What's the big deal? We've been waiting a long time for this ... Read on ...
What is it?
The Sega Genesis Motion Arcade is a blatent attempt to cash in on the Wii's motion sensing gaming. Claiming two wireless motion controllers, seven motion sports games, fifteen licensed Sega Genesis titles, eighteen "arcade games" and the availability to download more games onto SD card (!), this little guy popped right off the shelf at me. The unit is manufactured by a company called AtGames whom apparently make a couple other devices as well (see below).
What's in the box?
Inside is a base station, a standard composite patch cable and looks-alot-like-wii-remotes controllers. Included also is a paper manual that includes a minor write up on the hardware, how it works and what games are included.
Looking at The Hardware
Unlike some of the more "bootleg" hardware I've picked up at Walgreens, the pieces and parts feel remarkably solid. I don't feel like I'd break the thing with a 3 foot drop to the floor.
The base unit itself is sturdy. On the front is what looks like an IR receiver. The top face contains the logo and two buttons; on/off and a menu button. Along the top are the jacks for the yellow/white composite cables (this is monoaural audio), the SD card slot and a 5V AC adapter jack (pretty standard jack, AC adapter NOT included). The SD card slot is of AMAZINGLY decent quality for an over the counter cheapie TV game unit - I was surprised at how firm and well-built it felt putting the card in. On the bottom you'll find the battery compartment - secured with a door featuring a screw and clip mechanism (again, more than I'd expect from a cheapie). The base takes 4AA batteries (did I mention "not included"?) and the compartment also feels of decent construction. Note: The screw WILL fall out when you unscrew it to put the batteries in - it's not one of those ones that stays attached when you back it all the way out.
The two included wireless controllers are definite Wii remote knockoffs, featuring a D-pad and four play buttons - as well as two extras in the middle for START and MENU. While I wouldn't want to play 86 hours of Donkey Kong with them, they are fairly comfortable to use - the controls feeling more solid than most "made for TV" fare and I think they could take some dropping and abuse. An On/Off switch graces one side (the top if you're holding the controller sideways) and a very gnarly looking hole on top for the IR signal (see the pic). The hole looks like a Wave Motion gun turret (Star Blazers fans will get the reference). The unit feel pretty tightly packed and lacks the "cheap plastic" feeling that belies the looks of the thing. Once again, I was fairly impressed.
The controllers suffered no lag during gameplay (although I was close to the unit). It was actually ENJOYABLE to play.
Most of the time, these sort of TV games are really more about the value of the software included vice the hardware itself. There are three parts to the software - Genesis games included, the motion control games and the "SD Card Downloads".
Interactive Sports Games
Hardly "motion control" ... you "shake" the controller to simulate a single event like serving a ball.
- Tennis Challenge
- Joy of Ping Pong
- Baseball 101
- Bowling Alley
- It's T-Time
- Casual Fishing
In the end, don't even care about these games. That's NOT what you want this unit for ...
Sega Licensed Games
Fifteen licensed Sega Genesis games are included but it's the same things we've seen over and over again and there are eighteen "arcade" games (think homebrew) to round out the collection. Here is the list of games:
- Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
- Arrow Flash
- Bonanza Bros.
- Columns III
- Crack Down
- Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
- Fatal Labyrinth
- Sonic Spinball
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- The Ooze
Nothing here should be a big shocker to you. Of course there are some very solid titles in the mix (sue me, I like Ecco) - but of course, we've seen most of them before.
These are the filler titles:
- Jack's Pea
- Jewel Magic
- Curling 2010
- Plumbing Contest
- Wall Breaking
- Snow Boarding
- Fish Story
- Air Hockey
- Naval Power
- Mr. Balls
- Fight or Lose
- Bottle Taps Race
A lot of stinkers with a couple of decent titles thrown in.
The menu system is basic but does the trick. After the basic, skippable title screen, you get three choices to narrow down your selection of games: Sega Mega Drive Games , Arcade Games and SD Card and Interactive Sports Games. The SD card menu is hidden away at the END of the "Arcade Games" menu - almost like they don't want you to find or use it. Fortunately, the wrap around nature of the menus makes it pretty quick and easy to get to. Still, it seems suspicious that they made this so well hidden ...
SD Card Downloads
If you're banking on getting a few hundred games off the company's website - just forget it. The website (at the time of writing) has exactly THREE games - and they all appear to be homebrew titles. To use them, you get yourself an SD card (one is NOT included), create a folder called GAME, and download the titles from the website down to the card. Insert the card, go to the menu, and at the END of the preinstalled games is an entry called SD CARD - you choose that - and it will briefly read the card and present you with a list of available games.
What's the brass ring???
Well, some of you might have already figured it out. You're probably wondering what format those games are in that you download? I'll give you a hint ... they are .BIN files. Now the smart person is thinking - hmmm... doesn't Sega Genesis emulators on the computer use .BIN files? You are correct. Finally, what would happen if you put Sega Genesis ROM files (in .BIN format) on the SD card ... would they work??
OMG ... they TOTALLY WORK!
That's right, boys .. What we have here is a Sega Genesis - complete with two wireless controllers AND you can play roms RIGHT OFF AN SD CARD!! And you can do it for $25 - on a piece of hardware you don't have to mail order from Hong Kong (and wait 6-12 weeks to get) - available at your corner drug store (Fry's Electronics carries them too .. but for $10 more). That's 250+ average sized Sega Genesis games on one card...
How is the emulation? DAMN GOOD. I took it for a spin with a wide varity of ROMs - different sizes, different publishers. I tested it out with: Altered Beast (Sega), Ms. Pac-Man (Tengen), Aladdin (Disney) and even took a mad fat ROM, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and tried THAT out. All worked ... I pretty much stood there with my mouth hanging open. Here was what we always wanted - an SD card based Genesis - and here it is for $25. No hacking, no soldering, no patching roms ... NOTHING ... works RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX. I personally can't believe Sega let them do this. Piracy at Walgreens ...
There are a couple of caveats I noticed to using the SD card. First, it doesn't seem to like high capacity SD cards. When I used the 4GB card I had handy, it locked up the game after just a few moments of play. Changing to my Wii's 2GB standard SD card did the trick. Also, the list of SD card games are cached so the SD card is not parsed every time. The cache file is named _TEMP on the root of the card. If you add/remove/change any of the rom files in the GAME folder, delete that _TEMP file so it recaches it next time you boot the game system up.
If this wasn't enough, these guys make a PORTABLE version with a roughly 3" screen that uses the same SD card system (it says so right from their website). Imagine - essentially a Sega Nomad that uses an SD card ... for under $45 ... I gotta have one .. we'll save that for next time ...
I will continue my tests with various ROMs and put the controllers to a better test later on and post my results. But based on my initial findings, I urge EVERYONE to go and get one of these suckers before Sega comes to their senses and pulls every single one off the shelves. If you're not into Genesis emulation, go get one anyway ... these things will go for over $100 on eBay when they get jerked off the shelves. I'd get TWO of them and keep one sealed up.
If you have any questions about the unit, I'd be happy to answer them here!
AtGames Support Site