Analysis of SEGA Mega Drive Mini 2, doing what Nintendo does not (again)

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I’m going to paraphrase Mad Men’s Don Draper and say that the Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 isn’t just a miniature console, “it’s a time machine. It takes us to a place we want to go back to.” Don was banking on nostalgia to sell when he said that, but the whole argument works just as well for these retro consoles. While this miniature homage to Sega’s beloved 16-bit system falls short of its predecessor and the TurboGrafx-16 Mini when it comes to the quality of the controller and its menus, still a wonderful little piece of technology that “allows us to go to a place where we know we are loved.

Nostalgia, delicate but powerful

Mega Drive Mini 2 is the sequel to the Mega Drive Mini we had in 2019. I quite liked Sega’s first foray into the world of mini-consoles, so I was excited by the announcement of a second one, this time appropriately based on the Sega Mega. Drive Model 2. The Model 2 was a smaller version of the original Mega Drive released in 1994, the same year Sega released the ill-fated Saturn.

Mega Drive Mini 2 looks good next to its slightly larger older brother.

It is a small nod to the evolution of the Mega Drive console, and it looks great next to its older brother. Like the previous Mega Drive Mini, it features a removable expansion door, so in theory it could fit into the purely aesthetic Sega Tower of Power mini. (Just like last time, this ridiculous yet impressive Sega CD accessory was only available in Japan, and was sold out long before I even knew it existed.)

The cartridge port has little spring-loaded doors that work just like the real Mega Drive, so if you have any of the miniature cartridges that were available with the Tower of Power (you probably don’t), you can pop them in. Once again, they are useless, they are just pretty.

On the front of the Mega Drive Mini 2 there’s a power switch and a button labeled “reset,” but that’s not actually what it does: pressing it brings up a menu screen that lets you save, load, or go back. to the main menu during games. The console controller, which includes six wired buttons, also has a button with the same function. It’s nice that it’s a standard USB device, with a cable of about 2 meters, so you can connect it to a PC if you want.

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The menu button on the remote is easily accessible and does not clash in the least with the original design of the remote. It’s located where you’d expect to find a button on another controller, but blended into the mold so it doesn’t stick out. At first glance, it’s a regular six-button controller, something that was stolen from us with the Mega Drive Mini in 2019. The good news is that the proper expanded controller is there, included in the box, and it will work with your original Mega Drive Mini too. The bad news is that the remote is of poor quality.

When it comes to replicas of old remotes, the one that comes with Mega Drive Mini 2 is acceptable at best. Button feel is terrible. They have a texture that I find really off-putting, and the D-pad shares the same tactile discomfort. I didn’t notice any lack of responsiveness while gaming, but it feels light and cheap, almost like an afterthought. The three-button controller that came with the original wasn’t great either, but at least there were two in the box instead of just one.

A stab in the heart

The Mega Drive Mini 2’s user interface is largely unchanged from the original. The menu screen music isn’t great, but all the other options I loved are back, like seeing your “collection” spiral, as well as a few new wallpapers for the menu screens and during the game. play. There are not many improvements compared to the first version and, honestly, since I don’t like music too much, it seems worse to me. It’s a shame Sega wasn’t inspired by the superiority of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini’s user interface. For example, while the Mega Drive Mini 2 includes a good selection of Sega-CD games, it lacks the TurboGrafx-16 Mini’s added touch: a custom, region-specific animation when a cartridge or CD-ROM game is loaded. .

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What the Mega Drive Mini 2 shares with the TG-16 and the original Mini is that the game list changes to reflect the language setting. If you choose “Japanese” in the language options menu, the whole experience changes. Not only do you change the language of the UI prompts, but you also change the box art, game language, and even the UI to reflect the region. I prefer the packaging and visual design of the Japanese Mega Drive because of how aggressively 90s it is, and simply switching to Japanese in the language menu gives me what my eyes crave.

In this sense, it should be noted that depending on the region you are in, some games may not be available due to licensing issuesor some adaptations have been created to try to make the absence less noticeable.

In addition to creating adaptations where there were none before, M2 has made some tweaks to its included games. Phantasy Star II, one of the most legendary of the 16-bit RPGs of yesteryear, has quality of life improvements in a similar vein to what M2 did with the Sega Ages version of the original Phantasy Star. has made it more appealing to play in 2022 thanks to an “Easy Mode” and faster scrolling. Trust me, you’re going to want to turn it on. Walking speed in the early Phantasy Star games is very harsh.

Aside from the “new” games, there are plenty of other big names, to a total of 61. He has Sonic 2, which everyone agrees he is the best, and Sonic CD. There’s also Ecco the Dolphin and its sequel, both for Sega-CD. If you fancy beating up 16-bit weirdos, you’ve got Streets of Rage 3, Final Fight CD, and Super Street Fighter II. As for role-playing games, there is the aforementioned Phantasy Star II, Shining Force CD and Shining in the Darkness, among others. It is packed with games from basically every genre of the time, with the exception of sports games.

Compared to the originalIt’s hard to say if Mega Drive Mini 2 has a better selection of games or not.. I would say that they are tied and that the selection of games is complementary.

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Literally, “the pain of an old wound”

There are also some weird games like Ooze which I have never played or heard of before. After a few minutes with Ooze, I probably won’t play it again, and there are definitely quite a few similar cases. Bonanza Brothers is not a game I have liked at all, The Ninja Warriors feels like it was added because the license was cheap, and Virtua Racing for Sega Mega Drive is the least of all the versions of that game. However, in the case of Virtua Racing, it makes sense from a historical perspective to add it to Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 because it was awesome at the time, but now it’s just clumsy and not much fun. Night Trap is another one of those games that are just plain awful, but historically it might be the most significant on the list.

Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 is another great entry in the weird and niche world of all-in-one retro games. Aside from the obvious revamp of games and focus on Sega CD, the overall Mega Drive Mini 2 experience hasn’t changed much from its predecessor, which feels like a missed opportunity, and the single included six-button controller feels flimsy. . Even so, it’s easily the best way to play not-so-great but historically significant games like Sewer Shark and the debacle that is Night Trap. Luckily, a large portion of the 61 games are true all-time classics like Sonic 2, Super Street Fighter II, and Phantasy Star II (I’m starting to see a pattern). There are even new additions in the form of adaptations and re-imaginings of old games, as well as welcome improvements to Phantasy Star II’s quality of life, showing just how much M2 cares about these old games. Mega Drive Mini 2 is not a copy-paste of some ROM folder, it’s a personalized experience that transports you back to an earlier time when it looked like Sega might win the early ’90s console war.