Analogue Mega Sg reviewed: cloning a Sega Genesis with FPGA power

A field-programmable gate array, or FPGA for short, is the chameleon of the silicon chip world. They’re reconfigurable chips that can be programmed to perform a wide array of of task. In PC gaming, the most famous example of such a chip at work is probably Nvidia’s G-Sync module. Long story short, the ability to recode FPGAs on the fly creates a ton of usage scenarios in the hands of a capable engineer.

In more recent years, they’ve been held up as a sort of holy grail by the retro gaming community for their handiness in recreating classic consoles. Examples include the SD2SNES open-source design ROM cartridge for the Super Nintendo, and RetroUSB’s AVS, an eight-bit Nintendo clone. Seattle-based Analogue released its own upscale FPGA-equipped NES clone called the Nt Mini in 2017. That bit of kit sold for an eye-watering $450 in part because of its aluminum shell.

Each year since, Analogue has released a new FPGA-fueled retro system, and this time around the company has put out more affordable (but still very nice!) systems with plastic shell. 2018’s Super Ntis a well-received Super Nintendo substitute for $190. The Mega Sg launched just last month at the same $190 price point, and that’s what we’re looking at today.

Mega Power on HDTVs

In October of 1988, Sega released the Mega Drive in Japan. Known as the Genesis on American shores, it was the first home console with a 16-bit CPU, and it was loosely based on the company’s arcade hardware of the time. It had some beefy specs for its day: a Motorola 68000 CPU, a Zilog Z80 as a secondary processor, a Yamaha YM2612 FM synthesis chip, a Texas Instruments NS76489 programmable sound generator (PSG), and a Sega 315-5313 video display processor (VDP).

The Genesis can output composite and RGB video at a resolution of 320×224 or 256×224 with 64 on-screen colors out of a palette of 512. In the 80s and 90s, that video was sent to to a 4:3 CRT display. Unlike modern TVs, CRT televisions don’t have pixels, but instead paint an image line-by-line to the screen. Check out Displaced Gamers video The History of 240p on YouTube for a primer. Lots of folks still love and use their CRT displays with retro consoles, but there are no new CRTs in 2019.

If you’d want to use a vintage console with a high-definition TV, a dedicated upscaler can convert the RGB video to an HDMI output. I use an Open Source Scan Converter, which runs around $210 with a remote and power supply, shipped from the UK. I also needed an RGB SCART cable by Insurrection Industries. After you throw in the cost of a Genesis console, which can be sourced from eBay or the local Craigslist, the whole setup will cost you around $300. Suddenly, the $190 asking price for the Mega Sg doesn’t seem bad. There are other ways to play Genesis games, but let’s focus on comparing the Mega Sg to the original Sega hardware for now.

Enter the Mega Sg

Analogue’s Sega clone was originally scheduled to ship this month, but it ended up releasing early, on March 25. My personal unit shipped even earlier than that, on the 22nd. There seems to be plenty of demand for the Mega Sg, since as of this writing, Analogue’s store says new orders will ship in two to three weeks.

The Mega Sg comes in a very handsome, understated black box. There are four styles availabledepending on your nostalgic bent. JPN has the purple and blue of the Japanese Mega Drive, EUR is just black and white, and USA has a red power button that matches the US version’s dome light. There’s also a white version if you’re into that. The Mega Sg is a hefty little box that measures 5.4 x 6.6 x 1.9″ (13.8 x 16.8 x 4.7 cm) and weighs in at 18 oz, or right around 510 g according to my food scale.

The build quality is excellent. While the Mega Sg’s shell is made from plastic, it’s got a very premium feel. The material is thick and well-supported, and the unit has a rubber pad on the bottom that seems to help prevent slipping around. I couldn’t detect any hint of creaks or groans when I squeezed it, and it flexes only minimally. Classic Genesis hardware is pretty stout, and this clone lives up to that legacy very well.

Inside the box you’ll find an HDMI cable, a 5-volt, 2-amp USB wall adapter, and a standard micro-USB cable for power. If you happen to own a Sega CD module for the Genesis, Analogue provides a spacer mat to place the Mega Sg on while it’s connected to the classic add-on. There’s also a Master System cartridge adapter in the box. Original Genesis hardware could play Master System games through a similar cartridge adapter called the Power Base Converter. It’s nice to see Analogue provide similar functionality without any additional cost.

