It's true. The next generation of home video game consoles will soon be upon us with the pending arrival of the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One, but there are still plenty of people out there who are still yearning for the gaming experience of yesteryear. For those folks, there is the Sega Genesis Classic Game Console by AtGames. The best part is that you don't have to re-invest in a bunch of classic games, because dozens of them are built right into this machine.
Revisiting the 16-Bit Gaming War
As much as we may look toward the future of gaming, we equally nostalgic about our gaming heritage. That's why there are products like the RetroDuo Portable. I make no qualms about growing up as a Nintendo kid. I was totally partial to the NES, SNES and N64 growing up, playing my Mario and Mega Man games along with the rest of you. And while the Master System put up a little bit of a fight against the NES, it was during the 16-bit era that the gaming wars really took off. That's when we saw the Super Nintendo face off against the Sega Genesis and its "blast processing."
And it is with this kind of nostalgia for the early 90s that we look at this re-imagining of the Sega Genesis. They've captured a similar kind of aesthetic here, but the plastic machine does feel decidedly hollow by comparison. It is also a fair bit smaller, even if it may be comparatively more powerful. Yes, you could use an emulator, but having a "real" console is different. And special.
What's in the Box?
Opening up the box, you'll find that you really are given everything you need to get started with your 16-bit Sega-fueled adventure into the past. There is the console itself, of course, along with the instruction manual, power adapter and AV cable. It is worth noting that the AV cable only provides composite video (yellow) and mono audio (white). I suppose you don't need any more than that for these kinds of plug-and-play retro games, but it is a little disappointing that we don't get at least some stereo audio.
You also get a couple of wireless controllers that are modeled after the six-button design of the original Sega Genesis. I appreciate that they didn't go with the three-button design, even if not too many of the games use all six buttons. These are wireless, but they operate over IR like your TV remote. What this means is that you do need line of sight in order for them to work, which became a not insignificant point of annoyance during gameplay.
Each controller requires a pair of AAA batteries, which aren't included. If you're more of a purist and would prefer to use your own authentic wired controllers, there are ports in the front for that purpose.
Does It Really Have 80 Built-in Games?
It is true that this AtGames Sega Genesis Classic Console has 80 games that are pre-installed on its internal memory. However, only half of these are actually Sega Genesis games like Alex Kidd, Columns and Streets of Rage. There are some real gems in here, including Comix Zone, Sonic and Knuckles and all three Golden Axe games.
The other half are a series of generic titles and blatant ripoffs. You get to play some Sudoku, Chess, and Mahjong, among others. They're mostly forgettable, but you should really consider them to be nothing more than a bonus.
The good news is that even though this is a "plug and play" console, there is still a legacy Genesis slot on the top that will accept real Genesis cartridges. If your favorite game isn't in that list of 40, you can still play it (if you can find it).
Playing the Genesis Classics...
By today's standards, the graphics here are going to be decidedly crummy, but that's a big part of their charm. Even though the games were originally designed to run on a conventional 4:3 CRT, the titles here have been mildly adapted to suit our 16:9 HDTVs without too much trouble. You will notice a little cheating on the left and right edges, but they're forgivable given the circumstances.
The actual gameplay is very smooth and gamers who grew up in the 90s will feel right at home, diving right back into the water with Ecco or exercising their combat skills in Virtua Fighter 2. No, Virtua Fighter isn't the 3D game we had in the arcades, but this is what it was like on the Genesis.
The wireless controllers are reasonably comfortable. The face buttons offer a surprising amount of travel, which is neither good nor bad. I did find the d-pad to be far too "floaty" for my preferences, but if my admittedly poor memory serves me correctly, this is not unlike the original Genesis controller. The IR interface can be a touch finicky at times, so you will want to maintain a near-perfect line of sight at all times.
...And the 40 Other Filler Titles
If you've ever played bad knockoffs of popular games (haven't we all?), then you'll know what to expect with these other 40 games. Here is a shot of the Bomberman clone, for instance. It works on a fundamental level, but the matches are completely standalone with no real sense of progression. You don't get much in terms of options either. The same can be said about the Frogger clone. And then there are the generic chess, checkers, and Sudoku games (among others) that feel like what you may have had pre-installed on a Palm Pilot at some point.
They are far from great, to be sure, but they are a "free" bonus to help prop up the built-in game count.
MEGATechie Mega Drive or MEGATechie Mega Disappointment?
Gamers who want a jazzed up version of their favorites, like what happened with the "HD Remix" of Street Fighter II or the "Reshelled" version of Turtles in Time, aren't going to be at all impressed with this machine. Players who want to dive back into gaming history and revisit some of their old favorites, though, will find a suitable amount of value here.
You have to realize that this "plug and play" Sega Genesis remake is only $70 MSRP. If you divide that through by just the 40 Genesis games, that's less than $2 per title. And you get the console itself, plus two wireless controllers. It won't wow you and it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but re-entering the Golden Axe battlefield with a buddy like this is something that will touch any nostalgic gaming heart.