Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection Review

Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection ps3 box art

A massive dream come true collection of Sega classics – including awesome bonus material.

Introduction

Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection is one of the most epic retro video game collections released to date. It is a steaming hot Blu-ray disc holding 49 classic games released by the highly honorable Japanese developer Sega. Included in this collection are numerous must-have games, encompassing many genres and styles. 40 of the included games were originally Sega Mega Drive games from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s. Even though the Mega Drive did have limited hardware, especially sound wise, this collection of games shows some of the highlights that the console saw during its golden era. In total, there’s hundreds of quality gaming hours here.

The Game

When you start the game, you’ll see a list of the 40 Sega Mega Drive games included in the set. Browsing through the list is easy, and you can rate the games so that you can more easily find your favorite ones. When you unlock bonus games and materials they’ll become available through a special extras menu.

As much as this collection is a salute to classic and retro games, it is also a lesson in video game history, at least as far as Sega games go. For the true gamer, Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection is nothing but mythic. We’ll briefly go through all the included games below;

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle

Charming side-scrolling platform adventure game where you play as Alex Kidd. This is a joyful game where you collect coins and explore numerous exotic locations. A big part of the game is about dueling creatures by playing rock-paper-scissors, and as that game is based on random outcome, you can’t really expect fair results. Also, this game is mad difficult, so the cute graphics can be somewhat deceiving.

Alien Storm

Action packed two-player co-op beat ’em up style game where you play as the good guys defending the earth from an alien invasion. The game has side-scrolling sections as well as first-person perspective stages. It also has high-speed running sequences that play much like an arcade shoot ’em up. It has some really freaky alien enemies, and it is quite a challenge to beat. The biggest gripe with this game is that if you know the arcade original version it had three player co-op play. This version is cut back in that regard.

Altered Beast

Sega’s classic flagship side-scrolling beat ’em up. You play as a man who has the ability to transform into various beasts by collecting power-ups. Altered Beast features two-player co-op simultaneous play. This game is perhaps best known for its awesome voice samples and hectic game play, and while it may not be the best game in the collection, it is still worth playing through at least once for fun.

Bonanza Bros.

The robots Robo and Bobo take it upon themselves to steal some loot in this two-player co-op split-screen action game. You play as a robot breaking into various venues with the objective to steal some items. The game is quite unique in that you can take cover behind objects and even hide. Each stage takes place in a multistory building, so it really requires you to think ahead and keep an eye out for patrolling guards where ever you go. All in all, it’s a fun and pretty innovative game with sweet graphics and nice music.

Columns

A brilliant and highly addictive gem puzzler game in which you arrange various gems in horizontal, diagonal or vertical lines in order to shatter them. It may look simple and easy at first glance, but this is actually very challenging and has quite some depth. You can play against an AI controlled opponent, or against another human player. You can also play two players at one time, playing individual sessions. Either way you play, this game is serious brain training, and once you’ve gotten into it, you’ll want to play again and again. It is a superb puzzle game that everyone should at least try.

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Comix Zone

One of the more original games in the lot, Comix Zone is a single player comic book style beat ’em up. You play as a comic book artist who is trapped inside his own creations. The game has mind blowing 16-bit graphics and great gameplay. It is very challenging, and can be quite punishing too, but all in all, this is a creative game that’s certainly a must-play for any beat ’em up fan – a gem in the collection.

Decap Attack

This is a pretty clever side-scrolling action platform game where you play as a mummy-type humanoid who’s missing his head. To compensate for this, you can pick up other heads and use as your own. With each head comes various abilities and special attacks, and you can also pick up various power-ups and use them from a comprehensive inventory screen. This game may not have the best graphics, but its comical horror theme certainly is charming, and the gameplay is very fun – a game totally worth playing.

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

If you’ve ever played a game called Puyo Puyo, you’ll know what Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is like. It is a cute and super fun puzzle game in which you arrange and match beans of various colors. Beans of the same colors will stick together and eventually dissipate. You can play a formidably long campaign mode in which you must defeat various AI controlled opponents by puzzling beans faster and more effectively than them, or you can play against another human opponent. Lining up combos will spawn transparent beans on your opponent’s screen, which will take up valuable space and hinder his bean matching attempts.

