Gaming World

Analogue Mega Sg – The Ultimate FPGA Sega Genesis? :: RGB317 / MY LIFE IN GAMING

[ COURY ] Just a few years ago, “FPGA” was a new term for most people in the video game community. Today, the idea of a single customizable integrated circuit replicating the behavior of complete video game systems has become part of the everyday conversation when it comes to retro gaming. From RetroUSB launching the AVS for NES games in 2016… to the open source MiSTer project, which has been rapidly gaining traction among the D-I-Y crowd… there has been no shortage of enthusiasm for new FPGA developments. Leading the hype has been specialty console maker Analogue, with each release of their FPGA consoles having become something of an annual event at this point. Following in the footsteps of 2018’s Super Nt is Analogue’s first FPGA system to focus on playing games for Sega consoles over HDMI.

So, let’s take a closer look at the Mega Sg. [ ‘Principle” by Matt McCheskey ] [ TRY ] The Genesis is remembered in North America as Sega’s aggressive contender against Nintendo in the golden age of 2D gaming – one of the most famous and evenly matched console wars in history… while the Master System and Mega Drive both made stronger dents in the computer-dominated European market than Nintendo could manage. Both consoles remain to this day the ultimate icons of gaming in Brazil, and are treasured among hardcore collectors in Japan. The Mega Sg appropriately pays tribute to the glory days of Sega’s home consoles – hardware fondly loved the world over. The Mega Sg is first and foremost a Sega Genesis with HDMI output, or Mega Drive if that’s what you call it where you’re from, but just like the 16-bit machine that it’s based on, it also allows you to enjoy much of Sega’s 8-bit heritage. Included in the box is a simple adapter for Sega Master System cartridges.

Analogue provided us with advance consoles for testing, feedback, and review, but unfortunately the announced adapters for Game Gear games, the Sega MyCard format, SG-1000, SC-3000, and Sega Mark-III cartridges were not available for us to try at the time of this episode. The Mega Sg cartridge slot can fit Genesis and Mega Drive games from any region. Mega Sg also has a removable cover that reveals a Sega CD connection, for attaching a real Sega CD or Mega CD system. It looks more than a little bit goofy, even with its little booster pad, but it’s nice that the option is there at least.

As for how well it works, we’ll get into that later in the video. The Sega 32X add-on and the 40 games that were released for it are not compatible at this time due to the 32X requiring an analog connection from the Genesis to mix graphics and sound. Native FPGA support for 32X games might’ve been on the table at one point, but we have to assume it would have required significant additional costs of time, engineering, and hardware, so its absence is understandable, although it’s surely a disappointment for some.

In 2018 we had high praise for the aesthetics of the Super Nt, owing to its much more compact, sensible, and affordable design compared to its NES and Famicom focused predecessor, the far more pretentious and now-discontinued Nt mini. As we had hoped, the Mega Sg stays the course set by the Super Nt, being nearly the same size with a similar hefty weight, and sharing the same design language while also referencing the hardware that inspired it through its glossy circular motif on top. Both systems carry a price tag of $189, so they are very much not impulse buys, but are still less than half the cost of Analogue’s previous hardware. The Mega Sg has a digital pack-in game as well: the previously unreleased Hardcore – renamed Ultracore – by the now-famous DICE studio. Also like the Super Nt, the Mega Sg uses a Cyclone V FPGA implemented on a board designed by the ever-dedicated master of reverse engineering, Kevin Horton.

And as you’ll see, there is quite a lot of parity between the Super Nt and Mega Sg, but also a lot of features specific to optimizing Genesis games – especially for audio. So we’re going to try to go over almost everything you can do with the system that impacts how games look, sound, and play, as well as give you some ideas for what settings to choose, but keep in mind that our experience is based on various firmware versions leading up to the Mega Sg’s launch, so it’s possible menu organization could change or various features may behave differently later on down the line. The video settings menu will look very familiar to anyone who’s used a Super Nt. For the most part we’ll be using 1080p at 60Hz, but 480p, 720p, and 50Hz modes are also available. If you have a 4K TV, the quality will depend on your TV’s method of upscaling these resolutions, but we both feel the Mega Sg looks really good on our 4K LG OLEDs.

