Video Games Review: Sega 3D Classics Collection (3DS, 2016)

Nostalgia never dies, and is almost always a completely viable way to market something. That notion has been proven by Nintendo time and time again, and while riffing on past triumphs may have worked to the brand’s detriment at times, no one can deny the joy of being able to revisit your childhood through gaming. Sega understand this, and their love of releasing compilations over the past decade has mirrored, and at times trumped, Nintendo’s retroactive shtick. Hence this year we’ve received yet another Sega compilation, this time in the form of Sega 3D Classics Collection, developed for the Nintendo 3DS by the ever-reliable emulation experts over at M2.

The title consists of nine Sega titles, which include four that have never been released outside of Japan. That’s some serious motivation for any retro gamer right there, but is it worth the time and money, even if it’s a fairly inexpensive buy? That really depends on how much you enjoy being able to cart around your very own arcade; arguably the ability to do just that is tempting, but aside from the many smart, nuanced options M2 put into this compilation, it all comes down to the quality of the games chosen to make up the collection.

Two of these games have been done to death as far as ‘greatest hits’ goes. The first is the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s best known and most bankable star. I guess for those who have never played the game a million times before, this would be an essential inclusion. For others, it’s a waste of space. Sonic is and always will be one of the best platforming franchises in gaming, a colourful combination of smart level design, wondrous speed and the greatest platforming side-kick of all time (sorry Diddy and Luigi but Tails has you beat; though unfortunately Tails is nowhere to be found in the first Sonic). The second or third Sonic games would have been a better choices as far as quality goes, but there’s little to be mad about here if you feel like revisiting a classic character and his humble beginnings.

The other ubiquitous Sega title included is Altered Beast, which I refer to as the original Dark Souls. This was a very difficult game, and it still very much is. The only difference is that the Nintendo 3DS isn’t as sturdy as your cheap Mega Drive controller, so slamming this innocent vessel onto the floor out of frustration probably isn’t a good idea. The monstrous beat-em-up is fun until you get to about the third stage – a feat in itself if you haven’t lost any lives – which is when the game starts to punish you and you end up having to start from the very first stage. A save function is thankfully included here, and if you really want to bypass the game I guess you could opt to have infinite lives, but that ruins the experience originally intended for the game, which is full of just plain, blinding and sometimes physically harmful rage.

The choice to include both Altered Beast and Sonic is strange. Both have been released through the eShop in the past and the very slight addition of 3D elements isn’t quite enough to give any substantial tweaks to the games. Sure, there are the plentiful customisation options, all of which are to do with graphics. M2 have rightfully placed a great deal of focus on aesthetics to make this as close to an authentic retro experience as possible, balancing this with the depth 3DS enables, the result gives you great control over settings, from re-mapping controls to different types of 3D effect. The presentation for these games is considered, right down to the flickers of traditional arcade aesthetics.

As for the other titles, you have classics like Thunderblade and Galaxy Force II, the former being one of most blissfully joyful overhead shooters from that era and the latter being a very hard-to-find space blaster that could easily have given Star Fox a run for his money back in the day. Galaxy Force is also one of several games included in this compilation that has simulated 3D embedded in the gameplay, making it a natural fit for M2’s graphical overhaul. The screen is constantly, rapidly coming at you to create that illusion of depth as you control a ship that remains the exact same distance from the screen at all times. Sure, the graphics may not have aged well, but the gameplay is top notch and there is a clever, almost overwhelming, amount of action thrown at you to keep this as one of the most challenging titles in Sega’s pocket.

Also on that list of natural fits is Yu Suzuki’s Power Drift, an adaptable racer that until now has never been ported outside of Japan. 25 well planned courses pack this one full of content, all simple but fun to navigate with its playful, kinetic kart-racing style. As with Galaxy Force, the screen constantly speeding towards you while the player pushes against it can be dizzying at times, but the textural pop makes this a beautiful – given how damn old it is – achievement which M2 have done wonders with. The simplicity wrecks replay value, as well as the fact that there’s no real difference between the multitude of options you can use to customise your experience.

Puyo Puyo 2 is easily one of the most delightfully colourful puzzlers of its era, and its perhaps the best title here in terms of replay value. The spin on Tetris like gameplay is, I dare write, far superior to games like Dr Mario, presenting an addictive and smartly detailed title with dynamic graphics and a set of mechanics that are easy to understand, but take awhile to make full use of.

Maze Walker is fun for awhile, a bland A-B maze title that has you killing enemies with a simple press of a button and collecting keys. The painfully simplistic process makes the inclusion questionable though, and with no replay value and a highly repetitive aesthetic it’s a wonder why this was included in lieu of more engaging players.

The final two games in this compilation are two different versions of the same title, Fantasy Zone II W and Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa. The former is a classic kitchen-sink shooter, incredibly busy in almost every level with cute, imaginative presentation that enhances the latter (the original arcade version) and really shows you how it could have been one of the most popular 16-bit games of its generation had its reach been as expansive as say Sonic or Altered Beast. That reach comes decades late, but that won’t stop arcade fans eating this one up, as despite the layers of cute (which earned the game it’s nickname of “cute ’em up”) this is a very well paced, challenging game that requires the kind of sharp focus that similar titles often sacrifice. Along with Thunderblade, Fantasy Zone is easily the best thing about this collection.

Some of the inclusions for Sega 3D Classics Collection are questionable, especially given how little 3DS has on the horizon for the next couple of months. It may be a case of “too little too late”, but depending upon your experience with the less salient of Sega’s titles, it shouldn’t be hard to enjoy what M2 have given us. These are some beautifully ported titles with 3D effects which, though ultimately unnecessary, have obviously been painstakingly constructed for the 3DS. If you’re a hardcore Sega fan or simply love to re-visit and discover forgotten classics (some of these titles wouldn’t even come close to being ‘classic’ though) then by all means this collection is nice to have on hand, but if it’s all the same to you, then there’s little here that will change your tone.

Review Score: 6.5 out of 10
Highlights: Beautifully realised ports; Fantasy Zone and Thunderblade still hold up in terms of gameplay; the amount of options to customise your experience; in-game art.
Lowlights: Maze Walker a dull inclusion; poor choice for a Sonic title; Altered Beast has not aged well
Developer: M2
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Out now
Systems: Nintendo 3DS

Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.