The Mega Sg has a cartridge slot wide enough for any region’s Genesis or Mega Drive cartridges, and a covered connector to plug into the Sega CD. On that connector’s opposite side sits an SD card slot meant for firmware updates. Finally, the Mega Sg has a headphone jack that can drive high-impedance headphones on the front, as a homage to Sega’s most successful home console.

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Ben Funk

Sega nerd and guitar lover

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toki
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toki

This has nothing really to do with the article I guess, but the whole thing reminded me of when a friend of mine’s dad had someone who was on a business travel and brought my friend back a Famicon with the floppy disc drive and it was so cool that you could just rent Nintendo games and clone them to those floppy drives. I don’t know why, but this article reminded me of that.

plonk420
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plonk420

*my* problem with these low powered devices (RetroPi included) is that you don’t have the spare power to decode new video codecs or, more on topic, do mods like the brand new high res Mode 7 thing for the SNES (which is so good, the original emulator author, byuu, is implementing it into the emulator itself): [url<]https://www.reddit.com/r/emulation/comments/bee9tq/hd_emulation_mod_makes_mode_7_snes_games_look/[/url<]

Goty
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Goty

[quote<]The biggest problem I had with Sewer Shark is that it's just not a very good game—nevertheless, it ran just fine.[/quote<] You take that back!

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Never!

I like some FMV games. Star Wars Rebel Assault is pretty good, for example. Road Avenger is amazing. Sewer Shark just isn’t for me.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

Night Trap FTW!

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

For posterity: Two things changed right around the time the review was published. VideoGamePerfection moved from England to Ireland, and their shop was recently updated to use Euros instead of Pounds. The denomination didn’t change in that conversion, so for international buyers, the price effectively went from 135 GBP ($175 US) to 135 Euro ($150-ish) without VAT. That means the OSSC got like a 15 percent price cut, or at least it will once the store re-opens to non-European buyers. They’re still getting shipping and logistics squared away. Plus it’s still not even in stock, so there’s a wait associated… Read more »

Mark Nelson
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Mark Nelson

Excellent article Ben.
I remember sitting around watching my brother play “The Immortal” for hours.
[url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Omszkd5KQ[/url<]

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Dude, I haven’t thought about that game since high school. I used to rent games on the weekends, and this one was a multiple-rental game, though I never did get to own it. Where I grew up, the only places to get games was Walmart and Kmart, and they only had the commercially-successful ones on display. Anywhere else to get my hands on some deep cuts (like Shining Force, which is amazing but didn’t sell well) was like an hour away.

squeeb
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squeeb

This thing is a brilliant piece of hardware. Eagerly awaiting mine!!

ColeLT1
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ColeLT1

Awesome review

Jigar
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Jigar

WOW, this is TR review. Amazing. Thank you.

FireGryphon
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FireGryphon

Great review. I want one of these… and the Nintendo ones, too…

Also, After Burner is my favorite series (II is my fav).

ronch
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ronch

The Sega Mega Drive is probably my most cherished console of all time. Runner ups would include the NES, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and SNES. Other nice but largely forgotten consoles would be the 3DO, N64 and Saturn.

squeeb
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squeeb

Yea I love the MD / MegaCD – probably my favorite console ever. Another for your forgotten consoles list, but worth mentioning: PC Engine / Turbo Grafx 16 (and of course the CD variants).

I restored a PC Engine Duo last year, fantastic system.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

PC Engine CD in MiSTer is going to get me to buy a DE10-nano. The base system support is already excellent, from what I’ve read. The guy doing the CD work, Ash Evans, is very capable. He’s already got Rondo of Blood booting an ISO from the SD slot. No CD audio yet though. He also hinted on Twitter that official CD a support may be possible through USB disc readers.

Add to that the Neo Geo work that’s going on and the possibility of CPS-1/2 down the road and MiSTer is something to watch.

squeeb
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squeeb

Interesting! Will look into this.

ronch
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ronch

Do you think it’s still possible to buy a brand new CRT TV today, just keep it in its box, and do an unboxing video of it in 2050?

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

CRTs aren’t made today, which is unfortunate. A while back I passed up a chance at a new-old-stock 20″ Magnavox TV with a couple composite inputs. The box said it was a new model for 1989. I kind of regret not picking it up. It was only $25.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

CRTs were killed off because you can’t make an unit that would confine to RoHS/eWaste standards.

