An early marketing strategy for the Mega Drive centred around using renown celebrities, with such games as Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and Joe Montana Football helping SEGA claim a foothold in the market.
Once a certain hedgehog arrived on the scene, this strategy became less crucial – with a hip new mascot, SEGA no longer needed to associate their flagship console with celebrities of the era. Platform games starring colourful, attitude-filled, characters were now leading the way. If you’re under the impression this is a segway into how ToeJam & Earl came to be, then you’re mistaken – the bodacious alien duo made their debut a whole six months before Sonic the Hedgehog.
Come 1992, SEGA was getting ready to launch the Menacer light gun. This was their answer to Nintendo’s already released Super Scope and the successor to the Master System’s Light Phaser.
SEGA, of course, needed a range of games to support their new peripheral, along with a pack-in title to rival Nintendo’s Super Scope Six. SEGA producer Mac Senour suggested instead of a typical collection of side-scrolling shooters and shooting galleries, the development team should use their own catalogue of licenses and characters to create a star-studded compilation. Recalling their previous marketing ploy this, somewhat bizarrely, included sports mini-games based on Joe Montana and David Robinson.
Using already established brands and franchises to sell the Menacer, rather than create new IP, was a sound enough idea but for reasons numerous, it never came to full fruition. Perhaps crumbling under their own ambition (even in 1992, licenses had complications), SEGA went on to develop just one light-gun game based on existing characters – Ready, Aim, Tomatoes, starring ToeJam & Earl.