The Sega Ages seal of re-released classics has been an eclectic selection for sure so far, but today’s additions are definitely a deep dig in Sega’s vast catalog for sure. Retaining the same amount of care and quality that the past releases got, these new entries might seem completely different at first glance, but they do share one thing in common: they’re great games for short bursts, which is just what the Switch was made for.
Starting with Sega Ages Columns II, the sequel to one of the first colored block matching game ever put out, it’s probably the best version out there, which even includes online play and the ability to save and share replays. The gist behind Columns should be familiar to you right away if you ever played any of the thousand clones out there. Get three blocks of the same color in a line for them to disappear. You can switch their order at will, but differently from more modern versions or even Tetris, you can’t spin your pieces.
If you are feeling especially nostalgic, you can even play the original Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version of Columns and see for yourself how much its sequel changes things up. The most noticeable change is the inclusion of Flash Columns mode, where you start off with a certain amount of blocks on screen, with a flashing one in particular that you have to eliminate in order to progress to the next stage. There’s an option to start the game off at any level you want, along with the expected difficulty settings, which are ever welcome in this game — things get rough really quickly, even on easy!
Presentation-wise, there wasn’t a whole lot done to the game. This still looks and sounds like the original arcade game, but you still get the emulation options that M2 is famous for providing, which include a host of graphic filters and ratios, as well as different borders. This might not seem like much, but playing this game on a TV with the original aspect ratio really shows how sharp the visuals look thanks to the touch up that was done by M2. They have even gone as far as redrawing the title screen in order to spruce up the main menu, which looks absolutely great, thanks to the Alphonse Mucha-y Art Nouveau lady that adorns the start screen.
The most fun feature by far, though, is the versus mode, where two players can go head-to-head by putting the Switch in tabletop mode and flipping both player sides of the screen 180 degrees. It’s an effect that works fantastically well if you plan on taking your friends on at any time. For $7.99, Sega Ages Columns II a solid pickup for anyone looking for a good puzzle game to dive into on the go. Keep in mind that this is an older game, and current block matchers have taken inspiration from this and have added many shortcuts and, shall we say, handicaps to their gameplay, so it by no means pulls any punches.
Following up Columns II comes Sega Ages Ichidant-R, a game I personally had no idea existed, let alone expected, considering it’s a spin-off of sorts of Bonanza Bros, one of the Genesis’ most original games. Instead of conducting heists, you’re instead tasked with saving a princess as a valiant knight after she’s kidnapped by the Demon King. But you don’t go around sticking things with the pointy end of your sword in this game. It’s a party title with 20 different mini-games, like a shooting gallery that tasks you with memorizing targets and shooting them in the correct order, a candy skewering game where you help a geisha put together her candy together, or even take down some UFOs.
Ichidant-R is certainly not what you’d expect to see of a Bonanza Bros game, it makes great use of the colorful geometric graphics that made that game so unique looking, and the games are generally fun to play either by yourself or with up to three friends. Sure, there are a few of them that haven’t aged quite as well and are trickier than I would’ve liked, but the humor more than makes up for their difficulty, especially considering that you don’t get a whole lot of time to think when playing — in the end, it’s all for good fun.
Like with Columns II, you can take Ichidant-R online in order to play these mini-games with people in multiplayer, and even post your scores and replays if you wish, or watch the top leaderboard members’ own in order to learn their technique. It feels like a curiosity to say the least being able to play these mini-games with randoms online, but hey, the option’s there if you want it. Speaking of options, M2 has included the Japanese Mega Drive ROM for the game, if you want to practice your Japanese as well as your reflexes. It plays pretty much the same as the arcade version that’s in English in the main menu, but you don’t get to play it online.
I really enjoy and appreciate the amount of care that goes into the Sega Ages collection, and although I don’t yet own all of its entries, the ones that I do carry around in my Switch’s SD card are some of my most played and cherished games for sure. Leave it for M2 to bring out the best that these classics have to offer to a whole new audience, or a nostalgic one., Although I tend to lean more towards Columns II out of the two since it’s probably got a little more replayability in the long run and is a little easier to pick up for the uninitiated, both Columns II and Ichidant-R are solid entries in the Sega Ages series, even more so considering that this is the first time Ichidant-R is getting released outside of Japan.
I can’t wait to see what else Sega is going to be bringing over in this collection.