Dynamite Headdy

A fast paced and wonderfully colorful platforming game where you play as Headdy, a nutty figure with a loose head. You can collect power-ups and gain new heads which will give you different abilities. For example, you can use a head as a grappling hook and another one to suck in enemies like a vacuum cleaner. This game has many puzzles and is pretty fun overall. In this collection it stands well up against the others, so it’s worth checking out if you haven’t played it in the past.

Ecco the Dolphin

This is the first Ecco game: you play as the dolphin called Ecco. Your mission is to solve various problems going on in the sea by exploring and communicating with all the intelligent animals that live there. The game is very cryptic, and is iconic for its sad melancholic atmosphere. It has good graphics and the soundtrack is soul-stirring. Nothing is obvious in this game, so if you like to figure out puzzles and being stuck, then you may find lots of enjoyment in the Ecco games.

Ecco: The Tides of Time

Another underwater puzzle adventure where you play as the dolphin called Ecco, trying to save the sea life from a terrible dark and sinister force. The game has lots of puzzles, and you’ll have the ability to communicate with other friendly animals. As the game progresses, it will introduce you to new aspects and new hazards – it plays much like an experiment in which you are the test subject and must figure out what to do and where to go. Ecco games are widely regarded as good and innovative games, but it certainly demands a certain kind of player who doesn’t mind exploring an open world and playing on a trial and error basis.

ESWAT: City Under Siege

A side-scrolling action game in which you play as a crime fighting super cop. Armed with special weapons you must reach the end of each stage and battle mean bosses. The game is infuriatingly hard to beat, so you better be up for a real challenge before even thinking about playing it. ESWAT: City Under Siege is a game that will scare most regular players away with its high difficulty level – it is really a game that you must learn by heart before you can beat it.

Fatal Labyrinth

As the name implies, this game takes place in a fatal labyrinthine dungeon that is randomly generated as you play. You play as a lone hero trying to survive all the monsters in the dungeon. You can collect various items like in a roleplaying game, and the fighting is done by walking into enemies and hoping to score more hits than they do. The game isn’t entirely easy to get into, but once you understand it, it is a pretty interesting dungeon crawling concept, and it has an emphasis on exploration and survival.

Flicky

This is an arcade style platform game where you play the blue bird called Flicky. Your mission is to rescue helpless baby birds and take them safely to the exit. The rescue mission won’t be easy though, there’s always something chasing you, so the game is very challenging and will require a great deal of focus. Raking in big points is as satisfying as ever, so even though the game in itself is pretty simple, it has a great deal of replay value.

Gain Ground

This is a two player co-op action game in which you fight to rescue prisoners of war. You play as three main heroes who come from different cultures, and thus uses different weapons. The game is somewhat slow – your characters move slowly and the range of your weapons is pretty short. This means that the gameplay consists mostly of dodging enemy projectiles while trying to sneak in a few good shots while you’re at it. This game doesn’t have much going for it, and is probably one of the weaker games in the collection.

Golden Axe

Fantasy two player co-op brawling game in which you play as one of three heroes looking to avenge the evil deeds of the dark lord Death Adder. Each hero can collect magic potions and unleash powerful magic attacks as well as mount various creatures and engage in mounted combat. The game isn’t very long, but it is quite faithful to the arcade original game. Sega fans will always cherish the Golden Axe series as a priceless classics, and it is a must-play for any beat ’em up fan. The fantasy theme certainly gives the game a unique touch, and the co-op action is undeniably fun. The Golden Axe trilogy is one of the main reasons as to why this collection is worth owning.

Golden Axe II

More fantasy two player co-op action. The sequel to Golden Axe brings more of the same. Years after the battle against Death Adder, a new evil force rises to power. The faithful heroes take it upon themselves to set things straight again. This is a very nice fantasy brawling game with nice graphics and atmospheric music. It also introduces the Duel Mode in which two players can battle it out against each other.

