The Sega Genesis, birthplace of Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage and countless other 16-bit video game classics, recently had its 25th Anniversary in the United States, and what better way to celebrate than with a Transformer that turns into the iconic game machine? Takara is releasing just such a dream toy this October — the “Mega Drive Megatron” — and Game Watch had an interview with its lead designer, Yoda Tomoo, to dig deep and find out the backstory behind such an epochal collaboration.
The idea started at the crossroads of two separate anniversaries: Transformers, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and the Genesis (released overseas as the “Mega Drive”) which yeah, had its big 25th anniversary at the end of last year in Japan. Tomoo had previously worked on hobby miniatures of game consoles, arcade cabinets and other licensed game-related products, and proposed the idea of the “Mega Drive Megatron” to Sega towards the end of 2013 to coincide with the console’s anniversary. Sega was onboard, and development began shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, a combination of factors delayed the Transformer’s launch until later this year, including a lack of Transformers-related know-how at the branch Tomoo’s a member of. “Honestly, I thought shooting for an October launch was a little on the fast side,” said Tomoo, acknowledging some of the difficulties in getting things ready in time. Thankfully, he was able to tap the font of Transformers knowledge present in Takara-Tomy’s old guard design team to help even things out, and even got a helping hand from the high-end premium toy design masters at Sentinel Co. Ltd.
“I was already on good terms with the guys over there from some of my work on previous projects. I’d always wanted to work with them on something, and I finally managed to make it happen with this one,” Tomoo said regarding the coordinator role Sentinel played during the planning and development process of the 16-bit Megatron.
He also cited renowned mechanical designer Junji Okubo (Steel Battalion, Appleseed: Ex Machina) as a huge help in the design process. “Okubo didn’t just design the front-facing look of the Transformer. He went so far as to 3D model it, and put serious time and effort into thinking about how it would actually transform,” Tomoo said, pointing out that a lot of the more Transformers-oriented details, like MD Megatron’s strong resemblance to the one from the original G1 Transformers show, were a result of Okubo’s influence as a diehard fan of the franchise.
Other fine details, like the controller cable that connects to Megatron’s gun (and the controller itself, which acts like a wing in the overall design), were Sentinel’s idea. “Unlike modern game consoles, old hardware like the Mega Drive had controllers you had to plug directly into the machine, and they really wanted to replicate that for this one,” Tomoo said.
Also impossible to ignore is the teensy copy of Sonic the Hedgehog that comes packed-in, which — following talks with Sega — was selected from hundreds of possible game titles as the most representative pick for the machine.
Of course, not everything the team wanted to include made the cut. “Sadly, there’s no way for it to connect to a miniature Sega CD,” Tomoo said, laughing. “The sheer smallness of the thing when you transform it into the Genesis meant we didn’t have room to include expansion ports or anything. When you pick it up and have it in your hands, though, you’ll probably think… ‘whoa, they really got everything in there, huh?’” Tomoo also acknowledged that it would be possible to fit a miniature 32X in the cartridge slot, but said there were no plans for actually manufacturing something like that at this time.
The Mega Drive Megatron releases this October from Takara Tomy Arts for a cool 10,000 yen ($100). Full disclosure: I’ve never really been big on toys or figures before, but I have this pre-ordered. If you want one, I’d recommend you do the same.