Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/genesis_classics_1/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Sega is one publisher that hasn't been shy about reexploring its back catalogue, putting out numerous collections and re-releases across a variety of consoles over the years -- soon it will be busting out the old Dreamcast classics, if you haven't heard.
Recently they've expanded to the PC, bringing several previously re-released golden oldies to the platform and taking advantage of the extra features it can provide.
The first in the Sega Genesis Classics series packs a nice variety of titles (some of which have aged better than others): Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Crack Down, Ecco the Dolphin, Gain Ground, Golden Axe, Shadow Dancer, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic 3D Blast, Space Harrier II, and Vectorman. The games can be purchased individually from GamersGate or Steam for $2.99 each (excepting Sonic which is strangely $4.99), or about $35 for the whole lot.
Since like myself, you've probably played a lot of these before, I'll give a brief look at each title after focusing on the emulator and its features.
The emulator itself is built in-house by Sega, and offers many of the options those in the scene are accustomed to, though it's less comprehensive. The most attractive options are high resolution support complete with aspect ratio scaling, and then graphical filters Linear, TV and Enhanced.
Below we have four shots of Ecco in action. At roughly the same spot, you can see the different filters and how they render the graphics -- the first is with no filter, the second with Linear, the third with TV, and the last with Enhanced, which seems to be the 2xSai mode as it is more often called in emulation. No filter I find is a bit too grainy, while Linear provides the minor graphical boost needed to properly enjoy the titles on a large monitor. TV is more or less a novelty which recreates that feeling of playing the classics on those busted 90's TVs, while 2xSai is strongly a matter of preference -- I found it modifies the graphics too heavily, so I stuck with Linear.
There's also minor options like VSync to prevent tearing, auto-pause, and windowed/fullscreen modes. Keyboard controls are passable, but generally you'll want to hook up a gamepad (any will do), which is easy to map.
Ecco is lauded for its unique setting and gameplay; essentially it throws you, Ecco the Dolphin into the ocean, where you communicate with other dolphins, swim and dive and feed and explore and go on missions. In short, you live the life of a dolphin, with just the proper amount of magic and adventure thrown in. It still holds up today, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone open to different experiences.
Golden Axe is another highlight of the pack -- a classic beat 'em up with a fantasy theme. As it always has been, the game is terrible fun with two players, though it's still a solid enough romp solo. You'll spend most of your time traversing hillsides and dungeons and such, taking down monsters big and small and unleashing hellacious magic spells when necessary.
Shadow Dancer and its sequel are both well-built sidescrolling ninja action games. Unfortunately for some reason, the former was not included with my review package, but it's my understanding it's a lesser version of Shinobi III, though definitely solid as well. Shinobi III is typically seen as a peak in the series -- the art, music and action are all great, and you sport a number of cool moves like sliding slashes and of course, ninja star throwing. Power-ups and sweet bosses seal the deal.
Altered Beast is a true gem, and a game I still recite lines from ("I command you to rise from your grave and save my daughter" -- awesome). The music is haunting and dark as is the artwork; the difficulty is tough, and the powers are cool -- you transform into a Wolf, Dragon, Bear and Tiger after collecting three power-ups from blue oxes, and each comes with its own abilities. Altered Beast is something better experienced than explained, so I recommend you get on this now if you haven't already.
Comix Zone is a game with a concept as great as its execution. You play Sketch Turner (god the 90s was so cheesy), a comic book artist trapped in his own comic. You've got to battle your own creations and try to find a way out of your universe. It's another beat 'em up, but with a unique and great art style -- definitely one of the better looking games on the console. Combat is fairly varied, as are enemy moves -- items mix it up further. Definitely recommended.
I'd never played Crack Down before and don't really plan to after this review. It reeks of a game that was good for its time, but the progression in game design since is just too vast and it doesn't have enough going for it to compensate -- it looks more like an NES game than a Genesis title. The gameplay resembles titles like Bomberman and Syndicate, in that you've got to walk around levels setting bombs while avoiding and shooting enemies. The mechanics are particularly basic, which is a good and bad thing. Overall, it's got charm, but I'd have to recommend it only if you really enjoyed it back when it was released.
Gain Ground suffers a similar fate -- bad graphics and simple gameplay just don't hold up. Basically you pick a character type and try to figure out how to take down a horde of enemies. There's nothing really more to explain beyond what the screenshots do, so I'll leave it at that.
Sonic 3D Blast I remember enjoying a fair bit as a kid. It's got everything you love about the main entries except its on a 2.5D plane (2.5D doesn't sound very attractive, I guess). It works partially, but overall the controls are definitely a bit awkward and you'll probably be left wanting for a 2D or full 3D title. Still, it could be a great game for the kids, though at $4.99 you'd probably be better off spending your money elsewhere.
Pretty cool: Space Harrier II. This one is a third person rail shooter with graphics reminscient of the old F-Zero series. The goal here is to dodge obstacles and weapon fire while taking out baddies and giant bosses. In a word: fun.
Vectorman meanwhile is a 2D platform shooter. It hasn't aged quite as well as I'd hoped, but some will still find enjoyment in it. The graphics are a bit rough (no Crack Down, mind you), but it's easy enough to remember the appeal with the cool story, the hero's unique design, and lots of cool powers to inject variety into the gameplay.
I have to say I'm very glad Sega is bringing these games to PC, as not only are some needed upgrades brought to the table, they're perfect for gaming portably, whether on your laptop or netbook. While emulation has been around for many years, it's nice to have a legal route. The full package price I have to agree with those that say it's probably too much, but since you likely only really want a handful, the $2.99 feels reasonable enough. Now just bring on Shining Force II!
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