Review of the new Sega Genesis Portable by ATGames
Read on for another one of great exclusive retro hardware reviews for our loyal MaxConsole readers
I can fondly remember the first time i heard that the Sega Nomad, the company's first foray into a portable Genesis/Mega Drive was announced. I was quite convinced that the life of the Genesis/Mega Drive was extended. Boy was i wrong. The clunky device with a horrific screen wasn't very good at all. Fast forward some decades later and there is a new licensed portable called the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Ultimate Portable on the market that takes some of the issues and clunky issues of the Nomad away. If inexpensive, portable retro gaming unit may be a nice choice for you.
The unit comes in a medium sized box with some pretty nice graphics. One of which specifically states that Super Street Fighter II and Megaman: The Wiley Wars is bundled in the package. While not specifically mentioned in the package, Street Fighter II Special Champion Edition is also bundled in this model. A game not licensed since the early days of the Radica Plug and Play Genesis/Mega Drive console. The contents of the box are amazingly few and very straightforward. You have the console, an instruction manual and a usb cable for charging. The manual includes a basic synopsis and instructions on how to play each game.
The unit comes in a black and blue shell and is extremely lite akin to a plastic toy yet the contruction is very sturdy and comes with its own embedded recharable battery. controls have your standard directional pad and six buttons laid out in sega's six button configuration released to coincide with Capcom's Street Fighter II: Special champion edition release. Unlike the standard six button Genesis/Mega Drive controller, the buttons are angled a bit higher to reduce the size of the console.
The unit includes a standard Audio jack, volume controls, dedicated menu and start buttons, power switch and A/V out via composite signal. Unfortunately the console does not include the A/V adaptor, something i would have gladly have paid a few extra dollars more just to see it bundled with the unit. Luckily, i had a simillar adapter sitting in a bin of spare cables i have here.
Arguably the biggest selling point is the provided SD card slot that allows you to run your own game roms. I'm not sure how Atgames managed to convince Sega to license this product with the distinct possibility of adding your own pirate roms to the unit. To Atgames defense, they do have some games available for free at their website and there are inexpensive sd cards being sold bundled with those games. Nevertheless, this is one feature that really stuck out to me and everyone that i spoke to about the portable. More on that later.
The Genesis/Mega Drive portable comes with 80 games which include 40 Genesis/Mega Drive games and 40 quite poorly made games akin to homebrew titles. The Genesis/Mega Drive side of the bundled collection is great with games such as the sonic series, Golden Axe series (that includes the rare Golden Axe III), Streets Of Rage series and two versions of Street Fighter II, Special Champion Edition and Super Street Fighter.
The unit boots up incredibly fast with only an Atgames splash screen showing for approximately two seconds. The portable has the basic firecore user interface with the name of the game on the left and a small screenshot on the right hand side. Playing games is as easy as selecting a game and pressing start. Going back to the menu is just as easy with the dedicated menu button.
Games play almost exactly as they did during the Genesis/Mega Drive glory days of the 90's with one big exception; The sound. Sound emulation on the device, much like other firecore devices is a bit of a hit and miss. Some games sounding a bit deeper in tone while others simply sound scratchy and very much off. Some sound effects also sound somewhat muted.
While this may bother some folks, when you factor in that other (both licensed and unlicensed) portable sega consoles also have either scratchy sound, poor sound emulation and/or poor speakers, this is something that portable fans may just have to deal with.
Graphically the games are identical to the originals. While the LCD screen is a bit small it is very bright and sharp. I was very impressed with the LCD quality and i was able to comfortably play games in various lighting conditions.
The controls are very responsive and i found no issues with the control response time at all; Even on demanding games like Street Fighter where various special moves and combos need exact timing. I was able to do all of the special moves and combos i remembered without any issues.
One drawback is the lack of 2 player support be it from attaching another portable via a link cable or having a second player port. Although, it would be difficult at best to play a 2 player game with a second person peering over and looking into a small screen.
TV out Feature
One of the biggest shortcomings of the device is the TV out feature and that's only because AtGames decided not to bundle the tv out cable with the device! I feel fans would have been more than happy to pay a bit more if the cable had been bundled with the unit. I felt it hurts an otherwise great feature of the device.
The TV out feature works great, there is no stretching or image degredation whatsoever when using it. I tested the TV out feature against the atgames genesis console unit and the image quality was exactly the same. Games played with no lag/speed down at all. The unit actually turns off the LCD when you are using the TV out feature in order to save battery. Taking into account that you are playing on a portable, you do feel like you are indeed playing on a game console when using the TV out feature.
SD Card Gaming
This is one area that, as I mentioned above, that both puzzled me a bit and was eagerly waiting to try. The instructions indicate that ROM files need to be inside of a new directory called "GAME" on a fat or fat32 formatted SD card. The portable does not support zipped roms either. A few things you will immediately notice is that there are no screenshots for obvious reasons. The instructions do not mention screenshots in any capacity and so far i have not been able to add my own into the SD card and have them successfully appear. You will also notice that some titles look a bit off. It seems the unit does not like games that contain a period (.). It doesn't prevent the game from running, it's merely a visual anomaly i picked up on.
I did my tests with a spare 512mb SD card I had laying around, formatted it and added my games. The No-Intro romset weighs in at approximately 2 gigs unzipped. I did a number of tests on US and World designated roms leaving out most European, Japanese, Beta, Prototype and revision roms. The results were quite surprising.
Nearly all of the games i played worked flawlessly sans the sound issues in the hardware emulation. On some games i was forced to press the menu button twice in order to get back to the menu. Other games such as Wonder Boy In Monster World, would not go past the intro menu. Contra Hard Corps would not properly show some background sprites. Double Dragon II (Japan) had issues with the controls. Zombies Ate My Nieghbors initially would not get past the intro screen. I immediately tried the game a second time and all worked fine after that. I quickly tested more games and only a handful had any glaring issues that prevented me from playing them. Overall, the compatability was very good for a piece of embedded hardware.
I'll be honest. I am a die hard Sega fan that also had some reservations coming into this review. Yet, I had tons of fun with Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Ultimate Portable and this was one of the most enjoyable reviews i have done. I spent more time mindlessly playing the device with absolutely zero recognition that I was supposed to be reviewing the device than any other device i have reviewed so far. I would highly recommend this for any die-hard sega fan be it a game player or sega memorabillia collector.
Is the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Ultimate Portable actually the ultimate Sega Portable? It's as close as we are going to get right now. While some Sega die hards and embedded hardware/emulation detractors might mince words because of the sound issues, there's little denying that other portables suffer from simillar issues be it from emulation or from the poor speakers used in the actual unit.
It might not accept your original cartridges but the added SD Card slot more than makes up for that while keeping the console small and lite-weight. The added tv out and 40 licensed games including capcom titles really help bolster the unit's diverse gameplay.
FOR MORE INFO visit their OFFICIAL SITE at: ATGAMES
Units are also available online at stores like 'AtGames.Us' and also via Amazon using this link.
Our thanks again to ATGAMES for shipping us one of their units early for us to review!