I got my Mega Drive for Christmas after I finished primary school, when local retailers were pushing the console, along with the recently released port of Mortal Kombat – which was the first game I got with it. After my bloodlust was sated, I turned my attention to the vast library of other games on the machine.
That nostalgia-laden segue was obviously to prompt my review of the recently released Sega Mega Drive Classics collection, a compilation of over 50 games from Sega’s old 16-bit console. After going through the catalogue of titles I was reminded of a feeling I’d long forgotten – the feeling of not being able to acquire a game. Back in the Mega Drive’s heyday, I was a penniless schoolboy who could only swing maybe two new games a year on my birthday and Christmas, so I missed out on vast chunks of the Mega Drive library.
A few of those elusive games from my early teen years are included in this package. I remember drooling over reviews in my buddy’s Sega Pro magazines of two games in particular – Light Crusader and Landstalker, both rare, isometric RPG-ish titles for the Mega Drive. I never saw them on shelves here, although I did manage to borrow Landstalker from a friend who got it somehow – unfortunately the battery backup in the cartridge was fried, so I couldn’t save my progress, and it was a long game. From the same friend, I also borrowed Phantasy Star IV, a long JRPG – also with a fried battery backup in the cartridge, so I only got to experience the beginning bit. Luckily, Phantasy Star II, III and IV are included in the package, if I can revive my long-dead tolerance for JRPGs again.
On the subject of RPGs, there’s also Beyond Oasis, an action-packed, Zelda-like RPG for the Mega Drive I always wanted to play but never even saw in this country, plus other classics like Alien Soldier and Gunstar Heroes, two frantic platform shooters from developer Treasure. Of course there’s some Sega mainstays, such as the Streets of Rage and Golden Axe series of scrolling brawlers – always good fun – and some Sonic the Hedgehog games are present, although Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles are missing for some reason.
The games are presented in a sort virtual 3D bedroom, with a Mega Drive on a stand underneath a colour CRT TV – which is damn fancy compared to the tiny black and white portable I had to use as a kid. It’s amusing for a while, but I can imagine most players wanting to skip this crap after the first 100 times. You can also apply various filters to the games to make the pixellated 16-bit visuals more appealing on modern displays, and you can also quicksave whenever you want in any game, a feature I would have loved back in the day.
The only real gripe I have is that you can’t assign the controller buttons however you’d like. You get a choice of two options, neither of which are quite what I’d choose – but since the Mega Drive only had three buttons and a D-pad, I think I can get used to it.