RoHS compliances is what really killed off CRTs.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Yes, thanks for stalking me and replying with useless facts every time I comment.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

Not useless information. Just explaining the final nail in their coffin.

I’m not stalking you either, too much paranoia eh?

anotherengineer
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anotherengineer

I wish there was one of these for the nes, snes and n64 and I wish i had all my old cartridges.

sigh

derFunkenstein
Guest
derFunkenstein

You didn’t read the article. I talked about how the Super Nt and RetroUSB AVS do two of those three. 😉

anotherengineer
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anotherengineer

Ya, but the super Nt says only snes and no controllers included

so $190 + $40 + $40 (1.35) exchange = $365 x.13 = $412 cnd

and I don’t have any cartridges anymore, so + more $$

Interesting product, I think the snes classic from nintendo (if it was readily available) at its $80 mrsp would probably be better value.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Oh I see, you want a 3-in-1 thing, kind of like the RetroN 5 but not crappy. LOL

anotherengineer
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anotherengineer

lol ya with the price of a nes/snes classic

If nintendo would have been on the ball, they would have made such a unit and sold it.

Luminair
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Luminair

why the fuck would nintendo sell one all in one device when they can sell two for twice the price. think, bueller. any engineer can buy a raspberry pi and two usb controllers and run every arcade, 8 bit, and 16 bit game for under 100 bucks.

Geoff Gasior
Member
Geoff Gasior

Good article. Myself I have the Original Sega Genius. With the guns, the glasses and the controllers and the boxes. My goal is to resurrect my 27inch Panasonic and have a dedicated arcade area. I got 20 to 30 games too and all of it is in excellent condition. The whole irony of this is today’s “service” in the video gaming industry is everything is going digital. A terrible mistake and because of this you have companies trying to preserve what we took for granted those many years ago. Games were fun back then… instead of mirco tranactions, look crates… Read more »

auxy
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auxy

If you said this to me in person, I would definitely punch you directly in the balls as hard as I possibly could. Digital games are MORE secure than physical games. Physical games will fail, they’ll rot away. Physical games can’t be updated to work with modern systems. Physical games are subject to entropy. This whole thing about “you never own your digital games” is such a crock of crap that I can’t even believe people are still repeating it. It’s fearmongering of the most ignorant sort. Have you ever heard of such thing as a game crack? It’s not… Read more »

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Well that’s a little extreme.

Jigar
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Jigar

well that’s nerds for you.

auxy
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auxy

[quote<]I am the tallest of mountains, I am the roughest of waves I am the toughest of terrors, I am the darkest of days I'm the last one that's standing, Don't try to stand in my way 'Cause I've been up against better, Just take a look at my face 'Cause If you're messing with me I am a dangerous weapon I am the sharpest of blades, I'll cut you down in a second 'Cause I was born in this pain, it only hurts if you let it So if you think you can take me then you should go and forget it![/quote<] (。・`ω´・。) Oh yeah, and a nice review too. (*'▽')

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Not ashamed to admit I haven’t played Sonic Forces so I had to look up the reference. 😆

Guest
ludi

Internet Tough Gal, activate!

Redocbew
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Redocbew

If TR did a Game of Thrones parody, then I guess you’d be Auxy, Breaker of Encryption, and Puncher of Balls.

NTMBK
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NTMBK

[quote<]If you said this to me in person, I would definitely punch you directly in the balls as hard as I possibly could.[/quote<] Physical violence because of differing opinions about toys is a really great look for a grown up.

bthylafh
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bthylafh

One suspects this is why she’s gotten temporarily banned before.

auxy
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auxy

Boy you sure told me! I’m glad you and all the other disapproving nannies looking down from your moral high horses presented all these dissenting arguments! I’ll definitely change my opinion now!

The world could use a little more physical violence. People are too ready to spout off with uneducated, ignorant bull crap. Once upon a time, if you said something real dumb, you might get slapped for it. Maybe getting punched in the mouth for spouting off would improve the world. ┐( ̄ヘ ̄)┌

K-L-Waster
Guest
K-L-Waster

[quote<]Maybe getting punched in the mouth for spouting off would improve the world.[/quote<] Nah. It leads back to a world where whoever can physically hit the hardest ends up being right all the time. (Pretty sure that having massive biceps has no bearing on whether or not you know what you're talking about....)

auxy
Guest
auxy

That’s not any different from the way the world actually works, though. Everything comes down to force eventually. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying it’s just. It clearly isn’t.

