Sega Fans Will Get A High End Retro Console Of Their Own

The Mega Sg comes in four different variants, three of which are black with different coloured power buttons and lettering, and one that’s all white. (Image: Analogue)

Analogue, the Seattle-based retro console maker, has announced its latest project: The Mega Sg.

Using a technological setup similar to its Super Nt released earlier this year, Analogue says the Mega Sg will be able to play every game from the Sega Genesis, Mega Drive and Master Drive systems, and capable of outputting video from all of them in 1080p with zero latency when it launches in April 2019.

The Mega Sg is priced at $US190 ($267), the same as the Super Nt, and like its predecessor doesn’t come with any games pre-installed.

It’s a recreation of the original hardware rather than a glorified emulator, so you’ll need to supply the cartridges yourself, which would make or break this deal, depending on whether you already have an existing collection of old games or any interest in starting one.

Analogue’s CEO, Christopher Taber, stressed to Kotaku in a phone interview that it makes enthusiast products for an enthusiast audience. In other words, the Mega Sg, like its siblings, is intended to occupy, and in some ways define, the high end of retro console gaming.

“Something like Switch’s Online service or the NES Classic or SNES Classic, those are toys,” Taber said. “It’s a plug and play item and it includes some of the greatest games of all time, it’s got a cheap price tag, it works well and for most people, rock ’n’ roll.”

For those who want to explore “entire pieces of video game history with zero compromises,” Taber contends, there’s Analogue consoles such as the Mega Sg.

Analogue claims the Mega Sg will be able to play every Genesis, Mega Drive and Master Drive game there is. (Image: Analogue)

For those interested in exploring the rest of a console’s back catalogue in modern HD, beyond the 30 or so games for which a manufacturer manages to wrangle together licensing, there’s Analogue’s consoles and those of its competitors, such as Hyperkin’s more economically priced RetroN series.

What’s supposed to set consoles such as the upcoming Mega Sg apart, however, is the company’s use of FPGA (field-programmable gate array) technology to actually mimic everything the original console hardware was doing.

Since there’s no emulation, there’s no lag, and because the approach is hardware-based, the pixels and sounds coming out on the other end are often better quality than what you’ll find elsewhere, short of booting up the original systems themselves.

Our sister site Gizmodo and other outlets gave the Super Nt positive reviews, and it will serve you well if you’re looking for a substitute SNES that can play nice with modern TVs. The Mega Sg is more ambitious, given that it tries to cover a much larger catalogue of games.

An edge connector on the side of the Mega Sg is supposed to plug directly into a Sega CD or Mega CD so games from both can also output in 1080p as well, with Analogue planning to release additional adaptors for the rest of the Sega’s pre-Saturn hardware, such as the Game Gear and Mark III, for $US10 ($14) each after the console releases.

It doesn’t come with any controllers either though, with 8bitdo’s recommended M30 (out February 2019) costing an additional $US25 ($35).

The Mega Sg could also end up being arguably one of the first premium ways to experience Sega’s 16-bit and 8-bit back catalogue. While the publisher has done a tremendous job of releasing high quality ports of its old games with additional features on the Switch, and is also working on its own SNES Classic-like Mega Drive Mini, that market was previously cornered by third-party emulation machines which rarely worked well.

Following the Mega Sg’s release in April 2019, Analogue plans to release cartridge adaptors so people can play games from other past Sega consoles on the device including the Mark III, Game Gear, Sega MyCard, SG-1000 and SC-3000

“Any of the licensed systems or third party systems, I mean they’re just so fucking bad,” Taber said. “I mean they’re just terrible, terrible products.”

While Taber is a stickler for things most players might not notice, one area he claims the Mega Sg’s increased quality is especially noticeable is in the sound department.

The Mega Drive and Genesis’ YM2612 sound chip is infamous for producing iconic sounds ranging from the spoken “Sega” that introduced first-party games to the entirety of Sonic 1 through 3’s vibrant and poppy soundtracks. Taber claims the Mega Sg’s recreation, which outputs digital audio in 48KHz 16 bit stereo, is unmatched.

“It’s built around audio file components and audio file circuitry so it legitimately sounds better than any Sega that has ever happened, including the originals by a long shot,” he said.

He gave me a FLAC file of the audio from the beginning of Sonic 3 to compare with AtGames Sega Genesis Classic version. Does the Mega Sg sound fuller, warmer and clearer? Definitely. Does it sound $US190 ($267) better? That’s something we won’t know until the Mega Sg actually comes out next year.