The Screen Size menu is a set of limited options for those who don’t have any desire for granular scaling controls. The default 4.5x height and 4:3 aspect ratio for 16:9 displays should satisfy most users. 5x will fill the screen more, but some gameplay information may be cut off at the top or bottom. However, don’t be afraid to zoom up to 5x for any and all Master System games because they will never overshoot the 1080p screen space. As for the aspect ratio, 4:3 is of course the safest choice, but the answer isn’t necessarily so cut and dry when it comes to Genesis games – we’ll explain why when we get to the Advanced video settings. By the way, if you’re running a Master System game, any settings you change and save will not overwrite your preferences for Genesis games – so don’t be afraid to optimize based on whichever system you’re playing!

The Scalers menu offers the typical assortment of lightweight smoothing filters if you’re into that kinda thing – but don’t expect any advanced heavy-processing filters like in emulators through RetroArch or anything like that. But the most important thing in the Scalers menu are the toggles to disable horizontal and/or vertical interpolation. By default, both axes are interpolated, which is not a bad thing in most situations. Think of this sort of interpolation as being like anti-aliasing for pixel graphics – its purpose is to soften the image just enough to smooth over uneven pixels to prevent visible shimmering as the screen scrolls, while still trying to give an overall sharp presentation. Interpolation is by no means a guaranteed feature in retro products or compilations, so we’re grateful that the Super Nt’s excellent scaling engine has been ported over here.

From a normal viewing distance it should not be terribly obvious that any softening has been applied, and in most cases you should see no scrolling shimmer. Of course there’s also the Scanlines menu, which many people consider essential to their retro game experience. Normal scanlines are simple dark lines that pass between every pixel row. Hybrid scanlines are thicker when running through dark colors, and thinner when running through light colors, to simulate a CRT television’s bloom effect. Both types of scanline overlays appear lighter when the depth slider is on the left, and darker when pushed toward the right. And this is important: If you’re using scanlines, you must set your Screen Sizing to 4x height or 5x height, or else the scanlines will appear uneven.

As is the case with almost every piece of retro game upscaling tech, scanlines arguably look a fair bit more impressive when the system is set to 720p instead of 1080p, and the softer feel is certainly a bit truer to a CRT experience. If you think scanlines are darkening the image too much… well, it’s about time we got to the fun stuff by hitting the Advanced Mode toggle. Among several other things, this reveals a Color menu, wherein you can adjust gamma for any color, for whatever reason you might have to do so. Bringing them all up just a bit can compensate for the darkened image when using scanlines.

If you want to use the RGB Limited Range mode, you may need to save your settings and restart the system for it to properly take effect. You should only need to mess with this setting if colors don’t seem like they should – for instance if black is dark gray instead of black, or if darker colors are being crushed to black on your screen. The Extra Features menu has some very nice options for working around some of the Genesis’s less flattering visual characteristics. Border masking is enabled by default.

On the original Genesis hardware, a scene’s background color often manifests as a broader border around the game graphics. While the Genesis primarily outputs a 240p analog signal, NTSC region consoles can actually only fill 224 of those lines with useful graphics. Because of this consistency in where the game graphics end and the borders begin, the Mega Sg can simply crop the borders out perfectly, every time, with every game, unless there’s some fringe case we aren’t aware of, outside of the 2017 homebrew demo Overdrive 2, which takes advantage of the fact that the Mega Drive can technically fill 240 lines in PAL mode if you code it to do so – you can try the 240-line PAL mode for yourself in the 240p Test Suite software, in which case you can see that some picture information at the top and bottom of the active video area is missing, even with border cropping disabled, at least at present. Another famous visual artifact that can be seen on original Genesis hardware are a series of flickering rainbow dots that are often present in the space below the game graphics.

