Perhaps in a bid to capitalise on the excitement surrounding the Mini SNES, emails have gone out to press talking about a “Sega Mega Drive Flashback” or “Genesis Flashback” box that will be sold at Australian stores this year.
There’s just one problem, and it’s the same problem that cropped up last year. The Mini NES and SNES were brand new products built by Nintendo to perfectly run older games. The “Sega Mega Drive Flashback”, or “Genesis Flashback” is a third-party emulator box.
As Mikey reported last year, Chinese manufacturer AtGames has been selling a Sega-branded Mega Drive for a few years. It doesn’t have genuine Mega Drive hardware inside, instead relying on emulation to play the inbuilt 85 games and any Mega Drive cartridges that you happen to have lying around.
Despite reports circulating to the contrary, the Nintendo/Sega console rivalry isn't flaring back up in miniature form. Nintendo's upcoming mini-NES is a brand new device. AtGames' Sega-branded mini-Mega Drive is a shoddy emulation box that's been around for years.Read more
It certainly sounds like a good deal. For $149.95, you get 85 games built into the console, as well as a cartridge port that can support old Mega Drive games. The new model has restore and save states – the “Classic Game Console” didn’t – and there’s HDMI support with 720p output.
But the biggest problem with AtGames’ products in the past has been the sound. The Classic edition, which retails for $100, doesn’t have HDMI output and the distortion is astonishingly bad:
If you could play through all of Sonic with sound quality that garbage, props to you.
Because the Sega Genesis Flashback doesn’t rely on composite connectors, the sound should be better. AtGames released a video this month promising “incredible stereo sound”, although it still sounds filtered (skip to 45s):
Compare that to the audio from the original Genesis hardware, or at least some of the variations thereof (including the Sega Nomad, CDX, first, second and third models).
Should you find yourself ever considering the Classic Genesis console, here’s a comparison between its sound and an official Sega Genesis:
It’s not good. On top of that, users have reported no end of issues with the “Classic Game Console” controllers. They rely on older wireless infra-red technology, which generally requires line of sight to the console and, in most cases, little distance. It’s not practical and it’s vastly inferior to the 2.4Ghz wireless tech most modern controllers.
There’s a bit of embellishment with the game library as well. The packaging and listing on EB Games advertises 85 games, but only 42 of those are actual Genesis games. You do get titles like Golden Axe, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Phantasy Star 2 and 3 and the first three Mortal Kombat games. But you also have garbage like Whack A Wolf, Meatloaf Rotation, Yawning Triceratops, Table Magic and Mr. Balls.
We can complain up hill and down dale that Nintendo should have included more games with the Mini NES and Mini SNES. But to their credit, they didn’t fill the console’s memory with rubbish – and you know you’re not going to get a compromised experience.
That’s not a guarantee with the “Sega Mega Drive Flashback”. So if you see pictures of one floating around social media or in a store somewhere, calm your farm. It’s a licensed emulator, not an original Sega product. The new version might be much better now that it actually has save states, HDMI and improved controllers, but do yourself a massive favour and wait for some reviews first. Alternatively, keep an eye on the Polymega console (formerly known as Retroblox) instead.