SEGA Vintage Collection Vol. 3 Overview

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SEGA Vintage Collection has been recently released on both XBLA and PSN – for the XBox 360 and PS3 respectfully. Known as SEGA AGES Online in Japan, it features proper emulations of SEGA classics – both console and arcade – with an abundance of features. It is developed by M2, former SNK employees responsible for SEGA’s Virtual Console offerings on Wii and many previous SEGA AGES games on PS2. Extensive emulation options, high definition artwork wallpapers, leader boards, saving, replays, achievements/trophies, new trial modes, and on-line play are all included, bringing these games back to life in a respectable, professional manner. With it being an on-going series of releases of classic games, it might be helpful to get a basic overview of what is included, how it fairs, and how others view the games released so far. Below is a compilation of this.


Alex Kidd in Miracle World

Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a 1986 platformer and the first release in the Alex Kidd series of games, which became SEGA’s unofficial mascot in PAL television regions for several years. Designed by Reiko Kodama and composed by Tokuhiko Uwabo whom would both go onto becoming some of SEGA’s best known talent, Miracle World innovated the genre by offering a unique inventory system where players collect and purchase items they can use on their quest. Selectable at almost any time, these can aid the user with different types of effects such as extending their attack range or by creating one of three different types of vehicles the character can then pilot through the level.

Miracle World has aged poorly in terms of mechanics. The controls are loose, the unbalanced level design and layout often creates severe difficulty spikes and the use of ‘janken’ (known to most English speakers as ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’) makes combat with the bosses completely left to luck, even with an item that assists players. Although standard for the time, the one-hit kill mechanics can become terribly frustrating due to the inconsistent hit detection.

[Alex Kidd punching.]

What the game lacks in gameplay, it makes up for in settings and art. Players travel through mountains, villages, islands, lakes, castles and forests on their journey to save Alex’s family. No level art is reused and the way they are mapped was incredibly unique for the time. Enemy designs are not particularly unique, but the sheer amount and variety of them help make the bright world feel active. The music direction can become tedious, but the melodies are pleasant and many are genuinely memorable.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World is available for either 800 MSP in the XBLA collection of Alex Kidd & Co. or for 5.00 USD on PSN as a single release (which includes a full set of trophies, more than the 360 version). A Wii version has also been released outside of the SEGA Vintage Collection brand, available through Virtual Console’s arcade section, although it lacks most of the bonus features seen on XBox 360 and PS3.

Super Hang-On

AM2’s 1987 motor cycle driving game is a sequel to Hang-On and holds a strong relationship to the game Outrun, another AM2 driving game.  Set in an arcade manner of gameplay – as opposed to simulation, the game banks on impressing players with its speedy bikes and scaling graphics. Not only does the game offer the sense of speed of games such as Outrun and Space Harrier, but it also features a boosting mechanic when the bike is at top speed, allowing the player to gain phenomenal acceleration on-command, providing they are at top-speed as a prerequisite. Four courses are available, set in Africa (Easy), Asia (Normal), America (Hard), and Europe (Very Hard), in addition to four audio tracks selectable pre-race. Any fan of 1980s video game music will be impressed by the sound track, which easily holds up and is sure to inspire.

New features in Super Hang-On include 3D support via traditional 3D glasses (red and blue), as well as an ‘all course’ mode where the player must race through all four continents in one session.

[Passing a check point and an Outrun sign.]

Due to the rarity of the game in proper form and its low price, it is easily recommendable to anyone. The game is very accessible with its difficulty settings and it still provides fun even when the player is losing. The graphics and music are as great today as they were in the 1980s, and the control is essentially perfect and precise. It is a great example of what an arcade experience is meant to be, even without the original novelty of having a replica bike to sit on.

Super Hang-On is available for either 800 MSP in the XBLA collection Alex Kidd &  Co. or for 5.00 USD on PSN as a single release (which includes a full set of trophies, more than the 360 version). A Wii version has also been recently released outside of the SEGA Vintage Collection brand, available through Virtual Console’s arcade section, although it lacks most of the bonus features seen on XBox 360 and PS3.

