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Old 19 April 2023, 06:17   #1
ImmortalA1000
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An unbiased comparison of Megadrive vs A1200 graphics?

Looking for an unbiased look at the Megadrive graphic hardware vs AGA and the performance of a base spec 2mb A1200.

I learned just seconds ago about the Megadrive having severe difficulty doing palette swaps and it is limited to 4 sets of 16 colour palette groups. By 1992 the Megadrive in the UK was the biggest rival to the Amiga 1200 new kid on the block, although the sales of SNES picked up overnight once the SF2 exclusive was released and the SF2 bundle put together.

Of course the OCS chipset has a copper chip and 32/4096 unrestricted colours per scanline available in 320x256 mode but the sprites on the OCS/ECS chipset have no dedicated palette and are severely limited in width, closer to NES than any of the 16bit console trio of 1991. The AGA sprites may still be limited in number, still only 4 sprites of 15 colours, but at least they can be 64 x screen height pixels in size so useful in situations where the consoles use many combined sprites, like end of level guardians type situations.

Games don't really compare well because much less effort was put into pushing the A1200 to breaking point unlike the A500 KS 1.3 OCS spec so I don't think games are the best way to compare the hardware.
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Old 19 April 2023, 06:31   #2
Samurai_Crow
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Well, for starters, the Megadrive/Genesis had its palette selectable from 512 colors (3 bits per component). AGA palette registers are true-color, 16.7 million possibilities (8 bits per component).
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Old 19 April 2023, 07:47   #3
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I'd say the MegaDrive's advantage was its sprites: https://segaretro.org/Sega_Mega_Drive/Sprites

Colorwise even compared to OCS/ECS machines the MegaDrive's 512 color palette was a disadvantage. The 64 maximum colors on screen were used quite well in some titles though. One example would be Gunstar Heroes: [ Show youtube player ]
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Old 19 April 2023, 08:13   #4
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Well, when it comes to the amount of colors on screen even an OCS Amiga can beat the Mega Drive, the Mega Drive without using any trickery could display 64 colors from a palette of 512. Using mid screen palette changes all colors could be displayed and there is some kind of darker and brighter palettes that can be used for even more colors but from what I remember about it it's not very useful for other things than a picture or maybe some kind of effect in a game. The OCS Amiga can display 32 (or 64 with EHB) from a palette of 4096 colors but since the copper was part of the design of the Amiga it's real easy to do palette changes mid screen and many Amiga games used lots of colors.

AGA Amigas kinda worked the same but could display 256 colors on screen from a palette of 16.7 million.

The Mega Drive had a Tile Mode which definitely was an advantage in many cases, it was easy to update big chunks of the screen by just updating a few tiles and there are many tricks that can be done with tiles. It also made it real easy to do scrolling because only the tilemap had to be updated instead of blitting big chunks of data to the screen while scrolling around.

The Mega Drive had way better sprites, the Amiga in a bit tries to catch up with the blitter but from what I've gathered even on an AGA Amiga it's not possible to move around close as many objects as the Mega Drive can at 50FPS.

Both machines have two background layers, on an AGA machine you get 2 16-color layers when in Dual Playfield (actually one 15 color because transparency and one 16 color) while the Mega Drive can select from it's 4 16-color palettes for each tile so each layer can be more colorful without relying on something like the copper.

All in all, they are very different and for some type of games the Amiga hardware might be better, but if I were to make an action game I would definitely prefer working with the Mega Drives tile mode and sprites. However for a adventure or strategy-type game the bitmap mode of the Amiga and better palette would definitely be an advantage.

It definitely shows that the Mega Drive is designed by a company famous for their arcade games.
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Old 19 April 2023, 08:48   #5
rzookol
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A1200 is way better, just need 030@50mhz to use AGA only as a screenbuffer, not the lame lowlevel sprite/playfield hardware worse than X68000 from 1987.
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Old 19 April 2023, 10:43   #6
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Originally Posted by rzookol View Post
A1200 is way better, just need 030@50mhz to use AGA only as a screenbuffer, not the lame lowlevel sprite/playfield hardware worse than X68000 from 1987.
The A1200 is superior to the Megadrive, mostly due to CPU grunt - As it should be at over twice the price. The fact that people compare them shows that the A1200 wasn't the huge step up from the A500 that it should have been.

For 3D, even the A500 is superior to the Megadrive.

As for the X68000, it cost the equivalent of $3000 dollars in '87, well over $6000 in today's money. This isn't including the fact that Japanese tech was always more expensive by the time it got to the U.S, and a lot more expensive when it got to Europe.
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Old 19 April 2023, 12:29   #7
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Well, it's not just the copper and colours. The AGA sprites are not too shabby either. I mean, you can use just 4 of them to almost fill the screen (4x64/unlimited height) and add another background layer and multiplex the rest for a big boss without even using the blitter yet. See this part of an older thread: http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?...a+drive&page=7

And then, there's the sound. Especially on AGA with the 2mb of chip ram, you can have better quality samples and much better sound than anything the mega drive can output despite having more channels. Opinions and tastes vary of course, some people prefer the fm synthesis.

