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Friday, November 24, 2017

Retro Gaming Nerds - AtGames Sega Genesis Flashback - A Review


The 2017 SEGA Genesis Flashback model has been out for about a couple months now, and we finally got our hands on one.  Time for a review.

AtGames has been pushing out the SEGA Genesis Flashback unit for a couple years now, and it hasn't really changed much since its first iteration.  This year's version isn't much different from last years release, either.  However, it does appear that the unit sports a full stereo a/v cable to give you full stereo audio from games that support stereo.  This is quite welcome.

The games list isn't all that spectacular unfortunately, as some of SEGA's more popular titles are missing.  These particular titles do seem to appear on the Genesis HD version of the unit, however.

Genesis Games "Arcade" Games
  1. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  2. Alien Storm
  3. Altered Beast
  4. Arrow Flash
  5. Bonanza Bros.
  6. Columns
  7. Columns III
  8. Comix Zone
  9. Crack Down
  10. Decap Attack
  11. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
  12. ESWAT: City Under Siege
  13. Eternal Champions
  14. Fatal Labyrinth
  15. Flicky
  16. Gain Ground
  17. Golden Axe
  18. Golden Axe II
  19. Golden Axe III
  20. Jewel Master
  21. Kid Chameleon
  22. Mortal Kombat
  23. Mortal Kombat II
  24. Mortal Kombat III
  25. Phantasy Star II
  26. Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
  27. Ristar
  28. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
  29. Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention
  30. Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal
  31. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  32. Sonic & Knuckles
  33. Sonic Spinball
  34. Sonic the Hedgehog
  35. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  36. Super Thunder Blade
  37. The Ooze
  38. Vectorman
  39. Virtua Fighter 2
  1. Adventure in the Park
  2. Air Hockey
  3. Black Sheep
  4. Bomber
  5. Bottle Taps Race
  6. Brain Switch
  7. Break the Fireline
  8. Bubbles Master
  9. Cannon
  10. Checker
  11. Chess
  12. Cross the Road
  13. Curling 2010
  14. Dinosaur Puzzle
  15. Dominant Amber
  16. Fight of Lose
  17. Flash Memory
  18. Hexagonos
  19. Hidden Agenda
  20. Hide and Seek
  21. Jack's Pea
  22. Jura Formula
  23. Jewel Magic
  24. Lost World Sudoku
  25. Mahjong Solitaire
  26. Meatloaf Rotation
  27. Mega Brain Switch
  28. Memory
  29. Mirror Mirror
  30. Mr. Balls
  31. Mya Master Mind
  32. Naval Power
  33. Panic Lift
  34. Plumbing Contest
  35. Ptero Spotting
  36. Skeleton Scale
  37. Snake
  38. Spider
  39. Wall-Breaking
  40. Warehouse Keeper
  41. Whack-a-Wolf
  42. Yawning Triceratops
As you can see in the two lists above, we have 39 actual SEGA Genesis titles.  I know that there is a licensing deal that has to be made to include a variety of games from SEGA.  However, I just wish they would offer a wider range of classic titles instead of the plethora of boring "arcade" titles.  Of those "arcade" titles, there are 42 of them.  They are simple games from the homebrew scene.  Some are actually fun, while most are very forgettable.  Of those 42 titles, they tend to be the same games we see year in and year out with each release of the Genesis Flashback line.

One thing I was hoping would be updated from last years model was the interface.  It is no different from the previous year, or the years prior.  The interface is also the same as the interface on the handheld unit from last year with a very similar line up.  The Genesis HD Flashback, however, has a much flashier interface that seems to be reflected on the higher end flashback consoles AtGames is releasing this year.

One good thing about this issue regarding games is if there are any titles missing that you really want to play, you can use original Genesis cartridges on this system.  Keep in mind that this is not original hardware, but uses a form of emulation.  You may run into issues with a handful of titles out there.  I have a copy of Super Street Fighter II for the Genesis, and it does not appear to function on the Flashback.  However, the game is a bit "touchy" on my original Genesis model 1.  Games that relied on hardware tricks from the original machine will not work here.  Also, peripherals such as the Master System dock, and the 32x will not function.
The AtGames SEGA Genesis Classic Flashback

However, you are probably still wondering about the hardware itself.  As stated earlier, this is NOT original hardware.  Because of this, emulation is implemented.  With emulation you come across issues from time to time.  One being that some of the games built in display various issues.  These issues include audio issues, visual issues, and controller issues.

As an example, Comix Zone's music is all over the place.  Generally, it is just too fast.  Other games demonstrated a similar audio issue where channels were missing, too loud, scratchy, etc.  Visually, there wasn't to much wrong, but you could see some flickering that normally didn't happen on the original hardware.

Regarding the controllers, this is where the problems are not just annoying, but render some games unplayable.  Mortal Kombat demonstrates a weird glitch with the controllers when in the options screen.  When I went to play Eternal Champions, if I pressed diagonal towards and up/down plus either the "X" or "A" button would pause the game.  If this happened, I would have to unplug the controller, and plug it back in to get the controller to function again.  There are also some issues with cartridge games.  When I was testing Samurai Shodown, the game couldn't make up its mind if the controller was a six button, or three button layout and wildly bounced between the two.  When playing Comix Zone I would experience an issue with the button layout where the "C" button function would alternate between the 6 button layout and the 3 button layout.

Asciiware Power Clutch SG
(Edit: I went and tested the games that were glitching with my old Asciiware Power Clutch SG Joystick.  All of the problems I experienced above vanished.  Keep in mind that that Joystick is a three button joystick.  I do not own any classic 6 button controllers/joysticks to test with.  However, it would appear that it is not a controller port issue, but rather shoddy controllers that are packed in with the console.  I have sent an email to AtGames regarding this issue last night.  I will post to Facebook/Twitter an update regarding that email.)

As for the controllers, they feel small.  Of course, as they should because they are small.  Next to a standard three button controller, they are tiny.  However, I felt that they were rather comfortable.  The buttons do feel a bit squishy, but they are responsive...when they work accordingly.  The d-pad is rather odd.  It feels like a d-pad crossed with a micro-joystick.  I didn't feel it hindered game play in Samurai Shodown, but it does make it a bit awkward to pull off certain moves in games like Mortal Kombat.

Overall, this year's version of the SEGA Genesis Classic is pretty much the same as last year's model.  The only difference is the addition of stereo audio.  Many of the shortcomings were not corrected from the last iterations.  Depending on where you purchase this console, it may not be worth the money.  I purchased mine at Dollar General for $30 on sale from the normal $40 price tag.  To me, that was worth the price of admission, even though I have an original SEGA Genesis with a handful of games, and emulation to boot.

I can not compare this to the Genesis HD Flashback unit, as I do not have it.  For reviews on that unit, you can easily do a Google search to find a lot of great reviews on that unit.

-UPDATE-

The console ended up having to be returned to Dollar General.  The controller ports stopped accepting input from the included controllers, and original controllers/joysticks.  It appears that the controllers were not the issue, but rather the ports themselves.  A shame, but it is what it is.  However, I did end up snatching up the Atari Flashback 8 (basic) AND the Essential Companion book.  Expect a review soon!

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