Name: Zero Tolerance System Link Cable
Release Date: 1994
Platform: Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
Launch Title: Zero Tolerance
(Editor’s Note: This Accessory was covered using it on two North American Sega Genesis consoles, two Genesis sets of hookups, two Genesis controllers and two North American copies of Zero Tolerance; all these articles are owned by the reviewer.)
The introduction of a game accessory has always been a complicated proposition. Regardless of its function, game accessories live and die based on a few aspects. The first aspect is the specific purpose of the device. The second being what the device does in conjunction with the given game or games and how its changes the overall experience. Another core area has to do with the build quality of the peripheral. Lastly, software support is also key for an accessory to have longevity.
With that criteria in mind, it may seem that the Zero Tolerance System Link Cable has gone down in history as being a complete disaster both a critical and commercial perspective. With it only being supported by one game, a late generation obscure first person shooter Zero Tolerance (GEN), it is easy to see why this device’s lifetime was woefully short. This is a shame because the link cable for Zero Tolerance managed to facilitate one of the best multiplayer first person shooter experiences of that generation; a generation populated with other such games with multiplayer like Doom (DOS) and Heretic (DOS).
The only function of the Zero Tolerance Link Cable is to connect to Sega Genesis systems in order to create a pseudo serial link. This makes playing the cooperative mode in Zero Tolerance. Had the sequel aptly titled Beyond Zero Tolerance, his cable would have supported two titles. The lack of software support for the cable definitely prevented it from catching on.
Another detracting factor is that making the cooperative mode even possible requires two Genesis systems, two copies of Zero Tolerance, hookups for both systems, two television sets, two controllers and one link cable. With all of these stipulations and variables involved it is a tad too much to ask out of gamers in the year 1994. This is coupled with the fact that Zero Tolerance was obscure game released at the tail end of the Genesis’ lifetime and the fact that the link cable was only distributed through sending a mail order form to have it sent.
It is no wonder why this accessary was not popular and has become one of the rarest, commanding relatively high prices on the internet, provided they can even be found. When found the price of one of these cables runs at roughly $20-$30 sans shipping and handling. Being supporting only supported by one title it is a heavy price to pay for such a device.
The average price for a used copy of Zero Tolerance ranges from $8-$17 for either a loose cartridge or a complete copy. Buying two copies with a cable along with two anything else to conjure this experience on one’s own accord can be a potentially expensive proposition and one that even many retro gamers will be sure to avoid.
However, there are some great qualities to this cable. For one thing it is of a high build quality. It does not feel frail in any way. The data communication speed between both systems seems to be borderline instantaneous. When in play, the game instantly tracks where every entity is within the playing environment without any lag aside from what is seen with the single player experience.
For those who cannot afford the price of the cable are in luck. The remnants of the Technopop website, kept alive by founder Randel Reiss, reveal the technical details for creating a makeshift link cable with two cannibalized Sega Genesis controller cords. This is a good cheap alternative, provided that one has the aptitude for wire splicing and soldering. If not, the easy way out would just be to pay the extra cash to get the real deal.
As mentioned in our review of the game Zero Tolerance proper, the fun of the cooperative multiplayer mode in this title is unmatched for its era. The way that the game dynamics change with the inclusion of a compatriot is profoundly significant. It is a unique piece that offered system link capabilities for console gaming for the first time. However, the relatively high financial barrier to entry and the support of only one game makes this accessory nigh impossible to recommend to anyone who is not a diehard retro games, Zero Tolerance or Sega Genesis fan.