Reviewed by John Hussey
As detailed back in February (after my visit to the Video Game Market) I received my very own SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Portable Game Player and was going to do a review on it shortly afterwards. You may be wondering why it’s taken so long for me to do this. Well, that’s because I kind of didn’t want to. The reason being that I was, sadly, disappointed by the product.
Made even worse is the fact that my mum bought me the device (so you can see why I was a bit hesitant about talking about it). The last thing I wanted to do was slag off a present from my own mum. But being a critic isn’t exactly without risk, especially when it comes to upsetting people because of a difference in opinion. So, without further delay, here are my thoughts!
I guess it’s worth pointing out that the device itself isn’t new, and in fact came out before Christmas 2016, but for obvious reasons the portable console was high in demand and quickly became hard to get hold of. The supplier that my mum purchased it from ultimately hit many delays in dispatching the product and that’s why I didn’t receive mine until February (acting as a very late Christmas present).
With that in mind it really added to my disappointment. I mean, I had waited a long time to receive the damn thing, so naturally I expected it to be worth it. Plus, considering my mum bought it for me, I didn’t want the device to seem like a waste of money.
And sadly both of these things came into play. Honestly, I was just really mad upon looking at it. I really felt that I had been ripped off and also felt very apologetic towards my mum, who had spent £55 on the fucking thing. That’s a lot of money for something that ultimately brings you disappointment.
My first major criticism was the size. When I held the box in my hands I was a little worried about the lightness, and actually joked that the supplier had accidentally forgotten to put the device inside (adding to the frustratingly long wait for its arrival). But no, it was a simple matter of the perishing thing being extremely tiny, resembling the size of an old Gameboy Advance. With that in mind the screen also seemed rather small too.
Of course for those wondering what the hell this device even is, well allow me to tell you. Like when Nintendo moved to the portable market, the SEGA Mega Drive was given a modern transition into this market, allowing you to play the “old classics” on the go (providing you remember to regularly change the device up). Of course this was pure nostalgia bait for me because the SEGA Mega Drive was my baby when growing up, with the PlayStation being my other baby (with the both of them helping me to morph into the very gamer I am today).
I naturally assumed I would be able to play all of my favourites whilst kicking back and relaxing wherever I chose. Well, I kind of can. See, my initial problem with the device is the simplicity. It feels rather bland, devoid of any real identity, and just overall feels rushed and uncared for. I mean it’s clearly noticeable that this isn’t made by SEGA themselves, and rather an electronics company called At Games, who also developed other portable consoles based on classic consoles, such as the Atari.
The size I could live with if the actual console didn’t feel so basic. The menu is bleak to say the least. It just feels so old fashioned (and not in a good way). In fact, I played on the SEGA Mega Drive, and the Nintendo Entertainment System, and they didn’t feel so devoid of excitement and imagination, despite the time period they came out in. This console has no fucking excuse, considering we’re now in 2017. I really feel ripped off by the blandness of this device and how cheap it feels.
But again, I could look past this if the core aspect of the device was enjoyable, i.e. playing the fucking games. And I can’t even do that! One of the first things that’s noticeable is the short straw list of SEGA Mega Drive games. Sure most of the classics are there, such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Columns, Flicky, Alex the Kidd, but there are still quite a few missing from the list. Streets of Rage comes to mind. And why do these collections never include my favourite SEGA Mega Drive game, Gunstar Heroes?!
Apparently on an earlier version of the console you did have the inclusion of Streets of Rage, but didn’t have as many Sonic The Hedgehog titles, with the version I got being the Sonic The Hedgehog 25th Anniversary addition. Thus including the main games of the “classic” series, including spin-off games Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball, and most surprisingly, Sonic 3D Blast. But what is really odd about this collection is the absence of Sonic The Hedgehog 3, and yet it has Sonic & Knuckles included, which is essentially part two of the fucking game!
Things start to become really annoying when I prepare to immerse myself in good old fashioned nostalgia only to have my ears bleed out from the terrible soundtrack remixes. The slight tweaks to compensate the device’s capabilities really does affect my gameplay because I’m just (yet again) disappointed.
I know the soundtracks aren’t too different, just a simply case of lower resolution, but even then it still sounds rather distracting, like you’re hearing an unofficial version. I guess you could just play the games on mute but that would surely be defeating the purpose. Then we come to another crucial aspect: lack of saving. Now, I know back in the day when the original SEGA Mega Drive was released a lot of the earlier games lacked a save system (to which it made me wonder how the fuck we coped back then) but it doesn’t excuse the lack of such a core element in this day-and-age.
