This latest Mega Drive collection is probably the best yet in terms of features, but is otherwise very much business as usual.
Since abandoning the hardware side of things, the company have doggedly re-released a near-identical list of Mega Drive games on too many formats to list here.
Truth be told, it’s actually pretty surprising that only now, four years after launch, are the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One finally getting their due, in the form of the aptly titled SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you’re in the US) Collection.
ONE FOR THE AGES?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that by now the whole exercise is beginning to feel more than a little perfunctory. However, this time around, developer D3T have at least gone to the trouble of introducing some new (or relatively so) features, such as online multiplayer and a horizontal flip mode, changing the standard left-to-right gameplay for most games, into right-to-left.
Likewise, the games list itself has undergone some tinkering: notable by their absence are all of the Ecco games, Fatal Labyrinth, plus Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. In their place we get 16 ‘new’ titles, including Bio-hazard Battle, a curious insect-themed shmup missing from previous generation collections. I say ‘new’ because all the games featured in the SEGA Mega Drive Collection (plus a few more) are available on Steam and many were on the Wii’s late Virtual Console. It’s a solid line up with a good mix of genres, albeit an all too familiar one.
The collection’s interface is a full 3D render of an early ‘90s SEGA fan’s bedroom, complete with various on point props and appropriate pre-millennial decor. As appealing as that may sound, it’s worth bearing in mind that what’s on offer here is almost identical to the free front-end released on Steam a few years ago. So, while technically this collection is also coming to PC, it’ll be a relatively minor upgrade to the existing experience and we’d expect games to continue to be sold separately rather than as a set on Valve’s digital platform.
AN UNALTERED BEAST
Choosing a game to play involves navigating a shelf full of spine on Mega Drive cases, just like real life in days of yore. It’s cute, but feels a little sluggish. Thank goodness there’s a favourites feature, allowing titles of your choice to be moved to the very start of the list. Various game-specific challenges can also be accessed from here, and where applicable, it’s possible to immediately skip to the correct part of the appropriate game to attempt them. While a nice idea, this is only likely to be of use to hardcore trophy or achievement hunters. The aforementioned flip mode is similarly throwaway, with few practical applications outside of novelty speedrunning and streaming.
For a handful of games, it’s possible to select from a number of regional variations. While it’s not quite clear what the criteria were here, this seems to be an option for text-heavy RPGs where there’s likely to be a language barrier, plus in a couple of instances where there are significant differences between versions (Streets of Rage, for example). Although there aren’t any digital manuals to peruse, the obligatory save state function is present and correct, with quick functions handily mapped to the right stick.
The emulator itself has a wide number of customisation options, but again, little we haven’t seen before. Since these games run natively at a 4:3 aspect ratio, by default they’ll have black borders on either side. If that’s not to your liking, you can instead choose from a number of border designs, to stretch the display area to 16:9 or even zoom out in such a way that the games can be seen actually running on the cute little portable CRT in your aforementioned virtual bedroom.
What’s more, there are optional scanlines, a TV Projection setting, which mimics the distinct curvature of old tube TVs, and a number of Pixel Filters. While we’d assert that a sharp, pixel perfect presentation with plain borders is best for extended play, there’s certainly some fun to be had playing with the settings here. Below are some examples to give you an idea of what’s possible:
Video reproduction is almost perfect, as is sound, the odd dodgy effect notwithstanding. We did experience occasional, sporadic split second pauses during play, but the overall experience is solid. We’re quite sure that the vast majority of gamers, even those who played these games back in the ‘90s, will be perfectly happy with the quality of the emulation, but ultra hardcore perfectionists may beg to differ.
We love the Mega Drive, and on one hand it’s great to see some of its best games grace current generation consoles. On the other, the stock line up of titles is getting pretty stale by this point, and the cool bedroom interface is far from new itself.
The bottom line is this: these are excellent games that still hold up today, but if you’re here, on SEGA Nerds, you’ve probably played them to death many times over. Yes, it’s convenient to have them on a modern console, particularly when it’s getting harder and harder (or rather, more and more expensive) to connect pre-HDMI consoles to new TVs, but we’re pretty sure that every human being on earth that was ever going to play Sonic the Hedgehog already has by now.
If you’re one of a tiny minority of nostalgics that has yet to re-live SEGA’s 16-bit halcyon days, or desperately want some to add some Mega Drive classics to your PS4 or Xbox One library, this collection is great. For the rest of us, though, there are simply too few new gameplay opportunities.
+ Great games
+ Customisable emulator
+ Cool interface
– No truly new games
– Minor audio issues
– Flip mode and challanges little more than novelties
[Editor’s note: SEGA provided a promotional code for the purposes of this review]