Up until this point, the plug-and-play Genesis consoles that ATGames was selling were…for the lack of a better word…atrocious. They just couldn’t get the emulation right for the games that were included from the Sega brand. And then there were the ridiculously bad non-Sega games they threw in on top for some unexplained reason. I mean, just sitting through Sonic the Hedgehog alone and its nightmarish theme…yeah, no.
So imagine our relief when Sega announced it would release its own Genesis plug-and-play system, the Genesis Mini. And then imagine how much further we were shocked when the company nailed the design on the first try. It’s not quite perfect, but when it comes to enjoying the 16-bit era that a lot of us old-timers grew up in, Genesis certainly does.
The system is a bit on the small size, but convenient when it comes to fitting into your man cave or gaming room. It doesn’t take up much space at all, and is incredibly easy to hook up and play. Once you do, you’re treated to a customizable menu that shows you all the available games. You make your choice, hop in and get to playing. That’s it! There are settings you can adjust, like screen size and wallpapers, should you want to customize your experience.
As for the games themselves, for the most part, they’re winners. We’re talking insanely good titles like Streets of Rage 2, a few Sonic the Hedgehog games, Altered Beast, Gunstar Heroes and others. What’s more, Sega went all out to get some excellent third party games, including Road Rash II, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra: Hard Corps and even some of the older Capcom titles like Ghouls n’ Ghosts, Strider and Mega Man: The Wily Wars…which never got a US release. There’s also Darius and Sega’s take on Tetris, which is an obscure favorite that didn’t get any attention on these shores. Rounding things out are two Disney games, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and the lovable World of Illusion. Alas, no Quackshot.
In fact, my biggest complaint about this system is the lack of some key titles. There’s no Sonic 3, easily the best in the collection. There’s also no sign of Splatterhouse 2, Rolling Thunder 2, Disney’s Aladdin, Sunsetriders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, and even After Burner II and OutRun, which could’ve easily replaced the choppy Super Thunder Blade. A few more games would’ve gone a long way.
But I digress. The emulation on these games, for the most part, is really well done. Right down to the perfect sound and visuals, this is as close as you can get to playing the original Genesis games without paying a fortune for the real deal and the included carts. And the fact you can tweak the options however you see fit is excellent.
That said, there is one minor drawback — the controllers. They’re classic three button, like the first Genesis came with. That’s not bad for some games, but for others, they can be a pain. Case in point — Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition. You just can’t play this game with a three-button controller. You need a six-button. Fortunately, Retro-Bit offers some made exclusively for the Mini for $20 a pop. I highly recommend investing in a couple.
All in all, though, this system is an essential for fans of old-school gaming that don’t own the real deal. The Sega Genesis Mini has surprisingly strong emulation, and quality sound like you remember from the good ol’ days. And while the game library has its issues, there’s hours’ worth of favorites to delve back into, especially Streets of Rage 2 and the Mickey Mouse games of old. And I don’t need to tell you how amazing Castlevania Bloodlines is, riiiiiight?
When it comes to entertaining and also providing the best take on the history of one of the most memorable 16-bit consoles out there, Genesis does.