Can you write a Sega Genesis Mini review without falling into a nostalgia trap? We will see as I attempt to do just that in this long-awaited post.
The question that persists with nostalgia is “Will it be as good the second time around?” If that is the basis from which miniature retro consoles should be judged, then the Sega Genesis Mini is one of the best currently on the market – if not the best. Those are big words – especially considering that Nintendo has two epic offerings in the NES and SNES Mini consoles – but Sega pulled out no stops when it came to releasing the SGM. Not only do you get a ton of classic games, but they are nearly perfect in every way that matters to most gamers.
Of course, all of this is delivered in a form factor that mimics the original design, just in miniature form. Many reviews start off with how authentic the console looks and feels. Honestly, if I started the review with a discussion of that, it would not be a positive, because this should be a given. A retro console should use high-quality materials and be as close to the actual release as possible. You get that here.
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Everything as it should be – nostalgia is served
The controller feels exactly like the Genesis’ original peripheral and everything has a nice retro look and feel. The box art is even era appropriate, which just shows that Sega did their homework.
The menu system that the Genesis Mini uses is both intuitive and relatively free of visual clutter.
It gives you a myriad of options for organizing and viewing the playable library and even regional options that change the emulated games in slight ways (think Japanese text if Japan is selected as the region).
One thing that reviewers rarely consider is whether or not these consoles would be relevant to a gamer not coming into the situation with a bunch of memories.
That is always a mixed bag and even this retro gaming console does not provide a definitive answer in this area. What I can say with some certainty is that it is an excellent representation of what the Sega Genesis was and its best games.
There are a few that are missing but, as a whole, this collection is what carries the system. Whereas Nintendo’s offerings always felt like something was lacking (do not get me wrong – Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country on the SNES Mini were great, but still…there are so many games not on that system), the Sega Genesis Mini is overflowing with games.
Some of them are not my cup of tea. For example, the version of Tetris on this system is a curiosity at best. Tetris is an amazing game so this title’s mediocrity is noteworthy. All of that said, we get 42 games. You read that correctly: 42 amazing Genesis titles for you to explore and play. As far as value for your dollar goes, that is hard to beat.
The Neo Geo offerings come close, but those games are not Street Fighter, Streets of Rage and Sonic the Hedgehog. The sheer value proposition that the SGM’s collection poses is what underscores Sega’s commitment to a product that is not only for the fans but for the gaming consumer.
They know these games are old but they want as many people as possible to enjoy this system and that shows. I cannot help but wish that more games had shown up on the SNES and NES Classic mini consoles, but that is spilt milk at this point.
Running through the library – between memories and amazement
As far as reviewing the library goes, I am going to focus on the North American version of the console. I will briefly list some of the variant titles you can find on the other editions at the end of this section, but discussion of the games will stick to the NA console release.
You get Alex the Kidd, which is to be expected, as well as the arcade hit Altered Beast and the somewhat obscure for many gamers Alisia Dragoon.
Altered Beast should be more than familiar to any fan of Sega’s old arcade titles and this version is considered the definitive console port of that classic.
Alisia Dragoon is interesting and, along with Beyond Oasis and Castlevania: Bloodlines, might be some of the sleeper titles on this roster. Contra: Hard Corps also joins that list. Insofar as pure Sega classics go, we get the Tetris-like puzzler Columns as well as the platforming masterpiece Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
The puzzle games on this system do not really work for me, but there is Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine that helps Columns and the aforementioned Tetris hold that category down. What I did like were the Sega titles specifically like Altered Beast and Castle of Illusion. That is some pure old school Sega goodness right there.
Later games like Ecco the Dolphin and Eternal Champions show that the Japanese video game colossus had not lost its magic when it came to dreaming up new IP during the heated 16-bit console wars, and I cannot help but think about what modern versions of these games would look like. Eternal Champions, in particular, is really esoteric and really hard.
I do not recommend it for people who do not like fighting games – especially bizarre and obscure 1990s arcade fighters – but there is a quirky charm about this game that makes it stand out among the wasteland of Mortal Kombat clones released around this time.
Other titles in this vein include Vectorman and ToeJam & Earl. If you ever wondered what people were talking about when they talked about Sega’s distinctive style and approach to the industry, these titles offer glimpses of past genius that is undeniable.
As for other publishers’ games, there is also another version of Ghouls n Ghosts for those masochists out there that need more of that.
Speaking of Sega arcade classics, Golden Axe is such a great game in terms of atmosphere and gameplay mechanics. Another title, Streets of Rage, amplifies everything introduced in this game to the next level. You would think that it had come out for the arcades but it was actually a purely Genesis affair. It was meant to show off the console’s stuff, and, wow, did it ever.
Thankfully, its sequel took everything up a notch as well. From addictive gameplay and pumping music, Streets of Rage 2 is legendary among the many Olympic titles on this list. Why the first game is not on the console is a mystery but at least we get the second title.
About Sonic and variant titles – some bizarre choices
Now, for the title everyone wants to know about, what Sonic games do you get?
Just Sonic 1 and 2 (Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball is a pinball video game).
That seems somewhat bizarre, right? Especially when you consider that Sega released not one but four mainline Sonic the Hedgehog games. It is like the absence of Streets of Rage – who knows what is going on.
This only becomes really annoying when you see games like Virtua Fighter 2 taking up oxygen on this dream team that you start to wonder if filler is just a fact of life. To round out the games on the NA list you get World of Illusion, Space Harrier, and Shining Force, among other titles.
Games not present on the North American version include:
Assault Suit Leynos
Dyna Brothers 2
Game no Kanzume Otokuyou
Madō Monogatari I
Party Quiz Mega Q
Puyo Puyo 2
Puzzle & Action: Tant-R
Rent a Hero
Shining Force II
Slap Fight MD
Sword of Vermilion
The Hybrid Front
The Revenge of Shinobi
Yu Yu Hakusho Makyō Tōitsusen
Of these titles, MUSHA is a loss for gaming fanatics, as it is a truly epic game. Oh, and despite the name, Outrun 2019 came out in 1993. How’s that for feeling old? Well, this is a retro console, after all. But easily one of the best I have ever tested and played. It is also one of those that I can recommend to both nostalgia freaks and someone that just wants a solid gaming console without breaking the bank.
These are easily some of the best games ever made and they definitely hearken back to an era when everyone was still trying to figure out what was what. You also get the distinct feeling of a kind of newfound prosperity in these games that titles in the 1980s did not have.
Final thoughts – a giant thumbs up
The crash of 1983 was a distant memory by the time the Genesis and the Super Nintendo started printing money for their respective companies. That optimism and spirit spills through in the games of this era and the Sega Genesis Mini captures it so perfectly it is hard to describe.
I am not the only person to say this is the best one out there. But, for me, it is just so surprising how good it is. I do not come into this with a bunch of biases and overwhelming love for Sega but now I get it. I totally get it. And you should too, retro folks.
Speaking of which, do you own a Sega Genesis Mini? What do you think of the console? Is it one of your favorites? What are some games you would have put on the North American release? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Till next retro review!