That said, I did actually mean “in a hypothetical world where there’s an unfailing arbiter of truth who can mete such punishments when they are correctly due.” Sadly such an entity doesn’t exist and humans are infinitely fallible.

Guest
ludi

People who take this position tend to think they’ll be [i<]giving[/i<] the slaps. They might be in for a rude surprise.

auxy
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auxy

You’re not wrong. A lot of people make that same mistake (see: champagne tankies who think they’ll be spared when their revolution hits).

I’m not one of them, though. I’ll take my slaps when I’m wrong. You can look anywhere I’ve posted on these forums or comment threads, or elsewhere. I always own up to my mistakes. Actions have consequences and nobody is above them.

Guest
ludi

whoosh

godforsaken
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godforsaken

This (tangentially) is why I try not to make multiple points in one post (on the rare occasion I post).. I swear, I will make a long, thought out, and well researched post, and people will find one tangent line, often said in jest, or at the very least definitely, and obviously, not the meat/point of the post in general, and not why I made the post, and and they will respond to that, and only that, and completely ignore the actual point being made

nono.. you misspelled a word, that invalidates your entire argument, I win

derFunkenstein
Guest
derFunkenstein

When someone leads with “I want to punch you in the sac” that kind of invalidates their entire argument. It’s not just one argument, it’s the premise. Like, auxy said “we can’t debate civilly, so I’ll just wish for pain.” and so I was done reading.

godforsaken
Guest
godforsaken

I had several paragraphs written in response to this, but, upon proofreading, I felt it could be taken.. I dunno, harsh? combative?.. which was/is not my intent, at all, so I’ll just put a TLDR here, and, if further debate is wanted.. I dunno.. anyways No, in no way does somebody expressing their anger invalidate their argument, anger happens, getting heated mostly just means you’ve either got a dog in the fight, or it rubs you the wrong way enough, as a fellow rage monster, I know how hard it often is not to go nuclear.. getting too long for… Read more »

Stiqy
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Stiqy

You’re saying lots of dumb stuff. And getting slapped for it socially. How fitting.

I guess you would rather have 14 punches in the mouth than 14 down-votes though. That’s fine I guess, you are a consenting adult. Stop by sometime and if you ask nicely I could punch you 14 times in the mouth so that you receive what you think you should for spouting off stupid stuff.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

this does nothing to de-escalate.

RAGEPRO
Guest
RAGEPRO

auxy’s a brat for sure, but she was (comedically)threatening violence out of frustration. Your post both contributes less and is ruder than either of hers. Have some self-awareness.

bthylafh
Guest
bthylafh

Perhaps the joke was not funny. I grok she’s non-neurotypical, but I’m not either and I get that this is hard to get across in text-only.

RAGEPRO
Guest
RAGEPRO

I think she forgets, when posting on the internet, that her friends have the context that she is an extraordinarily tiny and grotesquely adorable person.

albundy
Guest
albundy

Physical games will fail, they’ll rot away… true. but people rot faster and are forgotten. and lets face it, that a 100 year old CD-rom of Myst or wing commander 3 will most likely last another extra lifetime, if not longer since there was no drm preventing you to copy that floppy…errr…i mean CD-rom, for backup. plastic erodes much much slower than people do. some of us still enjoy holding onto that game box like a piece of art.

anotherengineer
Guest
anotherengineer

What’s a Sega Genius??

derFunkenstein
Guest
derFunkenstein

I think he meant Genesis but the Master System is the one that had 3D glasses

Geoff Gasior
Member
Geoff Gasior

It’s a Sega Genesis with a Power Base Converter. It’s pretty much backward compatible for a regular Genesis to use Master System games and peripherals. One of the best upgrades at the time for a regular Sega Genesis.

