|So, there you have it, the unit (click to enlarge)
Take your mind back to 1995. You were probably playing your Megadrive/Genesis or the recently launched Saturn or PSX. SEGA released 'yet another console', the Nomad. This portable Genesis (it was only released in the USA, as you probably know) was state of the art (six buttons, a large screen and a very stylish design) but with the recent failures of the 32X and Game Gear in mind, perhaps it wasn't that good an idea.
Since then we've seen multiple 'portable' Megadrives, such as the 'Megadrive 3', a dodgy chinese knock-off featuring games like 'Sonic 6', 'Alix Kids' and 'Flappy'. A couple of years later Radica released a 'Plug and play' Megadrive with six games (Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Flicky and Kid Chameleon). A few months ago Atgames (SEGA's distributer in China) thought 'a true portable should have a built-in screen!' and lo and behold; here we have the 'Megadrive portable Video Game player'.
This portable Megadrive is the smallest of the lot (just a tad bigger than a Megadrive cartridge) and comes with 20 built-in games.
The unit has just the basic A, B, C and Start buttons and a button to take you back to the game select. It also comes with a volume control switch and headphone jack.
|Pick a game, any game! (except Arrow Flash, that is). All the screenshots in this review were taken directly from the unit (that explains their 'slightly blurry' composite quality).
A list of the available games, then;
An arcade classic, but this game never really was a big success on either the Master System or Megadrive/Genesis. So why is it included on the Megadrive portable? Not sure, but it's actually quite an enjoyable alien blaster. Blast some aliens, walk along, blast a few more etc. If only it had a Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack; the current one really doesn't cut it.
Including a 2D shooter in the compulation wasn't the worst idea, but why Arrow Flash? It's generally considered to be one of the poorest 2D shooters on the Megadrive. Games like Truxton or Gynoug would've been better choices (considering the Thunderforce copyrights). Arrow Flash lacks imagination. The levels and bosses are just really, really basic and never offer any real excitement.
Without its 2,3,4 and 5-player modes (one of the key aspects of this Columns version) there's little left. They might as well have included the original Columns. In this game you play against a selection of CPU players. Indeed, it's the old 'make a great chain and add blocks to your opponent's half' idea.
An excellent game that is let down by the small screen size of the unit. Crack Down already had a small action window and the tiny screen of the unit doesn't exactly help.
Sure, there's always the possibility of hooking up the unit to the TV, but -as with a lot of the games on this compulation- Crack Down in single player isn't half as fun as playing it in 2P COOP.
Dr Robotniks Mean Bean Machine
I've never been a huge fan of the Puyo Puyo games, but in all fairness; this is a quality game. Although you can't play the game with two players (obviously) the 2 player mode wasn't erased from the main menu, leaving you stuck on the selection screen for eternity, hmm. Oh and half of the title screen is glitched leaving you with '.. ......... M... .ean Machin'. Hmph.
|A real catchy name for a game.. 'M Ean Machin', don't you think?
Ecco the Dolphin
'Gosh, what a surprise, Ecco's on there as well!' (/Sarcasm). Yeah yeah, Ecco was a quality game, but I'm just liiiittle tired of seeing it on every. single. compulation. out. there. Without the exceptional soundtrack that made the Mega-CD version so good, it's just another game featured on far too many compulations. Fair emulation though.
'Gosh, what a surprise.. etc'. Not sure why it's here, but the fact remains that having TWO versions of Ecco on single compulation is ridiculous. This version is (surprise!) aimed at kids. Level tasks include finding objects, returning a seal's red ball, collecting some more items etc. With 20 levels it's not that bad. Still, what's with all the Ecco games, eh?
One of these games that somehow ended up on the 'dodgy Megadrive clone' list and because no one actually took a good look at the game and realised 'wait a minute, this isn't really that good' it ended up on loads of them. I'll admit some of the levels are kinda entertaining and because the gameplay is fairly simple it makes for a playable game. There's just nothing that screams 'Megadrive CLASSIC!' so, again, why this is game is on the unit is beyond me. (well, its MEG size might have something to do with it).
A nifty little game in which Flicky must rescue 5 'chirps' birds and bring them to the gate (an idea re-used by Sonic3D later on). Loads of stages and some enjoyable bonus rounds. Including Flicky on the unit wasn't the worst idea; it's a small game (in MEG size) and adds some much needed variation to the compulation.
'You can't do any SEGA compulation without Golden Axe' someone must have thought. Golden Axe will always remain a great game (except on SEGA Smash pack) but do we really need it again? It's emulated well (except from several glitched tiles on the backgrounds) but the unit's d-pad is a pain in the ass when it comes to performing running moves (and as every single one of you will know those play a major part in the game).
