Ah the Genesis. Back in the 16-bit era, Sega's black box was a masterpiece of hardware that competed fiercely with Nintendo through a combination of killer software and slick marketing. "Blast processing," anyone? Though the speedy blue hedgehog Sonic has been the focus of recent compilations, Sega's latest trip down memory lane takes a somewhat broader approach, revisiting a number of classics that many current gen gamers have never played.
Among the featured titles are the first two Sonic games, Phantasy Star II, III and IV (why not the original, we wonder?), the Ecco games, Sword of Vermilion, the Genesis conversion of Virtua Fighter 2 and the original pack-in game, Altered Beast. Golden Axe fans will appreciate the inclusion of Golden Axe III, which was previously only available as a Japanese import or a limited time download from the short-lived, but much loved Sega Channel. Rounding out the bunch are five unlockable arcade titles from the Sega vaults: arcade Altered Beast, Future Spy, Tac/Scan, Zaxxon and Zektor.
The variety in both style and technology is much appreciated, as the collection features everything from arcade action, to fighting, to in-depth RPG adventuring. In short, no matter what your gaming tastes, there is something here to whet your appetite. New features include the ability to save anytime, anywhere and a nifty progressive scan display. Oh, and the emulation is spot-on.
One of the biggest problems with emulation has always been getting the audio and video just right. Considering that the original software is often running in a different resolution than what today's consoles can display, the problem is something of a technical challenge. That said, the wizards at Digital Eclipse have handled the issue superbly. Across the entire collection of 30+ titles, we only noticed a few minor glitches, none affecting gameplay [Ed note: we've heard rumors of a crash bug involving Super Sonic in Sonic 2, but have been unable to recreate it].
What is disappointing about the collection however is the half-hearted effort that went into the museum section. Each game features two or three basic trivia items, a scan of the box art and a simplistic tip or two. Where's the concept art that was promised in the manual? Where's the in-depth history? And most importantly, where are the individual game manuals? Previous Sega collections have featured digital copies of the original manuals, so why wasn't it done here? For games like Sonic, a missing manual is no big deal, but when you're talking about an RPG with the depth of Phantasy Star IV, not having a manual is a bit of a hindrance, not to mention downright annoying.