Feature Article

Do Not Buy AtGames' Sega Genesis Flashback Console

Genesis doesn't what Ninten-did.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Nintendo's NES Classic isn't just a convenient way to play beloved NES games: it's an easy-to use console that looks the part and plays games the way you remember with a few new quality-of-life features. Marketing and distribution woes aside, it's the best example of a multi-game classic console to date, precisely because it does what you expect without major caveats.

Nearly a year later, we are now experiencing the fallout of the NES Classic's success: the arrival of competing classic consoles. This in theory is good news, but there's something important to keep in mind: Nintendo had direct control over the NES Classic. It understood the hardware, the games, and most importantly, how to deliver a user-friendly device that worked as expected. Without those advantages, any company producing a similar device faces an uphill battle in the face of passionate fans on the lookout for an authentic experience.

How easy is it to screw up a classic console like the NES Classic? Based on our time with AtGames' new Sega Genesis Flashback console, the answer is clear: very easy. The microconsole isn't without some merit (it technically works and includes some great games), and it may be the quick-fix some folks are looking for, but by-and-large it fails to play Genesis games the way you remember, has a misleading pitch, and relies on an unintuitive "operating system" that's not only difficult to use, but one that is also garish and finicky.

Looks can be deceiving.
Looks can be deceiving.

Let's start with the basics: The Sega Genesis Flashback is a console that's packaged with 85 built-in games, two 2.4 Ghz wireless controllers, and a cartridge slot that allows you to use Sega Genesis and Mega Drive cartridges--Mega Drive being the name of the Genesis throughout Europe and Asia. It plugs into your TV's HDMI port and outputs a 720p video signal.

The first thing you notice when you open the box is the look of the unit. Barring AtGames' logo emblazoned above the system's familiar "16-BIT" decal, it's a close approximation of the Model 1 Genesis. The included wireless controllers are modelled after the six-button Genesis controller that originally shipped with the redesigned Model 2 Genesis, and while the buttons feel slightly stiff, they're okay overall. So what's the catch? The controllers run off AAA batteries, cannot be recharged, and the batteries can only be replaced by removing a screw to access the battery compartment. You also need to supply your own batteries (read the ever-so-fine print) so prepare ahead of time or get ready for a trip to the store for power, and potentially a small Phillips-head screwdriver. Should you have any wired Genesis controllers kicking around, those will also work, thankfully.

Where the NES Classic had an efficient design that allowed the unit to be powered through a nearby USB port on your TV or on modern consoles, Sega Genesis Flashback requires the use of a slightly bulky AC adapter.

No Caption Provided

So you get your batteries together, plug in the Genesis Flashback and turn it on. After a short loading screen, you're met with a simple-looking menu with categories on the left and games on the right. And the first two games you see? Adventure in the Park, and Air Hockey--two games that you've probably never heard of because they were never released on the Genesis. As with AtGames' previous Genesis consoles--the company has been at this for years--Sega Genesis Flashback is packed with games that you've never heard of, and that you probably don't want to play. Not up for a game of Mr. Balls, Plumbing Contest, or Yawning Triceratops? I don't blame you.

In total, there are 28 unofficial games, 45 Genesis games, and 12 games that appeared on either the Sega Game Gear or Sega Master System. It's worth noting that if you add up the games based on individual browsing categories from the menu, you'll only count 42 games. This is because Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, and Mortal Kombat 3 were mistakenly left absent from the "Sega Games" category. It's a small oversight, but one that echoes the overall lack of attention to detail that plagues the system throughout.

Take menu navigation, for example. The d-pad on the controller is used to navigate the list of games on the right, but in order to scroll through categories, you have to use the B and C buttons. You can't pick a category using the d-pad and then proceed to use it for browsing games. In practice, you're using buttons on the right side of the controller to navigate items on the left side of the screen, and vice versa.

Unintuitive UI aside, there's a nasty issue with the wireless controllers that appears, without fail, every time you turn on the console. During our tests, the wireless controllers failed to register the first press of every button on the controller when navigating the menu screen. Whether it's the d-pad, or the A, B, and C buttons, expect to press an individual button twice the first time you need to use it. This issue doesn't appear when using a wired controller.

Many of the most interesting games included in the Sega Genesis Flashback can, and should, be played on other platforms.
Many of the most interesting games included in the Sega Genesis Flashback can, and should, be played on other platforms.