Well, if anyone out there happens to be particularly charmed by these dots, we regret to inform them that it does not exist on the Mega Sg at all, even if border masking is disabled. Note that if you’re playing a Sega Master System game, the border masking option disappears to make way for a full-fledged “Cropping” feature. Master System game graphics only fill 192 lines of the 240p resolution, resulting in a bit of a letterboxing effect. However, the exact space the graphics fill can vary, even within the same game. In Phantasy Star for instance, if you crop based on the colored borders seen in the overhead segments, then you’ll also crop out a bit of the graphics used in the first-person views, such as in battle scenes.

Here are some settings that we found to work well for most games we tested, but in some cases, such as Rambo First Blood Part II, you may want to not crop the left side at all. Back to the Genesis side, in the Extra Settings menu again, here’s a feature that will get a lot of people very excited – Dither Blending. The Sega Genesis is very famous for its gratuitous use of dithering, with many fans insisting that the composite video connections that were most commonly used in the 80s and 90s are still the only proper way to play Genesis due to developers often taking advantage of the signal’s smudgey quality to blend these alternating color patterns into new shades, simulating the greater color depth or partial transparency effects possible on competing consoles. This is certainly very clever and cool and all, but speaking for ourselves, we’re more than willing to accept raw dithering as part of the retro aesthetic and use higher quality RGB cables with our Sega Genesis consoles. Or in the case of the Mega Sg, HDMI output.

So if you’d like to see what the dither blending effects can look like when paired with clean digital video from the Mega Sg, well, take a look. The algorithm seeks out patterns that are believed to be dithering and creates new shades by mixing the colors. It does also attack parts of the image that don’t need any blending, but usually the effect isn’t too detrimental. Different effects tend to require different thresholds on the dither blending slider, so it can be difficult to find a comfortable setting for any given game. As a general rule, we find that generic color blending for extra shading works best with the slider all the way to the left… while transparency effects tend to look better with the slider toward the middle or right side.

Blended transparency effects can also look a little strange or flickery when moving against parallax background layers, at least to my eye. And if you thought it might be a major shot in the arm for Sega CD FMV games, well, keep your expectations modest. As it currently stands, dither blending is an imperfect, but worthwhile experimental effect, and each person will just have to try it for themselves to decide if they like it on a game-by-game basis. Interestingly, at this time the Extra Features menu has no option for increasing the sprite limit, which is a feature present on the Nt mini and Super Nt that can eliminate sprite flicker when too many sprites on present on one scanline.

While this can manifest on the Genesis (and by extension on the Mega Sg), it is generally a much rarer occurrence on 16-bit hardware compared to 8-bit hardware. If you were paying attention, you may have noticed that Advanced Mode has replaced the “Screen Size” menu with “Width & Height.” This is where the real fun is. But first, we have to explain a bit about the video modes the Sega Genesis hardware can use. Most of the consoles that the Genesis competed against primarily use a horizontal resolution of 256 pixels, although there are of course unusual cases where other modes may be used.

The Genesis can also run games at 256 pixels wide, but in many ways it was ahead of its time in that a large majority of Genesis games actually run at 320 pixels wide – a resolution that was later adopted as the dominant standard in the following generation. When using analog output from an original Genesis console displayed at a 4:3 aspect ratio, you can see that 256 horizontal games have wider pixels and 320 horizontal games have narrower pixels, making possible more detailed characters and backgrounds. Luckily, the advanced “Width & Height” offers separate sliders for 320 pixels and 256 pixels, allowing the Mega Sg’s scaler to treat each differently, if you so please. This is helpful because some games do use a mix of modes – a 320 pixel title screen, but 256 pixel gameplay, for instance, or vice-versa.

