SEGA Mega Drive Classics is one of those games you've probably already made up your mind about. The Mega Drive (or the Genesis, depending on where you are) played host to some absolute gems in the 90s, and for many, the chance to relive some fond memories on PS4 will be an attractive proposal. There are over 50 games in this retro compendium, and whether you look back fondly on SEGA's 16-bit console or not, there's bound to be at least a couple of games in here that anyone can enjoy.
It's clear that the publisher has done its best to cover as wide a variety of games as possible while ensuring to hit on all the titles you'd expect. While it's hard to argue against the inclusion of most of the games, there are a few notable omissions: OutRun, Super Hang-On, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Ecco the Dolphin, some of which featured in PS3's collection, are all missing. Of course, everyone's view on these games is subjective, but it's somewhat an injustice that some of the above are excluded when three Golden Axe games made the cut.
However, well over a dozen games have been added to the roster, many of which make their debut in a Mega Drive collection. Gunstar Heroes, Space Harrier II, and ToeJam & Earl all unquestionably deserve their place here, and almost all tastes are accounted for with the sheer variety on offer. Despite the exclusion of a few no-brainers, this is still the largest and arguably best collection to date.
All the games run as you'd expect, although we did notice some very occasional momentary freezes and stuttering. It's not enough to be much of a concern, and 99 per cent of the time, the games are responsive and perform extremely well. From a presentation standpoint, the games all look and sound as they should, but you do have a degree of flexibility on the emulator should you want to smooth the picture, stretch it to full screen, add scanlines, and more. You adjust this via the console in the main menu, which has you moving about a 3D 90s bedroom. You flick between the shelves where you can sort and select your games, controllers to adjust, well, the controls, the notebook to view challenges and leaderboards, and so on. It's a novel approach that works well enough, but navigation can be surprisingly cumbersome.
Modern features have been incorporated well: leaderboards for some of the games track high scores or total kills, multiplayer is available both online and offline, and the ability to create saves has been added across the board. You can also rewind and fast forward games at will, an option that somewhat trivialises the challenge in some titles, but is a welcome inclusion if you're stuck or want to skip dialogue.
The real joy of SEGA Mega Drive Classics is that hit of nostalgia as you play through your old favourites for the umpteenth time, but if you want to shake things up a bit, there are a couple of ways to do so. You can apply mirror mode to all games, flipping the screen and the controls for a true test of dexterity and muscle memory. A slew of challenges will put you through your paces, too. These set specific parameters, such as earning 5,000 points in Columns from a predetermined save, or winning the Kung Fung Tournament in Comix Zone with reduced health. It's a neat addition that, alongside the trophies, will have you playing games you might otherwise never touch.
As for the games themselves? Many of them still hold up today with gorgeous visuals, music, and gameplay. Columns' straightforward gem matching is simple but addictive, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 remains one of the Blue Blur's best outings, and the seminal Streets of Rage trilogy remains the daddy of beat-'em-ups. There are some anomalies, of course -- Altered Beast is still a dreadful side-scroller, and good luck trying to play Sonic 3D Blast -- but fortunately the good outweighs the bad.
SEGA Mega Drive Classics is a very generous package, offering over 50 16-bit titles for a very reasonable price. The emulation is of a very high standard, and quality of life improvements such as game saves make the often tough titles more digestible. Online play, leaderboards, and challenges help flesh it all out, too, giving you a decent amount of extras on top of the broad range of action games, RPGs, platformers, and everything in between. For many, the nostalgia overload will be enough to spur on a purchase, but those who may have missed out on the Mega Drive will find that this is an ideal way to experience its best titles -- if you can excuse some disappointing omissions.