Based upon these travesties, there was strong evidence that Sega's Mega Drive, the successor to my beloved Master System, was a proverbial "dirty son". Had I not already spent a great deal of money that I didn't have on it, it's highly likely I'd have propelled the thing into the nearest dog toilet.
It wasn't until I picked up Revenge of Shinobi and Castle of Illusion that I started to think purchasing the Mega Drive might've been worth it. Broadly, they both marked a turning point, and from then onwards *most* of what I bought for the console justified the initial outlay.
Truth is, the Mega Drive always had a much higher tat-to-good ratio than its eventual rival, the Super NES. Sega, by its own admission, was far more relaxed about quality, preferring a noisy, edgy, catalogue where quantity filled the trousers.
During the years of the great 16-bit console wars, this approach obscured many - myself included - to the fact that there were many genuinely great Mega Drive games, It's only now, with the benefit of several decades of hindsight, that Sega's 16-bit homunculoid has become sort of universally beloved, bitter divisions, and frustration with Sega's policies, seeming so unimportant in an era where not a day can unfurl without some new gaming drama.
Given this renaissance, it's inevitable that Sega has finally gotten around to pumping out a proper Mega Drive Mini, in the vein of Nintendo's NES and Super NES nostalg-o-replicas. And get this: it costs just £69 - the rudest price, which also happened to be the exact same RRP Virtua Racing sold for when it was released for the Mega Drive in 1994.
Obvious aesthetic appeal aside, the Mega Drive Mini is clearly all about "dem games", and there are 40 or so here.
More ubiquitous candidates - Sonic 1 and 2 (plus Spinball), Ecco, Streets of Rage 2, Comix Zone, Earthworm Jim, Strider - are joined by slightly-less-heralded classics which pushed the hardware - Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Heady, Thunderforce 3, Vectorman - the odd curio, such as the previously unreleased Mega Drive version of Tetris (hardly Star Fox 2, but it'll do), and the surprising inclusion of two Disney games: the aforementioned Castle of Illusion, and its follow-up World of Illusion.
There's some filler of course. Space Harrier 2 is a juddering mockery, Eternal Champions is no Super Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition (which is also on here), and the Mega Drive version of Virtua Fighter is the very reason "Why?" was invented.
In an extremely nice touch, if you change the language in the settings, it also changes the games to their localised versions, complete with the appropriate cover artwork. It's mostly a subtle-ish thing, but in a few cases the differences are dramatic (most obviously, Probotector becoming Contra: Hard Corps). It's a shame they didn't also include Decapattack, so that we could, at last, compare it to its wildly different Japanese incarnation, Magical Hat no Buttobi Tābo! Daibōken.
There are the usual options in terms of playing; a wholly pointless (and not entirely convincing) simulated CRT overlay, a few different borders, or - for actual monsters - the option to stretch the picture to fill the screen. It's all pretty standard.
It's hard to fault the Mega Drive Mini. The selection of games - beautifully ported here - offers something for everyone, and the language option is a sublime touch.
You could grumble that it only comes with two three-button pads, and not the six-button ones. You could moan about there not being the full Mega Drive Sonic catalogue. And you might, like me, be taken aback by just how difficult many of these games actually are.
No, there's no way to (officially) add to the selection of software (something all these Minis would really benefit from), but, ultimately, it's reasonably priced for what you're getting - more games than on any of the other mini replicas to date, housed in a near-perfect, half-size, recreation of the original console.
It's notable that it's the first official Sega Hardware since the Dreamcast, and as such made me unexpectedly wistful for an era where everything seemed so much less portentous, more fun and playful.
Though what has really surprised me is that the Mega Drive Mini, unlike those released by Nintendo, hasn't stoked the usual tedious debates about who these replica consoles are for. There has been little of the tired "Murrrh... why would I buy this when I can get a Raspeberry Pi which has a billion games on it?" whining.
And that's good: because some of us just like the collector's nature of these tiny machines, and don't want to be overwhelmed with choice. It suggests that Sega's autumnal renaissance is only just getting started.
SCORE: 16-bits out of 20-bits