Sega could have been the publisher that kick-started the modern wave of mini retro consoles. They were releasing products in this market years before Nintendo did. Unlike the Big N though, Sega didn’t take this market seriously for a long time. Outsourcing the work to AtGames, they published shoddy devices with poor emulation meant to be sold on the cheap.
Then the NES Classic happened. Consumers appreciated its quality hardware and emulation and the device sold gangbusters. Taking the operation back in-house, the Genesis Mini represents Sega’s attempt at creating a high-caliber mini console that can not only compete against the new wave of competition, but present their legacy in a better light.
Taking its design from the original Sega Genesis and not the model 2 that would become the standard later on, the Genesis Mini goes above and beyond when it comes to capturing the essence of the original hardware. The cartridge slot flips open. The volume slider moves. The expansion port underneath opens up. You can even buy the mini tower of power kit to recreate the monolith that was the Sega CD, Genesis, 32X, Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Of the retro mini consoles on the market, this is my favourite box to-date based on how much love was put into replicating the console’s original design.
You’ll also get a pair of 3-button controllers. Certainly the most iconic Genesis controller of the bunch, but not necessarily the most functional. Later on in the console’s life, Sega released a 6-button controller that was ideal for games that required additional inputs such as Street Fighter II. While the Japanese version of the console gets that 6-button controller, you’ll have to buy that separately if you want to play Street Fighter II on this console properly. Otherwise, you’re pressing Start to toggle between punches and kicks. Yuck.
For the most part, it’s not going to matter. Most of the games chosen for this collection were designed with the 3-button controller in mind. If you really want to go all the way, you can buy the 6-button controller separately.
Speaking of which, the Sega Genesis Mini comes with a whopping 42 games. That’s double the content compared to the SNES Classic. It has a lot of iconic titles from Sega’s back catalogue such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ecco the Dolphin, Comix Zone, Phantasy Star IV, and many more. Third party hits include Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra: Hard Corps, and Earthworm Jim among others. A few deep cuts are also present, such as the Sega Channel exclusive Mega Man: The Wily Wars, alongside of two previously unreleased arcade ports of Darius and Tetris.
There are a few duds in the collection. While I understand the novelty of getting a previously unreleased version of Tetris on the console, it’s a version that has aged poorly. Columns somehow always appears on these Sega compilations, and it’s a ho-hum puzzle game at best. A few of their early arcade ports haven’t aged well either, such as Altered Beast. Nevertheless, with the sheer volume of quality content here, you’re likely to find a lot of titles to get invested in.
I can’t speak to every nuance when it comes to emulation. However, from what I’ve played, it seems solid. For the games that I remember playing in the past, I don’t notice any major discrepancies.
You can enjoy these games with a few cool customization options. Every game is supported in multiple languages to the point where every language is backed by a unique ROM. In the case of Contra: Hard Corps, this is crucial. The North American version of the game lost the extra life code and health bars, making it nigh impossible to beat. Switch the language to Japanese and you get access to both again for a much more playable experience. You also get the option of playing these titles in 4:3 with or without borders, or in 16:9. Each game also comes with four save slots, though it does not possess any sort of rewind feature. Nevertheless, I’ll gladly take four save slots over the paltry single slot per game that the PlayStation Classic provides.
Though I haven’t gone through and beaten every game in the Sega Genesis Mini, I look forward to doing so someday. The Sega Genesis Mini is a great device worth picking up. With so many good games to choose from, a fairly robust feature set, and hardware designed with a lot of attention to detail, this is a loving tribute to the iconic 16-bit console.