A Quick Look at Handheld Mega Drive Arcade Consoles

Ever since China-based Atgames gained official licensing from Japanese game manufacturer Sega, the company has been pushing their home and portable console emulator systems across the world. Most heavily acclaimed of these products are the Game-gear like portable Mega Drive systems. Here we will be looking at a few variations of the so called "Ultimate Handheld" series and we go take a good long look at how they work, how well they can emulate games, how much fun you can have, and most important of all: if they are truly worth the purchase.

SEGA Ultimate Sonic the Hedgehog Mega Drive

SEGA Ultimate Sonic the Hedgehog Mega Drive

It is pretty hard to imagine Sega without its' iconic mascot, Sonic. And this one lets you take control of the high-speed blue hedgehog on the go. Packed in games include the first two Sonic games, Sonic and Knuckles, and Sonic Spinball. But if you are a little worried about an overdose of high speed ring collecting, then fret not as the system has 20 games (including the ones already mentioned). Our personal favorites in this batch include Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, and Ecco the Dolphin. This is an emulator though so despite having Sonic and Knuckles, there is no way to access the double-cartridge play for the older Sonic games

Blaze SEGA Ultimate Super Street Fighter II Mega Drive

Blaze SEGA Ultimate Super Street Fighter II Mega Drive

This second version of the portable emulator highlights a different game as its' title bearer: Super Street Fighter II. For those wondering, this iteration of the Street Fighter II is pretty the same as the Championship Edition, but with the inclusion of a combo counter and more importantly, super moves that consume a special bar. Aside from SFII, the device also has the rest of the games included in the Sonic version, sans the Sonic games (except for Spinball).

Beneath the Hood

Aside from the difference in the line-up of pre-installed games, the two systems are practically identical, and for the most part, they do a pretty decent job of working as portable emulators. Decent, however is pretty subjective.

On the upside, the control pad and six-button configuration work nice (and should be pretty familiar to those who own the original Genesis systems). The screen is a little small, but it maintains the original aspect ratio of the games which is definitely a good thing. As for the battery, it will up to a good three hours on a full charge, but that should be more than enough (if you plan to play long, you ought to be doing so near an electrical outlet anyway). It also supports up to 2GB SD cards so that you can add more games to play.

The system does have its' shortcomings. The biggest is the fact that this is just an emulator system running ROMs on a small piece of hardware, and with the limited tech, slowdowns and graphical glitches tend to be a common issue. The audio also takes a hit as both the onboard synthesizer and the physical speakers are not all that good (but even with good earphones, the sound conversion of the board does not manage to achieve the sound of the games on the Genesis).

If you just want to play old school Sega games on the go, then you cannot go wrong with a dedicated systems like these. They do not cost much and are not that heavy to lug around. The biggest advantage they have over Android and iOS emulators is of course, the physical buttons which complete the game experience. Purists on the other hand will want to pass off on this purchase. The sheer volume of graphical issues and gameplay slowdowns is very noticeable, and the same goes for the audio. Bottom line, do not buy this device and expect an actual portable version of the Genesis (which it sadly advertises itself to be), instead, take the perspective that it is a portable emulator and nothing more.