Review: SEGA Mega Drive Classics (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed by Prans Dunn, posted Dec 12, 2018, last updated Dec 12, 2018
Dec 12, 2018
  • Release Date (NA): December 7, 2018
  • Release Date (EU): December 6, 2018
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Also For: Computer, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Released earlier on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, the SEGA Mega Drive Classics (or Genesis Classics) now lands on the Nintendo Switch. With literal shelves of retro games available to play on the go, is this the version you should go for?
Prans Dunn

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SEGA Mega Drive Classics is, as the name suggests, a collection of classic SEGA Mega Drive games. Playing those games on a Nintendo console while knowing the fact that the Mega Drive was the direct competitor of the SNES is a testament of how much times have changed!

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Once booted, the game greets the user with a simulated 90’s SEGA fan’s room: a Sonic carpet, wall posters of Shinobi and Streets of Rage, a SEGA Mega Drive console plugged to a CRT TV and more importantly, shelves full of Mega Drive games. Cool addition: the room even changes according to the time of day with sunlight flooding the room during the day while crickets stridulate at night. In many ways, it is the room I never had, because I never owned a Mega Drive console and also because I never owned so many cartridges. Interestingly, the whole room is actually the game’s menu interface where the user can navigate with the control stick/directional buttons or with the Switch’s touchscreen, which I found to be easier and more intuitive. One can navigate through a library of 51 games, adjust the emulator’s settings and - for a more current-gen touch - check online leaderboards and engage in matchmaking.

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Like the 90’s gamer room, most of the Mega Drive Classics is simulated, from the 51 included games to the cartridges to using an emulator to play the games. The emulator packs quite some useful features that gives those 16-bit games some very welcome oomph like multiple save states, fast-forward and rewind features. One might call those features cheats but they do enhance the overall gameplay in 2018 when you want to skip level completion screens in Sonic, fasten dialogues in Phantasy Star II or just want another try at stomping or dodging that crabmeat in Sonic the Hedgehog after it has snatched you out of your hard earned rings.

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Time to rewind because I am a sore loser want to try a different approach

There is also a neat achievement system called ‘Feats’ where one can attempt to complete specific tasks in a given game like collecting 500 rings in Sonic or dance the hula in ToeJam & Earl. There is also a ‘Challenge’ mode that pits the player in specific situations in certain games like directly facing the crab nabber and defeating it using just the dagger in Beyond Oasis. Such challenges and feats add some spice to games one thought they knew already. However, I deplore that these feats and challenges are not there for all games and feels like a missed opportunity to revamp a lot of those old games.

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This compilation also features games of various genres to cater for a wider audience from all time classic Sonic to fighting game Virtua Fighter to sci-fi RPG Phantasy Star to beat 'em up Streets of Rage. Should you get bored of one game or genre, there are many more for you to choose from. Moreover 2-player games like Streets of Rage and VS fights in Virtua Fighter are supported and can easily be played by taking out the joy-cons.

Here’s the full list of the 51 included titles:

  1. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  2. Alien Soldier
  3. Alien Storm
  4. Altered Beast
  5. Beyond Oasis
  6. Bio-Hazard Battle
  7. Bonanza Bros.
  8. Columns
  9. Columns III: Revenge of Columns
  10. Comix Zone
  11. Crack Down
  12. Decap Attack
  13. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
  14. Dynamite Headdy
  15. ESWAT: City Under Siege
  16. Fatal Labyrinth
  17. Flicky
  18. Gain Ground
  19. Galaxy Force II
  20. Golden Axe
  21. Golden Axe II
  22. Golden Axe III
  23. Gunstar Heroes
  24. Kid Chameleon
  25. Landstalker
  26. Light Crusader
  27. Phantasy Star II
  28. Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
  29. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium
  30. Ristar
  31. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
  32. Shining in the Darkness
  33. Shining Force
  34. Shining Force II
  35. Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  36. Sonic the Hedgehog
  37. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  38. Sonic 3D Blast
  39. Sonic Spinball
  40. Space Harrier II
  41. Streets of Rage
  42. Streets of Rage 2
  43. Streets of Rage 3
  44. Super Thunder Blade
  45. Sword of Vermilion
  46. The Revenge of Shinobi
  47. ToeJam & Earl
  48. ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron
  49. Vectorman
  50. VectorMan 2
  51. Virtua Fighter 2

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While a pretty impressive lineup of titles, it is not a best-of with some notable absentees like Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Ecco The Dolphin, Wonder Boy III and Wonder Boy in Monster World. The latter two games are even present in the PS4, PC and Xbox One versions of this compilation but are somehow missing in the Switch version. There is also a missed opportunity here to grow the cartridge shelf with additional titles through DLC packs with missing titles and/or fan favorite ones.

Sure, some people might not find their favorite games included or even find that one game that holds a sentimental value but the SEGA Mega Drive Classics is a great way to play and replay old games on a new console, and really feels like it was made to be played on the go. And for people like me who did not own the Mega Drive at its prime, this compendium really is a great way to experience some of the greatest titles that the console hosted. It got me to discover fun titles like ToeJam & Earl, marvel at the ingenuity of Comix Zone, and also ask important questions like why aren’t we talking more about Beyond Oasis?!

Verdict
Pros
+ Feature-rich emulator
+ Games run flawlessly
+ Games of different genre
+ Feats and challenges
Cons
- Some Mega Drive games present in this title on other platforms are absent in the Switch version
- No feats and challenges for all games
- No DLC packs planned for missing/further games
8 Presentation
The simulated 90’s room as the interface has a unique charm to it but fiddling around with options and features far apart can feel tiresome.
9 Gameplay
As far as the emulator goes, I have not encountered any issues.
8 Lasting Appeal
With 51 different titles, new achievements and competitive online leaderboards, you will find a lot of retro gaming to do with a fresh look!
8.3
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
A great example of preserving and presenting retro gaming on a current gen console! The Nintendo Switch version might very well be the optimal version of this title.


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