Updated: Oct 5, 2019
Wal-Mart isn't generally a destination for fans of classic video games, but a certain retro-themed console has the Internet talking. Retailing for $44.00 at time of publication, the Legends Flashback by AtGames provides fifty classic releases right out of the box. However, it's the system's ability to play Sega Genesis titles via the SD card slot that's the selling point for a lot of gamers. Although it's fairly easy, it may not be totally legal, so we won't go into detail about it here! For the purposes of this review, we're looking at the Legends Flashback as an off-the-shelf, standalone console.
I was leery of the quality of this product. AtGames doesn't exactly have a sterling reputation in regards to quality control. In fact, Sega stopped working with the company after its handling of Sega Genesis titles on a console similar to the Flashback Legends. AtGames is best known for their Atari Flashback console, a proven seller since 2011. The company name also looks like a typo, which is why I didn't use it in the headline.
But I ended up buying the unit anyway, because I'm a sucker for Data East games, and the Legends Flashback has a slew of them. Sadly, one of these is all but unplayable. (We'll get to that.) But overall, I was very impressed with the content on this system. It's made up mostly of arcade games, and some are quite obscure. While you've still got your Dig-Dug, Mappy and the like, this is not the typical "classic game compilation," and that's a refreshing change.
Let's take a look at everything included on this little gem. And I do mean little! The console has a smaller footprint than a jewel case. It looks more like a video switching box than a game console, but at least it's not unnecessarily hulking. (I'm looking at you, TurboGrafx-16!) It is quite a bit bigger than the Tiny Arcade PACMAN.
Unlike a lot of these types of systems, the Legends Flashback contains no "filler" games. You probably know what I'm talking about; junk titles made in Adobe Flash. The pre-installed games are:
2. Act-Fancer Cybernetick Hyper Weapon
3. Astro Fantasia
4. Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja
5. Break Thru
6. BurgerTime (My wife loves this game.)
7. Burnin’ Rubber
8. Champions World Class Soccer
9. Cluster Buster (A combination of Arkanoid and Bust-A-Move, before either game was released. This game runs a little choppy, but it's still playable.)
10. Commando (Due to a pixelated cigarette in the end-of-stage screens, the game is hilariously preceded by the surgeon general's warning.)
11. Crude Buster (Devoid of government warnings, despite scenes of a character smoking a cigar. This title, also known as Two Crude and Two Crude Dudes, suffers from slowdown on the Flashback Legends.)
12. Darwin 4078
13. Dig Dug
14. Disco No.1 (A "draw boxes while avoiding things" game similar to Qix, this little-known entry is very addicting.)
15. Edward Randy, The Cliffhanger (It's not emulated well, and is a big disappointment.)
16. Express Raider
17. Fighting Ice Hockey
18. Forgotten Worlds
19. Galaga (Points off for input lag.)
20. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (One of the hardest games ever!)
21. Heavy Barrel (The Flashback Legends version retains the 360-degree rotating joystick control via buttons.)
22. Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja
23. Joe & Mac Returns
24. Judge Dredd
25. Lock ‘n Chase
27. Mega Man
28. Mega Man 2
29. Meikyu Hunter G (Data East would change the music on this game to Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters theme, and released it to non-Japanese markets as The Real Ghostbusters. I played that version in an arcade, circa 1988. The music gets annoying fast! Meikyu Hunter G is much more enjoyable with its nondescript score, and plays great on the Flashback Legends.)
31. Pirate Ship Higemaru
32. Pro Tennis
33. Pro Bowling
35. Rootin’ Tootin’
36. Scrum Try
37. Sly Spy/Secret Agent (This game was the selling point for me. It was one of my first two arcade cabinets, and I still have the marquee.)
38. Side Pocket
39. Shoot Out
40. Side Arms Hyper Dyne (A fantastic port of one of my favorite arcade shooters.)
41. Sky Kid
42. Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (This is kind of an odd choice, considering it pales to its successor, Super Street Fighter II: Turbo. Still, it's a strong entry.)
