Welcome to the first installment of What’s the Frequency Kenneth?, a new column of editorials that ponders questions about the state of all things Sega and 16-bit. With each volume, I’ll be taking a deeper look at some of the issues going on in gaming as they relate to everyone’s favorite Sega machine. Think of this as a type of op-ed (though I’m not outside the writing team) designed to spur discussion in our forums. More than a few Sega fans have been left perplexed over the years, and there’s always reason to wonder what was going on. I eagerly invite all of our readers to join our boards to participate in this discussion. It’s home to a passionate and devoted community that’s as friendly as they are knowledgeable.
Let’s start this new series by discussing Sega’s recent release of yet another collection of Genesis games. This latest compilation arrived on PCs in March of 2011, and it compiles a four volume retail set that only saw release in Europe. Normally, I’d be as happy as anyone at the thought of a new collection of Genesis titles, but one need only look at the box cover to see that this set is yet another retread of familiar territory. With this latest collection, Sega will have released what is mostly the same batch of games three times on consoles. The Sega Genesis Collection (2006) and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) are now being joined by the Sega Genesis Classics Collection Gold Edition, which arrived on March 15. If you haven’t bought these games the first bunch of times they were released in the past four years, don’t fret; you now have yet another turn at bat!
Third Time’s the… Third Time
Every time Sega chooses to re-release its core group of Genesis hits, it causes controversy. There are those who argue that this is a good thing, as it offers new gamers and the younger generation the chance to get in on some great, classic gaming. While this may be true – and I’m all for young people coming into the 16-bit fold – in this case I feel that there is such thing as too much of a good thing. One has to wonder if Sega is really banking on casual gamers and newcomers comprising the majority of sales. Are Genesis collections really meant mostly for people who never had the console or are too young to remember it?
Even if this were the case, it still doesn’t address the main problem with these releases: they repeat the same games over and over. How many chances do newcomers need to buy the original Sonic The Hedgehog games? This generation alone, they’re available on the Sonic’s Collection, Xbox Live Arcade, the Sonic Classic Collection on the DS, and as of March the first two games are on the Playstation Network. That doesn’t even include the plethora of previous compilations we’ve seen. Other games in the set have been made available recently as well, some even appearing on both previous discs. To show just how much of this new collection is recycled (79% to be exact), I’ve made a handy little compilation list (PDF file, 316 KB).
So Sega gives newcomers multiple chances to play the same games, but where does that leave its fanbase? What about those who have these games already, many of them still on cartridge? Unless they’re into interviews and the odd unlockable, there isn’t much here for them. Even then there isn’t a lot of new content, as much of the interviews in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection are essentially the same as those on the Sega Genesis Collection (as are some of the unlockable arcade games). Even the selection of repeated games is puzzling. Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection included the entire Streets of Rage trilogy, but this set is missing the third game? Both previous compilations had all three Golden Axe titles, but this one only has two? And some of the games that are actually new here have already been made available on their own, like Gunstar Heroes, which can be bought for a song on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and the Wii Virtual Console. Heck, we discussed buying Treasure’s classic from the VC in the very first installment of our Wii Virtual Console series, way back in December of 2006!
Why Not Break Some New Ground?
In fairness, the rehashing might not be avoidable. Part of the reason for all the repetition so far might be because Sega’s well of non-licensed original games is running dry. Think about it; what other new Genesis games could be included on a set that didn’t rehash? Great titles like Castle and World of Illusion, Ghostbusters, and Spider-Man are out because of licensing, and others like Forgotten Worlds, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and MERCS can’t be used because they’re Capcom titles that Sega only reprogrammed under license. The herd becomes pretty thin once you weed out what’s already been used and what’s disqualified.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be more Sega collections though. Instead of tossing the same old ROMs on disc, why not try something new for a change? How about a Sega CD disc? Load that baby up with great games like Dark Wizard, Sonic CD, Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side and Shining Force CD. Heck, you can even toss in a couple of FMV games, and I’ll bite. Sega could even make some 32X games unlockable, and we could have interviews with Sega of America and Europe personalities this time around or at least some new Japanese developers.
I would even be grateful for a Master System assortment. How about a collection of classic arcade titles like Power Drift, Enduro Racer, Quartet, and others? There’s just so much else out there in Sega’s history that we haven’t seen brought back yet, and it’s unfortunate to watch the quick cash runs that have been periodically photocopied and released. The fans want more and Sega has the power to give it. Every now and then, we get a flash of the Sega of old, a moment of clarity where memories of a proud hardware heritage come to the surface. It’s hopefully only a matter of time before visions of those classic titles that made Sega such a gaming powerhouse come together to inspire the collection we’ve all been waiting for. With any luck, that day will come sooner, rather than later.