While the IRC, the WWW or Nirvana took their first steps, the Sega Mega Drive (known as Genesis in North America) began its world conquest from Japan.
Those 90 were the years of ‘Sonic’, ‘Mortal Kombat’ or ‘Street Fighter’, so the return of the Mega Drive three decades later in “mini” format it is sure to awaken many curious glances.
We have been able to test it and here are our first impressions.
Mega Drive Mini, first impressions on video
A design for collectors
As with previous reissues, such as the NES Mini or the PS Classic, the design of the Sega Mega Drive Mini it keeps absolutely the same as the original, but with reduced dimensions, a “featherweight” (it stays at 998 grams) and with most buttons and decorative elements.
In the case at hand, for example, the volume fader is there so that we can raise and lower it, but it is useless (if you want to raise or lower the volume, do it from your headphones or from the TV / monitor that you are using ). The same with the cartridge slot, which has a functional tab, but is hollow inside, so it doesn’t work either (anyway, a cartridge would not fit because the slot is much smaller).
How small is it? We have been told that it is about half the size of the original, but to give us a clearer idea, a gif:
In practice it has dimensions similar to the remote, which does maintain its size in the 2019 edition. Here are my colleague Samuel and I with the Mega Drive Mini and its remote in hand:
So, yes, it is very small, but perhaps because of that cuteness that hides its size it is the typical thing that is attractive only as an object of retro decoration.
As we say, the command stays the same, both in dimensions and buttons (small nuance: “Start” is now greyish white instead of blue). It’s as comfortable as it was and the only difference is that it includes a short something USB Cable (instead of the 9-pin one), which forces you to stand close to the screen you want to play on.
Design traced to the original reduced to an adorable and very sweet size as a retro decorative element
We also took the opportunity to ask Sega if this reissue of the command can be used on PC and they gave us the typical answer of “we cannot affirm or deny anything”, so it seems that it is not ruled out far from it, and more considering that the six button version will be sold separately.
The starting up the console couldn’t be easier: you plug the console into power, connect the HDMI to your screen, press the power button, and you’re done. After removing it from its box, in less than a minute you can have it working.
What comes in the box?
For the 79.99 euros which costs (although it can be reserved for several euros less on Amazon), the Sega Mega Drive Mini includes:
- The console (obviously).
- Two three-button controls (the six-button controls are exclusive for Japan, although they can be purchased in Europe in the main specialized stores).
- USB cable (power).
- HDMI cable (to connect to TV or monitor).
We remember that it will come with 40 pre-installed games (they cannot be officially installed anymore), including ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’, ‘Golden Ax’, or ‘Street Fighter 2’, plus two bonus games, ‘Tetris’, that never came out for the Mega Drive, and the ‘Darius’.
Initially it was announced that it would go on sale on September 19 but, apparently, “for logistical reasons”, they have delayed the launch in Europe to 4th of October, although it is still possible to book in the main stores. In the United States and Japan the date does not change.
Simple but careful software
With the PS Classic there was already some controversy because, for example, the games were not translated into Spanish (and, therefore, the mythical voice of Snake was lost in ‘Metal Gear Solid’ or the hilarious “allévoy” of ‘Final Fantasy VII ‘). It was a licensing issue, which unfortunately is not better executed on the Mega Drive Mini. Although Sega has entrusted the developer specialized in ports and M2 emulators with the task of adapting the included titles, you cannot put them in Spanish. The navigation menus can be in Spanish.
The console interface is pretty straightforward. From the beginning it offers you the inventory of games, which you can sort alphabetically or by date of release, and if you click on one, before starting a game, a small historical note is shown of what the game was and meant in its moment.
Sega has had a little nod to the way many of us may have arranged games on the shelf. If while in the menu you press button B, the list of games will change appearance and, instead of showing the covers frontally (which is as seen in the photo above), it puts them on their side, as if they were on one of our shelves, like a book.
On the other hand, if we go to display options, we can choose which display mode we want for the games: rescaled by pushing the edges, or with black stripes on the sides (to recall the experience in a more realistic way). You can also activate a CRT filter in case you want to emulate even more the appearance of playing on a tube TV of yesteryear.
By quantity and selection of games, the Sega Mega Drive Mini wins in catalog to its competitors
We also find a “System Menu”, which is the equivalent of the pause menu when we are playing any title. From here we can load or save games and, although there is a limit of four slots, you can save or return to a save point at any time.
Aesthetically, the software maintains the essence of the appearance of the original, with a predominance of blue colors and the mythical mesh of squares in the background, which is sure to bring back good memories to those who played at the time.
Finally, there is a menu in which are the legal notices, language options, etc. Nothing weird around here. Basically the software is a scheme with the games and small customization options.
The gaming experience
If I put myself in the shoes of someone who wanted to buy a reissue of a mythical console, I would ask for several things: not to be lazy to turn it on, install it or start playing, something that the Mega Drive Mini fully complies, as we have already explained.
On the other hand, that the selection of games is wide and varied. Taking into account that the NES Mini reached 30 titles and that the PS Classic remained at 20, the Mega Drive Mini wins in quantity, which amounts to 42. The discussion will come in whether they are the favorites of each one, if instead of put one should have put another, but, in general, I think that the selection is the most representative of the time. My favorites are ‘Street Fighter 2’ and ‘Sonic’, but other friends are from ‘Probotector’ or ‘Golden Ax’, and they are all on the list.
No latency, no load times, no hassle – gaming is your only concern
And how about the gaming experience? Exactly what you can expect for 16-bit titles, but without any latencies or waiting. The controller responds well, the screens load fast and the two-player mode works without problems. What I did wonder and did not have time to explore is how you can be a master of combos in titles like ‘Street Fighter’ with a remote with only three buttons, but we will leave that answer for analysis.
How do they look on a big screen? Obviously the pixels are obvious, but I did play a few games on a 60-plus-inch television and they performed perfectly. What does change is the quality depending on each game. There will be titles that, according to Sega told us, stay at 40 hz refresh rate, while others do go up to 60 hz.
In the absence of investing more hours to have a more formed opinion, after this first contact this Sega Mega Drive Mini convinces a lot: it has everything I can think of that a reissued retro console could have.