I always forget how light old videogame controllers were until I hold one in my hand. Compared to the modern ones, they always feel flimsy, like I could break one in my hands if I tried really hard. That doesn’t mean they feel bad. These old controllers are a lot simpler, and always a bit comforting. Sometimes the old shapes are the best ones.
This is the kind of thing that runs through my mind as I sample the offerings of the Sega Genesis Mini, a new miniature console produced by Sega, pre-loaded with a selection of their best games in the model popularized (though not invented) by Nintendo’s NES and SNES Mini consoles. This is only a preview unit, so I can’t offer my final takes as of yet, but I must say: So far, this feels nice. It’s a blend of nostalgia and discovery, the kind of thing that both takes me back and makes me realize how much I haven’t yet explored.
See, I never had a Sega Genesis when I was a kid, which made the console a mysterious, magical world to me. I only caught glimpses of it at friends’ houses or at my cousin’s, where I’d get to try out a game here or there but never enough to feel like I was satisfied, like I understood. I got Nintendo, and still do, on an intuitive level bred from a lifetime of play. I still don’t fully get Sega. They have a fascinating, eclectic library that I just kind of missed.
So the Genesis Mini feels, to me, like a thrilling opportunity to play catch up. The console, which features 40 games, is easy to use and familiar for anyone who’s used one of Nintendo’s. You plug it in, hook it up to a TV, and you’re golden. Volume is controlled right from the console, which you’re meant to have near you, and when it turns on you’re greeted with a list of games to play. There are some granular settings to play with, including screen sizing and a tasty CRT visual effect, and each game has the modern convenience of save files to make progress easier to come by. But mostly, it’s just the games, from the eclectic and obscure (Altered Beast, anyone?) to your Sonics the Hedgehog and, of course, a version of Tetris, because you can’t go retro without tetrominos.
The Genesis Mini comes out next month, on September 19, for $79.99, and I know what I’m going to be doing until then: exploring, soaking in games I never touched, and seeing how deep the Sega rabbit hole goes.
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