Arcade Nano Mini MegaDrive Review
Segashiro.com, January 6th 2011
There are lots of ways to play SEGA’s classic titles from disc based collections on the PS3 and Xbox 360 to licensed portable game systems like the GenMobile.
But imagine playing titles like Shinobi III, Sonic 2, and Ecco the Dolphin off something the size of a key chain?
Atgames and Game Basement UK have created one of the funkier SEGA novelty collectible items I’ve come across in a long while – a single-player emulator of the Genesis that plugs and plays on modern televisions.
It literally fits in the palm of your hand. It is known as the Arcade Nano and is pretty much the video game equivalent of candy.
Each device is branded under a classic SEGA franchise (like the Sonic the Hedgehog unit pictured above) and each one features a different color combination. There are 7 in total and each one has 5 licensed SEGA classics and 5 bonus titles. Each unit comes packed with a battery to power the device and a USB A/V adapter to connect the unit to your television.
At £10.99 or roughly $20 US the unit sits at an interesting price point – just out of the range of impulse purchase but not outrageously expensive. The real question remains – does the unit hold up? Keep reading for videos and the full review:
Upon opening the Arcade Nano package I was a little taken aback by the unit itself. The unit is tiny! Perhaps a bit bulkier than your typical key chain as it measures at 7 cm by 4 cm.
You will need a small screw driver to insert the AAA battery which comes included. Once the battery is inserted – you are ready to rock and the unit weighs less than an Xbox 360 battery pack.
The color scheme screams “toy” more than “console” and there is a mini-joystick instead of a d-pad. The plastic quality of the Arcade Nano feels decent. Not that I would suggest it, but I imagine the device could get dropped a few times and survive.
The buttons are nice and tactile if a little mushy. Thankfully, the joystick is stiff and it seems like it would take a fair amount of damage before snapping off.
The A/V cord supplied only supports mono sound and the length of the cord itself will have you sitting about a meter away from your television. It is a little short but it is perfect for a quick gaming session if you are stuck overnight at a hotel.
Upon booting up the unit you are greeted with AtGames screen and simple menu to choose your game. One thing I wasn’t expecting was the ability to select individual levels for Sonic 1, Sonic 2, and Alex Kidd.
It is a nice touch if you want to play a specific level from a Sonic title or explore areas of Alex Kidd that you never had the patience to reach in your youth.
The list of games available on the Sonic unit are as follows – why no Sonic 3? Or Knuckles?:
- Sonic 2
- Sonic Spinball
- Sonic 3D Blast
- Alex Kidd
- Air Hockey
- Fight or Lose
- Naval Power
I tested the Arcade Nano on three different displays with interesting results. On my 47 inch Sharp LCD – the device performed very well. The video above will give you an idea of how the device performs however the site’s video capture device recorded the video at 720 x 576. Just ignore the black borders on these videos.
It seems like the emulation has taken into account 16×9 widescreen as the image was stretched nicely to take up most (but not all) of the available screen space. The characters didn’t seem to be stretched out oddly at all. The result was solid however it doesn’t match the quality on the recent Genesis collections on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
When I tried the unit on an older 4×3 CRT television - I would get a scrambled image. This was a bit confusing considering the old SEGA games were at home on these older televisions but the Arcade Nano did not want to play on it even though it seems to have a standard RCA A/V cable.
In general, the unit handled the 16-bit graphics and sprites well with the occasional emulation artifact and/or peculiarity. Considering the size of the device and the fact it is powered by a single AAA battery – it holds up well for a product that doubles as a key chain.
I already knew I was going to be a bit disappointed with sound of these titles as soon as I saw the mono A/V cord. The Genesis’ sound chips are quite capable and if you ask any SEGA fan, the system produced many memorable tunes. However, the end result on the music front is that the Arcade Nano leaves a lot to be desired.
Unfortunately, the sound emulation is slow in comparison to the original hardware. Check out the video above to hear the device pump out the music to Starlight Zone.
I was initially worried about the control via the joystick as the range movement seems rather minimal when you pick it up for the first time. However, I was quite surprised with how responsive and nice the little stick feels.
The device might prove to be a little difficult for those who have large hands but in general I found it to be more than reasonably comfortable. The buttons are nice and responsive but I’m still not sure what that extra little button does – perhaps it is needed for a few of the other non-SEGA titles.
The five SEGA titles that the device carries are pretty stellar – these are games you know and love. The level select allows you to get a quick gaming fix when you need one. Each version of the Arcade Nano has its own set of SEGA games and different set of “bonus” games.
The only issue is that you are locked out of two-player even though the option appears in the game. This is due to the size of the device and lack of connector for a second controller.
As for the “bonus” games – they don’t compare to the SEGA titles at all but do provide a hilarious alternative due to how poor they are. They are passable at best and are published by Tec Toy – the Brazilian distributer of SEGA’s products in that country before SEGA pulled out of hardware. On a side note, Tec Toy still makes versions of the Master System!
However, that said the SEGA games are the real draw here.
The Arcade Nano is a nifty novelty key chain. It isn’t often that you would use it but having a portable Genesis handy in any situation is like being prepared with science like MacGyver.
However, it won’t replace your console due to the sound issues and lack of two player support. The real draw of the device is how cute they are and that they are a collectible set.
So, how much you want to share your SEGA fandom with the world? I imagine the conversation would go something like this:
“Hey what is that – a key chain?”
“Not just a key chain – it is a tiny SEGA GENESIS!”
“What? No way!”
“Let me show you”
“OH MY GAWD, it is a TINY miracle!”
The price point isn’t too hard to swallow and it would make for a cool stocking stuffer or an add-on gift to any SEGA fan. I suppose people who fear modern technology may also gravitate to this little device as it is about as simple as a gaming fix you can get.
However, if you are a hardcore retro gamer the novelty of the item isn’t a replacement or a substitute for the real thing.
Be sure to tune in for the next edition of the podcast to figure out how to win one of these units!