Sega is breaking new ground in the miniaturized, retro game console category by being the first company to produce a follow-up unit. With the $99.99 Genesis Mini 2 (up $20 from the original Genesis Mini), the storied game maker releases more of its classic Sega Genesis game library—along with Sega CD games, for a total of 60 titles—in a product admirably designed to mimic its mid-1990s hardware revision. Factor in an included six-button controller and a micro USB power supply, and the Sega Genesis Mini 2 stands tall as an outstanding piece of retro gaming hardware, earning our Editors’ Choice award.
(Credit: Will Greenwald)
Sega’s Mid-1990s Design Revision Lives Again
Sega has chosen an obvious design route in making the Genesis Mini 2: It looks like the second-generation Sega Genesis that was released in 1993, which is the version that most younger gamers will recognize of the two major Genesis variants. The tiny Genesis Mini 2 (1.3 by 4.7 by 4.6 inches) is proportionally smaller than the original Sega Genesis Mini (1.2 by 6.2 by 4.7 inches), a call back to the size relationship between the original Genesis consoles. The Genesis Mini 2’s cartridge slot also has working doors, but they lead to nowhere but plastic.
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Due to its smaller size, the Genesis Mini 2 sits well next to the original Mini, not to mention the numerous mini game consoles that have appeared over the years, such as the Nintendo NES Classic and the Sony PlayStation Classic. However, unlike the previous model, the Genesis Mini 2 lacks an imitation volume slider or label that points out its “16-bit” power. Curiously, this model retains the sliding power button and clicky reset button from the Japanese Mega Drive Mini 2, rather than using two clicky buttons (as the original Genesis revision model did).
Like its predecessor, the Genesis Mini 2 uses a micro USB charging brick for power and a basic HDMI-out port for video and audio output. In a nice touch, both items are included in the box.
(Credit: Will Greenwald)
Finally, the Six-Button Controller
One of our biggest gripes with the original Sega Genesis Mini was that it included games that required Sega’s six-button Genesis controller to properly play, even though it only included two original, three-button controllers. This made playing Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition basically impossible—no more strong punches and kicks!—without buying a six-button controller separately.
The Genesis Mini 2 only comes with one controller, but it’s a six-button model. The six-foot cord is just as long as the three-button controller’s cable, though we’d prefer it if it were a bit longer. The Genesis Mini 2 supports the previous model’s three-button controllers, though that won’t help the sad second player during Street Fighter sessions.
Overall, the controller is considerably smaller than the original design, though it lacks the matte plastic and grooves in the back that make the first one somewhat easier to grip.
What I love most about the controller is its new Mode button on the right shoulder. This is a much easier way to bring up the system-level menu that lets you save the game state or choose new save slots. In the previous version, you had to hold the Start button to access the same menu, which wasn’t nearly as convenient.
A Deep Library of Missed Hits, Hidden Gems, and Questionable Choices
The included game library is the most exciting part of any mini-console. The Sega Genesis Mini 2’s library is massive compared with the first Genesis Mini (60 games vs. 40 games), as well as all mini-consoles to date.
The closest competitor is Konami’s TurboGrafx-16 Mini, which has 57 games (it has many untranslated Japanese games first released for NEC’s PC Engine in Japan before the system was rebranded for the US market).
You might think Sega would be left scraping the bottom of the barrel to drum up a list of 60 games, and that is partially true in some cases. However, in addition to including a number of rare and popular Sega CD games, Sega takes this opportunity to include popular and critically acclaimed sequels to console-defining titles.
These include hits like Afterburner 2, Earthworm Jim 2, Golden Axe 2, Shining Force 2, Streets of Rage 3, Vectorman 2, and even a new version of Space Harrier 2 (never before released for Genesis) that includes sprite scaling, a feature beyond the scope of the original Sega Genesis hardware. This last game is a particular treat to play with the Mini 2’s updated capabilities, as is the new “easy” mode for the notoriously difficult Phantasy Star 2.
The 12 included Sega CD games are mostly original games (no sequels), save for Shining Force CD, which is a compilation featuring the two Shining Force Game Gear games with CD-quality audio and better graphics. For fans of the genre, this collection is arguably the best role-playing game in the Genesis Mini 2 lineup.
Silpheed is my favorite included Sega CD game. As a shoot-’em-up fan, I’m happy that this crucial (but often forgotten game) that has eluded me for so long is easily playable. Its pseudo-3D graphics are an aesthetic today, but in 1994, they pushed boundaries on consoles, and it’s one of the most cinematic experiences on the Sega CD platform.
People who collect original, retro games know that some titles go for absurd sums of money. For instance, Crusader of Centy is an exceedingly rare Genesis cartridge that calls for more than $500 in a loose state (without the box or manual), even though it’s a well-made but terribly iterative response to The Legend of Zelda.
Likewise, Shining Force CD, the best RPG in the collection, costs more than $250 as a loose Sega CD disc. So you can view it as saving a fortune with the Genesis Mini 2 (that is, if you care about avoiding piracy with your retro gaming).
