I was so excited when I found out that Sega were putting together a collection of M2’s absolutely fantastic 3D remasters on the 3DS. I have already reviewed Thunder Blade (included in this package) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a game that looks especially stunning in 3D, but the idea of having the whole selection available on a single cart seemed like a brilliantly old school concept. These games, along with a bunch of others have been available to purchase individually on the eShop for quite some time, but there was just something cool about the idea of them all being brought together into a single package ala the little played, Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1 on Dreamcast.
Sadly, while the collection is certainly very good, it’s lacking a lot of the classics already available on the platform. It might seem like a strange decision to omit the likes of Gunstar Heroes, After Burner II and Street of Rage I & II (all of which have been remastered beautifully by M2), but this classic collection is essentially part 2 of a 3 part series…..well, as far as Japan is concerned anyway. All 3 Classic Collections have been available in Japan for a while, but for some reason, they’ve only released part 2 of the trilogy over here, and in doing so, have left out an array of Sega’s biggest hits. I guess the decision to bring over one collection at a time makes sense, but when there is no sign of the additional collections making it to our shores any time soon (if ever), leaving out such stone cold classics as Space Harrier and OutRun proves a tough pill to swallow.
Still, as disappointing as the omissions might be, there is still plenty of quality to find on what proves to be an eclectic collection filled with a strange combination of huge hits and rare curios. The most obvious crowd pleaser comes in the form of the original Sonic the Hedgehog, a game that, while arguably surpassed by its fantastic follow up, is one that I always preferred. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia, but the first few stages of the original Sonic the Hedgehog remain utterly brilliant, and thanks to the top-tier emulation work completed by M2, looks and plays better than ever before.
In fact, you can apply these sentiments across the board. Such is the quality of M2’s emulation work (which isn’t even technically emulation as they use the original code to get as impressive results as possible), each and every game in the collection could be said to be the finest version ever released. With a host of brilliant visual filters that recreate the feel of playing on an old CRT monitor for home console ports and even ones that replicate the old hydraulic cabinets used for games like Thunder Blade, the level of commitment afforded to each and every game in the collection is exemplary. Some games inevitably benefit more than others, but the attention to detail across the board is of a consistently sky high standard.
As great as Sonic the Hedgehog might be, for a lot of Sega fans such as myself, it will be the curios that prove especially interesting. Power Drift is arguably the big selling point in this regard. Yu Suzuki’s much loved but considerably less played racer is here in all of its arcade glory with an all new widescreen mode to make the most of its more advanced visuals. It’s still relatively basic by today’s standards, but thanks to its large sprites and classic Sega blue skies, it remains a genuinely good looking game to this day.
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the Master System’s, Maze Walker which, while intriguing due to it originally being released alongside the Master System’s SegaScope 3-D glasses is as bad today as it was way back in 1987. Despite its rudimentary visuals, the 3D does look great here, but beyond its primary gimmick (one that is far less effective when every game in the collection is in 3D), this is a simplistic top down action game with little in the way of redeeming features. Again, as a curio, it’s an interesting addition, but with so many great games not making the cut, its inclusion feels somewhat forced.
Speaking of forced – why the hell did Sega choose the Mega Drive (Genesis) version of Altered Beast over the far superior arcade original? The game was never as good as the premise promised, but despite its somewhat simplistic mechanics, it remains a favourite for many fans of 16-bit video games, and while I appreciate that the majority of gamers would have played Altered Beast on the Mega Drive, there is no getting around just how much better the arcade version of the game is. It’ll prove a pleasant walk down memory lane of course, but despite the visuals holding up surprisingly well, the already shoddy gameplay feels especially ropey when experienced in 2016.
One game that does hold up extremely well is Fantasy Zone II. A bright, beautiful and utterly bonkers side-scrolling shooter, this arcade classic might not resonate with fans like other games in the collection, but it remains a fantastic little shooter, one that benefits more than most from the move to 3D. For some bizarre reason, this collection also includes the inferior Master System port which, while sure to be appreciated by those with fond memories of its original release, will feel like a somewhat pointless addition to most. Sure, it provides an interesting point of comparison, but again, with so many great games sitting on the bench, its inclusion becomes harder to understand.
Less difficult to understand are the inclusions of the brilliant Thunder Blade and Galaxy Force II. Both have a hint of the Space Harrier about them as you fly your attack helicopter and spaceship respectively into the screen, and while both are relatively simplistic (as most late 80s / early 90s arcade games were), both remain hugely enjoyable to this day with the arcade version of Galaxy Force II looking especially fantastic in 3D. Don’t get me wrong, Thunder Force is still great fun to play and is home to an especially fantastic soundtrack, but in terms of impressing on a purely technical level, nothing in this collection comes close to Galaxy Force II.
The final game in the collection is another arcade game and another absolute classic. There have been plenty of imitators since its release back in 1994 (there are probably a few sitting on your phone right now), but there is something special about Puyo Puyo 2, and something equally special about being able to play a puzzle game that isn’t ramming advertisements down your throat and constantly asking you for a little more money. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but playing a puzzle game without advertisements and turn limits proved a surprisingly refreshing experience. It helps of course that it’s a fantastic puzzle game in its own right. It’s nothing you haven’t seen imitated a million times since, but it remains as addictive today as it was back in 1994 and a fine addition to the collection.
Some will inevitable (and rightly) begrudge the lack of games such as Gunstar Heroes, Street of Rage, After Burner II and OutRun, but despite these notable omissions, the first Sega 3D Classics Collection to make it to the West remains an enjoyable and extremely eclectic collection of Sega classics. With a decent mix of big hitters and lesser played curios, this collection delivers plenty of nostalgia while leaving enough room for games that many will have never played before. Some games are inevitably better than others, but the work done by M2 is spectacular across the board and is ultimately the big difference between this and any number of other retro collections available. It’s standard practice to hope for a decent emulation when it comes to classic games, but here, M2 have delivered the preeminent home version of every game in the collection.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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