SEGA invites you to relive the classics of the 90s with this compilation of over 50 fan-favorite Sega Genesis titles. This collection includes some interesting features, and the selection of games range from beat ’em up to platforming perfection. Almost every major SEGA title is here, including most Sonic the Hedgehog titles, Golden Axe games, and Streets of Rage for good measure. However, the presentation leaves a bit to be desired. Do these Genesis classics stand the test of time, or is this just another compilation of poorly aged titles that should be left in the dust?
Back to the 90s
Sega Genesis Classics really leans into the idea of reliving your childhood nostalgia. It’s apparent from the opening menu, which is laid out across a children’s bedroom with 90’s era posters pinned to the wall. Looking around the room, you can access the collection of Genesis games and play them at your leisure, adjust controller settings, and even fiddle with some of the more complex settings within the emulator itself. There’s a little bit of customization here as well, although most of it is skin deep. You can tweak the visuals within the emulator, producing scan lines and other filters. You’re also able to set the time of day that is represented within the bedroom menu, as well as a few other visual touches. While these customization options are limited, it’s a nice touch that makes things feel a bit more personal.
Although the collection of SEGA titles included here are quite varied and the selection is commendable, I wish they were displayed in a different fashion. To play a game, you scroll over to a shelf in the bedroom, where all your Genesis cartridges are displayed. The games are arranged with the carts laying on their side, spine out, allowing you to read the title and nothing more. Unless you’re familiar with a specific title, this leaves you completely unaware of the game’s story, its genre, number of players, etc. The lack of original packaging and gameplay summaries is incredibly disappointing, as you aren’t even given the “back of the box” pitch. This meant that I was essentially going in blind on every Genesis game I hadn’t played yet, and while that certainly has its benefits, the lack of options make it tough to find a specific genre or filter your experience to your liking. It’s curious to me that SEGA failed to include content that they have already written, such as text from game manuals, player counts, etc.
In fact, if you’re curious about what games in the collection are multiplayer, the only real way to find out is by checking the online multiplayer option. Interestingly enough, you can enter into online matchmaking and choose from a variety of multiplayer Genesis titles to play online with friends. With over 50 games included, there’s a good number of those that are multiplayer-ready. These include the fantastic Golden Axe series, Gunstar Heroes, and more. Some other notable titles might give a nostalgia boost to some, but concerning multiplayer options, most games will either be a beat ’em up or puzzle games.
If you’re looking to go a bit more old school, every game that offers online multiplayer also offers local multiplayer, ensuring that you and your buddies can join up on the couch for some good ol’ fashioned cooperative play. I enjoyed some time with Streets of Rage in local coop, and can confirm that these games are still tons of fun to play with friends, regardless of the years that have passed. Unfortunately, some of the other games haven’t aged that well, providing a mixed bag of quality that varies in both multiplayer and single player offerings.
Another surprising exclusion is tutorials or explanations of the collection’s features. By pressing the left and right triggers, you can rewind and fast forward the game’s emulation. However, I didn’t realize this until I had pressed the trigger buttons by accident. Apart from the numerous emulation options given to you, Sega Genesis Classics doesn’t put its features on the forefront. Instead, this game feels like a healthy chunk of the Genesis library with a few extra features thrown in as an after thought.
With so many games to choose from, it can be tough to figure out where to start. Ultimately, your enjoyment of this collection will be entirely dependent on your nostalgia for these games. Unless you have deep bonds with specific titles, a handful of them don’t stand the test of time, and are only worth playing for a few minutes. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover some hidden gems along the way, as I played through some of the Genesis titles I missed in my youth. For instance, I found myself playing more and more of Beyond Oasis, only initially dipping my toe in to check out the game. Conversely, I still struggle to see the draw of games like Crackdown and Bonanza Brothers, but that’s just my personal taste.
For many gamers from the 90s, you’re either a Nintendo kid or a Sega kid, so I can understand the overt dedication to the console that some people hold. As someone who played both systems regularly, I can see the pros and cons of both, but that doesn’t alleviate the fact that some of these games lack more than 10 minutes of enjoyment.
I really enjoyed visiting classics that I personally enjoyed, and some of these are made easier thanks to the rewind feature. Comix Zone, in particular, gets surprisingly easy when mistakes mean nothing, and this goes for games like Columns and Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine also. At times it can definitely feel like cheating (and it is), but the rewind feature is great for casually enjoying games without worrying about the difficulty.
Some Genesis games remain timeless, like the Sonic the Hedgehog collection, but even that franchise is tarnished by some weak entries (I’m looking at you, Sonic Blast). Sega Genesis Classics also omits Sonic the Hedgehog 3 as well as Sonic & Knuckles, two of my favorite Sonic games ever made. The lack of these two games was painfully apparent, and their exclusion is an interesting one. Despite the ups and downs of the games available, I still had some fun going back and reliving my favorite 16-bit era memories. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all you can do, given the lack of extra content. There are a few challenges you can complete, but beyond that, you’re looking at a bare bones emulator with a somewhat interesting main menu.
The Bottom Line on Sega Genesis Classics
I’ve played many retro compilations over the years, and unfortunately, Sega Genesis Classis falls painfully short in its presentation. However, the list of over 50 Genesis games included have some absolute gems, and the convenience of local and online multiplayer (as well as the rewind feature) might warrant a purchase. When you math it out, you’re only paying around $0.60 a game. If you’re okay with paying $30 for an emulator that will run these games (like a Sega version of the SNES Classic), you’ll probably be fine with what it has to offer. However, this doesn’t give Sega Genesis Classics a free pass on being bare bones and disappointing. When it comes to presentation and celebrating the games, Sega Genesis Classics drops the ball entirely. Instead of offering a Mega Man Legacy Collection presentation, which highlights concept art, music, and tons of other goodies, we get a poorly decorated bedroom with a big lack of unlockable goodies. Looking back on my time with retro collections, I honestly can say that Midway Arcade Treasures for the PlayStation 2 did a better job celebrating their games. Even worse, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 does a better job at celebrating the exact same games, and that was released just under 10 years ago.
As a celebration of SEGA games, Sega Genesis Classics fails horribly. It’s a cute idea but completely stumbles in the execution. The inclusion of rewind and fast forward features are fun, as is the online matchmaking, but everything else feels a bit boring. However, the collection still offers 50 Genesis games, and most of those hold up. I don’t want people thinking that my score is reflective of the games included; rather the opposite. It was disappointing to see these classic games given such an unfeeling treatment.
Sega Genesis Classics feels like a failed child’s birthday party that was thrown together at the last second. None of your friends actually showed up to play, the decorations are embarrassingly poor, and besides some delicious cake, there’s not much else to do. Don’t get me wrong; the cake in this analogy is pretty damn good, I wouldn’t ever be caught calling Streets of Rage a bad game. Unfortunately, there’s only so much cake you can eat before your stomach starts to hurt.