The SEGA Genesis Mini is somewhat shockingly a triumph. The miniature console serves as a reminder of all the interesting video games SEGA put out back in the day while also providing easy-to-use access to a large selection of important video game titles from that generation. It's not perfect by any means, every problem I actually had with the Mini during my time with it seems petty and minor when compared to the joy of actually playing it.
It seems fairly obvious that SEGA was paying attention to the response to the similar miniature retro consoles from Sony and Nintendo, and many of the downfalls from those company's attempts have been rectified here. Unlike Nintendo's outings, the SEGA Genesis Mini comes with two controllers that have appropriately sized cords, and compared to the PlayStation Classic, the SEGA Genesis Mini has an absolutely fantastic smorgasboard of options when it comes to the variety of games -- 42 in total -- on the device.
As with any person that grew up playing the SEGA Genesis, there are, of course, video games I wish were included instead of others, but there's no glaringly obvious omission. Despite the fact that my dreams of playing Sonic & Knuckles were crushed, there's plenty of Sonic the Hedgehog to go around, and Comix Zone and Streets of Rage 2 remain nostalgic favorites.
The menu system, unfortunately, is not particularly intuitive, but once you know how to navigate from one place to the next, it's honestly not a problem. I continued to struggle with exactly how to quit a game and more long after figuring it out during our video preview, and it wasn't until reading everything I could about getting from point A to point B that it clicked. And even then, I sometimes found myself pressing the wrong buttons at the wrong time, though I'd quickly correct myself. I suspect this is partly due to my own inability to retain the information, but it was troubling regardless.
The SEGA Genesis Mini is not exactly revolutionary, and it's more of a novelty toy than some kind of historical artifact, but it does exactly what it's designed to do, and it does it well. As a method of directly walking through my memories of playing a SEGA Genesis in the cramped bedroom I shared with my brother in the '90s, it succeeds on all counts. And while I find it hard to imagine myself spending a ton of time with the miniature console on my own, I'm excited to see how my children react to it when they're of the appropriate age. I can already picture myself walking my son through Green Hill Zone when he's old enough to actually use a controller -- and laughing along with him when we both fail hilariously.
In short, the console does what it says on the box, and performs admirably. I never encountered any terrible hiccup in performance or gameplay beyond my own atrocious abilities (be prepared to be forcefully reminded of old-school video game difficulty) and the actual experience of using the SEGA Genesis Mini was simple, nostalgic, and nearly effortless. There's no significant bells or whistles here; it's a box that plays a bunch of old video games, and does so without issue. And, in this case, that's enough.
The SEGA Genesis Mini is scheduled to launch on September 19th for $79.99. A unit was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. You can check out all of our previous coverage of SEGA right here.