REVIEW: Sega Classics Handheld by Coleco
We've written about Coleco on Retro Thing before; the company brought us some of the first handheld LED games, an awesome 80's video game console, even a series of mini arcade games. Unbelievable as it may seem, in this post we're looking at something new from Coleco. They're back with an ambitous variety of electronic games (which we'll review here at Retro Thing), and at the top of the retro heap is a collection of Sega Classics in a tidy handheld.
The game brings together a collection of 20 Sega Game Gear and Master System titles. Present are Sega standards like Sonic, Ecco the dolphin, Alex Kidd, and Columns. There are also some more obscure titles that were never available on a portable. One special game is "Snail Maze" - if you wonder why you've never heard of it, it's because it was an easter egg in every original Sega Master System console.
I played a lot of these games on the original Sega hardware (I have blurry memories of Sonic on the blurry Game Gear display) back in the day, but the sharp & bright LCD screen on the Coleco handheld makes a considerable difference in bringing these old games to life again.
The game unit is a really good size for carrying around, though - like so many other plastic products - the screen scratches easily. After a few weeks of toting it around I did find some light abrasions on the screen, but nothing that interferes with game play. The controls are low-profile (perhaps so the game unit won't snag on pockets?) and take some getting used to. The horizontal orientation of the unit is good for adult-sized hands, and there are built in speakers and a handy headphone jack.
The LCD screen is very responsive for gaming, good enough to even make out the tiny text in RPG games. Possibly my favorite feature is that plugging in an A/V cable (included) lets you connect the game to a TV for full-screen gaming. The TV output may be the best that I've seen in a device of this nature - good solid color, reliable response time. Some of the games don't look too great on the big screen, but that's due to some of these titles originally being designed in low res.
The plug & play market has set the price at $20-30 for the joystick units that connect to a TV. The Coleco unit certainly has extra value because of the LCD, but full retail is $50 - which strikes me as a bit high - though I found this Sega collection on sale for $30-40 which seems the perfect price. Not all the titles in this collection are solid winners, but there is good enough variety here to keep gamers playing.
My big problem is that the instructions are incredibly brief. Some of us need to refresh our memories, and for some players this will be their first exposure to these titles. Having instructions appear on screen would be wonderfully high tech, but even an explanatory slip of paper would have been good. Coleco's website has a PDF you can download, but I'd still like to have the docs in my pocket right next to the game itself.
Except for the lack of instructions, I like the execution of this classic game collection. The combination of the very good LCD screen and real TV hook up mean that you can have classic gaming wherever you go. Many retro fans would like Coleco's next handheld to be a collection of Genesis classics, or possibly games from Coleco's own console collection. If either happens, I hope Coleco will continue to offer handhelds as well thought out as this one.
[There has been a backlash on the web because this handheld carries the distinguished 'Coleco' name, yet features SEGA titles. Maybe this is a result of licensing difficulties with the original Coleco library, or perhaps because the Asian OEM manufacturer that builds these units already had the SEGA collection developed. It doesn't take away from the fact that this little beast is good value - especially if you can find it discounted. - James]
The Coleco Sega collection is a Target exclusive [available through the Retro Thing store]