Ah, retro gaming. The retreat we all make when the extremities of modern life become a tad too much for us. Pixel graphics, simplistic design, focused mechanics, purely offline gameplay, and those sweet 90s anime fluffball critters. Yes, please.
Some of us love to linger in the past longer than others, and a handful of our beloved publishers are more than happy to appease this niche audience of gamers. I don’t think there are any objections to SEGA having done a better job than most at making its classics readily available with each passing channel.
Compilation discs, Steam, streaming services, 3D remasters. SEGA has been absolutely on the ball at making sure that those childhood memories of yours always have a way of being available, both legally and to the utmost perfect re-creation.
Today’s package celebrates some of the lesser known hits from SEGA’s golden years. Chances are that unless you’ve turned to darker corners of the Internet, you haven’t played a vast majority of the games in the SEGA 3D Classics Collection. Many of these games failed to make it across the Pacific Ocean during their heyday, whether they appeared on a console that failed to sell or were crammed into bulky arcade cabinets.
With the powers of the Nintendo 3DS, not to forget the flawless emulation of M2, this excellent package provides far more entertainment than you might guess, and it grants a look at an alternate history where SEGA dominated our Nintendrone youths more so than we ever thought possible.
Sure, a good many people might see this as “just a compilation bundle,” and they are not entirely wrong. On a most basic level, this is just a collection of old games slapped onto a handheld console. Whether they have nostalgia for them or not, a good many gamers are not especially into coughing up money for old games simply because they see it as buying emulation.
It’s a principle I can appreciate and often agree with at times, but I can’t stress enough the importance of the quality behind the emulation here. SEGA has proven time and time again that it understands the importance of “arcade quality” recreations, and when creating these compilations, it always turns to the same perfectionist wizards who are capable of going that extra mile to ensure that enthusiasts are getting the real deal:
We talk a lot of about the diligence of game developers across the whole industry, but I’ve yet to stumble across a small team with the same dedication and love that these guys have for their products. They’ve admitted to being huge fans of SEGA arcades from their personal experiences, and their drive for perfect ports comes from both their business model and their personal want to see the classics they adore survive another day.
M2’s bundles are far more than just a smattering of simple ports for casual consumption. This is a team that will recreate glitches, flicker, screen reflections that players saw on the old arcade decks. It toys with motion controls since it can’t program in the radical bikes and airplanes that SEGA once included in its arcades, and all of this is done to deliver the most authentic experience possible, and then some!
M2 overloads its work with variables that help stir up the possibilities with classics, adding infinite lives, level jumping, and other inventive ways to help extend the playability of each of these arcade classics.
You’re living in a Fantasy Zone, my friends!
So, the big question is which games has SEGA decided to use this flawless, perfectionist-driven emulation to re-release. After all, it’s rather pointless if the games themselves aren’t any fun, right?
Remember, this is late 80s/early 90s SEGA, back when the company found ways to churn out pure gold just by thinking. Saying every game in this bundle is a “lost classic” would be a little too much credit. However, the games that nail it are about as pure “Golden Age SEGA” as it gets.
Those sweet arcade sound boards. Ahhh… music to my bleeding ears! Arcade games first!
3D Power Drift: A Yu Suzuki racing game that borrows the faux-3D sprite-scaling technology used in his other SEGA classics like Outrun and Space Harrier. This differs from Outrun in that it adds more verticality to the tracks and wraps up its races much more quickly. It feels much more like a Mario Kart game in that regard, and it is a ton of fun to play.
3D Galaxy Force II: Another faux-3D sprite-scaling game, this one takes Space Harrier’s ideas and just goes all-out with elaborate levels, massive armies of ships, and just an unbelievable amount of business occurring on the screen at once. Soar through enemy ranks, destroy fortresses, and make sure not to run out of energy along the way during the race against time. Again, excellent title.
A lock-on attack in this game also provides a look into where Panzer Dragoon’s iconic lock-on attack originated.
3D Puyo Puyo 2: It’s a sequel to the eternally enjoyable Puyo Puyo and just as addictive. Align four matching colored slimes and ruin your opponent’s day with a rain of colorless husks. Bonus points for the cute enemy designs! This is definitely the strongest game in the bundle and could carry it on its own if need be. Luckily, there are plenty of other great titles to help it out.
Oh yeah, and wireless multiplayer for the win!
3D Fantasy Zone II W: SEGA’s classic “cute ‘em up” holds up very well in an age of explosive bullet-hell shooters. Fantasy Zone allows players to fly both ways on a screen, meaning danger can come from anywhere, and the boss fights require an inhuman level of observation and reaction skills. Plus, that presentation is overly to the cute to the point of being a distraction. Wonderful game from a bygone age.
3D Thunder Blade: I can’t really get behind this one. These overhead helicopter games never did it for me back in the day, and they still don’t. Dropping bombs, shooting machine guns, blowing up tanks. It’s a decent shooter, but give me Fantasy Zone or give me death!
The SEGA Genesis also shows up with two predictable releases. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You probably already own them in some capacity since SEGA releases them every chance it gets.
3D Altered Beast: Really, SEGA? No Ristar or Shining Force? We have to suffer through “WISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE” again? This simplistic beat ‘em up is more of a nostalgic favorite for those who played it back in the day and not an essential classic by any means.
3D Sonic the Hedgehog: Because SEGA needs to sells this bundle.
And then we have the SEGA Master System games, which are a more tolerable selection than their Genesis brethren.
Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa: A 16-bit port of the above mentioned arcade game. Released alongside the original, it’s somewhat pointless as a far inferior version. However, comparisons are always fun to make, and such “from the ground up” ports are a lost art in the gaming world.
Maze Runner 3-D: I have never heard of this game, but it’s an interesting little one. The final game in the collection is an overhead action game which employs just what the title suggests: lots and lots of mazes. The action is slow and deliberate, but the learning curve is fair enough to leave you wanting more.
Please SEGA, I want some more!
In all fairness to Altered Beast, the bear icon used to represent the SEGA 3D Classics Collection on the Nintendo 3DS’ menu might be worth the $29.99 all on its own.
This is a tough bundle to give a solid “Yes” too because, as much as I loved most of the individual games and lost classics, I’m wondering how much I will be going back to it after writing this review. Having a legitimate Puyo Puyo game forever installed on my Nintendo 3DS is a plus, but replaying arcade games after a round or two has never been my thing.
Just the downsides of my nature as an RPG gamer.
$29.99 is a pretty steep price to to pay for arcade games, but when you account for the artistry behind the emulation and the fact that this is the North American debut for many of these games, it’s a bit easier to swallow.
Waiting for a price drop might be the best option if you’re buying this for a casual experience, but paying full price is the best way to show SEGA that interest for these excellent bundles is still out there. Trust me, we want it to continue working with M2 for as long as both remain in existence.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll get a 3D SEGA RPG Classics Collection down the line, one that will definitely be worth $29.99 no matter the expectations. Shining Force, Phantasy Star, Landstalker, Beyond Oasis?
Man, I‘m just drooling at the thought.
Disclaimer: We were provided a review copy of SEGA 3D Classics Collection for the Nintendo 3DS, and we played all of the games before writing this review.