I know that sounds a bit snobbish, but hear me out. It’s a compliment, I promise.
With the Sega Genesis Mini coming out in a few days, I did what any nerd who grew up in the ’90s did: immediately consider buying it. The Super Nintendo was fun, and I coveted it / its games endlessly. However, the Genesis was so cool that even back then, I knew it was out of my league. It was the cool kid at school with the leather jacket that you didn’t dare talk to, but hoped you could.
A friend of mine had a Genesis, and I remember dozens of sleepover nights where we raced each other in Sonic 2, or I helped him beat Golden Axe, or I tried to make sense of the ’90s acid trips that were Earthworm Jim and Toe Jam & Earl. I never thought I would be cool enough to own a Genesis, so wanting one was a futile effort.
However, as the years have passed, that adoration for the console has gradually faded into apathy. A big realization for me was that a large amount of the library consists of genres that I’m not particularly interested in — namely, beat ’em ups and fighting games. The Genesis also had more games with a grittier art style, giving it a “grown-up” feel. I admired that stuff as a kid, but now as an adult I prefer something more stylized and colorful.
Even so, I remember how Sega got 5-year-old me to go outside and design my own Sonic stages with chalk on the driveway. Then using a blue piece of chalk, I’d pretend to be Sonic, tracing a line to mark my speedy path. With memories like those, I owed Sega a try of their legacy games to see if the Genesis Mini was for me. So I booted up the Google Play Store and started downloading Sega’s mobile ports. If anything, I might like their RPGs like Shining Force and Phantasy Star, right?
To its credit, I enjoyed the charming presentation of Shining Force. And with all of my recent Fire Emblem experience, I slipped comfortably into the strategy RPG gameplay. My one hangup with the game was not being able to easily see the enemy’s range. It messed with my strategy mindset to not be able to plan out how far the enemy could reach. But I think it still showed promise.
Phantasy Star, on the other hand, was not for me. This was quite a surprise as I fondly remember playing Phantasy Star Online with friends on the GameCube. The SciFi setting is refreshing in a sea of fantasy RPGs. However, the combat just doesn’t make sense to me at all. There’s some kind of auto-battle mechanic to it, but I honestly had no clue what was going on during any of the fights, so I think I’ll pass on it.
I was hoping Beyond Oasis would fill the Zelda void with its Action RPG gameplay, or at least feel something more like Secret of Mana. However, this is less like those games and more like a beat em’ up with RPG elements. Again, the Middle East setting is certainly interesting, but the gameplay is just not my thing.
If there was any beat ’em up that I think I’d enjoy, though, it’s Comix Zone. Literally set inside a comic book, you scroll from panel to panel beating up hand-drawn goons. Complete with speech bubbles, Pow! and Zap! sound effects, and a popping color palette, I didn’t even mind the hard-to-read hit boxes that plague this genre. It’s certainly on my radar now.
Moving on to 2D platformers, Vectorman was a disappointment. The game pushes back a bit too much and hides too much of its mechanics for me to get into. I’ve tried and given up on too many Rogue-lites to know when I’m beaten before I even finish the first level.
Of course, there’s always the Blue Blur himself.
Classic Sonic never fails to deliver. And with a save state feature, I might actually be able to beat these games! I had tried to beat the old Sonic games back on the Sonic GameCube collection, but even then the lives system was showing its age. This soundtrack — well, all these soundtracks, really — showcase that cool synth pop that remains iconic of the Genesis to this day.
All in all, though, I found 5 to 6 games on the Genesis Mini out of 40 that I think I’d enjoy. Unfortunately, that’s not quite enough to merit a purchase of an $80 mini-console for me. It’s a shame, because I can tell that Sega really went all out to make a quality product, with significant attention to detail. I think Sega’s doing a fantastic job with their legacy content, and maybe that means I’ll purchase their Genesis Classics Collection on the Switch (which costs a lot less). I just wished I liked more of the Genesis’ games to justify getting the mini. Compared to other companies like Sony’s PlayStation Classic, that’s quite a compliment.
What do I enjoy more, however, are Sega’s more recent games. Valkyria Chronicles is a fantastic strategy RPG that could easily rival Fire Emblem. And now that they own Atlus, I’m jonesing for Sega to port the Persona games onto the Switch. Their legacy content may not be my cup of tea, but their current undertakings definitely are.