These faults could all be overlooked if the included games ran well, but again, prepare for disappointment: nearly every game exhibits constant frame drops. It appears as though auto-frame-skip is being used to account for inefficient emulation of real Genesis hardware. For some games, such as the excellent strategy game Shining Force, this isn't a huge deal. But when you're playing Sonic The Hedgehog, a game known for being fast and smooth, the missing frames and choppy animation are an undeniable source of frustration and disappointment. This doubles when playing a fighting game like Mortal Kombat or Virtua Fighter 2.

One of the most attractive aspects of this HDMI-enabled Genesis is that it supports actual cartridges, but again, things aren't as simple as they seem. In order for the system to read a game you need to insert it before powering on the console. While it would be nice to be able to swap cartridges without power cycling the console, it's not an egregious requirement. However, should you insert a cartridge that's dirty or unsupported, you need to remove and replace the cart and reboot the system to double check if it's the system's fault or the condition of the game itself, and endure a bootup screen and allow the cartridge to be dumped to RAM all over again. When a game does work, the system displays a screen with multiple instances of the same game. Which one do you pick? It's a game in and of itself. And unsurprisingly, the same frame rate performance issues noted above apply to cartridge-based games.

While it's true that AtGames' Sega Genesis Flashback is a tempting product in light of Nintendo's recent efforts, it is nothing like the NES Classic. Nevermind that it's filled with classic Genesis games--many of which you can buy today on Steam, PSN, or Xbox Live. It's a misleading and faulty product that is marketed to trick you, to play off of your love of classic Sega games and your residual admiration of the NES Classic. The legacy of Sega Genesis deserves far better than this opportunistic cash-in.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog

Back To Top
355 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for tekcycle2985

This Article reads more like hate mail from an angry Nintendo fanboy instead of the actual review of the product it should be. First off, I've read a lot of comments and even full articles saying this is a NES classic rip off and that Sega is just trying to cash in on Nintendo's idea. Unfortunately that just goes to show how the negative opinions of the die hard (and misinformed) Nintendo fans can rob someone of what might be an otherwise positive experience. Sega has been doing this system for years. I remember spotting one of these in the stores back in 2014 and thinking it was actually pretty cool that people were starting to make HDMI retro clones that looked like the originals. To me that's a good thing. Nintendo has dominated the market for decades with great marketing ideas and yes, good products. But that doesn't mean that all other systems out there are bad. In fact, many other consoles have come and gone, being technologically superior in many ways, but just haven't been able to survive in a market where Nintendo has managed to achieve top visibility. I like Nintendo, I'm treading carefully here because I know how crazy you little millennial scamps can get over your Pikachu colored handhelds and what not, but maybe try some different flavors and not complain so much about having to install aa batteries because you might break a nail on your little hipster sausage fingers? Also, someone should tell this guy that real men own screw drivers... its just a thing. After all, you can plug in your original Sega controllers and the cord wont be 3 inches long like the NES classic. Don't complain about getting some free wireless controllers with your $40 purchase. On the other hand, yes, this system is unfortunately plagued by a known sound issue that was recently patched, and a lot of the games included are from Sega's B sides. But if that bothers you, it does have the original cartridge slot so you can play any Sega game you want! That's not something the NES classic has. Also, its very common for systems to have to be power cycled while switching games. Remember every video game system EVER? Not sure why that bothers anyone really. Most of my Nintendo products do the same thing. As far as the frame rate issue goes, I actually haven't seen that. Not sure what hes talking about there.

Avatar image for BMWPro77

Why didn't Sega just make this themselves partnering up with a company that has real revenue to be able to make this the right way? They could have teamed up with any number of toy companies liek Hasbro or even asked Nintendo to work with them. There are so many better options than this company that came out of nowhere. Interesting choice indeed.

Avatar image for airrwof

Am I'm on IGN?! No but does feels like I am. Nintendo's products are a joke overall and whoever protects that garbage needs mental help. As for this atgames console or any other similar emulated garbage I don't care and nobody should because I can play all the old games on the PS2 just fine. Seems like some people will sadly never learn and rush for this labeled "new" overpriced useless crap.

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

To those who say Gamespot (and other reviewers) are lying or wrong about encountering technical issues: AtGames admits to sending out a number of review units with outdated firmware that can cause problems.

