Genre: Compilation Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
If you are new to the Mega Drive and want to build up your collection in a fast and easy way, there is nothing better than compilation cartridges. And there isn’t a better way for developers to milk out those last couple of cents from those old games either. It’s amazing that not ALL games released these days are compilations. Wait, scratch that last one. Anyway, here is a review of a cartridge that had a whopping six games on it. Even if there is a brown banana in the bunch, it is still a worthy purchase. Read on and find out why.
I didn’t want to buy them separately. Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and Columns are classics in their own right, but there are far better installments or similar games to be found on the console. So why bother paying for three games and shipping when I can get them all on the same cartridge? But that is just half of it. There are also Super Hang-On, The Revenge of Shinobi, and Sonic The Hedgehog to be found. What am I talking about? 6-Pak of course!
6-Pak was released in the U.S. and Brazil. The American version is available in both a clamshell case and a cardboard box. Europeans had a whole series of similar cartridges called Mega Games, where the first one is exactly like 6-Pak, except it has World Cup Italia ’90 instead of Sonic The Hedgehog. Then there is also a Mega Games 10 in Asia and Brazil, for those who want to save even more shelf space.
The best game on the cartridge is The Revenge of Shinobi. It is a solid platformer starring ninja Joe Musashi, who is out to avenge the death of his master and take back his beloved Naoko from the crime syndicate Neo Zeed. The Revenge of Shinobi didn’t redefine its genre when it was released in 1989, but it did set a new standard for how things should look and sound. The audiovisual appearance made a crossover in American-Japanese culture, taking its setting in ninja villages and techno clubs with corresponding soundtracks, followed by rocky tunes in a junkyard for cars. The atmosphere has every piece in its place, where you enjoy each part of the game equally. The only flaw about this version is that the Batman and Godzilla bosses were later replaced with a vampire and a skeleton dragon.
Sonic The Hedgehog is quite a famous game that most of you probably already have. As a blue hedgehog, you are out to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik, who has trapped your friends inside robots. When looking at it today, it might not be so special, but back then Sonic’s animation, moves and speed were revolutionary. Many companies tried to ride on the wave Sonic made, with mascots like Sparkster, Bubsy, and Zool. A nice extra are the rotating special levels, something I think mastermind Yuji Naka implemented to show off the greatness of the 68k processor. Sonic The Hedgehog supports beautiful graphics, as well as music by Masato Nakamura, bassist in the Japanese pop band Dreams Come True. Unfortunately, this is the American version. The Euros might like it better than their 50 Hz-raped Sonic, but when the superior Japanese version was available, with more parallax scrolling and a fixed bug, I see no point in going with the American version again.
Golden Axe is a classic Sega game. Choosing among three different characters, you will fight the evil Death Adder who has taken the king and the princess as prisoners (I don’t know what happened to the queen). The game is a hack and slash where you can walk up and down on the screen, do different attacks with your weapon and also cast magic. I must admit I don’t like this franchise very much. Everything is too primitive. If you are stuck between two enemies, there is pretty much no way to get out of it but by dying. It is still some good filler to have on the cartridge, and it happens that I pick it out once in a while just to see if I’ve really missed any of its potential. Playing together with a friend works well, but there are many better co-op games on the console to pick before this.
Streets of Rage was a rush-job made to compete with the SNES port of Final Fight. It is based on the Golden Axe engine and has borrowed elements from other games as well. It is, like Golden Axe, nothing special when there were better games in the same genre released on the Mega Drive later on, such as the two sequels. Streets of Rage has three characters, but they are very similar to each other, and the number of moves are very limited. The soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, who also did the one for The Revenge of Shinobi, is perhaps the best part of the game. Streets of Rage is good to have on this compilation for the same reason as Golden Axe: it holds a legacy worth owning. Without it, we wouldn’t have the system-defining sequel.
Sega also has the puzzle genre covered here. When Nintendo bought the rights to Tetris, Sega needed something to counter with. It got Columns. Three vertical jewels in different colours are falling down. You must sort them so three of the same colour are in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row. Lather, rinse, repeat. Unlike the Tetris blocks, the jewels obey the laws of gravity, which may cause them to fall into new rows of three same jewels and make combos. Puyo Puyo later stole this concept, but it is still better than Columns. Columns has some pretty decent music by Tokuhiko Uwabo, of Phantasy Star fame. The main theme has a part extremely similar to Phantom of the Opera by Iron Maiden, (which is my favourite song). Columns is another one of those games you don’t want to buy separately, so it suits a compilation well. It also serves a great purpose in choosing 6-Pak for the single game you bring with your Nomad on that short trip, as puzzle games are easy to just pick up and play for that matter.
If there is one genre I prefer to play in the arcades or on new consoles, it is racing games. I want them to be realistic, and that is harder to accomplish with consoles from 1988. Super Hang-On is proof of this. The graphics are very minimalistic. Everything looks like deserts with some badly fake-scaled trees or signs by the sides of the roads to annoy you. The animation is choppy, which makes the controls very unresponsive and hard. The game has an interesting Original Mode where you race on various places the world over to earn money which will help you get a better bike, parts for it etc., but it doesn’t hold up the boring and repetitive gameplay. This game is by far the worst of the six. Ignore this one and visit your local arcade (mine is on the Finland-ferry) instead.
This is a very good compilation to get started with if you are a new Mega Drive fan. You will get to know some of the most famous franchises ever on the system. Too bad it is region-locked, but there is always the Mega Games 6 for Europeans instead. For old time collectors, it is an easy way to stock up on those classics you don’t want to throw out loads of cash on separately. The two major disadvantages about it are the inferior versions of the Sonic and Shinobi games and the inclusion of Super Hang-On. The three other games aren’t the best, but they are still worthing picking up once in a while once you are tired of the better classics. 6-Pak is at least three times better than anything by 2Pac and if you glue it on your stomach, the girls might love you.