Before I begin this review, please note that I write my reviews from the point of a games designer, so the information in this review is useful to both the people who made the game, and you guys (aka if you should buy it or not).
Hit the jump button for the full review.
This is the kind of ‘game’ which is nigh on possible to review, because it’s completely dependent on how many of the games within the collection you enjoy. The collection features 41 Mega Drive games from the outset with 7 unlockable arcade games, 2 unlockable Master System games (that tie in with Mega Drive Franchises) and a variety of unlockable interviews.
The first thing to note for anyone crying that their favorite game isn’t on there (like World of Illusion staring Mickey and Donald, or Desert Strike or the largely complained about Shinobi 2) then I’d like to point out the issue of licensing. Think about it… there you go.
While there are still some omissions that seem like obvious choices such as Gunstar Heroes the actual breadth of the games chosen is a fair spread and choice from Sega’s main library. It’s certainly far from perfect and maybe calling it ‘ultimate’ was a bit of a stretch but considering you’re only paying £25 max for this game, you’re getting a fair amount of variety for your money. Having said that something I have noticed is that it’s only a game that older gamers are buying, as the younger generation dismiss it for being old.
The other side of the coin is people who buy games for Gamerscore (or trophies) and on this account, most people have gone with the rental option since all 1000 achievement points are fairly easy for the seasoned gamer to get. What is surprising is that there isn’t an achievement for all the games, only about half of them. What was nice about some of the achievements was that it got me to play games I’d never played before, if nothing else simply to give me a trial run of it, and as such it would have been nice if every game had at least a small achievement (although on the plus side, I am personally glad both Ecco games had achievements that didn’t force you to play too much of the game, as I hated it). Another major problem with the achievements comes from their ease due to the save/load feature. In some cases (such as the RPGs) it’s a Godsend, but in others such as E-swat, it makes what should be a decent challenge simply a nuisance. This carries on into playing the games after the achievements are done; it stops some of the games being a challenge or shortens their length a mere hour or two of gameplay.
Having said that the save/load feature is almost necessary seeing as how the patience of gamers (as well as skill) has declined so rapidly over the years that Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine has become supposedly impossible to complete on easy mode?
So with modern gamers in mind, yeah a necessary addition, but one which also makes most of the collection feels like it defies part of the way the game was designed.
What is a major disappointment is the lack of any online features, which considering Backbone have been adding them to the Vintage Live Arcade version is almost seen as lazy. Due to the amount of games, it’s understandable as to why these were not included, but on the other hand just makes you feel that some of the games are simply filler. Even the obvious choice of simply having leader boards rather than 2 player online modes is excluded (despite games recording the high score outside of the games themselves). A huge missed opportunity indeed and almost makes you wonder what the heck they were doing during the time from announcement to release.
However Backbone has made some attempt with the game, with a good menu system, unique emulation for each game, and customizable controls.
The Menu system is very simple, allowing a list of games, sorted by one of many systems (alphabetically, year of release) or sorted according to your rating which can be set on each game (from 0-5). Simple but effective. The same is said with the customizable controls, an easy system, what else can you says?
The unique emulation for each game is also a welcome edition, each game’s controls and save data is held separately, and each game has a unique background to accompany the framed emulation of the game. The games themselves have all run pretty much identical to their original counterpart as far as I can tell. The addition of random facts in the menu are also welcome, if not a little pointless.
Most of the unlockable games are worth the effort, you get a variety of games ranging from action to RPG, and they all come with unlimited free credits, again making them kind of easy, but at the same time this is probably the way to go. The interviews on the other hand are disappointing. They really only serve as a way of letting us know that the original producers and directors of the games still think they are good games, and they are glad they are being re-sold. The only one that might hold any interest is Ristar’s unlocked one, due to some talk on the reason it was created.
However by far the biggest disappointment in this pack is possibly seen as odd. While the title is called the Ultimate Mega Drive collection, all the games featured (including the box art that you can view) are in Genesis versions. This is a two edged sword, but kind of makes no sense why it was bothered to be renamed Mega Drive.
Because we have the US versions, they all run at 60 Hz, and generally faster than their EU counterparts, but seeing Genesis pasted everywhere, and the lack of any of the EU staff on credits or artwork simply disheartens me as it means that the UK are simply getting a port of the US version of the game. If nothing else, UK/EU boxart would have just made this feel a little better.
But in the end, is it worth buying? For Gamerscore whores, no, rent it, but to be honest you wouldn’t try to enjoy a game even if you tried. If you are a younger gamer who has the attitude that any game before the PS2 era or 2D games automatically make a game rubbish, again not for you (which is sadly getting larger everyday). If you want it for the Sonic games, go buy Sonic Mega Collection Plus (it’s backwards compatible) to stop you whining about no S3&K lock on.
However if you were an old school Mega Drive fan, or even a Nintendo fan who appreciates well crafted games of old, then this is going to be one of the best buys this year. As I said it’s not perfect, and there are a fair few missed opportunities (Knuckles Chatoix anyone?) but you know what, it’ll make you appreciate how much care when into games in that day compared to today.
Now where is my ultimate Master System/Game Gear collection please?
Gameplay-> ??? (I’m not writing a score for every game and averaging it)
Graphics-> ??? (come on, you can’t compare these to modern games)
Story-> ??? (It’s like lots of little stories, you’d have to mark each one)
Music-> ??? (I don’t think I’ve listened to them all yet)
Lifespan -> 79
Overall – > 95
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