Last updated 16th June 2019. Original article added 8th April 2019
To save me the effort of having to write a whole new article every time there's a new development regarding the forthcoming launch of the Sega Mega Drive Mini/Genesis Mini, I’ve decided it’d be much easier to add to have just one and keep adding to it. So, below the original article which appears just after this, are updates with newer and fresher information. Make sense? Yep? Good!
Sega have confirmed that their reduced-sized Mega Drive/Genesis console will be getting a global release on 19th September 2019. And so far, the Mega Drive Mini/Genesis Mini, for that is going to be its name, is looking to be quite a nifty device.
In their marketing for the console, Sega appear to have listened to their fans. Rather than letting a third-party company come up with yet another half-assed attempt to tarnish their brand, Sega are this time doing it themselves. Well, hopefully not the half-assed brand-tarnishing part. On their official website for the device, megadrivemini.sega.com, they make a point of highlighting that as it’s “Made by SEGA, Mega Drive Mini delivers quality as only a 1st party product can.” Hah! Take that ATGames! They also appear to be including third party games in the bundle too. At least one anyway.
So, what do we know so far about the Mega Drive/Genesis Mini? As mentioned only a few seconds ago, Sega are making it, which should be a good thing. Then again, their last two consoles, the Dreamcast and the Saturn, didn’t fare too well, although that was largely down to Sega’s practices at the time rather than the consoles themselves. Which were of course brilliant. Appearance-wise, the Mega Drive Mini is as close to being identical to its larger ancestor as possible, with everything looking as it did all those 30-so years ago. Only smaller. It has the slidy power button, a reset button, and a volume controller for the headphone port. Although it’s not clear yet whether it actually has a headphone port*, there does appear to be a hole in the casing where there should be one. There is a cartridge slot, and the flaps do open and close, but again it’s not clear if there’s anything actually inside it which will allow it to run extra games.
At the rear of the console is the power port and a HDMI port. So, if you’re hoping for RF, component or RGB ports to attempt to plug this thing into an old TV set just for the sheer hell of it, you’re out of luck.
In Europe, the console will come with two classic wired 3-button control pads. Again, appearance-wise, these look just like the originals. Hopefully they feel and work the same as the originals too, as for me personally, the Mega Drive’s controllers were some of the best controllers ever released. The Japanese console appears to be getting released with the option of either one or two 6-button control pads. Of course, 6-button controllers were essential for certain post-1993 games (Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat for example), so this might offer a hint at some of the games that will be available in Japan but not elsewhere. Or it may just be that Sega will be selling the 6-button control pad separately. Also in the box is a power cable and HDMI cable. The marketing for the North American Genesis Mini mentions that it will come with a power adapter too.
So, it’s all looking good so far, but while getting the feel of the original console is essential, it’s also just as essential that it plays well. Whereas Nintendo got it right with their replica NES and SNES consoles, Sony completely fudged it up with the PlayStation Classic. With that console, the presentation of the menu interface was ugly,emulation of the games could have been better, and the bizarre decision to include PAL versions of some of the games simply made no sense at all. Plus, many of the 20 titles included for it weren’t all that great and certainly didn’t offer a good representation of the PlayStation’s library. While the cost of the PlayStation Classic halved within weeks of being released, Nintendo’s consoles still seem to be selling at their original prices.
So, to avoid making the same mistakes as Sony and hoping to replicate the success of their one-time arch-enemies Nintendo, Sega have handed the handling of the Mega Drive Mini’s software and emulation of its games to the fine chaps and chappesses at M2. M2 have lots of experience of porting and rereleasing many of Sega’s classic games, being the people responsible for the Sega Ages remakes/rereleases on consoles such as the Nintendo 3DS, Switch and PlayStation 2, and the rereleased emulated games for Nintendo’s Virtual Console service (RIP), PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Their quality of emulation has always been top-notch so here’s hoping that this remains the case on the Mega Drive Mini. I've given up calling it the Genesis Mini now as hopefully you'll have gathered its the same thing. Need to save my typing fingers.
Finally then it’s down to the games. Now, we’ve mentioned previously that Sega constantly appear to be rereleasing Mega Drive games. And it’s always the same games from the same pot of 1st-party titles. There will be 40 games available on the Mega Drive Mini, which is more than the 20 released on the SNES and PlayStation revivals and the 30 on the NES. It’s also the same quantity as the 40 on the Neo Geo Mini which most people probably don’t even know exists or remember with any fondness. So far 10 games for the Mega Drive Mini have been announced, and it does look like these are mostly first-party games that have been released many times previously. Notice the word mostly. It’s there, just in the sentence before last. One of the games announced ISN’T a first party title, which does suggest that Sega are going to be offering up a few variations to what we’re used to.
