While companies such as Nintendo and Sony are content to cram a smattering of back-catalogue titles into a tiny box to cash in on gaming nostalgia, Analogue has instead focused on making it easy for devoted retro gamers to enjoy all of their favourite classic games by making them shine on modern TVs.
To date, the company has focused on Nintendo, but its new Mega Sg is its first throwback console for Sega fans.
We’ve gone hands-on with Analogue’s previous console clones, including the luxurious, all-aluminium Analogue Nt that played NES games, and the Super Nt that breathed life back into your old 16-bit SNES cartridges.
Neither were as cheap as Nintendo’s Classic Edition consoles, but each one delivered a fantastic, modernised gaming experience, and somehow made the pixelated games of our youth look absolutely beautiful in hi-def.
The biggest appeal of Analogue’s new Mega Sg is that Sega fans don’t have to shell out the same $US640 ($897) ($US190 [$266] for the Super Nt + $US450 [$630] for the Nt mini) to scratch all of their nostalgic itches as Nintendo fans do.
For $US190 ($266), when the console starts shipping in April of next year, the Mega Sg will support for several classic consoles all-in-one, including the Sega Genesis (AKA Mega Drive), the Sega Master System, the old Sega SG-1000, the handheld Game Gear, and games that were playable through the Sega CD (AKA Mega-CD) accessory.
The console will play Genesis games natively, Master System games with an included adaptor, and will rely on additional cartridge adaptors for all other systems.
If you’re wondering why the Mega Sg costs so much more than other Sega all-in-one consoles you’ve seen online for less than $US50 ($70) that actually include games, it’s because there are vast differences in what you’ll find inside each one.
The cheaper solutions often rely on dubiously-sourced emulators — software that pretends to be the electronics and hardware you’d find in the original consoles. They’re often underpowered (to keep costs down) which results in a gaming experience that just doesn’t feel like you remember.
Glitchy software and diminished frame rates are issues you can probably learn to ignore, but emulated Sega games are notorious for their laughably bad audio, as this video demonstrates. Analogue founder Christopher Taber is even more blunt when it comes to the performance of existing Sega throwback consoles already on the market.
As I’m sure you know, all of the other aftermarket Genesis / Mega Drive systems are complete and utter garbage. Totally fucked audio / incompatibilities, trash industrial design and manufacturing quality… the options for playing Sega with original cartridges is abysmal.
For the Mega Sg, Analogue developer Kevin ‘Kevtris’ Horton spent over a year creating a custom field-programmable gate array (FPGA, for short) integrated circuit that works and behaves just like the hardware and processors that powered the original Sega consoles it supports. It’s the same approach the company has used for the Super Nt and its other console clones.
Having not had a chance to try the Mega Sg yet, it remains to be seen if Analogue’s new FPGAs finally solve the Sega sound issues. But the company has an excellent track record so far, and is determined to create the end-all of retro Sega consoles so that Sonic finally looks fantastic as he races across your hi-def TV.
There’s another good reason to ditch your emulators and start digging out your old Genesis carts. The Mega Sg still works with your original wired Sega controllers, but Analogue has teamed up with 8BitDo to create a new controller called the M30 that has similar curves to the Genesis’ bundled controller, but without the hassle of cords.
The $US25 ($35) M30 is rechargeable, and includes a dedicated 2.4 gHz wireless adaptor so you don’t have to deal with the connectivity hassles of Bluetooth.
Unlike Sega’s early consoles that embraced black to appear edgier than Nintendo’s colourful hardware, the Mega Sg will be available in four different colour options, including a gleaming all-white box.
And for those of you who long ago lost your Sega cartridge collections to over-zealous garage sale parents, or who’ve amassed a healthy collection of ROMs over the years (for all the games you’ve already purchased, of course!), Analogue has confirmed that the $US190 ($266) Mega Sg will also be upgradeable, via unofficial third-party firmware, allowing you to load ROMs via the console’s SD card slot. For some, that could be reason alone to make the upgrade.