So once again I’m left disappointed. You see the running trend here! Being unable to save your progress means you have to have long surges of gameplay in order to reach the end, otherwise your time is completely wasted. That was obviously fun back in the day, making the games last you all day as you tried carefully to complete the game, and should you fail, freely want to try and try again. Nowadays you want an enjoyable experience where your fate is controlled by when and where you can save (hence the life saving auto-save feature incorporated into modern games).
But here you are expected to play through the games in one play-through, and considering it’s supposed to be a fun handheld experience which you pick up and put down at your leisure, or enjoy during travels, it completely defeats the purpose of not being able to save. Who wants to repeat the same levels over and over because you can’t simply continue from where you left off.
I suppose for games such as Columns, Golden Axe, and Flicky, it doesn’t really matter because they serve as more traditional arcade games that are made to be replayed over and over. But for games like Sonic The Hedgehog you need that time to take a breather and come back to it.
I suppose I’m more complaining because we live in a different age now, and as a kid I wouldn’t have whined because I didn’t know any better (accept when comparing the SEGA Mega Drive to the PlayStation, which introduced the awe-inspiring Memory Card). But I guess when you consider the SEGA Mega Drive collections that have been produced prior to this portable console, which went out of their way to incorporate a save system, just makes At Games feel even lazier.
To make matters worse is the fact that At Games actually did incorporate a save system into the device, but only for the two RPG games featured within the collection. What a load of old bollocks. Fuck the RPG games, I want a save system for all the games! I guess this just makes me more and more annoyed with the device, to the point where I don’t see the enjoyment in having it. It just feels very redundant and a complete waste of my time. I could easily go back to my PlayStation 2 and play either Sonic Mega Collection Plus, or Sega Mega Collection, and have an all-round better experience.
Other gripes include the lack of accessories. One of the core features of the device is that it can plug into your television and play off it (I guess similar to the PlayStation Vita). BUT, you need a special cable which (wait for it) doesn’t come with your device. That’s right, you have to fucking buy the cable yourself in order to get your device to do one of its advertised features. What a crock of shit! What’s even more hilarious, if you go to At Games’ actual website they don’t even sell the relevant cable. Merry fucking Christmas people!
Then there’s the added torment of adding new games to your device. It’s said that you can do this, but I naturally assumed there would be a simple way of doing this. You know, go to At Games’ website and they’d be a little shop you can either download the games for free, or at the very least purchase them for a small price. Heck, I thought maybe SEGA would have a little area on their site where you can buy them. But nope. Turns out you have to be a fucking techno-wiz in order to decipher the complicated processing, downloading, and rendering (I don’t understand this mumbo-jumbo, so you get the picture).
So naturally an idiot (such as myself) become quickly confused when trying to follow a simple “How-to-Guide” on YouTube, to which I quickly declared, “Bollocks to this!” and walked away from my laptop. I mean for fuck-sake why does everything have to be so bloody complicated? Furthermore, why does the media industry have to be such fucking liars? Be honest once in a while and let your true colours shine, then see how much money you’d wrack in. Oh wait…
I will give the device some credit though, the controls are beautiful. Despite having six buttons (which makes no fucking sense, and often than not leads to confusion as to which buttons does what in what game) the gameplay is smooth and responds very well. Heck, I noticed that Sonic’s spin-dash in his first outing actually functions better in this particular port (if you can believe that). So it’s not all bad news, but sadly, good controls don’t erase the fact that At Games have basically brought out a cheaply put-together package that is there to ensnare us nostalgia nerds who get a boner from the mere mention of the SEGA Mega Drive.
So by in-large the SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Portable Game Player (what a ridiculously long, stupid, and quite frankly, redundant title) is a robbery of our wallets because it barely delivers the goods, feels completely cheap (and unprofessional), and has the cheek to make us work for its supposed advertised features which made us want to buy the fucking thing in the first place. But then again I should be more wise by now (I am 24 for Christ-sake) because it’s very obvious that the media lies to us in order to make us do what it wants us to do.
If I could sum up this portable console in one sentence it would be, “I’m so, so, so, so, so sorry mum.” Seriously, I feel really guilty that I made her buy this piece of shit as a Christmas gift, and the fact that I had to wait for it made the pay-off all the more frustrating. Part of me wants to sell the evil fucking thing, but then I’d feel even more guilty considering my mum went to a lot of trouble finding this pissing thing for me. Part of me wishes that when I had the chance that I simply told her it wasn’t worth all the faffing around, but nostalgia is a cruel bitch, and the knowledge that I may never experience this console added to the dilemma.
In short, I learnt that you should never, ever rely on nostalgia when considering a purchase. Yes things might have seemed overwhelming, innocent, and quite frankly, enjoyable when you was a kid. But as an adult you realise that the world is a cruel place that is there to just fuck you over. Say goodbye to innocence and fun because that’s just a pipe-dream now, so get ready to bend over and take your punishment you naïve twat!
So, yeah, don’t buy this console.