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Sega Genesis Portable Handheld Review

October 18, 2009

Sega Genesis Portable Handheld Review
by Louis Bedigian

The name says it all – this is a portable Genesis, minus the cartridge slot to play actual Genesis games.

Now that the technology of portable hardware has soared to the level of 3D graphics and big, HD-comparable touch screens, the cost of old-school gaming has dropped tremendously. In fact, the cost is so low that companies like Jakks Pacific, who has spent the last several years manufacturing all-in-one joysticks and gamepads, recently started releasing all-in-one handhelds. No disc or cartridge slots were included with these portable gaming machines, but there were several games packaged inside, making the low price point very attractive.

If any of those devices have caught your attention, you will likely be intrigued by what AtGames (under the Retro-Bit branding) has developed: the Sega Genesis Portable Handheld (SGPH). The name says it all – this is a portable Genesis, minus the cartridge slot to play actual Genesis games. SGPH isn’t a reincarnation of the Nomad but rather a game collection piled into a small handheld that’s much lighter (and requires fewer batteries) than any of Sega’s own handheld machines.

The MSRP is $49.99, and for that you get 20 games: Sonic and Knuckles, Altered Beast, Sonic Spinball, Columns III, Shadow Dancer, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Alex Kidd, Alien Storm, Arrow Flash, Crack Down, Flicky, Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, ESWAT: Cyber Police City Under Siege, Ecco, Ecco Jr., Gain Ground, Golden Axe, Jewel Master and Kid Chameleon.

Game Content: 8.5

You might be wondering why all the Sonic games aren’t included. I am too, but assume it has something to do with Sega not wanting to give away all the Sonic titles at once when they’re still trying to sell various game compilation discs (as well as downloadable Sonic games online).

Ignoring what isn’t here and focusing on what is, SGPH offers a solid lineup of sequels and lesser-known games that are often cheap and frustrating – just like so many games of the 8- and 16-bit eras – but are also very addictive.

Arrow Flash is of particular note; this little-known R-Type clone is one very cheap and hardcore space shooter. Unlike the cheap games of today, however, you won’t be able to put it down. The same goes for Shadow Dancer, whose ninja star-throwing gameplay is surprisingly engaging. It’s actually better than Shinobi III, which is a solid game, no doubt, but it hasn’t aged as well as Sonic and Knuckles and Sonic Spinball – two imperfect classics that have yet to lose their entertainment value.

Alien Storm offers a decent mix of arcade-style brawling. Altered Beast is fun, if only to see how creative its developers were. This was one of the first games, possibly the very first, to offer character transformations. Nowadays, character transformations are all too common.

There are of course some duds in the collection: Ecco is and always has been an acquired taste, so if you didn’t love it in the ‘90s you won’t love it now either. Flicky is a snore-fest, and Alex Kidd, though loved by some, is still too frustrating to enjoy.

The majority, however – even Columns III, which isn’t the best in the series (the first reigned supreme) – are at the very least fun to play, which ensures that SGPH is more than a cool novelty, and much more than an amusing collector’s item.

Hardware: 8.7

Running on three AAAs, SGPH is one solid machine. It’s super light and comfortable to hold. The D-pad is responsive and feels great, and the A, B and C buttons are nicely raised, are made of hard (but light) plastic, and have that wonderful clicking effect (not just the sound but the way they feel as each button is pressed) that gamers crave. There’s a jack for headphones, and if you want to play any of the games on a TV set, simply attach the included a/v cable.

Screen Quality: 6

This is the only area where the Sega Genesis Portable Handheld suffers. While the 2.4” LCD screen looks better than anything Sega, Nintendo or any other developer produced in the ‘90s, it’s nowhere near the quality of the screens used in the DS, PSP or newer cell phones. Though you could say that’s somewhat of a no-brainer since you get what you pay for, you should also be able to expect a screen that’s bright enough, clear enough and properly color matched to perfectly emulate the Sega games being played on it. SGPH doesn’t quite pull that off. Sonic’s colors are noticeably different, and much of the in-game (non-menu) text is all but unreadable.

Overall: 8

The less-than-modern screen quality is disappointing, but if you were content with the old Game Boy and Game Gear systems, your eyes will be thrilled to be looking at a real backlit LCD that isn’t washed out. Screen quality aside, the Sega Genesis Portable Handheld is one very cool device. It isn’t a must-buy for those who already own portable versions of these games. But if you don’t have these in your collection and would like a solid, standalone handheld, keep an eye out for this one.

Where to buy?: The Sega Genesis Portable Handheld is available at,,,, and any local Play-N-Trade.

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