Sega keeps mini consoles alive

Sega keeps mini consoles alive

For a few years there, small retro game consoles were a big thing. Nintendo started the trend with its miniature NES, and it wasn’t long before the likes of Sega and PlayStation jumped in. The idea of ​​plug-and-play consoles wasn’t entirely new, of course, but with a combination of good game selection and high-quality hardware, Nintendo elevated the concept from cheap impulse buys to sought-after collectibles. Like all fads, the excitement over the little consoles seems to have largely died down — that is, unless you ask Sega. The company has released two new devices to keep the trend alive. Both are slightly more niche than their predecessors, but they also show why these little plastic boxes can be so much fun.

First up, we have the Genesis Mini 2, which, as the name suggests, is a direct sequel to the excellent Genesis Mini from 2019. This time, the console is based on the redesigned second-generation Genesis, which has a slightly sleeker design, and it comes (thank goodness) with a six-button gamepad in the box. As with the original, it’s a simple plug-and-play device: you plug in the HDMI cable, plug in the power, and you’re good to go. It doesn’t connect to the internet, and there are few settings to mess with.

The big difference with the new device is the game selection. The original Genesis Mini had 40 included games, and they mostly covered the hits. It means lots of Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rageand other classics such as Comix Zone and Virtua Fighter 2. For the most part, they were the kind of releases you’d find in other Sega collections. The Genesis Mini 2, meanwhile, not only has more games, with a total of 60, but also a greater variety. That’s because, in addition to a whole bunch of Genesis games, the drive also includes 12 Sega CD titles and a handful of “bonus” titles. These include games that have never been released outside of Japan before, such as train driving sims Super locomotiveas well as titles that were never released at all, such as the action game Devi & Pii. It’s kind of like how Nintendo included the unreleased Star Fox 2 to spruce up the SNES Classic.

The result is an eclectic mix of historical oddities and outright classics. There are the core games that are doing well. Sonic CD, Streets of Rage 3and Fantasy Star II are all still excellent decades after they were first launched. And some even have some modern touches; when you start up Fantasy Stars, you have the option to play an “easy” mode. (This is in addition to console-level quality-of-life tweaks, like multiple save locations and the ability to pause anywhere with the menu button.)

Many other included titles don’t hold up as well – but they’re still fascinating. This is especially true for many of the Sega CD games that use FMV-like visuals. At the time, they were extremely cool; I remember being jealous of anyone who had a Sega CD and the ability to play Sewer Shark. Now that I’ve played a bunch of it, I’m not so jealous anymore. The acting is embarrassingly bad, the gameplay is somehow both simple and confusing, and in general it’s just not very fun to play anymore. The same goes for the infamous ones Night trap. I had to dig out an old manual PDF just to figure out how to actually play.

But I’m still happy to finally have an easy way to try them out, and the process also helped me discover some new (to me) Sega CD games that I really like. The cyberpunk shooter Night raider has incredibly messy graphics, but it’s still fun to fly around the retro-futuristic cityscape. I have particularly enjoyed the quiet, contemplative Mansion of Hidden Soulswhich is a bit like mystery, just takes place in a house full of ghosts who are also butterflies. While the original Genesis Mini gave me things I already knew I wanted to play, the sequel introduces me to older games I never had the chance to play at all, which is a big part of the appeal of retro game collections.

And speaking of being introduced to obscure games, we have Astro City Mini V. Last year, Sega released the original Astro City Mini, which was a tribute to the company’s arcade roots. It was literally a small arcade cabinet, complete with an excellent joystick and six sticky buttons. Hardware-wise, the City Mini V is largely the same as the original, but with one big difference: the built-in 4.6-inch LCD screen is vertical. Because of this, the new device only features vertically oriented arcade games. This means it actually has fewer included titles compared to the original, despite being more expensive. (The original Astro City Mini has 37 included games for $129.99, while the V has 23 games for $159.99.)

That might sound like a regression, and it definitely will be for some users. But Astro City Mini V is designed to appeal to a very specific type of retro gaming fan: people who love shmups. The Machine is basically a curated playlist of excellent shoot ’em ups that span different styles and tones. Many of them were previously exclusive to Japanese arcades, such as my personal favorites, Armed police batriderwhere you fight your way through a crime-ridden Manhattan on a hoverbike in the distant future of 2014, and Kingdom Grand Prixa fantasy shooter, then also a racing game somehow.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black text-gray-63″>Image: Limited Run Games

Shmups can often look very similar to the untrained eye, with pixelated spaceships flying through worlds of endless bullets and absurdly large bosses. But having so many of them together in one place like this makes it much easier to appreciate the more subtle differences that help define these games. This is especially true because they are so much more accessible here than in an arcade; on Astro City Mini V you have unlimited credits and the ability to pause and save at any time. If I walked into an arcade right now, I’d be incredibly intimidated walking up to one Batsugun cupboard, which would eat up so many blocks very quickly. But here I have the opportunity to play bullet hell shooter at something like my own pace, which allows me to learn the intricacies of the game much more comfortably.

I’ve noticed some lag in some games, which can be frustrating for a genre where split-second timing is key, but this has been rare. I should also note that it’s not just shmups on this thing. There’s also a quirky side-scrolling action game called Cosmo Police Galivan and Wrestling War, a fighter that features some of the largest, most detailed 2D character sprites I’ve ever seen. For the most part, though, Astro City Mini V is a shoot ’em up machine, one that feels carefully designed and curated to guide players through the genre.

Both of these Sega devices are more niche than their predecessors. Astro City Mini V is almost entirely focused on one genre, while Sega has warned that it’s making fewer of the Genesis Mini 2s than it did with the original. But that niche focus might just be the future of these consoles. Both Sony and Nintendo have largely moved on to offering retro games through subscription services (unless you count the occasional retro handheld), leaving the field open to Sega, a company with far more history to dig into with theoretical future mini consoles. Maybe this time next year I’ll write about how I was finally able to play Downfall in 32x which I always dreamed of as a child.

#Sega #mini #consoles #alive

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