The faster cpu is also a big advantage, especially for vector stuff.

Mega Drive's tile system and super fast streaming from cartridge has many pros, but also has 64kb of main ram and 64kb of video ram, while the Amiga has much more memory available at any time for the display. See the tree tops in Shadow of the Beast for example. For the mega drive, they have to built them from tiles due to the memory constraints, whereas on the amiga they're complete bitmaps resulting in much better detail. Same goes for the storage medium. The cartridges have near instant loading times and fast streaming of data, but, on the other hand, they were much more expensive than disks and, as such, it was cheaper to have a game with a big amount of data on the amiga (usually adventure games).

Last(?), but not least, the keyboard and mouse. Much better suited for adventures, rpgs and flight sims. Mega Drive has a standard 3 button gamepad tho, much better for action games.

So, I guess, in general the AGA is overall better.
The OCS is better in many areas well.

The biggest advantage of the Mega Drive and the japanese consoles in general, were their developers. Night and day.

EDIT:

just realized the og question was just for gfx, sorry I went a bit off topic comparing other areas.

Last edited by vulture; 19 April 2023 at 12:49.
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Old 19 April 2023, 13:24   #8
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If you compare two systems from the time period, one question to answer will be how you weight different aspects of their capabilities. The Amiga was created in a time period when hardware sprites were a necessity even though it got something more powerful to replace sprites, the blitter. Unfortunately AGA failed to improve the blitter but even its improved sprites would never play a role as important as back when CPU clock rates were much below the computer's pixel clock and hardware sprites were the only way to display fast moving objects and perform collision detection.

In short, I would assume that the speed at which blobs could be created and hardware-scrollable screens could be complemented with new screen content was more important by 1990 than it was in 1985. Thus, a faster/wider blitter would have been of greater importance for keeping the Amiga architecture competitive than sprites.
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Old 19 April 2023, 15:30   #9
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Generally A1200 is rather superior to MegaDrive, but MD is better in terms of sprites. It can shows up to 20 sprites per scan-line (vs 8 in Amiga) and 80 per VBL.

Also MD sale was impressive, more than 30 million units was sold vs ~6 million (for all Amiga models).


Regarding MegaDrive color palette: it has 1536 colors: 3x 512 colors (main, shadowed, highlighted).
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Old 19 April 2023, 15:39   #10
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Many of the differences between the two system were already mentioned but it seems people haven't mention (or I missed it) one aspect that makes the Mega Drive be better than the Amiga for fast raster/arcade games: its VDP has chunky-to-planar, which - together the already mentioned superior sprites - enabled the Mega Drive to have fast-flowing arcade games with lots of sprites on-screen. It made games like Streets of Rage 2, Ecco the Dolphin, Sonic the Hedgehog, Gunstar Heroes, Duke Nukem 3D and even Virtua Racing (even if it was lacklustre. I'm talking about the plain 16bit version and not the 32X one) possible.

This was one of the reasons that enabled the Mega Drive to have superior versions of games like Aladdin, The Lion King, Cool Spot, Chuck Rock or Micro Machines and allowed for very competently made games that the Amiga can only dream of like Sonic 3D Blast, The Pirates of Dark Water or Comix Zone and very competent versions of Samurai Shodown, The Punisher, Art of Fighting and Street Figther 2.

However, on a whole, the VDP is inferior to AGA which has a lot more oomph, in spite of the criminal lack of C2P abilities. And despite of some very nifty sprite management and the C2P, the VDP is closer to OCS than to AGA. Games that exist on both the Mega Drive and the OCS Amigas that are much better on the Amiga are, for instance, the Lotus games, Sensible Soccer, any 2D strategy game, etc. The Mega Drive's VRAM is also sort-of a joke, which hinders its performance considerably. IMO, the Mega Drive is only better than the OCS Amigas at fast paced 2D action games that rely on sprites and multiple plane fields. The Amiga is better at everything else.

