News, Retrospectives

A mega celebration for the mini console — MegaBites at the European Sega Mega Drive Mini launch

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On 2nd October, ahead of the Mega Drive mini’s European release, London’s Queen of Hoxton venue hosted the console’s official European launch party. Attended and organised by Sega Europe and GamerDisco, the night was filled with the sights and sounds of Sega. The event provided an exclusive chance to experience Sega’s European iteration of its new mini console, coupled with retro-inspired beats and speedrun tournaments.

So, how was it to finally get our hands on the European version of the Mega Drive Mini and who would emerge as the victor of the speedrun competition? MegaBites went along to find out.

For the past few months, any European fan of Sega, Sonic and/or retrogaming will undoubtedly have had a particular date circled on their calendar, Friday 4th October 2019 — the EU release date of the Sega Mega Drive Mini. In true 90s spirit, the European release of the Mega Drive Mini comes weeks after the US, Japan and rest of the world (that’s how it always used to be, kids). Now, at last, the console has arrived on our shores. But not before it enjoyed a retro-inspired launch event…

Not one to miss out on such an occasion, I jumped on the train and made the journey to the Queen of Hoxton — the centre of the Sega universe for that evening.

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Sega heaven

At the venue, I wound my way to the basement level where the sounds of chiptunes and dance beats, courtesy of DJ Mykah and DJ Jet Set Rory, reverberated off the matte black brick walls. A member of GamerDisco, the event’s organisers, stood in a Streets of Rage hoodie ticking names off the guest list at the door.

Around the dance floor, were projector screens and flat-screen TVs displaying bouts of Street Fighter 2, Streets of Rage 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog, each one played on a Mega Drive Mini console. In honour of the Dreamcast’s 20th anniversary, gamers played Chu Chu Rocket and Soul Calibur on a big screen by the bar. In essence, it was Sega heaven.

The main event was a Sonic speed run competition — the top prize, a European Edition Mega Drive Mini tower of power.

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Let battle commence

Note: In the week before the launch party, I’d heard about the event’s speedrun competition and its ‘towering’ prize — but the tournament’s game remained a mystery. Surely, it had to be Sonic 1? In preparation, I spent days perfecting a speedrun of Sonic 1’s Green Hill Zone, Act 1. I’d maxed out at 29 seconds. Perfect.

Sonic 2. Round one involved a speedrun of Emerald Hill Zone, Act 1 (gulp). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been playing Sonic 2 since it found its way under my Christmas tree in 1993, but for this, a speed run of the game, I was not prepared. But I certainly gave it my best shot.

I picked up the pad. Quite inexplicably, in a zen-like state, I zipped through the zone, past spikes, over badniks, round loops and picked up a pair of speed boots for good measure. I hit a time of 27 seconds, collecting 56 rings. I’d made it to #2 on the leaderboard and qualified for the final round. Phew!

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A brief interlude took place where I flexed my gaming thumbs with a round of Streets of Rage 2. Myself and a fellow Sega fan made it to stage four where, amongst other things, we pondered the meaning of ‘it’s like boo!’. Our game was cut short, however. The final was about to begin.

The compère loaded Emerald Hill Act 2 on the big screen projector. The challenge — to clear the round and defeat Robotnik in the fastest time. The first couple of finalists played, clearing the round in little over a minute, next followed two successive DNFs as gamers fell victim to the spikes. Then it was my turn. All I had to do was finish the round and I was looking at a high probability of a top 3 finish.

I took up the controller and began my attempt, as the audience watched my every move. “Just don’t die, don’t die” I thought. And then it happened… I died… twice. It was over. Nonetheless l completed the stage and shook hands with the victors. What a rush!

The winner collected his Mega Drive Mini prize, with the runners-up choosing from copies of ‘Retro Gaming – A Byte-Sized History of Video Games’ by Mike Diver, and Mega Drive key rings and wallets.

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So, the night continued, fuelled by more sets from DJ Mykah and GamerDisco’s resident DJ Jet Set Rory.

A mini mega verdict

So, how was it to finally get my hands on the European Mega Drive Mini? In a word — stunning. The unit is an exact miniaturised replica of the famous model-one console, perfectly proportioned and a scaled version of its older sibling. Although the omission of the audio jack port may come as a surprise to some, the unit more than makes up for with with its stunning HDMI connectivity and smooth gameplay.

Some reviewers have commented on Sega’s choice to include a the three-button pad with the European release. With the extra move-set that a six-button pad provides, playing with a three-button pad may make games such as Street Fighter 2 slightly more of a challenge. However, none of this deters from the fact that the 2019 replica pads are near perfection — and the novelty of handling a piece of Sega Mega Drive hardware manufactured in 2019 was an incredible sensation.

The menu selection, accompanied by a soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, was seamless and super smooth. The fact that the entire package withstood the pressure of the competition environment spoke for itself. All in all, it’s a must have for the modern retrogaming aficionado — no matter which side of the console war you once stood.

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Stay tuned to this blog for more on the console and a look at certain range of ‘tower of power’ accessories.

Beats of rage

Alongside Sega Europe, the Mega Drive Mini’s European release party was hosted by GamerDisco. Established in 2010 to coincide with the release of the Nintendo 3DS, GamerDisco has been holding gaming and dance events ever since — fusing chiptune remixes with gaming hardware events at venues and festivals throughout the UK. Working with creative artists across the gaming and chiptune genre, the team has also partnered with artists such as DJ Yoda.

In the case of the Mega Drive Mini launch, GamerDisco teamed up with DJs Mykah and Jet Set Rory, both with a fusion of video game remixes and new takes on classic Sega chiptunes.

Hit play to hear a sample from DJ Mykah’s Mega Drive Mini launch party set:

The Sega Mega Drive Mini is out NOW in all territories. See more at megadrivemini.sega.com

Event gallery:

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Thank you to the following for their valuable contributions and assistance in the creation of this article and for the organisation of the Mega Drive Mini European launch:

GamerDisco (Twitter: @GamerDisco)
DJ Mykah
DJ Jet Set Rory
Queen of Hoxton
Sega Europe (Twitter @SEGA_Europe)

Photos courtesy of GamerDisco

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