Hardware Review: SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player

There has been no shortage of ways to re-play games from the SEGA Mega Drive/ Genesis over the years with SEGA releasing and re-releasing their most popular games from the 16-bit generation on any and every platform.  Without particularly trying I think I have about 10-12 copies of the Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now there is at least one more way to replay 39 of those classics, the SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player, (hereafter referred to as "GUP") from the Dichroic Cat Electronic Company (AtGames Digital Media).

As for the name, I think most will agree that SEGA's own Nomad hand-held remains the ultimate portable game player. The Nomad enabled you to take your cartridge out of your home system and place it directly into the portable system for playing on the go, much as Nintendo's Switch facilitates in the 21st century.

 The Real Ultimate SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player.

The Real Ultimate SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player.

But back to the future for a moment, the GUP does have the advantage of a back-lit screen, long battery life (through use of a USB rechargeable battery) and having 39 games from the original system packed in (without having to lug around a bunch of cartridges.

 You can find the SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player on Ebay for about $80 AUD.

You can find the SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player on Ebay for about $80 AUD.

The system is approximately the same size as a PlayStation Portable, with a slightly smaller screen and also significantly lighter, (while not so light as to feel cheap). The build is not up to Sony and Nintendo standards, but at the same time is ergonomically comfortable and mechanically well put together.

 In the box you get the system itself, a USB charging cable and detailed manual which gives great descriptions of each game.

In the box you get the system itself, a USB charging cable and detailed manual which gives great descriptions of each game.

Pre-loaded onto the GUP are 39 Mega Drive games with standouts like Alex Kidd, Bonanza Bros., Comix Zone and Decap Attack joining the usual suspects like Sonic, Altered Beast and Columns.  A complete list of games will be at the end of this review.  There are an additional 41 "arcade games" which in actuality are free-ware quality clones that are usually shovelled onto off-brand counterfeit consoles you find sold in questionable parts of town.  Such gems as Yawning Triceratops, Mr. Balls and Jack's Pea will keep you occupied for seconds at a time.

The well written and verbose descriptions of these generic games in the manual may have taken longer to craft than the games themselves.

 The GUP has an audio out, SD Card slot, A/V out, USB Charging input, on/off button and a volume control dial.

The GUP has an audio out, SD Card slot, A/V out, USB Charging input, on/off button and a volume control dial.

 This image gives a sense of the size of the GUP. Dimensions (cm, approx): 15.5 x 6.5 x 2 (L x W x D).

This image gives a sense of the size of the GUP. Dimensions (cm, approx): 15.5 x 6.5 x 2 (L x W x D).

As for the SEGA games themselves, they play and display just as you would hope on a screen that is vivid, bright and highly detailed. While the audio has a lot of treble, through the one small speaker, when using headphones the quality greatly improves.  Some have questioned the fidelity of the audio compared to the original system, but keeping in mind this is a portable system, and extremely small compared to the original this is a quibble that can be overlooked by most.

 The menus are straight forward.

The menus are straight forward.

If you own some cartridges from the original system and want to make a legal back-up of them, or help doing so, there are many sites on the web that will enable you to do so. You can then transfer these back-ups onto an SD card and place it into the GUP, making the GUP a great way to access your full library of Mega Drive games legally, and on the go. (Supports .bin, .gen and .smd files).  If you wanted to make back-ups of your other console games and try to play them on the GUP, you are out of luck. Remember this only the SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player.

 Nice clear 3.2 inch LCD screen and no complaints on the buttons or cross-pad.

Nice clear 3.2 inch LCD screen and no complaints on the buttons or cross-pad.

The buttons have suitable "clack" and the cross-pad is equally sufficient, something that a lot of these retro remakes get wrong.

Unfortunately, the modern conveniences of save states are not a feature of the GUP, which undercuts every positive aspect of the system.  With no easy way to save as you play, a standard on most modern retro remake consoles, it makes the GUP a system not worth owning. Especially for a portable system, where in everyday use you may expect to be interrupted while playing.

The selection of games is almost perfect, the hardware competent and the expansion port via SD to unlock a larger library of SEGA games is commendable, thoughtful and well executed. If you can forgive the lack of easy saves then this is a great way to play Mega Drive Games on the go.

- Phil Fogg

7/10

Full list of Mega Drive games that come on the system:

Alex Kidd (Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle)
Alien Storm
Altered Beast
Arrow Flash
Bonanza Bros.
Chakan
Columns
Columns 3
Comix Zone
Crack Down
Decap Attack
ESWAT
Eternal Champions
Fatal Labyrinth
Flicky
Gain Ground
Golden Axe
Golden Axe 2
Golden Axe 3
Jewel Master
Kid Cameleon
Mean Bean Machine
Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3
Phantasy Star 2
Phantasy Star 3
Ristar
Shadow Dancer
Shinobi III
Sonic 3D Blast
Sonic and Knuckles
Sonic Spinball
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sword of Vermillion
The Ooze
Vectorman
Vectorman 2