I recently picked up a strange little gaming device at a local Sam's Club for $19.71, plus tax. It's a portable system that emulates a number of SEGA Genesis games. To my delight, I found that it was surprisingly good for a cheap clone of the Genesis hardware made portable. I say that because it uses the Firecore technology that many of the other Genesis clones use. Firecore is commonly used in cheap Chinese clones of the SEGA Genesis, with sometimes questionable results. That made me skeptical but, for less than $20, I was willing to take a risk.
The machine's physical size is equivalent to the original form factor of the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. Despite that, AtGames decided to give it a box that seems (almost) large enough for a MacBook Air. I guess they wanted to have enough space to put in a few screenshots of the included games?
The screen size is 3.2 inches in size and very vibrant. I'd say the screen size is comparable to one of the screens on the original Nintendo DS or the original 3DS. If that isn't good enough for you, it also comes with a RCA-style video cable to plug it into a TV set. I still wonder why Nintendo, Sony, SEGA, Atari, NEC and anyone else that has ever released a portable in America has never thought to do that... I definitely would have liked one over the years.
The controls consist of a D-pad and the 6 fire buttons you'd find on a 6-Button Genesis controller. There's a button for start/pause and a menu button for exiting a game to bring up the main menu again. A simple slider switch serves the On/Off function and a scroll wheel handles volume.
There is a standard 3.5mm jack for headphones and the AV outport. The micro-USB is for the AC adapter. The AC adapter has a removable USB cable that allows you to plug the device into a computer or power socket with USB ports for recharging purposes. I find this to be quite convenient and thoughtful of the manufacturer.
As for the battery... I have yet to recharge the console even once. That should give some indication of the device's battery life. There have been many sessions of me playing old Sonic games with this device in the last few weeks.
The SD card slot is for games that you are supposed to download from the manufacturer website. The feature doesn't exist on the manufacturer's website right now. However, you can get most .bin files of Genesis games made for emulators to work on the device from a SD Card. The instruction manual details how to make this happen. I prefer not to discuss the issue any further since game emulation is a bit of a legal gray area.
Since I have original cartridges of a few of the Genesis games included on this device, I had no trouble making the comparison to the original source material. Those games include Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Spinball, Mortal Kombat 1-3, Vectorman 1 and 2, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Everything looked exactly as it did on the original Genesis games that I played. If AtGames managed to screw that up somehow, I'd be disappointed in them. SEGA discontinued the Genesis in 1997. Hackers made quality emulators of the Genesis and its games starting in 1998. There would be no excuse for messing it up in 2016.
The device is based on the Firecore technology. As I said earlier, it's commonly used in cheap Chinese clones of the SEGA Genesis with often questionable results. The sound is what is usually affected. I have a plug'n'play console from AtGames based on the Genesis in my collection. It's also based on the Firecore technology. The sound on that console is HORRENDOUS.
On this portable, it is still a bit distorted but, not as much. Some of the sound effects and music in the games I tried actually sounded pretty cool in their distorted form, particularly the boss fight music in Sonic & Knuckles. That was a surprise. Also, I recommend that you use headphones since the tiny built-in speaker is about as bad as any tiny built-in speaker in any cheap electronic device. (And not-so-cheap ones like an iPod Touch...)
The Sound is the one true weakness this thing has and it would be enough to drive the purists away. More casual game players may not mind as much. I'm on the fence with this issue. Bear that in mind when you decide on whether or not to make a purchase.
I played 2 games before starting this review: Sonic & Knuckles and the first Mortal Kombat. Everything controlled as well as I remember. The included instructions for each game have a list of what each button does in the game. Having Raiden blow off Scorpion's head with a lightning bolt was just as funny and satisfying as ever. All the games that I have played since also control like the cartridges on the original hardware. AtGames did well here.
The device comes with 80 built-in games, 40 of which are from the Genesis. The other 40 titles are called 'Arcade Games' by the manual but, they aren't. They're crapware that you will probably never play more than once out of curiosity, if at all. Some of them are board games like Chess, which may be an exception for some. I thoroughly enjoy a good Chess match on occasion.
Anyway, the Genesis games built into this device are as follows:
A nice selection, for the most part. I am wondering why they didn't include Sonic 3 since they included virtually every other Sonic game released for Genesis. Was it some kind of licensing issue?
The lack of Sonic 3 is my only real complaint. If you include Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic Spinball, Sonic & Knuckles and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, you should also have Sonic 3. What happened?! Maybe I can emulate Sonic 3 (along with many other Genesis favorites like Eternal Champions, Taz in Escape from Mars and Virtua Racing) on this console via the SD Card slot? Also, where's the Ecco sequel Tides of Time?
If you don't mind the sound being somewhat distorted from the Genesis originals, then I can recommend this device with that one caveat. I wouldn't advise paying much more than the $19.71 price that I paid.
If anyone from AtGames reads this, I recommend that you fix the sound issues and get rid of the crapware. No one wants to play those often broken pieces of software. You're wasting time and money including them. Also, if you're going to advertise a feature (like having ROMs from your site work off of a SD Card), it would be nice if they actually existed. Other than that, I'd say you're on the right track.