In 1989 Sega released the 16 bit Sega Genesis in
In 1995 the
For this review I played a bit of Columns, Star Control, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Flashback.
Columns for the Nomad looks quite good on the Nomad’s 3.25 inch color LCD screen. Columns is a classic match 3 puzzle game in the vein of Tetris and is played with falling sets of crystals that fall on a flat 2D plane. There is a bit of ghosting when the crystals fall at high speed but otherwise there are no problems playing. Performance of the game is, as all games on the Nomad are, Genesis perfect. Columns had classic game-play when it was released. It is a timeless casual game that was released before the idea of a casual gamer was even thought of. I could play the game for hours on end so I intentionally stop myself after a couple minutes and put in Star Control.
Star Control is an awesome game which states that it is “THE FIRST 12 MEGABIT GAME!” right on the box. That’s like twice as many megabits as a 6 megabit game! Star Control offers arguably the deepest strategic game-play on the Genesis along with some excellent space combat. The combat takes place on a large flat plane with two spacecraft going head to head. It’s a bit like Asteroids but much more deep. This is a place were Nomad stumbles. Though the 320 × 224 resolution looks pretty sharp for most games (an NDS screen had a resolution of 256 x 192 at a slightly smaller 3 inches) it does not suffice when the sprites for some of the ships are small even on a full sized television. Star Control is rendered practically unplayable on the Nomad. I must admit, I intentionally chose Star Control to bring up one of the weaknesses of the Nomad. A portion of the games for Genesis were designed with a larger display in mind. Fortunately the Nomad has an AV out and these games can be enjoyed on an external display without a hitch.
The fact that the Nomad has nearly all the functionality of a full sized Genesis is one of its saving graces. The user can use a DC adaptor instead of six AA batteries which last only a few hours. The unit has a controller 2 input so that a second player can play, presumably while using the AV out cable. The addition of a first player controller input would have made the unit nearly perfect since the Nomad is freaking huge. It’s a bit smaller then the paperback edition of the 4th Harry Potter Book. It feels about twice as big as an original Xbox controller. It probably is difficult for small children to use and though portable is not something I’d ever want to carry around with me on a regular basis.
This leads up to Sonic on the Nomad. Sonic on the Genesis is the definitive edition. The sprites are large enough on the Nomad but there is a problem that plagues many older handheld systems and is almost a game breaker with Sonic on the Nomad. Ghosting is quite pronounced when playing Sonic on the Nomad. The backgrounds seem to have the rather popular motion blur effect that is used in many racing games these days. This is not by design. Some enemies will blur enough that they become quite difficult to see at all. The bright colors, fun game-play, and responsive controls save the game.
Lastly I played a small amount of Flashback. Flashback looks beautiful on the Nomad. The game is not only fun but is pretty much a tech demo on how to create a beautiful game on the Genesis. It and its spiritual prequel Out of this World used rotoscoped characters to create fluid and cinematic animation and cut-scenes. The game is rather punishingly difficult but is perfect for the Nomad. The small screen makes the graphics look even better then they do on a larger display. The controls which I have not even mentioned until now, duplicate the feel of the Genesis 6 button controller. The issue of ghosting is minimal due to the pacing of the game, the use of static backgrounds, and the speed at which the characters move. All in all Flashback is perfect on the Nomad.
The Nomad is not a very practical portable but is a great classic gaming console and a fun piece of gaming history.
Screen: 5/10 Brightness control present and works, decent resolution but hurt by ghosting.
Sound: 8/10 Has one speaker that sounds pretty good as well as a headphone jack. Classic 16 bit sound.
Controls: 9/10 Almost identical to the Genesis controller. Would earn an additional point if the unit was smaller and offered a first player controller port.
Availability: 5-7/10 Easy enough to find used but generally pretty beat up. Replacement screens may still be bought online.
Price: 8/10 Still can be found used online for ~$50.
Library: 10/10 Plays all Genesis games.
Overall: 7/10 Bulky with a less than perfect screen and poor portability the Nomad is a cool piece of history that doubles as a Genesis. Really only for the collector but still a decent piece of hardware if you don’t plan on using it as a portable gaming platform.