The Sega Genesis Mini II, the Last Mini Console?


After a six month preorder, the Sega Genesis Mini II finally arrived at my doorstep today. Like its predecessor, it is meticulously crafted.  Every detail of the original is recreated, like operating switches, opening cartridge flap, removable extension cover, and so on. The emulation is solid as expected from M2, with the same video options, and new is the choice of audio from a model 1 or model 2. It is loaded with 60 games, by far more than any other mini console released to date. Going further into the Genesis' library, this rendition includes Sega CD titles, unreleased games, deep cuts, and includes a six-button controller.

What is odd is that it was exclusively sold by Amazon Japan. You could buy in on Amazon, which would then ship it from Japan, but there is no Prime shipping. There was no explanation for this, but my guess is that it has to do with the licensing of six-button controller to Retro-Bit here in the US, and so this is a necessary work around in order to include the six button controller.

The included game library seems to fill in some of the gaps on the first Genesis mini, although that game library was pretty good. Included are Streets of Rage 3, Outrun, Crusader of Centy, Herzog Zwei, Lightening Force (Thunder Force IV), Phantasy Star II, Ranger-X, Revenge of Shinobi, Truxton, Shining Force II, Hellfire, among others. Still, there are some big ones missing, like Snatcher, ESWAT, Mercs, Rocket Knight, and MUSHA. Some of the games on the mini II seem a bit forced, like Spatter, Star Mobile, and Super Locomotive. I'm not sure why these were included, these were not released domestically and have no following here. There are some titles that I really wished would make an appearance here, but due to licensing fees I absolutely understand why they are not here. TMNT Hyperstone Heist, The Punisher, Batman, Captain America and the Avengers, and Robocop vs. Terminator. Including those games would have significantly increased the price (I would be ok with that, but most probably wouldn't be). There are some games that could not be included, probably due to recent re-releases in cartridge form, like Gaiares and the Valis games. Then there are games that I don't think would have been expensive to include, like Fire Shark, Raiden Trad, and Gleylancer. I would have absolutely loved an M2 version of Alien Syndrome, my favorite arcade game when I was a kid. I know it was released on the Astro City Mini Arcade, and it wouldn't make sense as it was not a Genesis game, but still.

The Mini II boasts the largest included library yet!

The Sega CD inclusion is a boon to the appeal of this mini console, but therein lies a divided appeal. Final Fight CD, Sonic CD, Shining Force CD and Silpheed are all right on the mark from a gameplay perspective. Sewer Shark and Night Trap may have game title recognition, but are not necessarily considered good games. Those campy, grainy, FMV games were pioneering, but also terrible. Are they included as a piece of history, or are they genuinely revered by the producers of this product?

Controllers are a 1:1 match to the original

When taking a step back and surveying the landscape of the mini consoles that have materialized, I am hard pressed to suggest which console will be next to venture into the mini console craze/fad. The Playstation Classic had arrived as a spectacular disappointment. It was plagued with issues that hardcore gamers were quick to realize and point out, like the improper region encoded games (PAL 50 hz instead if NTSC 60 hz) and the omission of obvious games like the Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider. Sony massively overestimated demand, and shortly after its release the Playstation Classic was being clearanced out for $20 a piece. Had they done their homework, and stretched a bit more to include more favorites, it might have been more coveted. Ironically, once it was hacked and gamers learned how to add any games they wanted it became a hit at this discount price.

Chronologically, the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn would appear to be next up, but these systems are notoriously difficult to run on SOCs, or system on a chip boards. While all of these mini consoles are emulation based SOCs, the N64 and Saturn require more processing power than is viable with this level of hardware. Home computers and laptops can run emulators of these consoles, but that is much more processing power than these minis can provide. To beef up the processing power of these mini consoles would be cost prohibitive.

Technical challenges aside, the revitalization of mini consoles is dependent upon a target demographic that is large enough to make economic sense. Would a company be able to profit from such a release? The NES, SNES, and Genesis mini consoles were all no-brainers, they had tremendous mass market appeal. The Turbo Grafx-16 did not have as large of a fan base due to its limited success, and as such not too many of the mini consoles were produced.

The N64 was not the best selling console of its generation, losing to the Playstation. Would there be enough aging gamers willing to be drawn in by the siren song of N64 retro nostalgia? Many of the best selling games were developed by Rare, like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and others. Rare was subsequently scooped up by Microsoft, so their chance of inclusion is next to zero. Would there still be enough appeal? My guess is probably so. First party Nintendo games will always be system sellers, and Nintendo has garnered enough family goodwill to be able to sell nearly anything. 

What about the Sega Saturn? It has become a cult hit among retro gaming circles, but did it have enough of a presence in its initial run to draw people back in? I don't think so. It sold so poorly domestically, it would not make financial sense here in the US. I could see a Japanese release being viable since the popularity of the Saturn in Japan was strong, selling much better overseas. The Japanese game library dwarfs the US library, nearly three to one. The shoot'em ups and 2D fighters are flagship titles in my opinion, and the vast majority of them were Japanese exclusives. 

What about consoles from the sixth generation like Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube and XBox? With today's tech, only the Dreamcast runs on such SOC platforms such as the Raspberry Pi. The Dreamcast was in production for only two years, would it even have enough of a fan base to make to make financial sense for Sega? The others are definitely not possible at the same price structure that the minis are at. 

I suppose it is possible for there to be sequels to the NES and SNES classic. Both of those consoles did have console revisions, and the game libraries are so deep that finding games would not be a problem. I imagine these would sell just as well as the first minis. But as far as progressing along the historical timeline, we have hit the limits of what is possible. So, as much as I love the mini consoles and all the nostalgia, functionality, and fun that they represent, I do think we have come to the end of the line. Sega said themselves that they produced one-tenth of the number of Genesis Mini II's compared to the first Genesis Mini. They pushed out one last console for the love of the games, and because we wanted it.