Avatar image for mariofromsonic8

Don't listen to this article it's either written from some kid who want alive at this time or he is one of those people who gets so worked up over things they like they are irrational in this case it's for Nintendo. He even got the original line wrong at the beginning it's sega does what nintendon't or nintendoes what sega don't whichever one you like. These consoles are purely based off of selling there stuff through nostalgia so of course it's going to be the same with booting up the games because that how it was back then and of course they had to put in an hdmi cord otherwise no one could play it. Don't listen to the review it's biased

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

@mariofromsonic8: "He even got the original line wrong at the beginning it's sega does what nintendon't or nintendoes what sega don't whichever one you like."

Right, which is what Peter (or whoever was prepping this page) was playing off of.

As you admit, AtGames is already making concessions for modern convenience with the HDMI cable and wireless controllers. Sticking with one "tradition" (turning off the system to swap cartridges) when you've already thrown so many others out makes little sense.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Also, here's a YouTuber describing Mr. Balls, one of the shovelware titles packaged in this travesty.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Also, Peter Brown did not write this here, but if you watch the most recent Giant Bombcast, he described the internals and what he learned about the firmware for the machine.

Its firmware apparently was designed using the Android framework. When I heard that, I get the impression that it's like the OUYA all over again.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

The machine just seems like a major technical mess.

Also, there are emulators. If you are not using emulators to play old games made for very old hardware, but you buy machines like this instead, you are an idiot.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@gtrslinger: People like you are the reason why hardware makers can crank out old shit which are way behind user-friendliness standards, and pass these flaws off as having nostalgic value.

Avatar image for undeadgoon

oh well ill just play the games on steam..they work well..

Avatar image for mari3k

Ill buy 2 now

Avatar image for Erebus

Ok, I won't.

Good lookin' out.

Avatar image for mmx69

This thing does sound like a piece of crap. So sad Sega can't get their sh!t together. The fans exist. They want it done right and I'm sure they'd pay well for it. I would. I will settle for Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection instead.

Avatar image for Rammone4

"Mr. Balls"... lel. Gotta love the 90's...

Avatar image for vfighter

@Rammone4: That's not an actual game from the 90s though, it's shovelware created for this nes classic ripoff.

Avatar image for pa_amb_tomaquet

Don't buy any of these retro things. Just download an emulator and play whatever you want.

Avatar image for c_smithii

@pa_amb_tomaquet: an emulator is even worse. You're buying this for nostalgia, playing this as a rom on a emulating PC is not going to give you the same experience, and it's less portable and easy to setup.
You'll have to roll out your PCs get USB PC game pads configured to play it, and play it with 2-players.

Where as these nostalgia items are ready out of the box.

Avatar image for bartreligion

@c_smithii: my laptop + emulator + easy to get usb controller is way more portable

playing this clone console is just as inauthentic. It's not the same experience either. Buy an original genesis and a crt. Everything else you might as well use the emulator.

and it doesn't require aa batteries (ffs?!) because that's just unacceptable.

Avatar image for gaminsincepong

I was looking at these the other day. Glad I didnt buy it.

Avatar image for grumpytrooper

This is exactly why I stick with Emulation software. On one hand you have a very good system which is so popular it's either sold out or priced ridiculously high. On the other hand you get a cheaply made piss-poor attempt at arguably one of the best consoles ever made (I personally didn't like the Mega-Drive/Genesis but that doesn't alter the fact that it was a great console according to the rest of the world).

Avatar image for yehielc

i would love to buy a NES Classic in a reasonable price, but what do you know?!? they wont make them! your petty complains sounds like game spot where paid well...

Avatar image for RS13

@yehielc: yeah, Nintendo was real worried about this... {Eyes roll so hard they fall out of my sockets.}

Avatar image for SOedipus

I appreciate honest and to-the-point articles such as this.

Avatar image for ocinom

This is why emulators exist. No need to buy the original hardware or cheap clones.

Avatar image for blackace

You can't save your games as well. It's pure crap. There is a lot of things wrong with this device. I wouldn't even waste $50 on it. I just got the SEGA Genesis Collection for my XBox 360 many years ago. That's all I really needed. It had Vector Man 1 & 2 on it.

Avatar image for newbpwnr

the only people into this retro hardware are kids who never played them back in the day. most old games are not fun.

and jeez if you only had a 600 dollar device in your pocket already that could play all these games for free.

