A question everyone asks themselves when faced with another ‘classic compilation’ is ”Why should anyone buy a collection of games that were released on vastly inferior systems with dated graphics and simple gameplay when we have multimillion-dollar franchises and Hollywood actors featuring in open-ended games of intricate story-lines and complex characters?”
The beautiful thing about publishers re-releasing old games is that you can write a review before they are released…
The answer is simple; Museums. Just as people stand before great monuments, buildings and works of art while surrounded by arguably more wondrous inventions, gamers should make sure they partake in retro gaming. Stand before the very history of gaming; it’s characters, conventions, scenarios, genres and finest works and you will find enlightenment. In the same way that an artisan might remark “This is one of the first examples of cubism” these collections will take you on a guided tour of the very roots of the games you play; “This is one of the first examples of digitised speech,” “here is the first example of a jump-attack” “here is Tail’s first introduction”
Looking at the official release information doesn’t tell us much more than we would assume to have been the case from the start. Sega tells us that you can unlock Achievements/Trophies, play the games in HD and also “Two players can now enjoy select titles together on the same console at home” which does not prove to be a massive improvement on the mega-drive which also “featured” two players “on the same console.”
Bumping up a 16-bit game to 720p “hi-def” sounds a bit like painting the pyramids, it would make them look nice but does nothing to change the original beyond mere aesthetics. Although the thought of Blaze from Streets of Rage in hi-def does sound interesting now we think of it…
Hi-Def 2D sprites and hi-score tables
The Streets of Rage series, starting with the first title released in 1991, owes much to the success of the legendary Final Fight coin-op arcade game published by Capcom. Both feature side-scrolling beat-em-up action with weapons and colourful enemies aplenty. The Streets of Rage series became one of SEGA’s most important brands and is regularly found on top 100 lists throughout the gaming world, a definite highlight of the collection. These titles will have you jump-kicking telephone boxes for health and shoulder throwing goons until the proverbial cows come home.
Following on from the subject of throwing goons, the GoldenAxe series appears in the collection also. GoldenAxe was released as a coin-op in 1989 and is one of the older games in the compilation. A side-scrolling hack-and-slash fun fest with Conan The Barbarian inspired environments and story, these gaming gems should still be able to command the attention of the modern gamer. Providing a variety of golden gaming moments the GoldenAxe series is well worth a look, although arguably the first is still the best. Many still remember the first time they repeatedly bashed a mace-wielding grunt over the back of the head with the butt of a sword (accompanied by a magnificent krunk-krunk-krunk effect) or the first time they grabbed an Amazonian Warrior and hurled her off the level into the raging waters, the first time they unleashed the mighty dragon or booted a small elf in the face because he had stolen your magic in the middle of the night. Who will ever forget the first time they dash-jump-piledrived a ten-food tall hammer wielding giant while he stood laughing, wiping the smile from his ugly face? The music too is unforgettable and will bring a smile to the faces of those who are lucky enough to remember playing it. All in all the GoldenAxe and Streets of Rage series make the collection a must own title own their own.
However, there is more…
Nothing much needs be said about the Sonic series as so much has already been said and written about them. It’s enough to say that Sonic was a cooler, faster and edgier iconic reply to the world dominating Super Mario and was deliberately aimed at Mario’s weaker elements of game play (not many). Instead it is worth looking at the peripheral titles, spin offs (excuse the pun) if you please.
The finest example has to be Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. A classic Tetris inspired piece dropping puzzler which involved the classic concept of clearing the screen. An excellent implementation of a simple concept allied with frantic gaming and a two-player emphasis made this title a genuine classic and a definite choice for Tetris lovers who were looking for some thing new. Sonic Spin Ball is another title worth checking out as it provides some interesting twists on the pin-ball genre, such as occasions where sonic walks around (something a traditional pin-ball could never do).
Other true classics on the compilation include the brilliant Shinobi III (resplendent with it’s surfing ninjas and awesome rave-pop soundtrack), Super Thunder Blade (which is Space Harrier in a helicopter) and Ecco the Dolphin. A deceptively difficult and indeed dark game, Ecco the Dolphin offers some genuinely challenging gameplay and defies it’s own marketing and imagery to retain a vaguely sinister feeling as you race against drowning in twisting underground environments.
The compilation also includes a selection of genres to cater for a broad range of tastes including; Kid Chameleon (a diverse platformer) Phantasy Star (RPG), Shining Force (think Final Fantasy Tactics) and Flicky (action) amongst others.
This rich gaming museum features other exhibits which one should find and enjoy for oneselfe as they may contain memories that will come bubbling back to the surface as you re-live those classic moments. Overall a much anticipated walk down the digital memory lane.
Here is the final list of the titles contained in the Musee’ De Sega tour de force known as Sega’s Ultimate Collection:
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Decap Attack starring Chuck D. Head
Dr. Robotnik’s MBM
Ecco the Dolphin
Ecco II: The Tides of Time
Golden Axe I
Golden Axe II
Golden Axe III
Phantasy Star II
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Shining in the Darkness
Shining Force 2
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Sonic 3D Blast
Sonic and Knuckles
Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Sonic The Hedgehog 3
Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage 2
Streets of Rage 3
Super Thunder Blade