I have bloviated at length on this website about my upbringing as a Sega kid. While the SNES dominated the market, those of us who chose the Sega life knew we had a machine with true gems among its library. The arcade-centric counterpart to the SNES’ far broader appeal, the Mega Drive did its own thing and did it well. Now, a substantial collection of quality titles from the platform are available on modern consoles in pristine 4K.
This is not the first Mega Drive (called Genesis in the US for reasons passing understanding) collection ever released. There were a number of different collections released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 several years ago and Sega Mega Drive Classics represents a kind of Best Of compilation, with many of the titles found in those compendiums reappearing here.
The list is surprisingly long and wide-ranging. There’s 53 titles included in this collection, ranging from must-haves like Altered Beast and Comix Zone, Gunstar Heroes and Phantasy Star IV, Shining Force and Streets of Rage, but there are also a number of titles that have been left off the collection presumably for use in a follow-up volume. Games like Ecco the Dolphin and Sonic 3 do not appear here, which is disappointing especially when trash titles like Sonic Spinball made the cut. Even Columns III manages to sneak in for some reason despite Columns already being on the list. You may disagree, and you can see the full list of titles for yourself here, but for me this is a list that gets as much wrong as it gets right. There are some legitimate classics on here that I’m stoked to have on my Xbox One X and there are others that make me wonder if they were included because they were merely cheap to license.
Presentationally, the collection is a home run. The main menu is mocked up to look like a childhood bedroom with a CRT television and a Mega Drive, next to a bookshelf filled with old Mega Drive game boxes. You peruse the shelf, crack open the box and drop a cartridge into the Mega Drive. The game then boots up and is ready to play. A minor complaint — the game boots up first time, every time, I think the sole oversight in an otherwise tight recreation of the The Cartridge Experience. There was a physical component to playing games on your Mega Drive, the cart had to be coaxed into operation. Knowing full well that there’s no actual cart involved here, my brain still sees these games load without complaint and considers it a miracle.
Playing on my Xbox One X was a treat. The classic controls translate well to the Xbox One controller’s face buttons and you have your choice of the analogue stick or d-pad for movement. The game is also an “Xbox One X Enhanced” title meaning it runs in 4K, meaning these Mega Drive titles are now running at a res they were never, ever designed for. It’s surprising then that they look as great as they do. To jump from a peak native res of 320 × 480 to 3840 × 2160 is quite something and that they don’t suffer for it is remarkable. If the hard edged look on your pixel art isn’t for you, the colelction also comes with the now-standard old school display modes to better recreate the CRT experience in order to better see the pixel art visuals in the way they were originally intended.
All told, this is a solid trip down memory lane for those of us who grew up with a Mega Drive in the house. There’s a few clangers in the list of games provided but there’s more than enough great stuff in here to keep you going and more than a few I’ll bet you saw at the video shop but never played. I look forward to the inevitable second volume and live in hope that the Saturn and the Dreamcast will get similar treatment in the future.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Highlights: Long list of titles; 4K res is a super pleasant bonus; Great presentation
Lowlights: Not every game on the list is a winner; No Ecco 🙁
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Review conducted on Xbox One X using a pre-release retail code provided by the publisher.