SEGA Mega Drive Classics is a collection that you’ve probably already played before, and probably a collection you’ve sampled prior on the previous generation of consoles. Releasing almost every generation, these compilations give you a great way to satiate that nostalgia craving, even if it’s short lived. The most questionable aspect about these releases is their consistency, however, and while SEGA Mega Drive Classics feels like one of the most feature complete releases from the publisher, there’s some glaring omissions that keep it from being truly definitive.
Out of the box you’re getting over 50 games, and they represent a diverse range of experiences that were available on the Mega Drive all those years ago. Most of the classics you remember are here, including Alex Kidd, Sonic, Altered Beast, Streets of Rage, Phantasy Star, Wonder Boy, Golden Axe and even ToeJam & Earl for the first time in a long time. Other cult classics like GunStar Heroes and Space Harrier II have been added as well, which is great.Despite this, there’s some glaring omissions from the collection that have appeared in previous releases or on other digital platforms – namely Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles and the Ecco The Dolphin games. It’s not a huge deal breaker, but worth mentioning. Sega have added more games, including the ToeJam & Earl titles, but why does there have to be a trade-off? Why can’t we have Out Run with Chakan: The Forever Man with Sonic 3 alongside all three Golden Axe games? I’m not sure, but regardless it’s not happening with this release.
The most impressive aspect of this collection is just how many features have been packed in behind the scenes in the emulation software. At a system level, you’ll be able to track stats like high scores and kills, as well as create and load saves across every title. The ability to rewind and fast forward has been added too, which is bound to appeal to less patient and/or modern audiences. Sure, it kind of feels like cheating and diminishes some of the challenge these games present, but purists can easily just choose not to use the functionality too. Everybody wins.On the flip side, sometimes this collection gets a little bit too caught up in its presentation to the point where it can be cumbersome to get around. The idea is that you’re in a kid’s bedroom in the 90s, and you move from your cartridge collection to select a game, to a console to adjust settings, to a notepad to undertake achievement-style challenges. It’s a cool little “skin” to wrap around the experience, but I wish they’d have included a simple menu to get around things a bit more quickly.
The actual games themselves (mostly) stand up surprisingly well today, though most games from this era still do. Slower sections filled with tedious dialogue or score tallying screens can be easily fast forwarded to keep things going at a brisk pace. Unlike other attempts to cash in on the brand, these games are all emulated superbly well with minimal slowdown. It’s not as authentic as playing on your old cathode ray television, but it’s a hell of a lot more convenient. If you care enough, you’ll also appreciate that some games let you select between different region versions too which is a nice touch.The final, more surprising inclusion is online play which can matchmake while you play solo. Unfortunately, due to pre-release populations, it was hard to find a match for any games with anyone, but it’s a great way to play with a friend who might not be able to join you on the couch anymore.
From a visual standpoint there’s a wealth of options available to customise how you want your games to look. You can leave them untouched and run as they were or select one of four different kinds of pixel scaling. Such render methods are controversial, so it’s nice to have an option and not force them on players. If you can’t find your old TV, you’ll be pleased to know you can apply scan lines and a curved screen effect too.Those feeling a bit more adventurous can flip everything on-screen with Mirror Mode, which is bound to challenge players who’ve mastered their muscle memory the normal way around too, rounding out a rather diverse feature set..
THE XBOX ONE VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
SEGA Mega Drive Classics does a great job at modernising the classics, bringing in some games that we haven’t seen in a release like this before, but at the same time drops some true classics like Sonic 3. While a plethora of features and some slick presentation make this feel like less of a cynical cash grab than it could be, the omission of these titles and cumbersome navigation makes this collection serviceable but less than definitive.