SEGA’s last handheld caught a lot of flack in its day. It was large, clunky, and while I’ve found accusations of the battery life to be rather outlandish, its paltry 3-5 hours of battery life was nothing compared to its contemporaries, particularly the hugely successful Game Boy.
In the days since, though, it seems people have grown a little more appreciative of the Nomad. The system has sold regularly on eBay for between $70 and $150 for over a decade now, having become sought after by collectors and Genesis fans alike as an ideal way to experience the vast Genesis library.
One of the Nomad’s most notable accomplishments is that it remains the best portable Genesis available, despite portable Genesis clones flooding the market in recent years. These clones have unfortunately suffered from numerous issues, ranging from poor build quality to incompatibility with games to, most surprisingly, a lack of stereo sound. The latter is not only a universal issue in every single Genesis clone I’ve played, but also the most irritating as it ruins the soundtracks of numerous games including Sonic 3 and Ristar.
The Nomad is the only portable system capable of providing a near flawless way to get the Genesis experience. So long as the game doesn’t feature copious amounts of small text, just about every game from any region can be played on the system. Combine this with a build quality you’ll only get from a true first party system from an experienced hardware manufacturer, and you have a system that continues to defeat all challengers and remain the best portable Genesis ever conceived.
Molded For Hands
Yes, the Nomad was big. It was heavy. In fact in pure surface area I believe it’s one of the largest handhelds ever made, only beaten by perhaps the TurboExpress. The cartridge slot was literally large enough to eat some handhelds that have come out since. Nevertheless, I will still stand by this: the Nomad was comfortable to hold. From the rounded grip on the left side of the console to the impressions on the back, the Nomad is incredibly comfortable to hold for its size.
The system’s six face buttons made sure every Genesis game could be played the way they were meant to be. Street Fighter 2, the Mortal Kombat series and Comix Zone can all be enjoyed with their six button configuration! The buttons were large and had the sort of satisfying click you would expect from first party hardware.
Probably the most unique aspect of the Nomad’s design was its ability to act as a complete standalone Genesis. So long as you had no desire to use the SEGA CD or 32x, you can effectively replace your standard Genesis with it! You can connect it directly to a television through an AV outlet build into the system, and you can connect a second controller to the system for 2 player games either on the go or on the big screen.
If Will Smith Were a Video Game Console
SEGA really knew how to make their hardware look sexy in the ’90s. Everything they made had a sleek, futuristic look that stood in stark contrast to the bland gray boxes Nintendo had a tendency of designing. The Nomad represents SEGA at the top of their game, sporting a very unique 90s style that absolutely screamed cool. The Nomad forwent the usual symmetrical aesthetics common in handhelds in the day, instead opting for slanted , uneven look. This lent the Nomad a very cool, unique look that made it look truly next gen when sat next to its bland looking competition.
The Nomad is Awesome
For all of its flaws, the Nomad is easily one of my favorite handheld game systems. Do I have to carry it in a camera case that can hold the system, extra batteries, and a few extra Genesis carts? Sure. But back in 2000 when I got mine, the extra effort was well worth being able to take a portable Genesis wherever I went. Back in 2000 lithium ion batteries were just becoming widely available, and with them my Nomad lasted far longer than it would have on the conventional batteries available in 1996. I was able to take it to FuncoLand and actually try out Genesis games in the store, which allowed me to discover gems like General Chaos and Rocket Knight Adventures before I had resources like SEGA-16 to fall back on.
Even after the Gameboy Advance came out in 2001, the Nomad continued to turn heads when I took it out in public. “They don’t make them like that anymore” a waiter once told me while I was playing Sonic 2’s half pipe special stage, and in a way he was right. At the time the idea of a backlit system had been all but abandoned, and while the GBA was definitely a graphically superior system to the Nomad, it could often be hard to tell in those days.
The Nomad is still typically my preferred way to play my Genesis library. While I typically have a Genesis connected to my television, I use it more for my SEGA CD library than anything else. While I know I’m in the minority, to me the Nomad will always be the ideal way to play a Genesis game.