Release Date: December 7th, 2018 (Nintendo Switch)
ESRB: Teen (Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence)
So the holidays are finally behind us. As a child, I remember eagerly opening new Sega Genesis games during Christmas and then spending hours playing them over the break from school. The year I got Sonic 3 is forever ingrained in my brain. I recall getting new Power Ranger toys and alternating between playing with them and my new video games. I know I’m not alone, getting lost in nostalgia as I think back to various holidays of the mid-90’s. Here comes Sega Genesis Classics, a collection of some of the most popular hits on the Genesis from a time period that I would consider to be the Golden Age of video games. I had a chance to review the Nintendo Switch version, which released on December 6th, 2018, and I would like to share my thoughts on it. As Sonic would say: “Let’s do it!”
Sega Genesis Classics is the culmination of various Sega Genesis games that were rereleased over five volumes between 2010 and 2012. Eventually, Sega decided to release all five volumes in one massive collection. Classic series such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, Shinobi, Golden Axe, Shining Force, and Streets of Rage are featured prominently in this assortment of over fifty Genesis titles. There are plenty of different genres to appeal to any gamer, from falling-block puzzlers like Columns to RPGs such as Sword of Vermillion. Despite the plethora of amazing games, many of which I never got a chance to play as a kid, I have to admit my disappointment of a handful of titles that did NOT make it to the console release of this game. Eternal Champions, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and the three Ecco the Dolphin games were part of three of the original five volumes, but were not included in the full collection. (It is worth noting that two games from the Wonder Boy series are part of the collection as well, but they were excluded from the Switch version.) The fact that Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are missing is particularly painful, as they are my two favorites in the series, but at least we get Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast to make up for it. Both of those games are highly underrated, in my opinion. Also, I was thrilled when I saw Phantasy Star III in the lineup because it was one of the first RPGs I ever played. Some final gems I want to make note of are the original two ToeJam & Earl games that are in this compilation. I was eight years old when I first played them and they are still just as fun and just as difficult as they were all those years ago. Even though a handful of true classics are missing from the lineup, the sheer volume of high-quality games in this collection makes up for the ones that are missing.
As soon as the collection loads, we’re greeted by a video montage of various characters from the titles featured in Sega Genesis Classics as they fight baddies in a virtual world and punch their way through giant Sega Genesis cartridges. My description doesn’t do it justice – it’s actually really cool. After the opening video, we find ourselves in what looks to be a teenager’s bedroom, complete with a Sonic the Hedgehog rug and posters from some of the games in the collection. Aside from the typical bed and desk in the room, there is also a television set and a bookshelf full of Genesis game cases. The various options are represented by different props throughout the room, such as the input settings being on a controller and the audio settings on a stereo system. The game library on the bookshelf is used the most frequently, as that is how players will select which game they want to play and there is even a feature to select one’s favorites so they appear on the top shelf. Otherwise, the games are in alphabetical order. Once a game is selected, a cartridge is inserted into the Sega Genesis console beneath the TV and the game begins. The games can either be viewed on the TV set or in full screen, but I doubt many people would want to see a smaller TV on their real TV or Nintendo Switch. Still, seeing the white static on an old television set before a game begins just adds to the nostalgia. I just wish I could blow into the cartridges!
The Sega Genesis on the screen also serves as the console settings option. One thing I love about Sega Genesis Classics is the ability to adjust the pixel scaling in the console settings. By default, the games look like their original renditions, but there are four different settings to make the pixels much smoother and crisper, which modernizes the gameplay experience. I feel this option is a great way to acclimate newer players to older games, while keeping the original graphics for fans of the old-school way. Additionally, the collection allows saving and loading at any time, which really helps with mistakes during some of the less-forgiving games. Speaking of mistakes, the shoulder buttons allow the player to fast-forward or rewind any game while playing, which is a neat way to undo any mishaps or speed up some of the slower parts of a game. There is also a “mirror” option, which flips the games horizontally for a whole new way to play. Another neat option is the “Extras” menu, represented by a trophy on the desk. Within that menu are “feats” and “challenges,” where the former asks the player to complete a scenario under certain conditions like beating a level in Shinobi III without throwing a shuriken and the latter offers challenges like completing an act in Sonic the Hedgehog in mirror mode in under a minute. These “extras” are an amazing way to spice up an already extensive collection of gems. [Author’s Note: I would like to mention that while there is an online multiplayer option, I was unable to test it out, but any of the games that allow two players can be selected for online play.]
I’m finally going to address the elephant in the room: A collection of Sega games is on a Nintendo system. If someone had told my younger self that it would happen in my lifetime, I would’ve laughed in their face. The Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were competing so hard in the early 90’s that they were both constantly putting out amazing games. Each gaming company was trying to outdo the other and I believe that is what led to such an amazing time period in video game history. Sure, we get a few gems here and there on modern consoles, but in my opinion, we will never be able to recreate the glory days of the early to mid-90’s. With that being said, Sega Genesis Classics definitely helps us revisit those fantastic childhood memories and should absolutely be part of everyone’s library. (Justin Singh, Gaming Staff Writer)
Review copy provided by Sega.