld game console sold for the North American consumer market which played Sega Mega Drive/Genesis game cartridges. Despite having a strong resemblance to the Sega Game Gear, the system was based on the Japanese Sega Mega Jet and featured a built-in color screen. The Nomad was never officially released in PAL territories such as Europe and Australia, though the unit retained its PAL/NTSC switch on the internal board. It was also not released in Japan as by the time of its American release the Mega Jet was already being sold in retail stores; nevertheless, the Nomad is one of the few Sega systems that can play most Japanese games without an adapter. Its codename during development was Project Venus, as per Sega's policy at the time of codenaming their systems after planets.
Release and features
Sega released the Nomad in October 1995 for US$180. Marketed as a portable Genesis, the Nomad was primarily an evolution of the Japanese market Mega Jet. Whereas the Mega Jet was screenless and required an AC adapter, the Nomad featured a 3.25 inch color LCD screen and room for six AA batteries, making it completely portable as opposed to simply being a small (travel-size) Genesis system. In addition to its other improvements over the Mega Jet, an A/V Out plug was added at the top of the unit, letting owners play games on a television screen with a separate A/V cable. One particularly interesting feature of the Nomad was its ability to allow one player to play using a connected TV, while another watched on the Nomad. The directional pad on the unit controlled all one-player games, and a port on the bottom allowed a second pad to be plugged in for two-player games. This meant that the Nomad could be a fully functional home system as well as a completely portable hand-held solution with a pre-existing library of games available for it.
While the Nomad won praise for its screen resolution and features, there were compatibility problems with the sister system's add-ons: the Sega 32X, the Sega-CD, and the Power Base Converter. While they did work technologically, forcing compatibility involved modifying the add-on units' shapes or using 3rd party expanders. The Nomad had impressive technical specifications for the time including a full colour backlit display, and supported an estimated 600 titles already on the shelves in addition to being a functional home system.
However, the Nomad was bulky and offered very limited battery life in comparison to contemporary handhelds - specifically, the Nintendo Game Boy. The Nomad was not power efficient and a rechargeable battery pack was offered separately for $79. This pack offered even less play time than with normal batteries and was not widely available. Rechargeable AA batteries were not recommended due to voltage problems (Ni-Cd provides 1.2V instead of the 1.5V that alkalines output, and also requires full discharging before recharging; Ni-MH AA batteries were not available at the time).
Like the Game Gear the unit was too bulky to be easily portable, it consumed batteries at a rapid rate and was designed for playing what were in effect home videogames (the Game Gear having been in effect a handheld Master System in the same way the Nomad was a handheld Megadrive/Genesis).
It is therefore considered to have failed against the Game Boy for largely the same reasons as its predecessor - the Game Boy was much smaller and therefore more portable, its non-backlit monochrome display gave it many times the battery life of its competitors and its games were often built from the ground up to suit a handheld machine.
The Nomad also made it frusturating to play the Genesis cartridges. The Genesis cartridges were too cumbersome for the Nomad. If you turned the system too much while playing it, the games would freeze, or restart. This ultimately made the system to not be pragmatic, unlike it's predecessor, the Turbo Express had been.
Despite a $100 price drop, the handheld did not garner enough support to continue. By the time it was released, the Genesis was almost at the end of its lifespan — already being replaced by the Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64, and general indifference towards 16-bit era titles hastened its demise.
Technical specificationsProcessor: Motorola 6800016 bit processor running at 7.67 MHz Co-processor (Sound Controller): Zilog Z808-bit at 3.58 MHz Memory: 156KB total - 64 KB Main RAM, 64KB VRAM, 8KB Sound RAM. 20 Kb ROM Display Palette: 512 Onscreen colors: 64 Maximum onscreen sprites: 80 Resolution: 320 × 224 Sound: Yamaha YM26126 channel FM, additional 4 channel PSG. Stereo sound. Also Texas Instruments SN76489PSG (Programmable Sound Generator) Display: Integrated CSTNLCD at 320 x 224 Power Rating: 9V 850mA (same as Genesis/Mega Drive model 2)
- ^ Blake Snow (2007-07-30). The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time. GamePro.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-17.
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