Genre: Compilation Developer: Various Publisher: Sega Players: 1-2 Released: 3/22/05
Sega is pretty hit-and-miss when it comes to compilations. None of its sets have ever been perfect, from the obligatorily Sonic CD-less Sonic collections, to the audio-butchered Sega Smash Packs, all have lacked something vital. With the practice of rereleasing classics titles very much in vogue at the moment, it seemed like the perfect moment for Sega to learn from past mistakes and finally give the masses what they want.
…and in typical Sega style, it missed the boat…again.
Where do I begin with the Sega Classics Collection? I was so very excited at the announcement of this set, and it was with a heavy heart that I viewed the “remixed” graphics in screen shots across the internet. I’m all for visually remaking older games for the current consoles, but only when it’s done right, which is most certainly not the case here. If you’re going to remix something, shouldn’t it be to make it better?
Released as individual games in Japan, Sega was forced by Sony to put them all together on a single disc for a domestic release, which is a good thing for U.S. gamers looking to get the most for their money. The compilation features ten games in all: Golden Axe, Space Harrier, Virtua Racing, Fantasy Zone, Alien Syndrome, Tant R & Bonanza Bros., Columns, and Monaco GP. With all but Alien Syndrome and Tant R making an appearance on the Genesis in some form, many gamers were hoping to finally get arcade-perfect ports to play. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The first problem here is the graphics. Now, I’m no graphics whore to be sure, but even I cringed at the sight of Golden Axe and Alien Syndrome. The former, now stripped of its classic Genesis look, now more resembles a first generation PlayStation game than something released in 2005. Alien Syndrome doesn’t look bad per se, but has lost the cartoony visage that made it so appealing. To be truthful, a few of the games have benefited from the refitting, like Virtua Racing (probably the best version of that game now available), but most are worse for wear. Even Fantasy Zone, which is one of the better-looking gamer here, pales next to the parallax-laden and colorful Mega Drive Super Fantasy Zone.
Sega’s altering of the graphics produced mix results, and the same can be said about its tinkering with the gameplay of certain titles. For example, Space Harrier has now been made more to play like Panzer Dragoon, complete with lock-on feature and everything. Some may argue that this added dynamic makes the game more interesting, but the fact is, it isn’t the Space Harrier I remember. On the other hand, Alien Syndrome‘s run-‘n-gun style of play has been enhanced through the addition of a combo system that depends on the amount of enemies you kill. Moreover, the new. bloody-gushing deaths of your alien foes has given the game a teen rating, and while I admire the desire to refine the gameplay, Sega should have put those ideas to work in a real sequel.
Which is probably the most likely impression gamers will get from this compilation. There’s an overwhelming sense of laziness about the whole thing, and you’ll find that there are good ideas that weren’t properly implemented (like Golden Axe‘s dragon magic effect), and some that simply do not work at all. It’s as though Sega only gave the developers half the budget and development time for a single title, and asked them to work on ten. Everything just feels so half-assed and rushed.
The next problem is the selection of games itself. How many times are we going to see Golden Axe and Space Harrier in a Sega collection? Both have appeared in at least three each, and this is just overkill. Even more questionable is Sega’s choice of including Tant R, which has never been made available elsewhere. Sure, it’s a new game, but it’s not exactly going to make you run to your local electronics store, money in hand. There should have been a mixture of classics and first timers here, and Tant R alone isn’t enough. Was that decision made by the same fellow who chose to include Flicky in the Sonic Mega Collection Plus? One tends to wonder. Compilations should be a balanced mix of old favorites and never-before-seen gems, and Sega has plenty of both. Where is Choplifter? Zaxxon? Congo Bongo? Enduro Racer? Turbo OutRun? How about some of its great Master System games, like Kenseiden or the original Wonder Boy?
The lackluster quality of this set is made even more apparent by the fact that there are zero extras to be found. I guess Sega was so intimidated by how well Phantasy Star Collection on the Saturn turned out, that it has been unable to match it. Where’s the artwork? Sound test? Video or print ad gallery? How about an interview with Yu Suzuki, who seems to talk to everyone but the Pope lately? After Midway and Atari’s inclusion of excellent bonus features for the same price, there’s no excuse for such a bare-bones product. Few companies have such a rich console and arcade history as Sega, and the inclusion of such goodies alone would have made this worth the purchase price.
While we’re on that note, where are the original versions of these games? If you’re releasing a compilation to remind the masses of your gaming heritage and revive some franchises, doesn’t it make sense to include the original product? For a time, there was speculation that the games in original form were to be included, but this is sadly not the case. If they can release six on a stand-alone stick for $20, why can’t they include them here?
In any case, Sega fans will probably buy this regardless what anyone says. In all honestly, it’s not all bad for the price. Fantasy Zone is still great to play, and Virtua Racing is probably the best version of that game available anywhere (at least until it can be properly emulated). Bonanza Bros., Monaco GP, and Columns and good for a while; and OutRun actually looks pretty decent and plays as tight as ever. There just isn’t enough here, however, to keep you glued in your seat for long, and that is what a Sega collection should do. The Genesis versions of most of these games are either as good as or superior, which simply should not be. I still can’t believe how horrible Golden Axe turned out (great soundtrack though), and both Space Harrier and Alien Syndrome are just missing…something.
So if you’re in the market for some classic Sega goodness, go play your Genesis. If you’ve got a spare $20 and want to play a near-perfect version of Virtua Racing, then this disc is for you. Sega purists will avoid this like the plague, and casual gamers will be turned off by the PSone-level graphics. Until we actually get a decent collection from the House of Sonic, though, this will have to do.