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Earthworm Jim is one of the 42 games made available on the Sega Genesis Mini.
Courtesy photo
Earthworm Jim is one of the 42 games made available on the Sega Genesis Mini.

The tiny retro game system craze marches on this week with the Sega Genesis Mini, and it’s without a doubt the best execution on the concept yet.

While Nintendo did a great job with the small versions of its NES and SNES, last year’s gigantic flop that was the PlayStation Classic gave some pause. That, combined with the lukewarm reception of the diminutive Commodore 64, had some pundits thinking the trend was over.

Fortunately, that’s not the case as the Genesis Mini packs more than 40 of the best Genesis games into a plastic shell about the size of paperback book.

Courtesy photo
Those looking for a retro-good time can’t go wrong with the new Sega Genesis Mini, shown here with a classic game of “Contra.”

Those who memorized every nook and cranny of the original Genesis will be delighted in the Mini’s attention to detail. Everything from the headphone volume slider to the expansion door on the bottom remain intact, if not functional. Connections are minimal, with just an HDMI and USB port (for power) on the back, and a couple of USB controller ports on front.

Sega was kind enough to include everything you need in the box including an HDMI cable, two controllers and even an AC adapter, so all you need to do is connect everything and fire it up. When you do you’ll be treated to the standard language select screen and then a screen filled with the 42 games to choose from. Here’s where it gets good.

Some readers have undoubtedly thought to themselves: “But there have been plug-and-play Genesis systems available for years. Some even had twice as many games.”

Courtesy photo
The Sega Genesis Mini console is as close to a true replica of the original as any of the previous mini consoles.

This is true, but the Genesis Mini is the first one actually developed by Sega. The others came from third-party licensee At Games, and featured mediocre emulation and a less than stellar game lineup.

The emulation on the Genesis Mini is near flawless thanks to developer M2, the company behind the surpurb “Sega Ages” retro releases as well as collections like “The Collection of Mana” and recent “Castlevania” and “Contra” anniversary collections.

Likewise, the game selection goes beyond one’s wildest expectations. Sure, the standards are all here: “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Streets of Rage,” “Altered Beast” and others. Games that have appeared on every Genesis compilation since forever.

Indeed, if Sega would have stopped with those 20 or so titles, I wouldn’t have even bothered to review the Mini. But there are so many more. Games that have been rarely, if ever, re-released. Games of stunning rarity. Even a legendary game that no one thought would ever see the light of day.

Let’s start with two Disney classics — “Castle of Illusion” and “World of Illusion.” These are games no one expects to see in a compilation because of the complicated Disney licenses, but here they are in all their 16-bit glory.

There’s also a bevy of classic shooters like “Thunderforce III,” “Darius” and “Super Fantasy Zone;” fighting games like “Street Fighter 2: Special Championship Edition,” “Virtua Fighter 2” and “Eternal Champions;” and RPGs like “Landstalker,” “Shining Force” and “Beyond Oasis.” All amazing games begging for a replay.

But none of these hold a candle to the rarities. Start with “Castlevania: Bloodlines,” an underrated franchise entry that may be the best installment pre-“Symphony of the Night.”

Then there’s “Mega Man: The Wiley Wars,” only released on the Sega Channel, a short-lived online service from the early 1990s. A compilation of the first three “Mega Man” games (taking the unofficial game total to 44), the games look and play particularly well on the Genesis.

Or how about “Tetris?” Mired in licensing issues the game never officially released, with only about 10 copies making it to the wild. One was offered for sale in 2011 for a cool million bucks (it did not sell) but otherwise it remains a coveted piece of video game lore.

The game appears widely for the first time on the Genesis Mini, and while it may seem like just another version of “Tetris,” it remains a quality translation with enough subtle differences for fans to discover and enjoy.

The only slight negative with the whole package is the controllers, which feel a bit cheap and only sport three buttons, unlike the Japanese version which has six and is more well-suited for fighting games.

My suggestion, for those who are going to play the mini a lot, is to pick up some quality third-party controllers from Retro-bit or 8Bitdo, both of which are excellent and will only set you back about $20-25 each.

Overall, the Genesis Mini is a must own for retro enthusiasts and Genesis fans alike, setting the standard for how these mini-systems should be presented.

Sega Genesis Mini – SEGA – Rated E-M
Who it’s for: Genesis fans or those who want to check out some the systems best games
Switch — A-

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