Review: Analogue Mega Sg (Hardware)
If you were around for the 1990s, you almost assuredly remember the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive; an upstart of a console that managed to even overtake Nintendo for a short while, in terms of popularity. As the years go by, those fans who grew up with the Genesis become nostalgic for the "good ol' days", and wish to relive the glory by playing some of the system's best games. That's why we got the AtGames Genesis Flashback, a despised nostalgia cash-in that failed to recreate the beloved Genesis experience. There have been a handful of other, similar Genesis clones within the past few years, but there's one special system that sits above all the rest: the Analogue Mega Sg.
Part of what sets the Mega Sg apart is its price tag. At $189.99, this is no mere emulation box; this is a modern re-imagining of the Sega Genesis, built to play your old cartridges in crisp 1080p HD, with as little lag as possible. It even hooks into the Sega CD attachment, just as the Genesis once did, and comes with a bonus adapter that allows you to play your Master System games, with further external options to support Game Gear, MyCard, Mark III, SG-1000 and SC-3000 carts. Just as the Analogue Super NT did, the Mega Sg uses FPGA to ensure compatibility with over 2,000 games from the Genesis' library. This attention to detail and meticulous recreation makes the Mega Sg the peak Sega Genesis experience for hardcore fans and purists alike.
What do you get?
- The Analogue Mega Sg
- A Master System cart adapter
- A Sega CD spacer, to help the small Mega Sg fit
- HDMI cable
- Micro USB power cable
Sporting four different color patterns--JPN, EU, NA, and White--the Mega Sg looks like a slimmed-down Model 1 Genesis, in the form factor of the tiny Model 3 Genesis. The front of the console has two controller ports and a 3.5 aux jack, while the top has a cartridge slot and power/reset buttons. On the side is an SD card slot, which is intended for you to flash the console with firmware updates, though the homebrew community is known for...finding devious uses for such things. Lastly, on the back, is an HDMI port, and a micro USB slot, for video output and power, respectively. As the Mega Sg is a premium piece of hardware, it should be made from quality materials--and fortunately, it is. Most of the system has a nice matte finish, save for a glossy ring in the center, mimicking the Model 1 Genesis. The Sg feels sturdy, though not heavy, and there's nothing rattling around on the inside. It's sleek and pleasing to look at from all angles, though it does look comically small when mounted to a Sega CD.
As many are aware, playing 16-bit games on a flat-screened HDTV (if your TV can even still support such inputs) can result in horrifying picture quality, as retro consoles were never designed to look nice on screens that would exist nearly three decades in the future. Emulators, can, of course, upscale the picture quality, but you might be left unsatisfied if you're looking for an authentic, perfect way to play your favorite classic games. Thanks to the Mega Sg and its FPGA chip, it can accurately reproduce the exact sound and graphics of the Sega Genesis, while outputting a perfectly clear image and high-quality sound through HDMI. Sonic 3's Angel Island Zone, and Road Rash's Sierra Nevada levels had never looked so good, bringing back the same awe I had as a child in the late 90s, seeing these games for the very first time.
So many of the games from the Genesis' massive library have such amazing soundtracks, and yet, even on the hardware it was designed for, the full range of audio could never be heard on the Genesis itself, and that was especially true if you owned a Model 2 system, which was known for having abysmal sound quality. Here, Analogue boasts 16 bit 48KHz audio, so that you can hear every single detail of some of gaming's best soundtracks. Hilariously enough, if you want to relive that crackly low-quality sound that the Genesis had, you can go into the settings of the Mega Sg, and make it purposefully play at a lesser quality. Finally! Now humanity can be treated to the horrifying sounds of Sonic Spinball's Options music, in both audiophile and potato quality.
