Former CVG and Official Nintendo Magazine scribe Chris Scullion turns to the dark side for his third exhaustive unofficial encyclopedia, taking us on a tour of not just the entire western SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis catalogue, but the Mega CD and 32X as well.

This hefty 285-page hardback tome is presented in the same uniform manner as both Scullion’s NES and SNES encyclopedias, with each game gaining a quarter of a page minimum and a single screenshot. More renowned games (Sonic, Earthworm Jim 2, Ecco, Streets of Rage 2, Snatcher, etc) are given half a page, allowing for a more detailed overview and insight into their development.

A piece of trivia accompanies every entry, although in some instances this is just a cheat code, which is understandable. We doubt there’s much to be said about the likes of Super Volleyball when it comes to interesting facts.

Every game officially released in both the US and Europe is covered, along with the occasional unlicensed game (hello again, Action 52) and double pack. To clarify, both Telstar and OziSoft bundled older Mega Drive games into budget 2-in-1 packs, which resulted in some peculiar combinations. All of SEGA’s Mega Game compilations are covered too, some of which were only available in hardware bundles. SEGA put out a surprising amount of these, and Scullion manages to find something informative to say about each.

Each entry gives a brief synopsis, detailing the plot (where applicable) and an overview of features. It would’ve been easy to turn entries into mini-reviews, but to his credit, Scullion deftly avoids doing so. Occasionally the fact that something was universally panned by ‘90s critics is mentioned, but he rarely inflicts his own verdict.

All three systems also have a multi-page introduction, detailing their history. These are well-researched – we were completely unaware SEGA had so little software ready for the Mega CD’s Japanese launch, which consisted of just two titles. In fact, the Mega CD section was the most fascinating system to read about. So many of its more interesting titles only made it to the US and consequently passed the UK gaming press by.

We’d also forgotten just how many lazy Mega Drive ports the Mega CD received – seeing each entry broken down helps to overview the platform, as a whole, in a new light. As for the 32X, we’ve always championed it as having a small but curiously enticing line-up. If you’re unfamiliar with the failed add-on, you’ll be a know-it-all by the time you reach the index.

As someone more than familiar with the Mega Drive library, it was a delight to find it peppered with tidbits of knowledge, such as SEGA Sports’ NFL 97 heading to Saturn and skipping the Genesis, only to return to the 16-bit console the following year. When it comes to the sports games, in particular, it’s clear Scullion went out of his way to make each entry a worthwhile read – a task far harder than it may sound.

I think it’s fair to say most critics out there, especially those who grew up with the Mega Drive, could ‘wing’ a large part of this encyclopaedia – there are a lot of well-known Mega Drive games out there, most of which have been re-released dozens of times. Yet, there’s no evidence to suggest Scullion just ‘winged’ his way through it – each entry is well-researched, making it clear that time was taken to play and experience each title covered from an unjaded perspective.

Exhaustive and insightful, it’s fascinating to see the Mega Drive’s celebrated catalogue laid bare and examined this closely.

The SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Encyclopedia (RRP £30) is available now from Pen & Sword