SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection Review

Nostalgia can be a funny thing. There isn't a person out there who hasn't taken time to remember summers as a kid, hanging out with friends in high school, partying at college or watching their children grow up (depending on your age). It's nice to remember how we got where we are and the things that make us who we are today. However, attempting to relive those things is an entirely different story. It would be ill-advised to try and go climbing trees with that extra hundred pounds you've gained since you were a kid.

Even 16-bit ninjas are cool.

The same caution might apply to reliving your gaming lineage. Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (or the Sega Mega Drive Collection as it is known outside the States) is both an example and an exception to this at the same time. Take for instance Ecco the Dolphin. Growing up, ripping through the ocean and leaping out of the water might have been fun, but going back and playing it now, it seems much less fun and much more... well, there's a word for it, but we'll just say it doesn't quite have the same effect.

Then there are games that I never had the pleasure of playing as a kid and seeing them here for the first time was both nostalgic (based on the graphics and play style) and new at the same time. Like Gain Ground that for the life of me I can not believe I had never encountered. 20 playable characters?! That was unheard of in the 80's and even into the 90's. I also wasn't much into the cop games, so things like E-Swat, Super Thunder Blade and Bonanza Bros. were all treats to experience for the first time in their simplicity.

Then of course there are the classics like Sonic, Streets of Rage, Shinobi and Golden Axe that put simply will always stand the test of time. Many younger folk have had the pleasure of seeing Sonic and Golden Axe on the Xbox Live Arcade already, but for those who haven't this is a gold mine. It may never be answered just why Sonic loves those rings so much, or why they are floating all over whatever weird world he lives in, but I'll be damned if I didn't try and collect every single one. Streets of Rage, Shinobi and Golden Axe are side-scrolling beat 'em-ups at their finest and always a good romp.

Side scrolling beat 'em-ups *sniff* how I’ve missed you.

I was glad to see some of my favorite games in here such as Comix Zone, Vectorman and Kid Chameleon, not to mention a host of RPGs from the Phantasy Star and Shining Force franchises. Columns and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine are great additions for some puzzle games as well. With over 40 games, the selection is fantastic and the replay value is simply through the roof. Whether you are reliving your glory days or experiencing these for the first time, there is a lot to take in.

However, there were some serious omissions, possibly because the games I was hoping to see might have been on the more "adult" side as far as "adult" gaming got back then. Where are Road Rash, Earthworm Jim, Beavis and Butthead, Toe Jam and Earl, Boogerman or Battletoads? Why no love for sports games like Mutant League Football or NBA Jam? Yeah, I realize some of those Sega has more than likely lost the licensing rights to and won't be bothered to purchase special rights for a collection like this, but I'll still be bitter about it. Here's hoping they have a change of heart and offer some (if not all) of these for extra volumes someday, or at the very least get them up on the Arcade.

One of the great things about this game is right in your face when you turn it on. The menus are brilliantly crafted. The main game list can be sorted standard alphabetical, or switched up and sorted by genre to easily identify your favorite beat 'em-up quickly. In addition, you can rate your favorites and then sort them that way, throwing Ecco and Decap Attack down to the cellar. The extras such as interviews and an art gallery are just a button away from the main menu, B or Y respectively. Another nice little feature is the status save. Unlike back in the day, this doesn't have to be a case of bedtime meaning starting from scratch the next day; any game can be saved at any point to come back to later.

The graphics are…….well they exist.

As far as graphics and sound go for this, it is a bit hard to judge them. The games are not revamped or redone in any way, so saying the graphics and sound effects suck is not a fair assessment. But, even judging by late 80's/early 90's standards, some of these games actually do suck pretty bad. Super Thunder Blade for instance might cause seizures. Some of the games had brutally slow controls as well, but this is again where attempting to relive your nostalgia is painfully different than simply being nostalgic. The view can be switch from normal 4:3 to widescreen 16:9, and a "smoothing" option is available, but neither does much to improve the graphics noticeably.

One big draw to this game is the achievement list, though maybe not in a good way. There is not even a full 50 achievements for some reason, nor is there even one achievement per game on the disc, most notably leaving the RPG games out of the mix. Most of the achievements only require a small task done that might be done in the first level or so of a game, which sadly won't get too many people playing out the entire game or even touching the ones that don't have achievements. With only 6-8 hours of game-play achievement-wise, the dozens of hours that should be spent on this collection might go to waste if someone can't be bothered to play this for what it is; experiencing how games used to be.

The achievement list did do one thing that I enjoy which was rewarding gamers not only with gamerscore, but unlockable extras inside the game. Not all, but most of the achievements would unlock an extra arcade game to play or some pretty decent interviews with some of the Sega staff. They aren't mind-blowing, but with all the possibilities that achievements have offered, few games have made use of them. Too few will give out extra gamerpics for instance, and now with the avatars, where are the unlockable clothes? The system is always evolving, so hopfully this trend continues.

Most people could easily create the "soundtracks" to these games in their bedroom with a pawn shop keyboard. While obviously not mind-blowing, they usually fit the mood of the game and do their part in making it playable.

Some of the games are pretty decent looking while a few made my head hurt. You can see the progression pretty clearly and aside from the odd duck that just got it all wrong, it paints a picture of just how far the gaming world has come.

You really can't beat the simplicity of only needing the joystick (or d-pad if you're feeling truly old skool) and at most three buttons, if not less. Anyone can pick up and go with these. If you do find the controls cumbersome, they can be remapped for most games to suit your style.

Aside from games I would have loved to see and the few that I really didn't want to see, this is an amazing collection.

I was disappointed to see the list not make full use of itself. They could have easily had one achievement for every game with still the few for unlocking/watching all the extras to round out a solid 50 achievements. There are also not enough for completing an entire game, instead just doing one action or one level in most. A decent list, but it could have been much more.

With some exceptions and some inclusions that maybe should have been, this would have been perfect. That said, it is pretty close. There is a great selection of games here and a lot of replay value. For the value ($30 retail) it really can't be beat. Well, maybe a 4-disc epic like Lost Odyssey or the online staying power of Halo and Gears might be better value, but they definitely can't rival that overwhelming nostalgia factor.

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