Golden Axe III

The third part of the Golden Axe fantasy brawler series. This game was originally only released in Japan, and was later made available to USA through the Sega Channel. It has five playable characters, multiple paths to explore and better graphics than its predecessors. It is a perfect sequel to the already great Golden Axe I and II. The game is also quite a challenge to beat, as it has many stages – make sure to bring a friend and enjoy some genuine co-op goodness.

Kid Chameleon

This is a platforming game about a video arcade worker who captures kids and defeats them in the latest super-realistic hologram game. Kid Chameleon won’t let this humiliation go on, and steps up to the plate to challenge the mad man who creates the virtual worlds. In this game you can collect various outfits that will give you different abilities. The stages are big, and you can explore many different secret paths. The game has a hot seat style two player mode, but is a pretty typical and standard platform game.

Phantasy Star II

The first Phantasy Star game released on the Sega Mega Drive. This is a sci-fi fantasy roleplaying game in which you control a band of heroes through an epic story. The game has numerous dungeons sprawling with random encounters and the combat is turn based. This game is very long and has many different weapons and spells to discover. A true classic roleplaying game set in a nice anime style universe. The four Phantasy Star games makes this collection a must-own beyond all doubts for roleplaying fanatics.

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

The third game in the series means more roleplaying with an emphasis on a long epic storyline. This game has more medieval feel than the sci-fi predecessors, but still mixes sci-fi and fantasy concepts to create a believable and interesting game world. Once again you will explore numerous dungeons and fight hoards of enemies. This game is generally underrated and overlooked because it may not have the most appealing graphics, and the story is quite complex. It has multiple endings though, so for fans of the series, there’s a lot to delve in here.

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium

This game is often cited to be one of the best 16-bit roleplaying games ever created, and it certainly does deliver on that note. It has lots of intrigue, many lovable characters and an interesting turn based combat system with many spells, weapons and items. If you’re ever going to spend hours in an old-school roleplaying game, you can’t really go wrong with this one, because this is pretty much as good as it gets.

Ristar

This is another clever platforming game where you play as the character Ristar, who can stretch out his arms and thus perform a variety of moves such as climbing, grabbing on to stuff, swinging and even headbutting enemies. The game has great controls and is fun to play. The levels are huge and have many secret paths and alternative routes to explore. A great game for old-school platforming enthusiasts.

Shining Force

Huge action roleplaying game with a truly thrilling turn based combat system. The game has an epic story, many memorable characters and some interesting plot twists. As the hero, you will manage your party members and see to that they all advance in their training. The combat system lets you move characters on an overview map and you can use melee attacks, ranged weapons or magic spells to vanquish enemies such as zombies, wizards and robots. The Shining game series are known as some of the best roleplaying experiences you can find on the Sega Mega Drive and having them in a collection like this is outright awesome.

Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing

A perfect sequel to Shining Force – bigger and better in every way. This is one of the best roleplaying games in the entire 16-bit catalog, regardless of platform. In Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing you’ll encounter and recruit many interesting characters to your band of heroes, and the story is like a brilliant story book. There are many secrets to discover, and the game is very intriguing and charming at the same time. If you like roleplaying games, this game is a true blessing; it has basically everything you could possibly ask for.

Shining in the Darkness

This is a unique fantasy roleplaying game that is played from a first-person perspective. You play as the fine knight of the kingdom looking to rescue the princess that has gone missing. The game has storybook feeling to it with lush graphics and inspiring music. The combat is turn based, and you can also recruit party members as you go. This is a nice game, but the first-person perspective dungeons are tricky to navigate without maps.

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master

The third game in Sega’s legendary Shinobi series. This game is jam-packed with blazing fast side-scrolling ninja action. It has a solid soundtrack from the musical genius Yuzo Koshiro, and the graphics are top-notch. As Shinobi you’ll climb, jump, run and perform various ninja moves to defeat all that stands in your way. The game is a true challenge to beat, and is in many ways a fundamental piece in any game collection. Simply put; a must-have title, at least if you’re into platform action games.

