SEGA Genesis Classics is an amazing bundle of video games and delivers a lot of value for your money. Whether you buy it for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC or you wait until later this week on Dec. 7 to buy it for the Switch, you'll suddenly be adding 53 classics to your collection (or backlog if you're a pessimist) for the mere price of $29.99.
And with games like Shining Force and Landstalker finally available in a SEGA bundle, you aren't overloaded with simple arcade games that will last you an afternoon. There's some real meat to this package, and it that will leave you chewing for weeks to come.
However, not every SEGA Genesis classic is available in SEGA Genesis Classics. Whether it is because of hardware issues that are impossible to replicate, third party licensing, or SEGA simply holding back, the bundle is missing a few essentials that we still sadly miss.
Granted, the bundle offers more than enough games, so this is in no way discouraging you to buy what might be the ultimate SEGA bundle. This is just a fan and his wistful thinking.
Sonic the Hedgehog?!
Yes, for whatever reason, not one but two Sonic the Hedgehog games do not appear in SEGA Genesis Classics.
It is speculated that Sonic the Hedgehog 3, which inconsistently appears in compilations, is not included because of music licensing issues. You see, SEGA aided in composing the music for the game, but the main contributor to the game's soundtrack is none other than the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. It is believed that SEGA has to work out a deal with his estate each time that Sonic the Hedgehog 3 gets re-released, and no deal came around this time.
Maybe SEGA believed that at 53 games, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 wasn't really necessary.
Sonic and Knuckles is also not included, possibly because of hardware issues. The original cartridge allowed for the game to be attached into previous Sonic games, allowing for Knuckles to be a retro-active playable character. Cool tech to be sure, but not easy to replicate.
All of this is speculation, but whatever the reason, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles simply aren't available. Purists and completionists might be upset, but never you mind. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a better game than both, and the recently released Sonic Mania is also a superior game. I just wish I could hear those sweet Michael Jackson tunes again while playing.
What really made the competition between these two consoles impressive was that the third-party developers simply wouldn't port games from one console to another, they would build entirely separate games from the ground up! Konami was an active player in these 16-bit days, creating unique games for both the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis.
And while SEGA usually got the shorter end of the shaft in this regards with Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, and Tiny Toons games, the console got a trio of excellent exclusives you won't find on the Super Nintendo. Two of them even stem from Konami's most beloved classic franchises!
Castlevania: Bloodlines is SEGA's sole SEGA-exclusive entry in the popular series. The recent resurgence in the series' popularity thanks to the Netflix would do a world a feat of justice if it got this under-appreciated game into the limelight.
Some put Bloodlines on a higher pedestal than Super Castlevania IV. I don't, not in the least, but I do like this game a lot. Konami retooling the series into a World War I setting does wonders for the storytelling, and the visual effects are lights out for the the Genesis tech capabilities. That sound-board… awesome in Castlevania.
Also, one of the two game's protagonists, Eric Lecarde, adds a cool element to the series with his spear weapon, a departure from the traditional whip. Lecarde proved so popular that Konami even found a way to work him into the canon finally with the popular Nintendo DS entry Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin many years later.
And then there is Contra: Hard Corps. The difference in quality between this and its Super Nintendo counterpart, Contra 3: The Aliens Wars, is far greater than the difference between the two Castlevania games, but this is still a decent run 'n' gunner. Hard Corps is nothing overly special, but you do get to play as a werewolf with a chain-gun for an arm, which accounts for something, right?
And yes, Konami pushes the Genesis tech just as far as it does with Bloodlines, creating some impressive music and boss animations.
Hard Corps also has the distinction of being way better than the Contra games that followed on the PlayStation and was the reigning entry in the series until Contra: Shattered Soldier briefly reestablished the series in 2002. After that, Konami used the cult-appeal of this forgotten SEGA Genesis game to create an offshoot franchise, which turned into the downloadable game, Hard Corps: Uprising… also a solid action game.
Konami's work with its traditional franchises on the SEGA Genesis is commendable with these two games, no question. However, they are clearly overshadowed by one of the console's best action games and an original franchise that Konami pulled out of thin air.
If any of the games I'm discussing today could be added to the bundle, it would easily be Rocket Knight Adventures. Konami nailed it with this game, creating an adorable mascot backed by a cast of huge expressive sprites, great tunes with that Genesis soundboard, unique level designs and boss fights, and loads of mechanics for our hero to unleash upon his foes. All around, this is a perfect 16-bit action platformer, one not many have had the chance to play.
