Blog:Arcade Classics (Game Gear/Genesis)
I told you about a lawsuit Atari Corp. launched against Sega of America in 1993 that alleged infringement of a patent concerning horizontal scrolling (US patent #4,445,114; originally filed by Atari, Inc. back in 1980). As part of a settlement, both parties agreed to a cross-licensing deal. Sega games would turn up on Atari systems, and Atari games would turn up on Sega systems.
According to Atari president and CEO Sam Tramiel in a November 1995 interview with Ultimate Gamer, there was one additional catch — the games had to be at least a year old. He went on to say they'd have to wait for games like Virtua Fighter (even though the arcade versions had been out longer than that). Since this deal only seemed to apply to home games (see the previous post on the lawsuit), they probably had to wait for the Saturn or 32X versions to become available.
This would also mean Sega had to wait for Kasumi Ninja* (released in December 1994, or so the Internet says). In the meantime, they licensed some of Atari's arcade favorites. These would be released in a collection for the Game Gear and Genesis simply called Arcade Classics.
Development duties fell to a small contractor near Chicago called Al Baker & Associates, which did Disney's Bonkers: Wax Up and Taz in Escape from Mars for Game Gear. From the old Al Baker & Associates website:
"Sega wanted three Atari classics converted to the Genesis with as much integrity as possible. Each game would have two play modes: the orginal [sic] game and an updated version.
"7800 Centipede and 2600 Missile Command were converted from the original 6502 assembly language code to the Z80 for the Game Gear version and then from the Z80 to the 68000 for the Genesis. While all the code specifically associated with sound and graphics had to be re-written, the initial conversions were done using our own 6502 to Z80 and Z80 to 68000 assembly language converters."Pong, a hard-wired console game which was reverse engineered for the Game Gear, was initially converted from the Game Gear to the Genesis using our Z80 to 68000 assembly language converter. The video and sound modules were then rewritten to complete the process. All its play modes were faithfully reproduced."
[Given the hockey variations included (and the fact it's called Ultrapong in-game), Pong appears to be based off of Atari's Ultra Pong system.]
Keep in mind when Sega's compilation was released. The year was 1996. It was the early days of emulation on PCs, Digital Eclipse's Williams Arcade Classics was out, and the Namco Museum series was on its way. Retrogaming was on an upswing.
But then again, this was also the twilight period after the Saturn came out when most people, and even Sega, stopped caring about the Genesis and Game Gear. For that reason (not the lack of games), and that reason alone (because everybody was itching to play Pong), Arcade Classics — the only product to come out of this Sega-Atari licensing deal — was quickly forgotten.
*I don't know if Sega had any interest in Kasumi Ninja.