You might think that Nintendo started this new craze of shrinking classic consoles down and selling them with pre-loaded games, but like it was in the great 16-bit console wars, Sega struck first. Before the days of the miniature NES, Sega had teamed up with a company called AtGames to release consoles featuring classic Genesis titles. While these devices did have the capability to play Genesis cartridges, a feature none of the new batch of tiny consoles HAVE, both the quality of the device and the games it played were sub par. It’s about what you would expect for a product meant to catch someone’s eyes as they wait in line at the checkout counter at a major retailer like Wal-Mart.
For the 30th anniversary of the North American release of the Sega Genesis, Sega knew they had to do better job at celebrating their most popular home console of all time with the release of the Sega Genesis Mini. Not only did Sega do better though, they’ve created the new standard for which all future devices of this type should be judged by.
If you’ve purchased any of the mini consoles from either Nintendo or Sony in the past few years, you know what to expect with the shell for the Sega Genesis Mini. The box itself is an adorable recreation of the model 1 Sega Genesis, complete with a volume slider on the front that can be manually moved. It doesn’t serve any function, but it’s a loving throwback to the first version of the Genesis that lined store shelves in 1989. The device comes with an HDMI cable and is powered via a USB cable. Unlike Sony’s PlayStation Classic from last year, it comes with an AC adapter so you don’t have to rely on your television set for power or buy anything extra.
To play the forty two included games, you’ve got two wired controllers that mimic the original three-button Genesis controllers and plug in to the console through USB. It’s disappointing that other regions received the six-button revision as pack-ins, especially as two games more or less require them, but what’s included is of solid build quality and does a great job of feeling like the original. Most of the games can be experienced fine with what’s in the box, but if you want a six-button alternate, Retro-Bit has produced officially licensed controllers of this type that are compatible with the Sega Genesis Mini.
The Sega Genesis Mini comes pre-loaded with 42 games, the most of any mini console thus far. The included games are:
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Castlevania: Bloodlines
- Space Harrier 2
- Shining Force
- Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
- Toe Jam & Earl
- Comix Zone
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Altered Beast
- Gunstar Heroes
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- Earthworm Jim
- Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
- World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
- Thunder Force III
- Super Fantasy Zone
- Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
- Streets of Rage 2
- Contra Hard Corps
- Mega Man: The Wily Wars
- Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
- Sonic Spinball
- Phantasy Star IV
- Beyond Oasis
- Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
- Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
- Golden Axe
- Wonder Boy in Monster World
- Virtua Fighter 2
- Alisia Dragoon
- Monster World IV
- Kid Chameleon
- Road Rash II
- Eternal Champions
- Dynamite Headdy
- Light Crusader
As always, the list the list is not going to please everyone, but what you get is a quality representation of titles that made the Genesis such a juggernaut in the day, from arcade ports like Altered Beats, blazing fast shooters like Thunder Force III, the beloved brawler Streets of Rage 2 and of course, Sonic the Hedgehog and its first sequel. Two fighting games, Street Fighter II: Special Champion Ship Edition and Eternal Champions, are a little bit awkward with the three-button controller as you need to hit start to switch between punches and kicks, but there’s always the option to purchase a controller better suited to those games. A lot of these games have appeared on other Genesis compilations, including one that was recently released on the current generation of consoles and PC, but there’s some genuine surprises in the list.
People have long since given up hope of seeing licensed games on consoles such as this, but somehow Sega managed to get not one, but two of the Disney Illusions games. Earthworm Jim, a series that has been tangled in a rights holding quagmire over the years, is a welcome addition, as is the beloved Road Rash II from Electronic Arts. Mega Man: The Wily Wars, a Super Mario All-Stars like compilation of the first three NES games, was only released in North America as part of an early download service called the Sega Channel. The Sega Genesis Mini marks the first time the game has existed in a physical format in this territory, and while it’s by no means the best way to experience those games, it’s great to see it finally preserved on something that people can not only own, but also play on a modern display.
There’s no greater historical oddity on the Sega Genesis Mini though than Tetris, a game that due to complicated deals was only released in limited quantity and commands astronomically high prices on the secondary market. There are far better versions of the classic puzzler you can play, but what’s important is that this game that was once lost is now readily available to everyone in a convenient package. Along with Tetris, another bonus game, Darius, made the cut, but what’s curious about it is that it’s an arcade game that was never released for the Genesis, making it a brand new game of sorts.
Handling the emulation for the Sega Genesis Mini is M2, a company with a reputation for making quality compilations of classic video games, like the Castlevania and Contra collection for Konami this summer. There’s assuredly those who will nit-pick the games found on the Sega Genesis Mini, but for most, what you’re going to see, hear and play are incredibly faithful recreations of each game. You can play in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, with the option to add a CRT filter and a few different background borders, or you can stretch to the 16:9 aspect ratio to fill your entire screen. Hitting the reset button on the console or holding the start button brings up a menu that allows you to create save states, reset your game or return to the game selection. Another added perk of the Retro-Bit six-button controller is that it has an included mode button that also has the same feature as the reset button.
When you flick the power switch on the console, you’re given a very clean display of all the games, and you’re given a nice variety of options on how to sort them. You can arrange them by chronological release, alphabetically, or by games that support multiplayer. A brilliant option that may go unnoticed is that changing the region not only alters how the game’s are displayed, but can fundamentally change them too. If you changed the region to Japanese for example, it will switch Genesis to Mega Drive and give you the Japanese cover art for the games. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine changes to Puyo Puyo and Contra Hard Corps will give characters a life meter, a feature that was removed from its North American release that made it notoriously difficult, even by Contra standards. It’s touches like this that show just exactly how much love and care were put in by the people who put this device together.
Whether you have warm, nostalgic memories of the Sega Genesis or never got the chance to experience the bulk of its library, the Sega Genesis Mini is a wonderful way to play some absolutely classic games. It’s annoying that you have to shell out extra for a six-button controller or two to play some games, but you’ll still be able to get hours of enjoyment from what’s included in the package. Sega and M2 have outdone themselves with what is now the best mini console on the market.
As the saying went back in the day: Genesis does what Nintendon’t.
This review is based on a Sega Genesis Mini purchased by the reviewer.