Back to the depth-perception basics.
Sega has been in some rough waters the past few years. Some franchises are doing gangbusters, like the fantastic Yakuza 5 (which literally involves gangs and busting people up), while flagship franchises (*cough*SonicBoom*cough*) have been languishing in both sales and reviews. But like most gamers my age, their memories of console wars of the early 1990s are fresh and still hold up well to this day. And damn, were those good times.
So good, in fact, that Sega has been re-releasing their classics often enough over the past few years. Compilations, individual purchases through PSN or XBLA, and those 16-bit Genesis throwbacks all take us back to a day when games and gamers were, possibly, more easily entertained and awed, but nevertheless satisfied with excellent level design and hip, gnarly coolness, dude. And now, for the 3DS, we are treated to yet another compilation.
This time though, there’s some difference in Sega 3D Classics Collection. For example, the games list is not nearly as impressive as in past releases. There are ten (well, nine really... wait, no, eight) available games for arcades, the Genesis, and Sega’s ill-fated Master System, so I thought they might get their own few sentences of description and individual review:
Altered Beast (Genesis) - This is the arcade port that everyone remembers as being a classic, but few remember actually being “good.” It’s passable, but was replaced as a pack-in with Sonic the Hedgehog for a reason. The 3D doesn’t help, but it doesn’t hurt either, which is plenty good enough. It offers two-player play, though, which is nice.
Power Drift (Arcade) - Racing at breakneck speeds, the point is to gain third or better to move on to the next stage. But control over the car isn’t nearly where it could or should be, so it’s clunky and not very fun. It feels less like you’re driving along a track à la Super Mario Kart and more like you’re on a ride, where turning too soon or too late can send you careening off the asphalt. Another thrown in for its 3D look, but only makes me long for Super Hang On or Outrun instead.
Puyo Puyo 2 (Genesis) - A simple, “connect four of the same color” puzzle classic that just about matched the quality of the arcade release. It’s a personal favorite, the 3D effect is pretty nice (though entirely unnecessary for such a game), and it feels right for a portable console all things considering. The other game that offers two-player play.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis) - The side-scrolling classic that puts the Sega Genesis on the world’s radar, and rightfully so. Because damn, 25 years later, it’s still great, even after the ret-conned Spin Dash was included. With the 3D on, it’s even prettier. Still a near-perfect game in my eyes.
Galaxy Force II (Arcade) - Did you like Star Fox on SNES but wish it came without the characters and interesting enemies? Then Galaxy Force II may work. Worrying about fuel consumption was never so much fun? (The question mark is intentional.) I’m counting this as a dud added for the 3D effect, which admittedly fits like a glove.
Thunder Blade (Arcade) - A helicopter shooter that plays like part-Tiger Heli (NES) and part-Galaxy Force II, thankfully without the fuel-draining constraint. It’s still not very interesting, save for the 3D effect weaving around buildings and a little mindless fun, but it too is included just for the sake of showing off depth.
Fantasy Zone 2 (Arcade) -The greatest clone of Defender I know about, FZ2 is slow at times, but grows incredibly challenging in the way only classic token-drinkers can. Without the tokens (and the ability to start from a defeated stage with some accumulated funds), this is a top-notch horizontal shooting title that never got the respect it deserved. The 3D effect is subtle, but if you watch for it, it’s nicely done.
Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (SMS) - The SMS port of the arcade title, it’s still fun, but feels more stiff and intentionally difficult from its lack of up- or downward-scrolling screen.
Fantasy Zone 2: Link Loop Land - Accessed through the arcade version’s menu, LLL is an endless stream of scrolling baddies in a score attack mode, with multiple power-ups already on your craft and one life to spend destroying everything in sight. A highlight for the package. It’s not really a unique game, but it’s a different enough experience that it needs to be mentioned this way. And damn it’s fun.
Maze Walker (SMS) - It’s exactly what it sounds like: you walk through a maze with both upper and lower sections, collecting items and transporting from up close to lowered distance right quick. It’s not particularly intense, and it’s downright slow in the distance sections more often than now, but it’s one of the few designed for the 3D glasses on the SMS way back when, so it’s perfect for the 3DS screen.
All of the games include a special feature unique to them as well, from level select menus and alternate music settings, to tilt-specific controls, to even Link Loop Land which again, isn’t an entirely separate game, but worthy enough and borderline enough. The features are nice, but none of them are particularly stand-out for what could be expected with a compilation like this.
For such a small collection, there does seem to be an emphasis on games that can display the depth the 3DS is capable of, but not quite enough on the quality of games. After playing Power Drift, for example, I realize I could have gone longer without playing it either in the arcade or any other platform. With the limited number of games included it, and with some of them simply there almost like “proof of concept” displays, it’s disappointing that games like Space Harrier or Super Hang On were omitted—plenty of arcade and Genesis games took on that clever pseudo-3D appearance of depth, but the games selected for this package weren’t even well-known, well-loved classics.
For the games that are here, however, all are well-ported, and even if a few are underwhelming or simple snooze-fests, there are enough positive titles to warrant a purchase if classic Sega is your bag (and, let’s me honest, it rightfully should be). Having Fantasy Zone 2 in there three times is unnecessary, but each has their own flavor to cater to everybody, and the more famous titles will grab your childhood by the nose to keep you playing, and one or two others players may not have had interest in before have the ability to grab as well.
This is still the smallest collection of Sega-specific classics I may have ever seen though, and without any RPGs or longer-form experiences, I can’t see anyone but the nostalgia nerds keeping it plugged in for more than a few hours. Kept NEAR their 3DS, sure. But with the cart plugged in? None of the games are built for long-time play (except for Fantasy Zone’s eternal version).
It’s a nice package, and the 3D is proof that classic titles from what I consider the golden era of gaming can pop fantastically well on the 3DS. Next time, hopefully the selection can vary more broadly, making the package both worthy of a full price tag and hours of investment instead of a burst of nostalgia and the question of why my wallet feels lighter than it should.