If you’d like to reference a list of North American region games that use 256 pixel wide resolution for their main gameplay, FirebrandX has compiled a useful list that you can download from his website. There are also a few rare cases of 480i use on the Sega Genesis – by far the most famous being the split-screen competition mode in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Modes like this were highly experimental at the time and… let’s face it, not too pretty. Ys III has an option to turn the game to interlaced mode too, for some reason. As you can see, at present the Mega Sg opts to display interlaced content with the raw combing artifacts, which, given 480i’s lack of use on the system, adjusting this is surely a low priority. The Mega Sg’s default sizing settings are totally acceptable for casual use.

You can hit the start button to jump between important preset positions on each slider. Here are a few interesting sizing combinations you might want to look at… First, integer scales. Let’s set 4x height and move both width sliders to 1360. As indicated, this gives us 4x horizontal sizing for 320 pixel wide games and 5x horizontal sizing for 256 pixel wide games. This makes 256 pixel wide games look like this… and 320 pixel wide games look like this. Since interpolation is not needed when using integer scales, let’s turn that off in the Scaler menu so that we get the sharpest possible pixels.

For comparison’s sake, graphics in 256 pixel wide games definitely look too skinny when using a square pixel aspect ratio. While 5x horizontal is technically wider than a 4:3 aspect ratio, it’s not too bad. But when it comes to 320 pixel wide games, a compelling argument could be made in favor of a square pixel integer scale over the traditional 4:3 aspect. This is because for some curious reason, 320 pixel wide games pretty consistently have artwork drawn in such a way where intended circles and squares appear skinnier than true circles or squares when the image is displayed at a 4:3 aspect ratio… yes, even on a CRT. And so, some people may find that 320 horizontal resolution games look better at this slightly wider aspect ratio with crisp perfectly square non-interpolated pixels.

It’s both incorrect and MORE correct at the same time, if that makes sense. You’ll just have to decide for yourself. If you want a bigger picture and aren’t afraid to push a few pixels outside the 1080p space, you can also match 5x vertical to 5x horizontal. For 256 pixel wide games, a 6x horizontal scale may pair nicely with a 5x vertical scale, creating an aspect ratio closer to 4:3 than 5x horizontal and 4x vertical.

If we turn the interpolation back on, we can go wild scaling the image however we like. Here are the settings we dialed in for use with 1080p output, which we’ve used for a large majority of Mega Sg Genesis footage in this episode. As long as your TV is not set to cut off any overscan, this perfectly fills the 1080p space, does not cut off any game graphics, centers the game window, and the aspect ratio is based on the generic 4:3 sizing of the Open Source Scan Converter. If you prefer a wider aspect to correct the shapes of 320 pixel wide games like I was just talking about, setting the 320 slider to where it says 4:3 for 16:10 should be very close to a square pixel aspect regardless of your vertical sizing. While the interpolation on the Mega Sg is very good, how well it works can depend on your screen size settings, so if you do happen to spot a bit of distracting shimmer, feel free to bump the horizontal width a notch or two in either direction to change the interpolation phase, which should solve your problem. As with the basic sizing settings, there’s no need to use anything less than 5x for Master System games, which means you can also use scanlines and disable vertical interpolation with no negative effects.

You might want to use the 4:3 marker on the slider, or, since Master System games run at a horizontal resolution of 256 pixels, a 6x integer scale can get you that close-enough aspect ratio then you can just forgo interpolation altogether. The last Advanced video feature we need to talk about are the Buffer modes – although these are not really video features because they control the speed at which the entire system runs. As has been the case with previous FPGA consoles by Analogue, the hardware speed has been minimally tweaked so that every frame update can match an even 60Hz output, presumably for maximum compatibility with digital displays. This is because as is the case with many consoles of the analog era, the NTSC Master System and Genesis don’t output perfectly on-spec framerates, but rather something most video processors identify as 59.91Hz. The default Buffer Mode is called “Zero Delay,” which speeds up the games to an even 60Hz, matching the Mega Sg’s HDMI output and resulting in no lag other than whatever your TV or monitor might cause. If this speed discrepancy gnaws away at your soul and keeps you up at night, then you might be interested in trying the Fully Buffered mode.

