The world already has the NES and SNES Classics, the Neo Geo X from a few years ago and that new arcade-style Neo Geo Mini, nine different Atari Flashback units, The C64 Mini, and even a handheld that just plays Oregon Trail.
With the PlayStation Classic hitting shelves and/or people’s mailboxes next week, do we as a society really need any more closed microconsoles? I’ve decided that yes, we do, and here’s what they are.
(P.S. If you’re wondering why the Nintendo 64 isn’t on this list, I figured that it’s such a given at this point that I didn’t need to waste space talking about it.)
TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine
Despite being a distant third place in the 16-bit console wars, the TurboGrafx-16 had a really impressive library of gorgeous 2D action games and RPGs that, despite not being household names, still hold up today.
TurboGrafx titles like Air Zonk, Devil’s Crush, Fantasy Zone, Splatterhouse and Silent Debuggers would make the cost of entry on this thing worth it by themselves. If the library were expanded to also include games for the PC Engine — the Japanese TurboGrafx — this thing could have Bomberman ’94 on it. Bomberman ’94, y’all. I’d pay $100 just for that, never mind the rest of the TurboGrafx’s lineup.
Unfortunately, the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine were co-produced by Hudson Soft and NEC, the former of which was absorbed by Konami in 2012. Given how interested Konami seems in doing anything related to video games nowadays, we fear this no-brainer is somehow the least likely potential microconsole on this list.
Alright, I get that this one is a little out there, but the Vectrex is an important part of video game history that deserves to be appreciated for the weird, expensive risk that it was in 1982.
At the time, many arcade games still used vector monitors to display their games, rather than the raster CRTs that eventually became the norm. Employees at a company called Smith Engineering saw an opportunity to bring the arcade vector experience to the burgeoning home video game market. Their efforts eventually culminated in the Vectrex.
The thing about vector graphics though, is that they really do have to be seen to be believed, even today. I grew up playing Asteroids on basically every computer-based anything we had. Even then, it wasn’t until I saw a real Asteroids cabinet at a GDC that I understood — vector graphics are gorgeous.
It sounds ridiculous, but Asteroids — the real, vector Asteroids — is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever seen. The lines are so bright that they practically float above the screen. The bullets look like they’re actually on fire. It’s incredible, and so many people have never experienced a vector display that something like a Vectrex Classic could really blow some minds.
Of course, in order to make a new one of these, Milton Bradley would have to basically just make the original Vectrex again. Just with more games built in this time, hopefully. They could go the route of using an LCD display instead of a vector cathode tube, but that would defeat the entire point of the thing. It’s probably really easy and cheap to source a bunch of vector displays in 2018 though, right? Right? Bueller?
Neo Geo Pocket Color
Considering what it was up against in 1999, the Neo Geo Pocket Color did a respectable job of finding a niche for itself in the overcrowded handheld market.
It became the de facto home for portable fighting games that were actually worth playing, such as SNK Gals’ Fighters and SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium. This was in thanks in no small part to its joystick, which used micro-switches like those found in arcade sticks. It also ended up having the best portable Sonic the Hedgehog game of the era in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure. Remember that this was before Sega’s transition to third party developer, so it was weird even back then.
The NGPC was essentially just a screen and some buttons. There would be nothing tremendously difficult about sourcing modern parts to perform the same functions. The unit’s trademark clicky joystick would have to be preserved, though. Any reproduction unit that failed to include one would be an abject failure.
Nintendo, just make the Game Boy again but with a backlight and a rechargeable battery and like, 20 games. We both know you can do this. Me and all my cool friends will each give you $100 for one. Heck, I’m willing to give you $200 if you put The Adventures of Star Saver on this thing. Y’all can probably source Raspberry Pi Zeroes for like, $4 each. Your profit margin will be unbelievable. Why are we still talking about this.
Look, if the PlayStation is good enough to get a Classic™ microconsole, so is the Sega Saturn. What other console in history had the guts to use square polygons? What other console had the tenacity to just bolt a second processor to its first one in order to achieve said square polygons? Also some of the games were pretty good?
Real talk, all I want is a tiny Saturn bundled with two controllers. Put Virtua Fighter 2, Nights into Dreams, Virtual On, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Panzer Dragoon Saga on it and that’s it. Of course, Saturn emulation has yet to really coalesce into a stable form, even in 2018. Sega might have some trouble getting this thing to run quite right. But you know, in a way, isn’t that what the Sega Saturn was all about, Charlie Brown?