Sega Genesis Mini Review

There’s hardly anything that can prompt gamers to empty their wallets faster than the feeling of nostalgia, I’ve experienced this myself more times than I can count. Replicas of retro consoles have been available for years, but were seen as an inferior way to play the game as the hardware itself was rarely of reputable quality as well as the emulated games suffered from frame rate and lag issues. It wasn’t until Nintendo(who seems downright disinterested at times in re-releasing many of their back catalog titles) released miniature-sized replicas of the NES and SNES complete with an array of classic games and HDMI inputs to accommodate modern tvs. The NES and SNES Classic sold out instantly in their initial production runs and in response no doubt to Nintendo’s success, companies such as Sony and Sega have since released small-scale replicas of the original Playstation and the Genesis/Mega Drive; the ensuing consoles were respectively known as the Playstation Classic and Sega Genesis Mini.

AtGames has released several different lines of Genesis replicas licensed by Sega featuring a “greatest hits” of games built-in. These models were generally considered to be poor quality in both hardware and game performance. As a result, they remained stacked on the shelves of retailers before being discontinued. Sega announced in 2018 they were releasing a new scaled-down replica of their mega-successful Genesis and aimed for a release window to coincide with the 30th anniversary of its North American release in 1989(I posted a list of My Favorite Sega Genesis Games this past August to commemorate). The Sega Genesis Mini missed the target release date of August 14, 2019, but was released shortly afterward on September 19. I recently received the console as a birthday present and after spending some time with it, decided to write up a review of the Sega Genesis Mini.

SEGA!!

My old Sonic 2 cartridge showing scale size of the Genesis Mini

The Sega Genesis Mini includes the miniature-sized Gen 1 console(I got the Gen 2 growing up) and accommodates modern tv/monitors by an HDMI input and simple USB power adapter. The Genesis also comes with not one, but two full-sized wired control pads complete with the red lettering on the buttons and around the d-pad. The controllers plug into the console via USB ports and look, feel and play identical to my old ones. I was pleasantly surprised the controller cords are around 3.5 feet in length which allows you to sit a comfortable distance away from your tv. This being a sometimes overlooked detail as the average tv size has doubled since the days of sitting on a couch in the basement in front of an old 19-inch CRT tv; one of the biggest complaints against Nintendo’s NES Classis was the bafflingly short length of the controller cords. Everything about the Genesis Mini has been impressively replicated: console, controllers, and original box art. The game selection menu even features music created by Yuzo Koshiro who was responsible for some of the most beloved Genesis titles; I even love how the sound effects as you navigate the menus are pulled directly from various games.

Sega has done a remarkable job in recreating the Genesis down to details such as the power button being the very same used in the original, as well as a movable slider for the headphone volume and working dust flaps over the cartridge slot; the latter two details being purely cosmetic but add a nice sense of authenticity. There’s even the detachable cover for the slot underneath the console where the Sega CD add-on could be attached. In fact, Sega manufactured additional add-ons for the Genesis Mini: A Sega CD, 32x, a replica Sonic&Knuckles cartridge, and mini Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge that can all be assembled to create Sega’s infamous Genesis Tower of Power. Of course the additions to create this mini-behemoth are again, purely cosmetic but make for a great piece of Sega history. I was a bit disappointed to find out these are only being sold in Japan, and are currently sold out on Play-Asia.

Final Genesis Evolution – The Tower of Power

While the Genesis Mini not being included with 6-button controllers may seem like a turn off for those such as myself, who simply refused to play fighting games like Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat without one. Also, the 6-button controller is probably the sole reason I was able to beat The Lion King on my old Genesis. Fortunately, Retro-Bit offers officially licensed Sega Genesis 6-button controllers that can be can be plugged into the USB port. These sell for $19.99 and are compatible for use on other platforms such as Steam or even the Nintendo Switch.

