Talking about things you used to do as a kid is a great way to make you feel young again (or old, depending on how you look at it). Thinking back to the days I'd watch Transformers the Movie on VHS over and over again, it's clear why all the key moments and music are burned permanently into my mind. You might not have liked Transformers (there's no accounting for taste) but there's bound to be something that instantly links you to your childhood. It's not uncommon to want to relive those days where you could ride a bike on the pavement and eat sweets all day and not get fat. Classic video games, however, tend to make me appreciate just how good we've got it these days and Sega Classics Collection is unwavering in its commitment to ruining fond memories.
If you can remember the days before the Power Rangers ruined kids' TV then you'll almost certainly have heard of or played a number of games in the collection. OutRun, Golden Axe, Space Harrier and Virtua Racing are the most famous of the bunch, but Columns, Fantasy Zone, Monaco GP (not the Mega Drive game), Tant R and Bonanza Bros each have their fans. The problems hit home straight away, though. Most of these games just aren't fun any more, rose tinted spectacles or not.
Before dissecting every game, it's worth noting that (obviously in an attempt to help us remember the bad old days) the whole collection runs in 50 Hz with boarders and at reduced speed over the NTSC version of the game. It's not something that Sega Europe is a stranger to, having done the same with their sonic collections, so perhaps I should have been expecting it. Whatever your thoughts on the games included, this oversight is pure laziness and will ruin the whole collection for many people.
Back to the games then. Virtua Racing will be the reason most of you are interested in this collection, and while I'm no expert (having played the arcade game a few times many moons ago) it looks exactly as I remember it. As well as the Arcade mode you get a Grand Prix mode, free play mode and two-player split-screen support. There are also three new tracks to accompany the three found in the arcade game, which don't seem out of place at all. Huge fans of the game will appreciate that it's more than an arcade port, but the fact that it runs significantly slower than the NTSC version will ruin it for the very people that would be interested in the title in the first place. The fact that Sega didn't bother to tidy up the draw distance is also a little disappointing. Even if the improved version had only been accessible via the options menu it would have been a nice bonus, and in keeping with the 'improved' visuals the rest of the titles in the collection received.
To be honest, most of the other games are barely worth talking about. OutRun is a visually 'updated' version of the classic, but it looks dreadful. It makes you wonder why they bothered to update it at all. With the far superior playing and looking OutRun 2 available on Xbox and OutRun 2006 available soon, some short-lived nostalgia aside, there's very little point in playing OutRun. Space Harrier has held up surprisingly well in the gameplay stakes, but the 'updated' visuals are once again pretty disappointing. You get a polygonal main character and enemies, and the option of an improved looking floor, but it's pretty basic stuff. Both games also lack the ability to play the true arcade versions, which will be disappointing for fans.
Golden Axe is a classic, right? Well, as far as presentation goes it's one of the better looking titles in the collection and actually features some attempt at a story, but it's still not a good game. Columns is Columns. You have falling sets of three coloured blocks and you have to match them with coloured blocks already on the grid, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. It's simple stuff and you'll probably have played something similar, even if you've never actually played the original game. It's a nice enough version of the game, with the standard score mode being joined by CPU and second player versus modes.
As I've already mentioned, Monaco GP isn't the Mega Drive racing game that some of you might remember fondly. It's an overhead racer controlled entirely with the direction buttons (up to accelerate, left and right simply slides the car across the track) and the shoulder buttons (turns the car at a set angle). As far as racers go, it's by far the worst of the collection, and based on what else is included, you can work out just how great it is.
Tant R and Bonanza Bros are strangely accessed together from the main menu, despite being very different games. Tant R is a collection of pretty poor mini-games, playable with up to four players, while Bonanza Bros is a rather nice robbing sim (stretching the use of the term sim a little) where you enter various buildings and attempt to steal certain items without guards stopping you. It's all 2D of course, but works pretty well.
I hadn't actually heard of Fantasy Zone before playing this collection and it's easy to see why not. I'm sure it's got some die hard fans, but it's awful. Why you'd want to play this instead of one of the million other far superior side-scrolling shooters available is beyond me. Poorest game of the bunch, tied with Monaco GP.
The whole collection stinks quite frankly. Virtua Racing is about the only game worth taking a look at, and even that suffers because of the lazy PAL conversion. Because most of the games aren't actually the classic versions (instead being some bedroom coded visually offensive monstrosities) it's even hard to look at them as old titles and perhaps treat them a little leniently. Sega could make a small fortune if they released real classic collections. Imagine a racing collection that included Sega Rally 1 and 2, Daytona 1 and 2, Scud Race, and other great Model 1 and 2 racers that the company has seemingly forgotten about. Then a fighting collection, a light-gun collection and more could be released. With all that available to the company, why release such rubbish? It's simply not good enough.