I grew up a Sega kid. When I had appendicitis during summer camp, I came home and my dad bought me a Sega Master System with SegaScope 3D glasses and 3D Zaxxon. It was all Sega from there on in: the Master System, Genesis, and . Even — yes — the Game Gear, 32X and Sega CD.
That’s why I was immediately drawn to the Sega Genesis Flashback, the upcoming $80 retro console that bundles 85 old Sega games with two wireless controllers, HDMI video output and save game slots.
Along with the updated Atari Flashback, the Genesis unit is one of the latest offerings from AtGames, which has been churning out these sort of retro mini consoles for more than a decade — long before Nintendo jumped on the hardware nostalgia train with last year’s and the upcoming .
Why I’m excited
I haven’t yet had a chance to see or try the Genesis Flashback in person. But as a longtime childhood Sega fanboy, here’s what I like about the specs:
Game selection: The Flashback includes 85 games. Some of those games are random, not-really-Genesis shovelware. Others are Sega Master System or Game Gear titles, thrown into the mix. Sadly, it doesn’t include the game called Flashback, a fantastic title from Delphine (which also made Another World). Still, there are still plenty of classic Sega Genesis picks in the bunch: Altered Beast (meh), Golden Axe, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Phantasy Star 2 and 3, Comix Zone, the Shining Force games and Shinobi III.
HDMI video and save game slots: Earlier AtGames retro consoles were limited to composite video and often monaural audio output. The Flashback takes a page from Nintendo’s book and adds 720p HDMI output and built-in game saves. That makes for easy single cable connection to modern TVs, as well as a much more forgiving approach to gameplay. (These old-school games are far more difficult than their modern equivalents.)
Wireless controllers: Nintendo stuck with wired gamepads for the NES and SNES Classic. AtGames includes two wireless controllers with the Genesis Flashback.
Cartridge support: The Genesis Flashback also supports original Genesis cartridges. If that actually works, then this could double as an HDMI-equipped way to play old games, maybe like a less expensive Analogue NT Mini.
Why I’m concerned
While there’s a lot to like about the Genesis Flashback, some things give me pause.
Missing games: The game collection looks pretty random, and is missing a lot of obvious Sega classics. Where is Streets of Rage? Where is the original Sonic the Hedgehog? Ecco the Dolphin? How about Toejam and Earl, Thunder Force II, Strider or Gunstar Heroes? Or how about Herzog Zwei and Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse? We’re still not entirely sure if the system has Phantasy Star IV (the front of the box says yes, the included games list on the website says no).
Some of those are probably licensing issues, but the point here is that even with seven dozen-plus titles, this Sega bundle is missing a ton of classic Genesis games.
Are the video and audio quality good? Plenty of complaints about the older RCA-connected console said the video and audio quality were poor. We’re hoping HDMI fixes those problems, but only time will tell.
Do game saves work well? The teaser video for the Flashback suggests multiple game saves are easy. Will they work as well as the save system in the NES Classic?
Are the wireless controllers good? Previous Sega systems used wireless controllers that needed to maintain line-of-sight connection. Will these be better, and will they feel good and be lag-free?
Is this better than other retro Sega experiences you can buy? The last great Sega Genesis single-disc game collection came out for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But Sega has also doubled down on mobile, trickling out freemium versions of many of these same classic titles on iPhone and Android, with hardware controller support to boot. The best classic Sega ports can be found on Nintendo’s 3DS: Sega 3D Classics are arcade and Genesis-perfect adaptations of some smash hits, but you can’t play them on a TV.
Note that the Sega Genesis Flashback is actually available in three versions. In addition to the HDMI model highlighted here, there’s the Sega Genesis Classic home console (no HDMI, wired controllers, 81 games) and the Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player (built-in screen, rechargeable battery, 85 games). The full list of titles on each console is as follows:
Sega Retro Consoles Compared
|Sega Genesis Flashback||Sega Genesis Classic||Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable|
|Adventure in the Park||X||X||X|
|Alex Kidd in High Tech World||X|
|Alex Kidd in Miracle World||X|
|Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle||X||X||X|
|Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars||X|
|Baku Baku Animal||X|
|Bottle Taps Race||X||X||X|
|Break the Fireline||X||X||X|
|Chakan: The Forever Man||X||X|
|Cross the road||X||X||X|
|Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine||X||X||X|
|ESWAT: City Under Seige||X||X||X|
|Fantasy Zone The Maze||X|
|Fight or Lose||X||X||X|
|Fish Tank Live||X||X|
|Golden Axe II||X||X||X|
|Golden Axe III||X||X||X|
|Mortal Kombat 3||X||X||X|
|Mortal Kombat II||X||X||X|
|Phantasy Star 3||X|
|Generations Of Doom||X|
|Phantasy Star II||X||X||X|
|Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi||X||X||X|
|Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal||X||X||X|
|Shining in the Darkness||X|
|Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master||X||X||X|
|Sonic & Knuckles||X||X||X|
|Sonic 3D Blast||X|
|Sonic Drift 2||X|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2||X||X||X|
|Sonic Tripe Trouble||X|
|Super Thunder Blade||X||X||X|
|Sword Of Vermilion||X|
|Hide and Seek||X||X|
|Lost World Sudoku||X||X|
|Mega Brain Switch||X||X|
|Mya Master Mind||X||X|
|Rolling Thunder 2||X|
|Rolling Thunder 3||X|
|Slaughter House 2||X|
|Virtua Fighter II||X|
The Genesis Flashback won’t be available until this fall, but hopefully we’ll get to try one before then. I just hope it’s as good a way to relive my Sega childhood as it looks.