The idea here is that the Mega Sg is supposed to run at the same speed as original hardware, with the trade-off being that lag-per frame varies between 0 and 1 frames of lag, while one duplicate frame appears every 13 seconds, which some people might occasionally notice and others won’t. The single buffer mode by comparison is apparently even less lag, but an unsightly screen tear rolls down the screen every 13 seconds instead of displaying a duplicate frame So it’s a really tough choice between Fully Buffered and Zero Lag modes. I mean, we’re talking an extremely miniscule speed difference, but I totally get that thought in the back of your head that reminds you it’s not exactly the same as the real thing.

Compared to original hardware and Fully Buffered Mode, the Zero Lag mode gets ahead by only 45 frames over the course of 10 minutes… not even an entire second’s worth of difference. But that probably still disqualifies it from speed running, so it just depends on your needs. We do hope that Analogue’s analog adapter, which they are still promising is coming, will coincide with new system options that allow the true original system speed, which is the case when using analog output instead of HDMI with NES games on the Nt mini. There’s also speculation that the analog adapter may make it possible to use a 32X with the Mega Sg, so we’ll just have to wait and see what’s gonna happen with that.

And related to analog video, there are a variety of mods for real Sega Genesis hardware to further improve video AND audio quality. So here’s Bob from RetroRGB to give us a quick overview of the latest development. [ BOB ] Unfortunately, every model of Genesis will have SOME kind of issue. Audio from Model 2 and 3’s generally won’t be as good as most model 1s, and all will have various levels of video interference, such as the notorious jailbar effect.

Luckily, there’s a new device that solves almost every issue on all Genesis and Mega Drive consoles – The Triple Bypass. This board has upgraded audio and video amplifiers allowing for the best possible analog audio and video signal you can get from a real Genesis console. Of course it will never be as clean as a true digital to digital solution, but in my opinion, it’s currently the best option available for real hardware. For more information about the board and installing it, you can check the RetroRGB website and YouTube channel.

[ TRY ] As for any hopes and dreams you may have for HDMI mods, well, from what we’ve been told by folks familiar with the inner workings of the Genesis hardware, a true digital HDMI mod such as what we’ve seen with the NES, N64, and Dreamcast is relatively unlikely to be developed for the Genesis. In other words, the Mega Sg is probably the best hardware approximation of the Sega Genesis that can play your original cartridges and also output HDMI video that we’re likely to see anytime soon. [ COURY ] Whew, it’s lookin’ good, right? But how does it sound? Many Sega aficionados insist that the distinctive Genesis sound has so much more personality and character than the competition, but it also proved challenging for many composers.

In the right hands you can get something like Revenge of Shinobi, [ MUSIC] while others… you might end up with… [ … MUSIC? ] [ MUSIC ] The Sega Genesis uses a Yamaha FM synthesizer to generate it’s signature sound, making it one of the last major home consoles to use true chiptunes. Additional sound effects are generated by an integrated PSG or Programmable Sound Generator .

One thing is for certain: reproducing accurate Genesis audio can be an absolute beast to wrangle, even with newer technology. Muddying the situation even more is that only certain Genesis board revisions are considered to have ideal audio quality. The main difference in sound quality comes down to the use of two different sound synthesizers over the lifespan of the system. Early systems used a discrete Yamaha YM2612 while later models employ an ASIC Yamaha YM3438. [ Audio Quality Comparison ] True to the design of the model 1 Genesis, there is a functional analog headphone jack on the front of the console. While it may feel a bit unnecessary in this day and age, it’s a welcome nod to the original and could be useful for musicians or fans of analog amplifiers.