You ever heard of this? Well, I have, but that's because I once swapped games with a friend for a few days. I gave him Mortal Kombat 3 and got this in return. The boring levels, stupid enemies and Master System-like graphics made me happy I got my copy of MK3 back after a few days. How someone could seriously pick this over all the quality action games available on the Megadrive is anyone's guess but it's on there so make the best of it. I didn't like it..at all.
A quality action platformer (despite what some people might say). The title screen leaves you thinking 'uh oh' when it simply displays 'Kid' (with 'Chameleon' totally glitched out) but the game runs fairly well, apart from a bug which turns you invulnerable after being hit. I'm looking forward to playing this on the upcoming SEGA Megadrive Ultimate collection.
Shadow Dancer was never as good as either Shinobi 2 or 3 and with the latter also available on the unit, the inclusion of Shadow Dancer is another mystery. It's not a poor game, in fact it's pretty good, but again, why pick two of the Shinobi games with roughly 500 other SEGA games available? Crazy.
Even better than Shinobi II (no mean feat) with longer levels and an even bigger challenge (although some of later levels are bordering on the ridiculous). A couple of nasty bosses and excellent ninja action. In some editions of the Megadrive portable this game was swapped with Shinobi II.
Sonic & Knuckles
A weird choice, that's for sure. Sonic & Knuckles was never that good a game without its lock-on ability. Because of S&K's LONG (and in the case of Sandopolis, tedious) levels this game wasn't really suited for a unit without save functions. Sonic the Hedgehog (or 2) would've been the obvious choice here. Like said, weird.
Oh come on..anything but spinball! Another terrible choice. Sonic Spinball never was one of the popular Sonic games in the first place and the fact that it's slow and dull might have something to do with it. In some editions of the Megadrive portable this was swapped with Ristar (a far better game imo).
So, that's that. 20 games of which most aren't really that great. Hmm.
|What are you looking at?! Eh? (Kid Chameleon)
|Tough as nails but Shinobi III is a great game
Despite what some people might say now, the Nomad was an awesome piece of kit. Yeah, so it used a lot of battery power, big deal. Most portables were used at home with the aid of an AC adaptor anyway. The Megadrive portable runs on three AAA batteries and you don't have to worry about it 'dipping out' before you get to finish Sonic & Knuckles. It gives you roughly eight to ten hours of gameplay, which isn't all bad. The only criticism I can point at this unit is that it lacks a battery life indicator. The only way to tell it's running on empty is that the controls seem to take a life on their own(!).
Buttons and screen
The buttons are disappointing. I must have used nearly fifty different kinds of d-pads in my life and sadly, the d-pad on this unit ain't with the best. It's fine for games like Columns III or Sonic, but in games where fluid control is a must (Golden Axe, Shinobi III, Flicky) it just ain't good enough. The A,B and C buttons are too small but fairly responsive. The unit's screen is rougly the size of a matchbox (or the screen of your mobile phone) but is of decent quality. There's no way to change its contrast, but it's not needed, really.
The overall package is a bit light on extras. The unit doesn't come with batteries so you'll need to buy some of them before wrapping it up and placing it 'under the tree' or someone will mightily disappointed. It does, however, come with a cable to hook the unit up to a TV. There's a drawback though; the graphics suffer and the music in the games seems at least ten percent slower. Not sure why hooking up the unit to a TV messes up the BGM, but there you go. At least the TV cable is -for once- of decent lenght.
The manual from my unit bought in Holland was sloppily translated, but you shouldn't have any trouble if you buy the unit from an online retailer, I guess. Sadly, the manual has a real lack of information. The original Megadrive manuals weren't 60 pages each for nothing, you know. For games like Flicky or Columns III this doesn't really matter; they're rather straightforward, but for games like Ecco, Golden Axe, Jewel Master and the Sonic games some more information on the controls and items wouldn't have hurt.
The portable Megadrive is a barrel of missed opportunities. A better selection of games, a better manual and better graphical emulation (someone must have noticed that some of the title screens were half gone, come on!) were needed to make this unit 'must-have' material. As it is, you would be much better off with the Megadrive/Genesis collection released on the PSP a few years back or the forthcoming 'SEGA Megadrive/Genesis Ultimate collection' on XBOX 360 and PS3.
A fairly good looking unit with reasonable battery life. The screen ain't
bad, but shame about its buttons.
Apart from several heavily glitched title screens it's just about O.K.
Sound is emulated fairly well, the SFX suffer somewhat. Sound playback is weak
when the unit is hooked up to a TV.
Some good choices, but mostly games that shouldn't have been included.
A painful lack of racing games. A very poor pick overall.