Avatar image for mmx69

@newbpwnr: That's not true at all. The kids want nothing to do with the old stuff. This retro stuff is for the older people, like myself (37) who want to play the games they used to play on a 19" tube TV, on the 60" TV in the living room on the lazy-boy with a beer after a hard days work and remember the good old days when we could sit in our parent's basement and spend countless hours playing those game you claim "are not fun". And honestly, I tried playing Sonic my "600 dollar device" and I have no idea how anyone can play a game like that or any platformer on a cell phone. Your thumbs take up a good portion of the screen and lets not forget the amount of damage that will come over time from countless hours staring at a small screen like that. I'm good playing on my TV.

Avatar image for pawnsacrifices

2nd last paragraph. Re; ' things aren't as simple as they seem'.

Back in the day we all had to power cycle our consoles between games, regardless of being Nintendo or Sega.

(Rare experimented with 'hot swaps' on the N64, but that's as far as it got)

So, young writer? Or directed at a young audiance?

Avatar image for fullChargered

@pawnsacrifices: Except that this system has a bootup screen, a menu screen, and a loading screen before you even get to the game's splash screen. Back in the day we didn't have to deal with an OS loading before the game, which is why this is a problem. Modern cartridge based systems can hot swap carts at any time without a reboot and has been that way since the DSi.

Avatar image for pawnsacrifices

@fullChargered: Valid point. But you're still using cartridges from the 90s on a basic remake console made by a 3rd party.

I honestly don't know if it would have been doable, or even if ppl still have the carts laying around to warrent research into such a feature.

My point was that nobody cried about resetting their Sega in the past, why start now? (And that the majority of those who would, are those were brought up with the new tech that didn't.)

Avatar image for gvt2000

@pawnsacrifices: Its been pointed out: we're in 2017. No one cried over short wires on your controllers back in the day, no one cried over lack of RCA on the NES, no one cried over lack of chargeable controllers when the first wireless showed up, etc. There's a reason why certain quality-of-life features are expected. Having to turn off your console to swap a cartridge is inexcusable

Avatar image for gvt2000

@timmyp1982: But having to reboot your entire console to swap out a cartridge in 2017 does?

Avatar image for richipuppy

@gvt2000: Just an fyi the original NES had an rca output, it was on the side.

Avatar image for gvt2000

@richipuppy: danm, how did i miss that back then? might be due to not actually owning a TV with an RCA port until much later. Thanks for the info!

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

@pawnsacrifices: But it's not "back in the day" any more. It's 2017, and technology has changed. You could argue, "Oh, this is trying to give you that 'old timey' feel," but that's negated by the presence of an HDMI jack, HD output and the system ripping a cartridge to memory. Nods to modernity have already been made; not having to power cycle the console to swap cartridges is a missed opportunity.

Avatar image for streamline

Though the fault isn't with the original companies, it feels like NES vs Sega all over again.

Avatar image for CyberEarth

Cash grab? It's kind of the other way around.

ATGames has been putting out shitty Sega console remasters for a very long time now. It's not new.Nintendo took a chance and saw the market in it, and did a much better (but not perfect) job of it. This is just ATGames' latest creation, in a long line of similar products that function similarly. They didn't improve anything, so in comparison to Nintendo's more polished offering, it looks like a turd.

But ATGames did it well before Nintendo. And they've done some things better than Nintendo, like wireless controllers and the ability to expand games. They've also done things much, much, worse.

So hopefully, Nintendo takes the good that ATGames has done, iterates on their stuff, and we're all better for it. And since Sega is no longer in the hardware business, wouldn't be grand if Nintendo made an official Sega retro console? Just think about that.

Avatar image for gts-r288

@CyberEarth: Atari is also doing this from quite some time with their Flashback consoles (with results similar to AT).

Avatar image for PS2fweak

@gts-r288: Yeah, but ATGames is making the Atari consoles too. I don't know why they're going to ATGames to make their hardware. Sega and Atari could actually do quite well in that market if they produce a good console.

Avatar image for timthegem

I'm going to use CAPS to get my POINT ACROSS when I finally COME UP WITH ONE!!!1 rrAggggge

Avatar image for iX-gamer

ooh sweet! I can't wait to buy one. So excited.

Avatar image for Deadlyblack

Brown may be an idiot, but his employers are rolling in the money with this article, title and 240+ comments.

We were all played like a goddamn fiddle.

Avatar image for tingtong

@Deadlyblack: Well duh, homie knew exactly what he was doing when he came up with that title.. “ah yeaa, this will get ‘em riled up!”. Still entertaining tho.

Avatar image for Deadlyblack

@tingtong: He mastered the art of clickbait titles.