Going Retro!!….

When I was 2-3 years old me and my older brother got a Mega Drive. Although it was not our first games machine (That goes to our Atari 520ST) It was our first proper games console and would have a profound impact on my younger self. This was nearly 25 years ago, and I still have the same console today, setup with the later released (and poorly received) Mega CD which I only got a few years ago. Playing the classics such as Sonic 2, Streets of Rage and Comix Zone are something I still do on a regular basis. Plugging in the old cartridges, the classic 3 button controller and the simple games brings back the old days of why we played games before it got all about graphics, heavy stories, and processing power. But not all of us have a Mega Drive, and even then building up a collection can cost a lot of money and take time. There is emulation, but hooking up a TV and a controller with software can just be annoying and it’s just easier to turn on your home console and play some games, so The Sega Mega Drive Classics collection has got you covered.

The interface is a 90’s bedroom, just like my old room

The collection hosts 50 classic games including games such as Golden Axe, Shining Star, and Altered Beast. All can be played in their original state, however, the collection has a few features to make it feel a bit more authentic. Pixel scaling, scan lines and TV projection (curvature of the screen so it seems like a classic CRT TV) can all be emulated to make it seem more like an original Mega Drive experience. It also supports widescreen – to an extent – the games are just stretched to fit the TV which can make some games look a bit odd, but not awful. There’s support for save states, a fast forward/ rewind tool, sprite limit removal and a mirror mode,  just small features to change up the gameplay. The games all play as they would in the old days, and the simplicity of the Mega Drive controller means all the buttons are mapped out nice and easy. This goes for most games, however, some games, such as Comix Zone, use the 6-button controller which makes mapping a bit messy. The 6 button controller put XYZ above ABC, nice and easy. Obviously, this can’t be done on the PS controller so it needs to be mapped to the shoulder buttons instead. It works fine but just seems a bit off and annoying, but honestly, what else could they have done?

There’s a decent selection of games, although missing some classics

The interface of the collection is commendable but a bit messy at times. The main menu is set up as an early 90s Sega fans bedroom, and different parts of furniture correspond to different options and settings. Your shelf of games is where you go to select a game, the console itself opens up emulation options, the controllers on the floor are the controller options, your desk of notes is extras, the time of day can even be edited so you can emulate playing games at 2 am while your parents are asleep. Its all very endearing but I feel that a basic menu setup (similar to that of NES/SNES classic) would’ve been much easier. Selecting a game from the shelf puts it into the console and loads up the game on the TV in whatever options you have set up. Now I can leave the game to mess around with the options without closing the game as the game stays open (even if you look around the room you can see the game is paused on the TV). But what’s strange is that when I go back to TV, instead of going back to the game in full screen, it plays the game on the TV in my virtual room, on my TV instead of just full screening the game. It’s only an extra button press but I find it really strange that this is even an option. It doesn’t make it feel more authentic playing on an emulated 4:3 CRT tv, I just want classic Sega. I guess they were going for something different, but it does feel a bit of a mess.

Golden Axe with no filters (left) and full TV projection and scan lines (right)

One of the more interesting features thrown in is the online multiplayer. This simply serves as a way to be someone’s player 2 online and works for a handful of games. As a younger brother I as always Tails and usually player 2 (akin to being Luigi) so this was nothing new to me, but playing online? This was pretty cool and never would’ve even struck me that this would be a thing as a kid. You can select what games you want to get involved with and let the game search for you, or invite a friend to play with you. It’s really simple and throws you straight in there as if you’re both plugged into the same TV. Voice chat is also supported so it’s easy to communicate as I had a player who kept pressing B instead of start and needed to tell him how to play.

One of, if not – THE best Mega Drive game, Streets of Rage 2

The collection is a strong set of games for a pretty good price. There are some questionable design choices in the menus that make it a bit rough around the edges, but these are minor in the face of what it actually offers. The emulation gives you a pretty deep selection of options to toy with, to make it more aesthetically pleasing and how it looks and runs. There are some gems it’s missing, such as Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but what it offers makes up for these omissions, including some rarer games such as Phantasy Star which is pricey to find a PAL copy of these days. The online multiplayer is a big deal also, something I thought would be quite difficult to do, but they pulled it off and is extremely easy to get into. What this offers most though, is the ease of playing these games again. As said I do still have my Mega Drive, and it is fun to play it from time to time, but it suffers from 2 major problems that most Mega Drives would be suffering from these days. Its video output is terrible, leaving huge colored borders around the screen, and the other being it’s not that reliable. Freezing and crashing while rare, still happen. This collection removes those problems, adds more and is still cheaper than some of these games are on their own. The Mega Drive collection is a welcome addition to this new era of retro revival and I’d love to see more of it.