44. Super BurgerTime
45. Super Doubles Tennis
46. Super Pool III
47. Super Real Darwin
49. Tetris (This is the Famicom version! While it's not the most critically-acclaimed Tetris, it's certainly not a game you're likely to already own. I dig it, Jackson.)
50. Tournament Pro Golf
My main gripes about the Legends Flashback are as follows:
There's an input delay on Galaga, wherein the missiles fire after the button is released. It's not insurmountable, but it's definitely annoying. There's also an audio glitch in the opening music. When the PlayStation was pulling off Galaga without a hitch in the mid '90s, there's no excuse these days for anything less than a perfect port. Since this game has been released in every conceivable format, most gamers will have several copies of Galaga laying around. But if it's included it should work, so points are docked for this one.
The saving of game progress and high scores is possible on many titles, but like many relationships, it's complicated. An autosave feature would have been much appreciated.
The volume varies quite a bit from game to game.
There are no in-game options (difficulty, number of lives) implemented on the arcade titles. (The console games obviously have them.)
Worst of all the offenders is a pretty much unplayable port of The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy. With tons of sprites and scaling, this Data East action-adventure game from 1990 requires more muscle than the Legends Flashback can put out. Even on "overdrive mode," which vastly improves the console's performance on games such as Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, The Cliffhanger lags and feels broken. (Why is overdrive mode even an option? It should be running by default.) It's a shame, because The Cliffhanger should be awesome, but the Flashback Legends version just teases you. All I could think of when trying to play this game was the classic James Tolkan quote from Top Gun:
Now for the good points of the Flashback Legends. Thankfully, there are plenty!
Scanline filter: The Flashback Legends comes equipped exclusively with an HDMI port, meaning it's not intended to be used on cathode ray monitors. These games would all have originally been played on CRTs, either in arcades or on home televisions. Thankfully, the optional scanline filter does a very impressive job at mimicking the look of the old-school tubes:
(The good, continuted.)
The Legends Flashback includes two wired controllers, which are slightly smaller than the classic Sega Genesis six-button controller. They serve the purpose, but the Legends Flashback is also compatible with the original Sega pads, widely considered to be among the best controllers ever. It's great being able to play Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers on the Legends Flashback with the controller I used for years on the Genesis port. Be aware that if you press the "mode" button on your Genesis controller, your game will pause. I found this out by accident during a heated round of street fighting.
(The good, continued.)
The Flashback Legends roster is comprised of many overlooked arcade titles, including an impressive selection of Data East offerings. Data East!
At under a buck per game, you can't complain about the $44.00 price point. As of this writeup, the console was as low as $30.00 on Amazon, and I hear they're $35.00 at Family Dollar.
With a little effort, the system can act as a Genesis clone via the SD card slot. Officially, that slot is there as a means to store more game saves. (Wink, wink.)
The arcade games have to be "coined up," via pressing down and start. Some people may find this annoying, but I feel it adds a touch of authenticity.
Some of the games can be "rewound," so the player can pick up where their character bit the dust.
The menu's music is really catchy, and there's an option to turn it off.
The games are presented in their original aspect ratios. In non-geek, that means they aren't stretched to fill your HDTV. The remainder of the screen is occupied by a virtual bezel. You can even select from several bezel designs. Combined with the scanline filter, you'll feel like you're playing on a classic television.
I ended up being pleasantly surprised with the Flashback Legends from AtGames, and feel it merits a marginal "B" as it comes. You'll have a lot of fun with the console. It's not perfect, but there's still a lot of great content, including some fairly rare games. As soon as I got my Flashback Legends out of the box, I played it for about five hours. For research.
Atgames is also producing a full-sized arcade cabinet! Tentatively called "Legends Home Arcade," it will include more than 250 games, many Atari releases among them. You can be sure Retro Injection will cover the system, when it becomes a reality in late 2019. (It will almost certainly be better than those super-lame Arcade1UP "cabinets" you see beat and broken at Wal-Mart.)
If vintage arcade games aren't your thing, you probably wouldn't have read this far! Retro Injection has a metric ton of great gaming content, including an overview of Robot City, the biggest arcade in New York state!