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Will this be the retro Sega system we want?


I grew up a Sega kid. When I had appendicitis during summer camp, I came home and my dad bought me a Sega Master System with SegaScope 3D glasses and 3D Zaxxon. It was all Sega from there on in: the Master System, Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast. Even -- yes -- the Game Gear, 32X and Sega CD.

That's why I was immediately drawn to the Sega Genesis Flashback, the upcoming $80 retro console that bundles 85 old Sega games with two wireless controllers, HDMI video output and save game slots.

Along with the updated Atari Flashback, the Genesis unit is one of the latest offerings from AtGames, which has been churning out these sort of retro mini consoles for more than a decade -- long before Nintendo jumped on the hardware nostalgia train with last year's NES Classic and the upcoming Super NES Classic.

Why I'm excited

I haven't yet had a chance to see or try the Genesis Flashback in person. But as a longtime childhood Sega fanboy, here's what I like about the specs:

Game selection: The Flashback includes 85 games. Some of those games are random, not-really-Genesis shovelware. Others are Sega Master System or Game Gear titles, thrown into the mix. Sadly, it doesn't include the game called Flashback, a fantastic title from Delphine (which also made Another World). Still, there are plenty of classic Sega Genesis picks in the bunch: Altered Beast (meh), Golden Axe, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, all four Phantasy Star games, Comix Zone, the Shining Force games, Shinobi and Shinobi III.

HDMI video and save game slots: Earlier AtGames retro consoles were limited to composite video and often monaural audio output. The Flashback takes a page from Nintendo's book and adds 720p HDMI output and built-in game saves. That makes for easy single cable connection to modern TVs, as well as a much more forgiving approach to gameplay. (These old-school games are far more difficult than their modern equivalents.)

Wireless controllers: Nintendo stuck with wired gamepads for the NES and SNES Classic. AtGames includes two wireless controllers with the Genesis Flashback.

Cartridge support: The Genesis Flashback also supports original Genesis cartridges. If that actually works, then this could double as an HDMI-equipped way to play old games, maybe like a less expensive Analogue NT Mini.


The box looks nice.


Why I'm concerned

While there's a lot to like about the Genesis Flashback, some things give me pause.

Missing games: The game collection looks pretty random, and is missing a lot of obvious Sega classics. Where is Streets of Rage? Ecco the Dolphin? How about Toejam and Earl, Thunder Force II, Strider or Gunstar Heroes? Or how about Herzog Zwei and Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse? 

Some of those are probably licensing issues, but the point here is that even with seven dozen-plus titles, this Sega bundle is missing a ton of classic Genesis games.


How games are supposed to look. Hard to judge from this.


Are the video and audio quality good? Plenty of complaints about the older RCA-connected console said the video and audio quality were poor. We're hoping HDMI fixes those problems, but only time will tell.

Do game saves work well? The teaser video for the Flashback suggests multiple game saves are easy. Will they work as well as the save system in the NES Classic?

Are the wireless controllers good? Previous Sega systems used wireless controllers that needed to maintain line-of-sight connection. Will these be better, and will they feel good and be lag-free?

Is this better than other retro Sega experiences you can buy? The last great Sega Genesis single-disc game collection came out for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But Sega has also doubled down on mobile, trickling out freemium versions of many of these same classic titles on iPhone and Android, with hardware controller support to boot. The best classic Sega ports can be found on Nintendo's 3DS: Sega 3D Classics are arcade and Genesis-perfect adaptations of some smash hits, but you can't play them on a TV.


The original looks are largely intact (somewhat).


Multiple versions

Note that the Sega Genesis Flashback is actually available in three versions. In addition to the HDMI model highlighted here, there's the Sega Genesis Classic home console (no HDMI, wired controllers, 81 games) and the Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player (built-in screen, rechargeable battery, 85 games). The full list of titles on each console is as follows:

Sega Retro Consoles Compared

Sega Genesis Flashback Sega Genesis Classic Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable
Adventure in the Park X X X
Air Hockey X X X
Alex Kidd in High Tech World X

Alex Kidd in Miracle World X

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle X X X
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars X

Alien Storm X X X
Altered Beast X X X
Arrow Flash X X X
Baku Baku Animal X

Black Sheep
Bomber X X X
Bonanza Bros. X X X
Bottle Taps Race X X X
Brain Switch
Break the Fireline X X X
Bubbles Master X X X
Cannon X X X
Chakan: The Forever Man X
Checker X X X
Chess X X X
Columns X X X
Columns III X X X
Comix Zone X X X
Crack Down X X X
Cross the Road X X X
Curling 2010 X X X
Decap Attack X X X
Dinosaur Puzzle
Dominant Amber
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine X X X
ESWAT: City Under Seige X X X
Eternal Champions X X
Fantasy Zone X

Fantasy Zone The Maze X

Fatal Labyrinth X X X
Fight or Lose X X X
Fish Story X

Fish Tank Live X
Flash Memory
Flicky X X X
Gain Ground X X X
Golden Axe X X X
Golden Axe II X X X
Golden Axe III X X X
Hangman X

Hexagonos X X X
Hidden Agenda
Hide and Seek
Jack's Pea X X X
Jewel Magic X X X
Jewel Master X X X
Jura Formula
Kid Chameleon X X X
Lost World Sudoku
Mahjong Solitaire X X X
Maze 2010 X
Meatloaf Rotation
Mega Brain Switch
Memory X X X
Mirror Mirror
Mortal Kombat X X X
Mortal Kombat II X X X
Mortal Kombat 3 X X X
Mr. Balls X X X
Mya Master Mind
Naval Power X X X

Panic Lift
Phantasy Star X

Phantasy Star II X X X
Phantasy Star III X X X
Phantasy Star IV X

Plumbing Contest X X X
Ptero Spotting
Ristar X X
Rolling Thunder 2

Rolling Thunder 3

Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi X X X
Shining Force X X X
Shining Force II: The Ancient Seal X X X
Shining in the Darkness X


Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master X X X
Skeleton Scale
Snake X X X
Snowboarding X

Sonic & Knuckles X X X
Sonic 3D Blast X

Sonic Chaos X

Sonic Drift 2 X

Sonic Spinball X X X
Sonic the Hedgehog X X X
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 X X X
Sonic Triple Trouble X

Spider X X X
Splatter House 2

Super Thunder Blade X X X
Sword Of Vermilion X

Tails Adventure X

The Ooze X X X
Vectorman X X
Vectorman 2 X

Virtua Fighter II X X X
Wall-Breaking X X X
Warehouse Keeper X X X
Yawning Triceratops

The Genesis Flashback won't be available until this fall, but hopefully we'll get to try one before then. I just hope it's as good a way to relive my Sega childhood as it looks.

Editors' note (July 17, 2017): This story has been updated to alphabetize the list of included games, and to confirm the inclusion of 5 titles (Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, Shining Force, Phantasy Star IV, Virtua Fighter II) not originally listed.