SEGA Mega Drive Classics (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 17.06.2018

Review for SEGA Mega Drive Classics on Xbox One

Boasting over fifty games and a wealth of features, SEGA Mega Drive Classics is the newest compilation for fans of the popular 16-bit console. Gamers the world over can revisit all of the greatest hits, or spend time with something a little more obscure. In any case, they will be thrust into a world filled with ninjas, warriors, and hedgehogs. The question is, though, how well does this package come together.

Speaking strictly in terms of library, SEGA Mega Drive Classics is packed wall to wall with… classics. Most of these titles have held up very well, and some are even better than its fans remember. Take Alien Soldier, for example; it's still one of Treasure's very best. It's so effortlessly refined and fast-paced that every in-game moment feels like a joyously supercharged jolt of excitement straight into the cerebrum. Shining Force II is the perfect entry point for anyone curious about strategy RPGs. To this day, it remains a remarkable achievement, for it balances the slow and steady progress of building a mighty army, with the tactics necessary to win battles.

It's also worth mentioning just how robust this collection is. Every genre is represented, usually with one or more standout title. Naturally, the platformer selection is dominated by Sonic the Hedgehog games, but Ristar and Dynamite Headdy are well worth everyone's attention. Fans of beat 'em ups get half a dozen Golden Axe and Streets of Rage entries to play around with. Landstalker and Light Crusader are more than sufficient for scratching that action-adventure itch. There are even a couple roguelikes for the one or two people who aren't completely sick of them by now: ToeJam & Earl and Fatal Labyrinth.

Still, even though this compilation tips the scales at over fifty games, it's far from comprehensive. Quite a few classics, such as Pulseman and the 16-bit Thunder Force entries, didn't make the cut. Then there's the absence of Ecco, Sonic The Hedgehog 3, and other titles that made appearances in previous compilations. This could be attributed to licensing rights, which tends to be an issue in older media. Nevertheless, as a fan of the Isley Brothers, this critic as always held to one of their mantras: "If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with." With that in mind, it's important to look at a handful of underappreciated Mega Drive oldies included in this set.

Screenshot for SEGA Mega Drive Classics on Xbox One

Sandwiched in-between its far more popular ninja brethren is Shadow Dancer. Based off of the arcade game of the same name, this action-platformer is designed more in the spirit of the original Shinobi. That means everything kills in one hit. In order to survive, Hayate Musashi must carefully consider every scenario. Although he has an endless supply of shuriken, his enemies tend to carry guns or deflect ranged attacks. Further complicating matters are ninjas, who ambush the hero whenever it's convenient for them. Interestingly enough, this game throws around a lot of bonus lives. That's likely to give players plenty of chances to make mistakes and consider different approaches. Altogether, it's a tough yet fair game that requires a lot of finesse.

As far as shmups go, Bio-Hazard Battle definitely deserves a few points for its aesthetics. Bio-themed and featuring a base-heavy soundtrack, it will leave an impression on eyes and ears everywhere. The game itself is also quite good. There are four playable "ships," each with four weapons to choose from. The way it works is that colour-coded power-ups will float on-screen from time to time, so it's just a matter of choosing whatever works best. There's also a charged shot for wiping out larger targets. Although this STG relies heavily on tradition, it's carefully crafted to remain fun and interesting throughout. Each of the eight stages offers something new to look forward to, but not in a manner that's shallow or gimmicky.

Then there's Beyond Oasis, which is simply one of the best games of the 16-bit era. Developed by Ancient, the team behind Streets of Rage 2 and Gotta Protectors, this action-adventure has it all. The combat is heavily inspired by beat 'em ups, as there are numerous attacks and combos for clobbering foes. By commanding the four elemental spirits, the hero can devastate his foes and solve puzzles. There's also an emphasis on platforming, which works surprisingly well. This game is a little on the short side, but that works to its benefit. A lot of replay value is in trying for better times, completing the adventure without levelling up, and uncovering all of the secrets.

Screenshot for SEGA Mega Drive Classics on Xbox One

Now of all the games in this collection, why draw attention to these three? Well, it's simply because they are unlikely to ever see a thoughtfully-designed re-release. Granted, Beyond Oasis was released on the Wii's Virtual Console, which is said to be going offline next year, but it's not quite enough. These, and many other underappreciated titles, are going to slip through the cracks and become lost in time, or become preserved as "filler" in sub-par compilations, such as SEGA Mega Drive Classics.

There's no other way to say it: this collection just isn't the ideal way to experience the Mega Drive. The console has been emulated for decades, and companies like M2 have been able to deliver perfected versions of the classics, yet this one makes it seem like everything is sliding backwards. The sound is all over the place. Effects and voices are either fine or wretched, and the music never seems to get above tolerable. Then there's the stuttering, which tends to occur every 15 minutes or so. This doesn't seem to have a massive effect on the gameplay, but it's still very distracting.

There's some charm to the UI and its "retro bedroom" look, but it's clunky to navigate and some features aren't adequately accounted for. There are three button configurations to choose from, but no options for remapping, which are bound to annoy anyone playing with an arcade stick. Certain video options, such as scanlines, don't appear in full-screen mode. The fast-forward and rewind features are pretty handy, but the distorted effect is unnecessary and kind of obnoxious. Online play is available, although it's hard to imagine anyone actually bothering with it, because the lag is unbearable.

Screenshot for SEGA Mega Drive Classics on Xbox One

While it's not likely to happen to everyone, there's a small chance that save data can be lost. When playing RPGs, it's best to stick with either the in-game save functionality or the UI - never both. That might have been what led to data getting lost, but that's just a guess. There's also a quicksave and quickload option, which is enabled by holding the right analogue stick down or up. This seems rather superfluous considering that there's already a rewind feature for those who are prone to mistakes. Also, when in the UI save menu, try to avoid absentmindedly pressing the X button, as while there's a confirmation when overwriting old saves, there isn't one at all for loading saves. One wrong input is all it takes to undo hours of progress.

To be fair, there are some good features. Several of the games allow players to select the region. In some cases, the differences can be quite significant. Dynamite Headdy is a fair bit less frustrating in the Japanese version, as the puppet hero has more health and continues to lose. Bare Knuckle III is superior in every way when compared to its Western counterpart, Streets of Rage 3. What's the difference between the PAL and JP editions of Alien Soldier? It's about ten frames per second, which can mean the world in such an intense run 'n' gun. There are also challenges, which offer unique conditions for players to overcome.

Altogether, it's probably best to view this compilation as a "sampler." If someone is willing to pay a premium and settle for fewer games, then they are bound to get a superior experience. Phantasy Star fans are better served by thePhantasy Star Complete Collection. It's a SEGA Ages release and PlayStation 3 owners can grab it from the Japanese PlayStation Store. All four entries can be played in English, and there are options to increase walking speed, as well as experience and money gains. All told, it's a stunning collection and well worth jumping through the few hoops it takes to obtain it. There's also the SEGA 3D classics library, which is all-around fantastic. In the near future, Switch owners will be treated to the next wave of M2's Ages line, and its work is always high quality.

Screenshot for SEGA Mega Drive Classics on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


After spending some time with SEGA Mega Drive Classics, the nagging feeling is why these compilations are always riddled with issues. There aren't many complaints to be had when it comes to the library, yet the emulation is never up to snuff. Perhaps dedicating such a large amount of resources to the UI wasn't the right call. A number of features are poorly-realised and implemented. It's hard to enjoy the games when nothing sounds or feels quite right. The stuttering is especially baffling. While its appearance is rare, it should be non-existent. In short, fans of the console deserve better.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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