I’m sorry. There, I said it. Sometimes life gets in the way of regular blogging, you know? I feel bad because I’ve found the time to play lots of games recently – but games are quicker and easier to play than they are to write about in my experience!
So between lengthy play sessions with Xenoblade Chronicles X, various other Wii U games and a replay of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, I picked up Midway Arcade Treasures 3 for the original Xbox. I’m not going to discuss that here, but it set me off thinking about other compilations I own and what makes a good retro/classic game compilation. Sega, Capcom, Atari, Namco, Taito, Midway – repeated offenders during the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era, the lot of them, so there’s plenty of these out there to talk about.
Very quickly, I want to set out what I think are the essential ingredients of a classic compilation. 1. A stone cold classic or two. 2. Good games that a large number of people have a nostalgic connection to. 3. The nostalgia-inducing games that are also terrible; these are the titles that wipeout on the waves of technical supremacy or a cheap gimmick. 4. Obscure games that are good, maybe even really good, or somehow unusual. 5. Finally, obscure games that are utterly dire. Scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Games in each of these five categories are essential. You might be asking, “why not cut out the dire-obscure or the dire-nostalgic category? Surely those aren’t essential”. But you’d be wrong – those games are essential, they’re history. Don’t sugarcoat the truth! If nothing else, the bad games make you appreciate the good games that much more. That’s the biggest compliment I can pay a piece of trash like Flicky.
Now that we’ve gotten the criteria out of the way, let’s dive right into possibly the best of the bunch: Sega Mega Drive Collection, aka Sega Genesis Collection, aka SAAAYYY GAAAA.
1. Stone cold classics: Sega have had more than a fair share of iconic classics over the years, there can be no denying it. You feel spoiled for choice, really, with a set of games like this. The cream of the crop for me are Shinobi III and Sonic 2, games which utterly define the Megadrive and capture the best of that era.
2. Nostalgic gems: I would certainly put the Golden Axe series in this group, along with Ecco the Dolphin and the Phantasy Star series (don’t shoot me for not calling them classics – I’ve hardly touched the latter two).
3. Nostalgic turds: Altered Beast; Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle. The idea that Altered Beast could sell a games console is a joke. Similarly, Alex Kidd competing with Mario is a joke. Besides god-awful platforming, Alex Kidd’s unique “selling point” is that you fight bosses by playing rock paper scissors with them. Enough said.
4. Obscure gems: Ristar is a late Megadrive platformer from Sonic Team and it’s as awesome as you would expect – kind of a cross between Kirby, Dynamite Headdy and Sonic. We’ve also got Gain Ground – an arcade port which might very well be the best game in the collection, even if it isn’t the most iconic or visually appealing game. Bonanza Bros is a cool and rather unique co-op game where you sneak around thieving. Comix Zone, similarly, is a quirky beat ’em up with stylised graphics.
5. Obscure turds: Flicky – the most mind numbing game ever? It’s not the worst game ever, but it does absolutely nothing for me. Kid Chameleon… hmm. Talk about slippery. Decap Attack isn’t terrible but it’s nothing to shout about either. Finally, a special mention has to go to the breathtakingly redundant Megadrive/Genesis port of Virtua Fighter 2. It’s impressive how much Sega were able to get out of the Megadrive, but it was still a bizarre decision to include this, a downgraded 2D version of a 3D arcade game. They couldn’t have stretched the collection to include the far superior arcade, 32X, Saturn or PC version instead?
So that’s my quick rundown of Sega Mega Drive Collection for PS2. Really, it’s the cream of the crop as far as retro compilations go. Every category is fully represented, and there’s truly something for everyone. With games this good, it’s little wonder that the Megadrive/Genesis was able to make such inroads in the console market in the early 90s. This is a highly recommended collection for anyone feeling nostalgic and/or curious about that period in gaming.
Before I exit the stage, there’s a spiritual successor to this compilation worth mentioning: Sega’s Ultimate Mega Drive Collection for the PS3/Xbox 360. The games are all the same, but the Ultimate means you also get the Streets of Rage and Shining Force series, Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles, a few Sonic spin-offs, The Story of Thor (aka Beyond Oasis) and Dynamite Headdy thrown in too. Not bad at all! For more on these collections, I’d recommend checking out United We Game‘s series of videos exploring many of the games in the Ultimate version. Some of these are absolutely hilarious, especially Alex Kidd and Columns. Enjoy and thanks for reading!