This, natch, being my very personal opinion.
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Old 19 April 2023, 16:55   #11
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@PortuguesePilot

A few questions:
Why chunky pixels would be faster than planar for 2D games?
Wasn't Virtua Racing enhanced by a DSP?
Why wouldn't AGA be able to do Samurai Shodown (a version similar to the Mega Drive that is, not the Neo Geo original)?
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Old 19 April 2023, 17:41   #12
Samurai_Crow
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vulture View Post
A few questions:
Why chunky pixels would be faster than planar for 2D games?
The transparency mask can be generated on-the-fly by a single 8-input logic gate to detect the zero byte.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vulture View Post
Wasn't Virtua Racing enhanced by a DSP?
It had an additional graphics chip in the cartridge, if that's what you mean.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vulture View Post
Why wouldn't AGA be able to do Samurai Shodown (a version similar to the Mega Drive that is, not the Neo Geo original)?
It could but it would need additional Fast RAM to make the bandwidth requirement. Chip RAM usage notwithstanding, the blitter and copper would need all the bandwidth they could get.
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Old 19 April 2023, 18:22   #13
sokolovic
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It had an additional graphics chip in the cartridge, if that's what you mean.
A bit more than just a graphic chip IMHO

https://segaretro.org/Sega_Virtua_Processor
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Old 19 April 2023, 20:08   #14
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Commodore's demise gave the A1200 a much shorter shelf-life than the Megadrive, people were still exploiting the A500's potential in 1994 (look at Elfmania / Brian the Lion / Mr Nutz etc compared to even the earliest Amiga-dedicated developments, the visual difference is stark) so I doubt there was as much desire to attack the A1200 as strongly, especially as it only really sold in Europe rather than the bigger Japanese and American markets.

I'm not convinced that there's much on the Megadrive (especially before you consider extra chips in carts such as Virtua Racing) that the A1200 couldn't match or exceed with the right skill. A1200 versions of Cool Spot, Micro Machines and Global Gladiators could have matched the visuals and speed of the Megadrive releases. Sprites are the Megadrive's only theoretical advantage, but you have enough processing power to work around that - Super Stardust has a lot more than 4 ships on screen at a time and they look impressive, for example.
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Old 19 April 2023, 20:08   #15
Samurai_Crow
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@sokolovic Thanks for the link!
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Old 19 April 2023, 20:13   #16
vulture
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The transparency mask can be generated on-the-fly by a single 8-input logic gate to detect the zero byte.
Okay and how much of a difference does that make? Considering the AGA has a faster cpu or is this not relevant?

Quote:
It had an additional graphics chip in the cartridge, if that's what you mean.
As sokolovic said, not just a gfx chip but a DSP chip as I mentioned and a pretty powerful one for the time.

Quote:
It could but it would need additional Fast RAM to make the bandwidth requirement. Chip RAM usage notwithstanding, the blitter and copper would need all the bandwidth they could get.
Ok, but then how Elfmania or Shadow Fighter are possible without fast ram?
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Old 19 April 2023, 20:27   #17
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Okay and how much of a difference does that make? Considering the AGA has a faster cpu or is this not relevant?







As sokolovic said, not just a gfx chip but a DSP chip as I mentioned and a pretty powerful one for the time.







Ok, but then how Elfmania or Shadow Fighter are possible without fast ram?
Faster CPU needs memory bandwidth or it makes no difference. Fast RAM is one of two ways to get it. The other way is to redesign AGA to use an external cache controller in place of the Buster chip.

Elfmania and Shadow Fighter are possible but writing a Virtua Racer clone for AGA would require an '040 accelerator and Fast RAM which wasn't as cheap as a DSP in the cartridge.

The bandwidth limitations of the A1200 are well known so I won't discuss it further except to say that it gave Sega a huge advantage when the CD32 had the same bandwidth limit.
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Old 19 April 2023, 20:41   #18
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No, I wasn't talking about Virtua Racer, I was referring to Samurai Shodown. The Mega Drive version doesn't even have any parallax or line scrolling, why wouldn't a similar A1200 version be possible without fast ram, while Shadow Fighter and Elfmania (which isn't even AGA) are possible, that's what I was asking.

Last edited by vulture; 19 April 2023 at 20:49.
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Old 19 April 2023, 20:55   #19
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I generally found that the A1200 and the MD were pretty much nose-to-nose for graphics - in practice the MD may have just nudged ahead in stuff like arcade conversions. What really annoyed me though was the sound. I'd far rather listen to the miggy.
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Old 19 April 2023, 21:35   #20
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Seeing as the Amiga 1000 is more powerful than a Mega Drive I think it goes without saying that the A1200 is. It's always frustrating for me to see that even on this main Amiga board everyone seems to discredit the Amiga. I have been revisiting a lot of Amiga and Genesis games and I still don't see any Genesis game that outdoes Lionheart, Agony, Elfmania, Kid Chaos, Ruff N Tumble, Mr Nutz, Shadow of the Beast, Stardust etc. in terms of beauty. Super Stardust way outclasses anything the SNES could do.

As has been said most of the best graphically impressive Amiga games came out in 92-94, 7-9 years after the A1000. So with commercial AGA development only having strength until 1995 at the latest that was only 3 years which would put us at the 1988 quality of OCS, so in fact AGA was still in it's pre-Shadow of the Beast days in terms of it's potential.
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