Sega has fully revealed the Sega Genesis Mini. Also called the Mega Drive Mini in Japan, this device serves a similar purpose to the classic mini consoles from Nintendo and the one Sony made for the PlayStation that didn’t do so well. It’s HDMI-based, comes with replica controllers, and includes a set of games meant to represent the identity of one of the most powerful consoles of its era. The good news is that it seems like Sega has pulled out all the stops for this one, making it look like one of the best of this particular space. The bad news is that Sega will have the hardest time making anyone care.
First, let’s talk about the good stuff. For one, Sega is swinging for the fences right off the bat with the actual content. It has the highest number of games of any of these miniature consoles, boasting a 40 game collection. That’s even more than the NES Classic’s 30, which was the previous leader. For now, we don’t know what all 40 games will be and the initial list is mostly obvious stuff. There’s Sonic, there’s Comix Zone, and there’s Altered Beast. We will never be free of Altered Beast. However, there is also a “megaton” in the initial list, which is Castlevania: Bloodlines. This is the first time that game has been announced for a re-release since it’s initial release, and that’s awesome. But it isn’t just the games list that makes this thing cool.
Sega also confirmed, via its Japanese announcements, that M2 will be handling the emulation here. See, emulation is a super hard thing to get right. Even after all these years, perfectly emulating a Super Nintendo, exactly as it ran via actual hardware, is not an easy task. Nintendo’s own emulation is often more about running ROM files in fancy wrappers. But M2, as a developer, has a great reputation for getting as close as you can get to the original thing. M2 often is regarded more highly than even Digital Eclipse, a developer that made a whole engine based around coding old games for modern hardware. M2 is responsible for the recent Sega Ages titles on the Nintendo Switch, along with releases such as the Sonic ports on the 3DS that people swear by. There is actual muscle behind these ports.
Speaking of muscle, legendary music composer Yuzo Koshiro revealed that he has composed the menu music for the Sega Genesis Mini. If you don’t know who Yuzo Koshiro is, look no further than the Streets of Rage series for some of his most iconic tunes. Koshiro stated that not only is he doing the music, but he programmed tools that mimic the Sega Genesis’ original sound tech and was able to use sound fonts from games included in the set for his menu music. It’s going to sound incredible, frankly.
Now for the bad stuff. Sega’s classic library is pretty awesome, despite it not having the same reputation as, say, Nintendo. That’s the whole problem. Sega, despite the goodwill it does have, continues to have an image issue. Its retro library is a part of that. The Sega Genesis Mini isn’t exactly the first time Sega has done something like this. In fact, for years now, you could and still can walk into something like a Walmart and pick up an officially licensed Sega Genesis clone console. You can even get handheld ones. The problem is, they’re all garbage. Made by AtGames, these devices often have problems running games well, saving, and all of them have hideous user interfaces. These are cheap products, and have generally run the idea of “classic Sega Genesis console reissue” into the ground.
Additionally, Sega already has released several software compilations. There are so many collections of Sega games you can get for various platforms, all of them for pretty cheap, that it’s hard to think about a demand for such a specialized product. A lot of the appeal of the Nintendo devices was that Nintendo doesn’t often release its games in that manner, so it felt like a unique product with a unique appeal. Sega is chasing that same market, but it has already hurt its own reputation in that space and hasn’t really cultivated a demand for its legacy software. That said, since Sega does continue releasing its classics, that must mean each iteration has done well.
Hopefully, the messaging around this product will focus on its high quality, and that will help people realize this is the real deal, and not another weird, cheap clone console you can get at department stores already. The Sega Genesis Mini, on paper, sounds amazing, like it definitely earns the higher price tag. But I am a little worried about whether or not the gaming community will show up for it, especially since the PlayStation Classic tanked so quickly. Granted, that thing was actively bad, and word of mouth is an important factor with these sorts of gimmicks. Either way, this will be the best way to get Castlevania: Bloodlines for the time being, so I’m totally in.