The Revenge of Shinobi

Known in Japan as The Super Shinobi, The Revenge of Shinobi is Joe Musashi’s jump onto the Mega Drive / Genesis from arcades and Master System. Released in 1989, it is a game about platforming, projectile and melee-based combat, and boss encounters. As the ninja Joe Musashi, you must confront the evil, terrorist organisation known as NEO ZEED, which has killed Joe’s master and captured his girlfriend. Through the use of ninja magic, shurikens, and extreme ninja skills, the player must navigate from Japan to America in order to ultimately face off against NEO ZEED’s leader. Additionally, along the way Joe must defeat Godzilla, The Hulk (who is actually a Terminator robot), Spiderman, and Batman, whom have all become part of the sinister organisation . These non-SEGA characters have been edited since the original release due to licensing issues, but it is still apparent who they are.

The Revenge of Shinobi is known for its high quality 16-bit graphics, its soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro (composer of Streets of Rage), and its challenging but organised game design. It is the type of experience where the player learns each time they play, becoming more skilled at the game, rather than being something that is frustrating or hard in a cheap way. This sort of design requires patience as one must learn each level and master the precise controls. It may scare off casual gamers, but those looking for a deep and challenging experience will enjoy the content offered, easily getting hours of enjoyment out of Joe’s venture across the pacific.

[Joe battling skeleton-guts Godzilla.]

Fans already familiar with The Revenge of Shinobi will appreciate the new trial modes added. These include a 1-life score attack mode where the player begins with a fully-levelled health bar, another mode based on a select number of stages where the player must use as few shurikens as possible, and a third trial with time-attack mode where the player must complete the final level and final boss as quickly as possible with unlimited life (being hit adds time to the counter).

The Revenge of Shinobi is available for either 800 MSP in the XBLA collection Alex Kidd &  Co. or for 5.00 USD on PSN as a single release (which includes a full set of trophies, more than the 360 version). An older release is also available on Wii’s Virtual Console, although it lacks most of the bonus features seen on XBox 360 and PS3.

Golden Axe Collection

Golden Axe Collection includes the following three titles: Golden Axe (arcade version), Golden Axe II (Genesis / Mega Drive), and Golden Axe III (Genesis / Mega Drive). Each game features similar gameplay, making the collection quite simple in its content, with each title also being part of the hack and slash genre – a derivative of “beat em’ ups”. The games focus on simplistic arcade gameplay with several moves and tactics for the player to master as they seek to defeat Death Adder in each title, earning a high score while doing so. Multiple characters are available in each title, including both a barbarian and a amazon class, although others exist too, such as the dwarf Gilius in the first two games, and both a panther man and a giant in the third game. To aid the characters in battle is the use of magic elemental spells specific to each character across all games, as well as a variety of animal mounts – from wingless dragons to huge snails.

[Vintage Collection 3D menu on XBox 360.]

The main protagonist of the series is the dwarf Gilius, the one who holds the Golden Axe in the first title and seeks to defeat the evil lord Death Adder, an evil being made of snakes that takes on the form of a large, armour-clad man who wields a giant axe (specifically the Golden Axe in II and III). While Gilius is unplayable in the third title, he is still a part of the story, guiding the heroes on their quest to defeat Death Adder.

The games take on the setting of an herculean dark age, inspired by classical age Europe and Western Asia, and make heavy use of a variety of mythologies. Perhaps the most influential source material for the series is the Conan the Barbarian franchise, of which the barbarian class of character (specifically Ax Battler) is based directly on. Giants, strange creatures, magician cultists, possessed suits of armour, living statues, gnomes, and skeleton warriors are just a few mythological beings present in the series. Environments are equally as varied, from wastelands, to ships, to castles, to the inside of volcanoes.

[CO-OP gameplay and Ax Battler’s magic attack.]

