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Sega Download: Genesis Live Arcade Vol. 01

Wow, less than two days after I mention the possibility of Sega releasing Genesis games on Xbox Live Arcade, Sonic The Hedgehog and the arcade version of Golden Axe appeared for download this past Wednesday. How’s that for a quick response! Eager to see how well the new Sega Vintage Collectionmade out in its XBLA debut, I quickly bought both games. It took me some time to make up my mind about this offering, but in the end I was convinced that there’s definitely potential here. This my friends, is the beginning of a whole new ball game for Genesis fans, and since it’s now confirmed that we’ll be getting some consistent 16-bit lovin’ from Sega via Microsoft’s amazing service, you can count on Sega-16 to be there to review each and every game that’s made available.

Although only a scant two games are up for download, the House of Sonic has promised that more are on the way. There’s bound to be a few arcade originals included, such as this month’s hack-‘n-slash classic, and we’re going to toss those in our reviews as long as there’s a corresponding Genesis version available for comparison. In other words, expect comprehensive coverage of your favorite Genesis games as they’re made available to new audiences!

On that note, I have to give it up to Sega for finally embracing what has become the best online gaming service on consoles today. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Wii’s Virtual Console, as I recognize the benefit of bringing classic games to a whole new generation of gamers. The thing is, we’ve only seen two Sega games appear on Live Arcade, and already they overshadow what’s being offered on the VC in the all-important “bang for your buck” department. What do I mean? Read on gentle gamer, read on…

The Benefits of Live Arcade

I’ve mentioned this before, but now that it’s a reality, I feel that it bears repeating. Whereas Nintendo is giving you a simple ROM for $8, you’re getting leaderboards, online play, and achievements on Live Arcade, and the ability to save wherever you want…. all for $5. That’s some serious value there, and while I have to admit that we could theoretically see more expansive games sell for more, since it hasn’t been cemented yet that all Vintage Collection games will share the same price point, this is a great start for the service.

Currently Available


Golden Axe

Yeah, I know it’s the arcade version, but since the Genesis one is available on the Virtual Console, why not offer our readers a comparison to see if this one is worth purchasing as well? When you first think about it, Golden Axe is pretty darn short, and you’ll blow through it in about twenty minutes. Once you look at the cool extras though, it more than becomes a great value for a measly $5. In addition to the achievements (which require playing with all three characters), you also have the added benefit of online play, something no VC game has yet offered. Being able to tackle Death Adder with a friend is something that I simply cannot emphasize enough, and I’m happy to report that Golden Axe has been spared the spotty online play that many of the retro games on Live have suffered.

Pass or Purchase? A major change for the Genesis faithful is that the arcade original doesn’t have the great duel mode from the Genesis port. I know the coin-op came first, but I have many a great memory of going through that survival mode. The crisper and more detailed graphics do a good job at trying to make up for it (it’s nice to see the bodies of my enemies lain out before me instead of flickering out of existence), but what really makes up for it is the aforementioned online play. Working together to complete the game is great fun. My experience was much better than with the lag-fest that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and things were generally smooth throughout. The infinite continues means both players can see things through to the end, but are they really needed? Golden Axe can be finished by one player without even continuing, so why the need for an infinite number?

I won’t lie to you; while it’s a great value, Golden Axe does have its problems. The collision detection is a bit off, especially when you’re fighting near the end of the screen. There are times when you’ll find yourself watching your swing pass through a foe, only to have him wallop you at the end of your attack animation. Moreover, it’s all over far too quickly, and while Golden Axe is great for those times when you just want to cut up some baddies quickly, you’re definitely going to be moving on after about a week. Still, it’s only $5, and the ability to join a friend online is a great asset. This is a definite impulse purchase for Live fans everywhere.

Sonic The Hedgehog

I can already read your mind. As you quickly glance to the “purchase” icon at the end of this review, you’re thinking he expects me to buy Sonic The Hedgehog AGAIN? Well yes, yes I do. It’s a classic, costs only a fiver, has achievements, and looks pretty darn good in HD. Plus, the speed run achievements are a great incentive to go back and really learn the level layouts.

Pass or Purchase? I’m sure that many people have already written this one off, but I urge you to at least check out the demo. Sonic is fun, and most gamers shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through it. We’re all waiting for more meaty releases, but this is not a bad way to get the ball rolling.

Bottom Line

As I said above, many are probably opting to wait for more and better games, and Sega’s luckily got us covered there. According to the software giant, we’re soon to bathe in more Genesis goodness in the forms of Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage 2 (with online co-op!), and Sonic The Hedgehog 2. All are to be priced at the same $5 the initial games cost, and all will have the standard Live bonuses of achievements and leaderboards. And while I’m on the subject of leaderboards, what’s with the funky way of tallying my score? Unlike just about every game on the service, Sonic and Golden Axe both use some kind of wonky format in deciding how well I did. Apparently, continuing will screw up your score, so high score fiends will have to beat them in one sitting. It’s a decidedly unconventional way of maintaining the leaderboard, and the lack of clarification as to how it works is sure to confuse gamers the first time they boot up either game.

Regardless of these minor quibbles, I’m excited about the prospect of Genesis games appearing on Live Arcade. After months of speculation, it’s finally true, and the future is bright to the prospect of playing your favorite games online. Let me put it to you this way: how does online Gunstar Heroes sound? Pretty darn good, doesn’t it?

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