Games announced so far are:
Castlevania: The New Generation
Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Ecco the Dolphin
Sonic the Hedgehog
Space Harrier II
ToeJam and Earl
Ecco the Dolphin was notably absent from the recent Mega Drive Classics Collection available on PS4, Xbox One and Switch, and Gunstar Heroes and ToeJam and Earl made their compilation debuts on that, although have been available as rereleased titles individually. Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast and Space Harrier II are a given as they constantly crop up, as do most of the rest. But it’s Castlevania: The New Generation (also known as Castlevania: Bloodlines) which stands out. Originally released in 1994, and the only Castlevania game to be released on the Mega Drive/Genesis, this game doesn’t appear to have ever been rereleased since** and is hard to locate in its original format nowadays, so it’s great to see it getting a new outing. It’s not a bad little game too. The fact that it’s a third-party game hopefully means we’re going to be seeing more rarely-released games amongst the collection too. Undoubtedly some, or all, of the Golden Axe and Streets of Rage games will be there, and more than likely Vector Man. And pissing Alex Kidd will still be exploring his Enchanted Castle. But it’ll be interesting to see who else Sega have got on board. EA perhaps? Licensed titles aside, they were in their hay day back in the 16-Bit era and produced some corkers for the Mega Drive/Genesis, before they became the company of micro-transactions, DLC and annual reboots of the same games that they are today. Anyone for a bit of Road Rash or Desert Strike?
Yes, the Mega Drive Mini is looking like it could do well, and Sega appear to be moving in the right kinds of direction with it. It’ll be getting released at £69.99, €79.99, $79,99 (US), $139.95 (AUS) which puts it just above the launch price of the NES Mini and lower than the launch prices of the SNES, PlayStation Classic, and Neo Geo Mini. So it does seem to represent reasonable value, especially given the number of games that will be available for it. The downside is that it’s almost guaranteed that most of the games released on it are also bundled with the much cheaper compilation that is available on current-gen consoles and PC. And that compilation comes with more games too. But, you are getting a neat little console which can plug into any modern TV and a pair of proper Mega Drive control pads too, and potentially a few games that aren’t officially available anywhere else. So it may still appeal to those who already own several of the games several times over, and impulse buyers who don’t. Or collectors of tiny consoles.
The icing on the cake would be if Sega can include a few extras that Nintendo and Sony didn’t do. Hopefully M2 will be adding a few features to the emulation, to play around with stuff like filters and such like. But it would be nice if maybe, just maybe, the console had Wi-Fi connectivity and the ability to add other games to it. Or even, inside the slot which we know opens, a port where you can plug in an adapter to add a full-sized cartridge slot above the console so you can play original games from their original cartridges. A bit like the original Master System converter which was essentially a passthrough adapter to put the original Mega Drive into Master System mode. Just have an adapter which permits the ability to play Mega Drive and Master System games on it. That would be one sure-fire way of selling the console to Mega Drive fans who don’t just want another compilation of the same old games.
Since the article above was written, Sega have made a couple more announcements regarding another 20 of the games that will be appearing on the Mega Drive / Genesis Mini. And it looks like Sega are stuffing their little black box with all kinds of treats and surprises.
Amongst the first batch of 10 games to be announced was Castlevania: The New Generation. This stood out from the usual compilation of 1st party titles, both because it’s never been rereleased before and also because it’s a third party title. The second batch of ten games, announced towards the end of April 2019, threw up even more surprises. Here are those second ten games:
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
Probotector (Contra: Hard Corps)
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Streets of Rage 2
Super Fantasy Zone
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
There’s not a single turd in this list at all. Yes, we have Sonic 2, Streets of Rage 2 and Shinobi III which show up all the time, but these are all great games and can’t not be made available on a Mega Drive compilation. But the rest very rarely, if ever, show up. Castle of Illusion is a classic platformer starring Disney’s head rodent, and has only ever been rereleased as a bonus title for people who preordered the 2012 remake for the PlayStation 3. Earthworm Jim is another amazing platform game, while Landstalker is an isometric RPG featuring a main character called Nigel which was very well received back on its original release. And then there’s Probotector, or Contra: Hard Corps. This is the only Contra game released for Sega’s 16-Bit console, but it’s another stunner even despite its difficulty. Super Fantasy Zone is another game which very rarely gets rereleased but is good fun. It was never released in the USA until its Virtual Console release in 2008. Thunderforce III is one of the Mega Drive’s greatest shoot ‘em ups and World of Illusion is a wonderful cooperative two player platform game. What this list shows is that Sega appear to be going to great lengths to put together a selection of games that really do represent the Mega Drive, across its entire life and across several genres.
