Aesthetically the Genesis has that look like all 90s electronics did (at least the original version which I own does). Black plastic, white writing, white grid lines, power switch that you move side to side instead of a push button. It looks and feels just like an early 90s boombox. It uses an antennae adapter like the NES did, so its easy enough to hook up to modern TVs. The sound and video both were pretty on point. All in all this old system still looks, sounds and feels nice.
Cartridge problems abound though when I go to play the games. Despite cleaning the three games the day before, none of them fired up first try. Gunstar Heroes and Sonic & Knuckles took two or three attempts. Rocket Knight Adventures took around a dozen. I was worried for a minute that I’d need to track down another copy of it in good shape, no small or cheap feat. Still with all that said I didn’t have as much trouble with the Genesis carts as I did with the NES’. Once I got a couple minutes into each game the spectacular sound and graphics helped me quickly forget the cartridge woes. I’ll get into specifics during each game’s review but I’ll say for now that of any past generation of gaming, 16 bit (namely Genesis and SNES) hold up the best as far as their quality vs. the length of time its been since they were released. They take everything right about the 8-bit gen games (great music and personality, difficult but not artificially difficult) and they enhanced them. Performance wise they look brighter and cleaner. Development wise they didn’t crap out as many simple arcade ports and created several new and interesting intellectual properties. Sega and other developers used their limited tools to their full potential. For example, at high quality (for the time period) graphics and sound developers didn’t have much memory room on the cartridges. So those nice looking games are pretty short, all three I reviewed can technically be beat in 3 hours. But the difficulty, re playability and hidden secrets extend those hours.
The controller and console itself both feel a tiny bit lighter and more hollow than previous consoles, which kind of makes it feel “cheap”. The Genesis’ original controller is the exact thing I’ve been talking about in past posts about how after the NES, the next console to come out simply kept the same layout and then added one or two buttons. The NES controller had pad on left, two buttons on right. Genesis adds third button. Nintendo makes SNES controller with 4 on right, plus shoulder buttons on each side to equal six buttons. Not to be outdone, Sega makes new controller in response that has an extra, smaller row of buttons totaling six buttons. That was the start of the button wars and we haven’t slowed down since. As far as the Genesis controller’s performance, I think it gets the job done. While its not the most ergonomic or comfortable controller it does have a pad and buttons that respond very well. If you don’t own a Genesis I highly recommend collecting for it. Its cheap to collect, holds up very well and was one of the most important consoles of gaming’s early roots.