Nostalgia is one hell of a drug, and Sega has maximized its power in the Sega Genesis Mini. Games both good and bad, controllers that are near-perfect recreations of the real thing, and some high-quality emulation define Sega’s first classic console. The result captures exactly what made the Genesis so memorable for many. For fans, it’s a must buy.
Like other classic console releases, the Sega Genesis Mini is straightforward in design. It features a smaller version of the Sega Genesis, complete with full-sized controllers that are both accurate and almost as large as the miniaturized console itself. Bells and whistles dot the exterior, including cartridge slot flaps and an expansion port cover, though the lack of a stereo headphone port is sorely missed. It’s pleasant to look at, and setting it up is intuitive, as it’s powered by a USB port. Featuring 720p display over HDMI, the Genesis Mini makes nearly every game inside look fabulous.
The 42 games included span the breadth of the original Genesis’ lifespan. There are classics, such as Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, Gunstar Heroes, and Castlevania: Bloodlines; Hidden gems, like Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Phantasy Star IV: The End of The Millenium; Mediocre-at-best titles like Shining Force and Ecco the Dolphin; and finally, games like Virtua Fighter 2, which you should skip. Special mention should be made of Monster World IV, Mega Man Wily Wars, and Tetris, as the former two have never been released outside of Japan, while the latter never saw mass production.
Taken together, these eclectic games provide a fantastic base for newcomers to experience the Genesis in all its glory. The Genesis Mini is an accurate portrayal of what the console was like in this regard, as the best of the best stand proudly alongside games like Light Crusader, which is by no means memorable. It is an unfiltered nostalgia trip into the 90s, laying bare the good and the ugly in equal measure. For that alone, it’s worth playing.
Of course, the quality of the titles means nothing if the emulation is poor. It is here that Sega has made a brilliant decision by tasking Japanese emulator extraordinaires M2 with spearheading emulation efforts. They have ensured that the games inside the Genesis Mini both look and sound great. There are barely any issues on either front that I could detect. Most importantly, playing the games feels like you are playing the originals, which is what all great emulation should strive for.
That said, there is an absence of options that can be found in similar consoles. While there is a CRT filter, screen stretching, and wallpapers, there’s not much else. And as an emulator, the Genesis Mini does contain save states that let you save your progress in games where it wouldn’t be possible or where there is no save point, which is perfect for many of the games found here. Accessing this, however, is a pain because you have to hold the options button for several seconds in order to pop open a menu. Perhaps if there was a rewind feature, this would be tolerable.
One feature to make note of is what happens when you switch languages. If you switch the language to Japanese, the cover art for each game will switch to the Japanese version, but more importantly, will let you play the Japanese editions. This doesn’t make a huge difference for most games, but in the case of Contra: Hard Corps, the game becomes noticeably easier and much more fun to play in all honesty. Similarly, Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine converts to Puyo Puyo, which is much better in my opinion. If you can deal with switching languages, I’d give it a shot.
Outside of the games, the menu for the Genesis Mini is clunky in appearance while still being easy to navigate. The user interface lacks charm, being outclassed by other classic consoles like the PlayStation Classic or Nintendo’s offerings in this regard. The exception lies in the music, however. Composed by Yuzo Kashiro, the composer behind such games as Streets of Rage 2 and The Revenge of Shinobi, is a great tune that evokes the Genesis in all its glory.
That is what makes the Sega Genesis Mini as good as it is. There may be some issues here and there, but by and large, this is a classic console that succeeds in what it aims to do. The games are great, the controllers accurate, and the emulation top notch. If Sega ever decides to make more retro efforts in this vein, then we are very lucky indeed.