SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection Review (Xbox360)

Looking back at retro games can sometimes smear the good memories you had of them. When you realise that they weren’t as great as you remembered it can be a ruinous exercise, transforming nostalgic memories from a beautiful rose-tinted hue to a stinking brown crap stain. It’s a risky business then returning to treasured titles of old, even if they have been upscaled to look lovely on your HD telly, you could still walk away with a bittersweet taste in your mouth.

Sega Mega Drive: Ultimate Collection is the most definitive collection of Mega Drive (Genesis for our American cousins) games to date and includes – for the first time – the sublime Streets of Rage trilogy, which is every bit as brilliant to play now as it was 17 years ago. However, can the same be said for the other 37 titles on this disc? For the most part, yes. The majority of this 40 game collection is every bit as good as you remember it to be, although some of these classic games haven’t aged especially well. Alien Storm and Altered Beast are still eminently playable – especially with a like-minded friend in co-op – but they’re unintentionally hilarious now, with their stilted animation and funny looking sprites.

Vibrant and lush, Sonic 2's opening Emerald Hill Zone still puts a smile on your face.
Columns – a bit like Tetris but with coloured jewels. Not much like Tetris really then.

That said, this collection represents some of the finest 16-bit moments ever made, straddling a range of genres from scrolling beat ‘em ups to platformers via shooters and RPG. Anyone worried that their treasured childhood memories will be marred by returning to old favourites can rest assure, almost all of the games in this collection are just as playable now as they were in the early nineties.

There are a few glaring omissions here that may offend die hard Sega fans, such as Revenge of Shinobi, Shadow Dancer and OutRun – seminal Sega titles that really deserve the 720p treatment each game on this disc receives. While retro racing fans aren’t particularly well served with the complete lack of (count ‘em) racing games on this disc, ninja fans do thankfully get Shinobi III, which we have to say, in our humble opinion is nevertheless inferior to both the aforementioned entries in the Shinobi series. Never mind. There is a nice ninja-flavoured surprise amongst the unlockable Master System games to enjoy though, which is pretty cool.

Shinobi III is not a patch on Revenge of Shinobi in our book. Still pretty good though.
Ecco starts out beautifully serene then descends into insanity.

This is easily the best Sega collection released to date with a number of complete series catalogued here in their entirety. For roughly £25-£30 you get every Golden Axe, every Sonic game, every Streets of Rage and every Phantasy Star game to ever grace the Sega Mega Drive (in the UK and US that is. The first Phantasy Star did receive a Japan release on the Mega Drive, fact fans). When you take into account that just one of these Sega games will normally set you back 400 MS points on Xbox LIVE (£3.40), the sheer value for money this equates to is staggering. If you’re anything like me and you’ve been desperate to play the majority of these games in glorious high definition after playing the originals through your HD set with bleeding colours (seriously, a Mega Drive on an HD set looks like hell) and dusty old controllers that were falling apart over a decade ago, then this Ultimate Collection is the answer to your prayers.

Sadly, the co-op titles have been shorn of their online co-op modes, which is unforgivable considering Streets of Rage II and Golden Axe boast online support when downloaded from the Marketplace. Unlockable content, achievements and trophy support softens the blow a little, but we still find the fact that these basic features are absent more than a little perplexing. While this may be disappointing, bear in mind that this disc represents a list of some fondly held childhood memories, from the Sonic the Hedgehog title screen, to the 100-foot purple Michael Bolton rising above the city skyline in the Streets of Rage II intro. Every gamer of a certain age and generation will have some cherished moment of nostalgia tucked away on the disc and discovering the nine unlockable Master System and arcade titles is like finding a tenner on the floor when you’re twelve-years old – amazing. We don’t want to ruin the surprise by telling you what they are here, but they’re very good, we’ll say that much. And as far as hidden extras go, they’re top notch. With insightful interviews, original box art, backgrounds and facts for each game fleshing out the overall package, there’s very little we can criticise about this collection, as we could never put a price on some of the great games featured therein.

Our pick of the bunch. Streets of Rage II never ever grows tired.
Comix Zone is an interesting scrolling beat 'em up drawn in a cool comic book style.

The title screen is also a very nicely conceived, slickly presented menu that allows you to rate each game using a score marked out of five red LED lights. If you wish you can then sort the titles into alphabetical, date or genre order or alternatively use your ratings system to filter your favourites to the top and your least favourite games to the bottom of the list. Nice. Presentation is very neat throughout Sega Mega Drive: Ultimate Collection, with each game presented in its original aspect ratio and the option to stretch it to widescreen should you so wish. You can also save at any time during your session so you need never feel the nervous adrenaline as you hang on to your last life in a vain effort to best the final boss, ever again.

Wow, remember the days when if you died at the final hurdle you had to start all over again? Well those days may be over, but never has the chance to relive them once again been so welcome.

Top game moment:
Had we not played Streets of Rage II to death on Xbox LIVE it would easily be this. Instead it has to be getting to play Streets of Rage 3 in 720p instead of nasty smear-o-vision. What the hell, it’s all good!

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By grimreaper (SI Member) on Mar 09, 2009
The ultimate game for any mega drive lover. A MUST!
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 09, 2009
I agree. The same collection came out on PSP.
By Marco_Fiori (SI Veteran Newbie) on Mar 10, 2009
Fantastic. I'm going to pick this up post dissertation due to the fact I love the platform and it means I can flog my collection (which basically makes up this game).

20 games - 1 game really saves on space, and not to mention the problems I've had with the Mega Drive, (being on my third if I remember correctly).
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
It's a good thing they made this collection. It really does save space, and increases the quality of the final product. :)
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
Never though to see the day they will bring the oldies back :O


lol i have been playing these games on Flash sites :P

and it does save space like you said Wowerine
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
It does, and playing them in flash players over the internet for free saves money as well... If you don't need to buy it, don't. :)
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 10, 2009
Classiscs ^.^
By grimreaper (SI Member) on Mar 11, 2009
I bought this game, and i have only one thing to say AWESOME, it's not perfect because there are two games missing in my opinion Revenge of Shinobi, and Out Run, if both this games were, the Game would be PERFECT.
By homebrewer (SI Newbie) on Mar 11, 2009
i love playing sonic when i was a kid. I always were a fanboy of the Genesis even though the snes was better in terms of graphics and games.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 11, 2009
I'm not buying it, since you can play it for free online. :P
By grimreaper (SI Member) on Mar 14, 2009
This game worths every cent
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Mar 15, 2009
Out for PSP? Now that could mean somehting then. :)
By jormarakas (SI Veteran Member) on Mar 15, 2009
Oh.. my... god... am i dreaming this, or is it real? This will definetly cheer up the gaming nights i host here sometimes, a must buy! And again a really comprehensive informations list about the game, well done.