|Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player
Find it on: Amazon, Groupon
The Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player games is so close to being a perfect retro handheld. It’s got so many things in the plus category: A crisp 2.8-inch LCD screen; a rechargeable battery with 3 hours of life; 80 (in actuality—40, more on that below) preloaded games; a portable form factor; an AV outlet that can connect to a television; and in a headlining feature, an SD card slot that can load additional ROMs for expanded gameplay. Improvement of audio and the addition of a key feature (more on this below, also) would’ve made this one of my top-rated retro handhelds of all time.
At 6 inches wide, 2.5 inches tall and .75 inches deep, the Genesis Portable Player form factor is a size that feels comfortable in the hands and also fits easily in a pocket. The action buttons are responsive and easy to press, though the D-pad can be imprecise at times. The LCD screen is bright and works well with gameplay, and is a perfect fit for the standard 4:3 ratio of the 16-bit generation. Charging is a breeze, and it’s a huge plus for it not to use alkaline batteries. The unit did not come with an AV-out cable, and I didn’t attempt to try it. It’s a nice feature to have, I suppose, but the Genesis Portable Player is meant to be used exactly in that way: Portably.
The menu is also easy to navigate. You’re greeted with eight pages of 10 games each, and the first 40 are true Sega classics. Among them include Sonic the Hedgehog, Street of Rage, Virtua Fighter 2, Kid Chameleon, Golden Axe and Altered Beast. That alone would be worth the price of admission. Strangely, the manufacturer, At Games, decided to add an additional 40 games that were never Genesis originals. The additional games work, but that’s the best thing I’ll say about them. They’re otherwise a complete waste of time and space.
I would’ve liked to have seen some sports games on here since Madden and NBA Jam got their starts on the Genesis, but that actually doesn’t end up being a deterrent in the end. That’s because there’s an SD card slot. Repeat: There’s an SD card slot on this retro handheld! So if you have a .bin, .smd, .md or .gen file laying around somewhere, it’s 100% compatible with the Genesis Portable Player. I loaded some of my more favorite Genesis games on here, including Toe Jam & Earl, NHL 94 and NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. I cannot understate what an incredible feature this is at this price range. There’s nothing around quite like this.
The emulation itself is perfect. There’s no screen tearing or frame rate drops either on the preloaded games or the games loaded from the SD card. That said, a huge drawback of the Genesis Portable Player is the sound because the audio is a full octave lower than the original Genesis. When the original Sonic loads, and “SEGA” flashes on the screen, the familiar trademarked audio “SAYYYY-GAAH” is barely recognizable. I was legitimately disappointed.
Another thing that would’ve significantly boosted the rating of the Genesis Portable Player is the availability of save states. At Games went as far as to include an SD card slot to load additional ROMs, but they should’ve taken advantage of the additional storage space to be able save and finish gameplay later. The addition of this feature along with better acoustics would’ve made this handheld a perfect 10. Instead, it’ll have to settle for an 8. It was so close to perfection, but at $40, it’s still worth the purchase, especially if you grew up in the 16-bit era like I did.