The Name of the Game is THE GAMES

The Genesis Mini comes preloaded with 42 classic games, including 2 “Bonus Titles” – shoot-em-up Darius and a Genesis version of Tetris; both of which have never appeared on a Sega console. The collection of games includes nearly every big-name title to appear on the Genesis and spanning a range of genres: action, fighting, shoot-em-ups, RPGs, and even a few puzzle games. Classics like Sonic 2, Earthworm Jim, Streets of Rage 2, and Street Fighter 2 took up countless hours of my childhood and there’s a number of games that I still have yet to play like Alisia Dragoon, Shining Force, or Castle of Illusion. Mega Man and Tetris games are near-synonymous with Nintendo so it will be interesting to play them using a Sega controller. One of my complaints about the selection of games for the Genesis Mini is there could have been more EA games included, as Road Rash II is the only one. Electronic Arts had some very prominent sports titles on the Genesis that would have been cool, or even something along the lines of NBA Jam or even Mutant League Football would have been nice to see. It’s rather odd that there’s no inclusion of a Mortal Kombat game or two, considering part of Sega’s cooler, edgier image was seemingly cemented by the blood and gore of the Mortal Kombat games; this also turned Congressional hearings with Joe Lieberman into a spectator sport. “Sega does what NintenDON’T” remember?

The included games:

  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  • Alisia Dragoon
  • Altered Beast
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Columns
  • Comix Zone
  • Contra: Hard Corps
  • Darius
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Eternal Champions
  • Ghouls N’ Ghosts
  • Golden Axe
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Landstalker
  • Light Crusader
  • Mega Man: The Wily Wars
  • Monster World IV
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Road Rash II
  • Shining Force
  • Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Space Harrier II
  • Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • Strider
  • Super Fantasy Zone
  • Tetris
  • Thunder Force III
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • Vectorman
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World
  • World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

Blast Processor Performance!

Being wary of any issues such as input lag or chugging frame rates that have plagued other retro consoles, Sega’s previous efforts with AtGames in particular, I was relieved to read prior to the Genesis Mini’s release that Sega had commissioned M2 to work on bringing the collection of titles over to the console. M2 had recently worked with Konami on the Castlevania Collection released earlier this year, with impeccable results. Anyone who’s played the original Castlevania entries can attest to what a significant impact any amount of frame rate issues or input lag will have on what were already difficult games(though Castlevania Adventure’s frame rate issues are simply beyond repair).

I like the fact the games are kept in 4:3 and not stretched to fit the screen. The surrounding border also doesn’t take up as much screen space as other retro collections(Namco Collection…)

As a way to jump in and test how well the games play, I decided to start with a game I was familiar enough with and would no doubt magnify any issues – Contra: Hard Corps. The game plays wonderfully and the fact I died within the first seconds of the game are no way the fault of frame rate/lag, the game’s just tough as hell. I made my way through the first few levels and couldn’t find any noticeable hiccups, so I decided to test a few more games. From there I went to Sonic 2, another of my favorites that I know inside and out. After playing Sonic 2 for a while I decided to try out the Mickey Mouse platformer – Castle of Illusion, which also played great. I have since spent a while playing Shinobi III and Street Fighter II and am eager to jump into some other games that I’ve never had the chance to play….or some Sonic Spinball?

Worth Buying?

The Sega Genesis Mini is a wonderful addition to the plethora of licensed retro consoles available and the collection of games play incredibly well. Is it worth buying? For someone that already has most of or all of the included games, maybe not.

My biggest critiques of the console would possibly be the omission of 6-button controllers, though the Japanese version included them. I also would have liked to see a couple more EA games as well as at least Mortal Kombat II. The Japanese version of the Mega Drive Mini also includes several games that were swapped out for the North American version. A significant one for me was MUSHA, which I’d love the chance to play, but it is quite rare AND expensive to pick up a physical copy. The Genesis Mini IS a great way to play some of gaming’s all-time greats with such authenticity, but still taking advantage of modern technology. It was also marked down to as low as $50 over the Black Friday weekend which is more than a fair price for what’s included. I stated I’ve only ever played about half of the included games and only have a small CRT tv in the closest I occasionally drag out to get the full experience when I get the urge to play old Genesis or SNES games, so for me, it’s definitely worth picking up.

Do you plan on getting a Genesis Mini? What are some of the games you’d be most excited to play? What I intended to be a brief review of a MINI console turned out to be the opposite it seems…thanks for reading!