Only for hardcore collectors
5. Sega Genesis Flashback HD (AtGames)
AtGames has been a pioneer of the retro trend, releasing a slew of products over the last few years. A good bulk of their offerings have focused on the legendary Sega Genesis. You’ve probably seen one of their numerous consoles on the shelves of your local department store. As much as AtGames’ consoles are ubiquitous, they are also divisive.
The Sega Genesis Flashback HD is the company’s most recent attempt at replicating Sega’s 16-bit juggernaut for modern audiences. It features HDMI output, save states, a respectable selection of built-in titles, and even a cartridge slot in case you have some Genesis games hidden away somewhere. It also comes with wireless six-button gamepads, but you can plug in original Genesis controllers, too.
Everything about this console is OK. The gamepads. The library. The gameplay. It’s all just OK. I think this console gets way more hate than it deserves. Yes, the emulation is far from great. And the interface can be awkward (you have to scroll through part of the menu using the face buttons and not the D-pad). But for many players, the Genesis Flashback HD is a viable option.
You have plenty of great pre-loaded titles to choose from. A healthy number of Sonic games, Phantasy Star II through IV, Golden Axe, the first three Mortal Kombat entries, Shining Force and Shining Force II, Vectorman, and Shinobi III are included. You even get some bonus Sega Master System and Game Gear games like the original Phantasy Star, Sonic Chaos, Fantasy Zone, and Psycho Fox. For some reason, AtGames also added in some shovelware titles that are complete throwaways, but you have enough memorable Sega hits here to keep you busy.
Like I said, the emulation isn’t perfect. Some games can have a less than ideal framerate for example. I also had to make sure my TV was set to game mode because I was noticing some input lag. So, be prepared for an experience that can be rough at times.
6. PlayStation Classic (Sony)
After I saw the game list for this console, I wanted to cancel my preorder. But due to my collecting obsession, I decided to give it a fair shot. Unfortunately, the PlayStation Classic is a disappointment on many levels.
Granted, the device itself is perfectly functional. The two controllers that it comes with do a great job of mimicking the original — but not DualShock — PlayStation pads.
But that’s where the positives end. The library is incomplete at best. Yes, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, and Final Fantasy VII are on here. These are genre-defining (and redefining) titles. Syphon Filter and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo are still worth enjoying. But you won’t find Crash Bandicoot. Or Gran Turismo. Or — cue blood-curdling shriek — Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Well, at least you get to enjoy Cool Boarders 2 and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six.
I get it. Some of the missing games just received fancy remasters for the current generation of consoles. Others have licensing agreements that make things complicated. Still, the PlayStation Classic feels unfinished, and because of this, it fails as a time capsule for its namesake.
And then, when you figure in the PlayStation Classic’s barebones settings and uninspired interface, the problems become too numerous to ignore. More important, Sony decided to include the European PAL versions of some games, which means they run at 50Hz instead of 60Hz. As a player used to the American NTSC editions of these titles, the gameplay in the PAL releases feels different. Tekken 3, in particular, seems more sluggish than I remember. That’s just inexcusable.
7. Master System Evolution (Tectoy)
For a significant part of the world, the Sega Master System was the dominant console of the 8-bit era. Brazil fell under that domain. To cater to this market, Brazilian company Tectoy released the Master System Evolution.
This was an early classic console, coming out well before the recent boom of the last couple of years. As a result, the console only has a composite video output. And since Brazil is on the unique PAL-M standard, the system will display a black-and-white picture for people using American NTSC TVs without a converter of some kind. This also means the plug for the device will need an adapter to work with U.S. electrical outlets.
These issues will be dealbreakers for a lot of players, but for those who want to experience some true gems of the Master System library, this console is a decent option if you have the right setup. Shinobi, Action Fighter, Black Belt, Kenseiden, Thunder Blade, Enduro Racer, the Alex Kidd series, and even the excellent port of arcade-stalwart Rastan are all here. The game list is pretty robust but does include some shovelware — similar to the Genesis Flashback HD. The Master System Evolution console itself is pretty solid, and the controllers work well — even though they have the form factor of the six-button Sega Genesis gamepad.
The aforementioned issues and the fact that it’s not the easiest console to acquire — along with some significant omissions in the library, such as Phantasy Star — put this at the bottom of the list. For me, however, this system is an endearing and important part of my collection.