Further to this point, switching the interface’s display language enables the Japanese version of each game, which gives discerning fans access to the arguably superior Japanese versions of Sonic CD (with the original soundtrack) and Streets of Rage 3 (or Bare Knuckle 3, as it’s known in Japan, which has better balancing).
As for those aforementioned strange inclusions, we have a number of never-before-released Sega arcade ports to the Genesis Mini 2, such as Fantasy Zone, Puyo Puyo Sun (an untranslated puzzle game imported from Japan), and Super Locomotive.
I raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of games that few fondly recall, like ClayFighter, Outrunners, and The Ooze. And some key omissions in the Genesis Mini 2 library are quite disappointing. For starters, a few coveted Sega CD games did not make it over from the Japanese Mega Drive Mini 2, despite being released in the US. Notably, the Genesis Mini 2 is missing the first two entries in the well-remembered Lunar RPG series, the action-RPG Popful Mail, and the hit puzzle game Columns 3.
Some exemplary Sega CD games weren’t released on the Mini 2 in any region, like Konami’s arguably seminal adventure game Snatcher, strategy RPG Dark Wizard, and Road Avenger (arguably the platform’s best full-motion video game). As is the case on the Genesis side, some included Sega CD games—like Night Trap, Sewer Shark, and Night Striker—are just quirky additions for their cultural notoriety, but which otherwise take up space that could be used for more deserving titles.
These overlooked gems aren’t deal breakers, and they were most likely held up due to intellectual property licensing conflicts. Still, it’s disappointing to see them missing from the Sega CD’s big retro revival moment.
A Tried-and-True Interface
Anyone who has played with the first Sega Genesis Mini will be familiar with the Genesis Mini 2’s interface. Unlike the Nintendo mini consoles and the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, the Sega Genesis Mini 2 game list scrolls vertically with several titles across each row.
This makes it easier to find games you want to play, but it also feels more like Netflix and less like a retro-filled world you’re jumping into for a few hours. That said, the interface is ultimately helpful; you can sort the 60 games using various criteria, including listing all of the Sega CD games first. You can even display titles from their “spines” as if they were game cases on a shelf. There are also several game borders to choose from as you play, though all but the TV-looking ones are quite distracting—fortunately, a solid black option is included.
The included interface background music isn’t quite as iconic as the tunes found in, say, Nintendo’s mini consoles. Still, the music—skillfully remixed by famed Sega composer Yuzo Koshiro—draws from some particular bangers featured within some of the collection’s soundtracks.
A topmost concern for discerning retro game fans is how accurate and true-to-life the games are as they’re presented on the screen and in terms of controls. Naturally, even ace emulation work from industry darling M2 will not convince particular fans. These retro mini-consoles are about simplicity and accessibility, and on that score, the game emulation on Genesis Mini 2 is fantastic.
The look and sound of these key games register as accurate to my memory, including even the strangely different sound to Sonic’s jumps in Sonic CD compared with Sonic 2 for Sega Genesis. On a related note, the simulated Sega CD audio sounds as crisp and accurate as I can recall.
I found the input latency to be entirely sufficient when testing the console on a 55-inch 2018 LG 4K NanoCell TV with a decent Game Mode setting (a TV mode we’d recommend for playing with any retro mini console). I didn’t notice any perceivable delay between my controller inputs and the on-screen action.
Anyone looking for pixel-perfect accuracy will need to start a long, arduous, and expensive journey of buying 100% original hardware or investing in a MiSTer FPGA box. Good luck finding those cartridges and discs.
Sega includes a CRT filter option for displaying games on modern screens, which helps smooth the sharp pixel art, but it also makes every game look about 25% to 50% dimmer. (I still prefer it, though.) Audio purists will appreciate that M2 includes both basic versions of the Sega Genesis audio chip, and there’s a noticeable difference that’s ultimately a matter of preference.
It should be noted that the maximum display resolution for the Genesis Mini 2 is just 720p. This might be a turnoff for some people, especially those with large 4K TVs. That said, it’s not bad, considering that the games’ original resolutions didn’t even meet 240p, and their pixel art was drawn with that super-low resolution in mind. Conversely, a super-sharp resolution could make it even more difficult for these consoles to achieve era-accurate emulation effects, like scanlines and other filters. Moreover, these consoles are designed to run on just enough power to play the included games in a modern, fanless hardware environment. Do they need to be complicated any further? I would say no.
The Sega Genesis Mini 2 Is a Wealth of Rare and Excellent Games
It’s a real shame that Sega has already stated that the Genesis Mini 2 will be sold in more limited quantities than the original model, because it’s a truly excellent game box for a hundred bucks. Hard-core retro fans should consider the Genesis Mini 2 a must-own console for its sheer value, as it contains games that fetch hundreds of dollars.
Is this the quintessential retro mini-console for aged (or curious) mainstream fans? No, that would be this console’s predecessor or the Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition. Still, we heartily recommend the Sega Genesis Mini 2 for dedicated, 16-bit-era fans, especially those who miss (or missed) Sega’s sleeper hits. That’s more than enough to earn the Genesis Mini 2 our Editors’ Choice award.
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