More recently in May 2019, Sega announced another 10 games. And again, there are more goodies on offer. Here they are:
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Mega Man: The Wily Wars
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Ok, so we have a few more familiar titles here. Alex Kidd still seems to think that people want to help him to explore his Enchanted Castle. Ax Battler, Gillius Thunderhead and Tyris Flare are back to hack and slash their way to Death Adder’s lair in Golden Axe, although for me personally this game is a must-include as I find myself going back to it constantly. RPG fans have the excellent Beyond Oasis and Phantasy Star IV to quest through. Sonic Spinball and Vectorman are regular features in Mega Drive compilations. They’re okayish games but probably wouldn’t be missed if they weren’t there. And Wonder Boy in Monster World doesn’t show up too often but is a fairly fun addition. But, the standout titles here are a threesome from Capcom: Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Man, and Street Fighter II. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a fantastic port of the Capcom arcade game. Tough as nuts but a great game overall, and arguably superior to the SNES Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Mega Man: The WIly Wars is actually three games in one as its basically a 16-Bit rerelease of the first three Mega Man games, and a great little bundle it was too. And then there is Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition. The original release of this game was quite a shock at the time, partly because it seemed unlikely that the Mega Drive would get a port of Street Fighter II. Nintendo made quite a big deal about the game existing on the SNES console, so it looked like there might have been some exclusivity thing going on. And also the Mega Drive control pad only had three buttons whereas, for the game to work well, it needed six.
Of course, Sega got around this issue at the time by updating their official Mega Drive control pad to have six buttons instead of three, perfecting an already great controller. However, as mentioned up above somewhere, unless you’re picking up a Japanese version of the console, the Mega Drive/Genesis Mini includes two 3-button controllers. This means that out of the box, Street Fighter II is quite hobbled.
There is a solution though. Third-party hardware company, Retro-bit, manufacture their own officially licensed 6-button Sega controllers. These are virtually identical to the originals in looks, feel and performance, and are worth getting hold of just as a gaming pad in general as they really are amazing. The only difference on the newer pad is the addition of a couple of shoulder buttons, presumably to cater for non-Mega Drive games if connected to a PC. This necessitates the repositioning of the controller’s mode button, which, on the original pad, is positioned where the right shoulder button is on the new one. Retro-bit and Sega have confirmed that the existing replica 6-button USB pads will work with the Mega Drive Mini, but they’ll also be releasing some specifically for Sega’s tiny console. Quite what will be different is unknown, although it’s likely that they’ll remove the shoulder buttons and put the mode button back into its original place.
Of course, having to buy additional pads adds extra cost. So far Street Fighter II is the only game that makes use of extra buttons, Personally I’m happier to have the 3-button controllers, simply because that’s how I remember the Mega Drive, but I can appreciate that the 6-button controllers are actually nicer to use and ensure that all games play as intended. Either Sega chose not to include 6-button controllers for the European and American market due to wanting the package to reflect the original as closely as possibly, or perhaps due to the licensing arrangement they have with Retro-bit.
Controller qualms aside, it really does look like the Mega Drive Mini is shaping up to be a must-have gadget this Autumn. It appears to look the part, and it already has a great selection of games packaged on it. And there are still another ten games to be announced. It looks like rather than Sega selecting each game from a series (e.g. Streets of Rage, Street of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3), they are picking the best from it. So, although the number of games is smaller than on other Mega Drive compilations, the choice of games offers more variety. Here's hoping that the final ten aren't made up of filler like Super Thunderblade, Sonic 3D Blast, Virtua Fighter 2, Galaxy Force 2 and Ecco Jr.
The remaining games to be contained within Sega’s mini box of Mega Drive memories have now been announced, with more than a couple of pleasing surprises. Sega originally promised 40 games, but they’ve only gone and sneakily added a couple of bonus games to that, bringing the total up to 42. The cheeky scamps. Here is the list of the final 12 games:
Monster World IV
Road Rash II
Virtua Fighter 2
Not a bad little list to complete the collection. Virtua Fighter 2 tries once again to get itself noticed by appearing in a Mega Drive collection. Although it’s not a terrible game, the presence of Street Fighter II and Eternal Champions kind of renders it a bit pointless. Plus the whole point of Virtua Fighter 2's original arcade release was to show off 3D graphics, so releasing it for the Mega Drive at all as a 2D fighter has always seemed a bit odd. In a similar way, Columns is also a good game, but Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine sort of satisfies the shape dropping and matching genre. And the appearance of a certain Soviet-created puzzler elsewhere on the collection means that Columns feels even more like filler. We’ve also seen Kid Chameleon and Dynamite Headdy a few times before, but they’re still great platform games, although perhaps Quackshot would have been a good substitute for once of them given as Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion have already been announced. Light Crusader was also released on the recent Mega Drive compilation for PS4, XBox One, PC and Switch. It’s an isometric role playing game, released very late on in the Mega Drive’s life from Treasure. It’s probably unfamiliar to most, but is definitely worth a look.
