SEGA and Nintendo were the two companies that helped kick-start the love of videogames for many of my gaming friends, as well as myself. Whether you were a fan of the high paced playstyle of the Sonic games or preferred your platform games to feature Italian plumbers, princesses and mushrooms that make you double in size gamers were definitely spoilt for choice.
As the years went by Nintendo seemed to always be at the forefront of innovation and the games they released often received critical acclaim, especially when they made the jump from 2d to 3d with Super mario 64. SEGA tried to follow suit when they released Sonic Adventures but unfortunately the fast pace synonymous with the Sonic series actually hindered the game and made them significantly harder to play. A series of subpar releases over the years led to SEGA getting out of making hardware completely and instead concentrated solely on releasing titles on PlayStation and Xbox.
Back in 2009 SEGA released the Mega Drive Ultimate Collection on Xbox 360 which included 48 of the best games released by SEGA in the 16-bit era. With the release of the Mega Drive Classics we get 53 titles as well as online/couch co-op, and although it is great to go down memory lane this release feels a little lacklustre.
You initially get a snazzy little introduction that lasts for a minute or so and then you are straight into the hub where you pick which game to play. This is displayed as a bedroom complete with old school tv and vintage posters on the wall. To the right is the shelf of games you can pick from and you can access them all straight away, unlike the Xbox 360 release which locked away several titles until you met certain conditions. I immediately went to play my favourite games featured in this series, the first being Toejam & Earl. One observation I did make was that there doesn’t seem to be any instructions on how to play any of the games, it is instead assumed that you know how to play or will figure it out quickly. There is now a rewind feature included that is very similar to the one found in Rare Replay so if you think you have made a mistake in a certain area you can simply go back and try again.
After messing around on this for a while I jumped out and navigated the menus some more. One new inclusion that I did enjoy was the challenges section. These are portions of selected games where you have to beat a pre-set criteria. This could be something relatively simple like scoring 4,000 points in a match of Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, or something more difficult such as not picking up a single item on Streets of Rage 2. These were a welcome break when I fancied something with a little more difficulty and certainly provided a stern test of my ability.
After exploring this for a little bit I looked around at the remaining sections of the room to explore and was stunned to find that there is absolutely nothing to be found when it comes to information about any of the games on this compilation. Comparing it to the 2009 release quickly showed me just how bare this package was, as the older title has an absolute stack of features like soundtrack and artwork sections as well as interviews with developers. It seems pretty criminal to not include something like this especially when it’s been made available in previously released compilations.
One of the other issues I have with this compilation is that it doesn’t really feel necessary. As I said before a very similar compilation released almost nine years ago which has almost every game included in the Mega Drive Classics collection as one that for some reason seems to be missing. There is no sign here of Sonic & Knuckles from what I could see which seems like a curious omission. The versions of the games you play here are not the original versions but are actually emulations although on the titles I tested there was no difference at all from what I could tell. You can also add effects to the graphics and the screen if you want to make it look like it is being played on a television from the 90’s but this didn’t particularly appeal to me.
The visuals in the games I tried were all on point, I didn’t encounter any issues with the frame rate or any screen tear although I still feel that the hub room that acts as a main menu could have had more going on as it came across as cold and clinical to me. The catchy soundtracks are exactly as I remembered them, and the sound of collecting 100 rings in Sonic the Hedgehog or hitting someone with a pipe in Streets of Rage 2 never gets old. One thing that I think would have been great would be if there was an option somewhere to just listen to the game sound and soundtrack away from the games, but unfortunately this isn’t included.