Published 8 August, 2013 | by Michael Petch3
RETRO: Our 3 worst console revisions of all time
Last week we named our favourite console revisions. You can check that article out here. Now its time to name and shame. They ain’t pretty. they ain’t hard. They tried to trick you and now its time to come clean.
Sega Master System II
Woah, woah, woah I hear you say. The Master System is a gem, a legend, a timeless classic. I hear your words my friends and fear not, I adore the SMS. This is a rant about the revision. The SMS 2 is half the console the SMS 1 was (and not just in size).
Modern retro gaming literature often skips past the SMS, a console that tanked in the US and even underperformed in SEGA’s homeland of Japan. The internet, patrolled and controlled as it is by the loudest voices thus proclaims the NES as the 8-Bit winner. However in the UK and Europe the SMS was a powerhouse that triumphed over the mighty N and was in later life the Wii of its time; the budget, family friendly console that lived on whilst the hardcore gamers were busy on their Mega Drive’s and SNES’. This misconception of failure seems to run deep.
A couple of months ago the UK based Retrogamer magazine sensibly ran the SMS on the front page but shockingly chose the headline “Forgotten Masterpiece: The Un-Loved 8-Bit Masterpiece”. The magazine may have a wide international readership to pander to but this is a rather unfair statement and helps fuel the misconception that the system was a failure. Growing up in England I had no problem sourcing SMS games and would spend many weekends of my youth pondering over SMS trades at the market. £2 would allow you to trade a like-for-like value product, with extra £’s to make up the difference if the game you wanted was worth more, a trading system that defined the Doncaster game markets and shops right up to me departing the area towards the end of the N64 lifespan (I can’t recall the year, time is defined by console releases).
Anyhow, there were always massive amounts of SMS gaming goodness on offer, far exceeding the NES’ tattily boxed selection. I have always found that a good judge of a system’s popularity is the post-generation car boot sale game availability. Right now you can find hundreds of PS2 games at any local car boot sale but the GameCube games are hard to find. Back in the late 90’s SMS games were everywhere, the king of the 8-bit car boot castle. I could go into the details of the great library of games, the classic arcade conversions, and the Game Gear compatibility etc etc but for now I should probably return to the point of the article. The failed revision that is the SMS II.
What did the SMS 2 offer over the SMS 1? It’s a bit smaller. That’s about it. Here’s what it was missing:
- A scart/composite video output was removed from the design. The SMS 2 only offers RF. For anybody who cares about picture quality this is a huge disadvantage, especially when we are already struggling with the poor PAL conversion. Note: Don’t forget to modify your SMS for full speed and smaller boarders on most games; it’s easy with a tiny bit of soldering and a simple switch.
- The card input slot was removed from the SMS 2. There was a good selection of games available for the card slot. These games had less storage data to play with but were a fun credit card sized easily storable and transportable option. Most of the games were later released on standard cartridges but the removal of this option was annoying and also stopped something even more interesting…
- 3D glasses! I never did have a chance to use these until recently when I picked up a pair from eBay and, surprisingly, not only did they work fine (they are notoriously flaky) but the 3D effect is superb. 8 games were released for the glasses (take that ROB!) and these all need the SMS 1 cartridge slot to power and regulate the technology.
- Time to get picky – the SMS 1 looks like a piece of technology, not like the toy that is the SMS 2. The cartridge flap on the SMS 2 often gets stuck or worn out and attracts dust and finally the reset button was removed, no great loss but better with than without.
The PSP has never really ruled the roost of portable gaming but it has long been a viable alternative to Nintendo. It’s lived on a lot longer than I expected, probably due to the fact it’s only rival is the DS which didn’t quite have the same cool tech appeal of the PSP nor the easily accessible movie library. The 2000 was a great update although I always liked the beefy weight of the original for some reason. The 3000 wasn’t much of an evolution but the GO really took things to a different level completely removing the all-important UMD drive in favour of digital downloads. The GO could possibly be considered for this list but at least it was trying something new. The E1000 on the other hand seems to be nothing more than a budget release to sell a few more consoles. Here’s the main problem; there is no real benefit in buying an E1000. Initially the price difference was the key selling point but today you can pick up an earlier model cheaply.
What’s wrong with the E1000 I hear you say? Sure it has an okay screen, but not only did it fail to improve the design in any area (it doesn’t load significantly faster or feel any more ergonomic) it also has a lot missing. Firstly the Wi-Fi is gone. Forget about online features. If you want to download games, you need to do it via a computer. Then they removed the microphone. Not a huge loss but one day when you least expect it you will realise there is a use for it (classics like Talkman and Beaterator. Forget Skype now the Wi-Fi has been binned).
The speakers are no longer stereo, a change that you probably wouldn’t notice instantly but it’s just not quite the same aural experience. The remote is no longer compatible which was a rarely used but nice feature for portable music and skipping chapters in movies. You can’t swap the battery anymore and the brightness adjustment buttons have gone to be replaced with a much less helpful menu option. Finally there is the flimsy build of the UMD door which seems easily damageable.
The world seems to have already forgotten about the E1000 only two years after launch. That’s probably for the best. Perhaps one day they will be a valuable collector’s item but I doubt it.
Imagine a mini version of the Wii in black and red. It sounds so nice, yet in reality what we have here is another cost reduced re-release mess. I’m yet to see one of these in real life despite it launching many months ago so my review is based on hearsay but with so much negativity towards it I think it’s safe to say this revision from Nintendo is a bad idea.
Once again the main selling point is the reduced price, but you can pick up a 2nd hand Wii with a few games for £40 these days so that excuse is out the window straight away. The problems are so big it seems pointless going into too much depth. I’m going to keep this short and sweet.
- The Wii Mini has no internet – no online games, no virtual console, no WiiWare, YouTube etc.
- The Will Mini offers composite cable output only, thus bad picture quality on your nice TV. Component cables. Bought separately won’t work with it.
- Top loading discs are a pain and we have lost the nice lights that flash when you get mail (which you wouldn’t get on this anyway due to that lack of internet we mentioned a moment ago).
- There is no GameCube compatibility (hence no controller ports).
These three are my least favourite but perhaps you have your own wooden spoon selections? PSone? Atari 2600 Junior? Let us know in the comments. Our next retro article will feature another three revisions. Here’s a clue – what do the Turbografx and the NES have in common? See you next week fellow Level Completer!