Konami attempted to make a sequel on the SEGA Genesis and also tried to bring its hero, Sparkster, to the Super Nintendo, but neither game lived up to the task of recreating this masterpiece. An attempt at an HD revival in the early days of digital downloading also fell flat, meaning that the original Rocket Knight Adventures is pure "lightning in a bottle," an accidental success story that is impossible to recreate.
SEGA, if Konami isn't using the franchise anymore, which I doubt it is, why not chuck a few dollars their way to secure the the rights to the franchise? At least, get the rights to put this game in your bundles. I equate Rocket Knight Adventures to the SEGA Genesis just as much as I do Sonic.
Whaddya mean you've never heard of Twinkle Tale?
Twinkle Tale is the SEGA Genesis' greatest hidden treasure. No lie. Its very own Umihara Kawase. With a console dominated by hardcore SHMUPS, blazing ships, crazy power-ups, and fleets of enemy alien cruisers and fighters, the actual best SHMUP stars a cute 90's anime magical girl and the colorful fantasy world she tears through.
Don't believe me? I give you… Twinkle Tale!
Oh man, my blood is boiling. Twinkle Tale adds a nice bit of RPG storytelling to the traditional cute 'em up genre and creates plenty of tense situations with monsters and bosses alike.
Twinkle Tale might be the best game you've never played or, possibly, have never heard about. It was the only game developed by a studio called Zap and was published only in Japan by Wonder Amusement Studio, which also has no other credits to its name. Twinkle Tale is so obscure, it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page!
Shame. Such a great game, the true Holy Grail of the SEGA Genesis.
Speaking of SHMUPS
Twinkle Tale isn't the only SHMUP that gets ignored in these compilations,. The lack of SHMUPs is really questionable considering that the SEGA Genesis has a huge library to choose from. Not just from this compilation, but all compilations, SEGA never really delivers one of the the SEGA Genesis' best franchises, Thunder Force.
Thunder Force III and Thunder Force IV specifically are two of the most beautiful SHMUPS of their generation. Developer Technosoft really knew how to tap into the powers of the SEGA Genesis to crank out these beauties.
The two games are much flashier than Konami's Gradius or Irem's R-Type, but they don't require quite the same level of skill to beat. Don't let that trick you into thinking they aren't fun, which is hardly the case. These games are an absolute blast!
SEGA originally published the series in the early 90s, but recent years have seen the series compiled into its own, separate bundles. Ownership was once called into question, but SEGA did confirm that it owns the franchise and all of Technosoft's games.
I can't imagine why these two excellent titles didn't make the cut in SEGA Genesis Classics. It's not like they are totally unknown… like Twinkle Tale is.
And then there is M.U.S.H.A., a SHMUP developed by legendary SHMUP developer Compile. Never heard of them? Look 'em up. Gun-Nac, Zanac, The Guardian Legend, Aleste, I could go on.
Few would argue against M.U.S.H.A. being the studio's best game though. Just look at this intro and imagine that quality being carried over into the gameplay. Sometimes, a SHMUP just has to be pretty to stand out, and that's what we have here. M.U.S.H.A. is gorgeous on every level and intense as the genre gets on the console.
Sadly, SEGA had nothing to do with this title in North America, being published by a company called Seismic. Never heard of them, but it's not SEGA and can't be reprinted in compilations… sadly.
Time to Remember the Magic, SEGA
Unlike the NES, where Disney games were all shockingly well made under the direction of Capcom, the SEGA Genesis Disney games are all over the place. Some are awesome, some are real duds. We're recalling three of these aweome games today.
The eternal debate… the Super Nintendo's Aladdin, made by Capcom, or the Genesis' Aladdin, made by Virgin Interactive. I fall on the side of the Super Nintendo, but the Genesis game is also top-notch. Virgin's game relies more on action, giving the street rat a sword instead of the Super Nintendo Aladdin's acrobatic platforming skills.
The animation in this SEGA version also tops many of the other games on the console.
And then there is The Lion King, which would play well in today's "masochist genre." Celeste, Super Meat Boy… The Lion King. This brutal game fits nicely in with the likes of those relentless titles.
Virgin Interactive filled in for Capcom nicely with these two titles, but there is no question as to which Disney game reigns supreme on the SEGA Genesis. For that, we turn to none other than SEGA and the mouse himself.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is one of the platform's premiere platformers. Developed by SEGA, published by SEGA, it has an innate quality to it that even Virgin Interactive's game's can't compete with. Perfect in every way and sadly will never see the light of day again while buried under the crushing weight of Disney's lawyers.
