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Mobile Genesis: iPhone Gaming

Despite being twenty years-old, the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive is still very much alive today. On the Internet, it still rages on in the (illegal) ROM circuit and also has a few legitimate releases appearing, such as Beggar Prince and Pier Solar. However, many games are also still available legally for a number of different platforms. Best known are of course the downloadable Sega Genesis games (by Sega as well as by other developers) for Xbox Arcade and for Wii Virtual Console. Sega-16 regularly checks out the games for both. However, another platform that’s becoming more important for Sega Genesis and other forms of retro gaming is the Apple iPhone (and iPod touch, which is basically an iPhone without calling abilities). Those games are available for small prices at Apple’s App Store. In this article you’ll find a short overview of the available classic Sega games for the iPhone so far as well as some additional information.

Games

Nowadays, it’s hard to think of a platform that hasn’t got a version of the original Sonic The Hedgehog. In fact, the game came out for the original iPod in 2007. This version was very hard to control because the only controls available were the touch wheel and one button. In 2009 Sega released the game once more for the iPhone, improving the controls, as you will read in the next paragraph. After that, Sega got more into iPhone-gaming and released ports of the Genesis editions of Golden Axe and Streets of Rage and an improved edition of Columns, called Columns Deluxe. Along with the ports of original Genesis games, Sega also brought Virtua Tennis 2009 Mini Game and Super Monkey Ball to the iPhone. The latter is one of the most popular iPhone games to date and also one of the most suitable games for the system. Also a lesser known (non-Sega) game was ported to the iPhone in 2008. SoMoGa made a special iPhone adaptation of Vay, a RPG that was released in 1994 for the Sega CD.

How to Play

Many wonder how you actually play an old school Sega Genesis title on the iPhone, since Apple’s smartphone is seriously lacking in buttons. In fact, all you have is a 3.5 inch touch screen and just one true physical button on the front. For action games like Sonic, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, Sega came up with a gentle three-way solution. The first one (and default mode) are transparent buttons. With this option you see transparent button that overlap the playing area. These buttons resemble the D-pad and the A, B and C button. You just use these controls as a classic handheld system. One flaw in this method is that you’ll overlap the game with your fingers half the time, making it a lot harder to see what’s going on. Therefore, Sega also included another button design. In this solution the actually gaming display is shrunk to a much smaller proportion and the controls are shown as ‘physical’ buttons in borders alongside the actual playing display. Your fingers won’t be in the way much, but the downside is of course the very small screen. Third, most games also support accelerometer control for movement, which means it is possible to control them by using motion. But this method of control is usually very hard and most of the time ruins the retro feeling.

 

The Reception

The reception of Sonic, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage is a mixed bag. Most reviewers criticize the lacking frame rate and frequent slowdowns those games suffer from. Another point of concern is that those games – as emulated versions of the original Genesis game, do not control naturally on the iPhone. But maybe that’s a matter of getting used to. However, the enormous transparent d-pad made one reviewer wish he had “transparent thumbs.” It is also heard the transparent buttons do make the games looks blurry and even cause some frame rate droppings. I’d like to add it’s not such a good idea anymore to throw with your “controller” once frustrated. Overall, most reviewers are happy to see classic Sega games on the iPhone platform, but at this point the games suffer from too many technical flaws.

The Future

Sega isn’t done releasing Genesis ports for the iPhone yet and it’s very likely will see games like Ecco the Dolphin, Shining Force, Altered Beast or Kid Chameleon on the iPhone in the very near future. The games are relatively cheap, which gives many gamers of a new generation a change to experience the old time Sega classics on their iPhones. But Sega has to improved the emulation of the games on the iPhone and get rid of technical flaws in the future to keep the interest of iPhone gamers. To experience the games in their true potential, it still best to buy an original Genesis/Mega Drive…

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