Ben's 12 Days of Christmas Memories - Day 1: The SEGA Pico

It's Christmas again everyone! Each year I usually try to do at least something Christmas related here at NGR, but this time I wanted to do something a little different. Taking a page out of my Halloween series, over the next 12 days I'll be posting about one of my favorite gaming related memories from Christmas past. Rather than ranking what my "favorite" gaming Christmas memories are however, I've decided to go in order. Well, roughly in order... Doing so isn't quite that easy (as some of these memories are from more than 20 years ago), but I'm going to do my best to keep things straight. I've been researching things I've received over the years, and I've been double checking dates to make sure things fall in line, but even then it's always possible I'll overlook something. That's just the reality of getting older, and not being able to recall every little thing you did in your childhood. But with that being said, my earliest gaming related memory would have to be the year I got the SEGA Pico. Yep, that's right, a SEGA console -- and my first one at that.

(Pic is from an old Pico Commercial)
Being roughly 4-5 years old, my memories of that Christmas are pretty hazy. Thankfully my parents liked to put a show on for me back then though, and actually filmed a whole "Santa" video for me. The videos would start the Christmas Eve before, showing everyone at our house doing who knows what, then you'd see me being put to bed for the night. Afterwords "Santa" would show up in the middle of the night, deliver presents, eat the cookies I left for him (or in one case our dog actually jumped up and stole them form him), and then he'd leave. Back then I had suspicions that Santa was actually someone I knew (my dad/uncle depending on the year), but I still loved seeing it. Of course that's not where the video ended. My Christmas days were recorded, and then later once everything was over we'd watch the video as a family. Needless to say this format changed once I got older ("Santa' stopped coming and they became your typical home videos), but we recorded most of my childhood Christmases even after I got older. (I believe we stopped when I was 10 or 11.) Anyway the year I got a Pico was recorded, but the Pico itself is the only "gaming" related part of that year. It is what stood out the most however, and it was something that would last me for the years to come.

Now I know some of you may already be asking the question. Just what IS a SEGA Pico? Well it was amazing! That's what! At least for little kids, and those who like art.

The Pico was a "game console" released back in 1994. It was sorta shaped like a laptop, but sat upright when "put away." On the top there was a button you pressed to unlatch it, and the bottom would fold out in front. This bottom section was where all controller buttons were located, as well as a large central area that acted as a drawing pad. A digital pen was connected at the side, and by sitting that on the drawing pad you could interact with the games. It was a lot like those other plug and play artist pads you could buy for your TV (do they even sell them anymore?), but in this case the Pico wasn't limited to just one thing. In fact it used a game cartridge system that is unique still to this day. You see, rather than having your typical game cart you plug in, the Pico games were actually books.

As I already mentioned, the Pico unfolded with the controls on the bottom part that sat in front of you, but the top base part was where the games went. You'd take these books, plug them into the slot, and then kinda slide them back to rest against the upper part of the console. Here each page of the book was a different section of the game, and turning the pages changed what would appear on your TV. My very first game I played on the Pico was something called "Sonic's Game World" and it was the first Sonic game I actually owned.

In Game World Sonic, Tails, Amy, and Robotnik (we didn't know him as Eggman back then) visit an arcade with their animal friends (like Flicky), and each page of the Pico cart was a different section of it. By touching the pen against an object on the book (for example the Wack-A-Mole machine) you could then interact with it and possibly play the mini game itself. It was a lot of fun, and kept me busy for hours! I remember one mini game was an rpg battle between Sonic and Robotnik, and another had you navigating mazes trying to pick up what I assume now were Chaos Emeralds. Then you had competitive games where you and your friends would hit different buttons as fast as you could, or take turns sitting at the controls as you try to beat the other's high score. I remember always wanting to play these games with my parents, and sometimes even my cousins would come over to play them with me. I just had a great time with it. Although these games aren't the main feature that kept me busy.

The final page of each Pico game was typically a coloring book. Here you had multiple drawing tools to work with, stickers (which were basically in game sprites) to place, and even coloring book pages that you could load up and modify to suit your needs. There were also cool special effects you could add to things like a rainbow color that constantly changed (you could make Hyper Sonic with this), or distort images to make things look funny. Again every game had this page, but each one put their own unique twist on it. It was a never ending art supply, and it let me make all the things I could imagine. Sadly there wasn't a way to save any of this (unless you recorded it on a VHS tape), but oh well. I loved it, and used it for many years that followed. Even when I got out of the "recommended age group" for it, it was still something I liked to mess with. Of course now days it's put away and hasn't been touched in years. It's kinda sad to think about, but I'll always have the memories of all the good times I had with it. It was a great Christmas present, and the first stepping stone for the years to come.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post