Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

While Sega has been curiously reluctant to update its existing Wii Virtual Console catalogue for the Wii U and 3DS, it hasn't entirely forgotten its past glories this console cycle. Courtesy of emulation experts M2 we've had some amazing updates of vintage Sega games on the 3DS, each one blessed with auto-stereoscopic visuals and a raft of exclusive features and modes. These have been released one at a time on the 3DS eShop, but sensing the proclivity of retro gamers to purchase physical items, Sega has wisely bundled them together into collectable retail packages. We've only had one of these in the west so far – the superb Sega 3D Classics Collection – but in Japan two compilations have been published, and we now have a third (and, as the title suggests, final) offering to enjoy before Nintendo's handheld is put out to pasture.

Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage pulls together 11 old-school Sega classics from its arcade, Mega Drive / Genesis and 8-bit eras. Five of these – 3D Super Hang-On, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 3D After Burner II, 3D Streets of Rage 2 and 3D Gunstar Heroes – are already available on the 3DS eShop in both Japan and the west, while the remaining six – 3D Turbo OutRun, 3D Thunder Force III, 3D Alien Syndrome, 3D Columns, Girl's Garden and Champion Boxing – are currently exclusive to this package. As you might expect, the five games already available outside of Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3 are identical to the versions on the eShop, so if you'd like the lowdown on those, feel free to consult their individual reviews. The all-new games are more interesting for existing fans, and represent a fairly broad mix of genres.

Turbo OutRun is the arcade sequel to the original 1986 classic, and introduces more detailed visuals, a CPU rival who can steal your girlfriend, upgrades, police cars and the titular turbo function which gives your vehicle – in this case a swanky Ferrari F40 – a welcome speed-boost for a short period of time. This is useful for getting a quick start after a crash, and also helps you to deal with the various environmental hazards introduced in the game, such as changing weather (the rain effect is quite striking, especially in auto-stereoscopic 3D) and obstacles in the road. It's certainly a step up from the first title in terms of scope, but Turbo OutRun is perhaps a little too similar to its forerunner for casual players. When you consider the many other underappreciated Sega classics that could have been included here it feels like something of a wasted opportunity – diehard OutRun fans may well disagree, however, and there's no denying that it looks utterly gorgeous in 3D.

Thunder Force III is an altogether different story. Its inclusion has been made possible by the fact that last year, Sega acquired the dormant IP of the now-defunct Technosoft, granting it access to the company's enviable library. Thunder Force III is regarded as one of the best horizontally-scrolling shooters on the Mega Drive, and when displayed in 3D it has even more impact. The game makes judicious use of parallax scrolling and the auto-stereoscopic effect is put to good use to give this effect even more visual depth. Visually and aurally striking even by today's standards, Thunder Force III has also lost none of its aggressive edge in the past three decades; as if to acknowledge the stern challenge, M2 has kindly included a "Kids" mode which not only boosts your attack power and allows you to retain your collected weapons upon death, but also awards you with CLAWs (or "CRAWs" as the in-game voice hilariously states) and a shield when you die, making progress a lot easier than normal.

Alien Syndrome is a top-down shooter from 1987 which was ported to a wide range of systems at the time and more recently recieved a reboot on the Wii. Clearly inspired by the movie Aliens, it shares some visual DNA with Sega's later Alien Storm but keeps things pretty straightforward in terms of gameplay. You have to rescue various crewmembers in each stage and can take down enemies with a wide range of weaponry; once you've saved the required number of crewmembers and unlocked the exit to the level you're thrust into a boss battle with a series of grotesque xenomorphs. A local co-op mode has been included here, allowing you to tackle the challenge with a friend. The 3D effect isn't quite as striking as it is in Thunder Force III or Turbo OutRun, but it's a nice inclusion – especially as many 3DS owners may not be all that familiar with it.

Columns is based on the Mega Drive version, which was billed as Sega's answer to Tetris at the time of release. It's not quite as addictive as Alexey Pajitnov's puzzle classic, but it's a close second and is perfect for portable play. As you might imagine the 3D effect is very subtle here; in terms of visual spectacle this is arguably the least striking offering, yet it's one we found ourselves playing an awful lot. Like Alien Syndrome, it benefits from local co-op play on 3DS.

The final two games – Girl's Garden and Champion Boxing – are only accessible if you already have save data for the previous two Sega Fukkoku Archives releases. The first collection unlocks Girl's Garden (notable for being the development debut of Yuji Naka, who would later co-create Sonic) while the second collection unlocks boxing sim Champion Boxing (another notable debut, this time for OutRun, After Burner and Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki). If you already own the two previously-released compilations then these are neat extras, but they're so basic by modern standards that we can't say it's worth retrospectively purchasing Sega Fukkoku Archives 1 and 2 just to obtain them – unless of course you don't own any of the previous 3D Classics on the eShop already, in which case a handy 3-in-1 bundle is available.

As has been the case with M2's previous retro updates, it's possible to save your progress at any time during gameplay, and some titles allow you to record your performance so you can watch it back later on. You'll also find control editing options, sound tests and screen filters on some of the titles, all of which will be instantly familiar with anyone who has played one of the many individual Sega 3D Classics releases already. One of the best features of the package is a quick menu which allows you to effortlessly jump from title to title without incurring any prolonged wait, and you can also view each game's zany credits sequence from the main screen. It's worth noting that all of the option menus are in Japanese, but they are fairly uniform from game to game so it doesn't take long to figure out what does what.

Sega hasn't confirmed if Sega Fukkoku Archives 3 will be making its way to the west as yet, although the existence of a Miiverse page suggests that it could indeed happen; when that will be is anyone's guess however, because the Japanese veteran was quite slow in localising Sega 3D Classics Collection for both North America and Europe. In the meantime, if you happen to own a Japanese 3DS console then this is a highly recommended purchase – but it's also somewhat bittersweet as it feels like the end of an era. With Nintendo turning its back on auto-stereoscopic 3D with the Switch, the days of Sega's vintage classics being elegantly retrofitted with lush 3D effects are well and truly over.

Thanks to Play-Asia.com for supplying the copy of Sega Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage used in this feature.

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