The Story of Thor – A Successor of The Light

This is an ambitious top-down action adventure game that has an emphasis on exploration and fighting. It has nice gameplay and sports excellent graphics and high quality music. The story is about a young prince called Ali who recovers an ancient artifact, which he later finds out is magical, and about to be used in doing evil deeds. Ali finds himself in the center of all kinds of strange events, and he’s not scared to fight evil where ever he finds it. If you like action oriented adventure games, then this game will fit the bill perfectly. It is widely known as one of the better Sega Mega Drive games.

Sonic the Hedgehog

One of Sega’s flagship game series – Sonic the Hedgehog put a new spin on platforming games, introducing high-speed rushing, huge levels and blazing fast graphics. Rush and jump your way through many different environments, collect rings and battle Robotnik’s crazy inventions. There’s even tricky bonus stages and if you manage to collect all the elusive Chaos Emeralds, you’ll surely put an end to Robotnik’s evil scheme. The three Sonic games included in this collection are all pretty much solid, and they certainly give yet another reason to own the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

A great sequel to an already good game, offering more of the same while introducing seamless jump-in co-op and versus split-screen running. Another player can jump in at any time and play as the new character Tails. You’ll have to co-operate and stay at the same location though, which is close to impossible without careful coordination. But even if Tails fails to keep up, he’ll just automatically fly to Sonic’s location. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 you’ll explore exotic locations such as sunken ruins, oil platforms and the bustling Casino Zone. This is an excellent platform game that anyone can enjoy.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

The best Sonic game in this trinity. This is a great side-scrolling platform game with many interesting ideas and nice colorful graphics. Also, the soundtrack is brilliant and inspiring. Once again you can play co-op with a friend, and this time the co-op is a little but more fleshed out – you can choose which character you want to play as. Tails can carry Sonic by flying around short distances which may not be necessary to beat the game, but it sure is useful when searching for the many secret areas and alternative paths that you can explore. The levels are huge and the environments which you’ll be rushing and jumping through include forests, ice caves and mystic underwater temples. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 has lots of variation, great graphics and is a pure blast to play.

Sonic & Knuckles

Originally this game was a special cartridge that had a connector slot on it, allowing gamers to combine it with other game cartridges, namely the three original Sonic the Hedgehog cartridges. As for this collection, it isn’t possible to combine it with other cartridges. As a standalone game it plays just like a fourth Sonic game, with all new stages and bosses to fight. It introduces Knuckles as a playable character, and with his air gliding and climbing abilities you’ll be able to reach areas otherwise out of reach. If you like Sonic games, you really owe it to yourself to play this game. It has huge stages to explore and has excellent music.

Sonic 3D Blast: Flicky’s Island

This is an isometric Sonic game in which you must rescue trapped animals and take them to the exit warp zone. It has free roaming style gameplay and big levels. The controls aren’t as easy to play with as they are in the side-scrolling Sonic games which can be very off putting in the beginning. Also the graphics aren’t as joyful as we’ve seen in previous Sonic games and all in all, it isn’t as enjoyable. It’s still an okay game, even if it isn’t exactly vital to the Sonic franchise.

Sonic Spinball

A whacky pinball game set in the Sonic universe. Sonic is trapped inside a huge pinball-like machine, so he acts as the ball and bounces back and forth between bumpers, flippers and all kinds of hazards. This game has great potential, but sadly isn’t quite exactly as great as it could have been. The concept is interesting, and it certainly is fun for a while. It isn’t quite as varied as one would have hoped though, so there are lots of missed opportunities there.

Streets of Rage

A gritty brutal street fighting beat ’em up that features co-op for two players. You play as either Axel, Blaze or Adam – three undercover cops fighting to stop the mighty crime lord who is running things in the town. In this game you’ll get to fight many gang members and tough bosses. The co-op makes this game totally worth playing. The Streets of Rage trilogy encompasses some of the best games in the entire Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection, and even if the first game is the weakest of the three, it is still worth playing through.

