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What makes Switch so special is its enticing blend of portable and console gaming in a single device, but while Nintendo may be the first company to find real success with this idea, it certainly wasn’t the first to try. Flash back to October 1995 and Sega released the Genesis Nomad – a handheld/home console hybrid with a remarkably similar feature set to the Switch. Mobile and big screen play? No problem. Support for multiple players? It’s in there. As the Switch has proven, the basic console hybrid idea is brilliant, but as with many of Sega’s early schemes, the Nomad didn’t quite pan out.
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that back in the 90s, 2D era consoles weren’t anything like the power-hungry processing beasts we have on the market today, and as such, the Nomad certainly wasn’t the first full-colour handheld based on a living room console – we can look to NEC’s TurboExpress, 100 per cent compatible with the TurboGrafx 16/PC Engine, as a good example of this. Sega’s GameGear – effectively a miniaturised Master System – is another prime candidate. However, none of these examples could also operate as a living room console in the way that Nomad and Switch can, and it’s an important differentiation.
And what made the Nomad so cool at the time was that it really was the complete Mega Drive/Genesis package in a portable form factor, fully battery-operated and equipped with a 3.25-inch LCD screen and a built-in six-button controller. There was also nigh-on complete compatibility with support for standard cartridges – plugging in the 3D-accelerated Virtua Racing and playing it on the move is almost like a vision of the future to come (and no, 32X doesn’t work – unless you want to mod the machine). And yes, a standard controller port is also included on the Nomad, allowing a second player to join in on the action.