You can adjust the headphone volume and impedance levels to suit your needs. Channel Levels and Panning let you tweak the volume levels of both the FM and PSG sound, which can give some neat insight into how music on the system was composed. [ MUSIC ] A -3db Output Cut is enabled by default, which is mainly aimed at players using soundbars or monitor speakers. Overall the audio output of the Mega Sg seems to be a bit quieter than original hardware, so it’s hard to say how many people will need this feature. The Enable Cartridge and CD Audio option activates expansion audio from devices like an EverDrive or the Power Base Mini FM as well as the CD Audio from an attached Sega CD.

For the most part, Sega CD audio sounds nice and clean, particularly with our model 1 Sega CD units, but I do hear occasional audio pops in certain FMV games when using my model 2 Sega CD… this doesn’t happen when paired with a real Sega Genesis system. Of course you can adjust the expansion audio volume levels as well as swap the stereo channels. That latter option may seem kinda pointless, but we’ve heard that some faulty AV cables, or even certain models of the original console may have had their audio channels swapped, so this is for the people who may remember the music a little differently. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the Genesis sound: one side wants to perfect the sound with a clean digital reproduction, while others are more interested in replicating the dirtier, analog feel of the original system. The Lowpass Filter and Ladder Effect Depth are advanced features which are aimed at dialing in the quirks and texture to make the sound exactly the way you might want or remember it.

Activating and adjusting the Lowpass Filter will attenuate the higher frequencies in the FM sound, trying to simulate the original Genesis audio circuit. This setting previously applied a brickwall filter which didn’t quite achieve the desired effect, [ MUSIC ] But with Firmware 4.0, you can dial in advanced settings like cutoff frequency and roll off. [ Audio Comparison ] Ladder Effect Depth refers to the noise in the audio, an important characteristic of the original sound.

In some games, this was used to give extra depth and texture to the audio, and is apparent in games like After Burner 2 and Thunder Force 2. [ Audio Comparison ] The high quality YM2612 setting enables the full bit depth of the audio, which may derive a more pleasing sound to some ears. [ Audio Comparison ] The YM2612 Waveform setting modifies how the FM audio is synthesized for some fun experimentation. [ Audio Examples ] Before we move on, there’s one final audio tweak all the way over in the System menu, under Hardware settings: The YM3438 Busy Behavior toggle. This very specific option replicates certain compatibility quirks that cropped up as the sound hardware changed.

The two most common examples of this are Earthworm Jim and Hellfire, where their music plays at different speeds depending on the console revision. You can toggle this on and off to hear the differences in real time. Pretty neat!

[ Audio Comparison ] Now, all of this is of course a very subjective thing. Without a doubt, audio is the most important challenge for the Mega Sg to overcome in order to pass muster for the most discerning Genesis enthusiasts. Hopefully all of these controls give most people the tools they need to be happy with the system’s sound – and we hope that it can be refined even more once hardcore Genesis audiophiles really put it through its paces and provide Analogue with further feedback. [ Music ] On the 8-bit side of things, the Sega Master System uses PSG sound for its standard audio, which is also present in Genesis consoles for compatibility reasons. However, an FM sound module with a Yamaha YM2413 synthesizer was released for the Master System’s Japanese counterpart, the Sega Mark-III, which allows for expanded audio.

Oftentimes, the sound composed for the FM module remains present in the international Master System game cartridges, but there was no official way to use it. [ Music ] To access the FM sound hidden in many of your Master System cartridges, simply go to the Core Settings menu and tick the YM2413 box. [ MUSIC ] Certain games may require additional steps to use FM audio – Wonder Boy 3 for instance needs to have the system region set to Japan. FM sound is not necessarily a straight upgrade over PSG audio – it’s rather divisive, actually, but it’s interesting to hear the different versions of the same compositions. Authenticity is fairly accurate to my ears, but keep in mind that we don’t have the means to test it against a real Japanese console with the FM module. [ Music Comparison ] There are other ways you can listen to Master System FM sound through the Mega Sg if you enable Cartridge Audio in the audio settings menu.

