The Mega Drive was a 16 bit game console first released in Japan on 29th October 1988, and then later in other parts of the world, sometimes under other names, such as the Genesis in North America. The console went on to sell over 30 million units and over 175 million games.
The Mega Drive Mini is the latest game console to follow the recent fad of making smaller, self-contained versions of retro consoles, in the vein of the SNES Classic and Playstation Classic, based on the Mega Drive. Different regions get different versions of the console based on the version originally released there, meaning that North America gets a Genesis Mini instead, and each of the three regions (NA/PAL, Japan, and Asia) has a different lineup of games. In this article, Frontline Gaming Japan takes a look at the Japan-exclusive Mega Drive Mini and some of its peripherals.
There are two releases of the Mega Drive Mini in Japan: The Mega Drive Mini and Mega Drive Mini W, with the only difference aside from the packaging being the latter including two controllers instead of one.
The 42 games included in the Japanese Mega Drive Mini are as listed below. English titles are in parantheses, and the 17 games not included in the NA Genesis Mini are bolded:
- Space Harrier II
- Dai Makaimura (Ghouls ‘n Ghosts)
- The Super Shinobi (The Revenge of the Shinobi)
- Golden Axe
- Assault Suit Leynos (Target Earth)
- Thunder Force III
- Musha Aleste (MUSHA)
- Wrestleball (Powerball)
- Rent A Hero
- Super Fantasy Zone
- Shining Force
- Alisia Dragoon
- Land Stalker
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- I Love Mickey & Donald: Fushigi na Magic Box (World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck)
- Bare Knuckle II (Streets of Rage II)
- Snow Bros
- Slap Fight MD
- Road Rash II
- Gunstar Heroes
- Street Fighter II’ Plus Champion Edition (Street Fighter II Special Champion Edition)
- Party Quiz Mega Q
- Dyna Brothers 2
- Phantasy Star: The End of the Millenium (Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium)
- Vampire Killer (Castlevania: Bloodlines)
- Tant-R (Puzzle & Action: Tant-R)
- Monster World IV
- Lord Monarch
- The Hybrid Front
- Dynamite Headdy
- Langrisser II
- Contra The Hard Corps (Contra: Hard Corps)
- Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyou Touitsusen (Yu Yu Hakusho: Battle to Unite the Demon Plane)
- Rockman Mega World (Mega Man: The Wily Wars)
- Puyo Puyo 2
- The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light (Beyond Oasis)
- Game no Kanzume Otokuyou (Value Games in a Can)
- Comix Zone
- Madou Monogatari I
Game no Kanzume is a collection of 13 minigames (12 are accessible by default, with the 13 accessible via a secret code) for the Mega Drive previously broadcast over the internet via use of the Mega Modem and the Japan-only Game Toshokan (Game Library) service, meaning that the Mega Drive Mini technically include 54 games instead of 42. As the Mega Drive Mini followed a self-imposed rule of not having more than one entry for any one series there are some obvious omissions, but the lineup is undoubtedly solid.
It should also be noted that Yu Yu Hakusho, Tant-R and Mega Q have modes that support more than 2 players (Yu Yu hakusho and Tant-R support up to 4, while Mega Q supports up to 5), and one can use a USB hub to connect more controllers to actually play with that many players.
The Mega Drive Mini comes with the unit itself, one or two controllers depending on the version purchased, an instruction manual, an HDMI cable, and a mini USB cable for power. An AC adapter is not included.
While the volume slider is purely cosmetic, it does move, and both the power switch and reset button are functional (the reset button does not actually reset the game or system, and instead brings up the system menu from which one can reset a game, however).The cartridge slot flaps also move, allowing one to slot in a cosmetic 32X or mini cartridges, and the cover for the connector the the Mega CD is also removable for use with a cosmetic mini Mega CD. The mini 32X and Mega CD are included in the Mega Drive Tower Mini set along with miniature Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic cartridges (more on this below).
The Mega Drive Mini, true to the “mini” in its name, is significantly smaller than the original Mega Drive, roughly a quarter to a third of the original’s size, and is thus easily portable: If one chooses to travel with it, the cables and controllers would probably be more of a problem when packing it up.
While mostly an accurate replica of the Mega Drive, ports and connectors are of course different: The back of the unit has HDMI and mini USB connectors, while the front has two USB ports for the controllers.
The Mega Drive Mini does include language options, the toggling of which also changes the design of the entire interface (including box art) and the language of most games (the ROM itself is swapped out for the corresponding region’s). Games that were only released in Japan remain in Japanese, but the titles and descriptions are translated.
Games run mostly satisfactorily, but sound and input lag can be noticeable on occasion, though not to a detrimental degree. Games can be stretched to widescreen or left at 4:3 with either black borders or wallpapers at the sides, and CRT scanlines can be toggled.
Mega Drive Tower Mini
Japan also saw the release of the Mega Drive Tower Mini, a set of cosmetic add-ons for the Mega Drive Mini.
The Mega CD (Sega CD) was an add-on for the Mega Drive which allowed it to play disc-based games such as Lunar: The Silver Star, Sonic CD, Silpheed, and Wing Commander. This replica has no working buttons and simply connects to the Mega Drive Mini, but has slip-proof rubber feet (which the Mega Drive Mini itself lacks) which would help to keep the console stable.
The Super 32X was an ill-fated add-on which was purported to let the Mega Drive play 32 bit games, but saw little support, ending its lifetime with only forty games (six of which also required use of the Mega CD). This replica fits into the Mega Drive Mini’s cartridge slot, and has working cartridge slot flaps.
Sonic & Knuckles was the only game to ever use the “lock-on system”, in which the top of a game cartridge opened up to allow another cartridge to connect to it. This was mainly made for use with Sonic 3, allowing the player to experience Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which was the two games combined into one, but one could also use it with Sonic 2 to play as Knuckles in that game, or with Sonic 1 to gain access to that game’s special stages. This replica opens up like the original, and another cartridge can be slotted in to the top.
A miniature Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge is also included in the set for use with Sonic & Knuckles. Details on both cartridges are immaculate, with warnings on the back present as well.
The Mega Drive Mini locks into place on top of the Mega CD, while the Super 32X slots into its cartridge slot. the Sonic cartridge can be connected to the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge, which can then be slotted into the 32X.
The end result is the “Mega Drive Tower”, an obvious product of the 90’s, a beautiful abomination that was coveted by many yet owned by few Mega Drive owners.
This is not all that comes with the Mega Drive Tower Mini, however: If one looks in the back, they will find an envelope not listed on the box.
The envelope is a replica of a Sega Enterprises envelope from the 90’s, complete with boxes for a five-digit Japanese postal code. Sega changed its name to Kabushiki Kaisha Sega in 2000 (and then to Sega Games in 2015), while the five-digit postal code was phased out of use in the late 90’s.
The envelope contains a booklet filled with blueprints for the Mega Drive and related peripherals, and a poster with the blueprints for the Mega Drive on one side and a timeline listing the release dates of everything related to the Mega Drive on the other.
While the Mega Drive Tower Mini set adds no functionality at all to the Mega Drive Mini, it is definitely an item that fans should love.
Also see: Game Gear Micro – Hardware Review