Despite growing up with several game consoles such as the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64, I somehow missed the fact that Sega was, at one point, a console manufacturer, releasing several consoles such as the Master System, Sega Saturn and Dreamcast. However, it was their Sega Mega Drive, called Sega Genesis in North America, that was Sega's console peak, not only being their bestselling console but also the only time when they posed a challenge to Nintendo's market share. Having never owned any Sega consoles, I was always hearing about some of the greatest games that were released on the platform but didn't have the opportunity to play any of them until this collection. Having said all that, I'll be sharing my own thoughts on the quality of the games included in this bundle and the presentation but I'll also be taking a look at the history of this collection and how it changed over time.
Let's start off with the most important aspect of this collection, the games. I played this collection on PC and, if you purchase it on this platform, you'll be getting 55 games that were originally released for the Sega Mega Drive, these being Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Alien Soldier, Alien Storm, Altered Beast, Beyond Oasis, Bio-Hazard Battle, Bonanza Bros., Columns, Columns III: Revenge of Columns, Comix Zone, Crack Down, Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Dynamite Headdy, Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco: The Tides of Time, Ecco Jr., ESWAT: City Under Siege, Eternal Champions, Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, Gain Ground, Galaxy Force II, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Golden Axe III, Gunstar Heroes, Kid Chameleon, Landstalker, Light Crusader, Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, Ristar, Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, Shining Force, Shining Force II, Shining in the Darkness, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, Space Harrier II, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, The Revenge of Shinobi, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, ToeJam & Earl, Vectorman, Vectorman 2, Virtua Fighter 2, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair and Wonder Boy in Monster World. The collection is also available on PS4, Xbox One and Switch but the games you'll get are a little different with the three Ecco the Dolphin games and Eternal Champions absent but you'll get Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, as for why those two games are not in the PC version, more on that later.
If you're familiar with many of the games in this collection, you'll notice that there's quite a range in quality from some masterpieces down to some that are a chore to play through. However, I would argue that most of the games in this collection are worth playing and, even the ones that I don't like, I'm still glad that Sega decided to include so many titles. Beyond some criticisms I'll have later about Sega's later actions regarding the library of games, my biggest complaints about the games in this collection is the absence of certain games due to this being specifically a collection of Mega Drive games. The first Phantasy Star and Wonder Boy were released for the Master System and so are absent while the version of Virtua Fighter 2 included is the inferior 2D version made for Mega Drive rather than the original 3D version released in arcades and later ported to the Sega Saturn.
The presentation of these games has changed significantly over the years and so I thought it'd be interesting to explain these changes. When I first got the collection, it was a simple launcher that allowed you to pick which game you wanted to play and to use save states. In 2016, Sega released an update for the collection called Sega Genesis Classics Hub which remodeled the launcher so that you're present in a fictional Sega fan's room with your collection of games on a nearby shelf. More importantly, it integrated Steam Workshop which allowed fans to share mods of the games included and improved controller support for the collection. This already seemed like a substantial update but, in 2018, Sega decided to do another major update alongside the release of the collection on console. For the PC version, various new features included the ability to fast-forward or rewind, online multiplayer support, achievements, multi-region releases of games, support for Mac and Linux and, interestingly, a VR mode. Not all of these features are perfect by any means with multiplayer proving to be quite laggy at times and the VR mode is quite basic with you only really being able to look around the room better and choose whether you want to play the game on a fictional television or on a giant screen in a void. However, the evolution of this collection was truly astounding to me and it has become a standard that I hold against other collections of classic games.
However, not all of Sega's actions since the collection first came out have been good. I mentioned before that if you were to purchase the SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics collection on PC today, you would get 55 games but if you look at my collection on Steam, you'll notice that my version of SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics collection contain 58 games. This is because Sega decided to delist Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles just before their release of the Sonic Origins which included said games. Even though I'm not personally affected by this since I already have these three games, it still seems like a scummy action for Sega to take in order to try to drive sales to their new collection of Sonic games.
At least the collection remains good value. For the 55 games and access to all of the useful features that have been added over the years, SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics will only set you back £19.52. You also have the option to purchase the games individually for £0.79, although the remaining Sonic games such as Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine are priced at £3.99, which will still grant you access to the Hub and updates, only without access to any games you have not purchased. You clearly save more by buying the bundle if you intend to own all 55 games but, if you're only interested in a couple of titles, it's great to have the option of purchasing just the games that you specifically want.
The SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics collection certainly isn't perfect. The absence of some non-Mega Drive games will trigger the completionists who want to have entire series while some of the features such as online multiplayer and VR mode are a little basic. However, sans removing the original three Sonic games, Sega have done an excellent job releasing these games and, now that it's Steam Deck Verified, I find myself going back again and again to try out a game that I haven't played before.