The PowerBase Mini FM by dbElectronics is a Master System adapter for the Sega Genesis that actually uses a real embedded YM2413 chip that generates FM sound and passes it to the console through the cartridge port. The Mega EverDrive X7 can do the same through an emulated FM sound function. However, with the Power Base Mini FM in particular, you may hear a bit of hiss due to the noisy nature of the YM2413, similar to the Game Boy CPU noise that can be heard when passing un-attenuated Game Boy audio through to a Super Nt. [ MUSIC ] Let’s go back to the Hardware menu where we saw that Busy Behavior toggle and take a look at some of the system’s general compatibility functions. Your choice of region is pretty simple for the most part – just choose the region whose cartridges you own the most of. While North American Genesis consoles can’t physically fit Mega Drive games without modification, some later-generation games also have software-based region protection, such as Monster World IV, which blocks you from playing it by displaying an error message.

The Auto Region Detection feature is enabled by default, which works around these issues without any involvement on your part. However we found that auto detection does not work when launching region locked games from an EverDrive, so you’ll have to manually switch the hardware setting first. In some cases, you can force different versions of a game by turning off auto detect and selecting a different region.

Games like Mystic Defender have certain graphical changes in other areas of the world that are still on the cartridge. The same is also true for many Master System games. The Force 3 Button Mode is for instances where using a 6 button controller may cause issues with earlier games.

While most of the situations where this occurs seem to have been remedied at the firmware level on the Mega Sg, this option exists for any remaining fringe cases where it might crop up. Related to that, back in the System menu under Hotkeys, is one more compatibility option of note. Passthrough Mode turns off all processing that circumvents controller incompatibilities – for instance, while many Master System games can be played with Genesis controllers on original hardware, others, such as Wonder Boy in Monster Land, glitch out unless you’re using a Master System controller. Luckily, on the Mega Sg, you can play this game with a Genesis controller, but enabling Passthrough Mode recreates the glitch. Now, this might seem undesirable, but the feature exists for the possibility of obscure untested controller hardware that may have difficulties with the Mega Sg’s compatibility layer, as well as to eliminate an apparently tiny amount of latency caused by the hotkey and compatibility functions.

The hotkeys let you set a button combination for accessing the menu or quickly resetting the game. An important note for Mega EverDrive users: the default Mega Sg menu hotkey matches the hotkey for the in-game menu on a Mega EverDrive so if you use one of those with the with the Mega Sg, you’ll want to change one or the other as soon as possible. By the way, if you have 8BitDo’s M30 controller, you can use the extremely convenient menu button for directly accessing the Mega Sg menu regardless of what you have set as your hotkeys. Unfortunately the M30 is not included with the Mega Sg, but it is very obviously designed to pair with it.

It’s a clear step above 8BitDo’s previous controllers that we’ve used – while it does take some liberties with the design of the controllers that inspired it, it’s remarkably comfy and has by far the best D-pad we’ve ever used on one of 8BitDo’s controllers. The 2.4g version can connect to devices like the Mega Sg that use regular Genesis controller ports, but you’ll need to buy the Bluetooth version if you want to connect to other consoles wirelessly. Alright, so the Mega Sg has the tools to make the games look like you want, and hopefully sound like you want, but do the games work right? Here’s a quick hit list of some of the compatibility tests we tried out.

[ MUSIC ] We’ve already mentioned EverDrives in passing, but I can confirm that the Mega EverDrive X7 works like a charm and will boot Genesis, Master System and even… SG-1000 games. So, there’s some good news for the Dragon Wang fans out there! The Game Gear adapter might not be available yet, but certain Game Gear games converted to play on a Master System do work with the X7. The Master EverDrive also works fine – both the original model and the recently released X7. If you’ve ever booted a Sega console and seen a message that says “Produced by, or Under License From Sega Enterprises,” that’s called the Trade Mark Security System screen, or TMSS for short.