Each game features an excellent soundtrack and impressive-to-passable graphics. Oddly enough the graphics degrade as the series progresses, with Golden Axe looking fantastic on the System 16 arcade board, II looking acceptable on the Genesis / Mega Drive, and III having mixed-quality graphics. Sound, however, is fantastic in each title, with each game having its own flavour of music. The first title is most likely the best in the sound department, although the sequels provide great original sound tracks on their own.

Gameplay follows a similar trend to graphics, with the first title being the best and the third title being the worse. The main issue is that the first two games follow simplistic but satisfying arcade-style controls, while the third game tries (and fails) to emulate games such as Street Fighter II, making the last entry in the collection irritating near the end of the game. Unfortunately, poor AI and game design can turn Golden Axe III into a trial of frustration in the last few levels, and it is suggested players seek to learn the game’s moves in order to limit any issues with this title.

Each game includes independent leader boards and trials, and each game has a unique trial beyond basic score attacks, these include: sudden death mode for Golden Axe, unlimited-health score attack duel mode for Golden Axe II, and wagon score attack mode for Golden Axe III. An independent series of wall papers, manuals, sound tests, and new menus tracks also exist as bonus features for each title, which are sure to delight any fan of the series – new or old. Perhaps most importantly is the inclusion of on-line play, both co-op and versus (the latter mode unavailable in Golden Axe; co-op available in all titles).

[Battle atop a moving bone wagon.]

Golden Axe Collection is thus far exclusively available for XBox 360 with no release planned for any other platform. It is set at a price of 800 MSP, about 10.00 USD. PS3 does feature a port of the first Golden Axe title (arcade version) for 4.99 on PSN, although it lacks many of this new collection’s features and is generally of a poorer quality overall. Nintendo’s Wii also features each of these games, sans almost all features, although with good emulation (unfortunately no on-line play). All are available on the Virtual Console service, in the Arcade and Genesis / Mega Drive sections.

Streets of Rage Collection

Streets of Rage Collection features the entire main trilogy of Streets of Rage titles. Known as the Bare Knuckle series of games in Japan, each title is considered to be part of the “beat em’ up” genre, otherwise referred to as a side-scrolling fighter. While not originally arcade titles, each game is designed as an arcade game, and players should expect everything that comes with a 1990s arcade experience, minus inserting credits. Characters vary per game, although the two main characters (Blaze and Axel) are playable in each title. Alternative characters include Adam in the first title; Max and Skate (also known as Sammy) in the second title; and Skate and Zan in the third title, in addition to three bonus characters (Shiva, Roo, and Ash). The main villain of the series, and final boss in each game, is Mister X, an evil crime syndicate leader who wields a tommy gun. Another villain from the latter two games is Shiva, Mister X’s kung-fu body guard. Familiar items and enemies also litter the games, from “Galsia”s and “G. Signal”s to apples and iron pipes. The series overall offers a distinctive and developed universe, making each game an independently enjoyable experience that only gains from having addition titles, rather than being a series where sequels outperform the previous entries.

[Axel performing a screen-clearing special.]

The gameplay is typical of the genre, similar to games such as Technos’ Double Dragon and SNK’s Gang Wars, and follows many generic conventions established in previous games. The game does innovate, however. Unlike previous games in the genre, attacking is no longer seperated between punching and kicking, but rather a single attack button combining both and adding combos. Air manoeuvres, special screen-clearing attacks (with two distinctive police-assist animations), back attacks (attack + jump) and many grapple moves (including co-op attacks) bring the genre to life. Streets of Rage is perhaps the first game in the genre to change the formula to skilled-based, precision gameplay, rather than being just another button-mashing, shallow quarter-muncher, such as Capcom’s Final Fight – a similar popular game released around the same time period. Item variety, enemy variety, and light stage traps help keep the game fresh throughout, making the gameplay an excellent experience.

