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Retro compilations seem to be the flavour of the month in gaming right now, with industry heavyweights Atari, Capcom, Midway and Taito all bundling together stacks of their golden oldies and introducing them to a new generation of gamers. Some compilations are stronger than others, though generally you know what you are buying into. SEGA's own 'Classics Collection' had for some time prior to its release proved a more unusual, quirky proposition to me, as the nine games featured on the disc are not so much classics re-released, as classics remade...
Though I'm still a teenager, I must admit SEGA Classics Collection made me feel rather old - I recall playing five of the games featured first time around on the Mega-Drive. The titles up for a 21st Century paint job include Golden Axe; Columns; Virtua Racing; Monaco GP and Outrun, as well as a trio I had not played before: Space Harrier, Fantasy Zone and Bonanza Bros/Tant R.
Finally given a UK release earlier this year, 3D AGES (that's SEGA D3 backwards) had been at work on these retro revamps for quite sometime. The first obvious advantage of this package is the price - in Japan, each of the individual games was released separately, amounting to an eye-watering hole in the completists pocket - somewhere in the region of $200 apparently. However, I was able to snap up a copy of SEGA Classics Collection (SCC) for around £5.87 from Amazon Jersey. Despite this, I was cautious due to the distinctly lukewarm nature of the reviews I had read, and if remaking classic games was anything like as difficult as remaking films, the omens for success were not good.
SCC delivers fleeting moments of enjoyment and nostalgic fun. Overall, a little more thought and effort on the part of the designers and the developers would have saved it from appearing as shoddily-crafted and dated as it does.
I'll start with coin-op classic Outrun, as it illustrates SCC's strengths and weaknesses in a nutshell. For those who've been living in a cupboard for the last twenty years or so, Outrun was a speedy checkpoint-chasing racing game that proved a success on the Mega-Drive and was huge in the arcades.
The update retains the famed menu screens - namely the start-line title-screen and the radio/song selection prior to races, and also present and correct are the iconic red Ferrari (complete with blonde female passenger) and the insane speeds, scrolling scenery and split routes. However, when you consider the graphics have been touched up into 3D, the handling feels bizarre, on-rails and totally archaic. There are a couple of new modes available and a solid selection of options, but the racing quickly becomes very repetitive and little enjoyment can be gleaned from it all. The complete lack of any long-term play is emphasised by the absence of a two-player mode, and next to the 'other' PS2 Outrun game and the Burnout series, this seems embarrassing.
The best game on the compilation is Columns - namely because there is no logical way that shinier graphics can detract from a simple concept. SEGA's own Tetris requires the player to line up three or more jewels of the same colour as they drift down the screen in a continuous stream, helping the player stay in the game and gaining points. It's a chill-out classic; but also fiendishly difficult to master. Cleverly, it includes the original game (complete with atmospheric music), a vs. computer option and a polished, updated version of the old format, which proves pleasantly addictive as your performance is ranked and assessed at the end. On top of all this, there's the tried-and-tested two-player mode, which is still great fun. Overall, Columns is nicely-presented and any new elements - particularly the songs - are very much in keeping with the games classical and elegant spirit.
The one other notable success is Virtua Racing. SEGA's arcade classic was once £70 to buy due mainly to revolutionary visuals and the fact that it brought the then-alien concept of '3D' to Mega-Drive gamers. The unique look has been retained for the remake with simply-defined environments, minimal detail and lots of bright, garish colours - successfully resurrecting VR's retro-chic. Though the Arcade/Mega-Drive versions were more challenging, this makes up in part by delivering at least a little bit more meat to the experience, as there are a lot more modes and tracks than before, as well as some nifty unlockable vehicles. The crashes are still rubbish, but you can't have everything I suppose.
The package starts to go a little downhill from here though. Monaco GP is not based on the classy Super Monaco GP, but rather the older and less 'super' Master-System iteration (I assume). The player simply has to hold the 'up' button whilst weaving in and out of traffic, occasionally collecting power-ups and stars. It's uncomplicated, high-scoring fun, but the extremely low-fi graphics, simplistic nature and top-down view never quite let you forget that you could probably playing something similar on a mobile phone.
Fantasy Zone is a run-of-the-mill isometric shoot 'em up, with its selling-points lying in its nifty cel-shaded appearance and a variety of set-ups that allow the more committed of fans to uncover new levels and gallery art. As a simple retro shoot 'em up however, it trails well behind the likes of 1942 and any number of efforts that appear on Taito Legends 2 (Darius Gaiden particularly). Space Harrier sees you doing some into-the-screen shooting - the 3D scrolling illusion looked smart in the early nineties but now, even after a PS2-upgrade, it looks really dodgy. It plays okay, but as with most of the games on this collection, it feels unfinished. Like many arcade games of the time - fun for a few goes but then you'll forget about it.