Streets of Rage 2

More two player arcade co-op street brawling. This game is easily one of the best games 16-bit brawling games ever created – it has awesome graphics, four playable characters, lots of special moves, co-op moves and weapons, brilliant soundtrack and many levels and bosses to defeat. This is non-stop action that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. The replay value is sky high, and to beat the game you’ll need lots of skill. The secret Mania difficulty level gives the game even more challenge and will really put your fighting skills to the test. If you like brawling games, this game is simply too good to miss.

Streets of Rage 3

Building on the winning formula of previous games in the series, Streets of Rage 3 reaches perfection. There’s lots of baddies to beat, many long stages, cruel bosses, multiple endings and entirely new special moves. It is the hardest game in the series, and will require a battle hardened gamers’ full attention. This game is a gold mine for co-op action at its best, and the fast paced arcade style action will never grow old. Great graphics and a super cool hard techno soundtrack that defies the Mega Drive’s hardware limits makes this game a solid choice. Simply put; this game is freaking awesome.

Super Thunder Blade

This is a shoot ’em up game in which you pilot a helicopter and battle all kinds of military enemy forces. It features both top-down and a third-person perspective view where you see the helicopter from behind, flying in a pseudo 3D environment. This is perhaps the weakest title in the entire collection, because the graphics are sub-par, making it hard to see exactly what’s going on let alone to dodge enemy bullets. It’s a tip of the hat to the original arcade game Thunder Blade, but this Mega Drive version just doesn’t do it justice.

Vectorman

A side-scrolling action platformer where you play as a robot called Vectorman. You’ll jump, shoot and run through many various environments and even battle bosses. The Vectorman series are widely regarded as must-have titles for the Sega Mega Drive. The graphics are smooth, but the colors look washed giving it a dark atmosphere, and the enemies you’re fighting are just weird. This is an okay game no more no less.

Vectorman 2

The sequel to Vectorman brings more of the same. The level design is more interesting this time around, but generally this is just more running, gunning and jumping. If you love 16-bit action platforming games, you should probably give this one a chance. But don’t expect it to raise the bar of the genre – rather you’d play it for curiosity. Also, it isn’t very long so you can probably beat it in two hours or so.

Unlockable extra games

Alien Syndrome (Arcade Version)

This is a brutally hard top-down shooter game where you play as space marines trying to rescue civilians from an ongoing alien onslaught. The goal is to rescue all the trapped people and you can collect various power-ups and bonus weapons. The game has two player co-op and is very fast paced. If you’re up for a real challenge, then this game is for you.

Altered Beast (Arcade Version)

The original arcade version of Altered Beast will make the Mega Drive version pale in comparison, but it is essentially the same game. This game delivers fun arcade two player co-op action and huge monsters to beat.

Congo Bongo (Arcade Version)

This is an isometric action game in which you try to avenge a monkey who set fire to your tent. In order to reach the monkey it will have you climb mountains and face all kinds of environmental hazards. This is a very tricky game, and certainly not for those who easily lose their temper. It’s a nice game though and for its time, it has great graphics and smooth animations.

Fantasy Zone (Arcade Version)

One of Sega’s fine old-school flagship shooters. This is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up in which you play as the spaceship called Opa-Opa. Each stage has alien spaceships that you must destroy before you can proceed to the next stage. You can purchase new weapons which will be time limited, and the game has many tricky boss battles. This game is sometimes labeled “cute ’em up” because of its charming pastel theme. Fantasy Zone is a classic game and having an arcade perfect version of it in here certainly raises the value of the collection.

Golden Axe Warrior (Master System Exclusive)

A top-down action adventure game set in the Golden Axe universe. This is a pretty long and epic game in which you play as a young hero fighting the dark forces and avenging the death of his parents. You will explore many caves, labyrinths and dungeons, use your trusty sword and magic to vanquish evil monsters. The game has very charming music and shows the Golden Axe universe from another perspective, fleshing out the lore of the game world.

