Review: AtGames Mega Drive Arcade Ultimate Portable

 

$_35

Blimey, that’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? We even left out the “SEGA” for brevity.

These things have been knocking around for a few years now in various forms. This one appears to be a special “Argos” edition, as it has a sticker on the back with their catalogue number on it saying “Imported by Argos Limited”. There’s a rumour going around that it has slightly different workings inside and outperforms the previous iteration of the same product.

We can’t say for sure as we don’t have the older model to compare it to, but it’s probably splitting hairs in any case. Besides, you won’t find these things elsewhere for less money, so Argos is your best option.

First of all, let’s look at the screen. It’s pin-sharp and has incredible colour, contrast and viewing angle. You couldn’t wish for a better one – Nintendo don’t even put things like this in their DS.

It’s bright and clear and renders the games almost perfectly. There’s a tiny bit of horizontal tearing in some games, but it’s not noticeable unless you know exactly where and when to look. Regardless, the rendering is better than anything a home computer can come up with (if you emulate, which of course you don’t).

The old 3-button version of the AtGames Mega Drive (released around 2009) had a problem where the contrast on the screen would shift when you pressed the D-pad, leading to a distracting flickering effect when playing games. This design flaw, thankfully, has been eliminated.

There’s also a wider selection of games to choose from this time around, including Streets of Rage II and Sonic the Hedgehog, both bizarrely omitted from previous versions of the hardware. The unit now has six buttons – although none of the included games use them. That’s because you can load ROMs onto an SD card and play whatever games you like, wherever you like. On the bog, for example.

"I've waited years for this..."

“To the bathroom, my pet!”

We tested a whole bunch and found that they all worked. There are some compatibility issues, however. We found that the screen text and some animations in The Lion King were quite garbled, and on Sonic 3D Blast the levels and characters looked fine but the rings and text were a mess of pixels.

It’s not that bad, though, as homebrews and hacks work too! It’s not although there’s a “green list” of games it’s working to, and there are some great twisted versions of Sonic out there to play, such as Sonic Megamix and Sonic Classic Heroes. They both worked without a hitch.

Why didn't Sega make this!?

Why didn’t Sega make this!?

The system now has a rechargeable battery instead of relying on AAAs, and you can charge it with an included mini-USB cable from any compatible power source. There’s also a TV output, but the cable isn’t included – that’s odd, as most people aren’t going to have a 3.5mm – AV cable just lying around.

Don’t even bother playing it on your TV, though, unless you want to play your games in slow motion. I’m DEAD serious. It makes longshore drift look like a spectator sport. If you got this thing for Christmas you’ll be lucky to clear Streets of Rage before New Year.

You may remember how slow PAL games were back in the day. This thing takes those games and slows them down even more. Did some designer put a decimal in the wrong place!? It blew Adam’s pony-ridden mind, and he tore the unit apart in frustration, either to see how it worked or perhaps to feast on the delicious silicon inside. We’re not sure.

"You don't have to be crazy to work here"

“Why did you betray me, Sega? I was good to you……”

Music that should be tinkling away in the background is often played full-volume over the main melody. So familiar tunes like Green Hill Zone become almost unrecognisable. Some notes seem to be off-key, too. It’s bizarre; a tune will play perfectly, and then there’ll be a duff note, as if some phantom pianist forgot what song he was playing.

It’s inconsistent, too. Playing Street Fighter II, Ken’s stage sounded great – as good as the original. Blanka’s stage, however, was a mess that we couldn’t even recognise. The built-in speaker is poor and causes the sound to crumble and break up like an old radio at high volumes. This is mitigated somewhat with headphones, of course.

"I'm telling you! It's Dreams Come True!"

“I’m telling you! It’s Dreams Come True!”

For us, the sound issue is disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. For people who have committed the old Mega Drive tunes to memory, it sounds bad. But to someone playing these games for the first time, they aren’t going to know the difference.

As for the money, you can’t go wrong. They are practically giving them away at Argos for £17.99. That’s just silly. If you took this thing back to 1995 – when people were playing their Game Gears and Nomads – then you’d be burned as a witch. Gunpei Yokoi would smash your face in with a Virtual Boy and present it to Nintendo as the Game Boy Super Colour Wonder Joy.

TMW RATING:- 3.5/5 – The build quality is good, the unit is well-designed and sturdy, the battery lasts for ages, the screen is fantastic and you can play as many games as you like thanks to good honest internet piracy. The sound’s nobbled and the TV output is broken, though, so be aware.

“Blew Adam’s pony”

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