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Mega Drive Mini Release Date Announced
Sega's tiny 16-Bit console to get global release in September 2019

Added 8th April 2019

A Mega Drive. Not a Mini one though

Sega have finally 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 America 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 and emulation of the games was poor, with sound issues, graphical glitches, and the bizarre decision to include PAL versions of some of the games which simply made no sense. Plus, many of the 20 titles included for it weren’t all that great and certainly didn’t offer a good representation 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.

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 fondly remember the original. 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.

A compliation of Mega Drive games featuring Castlevania? What in the world is this sorcery?

Games announced so far are Altered Beast, Castlevania: The New Generation, Comix Zone, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Ecco the Dolphin, Gunstar Heroes, Shining Force, Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Harrier II, and 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 haydey 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 has 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.

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 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.

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