Phantasy Star (Master System Exclusive)

A sci-fi fantasy roleplaying game in which you take part in an epic story of revenge and intrigue. The dungeons in this game are played from a first-person perspective, which ultimately forces the average player to draw maps in order to be able to effectively navigate through the labyrinthine dungeons. The game is known for its inspiring graphics and the fact that it revolves around a female protagonist. This is a great start to a wonderful game series.

Shinobi (Arcade Version)

The original arcade version of Shinobi is a side-scrolling action game in which you traverse numerous locations and fight against all kinds of enemies using shurikens, guns and ninja techniques. The game is really challenging and requires countless hours of training before you can hope to beat it. It has good graphics and a very characteristic soundtrack. All in all, it’s a great single player arcade game, and it certainly is a welcomed addition to this collection.

Space Harrier (Arcade Version)

Another iconic Sega classic arcade game. Space Harrier is a third-person shoot ’em up in which you see yourself running from behind in a 3D-like environment. All kinds of aliens will attack you constantly, and you must avoid enemy bullets all the time. Simply put, this is a super fast paced game that will pump your adrenaline around. It is really challenging and it has blazing fast graphics and good music.

Zaxxon (Arcade Version)

An isometric space shoot ’em up. You can fly above and below obstacles, and the game really demands that you keep track of your altitude. This game is hard to get a grip off, because it can be a little too harsh with its difficulty level. Still, it is an arcade classic and it is a formidable addition to any game collection.

Content

As if the 49 included games weren’t good enough, Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection has unlockable bonus material, namely eight exclusive interviews with some of the original developers behind many of these games. This is a chance to hear many funny comments and remarks about the games from the developers themselves. If you have any interest in video game history, these interviews will be well worth watching, even if they aren’t very long.

From the main menu you can also access a brief history text for each game, along with other points of interest and even related artwork (cover art and cartridges). The depicted artwork come from the North American releases, so it may vary somewhat from what we saw in stores here in Europe.

Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection has 35 PlayStation Trophies that you’ll earn by doing various tasks within the various games. Many Trophies are perhaps a little too easy to get, so there’s not much to break a sweat over if you’re merely hunting Trohpies.

Another wonderful feature about this collection is that it supports auto saving high scores. This means that your scores and records of each game will save from one play session to the next, which wasn’t possible on the original Sega Mega Drive.

You can customize controls for each game too, but the default controls work great as it mimics the original control setups well.

This collection does not have online leaderboards or any additional features such online play over the PlayStation Network.

Graphics

When it comes to graphics, Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection offers upscaling of original low resolution games to HD resolution. This will obviously make pixel jaggies clearly visible. There is a smoothing filter option available which you may or may not prefer to use. It is an okay attempt to make low resolution games look better on a HD resolution, but for the most part it looks messy. Luckily it is entirely optional.

You can freely scale the size of the game window or even stretch it horizontally and vertically. The area outside the game window will show special artwork related to the game, so playing in a window isn’t too shabby. Using the 16:9 option will just stretch the view, so you may want to stick with the standard 4:3 option – whichever you prefer.

Summary

There’s no denying the glory of this solid collection of games. The Streets of Rage-, Sonic the Hedgehog-, Shining Force- and Golden Axe- trilogies are enough reason to be all over this box. Having them on a hard copy is golden for any retro gamer. With all the fighting, platforming and puzzle games there’s something for everyone here. The extras are very fleshed out, making this a perfect trip down memory lane, and if you haven’t played these games before, now’s the perfect chance to experience some truly brilliant 16-bit games.

There’s really only one sane thing to do: get the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection and send a love letter to the awesome people who put this collection together. Hopefully in the future, we’ll see more retro game collections available in hard copy and as generous as this one. (I doubt it.)

Developed By: Backbone Entertainment
Published By: Sega
Version Reviewed: Playstation 3
Genre: Compilation
Players: 1-2
Also Available On: Xbox 360
Released: 2009-02-20

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