A big problem with retro collections is that once the novelty of owning a whole bunch of classic games wears off-- which is pretty gosh darn quickly-- you're left not knowing what to do with the disc. While you may have fond memories of a handful of titles on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, a lot of these older games simply aren't fun for an extended period of time. After appearing in over a dozen collections and ports, is Sonic the Hedgehog really a game-seller? And is Super Thunder Blade a game anyone really wanted to revisit?
By making pretty good use-- but not great use-- out of the achievements in every Xbox 360 game, the developers managed to add another layer which actually makes playing these games a little more fun. Rather than end up with a bunch of games you'll probably play once or twice, the achievement list gives you a list of mini-challenges (some not so challenging) that actually walks you through several of the Sega Genesis games, making sure you actually put some time into them. You know, rather than merely booting up Kid Chameleon and spouting out "yep, this still sucks." As an added bonus, a number of these games feature unlockable rewards. These include arcade ports, Sega Master System titles, and interviews with the developers, which is an amusing novelty.
Each of the games controls just like the Genesis originals-- and you can reassign buttons to your liking, which is great if you want to use a hacked pad or a joystick. The menus are easy to navigate, and all the games play like we remember. Except for the ones where we missed them the first time around.
Taking a page from emulators, you can save a game at any point and jump back in later. This should be included in all collections going forward.
What You Get (and can Unlock)
As the game is titled "Ultimate Genesis Collection," the game wisely gives you 100% of the Sega Genesis titles right off the bat.
If you want to play their arcade siblings or Master System ancestors, though, those must be unlocked by completing a challenge-- the game tells you what you have to do. For example, if you want the RPG Phantasy Star, you're going to have to beat the first boss of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in 2-player mode. (You will need a second controller.) If you want the arcade version of Space Harrier, you're going to need to amass a score of 1.5 million points in Super Thunder Blade, which is sort of a chore.
- Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
- Alien Storm
- Alien Syndrome (arcade, must be unlocked)
- Altered Beast (Genesis)
- Altered Beast (arcade, must be unlocked)
- Beyond Oasis
- Bonanza Bros.
- Comix Zone
- Congo Bongo (arcade, must be unlocked)
- Decap Attack
- Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
- Dynamite Headdy
- E-SWAT: City Under Siege
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Ecco: The Tides of Time
- Fantasy Zone (arcade, must be unlocked)
- Fatal Labyrinth
- Gain Ground
- Golden Axe
- Golden Axe II
- Golden Axe III
- Golden Axe Warrior (Sega Master System, must be unlocked)
- Kid Chameleon
- Phantasy Star (Sega Master System, must be unlocked)
- Phantasy Star II
- Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
- Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
- Shining in the Darkness
- Shining Force
- Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing
- Shinobi (arcade, must be unlocked)
- Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
- Sonic 3D Blast
- Sonic & Knuckles
- Sonic Spinball
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- Sonic the Hedgehog 3
- Space Harrier (arcade, must be unlocked)
- Streets of Rage
- Streets of Rage 2
- Streets of Rage 3
- Super Thunder Blade
- Vectorman 2
- Zaxxon (arcade, must be unlocked)
The games play largely as you remember, or don't remember. A number of these games, like Flicky, Bonanza Bros., and Fatal Labyrinth are titles you likely never played before. These are not lost treasures-- these are compilation filler.
It's also great to have the entire Phantasy Star saga from the early days, but there's one tiny problem-- if you didn't play these on the first go-round, you quickly realize that the early RPG efforts of the Sonic Team aren't necessarily something you're going to want to play through in their entirety.
Graphic Modes & Sound
The game has a number of emulation options, including an "enhanced" filter which smooths out the pixely 16-bit graphics into something that looks like a bad photoshop filter was run over it. In some cases it doesn't look horrible, but odds are you're going to want to stick with the filters that make it look like a traditional, 20-year-old game console.
Highlights & Warnings
Because these games have been ported to death, you're no doubt familiar with or sick of many of them. There are some things you might want to know, which we have included here for your amusement.
There is absolutely no online support here. No online multiplayer, no leaderboards, nothing-- even though the Xbox Live Arcade releases supported some of these features, you won't find them on this (significantly cheaper) collection. The achievements are different-- you get a different Golden Axe achievement here which you can't get on the single release.
The puzzle games Columns and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine seem to hold up well and are a ton of fun to play still.
All you have to do is meet a simple score criteria in Altered Beast to unlock the arcade version-- and they're quite different. While history has not been kind to this game, I had a lot of fun playing through it in 2-player mode.
While Sega included the lock-on technology in its Sonic Jam collection for the Sega Saturn, this version of Sonic & Knuckles does not lock on to the other games. Why they left out this feature is a mystery, because it's something they clearly know how to do and will be including in the individual releases of these games on the Xbox Live Arcade service later this year. (This entire collection is about $30, where each individual game will be at least $5 on the XBLA service.)
Both Flicky and Fatal Labyrinth play like games that seem like they would have been hacky on the Master System-- and they're Genesis titles. Flicky has a bird saving other birds from cats and plays like a bad Joust clone. Meanwhile, Fatal Labyrinth would have been a bad shareware Mac/PC game in the 1980s. These are ideal to play with friends if you plan on laughing the whole way through.
Kid Chameleon still sucks.
As a first-party collection you get pretty much everything you might want-- certainly, the bang-for-the-buck is here. However, some hot games weren't published by Sega or just weren't included here. Notable absentees include Strider (Capcom), Gunstar Heroes (Treasure), Earthworm Jim (Shiny/Playamtes), the various Disney games (Sega), or any of Sega's popular fighting games.
While you might notice a few snags in sound and graphics, it's largely pretty close to playing on the original hardware. Each game has a border around it because on an HDTV, it won't fill the screen by default. I'm not disappointed by what we got here.
Is it worth buying?
Yes-- but it's going to depend on your tastes. If you're an achievement fiend, if you have friends who will play through this with you, or if you're a fan of performing esoteric retro challenges, this is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.
I'm disappointed there weren't achievements for every game in the collection, because I really do like the idea of the programmers saying "we want you to try and do this." The notion of jumping through hoops may not be the most exciting thing.
I hope we see another collection with more achievements or other meta-challenges, even if it's from a different console. That sort of thing could probably make an Intellivision collection more attractive to a post-Generation X gamer. If Sega did an arcade collection, we're ready. Especially if it sports Crazy Taxi.
May 21, 2009