Classic consoles are in, but buyer beware

Posted on July 23, 2017

Retro gaming is all the rage right now.  Classic consoles, remakes and backwards compatibility are all playing on gamers nostalgia and making a truck load of money.

Nintendo released their NES classic to an incredible response. The SNES classic is officially on the way and by all reports appears to be heading in the same direction (ie demand may outstrip supply). Not to mention there are now rumours of an Nintendo 64 classicCrash Bandicoot makes his return and outstrips modern games and Final Fantasy XII has just been remastered.

Outside of Nintendo though, there are also other companies cashing in on retro nostalgia and there are a few other ‘classic’ consoles on the way over the next few months. But are all classic consoles made equal? Not quite.

With Sega running their Sega Forever program and Atari working on their Ataribox, you’d think that would be all of the classic gaming stemming from these two companies, although it’s not. There is a company releasing ‘classic consoles’ based on both Sega and Atari as well. I am talking about ATgames who are releasing both an Atari Flashback console and also a Sega Mega Drive Flashback console. They both include a huge number of games, 120 for the Atari (I didn’t know they had that many) and 85 for the Mega Drive. On the face of it, that seems like a great deal. Plus, the Mega Drive Flashback has a cartridge slot. Amazing right? Not really.

Let’s start with the Mega Drive. Out of the 85 games available only 42 are actual Mega Drive games, although you do get the first two Sonic games (no Sonic 3) and all three Mortal Kombat games. There is a lot of filler and the remainder are basic games such as chess, checkers, etc.  Another concern about the newest entry is sound and control. ATgames’ previous Mega Drive has actually been out for a while and the new one appears to be a re-boxed post NES classic success. The wireless controllers for example, though resembling Mega Drive controllers, use infrared and as such do not work well with two players. If two players are both button mashing in Mortal Kombat, essentially the fighters do not do a thing. The less said about the sound the better, but I can say if you bought a NES classic and Super Mario did not sound like Super Mario, there would be outrage.

Nintendo has got this 100% right at the moment. The NES classic that came out reviewed amazingly, the jury is out but we can expect the same quality from the SNES classic. Sega and Atari just may have licensed out their consoles a few years too soon. It would not be a stretch to say they may be regretting it now.

Luckily for Sega they didn’t license Master System, Saturn or Dreamcast. Atari could still have a Jaguar up their sleeve.

I think the key learning here is that it’s not just as easy as releasing a bunch of ROMS inside a box, because you can just download those. The key is to make it authentic, controllers that feel right, games that sound right and so on.