For millions of kids around the world in the late '80s through the '90s, there was no greater debate than SEGA vs Nintendo. Schoolyards were home to impassioned debates about which company's box was the best. Everyone knows who won the war long term, but few know of some of the truly classic titles SEGA fans enjoyed during those early years.
Fortunately, SEGA 3D Classics Collection aims to change all that; it's a collection of - as its name implies - classic SE titles from the glory years, spanning the 8-bit console, the Sega Master System, the Sega Mega Drive (known as the Sega Genesis in the US) and Sega's own System 16 arcade games.
Sega 3D Classics Collections contains a total of nine games, some of which have had individual eShop releases and others that are new. We already have individual reviews available for the 3D Classics of Fantasy Zone II W,Sonic The Hedgehog,Thunder Blade, Galaxy Force II and Altered Beast, so here we're mostly focusing on the games new to the West in their remastered form.
Power Drift is a lesser-known System 16 arcade racer, akin to Mario Kart. It uses the same parallax scrolling technology that was popular in other Sega titles such as Space Harrier, which was built on the same arcade board. Unlike Nintendo's mascot racer, however, Power Drift does not allow the player to select a character; instead, you are randomly assigned a character at the start of a circuit.
Power Drift's similarities to Mario Kart are only skin deep, however; at its core Power Drift is a wholly different racer. As you are randomly assigned a racer there's no difference between characters. Similarly, there are no vehicle selection or customization options. The player gets to choose between five circuits, each of which contains six tracks: five regular tracks and one bonus track.
Power Drift is a fun diversion but has no multiplayer, which likely would have helped extend its replay value. The parallax scrolling effect can also be a bit disorienting when combined with the 3DS' 3D display. In our tests, we found it much easier to keep track of the action on screen with the 3D turned off, though the effect is impressive to behold when the effect itself.
For some, the inclusion of Puyo Puyo 2 alone will make Sega 3D Classics Collection a must-buy. The version included here is the original arcade version, which was only available in Japan at the time of its release.
It's a simple puzzle game that's somewhat reminiscent of another classic Nintendo title, Dr. Mario. In it, two players face off against one another dropping multi-coloured puyos. Like most puzzle games players must match four same-coloured puyos to pop them, thus dropping transparent puyos which can only be destroyed as part of an existing combo on the other player. The objective of the game is, again, like most puzzlers to fill your opponent's screen before they can fill yours.
The 3D effect used in Puyo Puyo 2 is excellent and lends a real sense of depth to this classic. It also supports multiplayer, difficulty settings changes and an alternate rule set. Puyo Puyo 2 is a classic puzzler that stands out as one of the greats in the genre.
Fantasy Zone II is symbolic of Sega's early efforts on home consoles, often being mentioned in the same breath as Space Harrier, Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd. It's a bright, colourful original shoot-'em-up starring a small winged ship which can grow feet when it lands, called Opa Opa.
As the name suggests, Fantasy Zone II is the second Fantasy Zone game. This version differs from the previously released Fantasy Zone II W in that it's the Sega Master System release. As such this version is inferior to the arcade in just about every way. Fortunately, that does little to hamper one's enjoyment of this classic.
Enemies come from all angles, and you must weave between them and shoot them down to earn cash which can be used in each level's shop. Unlike its arcade counterpart levels in Fantasy Zone II are maze-like, with portals taking you between different sections. Once you find the red boss portal you'll be teleported to the boss room to take them out before proceeding to the next area.
Having two versions of the same game on one collection may seem redundant, but the Master System's limitations made for a port that differs enough from the source material to justify its inclusion. As is the case with the vast majority of 8-bit arcade ports, the arcade version of Fantasy Zone II is the one most players will want, as it's superior in every way, but nostalgic Sega fans will find plenty of reasons to love this pared down version as well.
Maze Walker is unique in that it is the only game in this collection that started out as a 3D title, and it shows. Back in the '80s, Sega released the SegaScope 3D, a pair of 3D glasses that worked by using a shutter system to create an effect similar to that seen on the 3DS.
In Maze Walker the player will - surprise! - walk through a maze while fending off enemies with an iron bar, which can be found at the start of each level. Maze Walker's 3D effect is at its best when your character jumps and pops out of the screen at you. These 3D remakes are all impressive, but the difference between Maze Walker and the rest of the bunch in terms of the quality of the 3D effect is readily apparent.
Impressive 3D effects aside, Maze Walker doesn't have a whole lot going for it. It feels more like a demo of 3D technology than anything else. The mazes are simple, the enemies aren't all that tough, and let's face it - you're playing as a generic blonde guy hitting things with an iron bar. It's a fun distraction, but not many will buy 3D Classics Collection for Maze Walker.
The newcomers are rounded out by the aforementioned selection of already-released 3D classics. There's Galaxy Force II, a little-known arcade shoot-'em-up, Thunder Blade, a classic arcade title which later received a Master System port, Fantasy Zone II W, an enhanced port of the arcade version of Fantasy Zone II, Altered Beast, a Mega Drive launch title, and a little game called Sonic the Hedgehog.
These aren't just simple ports of retro titles, however. The team at M2, a development team specializing in retro re-releases created new, 3D-ready emulators for each of these titles. The options each of these emulators carry are impressive. During any game you can hit the start button to bring up that game's respective emulator's menu. You can choose to play the Japanese or Western releases of certain games, change how certain games display in 3D, change screen size, toggle backgrounds, and even simulate moving screens in arcade games that originally featured those in their cabinets. On top of that, for major enthusiasts out there, Sega 3D Classics Collection allows for switching sound units between various Sega console releases, such as the PSG revisions between the first and second Mega Drive models, as well as the Sega Mark III's FM unit which never left Japan, a big hit with purists. Multiplayer games aren't left out in the cold, either. Both games that support multiplayer in this collection also support wireless link play, provided both players have a copy of the game.
Most of these games have stood the test of time. They're decades-old classics that are as precious to Sega fans as Mario and Link are to the Nintendo faithful. Altered Beast, Fantasy Zone and Thunder Blade might not be as iconic as the franchises we here at Nintendo Life have come to know and love, but they are classics all the same.
While these are not necessarily the names that are most often associated with the console giant turned Nintendo partner, they're worth mentioning in the same breath. It bears mentioning that Sega 3D Classics Collection is the international release of Sega Fukkoku Archives 2. There's no word as of this writing if the original will get a release, nor if the tenth unlockable game, the original Fantasy Zone, which was originally unlocked by having save data from both titles on a single 3DS, will be unlockable in 3D Classics Collection.
Few games are heralded as true classics. Even fewer earn the distinction of defining a genre, or better yet, a generation. Sega 3D Classics Collection has a handful of these games gathered on a single cart. The emulators' robust feature set and extremely well implemented 3D make these games feel like much more than re-releases of old games.
If you're a lifelong Nintendo fan, you owe it to yourself to see what those on the other side of the console wars enjoyed. You're in for a treat.