The rest of the games though have very rarely, if ever, been rereleased since their original release. Alisia Dragoon is a quality side-scrolling platforming shooty-type game. It really is a good blast, and although it was well-received back in its day, it didn’t really get the recognition it deserved and is largely forgotten about nowadays. Monster World IV is a kind of follow up to Wonder Boy in Monster World which is also present in this collection. Wonder Boy in Monster World was the 5th in the Wonder Boy series of games, and 3rd in the Monster World series of games. Monster World IV was never originally released on the Mega Drive//Genesis in English-speaking countries, instead making its western debut in 2012 on the Wii’s Virtual Console service. Incidentally, it was the final Mega Drive/Genesis game to be released on the Virtual Console.
Road Rash II is a big surprise since it’s a game from Electronic Arts, or EA as they now like to be known. It’s the only racing game in the collection, but it’s a good one. Ride along the undulating roads and beat the crap out of other riders if you feel so inclined. Strider is an early game for the Mega Drive, and a great conversion of Capcom’s arcade game.
And finally that leaves us with the two bonus games, Darius and Tetris
. Now you may be thinking, surely you mean Darius II? There wasn’t a Darius on the Mega Drive. Or maybe you’re not. But, yes, there wasn’t a Darius on the Mega Drive. Instead, the Darius that is getting a release on the Mega Drive Mini is a brand new port, making its debut on the console in 2019 and meaning it’s the first officially released Mega Drive game since the late 1990s. On the other hand, there’s Tetris
, which did get developed for release on the Mega Drive in Japan very early on in its life, but then got unreleased after it was discovered that the people that Sega had bought the rights from didn’t actually have the rights to sell them the rights. Right. Nintendo did have rights to Tetris
instead though, slapped a port onto a cartridge for their Gameboy, and created an overnight handheld console gaming market which they’ve dominated ever since. But it seems that Sega have somehow managed to reacquire the rights that they thought they once had, and are now taking the opportunity to rerelease this rarest of games on the mini Mega Drive. The only downside to this is that, well, it’s Tetris
. A great puzzle game all the same, but it is still just Tetris
. Some rumours on the internet suggest that this isn’t actually going to be an emulated version of the original, but a whole new port. But, as we cannot find any sources to back up this claim, we shall wait and see.
So, that’s it. 42 games. Some of the usual titles, but lots of unexpected treats and surprises thrown in there. There are of course some omissions. The lack of Sonic 3 or Sonic and Knuckles seems to have riled fans up a little. Whether this is down to music licensing issues, or whether it is simply because the bundle already contains enough Sonic games, is unknown. Sonic 3 undoubtedly has a cult following, but it probably doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of the first two games. Of course, picking 42 games from a library of hundreds does mean that some would get missed. It’s pretty certain that Sega could have included more, but, just like putting together a mix-tape, it’s more important to get a good balance. And overall, Sega appear to have done this.
Also announced for the Japanese version of the console are a couple of add-ons. Now, the Mega Drive was known for its many expansions, and through them it could be backwards, sidewards and forwards compatible with the ability to play 8-Bit, 16-Bit and 32-Bit games, from a range of storage media, like cartridge, card, CD, and digital download. The add-ons available for the Japanese Mega Drive Mini are a Mega-CD and a 32X. Sadly though, these are just plastic replicas of the originals which don’t actually do anything, other than transform the Mega Drive Mini into the Mega Drive Mini Tower. The 32X goes into the slot at the top of the console, and the Mega-CD fits underneath it. Also available is a replica cartridge of Sonic the Hedgehog. Whether the extra bits and pieces see a wider release remains to be seen.
As announced previously, The Japanese and Asian versions come with 6-button pads, but elsewhere it will be released with two 3-button pads. Retro-bit currently have available a replica USB 6-button pad, although will be releasing one which is more specific for the Mega Drive Mini towards the end of August. The only difference between the one available now, and the one available in August is that the current one has two shoulder buttons and a mode button in the middle of the controller, whereas the Mega Drive Mini variant will have the shoulder buttons removed, and the mode button taking the place of the right shoulder button, as per the original Mega Drive 6-button controller.
So, that’s it for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Mini for now. It goes on sale globally from 19th September 2019. After the early scare in April 2018 that ATGames would be behind it, it looks like Sega took back control, did a spot of research to find out what their fans wanted, and have come up with something that could be very special indeed. They certainly appear to have gone to more effort than Sony did with their PlayStation Classic. Previews at E3 2019 suggest that their effort has paid off and we can look forward to adding yet another tiny console to the collection.
* Console doesn't have a working headphone socket
** Castlevania: The New Generation / Bloodlines has also recently been released for the Castlevania Collection on PS4, XBox OneNEWS: HONEY I'VE DELAYED THE MEGA DRIVE MINI NEWS: HONEY I'VE SHRUNK THE PLAYSTATION X