Growing up as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, my family didn’t have a Nintendo Entertainment System like most others in my neighborhood. Instead, my parents bought my brother a Sega Genesis, the 16-bit video game system that promised to do what Nintendon’t. My brother and I had already been interested in video games because of the expose from our dad’s. Games like Jumpman and Forbidden Forest were my Super Mario Bros. and Dragon Quests. But to play Altered Beast for the very first time was a total game changer in my interest in gaming. To play on the Genesis felt like going from watching movies on 8mm one day and DVD the next. I mean, these games were gorgeous. When a chance to review the Sega Mega Drive Collection, I jumped at the opportunity. I indulged myself with nostalgic gaming on the PlayStation 3 through Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Genesis Collection, and rejoiced to have them on my PlayStation 4.
I was surprised, then, to discover that this game is pretty much a direct port of the same collection that first released on PCs via Steam, which was more of a platform to purchase individual games, a la carte style. And it appears that little has changed during the transition. The UI is modeled after a young person’s room from the era (which looks suspiciously like the one I had growing up) replete with all kinds of Genesis/Mega Drive related posters and memorabilia. The room is ostensibly the main menu screen where you can adjust audio settings via a stereo system, play with the time of day (even setting it to match the system clock), and fiddle with emulation settings. The part of the room that draws the most attention, however, is the bookshelf where your virtual game collection awaits your discerning and thoughtful stare as you decide on which game to play first.
Sega Mega Drive Classics offers a solid collection of video games that helped to define the console. Many of these games will be immediately familiar if you’ve explored previous compilations like Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. The staples are here: Bio-Hazard Battle, Comix Zone, Altered Beast, Columns, Alien Storm, Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle, and Kid Chameleon. Classic RPGs like Phantasy Star II-IV, Sword of Vermilion, and both Shining Force adventures exist alongside fan favorite trilogies Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. There a couple of surprises, to me at least, including quite possibly one of the greatest games developed for the platform, ToeJam & Earl (and its kinda-sorta-not-as-great-as-the-first sequel, Panic on Funkatron). Perennial console mascot (and, sadly, modern-day punching bag) Sonic the Hedgehog has a home here though not in as big a capacity one might expect. All in all, the game’s contained within are strongly representative of the game machine they were designed for nearly 30 years ago.
If memory serves me correctly, this is the third time the PlayStation has played host to Sega Genesis games. The first was 2006’s Sega Genesis Collection and the second was it’s sequel, Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Collection. And here we are, in 2018, with another collection packed with nearly the same titles from twelve years ago. In light of that, I don’t feel too greedy when I express my say that the offerings have gotten stale. Why rehash the same games again? Where is Ghouls ‘n Ghosts? Where is Afterburner II? What about Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse? Mortal Kombat? NHL ‘94? Out Of This World? Aladdin? Quackshot starring Donald Duck? Forgotten Worlds? The Immortal? Dune: The Battle of Arrakis? Eternal Champions? The games offered in the Sega Mega Drive Collection are great but the collection ignores other titles that were spectacular in their own right. I mean, how many times do you want to pay for Sonic the Hedgehog and Altered Beast? In lieu of oft repeated samplings, I would really love to get my hands on legal versions of Star Control, Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, and Target Earth over retreads like Comix Zone, Columns, and Kid Chameleon. Not Space Harrier II, though. I can play that forever–because man, the music is fantastic.
There was something else about the Sega Mega Drive Classics that bothered me, especially since it had never been an issue in previous collections. I’d be playing a game and every once in a while, it would freeze for a split second. While this wasn’t a big problem for gameplay, what got to be really grating was the harsh, metallic audio lockup that accompanied the freeze. During a long play of Space Harrier II, I’d say this came up four or five times over the course of a half hour. And to make matters worse, this was something that happened in every single game in the collection. Thankfully, this is the only technical problem I ran into. The emulated games run well enough and on my big TV, they look great–warts and all. You do have an option to tweak the graphics to your liking, like adding in scanlines or smoothing the 2D sprites which do a great job of removing the jagged edges. It’s not quite an HD remaster but it looks pretty good (especially Sonic the Hedgehog). These are cool technical features but that’s about the most extraordinary it gets. I personally believe that there’s value in offering bonus content, be it full color scans of box art, instruction manuals, full-page magazine advertisements and the like. You know, to give the overall package a more celebratory tone instead of re-repackaging nostalgia.
Apart from this audio problem, Sega Mega Drive Classics is a largely solid collection of emulated ROMs wrapped in a nostalgic shell. There are trophies to be had that unlock after achieving specific in-game milestones and special challenges that takes a self-contained nugget of a game and tests your ability to perform extraordinary feats, like collecting a certain number of points and survive without taking a hit. One feature that I like, besides the handy save state system for each title, is the chance to rewind and fast forward gameplay which gives you the chance to replay or wait through tough spots.
Your mileage with Sega Mega Drive Collection will vary. If you’ve never played any of these games and curious to know what games old people like me played, you can’t go wrong with the selection of well designed video games that took advantage of Sega’s 16-bit system. And like the Nintendo games of yore, the adventures within are representative of an era before active reload, regenerating health, weekly patches, and downloadable content. Conversely, there’s a good chance you’ve already played these games when they came out twice before and no UI, no amount of gift wrapping will shake away the feeling that this is all old news. The game preservationist in me is thrilled to see the likes of Sonic, Shinobi, Duke Oda, and the funk-loving ToeJam and Earl on a modern system but I’m ready to celebrate the console’s other noteworthy heroes and adventures.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.