Sega Mascot: If you like video games, you will likely remember the most famous mascots in this segment, right? But what if we ask about Sega’s first mascot? Will you answer? If you are thinking of saying that it was the little boy in the red overalls, Alex Kidd, you were wrong!
Alex Kidd was not Sega’s first mascot, rather he was the first mascot of the new company called Sega Enterprises Ltd. after 1969.
Currently super well represented by the blue hedgehog (besides being nice), Sega has already changed mascots three times. As most of you may already know, Sonic came in the early 1990s to retire the character we already mentioned above, Alex.
However, before Alex Kidd came into being, there was… *DING DING DING* what else?!
Joe Musashi, the ninja! He has been introduced as a protagonist for two games titled “The Revenge of Shinobi” and “Shadow Dancer”.
As you can guess from his name, Joe is a Japanese ninja who had to fight against an evil organization called Neo Zeed in order to save his beloved one. This game series has been released on various consoles including Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System and PC Engine during 1989-1994 with several sequels.
A few months before the release of the third instalment, another ninja appeared, also taking a big share of fame and success – Ayumi Tachibana, a Japanese Shinto shrine maiden who was kidnapped by a wicked organization called Zeed. She hid her true identity as a ninja and posed as Joe’s sister for sake of her family’s honour.
Like Joe Musashi from the Revenge series, she is also skilled at using shuriken and katana to fight against evil foes. In 1994, Sega introduced an arcade-only sequel of this series titled “Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi” starring Joe Musashi in the primary role (he was featured in the game when Ayumi wasn’t captured yet).
Also Master System in 1987 there was a game called “Masters of Combat” which featured a ninja that was able to use shuriken and katana. It is said that Joe Musashi was actually based on this original character, but Sega didn’t acknowledge this fact.
The Revenge series has also been ported to other consoles such as PC-Engine (on the 1st instalment only), Game Gear, Wii Virtual Console and mobile phones while Shadow Dancer has been ported to Sega Saturn and PlayStation in 1996. Both games have received sequels and remakes for other platforms since then. Joe Musashi appeared in many cameo roles outside his own series, including: “Streets of Rage 3”, “Ecco the Dolphin II” (“Super Dolphin Mode”), “Shining Force II”, “The Super Shinobi” (a Japanese only sequel to the first game) and some other Sega titles.
If you are really into video games, you will definitely remember this guy! He is the protagonist of the first instalment titled “Shinobi” whose development has been started by Irem in 1987 for arcade machines.
The game had success on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and it was also released for several consoles including Mega Drive/Genesis, Game Gear and Master System with some ports like PC-Engine / TurboGrafx / CD-ROM, Amiga, Atari ST and ZX Spectrum. Joe Musashi has become something like a mascot for Sega alongside Alex Kidd during the 1980s.
As soon as this game hit the store shelves, there was an offer that you can send out to receive early information about future games. All around the world (and especially in Japan), people could see this flyer with Joe Musashi’s autograph on it standing like a real ninja saying “Tenkaku! Shinobi-kore ga Nakuru taikai!” which meant “Ikkaku! This is the sign of our secret meeting!”.
Joe Musashi (meaning “one-thousand skills”) was also featured in many other video game titles for various Sega consoles including Game Gear, Mega Drive/Genesis and Master System while he has been named as Shadow Dancer outside Japan.
The Revenge series has been ported to more recent platforms such as Nintendo Wii Virtual Console.
However, the company’s history began with nothing less than Opa-Opa, a kind of spaceship, only alive, thinking and with feelings; flashy colours and looks a lot like the recent flappy bird (at least in the movements). With its white wings and oval shape, the mascot was launched in the Fantasy Zone series in 1985!
And look, the bug didn’t live alone! He had a whole family structure in his games: a brother called Upa-Upa, a father, O-Papa; and a son, Opa-Opa Jr. Although he was a super cute character, he and his entire clan were left in Sega’s past (we don’t know exactly why).
Whoever played the game, Opa-Opa guarantees that it was super exciting and needed a lot of training to pass the stages. One of the great difficulties of the game was the need for quick reflexes and distributed attention since everything happened simultaneously!
Opa-Opa navigates through the Fantasy Zona fighting his enemies with fireballs that are shot from his mouth.
He can also jump, have a shield to destroy enemies and move its wings to control the direction of flight, but it’s almost impossible because you need good reflexes!
And what about the name? Opa-Opa comes from Greek όπα όπα (OPA OPA) which means “father-father”. But surely you were wondering how appeared this funny figure was made by Sega?
Sega’s first designer Hiroto Ikeuchi was doodling some shapes on a sheet of paper during a meeting at Sega HQ in Japan sometime around 1983 or 1984. He thought they looked like spaceships, but they were drawn in the shape of a man with two small circles for eyes.
Another designer in the room liked them and suggested that it could be made into some kind of game character. The designers started to work on the project immediately. They named his creation “Opa-Opa” because he is believed to have been based on Opa-Opa, a type of boat in Greek mythology.
As we already said Opa-Opa was the first mascot of Sega and it’s not clear why they abandoned this character and changed totally his style… But it was great! Then maybe we can find out what happened to Opa-Opa and ask him for some reunions with his family? We would love to see again the cheerful characters that were so much fun!
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