Regardless of which side of the war you stood for during the 1980s and 1990s, Sega or Nintendo, there’s absolutely no denying that both companies put out incredible games during that time. One of them has since stopped pumping out consoles, still manages to publish some good new games every now and then, but most importantly, they like to make some money off of their back catalog. Sega has never been a company not to relive its past, in fact, it’s probably one of the most prolific in that corner of the market, re-releasing their old stuff just about everywhere you can play games, from smartphones to Steam, and now the Nintendo Switch.
Switch has turned into one of the best options to play retro games, thanks to its portable factor and the facilities that come with that. Last month’s excellent SNK 40th Anniversary Collection proved that publishers are willing to dig deep into their extensive libraries in order to serve the ever growing demand for emulated classics on the Switch, and Sega didn’t take too long to do the same, even if their digging doesn’t really go all that deep, nor as lovingly done as the former. The Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive, if you live outside of the U.S) Classics collection includes a staggering 50 title list of some of that system’s best games, and while it’s bafflingly missing some that were part of the very same compilation on other consoles, a couple of the Wonder Boy games, which I’ll assume is due to the recent release of the remakes, it’s still an incredible line up that should suit most tastes.
Games like Sonic The Hedgehog and its sequel — mind, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were also omitted for some reason from all versions of the collection — are hands down some of the most recognizable of the bunch, along with the Streets of Rage trilogy and the trio of Phantasy Star games. While I would go out on a limb and add the Genesis version of Virtua Fighter 2 as a hidden gem among the big names on the list, it’s safe to say that not all games have aged as well as Sega’s future cinematic star blue darling’s.
The danger with diving into retro excursions is well represented in this collection, painfully so at times. If you’ve spent any amount of time playing these games in the past and have a certain amount of nostalgia, it’s a good idea to browse the list and give each entry a couple of minutes, even if you’ve never plopped in, say, Gain Ground into your Genesis back in the day, before never selecting it again from the list because it’s just plain terrible then and it’s still that now. I can only imagine kids who’ve never dabbled with Sega’s golden years’ worth of games and now own a Switch will think of some of these inclusions, like the many that were were groundbreaking at the time of their release, such as Beyond Oasis, which has been used as inspiration for countless indie releases over the years and surprisingly holds up.
Although it doesn’t show the same amount of care as SNK’s collection in regards to its extras, the Sega Genesis Classics compilation features pretty much the exact suite of emulation options, allowing you to tweak your image and the way you control the games as it suits you, with a few different filters and ratio options to pick from. You can even apply that horrible screen deformation that retro collection developers insist on adding that’s supposed to make you feel like you’re playing on an old CRT TV… ugh. Still, it’s thankfully just an option I can safely ignore.
Sadly, you can’t ignore the overall presentation of this collection, which doesn’t look terrible by any means, but just slows down navigation considerably. The menu interface to this compilation is a recreation of what a child’s room from the 1990s would look like if they adored Sega at the time. There’s a TV in the middle, with a model 1 Genesis underneath it and a lot of paraphernalia strewn all about, like game posters and whatnot, along with a horizontal shelf full of games. You have to navigate through most of these items in order to tweak options and even play the games, which once selected, are animated by a cartridge being slammed into the console and powering on. It’s certainly a cute way to make an interface and interact with the collection the first few times you boot it up, but even with touch controls it just gets in the way of expediting starting whatever game you might want to continue on playing. It would’ve been great to have an option to toggle this interface on and off, but this is not the case here. This also brings something that might read like a nag on my part, but man, they really messed up it when it comes to the aforementioned cartridges that come up when games are booted — their labels are generic and look nothing like the genuine article, begging the question as to how that could’ve been overlooked when everything else hasn’t, down to the spines from the game boxes. Oh well.
Warts and all, Sega is to be commended for this collection. The emulation quality and list of games are top notch, making it one of the best pickups retro fans could make for their Switch. While it’s a shame that some of the games included on other versions are missing, the fact that you can take these on the go and play on the Switch’s beautiful, crisp display more than makes up for it. I would have loved to see some of cool extras like promotional material and history info like in SNK’s collection, but the challenges — save states in some of the games that force you to play against overwhelming odds and come out on top) and feats (read: achievements/trophies) added in are welcome and help add a little more replay to the overall package. That’s not to mention online play and leaderboards, both features obviously way more useable if you play this in docked mode. With Nintendo flat out denying the future existence of the Virtual Console service for Switch, I hold out to hope that the surviving companies that hold the rights to retro games follow SNK and Sega’s example and release their old titles as compilations such as these.
The full line up included on the collection is: Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Alien Soldier, Alien Storm, Altered Beast, Beyond Oasis, Bio-Hazard Battle, Bonanza Bros., Columns, Columns 3: Revenge of Columns, Comix Zone, Crack Down, Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Dynamite Headdy, ESWAT: City Under Siege, Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, Gain Ground, Galaxy Force 2, Golden Axe, Golden Axe 2, Golden Axe 3, Gunstar Heroes, Kid Chameleon, Landstalker, Light Crusader, Phantasy Star 2, Phantasy Star 3: Generations of Doom, Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millenium, Ristar, Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, Shining Force 2, Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, Space Harrier 2, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, The Revenge of Shinobi, ToeJam & Earl, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, Vectorman, VectorMan 2, and Virtua Fighter 2.