Bonanza Bros is a novel but frustrating platform/shoot 'em up, whereby the player must move along a selection of themed 2D levels stealing money and other assorted bounties, whilst trying to avoid being cornered and killed by guards. Movement is rather cumbersome and there are some strange oversights, such as the main characters inability to crouch and the fact that bullets travel only marginally faster than the characters do when they're walking. Though you'll be compelled for the first few turns to see what levels lie in wait, it struggles to offer much in the wait of genuine enjoyment, as the main character seems so helpless and defenceless and lives can be lost in rather irritating circumstances.
Tant R is set in the same universe as Bonanza Bros only instead of platforming, it offers up a series of quirky (but ultimately dull) mini-games. They range from tests of your timing skills (stopping a car before it zooms off a cliff); observation skills (matching tiles, assembling robots and rockets with parts used in the correct order) and the odd button-basher too. The range of games isn't big enough for the games ambitions however, and as each section contains 4 mini-games (of your choice), you'll soon find yourself having to play the same ones to progress towards the end. So imagine a slightly wacky party-puzzler in the mould of Bishi Bashi Special, only less fun.
Finally, there is Golden Axe. Soon to be revived in its beautiful, original guise on the PlayStation2-bound SEGA Mega Drive Collection, this version may shatter the fond memories many still hold of the classic hack 'n' slash adventure. For starters, the graphics are really, really poor - the landscapes are drab beyond belief, the main protagonists lack detail and the enemies lack diversity and variety. The A.I. are rather suspect and movement comes across as slightly awkward. The high-points include a nice homage to the original title-screen (brings tears of joy, unlike the game itself!) and the decent-quality music.
So SEGA Classics Collection tends to fair quite well in terms of its presentation and music, whilst its graphics are hit and miss, though generally below-par. Golden Axe and Space Harrier are the two primary offenders of showcasing completely detail-saturated environments and dull, nasty colour-schemes. None of the games are sufficiently good enough to claim a hold on your attention for more than a few goes - Columns and Virtua Racing prove the exceptions, though its debatable whether or not their appeal would hold up under the scrutiny of a new generation of casual gamers. However, what is most damaging to SCC as a whole is that very few (if any) of the remakes featured can even claim to be on a par with their predecessors - the aforementioned couple come close, but with the likes of Golden Axe and Outrun, you'll probably be wondering where it all went wrong.
Ultimately, SEGA Classics Collection's appeal is very narrow. It is unlikely to endear itself to fans of the original games because it seems that so little passion and enthusiasm has rubbed off on the project, and most of the games play markedly worse in their new forms. As for the new generation of gamers, they'll long for something a lot prettier, more sophisticated and more enjoyable from their gaming experience. Make no mistake, these games were deserved of the term 'classic', just not in this current guise - wait for SEGA Mega-Drive Collection and see how retro gaming should be done.
When I first purchased this game I was quite excited as previous compilation games featuring arcade games of the past had been a pleasant trip down memory lane and whilst the game play was not overly challenging there was a simplistic enjoyment in playing these games in days when you only needed to master a basic left / right move and th fire button.
The problem with Sega Classics is that none of the classics are in their original format, instead they have been updated, however this means that you are left with ten shoddy sub standard games with non of the retro charm of other compilation games.
The ten games that you get are Golden Axe, Alien Syndrome, Bonanza Bros, Columns, Fantasy Zone, Virtua Racing, Outrun, Space Harrier, Monaco GP and Tant R.
The updates to many of the games have not really added anything and in most cases they have made them worse, on all of the driving games the controls are mechanical and very unresponsive making the whole thing feel clunky and no fun at all. One of the games I was looking forward to playing most was Golden Axe as I had the original on the Mega Drive many moons ago however the updated version was really poor and the weapon controls were out of the ark.
The one game that did match up to my memories was Space Harrier which had a couple of extra features which included a target locking function and rapid fire which made it a lot more fun.
I could review every game on the disc but it would be so negative and depressing you will just have to accept that they are all pretty bad and my time will be better spent getting a tan before the football.
You can get this game from Play.com for £14.99 but it is definitely not worth it, if you do want to check it out just out of nostalgia then rent it for one night after that you will be bored with it.