While many may be pleased with just the default settings, Analogue has also included a massive array of different shaders, scalers, filters, and audio channel settings to play around with. The sheer amount of available options to tweak felt a little daunting at first, though many are self-explanatory, and things are a bit easier if you've ever previously played around with RetroArch settings. Every Mega Sg unit is region free, so you can use JPN, EU, or NA carts without issue, which leads to the first option: video. There are three resolutions you can choose from: 480p, 720p, and 1080p, at either 60Hz for NTSC or 50Hz for PAL games. You've also got smoothing filters, like HQx, if that's your style--and it's a nice inclusion for those that might want it--but if you're shelling out for this system, you're going to see every glorious pixel possible.
Earlier, I mentioned that the Mega Sg could be plugged into the Sega CD, and while it isn't the most elegant setup, you can indeed slot the two together, pop in a Sega CD game, and play it on the Mega Sg. I admittedly don't have the largest library of titles to test Sega CD games with, but both Sonic CD and Lunar: Eternal Blue played flawlessly. And though I don't own one, a Mega Everdrive will indeed work, should you want to use it. Currently, the only thing that isn't supported is the 32x, due to its requirement of using composite cables routed into the original Genesis. Analogue is looking into offering a DAC solution in the near future, so you likely won't have to wait too long if you're got a desire to try some titles from the short-lived expansion.
There's one more extra goodie which you can find on the Mega Sg's main menu, whenever you boot it up. Included as a bonus is Ultracore, a game that was developed for the Sega Genesis by what would later become DICE, but was left unreleased at the end of the Genesis' lifespan, due to publishers thinking the game wouldn't be worth releasing with newer hardware on the horizon. The original development team was gathered together once more, to put the finishing touches on Ultracore, and release it as a pack-in title for the Mega Sg. Not only is it a piece of gaming history that was almost lost to time, but it's also an excellent game to display everything memorable about the Sega Genesis. Ultracore is a 2D side-scrolling shooter, similar to Gunstar Heroes or Contra: Hard Corps, which has you traverse levels, spewing endless amounts of bullets at enemies, while searching for cool powerups. The genre itself already calls back pure 90s nostalgia, but it's when you hear that distinct Yamaha YM2612 Genesis "synth twang" in the soundtrack, does the full effect hit you. I found myself enjoying the game and getting pretty into it, in between sessions of Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage.
A rather disappointing thing to note is that the Mega Sg does not come with a controller. Analogue does offer the option to purchase an 8bitdo M30 wireless gamepad to go along with your Mega Sg, but it'll add an extra $25 onto the already fairly staggering price tag. That being said, not bundling a controller isn't the worst thing in the world, as you can still use your original Genesis controllers, or pick up one of the recently released RetroBit controllers, which are absolutely lovely, and only $15. It just feels like a minor inconvenience, considering that you're paying nearly $200 for something that can't be played around with out of the box, if you don't supply your own gamepad.
One significant complaint that people tend to argue in favor of playing games on a CRT, on native hardware, is the amount of lag introduced by modern elements. Many people are sensitive to input lag, and Analogue was clearly aware of this, as the company notes that the Mega Sg has "zero lag". Since there's no emulation going on, there's no overhead or background processes; using that FPGA ensures that lag won't be getting in the way of your games. Not only are they going to look breathtaking, but they'll actually play amazingly well, to boot.
When it comes to playing your beloved Sega Genesis games in 2019, you couldn't ask for a better product then the Analogue Mega Sg. You can always emulate your games, but even then, emulation will have inaccuracies and issues that you'll have to spend time tweaking and ironing out. And even if you outfit your original Sega Genesis--regardless of whichever model--with all the fancy cables and converters, with extra output scalers all hooked into it, it becomes a complicated Frankenstein setup, all just to play one console. With the Mega Sg, you plug it in, and you're ready to go. It's simple, it's sleek, and your games will look and sound absolutely downright amazing.
Where to buy?
+ Tons of different filters and processing options.
+ Accurately and faithfully plays games just like the original Genesis.
+ Amazing audio and visual quality.
- Controller sold separately.
out of 10
As someone who grew up with a Sega Genesis, and has always had a soft spot in my heart for many of the classic games on the system, I consider the Analogue Mega Sg hands-down the best way to experience your nostalgic favorites for the Genesis in the modern era.