Aspects that bring the games up another level are their setting and soundtracks. The series setting is again typical of the genre. You play as three ex-cops in a city over-run by crime. It is up to the trio to take out Mister X and restore peace to the city. Red light districts, back alleys, beaches, docks, boats, factories, theme parks, haunted houses, and sky scrappers are among the locales available, along with many more. A common theme, along with a sense of scale and variety, makes the Streets of Rage universe appealing and ever-growing throughout the trilogy, leaving a good impression on the player. Particular memorable scenes include the elevator scenes in the first two games, the bad ending in the first game, the ending of the second game, the final levels in both the first and second games, and the bull dozer sequence in the third title.

[Blaze fighting a sub-boss while goons cheer.]

The soundtrack is arguably the best feature of the trilogy. Composed mainly by Yuzu Koshiro, it has become famous within the video game music fandom, being featured in many albums and played at numerous events. It pushes not only the SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis to its limits in sound quality, but both 16-bit chip music and video game music in general. While the third title is weak in the music area, it is still solid and enjoyable, although perhaps overly busy for most players’ tastes. But this matters little when the first 2 titles feature music so superb. It is near impossible to over-state the quality of the music offered and any fan of video game music is sure to appreciate the music just as much if not more than the games themselves.

Vintage Collection trials in the trilogy are unfortunately shallow. Each game features a variety of leader board supported difficulties to play (ie: play on easy, get a score uploaded), which beyond a score upload add little to the experience. This is fun for comparing your gameplay results to a friend’s, but it is barely a ‘trial’; however, each title does feature at least one unique trial. All are time based with unlimited lives – deaths adding to the player’s time. The first game features a speed run of the elevator scene, the second game features a speed run of the horror area of the theme park (complete with the boss Zamza), and the third game features a speed run of the extraction scene – where the player must rescue a hostage before poisonous gas is released and kills him (and the player/enemies if unlucky).

[Axel and Zan in the American Streets of Rage 3. Note that Axel is wearing Adam’s clothes from the first game. This is not present in the Japanese version.]

Streets of Rage Collection is currently only available on Microsoft XBox 360’s Live Arcade service for 800 MSP (10.00 USD, varies in other countries). While the third game may not achieve the same quality as the other entries (worth noting the Japanese version is better, and is included), the collection is easily worth the price for the first two titles and can be recommended to any fan of arcade and side-scrolling fighters, or just for someone interested in a fantastic soundtrack available in the collection’s jukebox (cross-compatible). Streets of Rage 2 is also available on Wii’s virtual console and PS3’s PSN with most of these features removed, and with questionable emulation quality on PSN. Furthermore, Streets of Rage 1 and 3 are both available on Wii’s Virtual Console, although the Japanese version of 3 is only available in Japan.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land

Created by Westone in 1989, the original Wonder Boy in Monster Land was a new direction for the Wonder Boy series. The previous game had been an action platformer, meant to compete with Super Mario Bros on the NES, but this new entry fused action platforming with RPG elements and more in-depth combat. While this new direction had promise and would lead to solid titles later in the series, this first entry provides mixed quality.

The good aspects of Monster Land are its shop, interestingly run by various cartoon animals, providing the game with some genuinely appealing (and sometimes funny) NPCs. Shops also provide Wonder Boy with items, such as swords, new shoes, armour, and so on, to enhance his abilities. This would be great if not for the sluggish and stiff controls of the game, and the tedium related to gaining money to buy these items. It is fun to see Wonder Boy change appearance and gain new abilities, but the task to do this is generally not fun. Secrets do exist for quick money, but this requires extension exploration. Enemies are varied and have their own distinctive art style, which did lay foundations for the series, but this entry simply does not hold up as a good game. Fans of the series can appreciate the game, but average players will likely die far too often and become frustrated. Overall the game cannot be recommended.

[The game starts with Wonder Boy in a diaper holding his arms out like an air plane.]