These systems are incompatible with a number of games, such as the early unlicensed Electronic Arts games, and weirdly, even some of Sega’s own titles. Thankfully, the Mega Sg is based on an earlier non-TMSS version of the system, so compatibility with games like Populous isn’t broken at all. A lot of people were especially curious as to whether or not Virtua Racing would work due to its use of the SVP chip to render polygons on screen. A number of clone consoles and even the Sega Genesis 3 will not play this cartridge without a mod. Luckily, Virtua Racing worked like a charm on the Mega Sg in our testing! Pier Solar, the 64 meg cartridge released in 2010 from developer Watermelon was not only the largest game ever released for the Genesis hardware up to this point, but it also utilizes the virtually unknown ability to use the Sega CD and standard cartridge slot in tandem.

Hmmm…I wonder if the Mega Sg will also be able to play Paprium? Other nonstandard cartridges, as these homebrew carts from Mega Cat Studios, seem to function exactly as intended, and are just treated like normal games by the Mega Sg. The same goes for the recently released Tanglewood. If you have the official Sega Power Base Converter for playing Master System cartridges and game cards, well, in theory we bet it would work, but the unit’s plastic housing blocks the Mega Sg’s HDMI port. Sega CD games carry some of the same limitations as with original hardware, such as region protection that is handled at the BIOS level.

Your Mega Sg region selection must match your Sega CD or Mega CD’s hardware region, otherwise you’ll get an error message. To play CD games from another region, you can in theory use a flash cart like an EverDrive to load a different Sega CD or Mega CD BIOS. Sega CD compatibility is overall fairly good, but unfortunately we ran into more issues than we were expecting, considering how well everything else works. Chuck Rock wouldn’t load for me and Willy Beamish had graphical and control issues before freezing up. Night Trap got caught in an infinite reboot loop on a model 2 Sega CD, but played just fine on a model 1 unit. These game discs do work fine for us through real Genesis hardware, but it’s hard to be completely certain if any number of variable mechanical factors couldn’t be partly to blame here.

Don’t forget to tick the Enable Cartridge & CD Audio option in the in the Audio Settings to hear the CD audio. You can also crank up the volume there as well if you wish. Sega CD peripherals, such as the official and db Electronics versions of the RAM cart function just as they should. Some Master System games, such as Zillion, will not boot if you have your Mega Sg connected to a Sega CD. However, I found that rather than physically disconnecting the Mega Sg from the Sega CD, a more convenient workaround for this incompatibility is to simply remove power from the Sega CD system. Other than the Sega CD problems, all compatibility issues that we came across during our pre-release testing have already been solved with firmware patches.

But no doubt, once it’s in the hands of the masses, more issues will crop up. And just like the Super Nt before it, we hope that most issues will continue to be swiftly resolved. [ TRY ] Ultimately, yes, FPGA hardware is a sort of emulation – hardware based emulation – which tends to cause arguments over semantics and technicalities between hardware fans and software emulation fans trying to tear down each other’s preferred methods of playing.

And I think these squabbles boil down to misunderstandings of why a person might choose one method over another. From my personal perspective, an FPGA or other hardware-based solution that’s configured by trusted engineers like Kevin Horton with proven track records are appealing because of their predictable hardware environment. Whether a system like the Mega Sg is 100% true to the original hardware or only 99.5% accurate, you can still count on it to behave the same way every time without the unknowable compounding factors of emulation running in a software environment. Software emulation of course has its own perks of resolution and accessibility, so the choice of hardware or software simply comes down to each person’s priorities. Important work is being done in both the hardware and software sides of retro gaming, with new developments in each field helping to advance the other.

So let’s not say that your one preferred ultimate method is the best, and just enjoy the fact that so much is being done to further our hobby and give people interesting new ways to play, so that we can keep these games alive and accessible for today and tomorrow.