Star Control on Sega Genesis

Many Star Control fans are aware that a Genesis version of Star Control exists, but I’m not sure if anyone is aware of the differences between the PC and Genesis versions or even the lawsuit that Accolade received from Sega after releasing 5 unlicensed Genesis cartridges which included Star Control.

Accolade’s name is hard to find in this version. I found it in the bottom-right corner of the game’s packaging. Although the packaging implies that it’s been published by Ballistic, it is still a part of Accolade, so it is still the same company. This is similar to Tengen, a division of Atari that made unlicensed NES games.

It’s also worth noting that the front of the packaging declares Star Control “The first 12 megabit game!”

Like the Nintendo Entertainment System and even game consoles today, there is copyrighted authentication code on each game that is made by the console manufacturer which is scanned by the console. If it checks out, the game is allowed to run. If it fails, the player will simply look at a blank screen or an error message. At the time, Sega enforced this rule to ensure that all Genesis games would only be exclusive to that console. Accolade did not like this constraint, so they reverse engineered the code so that it would run on any Sega Genesis console without any legal ownership issues with the games themselves. Sega filed a lawsuit against Accolade for copyright infringement.

Star Control cartridge with ToeJam & Earl cartridge for comparison. Did you know that ToeJam & Earl creator Greg Johnson and Star Control creator Paul Reiche are friends? Greg also knows other TFB staff such as Fred Ford and Alex Ness. Greg also provided the voiceovers of the Orz, Pkunk and Utwig.

Accolade ultimately won the legal battle in the end. Judge Reinhardt concluded that Accolade’s unlicensed games would not hurt the sales of licensed games and that Accolade’s decision to reverse engineer Sega’s lockout chip “constitutes a fair use”. It was also a victory that would inspire more independent developers to have more games on home consoles without

Shortly after the Nintendo Wii was released, some people on the official UQM forums wondered if this version of Star Control could ever show up on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Again, there are legal issues because Atari now own the rights to the name “Star Control” and it is still considered an unlicensed Genesis game.

This version included more missions than the PC version. While the PC version contains 9 scenarios in the full game, the Genesis version includes 6 more scenarios:

Lost in Space:
A prototype ultra-stardrive has accidentally sent a Chenjesu Broodhome deep into Hierarchy territory. Recognizing that survival is the most important consideration, the Chenjesu captain has planted a colony. Contact comes soon after...
Target Earth:
The Earthlings, at first a minor annoyance for the Hierarchy, have become an increasingly serious threat. Mass-produced Cruisers deployed from the Detroit ship yards have become the backbone of the Alliance fleet. The Hierarchy launches a daring attack to crush the threat once and for all. A wave of Ilwrath ambushes are followed by the massive Ur-Quan Dreadnoughts, with Androsynth and Umgah reinforcements close behind. Earth's Cruisers, with the help of a few visiting Alliance ships, stage a desperate battle for Earth's survival.
Syreen's Song:
The Syreen are looking for a few good beings, and decided to begin their hunt deep in Hierarchy space. As colony after colony vanishes, the outraged Hierarchy strikes back, assembling a task force to decimate the Syreen. The Hierarchy must strike with lightning speed. To hesitate is to face a Syreen force replete captured colonists.
Mushroom Cloud:
Priority One Alpha, Visual Receptors Only: Star Control General Staff and Warship Captains... As is well known, the number of Mycon Podships in the theater of operations is increasing at an alarming rate. At last we have found the source! 14 solar hours ago, long-range scouts uncovered a previously unchartered cluster of Mycon colonies. If these colonies are allowed to survive, the Mycons will overrun this quadrant within the month. These colonies must be destroyed at any cost. All Alliance vessels within 30 parsecs are ordered to join the effort. This is a Must Win situation. Good Luck!
Vux Incursion:
Early in the Ur-Quan conflict a stupid mistake caused the VUX to side with the Hierarchy, when a foolish Earthling uttered "That's one ugly sucker!" without realizing how good VUX translation systems were. The enraged VUX, a tad touchy about their appearance, proceeded to mount a large assault force to destroy the Alliance StarBase.
The Nebula:
After an exhaustive search, Ur-Quan spies have discovered the nebula which holds the secret homeworlds of the Yehat. The unsuspecting cluster is targeted for destruction. The inhabitants must use the flexibility of their many colonies and substantial cash reserves to defend against the Hierarchy's genocidal attack.

Between the two versions of Star Control, the PC version has better audio and the frame rate is much faster. During the melee portions of the game, the ships move incredibly slow there is a delay in the turning. Although the game is still playable, it may take a while to get used to the choppiness of the ship movements and the lower-quality sound effects and music. This is due to the differences in audio hardware in the Sega Genesis and the sound card hardware in PCs at the time.

In conclusion, the Sega Genesis port of Star Control wasn’t just a simple matter of transferring code from one architecture to another and Accolade survived a major lawsuit just to continue selling the game. Star Control on Nintendo’s Virtual Console isn’t exactly the best way to get people into Star Control due to the low sound quality, slow frame rate and legal issues.

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