[url<]http://gametrog.com/sega-powerbase-converter-information-specs/[/url<] [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=149&v=P9hIQ_WXzVE[/url<]

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

So the glasses adapter for the My Card slot works with the Power Base Converter? That’s pretty cool.

quock
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quock

It’s the person that tells you that the liquid indicators in your Sega device were triggered and therefore not eligable for service and that you should by a new Sega device.

techguy
Guest
techguy

Great review. I might have to get one of these now that I know the power base converter is fully supported. The Master System was my first console 30+ years ago, and living in the U.S. it seemed like I was the only kid that had one so it’s been near impossible to relive any of these experiences, and this seems like a solid option for that. I tried a Retron 5 + power base converter a few years back. Don’t get me started on that piece of garbage.

derFunkenstein
Guest
derFunkenstein

The original versions of the Power Base Converter won’t fit. I think it’s Game Sack’s video on the Mega Sg (might have been MLiG, I forget now) that shows the lip on the back pushes against the HDMI cable. But the faux PBC in the box works great.

My wife’s first console was the Master System, too. Her brother has it now, but we’ve still got a handful of games. Up until I got my Mega Sg, I didn’t know if any of them worked.

Krogoth
Guest
Krogoth

Master System was completely overshadowed by the NES in its heyday in NA. It had a larger presence elsewhere. SEGA didn’t start capturing significant NA marketshare until the Genesis.

morphine
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morphine

Depends on region/country. Around here I could count the people who owned NES/SNES systems on half of one hand.

derFunkenstein
Guest
derFunkenstein

Master System did very well in Europe, Australia, and Brazil from what I’ve read. So your experience seems to be normal in your neck of the woods.

The European Master System’s game library is around 2x what it was in the US and games seem to have been released there all the way up to like 1996.

morphine
Guest
morphine

The reason for that, I think and as far as I could tell when I was a kid, was that SNES cartridges were [i<]insanely[/i<] expensive. Mega Drive carts were $$$ enough, but the SNES ones were on another level. Also, the demo stations supermarkets and movie rental places (like the local one) were all Sega.

defaultluser
Guest
defaultluser

The Master System sold well in developing countries because the games were pretty cheap to make, and the consoles used easily available parts, like the Z80 and SN76489 sound chips (both used in everything 8-bit). Keep in mind that Europe in the 1980s was still recovering from The Berlin Wall, and the former Soviet Bloc countries were not ready for expensive entertainment. Portugal was also still recovering from the Carnation Revolution, and right next door Spain also transition to democracy at the same time. The Master System was a pretty capable console to sell to these folks at low costs,… Read more »

bthylafh
Guest
bthylafh

I can’t believe you didn’t mention if it emulates the Genesis’s most important feature: Blast Processing.

derFunkenstein
Guest
derFunkenstein

I love that old commercial with the TV strapped to the back of the dragster: [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlulSyBI2aY[/url<] But Blast Processing is a real thing, too, and I should have covered it. 🙁 The short story is that during the H-blank interval, the system is capable of accessing the VDP to change the color palette. Sega used it in simple ways to add tons of color to the system. Anywhere you see Sonic underwater and part of the screen has a different color palette than the above-water section, it's because of a mid-frame palette swap. The technique introduces some noise into the image, and Sega cleverly disguised it as waves on top of the water. That's Blast Processing in action. And yes, the Mega Sg supports it. In more recent years, it's also been discovered that you could update the palette [i<]mid-scanline[/i<], and that means 512-color static images are possible. Jon Burton, founder of Traveler's Tales (LEGO series including LEGO Star Wars), runs a YouTube channel called Game Hut. He covers the technique in depth. Since it required such tight timing, there's basically no time to process any game logic. It would have been cool to have full-color title screens, but such is life. Here's his YouTube video: [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8qgArSqMsc[/url<]

Guest
ludi

Fantastic write-up! Now we just need to convince Secret Squirrel to do a “formal” edit of his ongoing PacMan arcade resto in the forum.

drfish
Guest
drfish

Seriously. Anyone that isn’t already following along needs to [url=https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=121338<]check it out[/url<].

MOSFET
Guest
MOSFET

At first I was wondering why SecretSquirrel needs to write any more than he’s already done. Then I reread “formal” … and smacked myself in the forehead. You’re probably right. It’s insanely interesting. Pageviews City.

willmore
Guest
willmore

If you squint, the outer packaging looks like a 3.5″ floppy.

Krogoth
Guest
Krogoth

“Gotta go fast!”

*Plays Green Hills Zone theme*

auxy
Guest
auxy

Emerald Hill Zone [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-ACSqCfeZc&t=8s<]had the better theme[/url<]! (。-`ω-)

Neutronbeam
Guest
Neutronbeam

Funky, thorough and most excellent review Ben!

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