Comments

    ...be able to play every game from the Sega Genesis, Mega Drive and Master Drive systems

    Might wanna fix that misnomer.

    Missed opportunity imo to make a "Sega Neptune" with integrated Sega CD & 32X support.

    Would happily pay a premium if that was the case. Especially if it also included a four port controller setup as well.

      If it's the same as the Super Nt, original Mega Drive controllers will work out of the box (same connector) so theoretically I think the multi-tap would work. The thing does support plugging an original Sega CD / Mega CD into it, but not a 32X, because the 32X required analog connections between the different components and capturing a HD signal is really tricky. They actually talked about this, there's a possibility if there's demand for it that they could make basically a FPGA-based 32X to plug in rather than having to try and hunt a real one down, but it's something they'll consider after this is released and it'll depend on demand. And demand might not be huge since the 32X only had 40 games and most of them were shit.

      Personally the ability to have Master System and Mega Drive / Genesis games output in native 1080p without any extra hardware, and more importantly have proper sound support (even Sega's own hardware has issues with sound quality and accuracy between the different models, let alone all the shitty emulators) make it a must-own for me. Not sure I'll bother with the extra adapters for Game Gear and so on yet, but I might pick up a Sega CD for it.

    Ordered one of these during the ~5 minute window where the website wasn't completely screwed. I have their Super Nt and it's a great bit of kit, but to be honest, I didn't grow up with SNES at all (I grew up in New Zealand and I don't know if it was just my experience / friend group or a general thing, but Nintendo never seemed to have as much of a presence until the N64) so I don't have a huge amount of nostalgia for any SNES games and I haven't ended up getting much use out of it. We were primarily a PC/Mac household in that period but I had a Master System and also played a ton of Mega Drive stuff, so this one is way more exciting for me personally.

    Systems like these would be much more useful if the original carts weren't so difficult to obtain. That's why the classic mini systems are more appealing to me, despite their limited library of built-in games.

      Between an Everdrive and jailbreaking these, there are options.

        You're not running original carts that way though. You're running copies of them at best.

          You aren't in an original system either though? And you can grab a good deal of sega rom's thru their pc 'classics' re-releases.

            Yeah if you have one of these you aren't using an original system, but the original systems don't output hdmi so can't be played on modern TVs. The idea of systems like these is to play your original carts on modern HDTVs - which is fine, but they are pretty much aimed at gamers who already have a collection of old carts.

              ROM data going thru a cycle accurate FPGA is 99.9% close. This isn't a shitty $80 emulation console.

    While it is an interesting idea, an FPGA doesn't necessarily guarantee better emulation than software. They're still reimplementing the execution environment of the CPU and support chips, so there is room for error.

    They probably have built a decent hardware based emulator, but I'd want proof before assuming it will do better than a best-of-breed software emulator running on similar priced hardware.

      They have actually reimplemented the actual chips themselves in the FPGA. It's not an emulator.

        It's not using the original chips, so it is an emulator. A software base emulator's performance is going to depend on the quality of the software, and an FPGA based emulator's performance is going to depend on the quality of the Verilog used to program the array.

        For the Mega Drive, we're talking about a 68000 CPU running at 7.6 MHz. If we wanted to build a software emulation box at similar price to the Mega Sg, we'd probably be looking at an ARM SoC running at maybe 1.5 GHz with at least two cores. So you've got roughly 200 host clock cycles per emulated clock cycle. It's not obvious to me that an FPGA is going to do noticeably better than what's possible with that kind of headroom.

          I think you might need to look into what a FPGA is.

            I know what an FPGA is: it's a reconfigurable chip that lets you configure how a bunch of logic gates are wired together. But without the gate list for the original CPU (which would likely be copyrighted anyway), they'd be stuck trying to produce something that behaves similarly.

            As an example, here's an m68k CPU core that can be programmed onto an FPGA: https://opencores.org/project/ao68000. While it will run arbitrary m68k code, it notes that some instructions take different numbers of clock cycles compared to the original, which could very well lead to differences in behaviour. You see similar quirks when e.g. AMD reimplements Intel's x86 architecture.

            So it isn't at all clear to me that an FPGA is going to be better than software. Especially when the hardware being emulated is so slow compared to even modest modern hardware.

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