Thursday, June 10, 2010

REVIEW: The Firecore Genesis

Before the insanity that is E3 begins, I thought I'd give a hardware review of the Firecore Classic Console. Manufactured by Innex under license by SEGA, the Firecore is essentially a mini SEGA Genesis. Fittingly, it was around this time last year that the Firecore as well as its mobile brother the Retrogen were previewed at E3. You can check out the preview here, but I warn you: a cringe inducing interview awaits.

As I said, the Firecore is essentially a mini SEGA Genesis but is better compared to Majesco's Genesis Model 3, released in 1998. Like the model 3, the Firecore is not compatible with the 32X and Sega CD add-ons. Also, both the Model 3 as well as the Firecore have less than ideal audio (more on that in a bit). Unlike the Model 3, however, the Firecore has a few extra features. The first is a handy little switcher located on the back for use in playing imports. Have a PAL Mega Drive cart? Simply pop in the game, switch from "NTSC" to "PAL" and power it up. Much easier than modding.

Also, you'll notice that the front of the console has an infrared receiver, for use with wireless controllers. Unfortunately, Innex has yet to produce wireless controllers and the existing official SEGA ones will not work making this about as useful as a Dreamcast karaoke machine. Here's hoping they revel wireless controllers at this years E3.

More portable than a Nomad!

The biggest and best feature of the Firecore is the ability to play 20 built-in licensed SEGA games! The games are accessible via a simple menu that appears when the system is powered up without a cartridge. Games are listed in two pages with a small screencap of the selected game. While games include some that have been overplayed in past compilations, there are quite a few classics to be found: 
Sonic and Knuckles, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Gain Ground, Arrow Flash, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja, Ecco, Jr., Ecco, Golden Axe, Crack Down, Altered Beast, Flicky, Decap Attack, Cyber Police Eswat: City Under Siege, Alien Storm, Shadow Dancer, Columns III, Sonic Spinball, Jewel Master, Kid Chameleon, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine.

The console also comes with two wired controllers, which are very similar to the official 6-button pads. While a bit lighter than the official pads, they're responsive and buttons have a solid push to them. No mushy pads here. Still, I prefer the official pads and thankfully the Firecore is compatible with the ones I've tested. I did note that when plugging in the official pads, the connector wasn't as tight as the Firecore pads. As long as you aren't yanking on the cord, it stays put and won't throw you off mid-game.

While the above sounds all well and good, there are two big negatives about the Firecore. The first is that the console only outputs composite video and mono audio. No S-video and no stereo. The second negative is that, like the Retrogen, audio is in no way true to the original Genesis sounds. If you are used to the lovely sounds of a Model 1, Model 2 or Nomad, then your ears will be in for a surprise when you hear what almost sound like low-fi remixes. I'm no technical expert, so I can't explain why this is, but I can share a video I made comparing the Firecore and my Saturn, both playing 'Sonic the Hedgehog'.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? Despite this glaring negative, I can't fully write off the Firecore. It has a number of cool features, especially once the wireless controllers are released. Also, the size makes it perfect for taking on a trip or for a crowded entertainment cabinet.

The Good
  • very small
  • region switcher
  • 20 built-in games
  • eventual wireless support
  • 2 controllers included
  • travel worthy
The Bad
  • composite video
  • mono audio
  • audiophiles will hate it
  • eventual(?) wireless support
The Verdict
The Firecore should not be your first Genesis. Buy a Model 1 or 2. However, if you already have an original Genesis, a Firecore makes for a nice second console for use in another room of the house or for use on the go.

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  1. Victor -hernandezJune 11, 2010 at 2:46 AM

    Thanks, that helped me a bit about deciding to buy the console.

  2. That Sound is just ugly. Its about as bad as the sound on my retro duo, for nes games.

    the nes part on the retro duo was basically an afterthought - they shouldnt have even included it.

    Retro duo is basically just an excellent SNES clone, with a nes slot thrown in as a marketing tool.

    It "Sounds" to me like they also didnt bother to include a full, seperate Z80 compatible in the firecore, like the Gen 1, 2, and the X-EYE have.

    It "sounds" like they just used a GEN-ON-A-CHIP like they used for the nes part of the retro duo.

  3. To me, it simply sounds higher-pitched. Perhaps they increased the Mhz too much for the sound processing, thus altering music and sfx playback to a higher rate/pitch

  4. "Like the model 3, the Firecore is not compatible with the 32X and Sega CD add-ons"
    Actually, the Genesis 3 IS compatible witht he 32X add on. Just not the Sega CD. I know for a fact, I have everything. :p