SEGA attempted a remake back in 2013, but as you might guess, it comes nowhere close to this legendary title.
Depth, strategy, and RPGs
Most associate, for all the right reasons, the SEGA Genesis as a home arcade experience. Many of its games deliver on the striking visuals, fast-paced gameplay, and brief bouts of intense action as delivered in the best arcade games.
Slow, deep, plodding, tactics, stats, level-ups… not words usually associated with the console. In our last segment today, we look at some much needed depth that any SEGA compilation could use.
You might not believe it, but the RTS genre got its start on the SEGA Genesis. Command & Conquer, Company of Heroes, and even Warcraft itself would be nothing without the aid of SEGA from these days. Two pioneers of the genre are found on this console, and both games hold up quite nicely.
One is based on a beloved sci-fi franchise…
And the other was developed by Thunder Force developer, Technosoft.
Both deliver the blueprints that future franchises would eventually build upon, and both do so with those sweet Genesis graphics and sound effects.
From there, we move into the world of RPGs. We're not talking JRPGs either like Shining Force or Phantasy Star, but rather, we're talking pure pen and paper inspired hardcore nonsense.
Shadowrun shows a bit of the depth found in Fallout, Baldur's Gate, and the PC RPGs that followed later in the 90s. Developed by BlueSky Games, the minds behind the Vectorman series, this is a much more open-ended experience than anything else on the console market in its day, including the (superior) Super Nintendo Shadowrun game.
It might look like a muddy mess and a poor use of the Genesis' capabilities, but this meaty RPG delivers a lot of depth considering the platform it was released on. Plus, it was published by SEGA, meaning that Shadowrun licensing is the only obstacle holding this game back.
And we close with what might be the deepest game on the console. Star Control is a space simulator game with deep mechanics powering the ships and combat. I've never had the patience to dive into this game's nuances, but I know of its reputation.
Not for the feint of heart in the least.
Fun fact: developer Toys for Bob would go on to become the face of Activision's Skylanders, and it also developed Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Not quite the same depth but still cranking out games to this day.
Whaaaaaa… no Wonder Boy?
UPDATE: Well, here's a bit of a downer. As copies of the game find their way into the hands of critics, we've learned that Wonder Boy in Monster World and Wonder Boy III: The Monster's Lair have both been scrapped from the Nintendo Switch version of the game, despite them being in the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions.
Wonder Boy III: The Monster's Lair is an average game but still one I wanted to be included for the sake of having the series all in one place. With Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, an excellent remake complete with the original game intact, and… who knows… maybe the potential for that sweet English port of Monster World IV someday, the Switch could have been the premiere portable console for the cult-classic franchise.
This will not happen next week though since Wonder Boy III: The Monster's Lair is not included.
However, Wonder Boy in Monster World is an excellent video game and one of the included titles I was most looking forward to playing on my Switch… and now I can't.
I can only assume that 1) the game is going to be added to the SEGA AGES collection on the Nintendo Switch (which I would be fine with), 2) licensing issues with the franchise's rough history and the upcoming Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom got in the way, or 3) Lizardcube is hard at work on another Wonder Boy remake, though, if that were the case, it wouldn't appear on the other platforms unless they want to sell more copies on the popular Nintendo Switch indie market.
I certainly hope and wouldn't assume that it's not there just because SEGA couldn't be bothered to add it or is holding back. That would just be a crappy move.
SEGA, I know that Altered Beast is an ironic, sentimental favorite to many out there, but in reality, it's not that great. Don't we have enough copies of that flying around? Couldn't you have taken that instead of… you know… a game that's actually good?
Shame. Let's throw Wonder Boy in Monster World on our list and pout as others get to enjoy it.
Still… be sure to pick up SEGA Genesis Classics
That's quite a long list of games, and I didn't even touch on the disappearance of Ecco the Dolphin from this latest compilation.
Don't let these absence of these games fool you. At 53 titles, or 51 in the Switch version, some of which have never been compiled by SEGA before, SEGA Genesis Classics is a must-own for any self-respecting veteran of the 16-bit era and any retro gamer looking to explore some old games.
You'll be hammering away at this bundle for hours to come, so be sure to pick it up for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC today, or if you're like me, prepare your portable gaming lifestyle for a release on the Nintendo Switch on Dec. 7.
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