Review: Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection (Xbox 360)
Authentically old-school but just not very good.
It’s still a little mindblowing that a collection of games that would have once taken up three shelves in our bedrooms now fits on a single disc and costs just a little more than one of those games used to but there has always been a downside to emulation and retro compilations and that’s the lack of motivation to stick with a single game when you’ve got dozens more to get through. It’s the same with MAME. Three-thousand old arcade games to play but I only ever want to fire up Bombjack or Mr Do’s Castle.
What you need is a reason to stick with a game and that reason might as well be achievements. It worked well for the SNK Collection so it was intriguing when Sega announced the Mega Drive Ultimate Collection. More than forty Sega titles optimised for hi-def tellies and chock-full of achievements, artwork and interview videos? What could go wrong?
Before I get into that, let’s take a look at the games on offer. There are forty eight games here (most of which are available from the start) and they cover several genres. The stars of the package are the phenomenal Comix Zone, the Streets of Rage trilogy, the Shining Force and Phantasy Star games and, if you’re into such things, the early Sonic games (1,2,3 and Sonic & Knuckles albeit without the linking functionality of the originals).
It’s not all good news though as the package also includes a fair few duffers such as Alex Kidd, Altered Beast and the frankly awful Super Thunderblade. However, the diversity and sheer number of games here is impressive even if many of the games no longer are.
Although, as the name suggests, the package is dominated by Mega Drive games there are also some tasty arcade games to unlock such as the original (and best) Shinobi, Zaxxon, Space Harrier and Alien Syndrome. Not bad when at least a couple of those could have made Sega a fair bit of cash if released as Xbox Live Arcade games.
Aw man this had the potential to be the best retro collection ever released but once you load it up and look past the admittedly impressive list of old school games ready to play you’ll start to notice what’s NOT in the collection. The first and by far worse offence is the complete lack of online options with not a single online multiplayer or scoreboard to be found, which is unforgivable given that Backbone managed it just fine with their Xbox Live! Arcade version of Streets of Rage II.
The rest of the collection and what could generously described as ‘bonus’ material is limited to cover art galleries (Using the American box art, another sign of the laziness that permeates this collection) dull video interviews that are made up with seemly random members of some of the game’s dev teams. Seriously I don’t want to hear how you made Columns or Alex-shitty-even-then-Kidd was made, I want Yuzo Koshiro or Team Sonic talking about classic games not some forgettable software stuck in to pad out the game list that despite being billed as an ‘ultimate’ collection is still missing some major games, Hellfire or Revenge of Shinobi anyone?
If you want to wallow in some nostalgia rent this as the lack of longevity and huge amounts of chaff will quickly get to you. If you’re serious about playing retro Megadrive games I’m sorry to say, hunting down the original carts or getting a PSP with Picodrive homebrew is still the best route to go even with this budget title.
Secondary Score: 4/10
A full list of included games can be found at the bottom of this review, so let’s get down to business. What we have here is a collection straightforward ports. The case may say “play the originals that started it all… now in HD!” but this just equates to Sega’s usual trick of either displaying the original graphics or the same but with a horrible smoothing filter that ruins most of the games if you use it.
Another recent quirk of Sega’s is the inclusion of savestates for all the games. This makes completing most of the achievements a breeze and isn’t something I’d normally condone but with this collection it almost seems fair enough because some of these old games are mercilessly tough, especially anything featuring a boss battle. Balancing out old, ruthless gameplay with modern day cheapness is still a shame and makes you wonder why they couldn’t have included tweaked versions of the games with better difficulty balancing.
Probably the worst thing about the game though is the lack of online functionality. Sega’s Xbox Live Arcade titles all feature online multiplayer but none of the games on offer here do. No versus, no co-op and no leaderboards. Also the achievements themselves don’t really require much effort often occuring unlocking with the first couple of levels of each game.
So in the end what you have is a solid collection of Sega titles with a few top titles, some interesting curios and a bunch of games that weren’t even good in the early nineties but nothing more. Dyed in the wool Sega fans will have no end of fun replaying some of their old favourites but everyone else may find the collection a little too dated and bareboned for their modern palates.
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Alien Storm, Alien Syndrome (arcade), Altered Beast, Beyond Oasis, Bonanza Bros, Columns, Comix Zone, Congo Bongo AKA Tip Top (arcade), Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Dynamite Headdy, ESWAT: City Under Siege, Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco: The Tides of Time, Fantasy Zone (arcade), Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, Gain Ground, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Golden Axe III, Golden Axe Warrior (Sega Master System), Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star (Sega Master System), Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, Ristar, Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing, Shinobi (arcade), Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic & Knuckles 2, Sonic Spinball, Sonic the Hedgehog 1, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Space Harrier (arcade), Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, Super Thunder Blade, Vectorman, Vectorman 2, Zaxxon (arcade)