Like all Vintage Collection games, Monster Land comes with its own set of trials, four to be exact. One consists of gathering gold under a time limit, which does nothing to enhance the game, but another trial relates to gathering points instead with the player having unlimited fire magic, making for a far more enjoyable experience (minus the 1-hit death limitation also added). Another trial concerns playing the pyramid level and slaying a harder version of the level’s boss, but the level itself is frustrating and unfun, and the speed shoes the player is given only worsen the issue. The fourth and final trial gives the player unlimited life and the best gear in the game, then places the player in the final level. This is particularly interesting for allowing the final level to be played without having to trudge through the boring, tedious game. The level itself is a maze and generally unfun, but at least anyone can get to see it.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land is available for either 800 MSP in the XBLA collection Monster World Collection or for 5.00 USD on PSN as a single release (which includes a full set of trophies, more than the 360 version). An older release is also available on Wii’s Virtual Console, although it lacks most of the bonus features seen on XBox 360 and PS3.

Wonder Boy in Monster World

Wonder Boy in Monster World is the 1991/1992 Mega Drive / Genesis sequel to Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap on SEGA Master System. Similar in theme to Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Monster World alters the arcade game’s formula by means of a fully open environment that connects each level together in practical and creative ways. This also allows players to revisit locations to unlock paths, items or other secrets they may have missed before or were inaccessible without certain items or equipment. Other innovations exist, such as the assistant friend characters and multiple attacks for each weapon.

Wonder Boy in Monster World is challenging in terms of both gameplay and puzzle design, but can become very satisfying with clever play and sharp reflexes. The difficulty can spike on occasion, but the game tends to guide the player on how to properly progress and what items to equip without directly informing them. Revisiting previous levels can be enjoyable, but ‘grinding’ for money can become tedious and boring if the player tries to purchase every item and all equipment the game has to offer. Pacing is generally solid, but some odd decisions sour the experience, such as having to remember specific ocarina tunes near the beginning and some incredibly severe difficulty spikes, especially near the ending.

Monster World‘s controls and graphics are greatly improved over Monster Land, although the aesthetics are still bright and cheerfully designed. The animation for most characters in particular is rather poor and sterile. The diversity of these and locations visited makes up for it and keeps the game interesting hours after it begins, even if many of them are typical for the genre.

[Underwater segment.]

Three trials are featured in the newly released SEGA Vintage Collection version of Monster World. The first is the vast majority of one of the final levels which concludes after defeating the boss featured at the end, the next is a treasure hunt underwater based around a section near the middle of the game, and the final is a collection of boss fights originally found at the end of the game where the player has the best equipment possible. Overall, these are some of the weaker and least creative trials in the entire recent line of SEGA Vintage Collection releases, but still offer some of the most memorable sections of the title to be revisited at any time.

Wonder Boy in Monster World is a well-made platforming adventure game with a memorable setting, soundtrack and structure to it that only suffers from some odd puzzle choices, difficulty spikes and generally aged gameplay design.

Wonder Boy in Monster World is available for either 800 MSP in the XBLA collection Monster World Collection or for 5.00 USD on PSN as a single release (which includes a full set of trophies, more than the 360 version). An older release is also available on Wii’s Virtual Console, although it lacks most of the bonus features seen on XBox 360 and PS3.

Monster World IV

See our full review of this title here.

[Strong use of colour and sprite detail.]

Monster World IV is available for either 800 MSP in the XBLA collection Monster World Collection or for 5.00 USD on PSN as a single release (which includes a full set of trophies, more than the 360 version). An older release is also available on Wii’s Virtual Console, although it lacks most of the bonus features seen on XBox 360 and PS3. All three versions are available in English, for the first time, the title having not seen an American or European release prior to now.

To conclude, Vintage Collection has been a great revival for classic SEGA titles so far. Not only is the emulation great, but so are thoughtfully enclosed bonus features: on-line play, jukeboxes, trials, achievements/trophies and wallpapers really bring the games back to life. The selection of titles is also worthy of praise, as these are not simply forgotten series, but sometimes even obscure titles. A genuine effort is being made to re-release these classic (usually) and sometimes forgotten games, regardless of their popularity. Actual interest and respect for these games is a great sign and future releases should be just as good – if not better – than the current crop of games. Players should look forward to having a jammin’ time with SEGA Vintage Collection now and in the near future, because these releases are in no way a wreck.

ToeJam & Earl and ToeJam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron

See our full review of these titles here.

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