Don't Buy That 'Classic' Sega Mega Drive Just Yet

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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.

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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.

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Comments

    I've got the smaller AtGames MD emulator, got it at Kmart for $50 a few years ago. I think 30 games built-in? Can confirm, sound is unbearable.

    Don't even think about going out and buying a Classic SEGA Mega Drive Console because AtGames I've got one thing to say you are complete losers because if you think you want to go back and relieve your childhood memories playing Sonic I'd say don't even think about buying a SEGA Mega Drive console because the Mega drive requires gaming cartridges to play and the sound quality is not very good at all.

    A couple of points:

    - The new Genesis / Mega Drive Flashback does have 2.4 GHz wireles controllers (it's in the press release and on the box and in every other article about it). This article misleadingly implies that the new console won't. This should be fixed.
    - Technically the NES Mini and SNES Mini are 'emulator boxes' as well, admittedly ones that are be top quality compared to previous AtGames releases.

    I agree about waiting for reviews (I will be, as well as for their Atari 2600 HDMI range), but with the added features in terms of HDMI out, the save/pause/rewind feature, it's obvious that they've improved on previous iterations. Hopefully the sound quality and joypads have been improved. Throw in the cartridge port, and this potentially could be a good product. The title seems to be verging on clickbait imho...

      I mentioned that the new flashback has improved controllers:
      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.

    It literally states 2.4ghz wireless controllers on the box, I don't get the point of stating "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."

      The "Classic Gaming" console is being sold in stores for $100 still, which is what was being referred to the sentence prior.

    Errrm. You do realise the Nes, and most likely, the Snes mini's both use emulation right? They aren't FPGA or original hardware at all.

    And before you argue because Nintendo its accurate, they really aren't, especially in the realms of colour reproduction and sound.

    Last edited 27/06/17 8:35 pm

      Yep. The NES Mini is an ARM based Linux computer running an emulator, and the SNES Mini is probably based on the same design: for all we know, it might even be the same hardware inside a different plastic shell.

      I can totally believe that the people making this Mega Drive emulator did less QA on how the games they ship run though.

    Who doesn't like a round of Mr Balls?

      Really, doesn't every healthy male play a bit of Mr Balls and Meatloaf Rotation every now and then? Or once a day at least.

    Just pick up the Sega Mega Drive collection disk. It's got heaps of games including Sonic, all the Golden Axes, Shinobi 3, Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (Puyo Puyo) and the crowning achievement of all beat em ups, the Streets of Rage trilogy.

    I don't understand why Sega themselves don't just make an official product like Nintendo have done. What do they gain by licensing a cheap Chinese company to make these subpar devices that tarnish the Sega name? Sega would easily have the resources to do something like this.

    Emulating using pc software beats all this nonsense.
    Also when I wanna play megadrive I plug my mega drive in a play it :) original model seems to have been well built, still works fine

    I agree ATgames has released horrible plug and play emulators in the past and that people should wait and see with the Sega flashback despite the "new features" but the NES Classic wasn't running any original hardware it's was also a mini emulator which is why it got hacked so easily the only thing original was the controller shell.

    Fantastic article! I actually made the last video embedded here, so thank you very much for sharing it!

    I also have this video which shows this comparison a little more using Shinobi III:
    https://youtu.be/4PavD0AqfaI

    Terrible waste of money, never heard of most of these games. Lags, slow, graphic perhaps worse than they were in the 90's. I wish I could have my money back and I got it 2 hours ago. Controls to slow to play mortal combat. To be clear I do not have the HDMI version.

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