Mega SG is a small, slim console about the size of a stack of CDs, almost as large as the Super NT. The build quality is also a premium: It consists of a matt plastic frame and a rubber stopper, with a subtle design that takes signals from the original Sega hardware, seen in the color scheme of the power and reset buttons. But as Super NT, it's really about Mega SG's maturities.
The device uses FPGA technology (it is field programmable port arrays if you wonder) to reproduce the original console at the hardware level. This means that unlike a software emulator, you do not run software that pretends to be the original console and needs to be modified to work on a game-by-game basis. With FPGA, Analog has restored the Genesis experience from the hardware level. For all purposes and purposes, this is as good as the original hardware itself. It has played every one of the two dozen plus wagons I have thrown on it as flawlessly as possible, with absolutely none of the layers for which emulators are famous.
And here is the real selling point for Mega SG: it does all this on a modern flat screen TV (just 4K TVs) just outside the box, with zero brass around.
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At the other end of the spectrum, if you want to connect an original console to a modern TV, use a more expensive upscale and custom-built cable that will easily darken the price of the already high-priced Mega SG ($ 190). The second option is a kind of Raspberry Pi setup, but again this will require emulator tweaking on a game-by-game basis. Mega SG eliminates all this complexity right out of the box – you just plug it into your HDMI port and it is ready to play on your flat screen, automatically scaled up and set to mimic the 4: 3 proportions of old-school CRT TV appliances.
That's not to say that Analog doesn't give you the ability to think. It is actually a thinker's dream. As with Super NT, you can customize video output and smooth pixels. You can enable scanning lines in different ways. Analog advises "using hybrid scan lines at standard depth with vertical interpolation enabled and make sure the vertical resolution is at an integer scale (4x or 5x, not 4.5x by default)." If that's the kind of sentence that gets you stoked, then yes, it's the console for you.
Of particular note is the sound quality on the display here. Sega Genesis was emptied of having shitty sound due to some models using low quality mass market components. But here's the analog sound quality surpasses even what the best that Genesis could do to exhibit sound across the frequency range (you can also limit the frequency range to match the original hardware). There is even a 3.5mm audio jack on the front of the console that Genesis had to connect high-end headphones and sink into full-on chiptune nirvana.
Mega SG has gates for old Genesis controllers that also support everything that fits into the hole, including all bluetooth-enabled Genesis controllers on the market. But note that the console is not shipped with a controller, so plan to be out at least another $ 10-25 for controller expenses. As they did for Super NT, Analog has once again made with controller maker 8BitDo, this time to market their wireless Genesis controller, m30 2.4g – it's $ 25 and I highly recommend it.
If you've come this far in the review, you probably wonder if the Mega SG supports the range of Sega peripherals and hardware add-ons that gave rise to "tower of power" meme. The answer is yes and no.
Yes, the Mega SG works smoothly with all models of the Sega CD, so you are in the 90's full movie recording cheese you are golden here (although it looks a bit physically inelegant when connected). But no, Mega SG does not work with Sega 32X. And yes, there is a cartridge adapter for the Master System game included, and yes, there are several adapters promised to come soon, including a Game Gear adapter. And yes, of course you can snap Sonic 3 to Sonic and Knuckles – "Lock on" technology obtained and preserved.
Unlike Super Nintendo games, Sega Genesis carts are very cheap right now.
Mega SG comes with a last surprise – a built-in, unreleased Genesis game from Battlefield developer DICE. Once you are lost forever, "Hardcore" (or "Ultracore" as it is known here for licensing issues) is a Euro-style run-and-gun shooter that a small team of dedicated developers saved from a single death hard drive and has saved from blur. The game, a sci-fi themed shooter feast, oozes 90's aesthetics – even though it feels something half-baked. The devs claim that the game is 99% complete, but it feels a little anemic about the concept. There is almost no frame or context for why you kill tons of robots, but shooting is decent spinning action. Whether it's a fascinating piece of retro story that comes into Mega SG. It's not the Super Turrican Director's Cut that was installed on the Super NT – but it's a good thing to have.
At the end of the day the question remains – who is Mega SG for? Yes, it is for nostalgic Sega enthusiasts, and yes, for retro game stories, although some of them undoubtedly prefer to run original hardware on old CRT TVs (like Super NT, Mega SG does not broadcast to old ones) TV – only for HDMI-ready kits).
But I would argue that even more than Super NT, Mega SG is more accessible to those who have been fascinated by retro games, but do not know where to start. The Mega SG can just be the ultimate "retro" game console on the market right now for an important reason: Sega games are cheap, plentiful and easy to acquire. With Super NT you are tied to the Super Nintendo cart marketplace, which is a bit of a price bubble. But the Sega Library is deep, plentiful and affordable. As the console war stands today, perhaps because of its faults, Sega does it again, as Nintendon doesn't.