February 14th is Valentine's day, and it's a good idea to give your sweetie or romantic partner a tender gift that day–a card, maybe some chocolates, and perhaps take them out to dinner. The day after, however, you may want to do yourself a favor and head down to the local game store so you can pick up the Sega Classics Collection for PlayStation 2.
Scheduled for release on February 15th, Sega Classics Collection brings together nine classic Sega arcade games into a single package (priced at $19.99). Each of these games were previously published in Japan under the "Sega Ages" line, and, as some of you may recall, were sold individually for $20.
Games included are:
The first game on the disc is OutRun (1986), an addictive racing game that people adore for its speed and simplicity. Beachfront roads and winding canyons fly by as you try to beat the clock with the hammer down across heavily-trafficked highways. Each highway has a different environmental "look," its own musical accompaniment, and obstacles to watch out for (such as semi-trucks, boulders, and slow buckets). One feature that made OutRun so unique back in the day was the ability to choose between two different highways on the fly once the current road ended. The Sega Classics Collection version of OutRun contains two play modes: an "original" mode, which is a pixel-perfect copy of the arcade game, now with analog steering, and an "arrange" mode, which includes longer courses and challenges players to pass a set number of rival cars on each highway. This arranged mode also offers improved background graphics.
Originally released in 1989, Golden Axe was the precursor to numerous medieval-themed side-scrolling action games. Players first pick between three different characters (warrior, magician, and dwarf) and then set off to slay eight levels full of demons on the way to the final confrontation with Death Adder. Each character has two or three different basic attacks, as well as his/her own unique magic ability that lets players briefly fill the screen with a torrent of fire. Golden Axe was one of the earliest games to allow players to ride atop fire-breathing dragons situated within each level. Fans of the arcade game may or may not be disappointed to learn that Sega has tinkered quite a bit with the graphics, audio, and levels in this PS2 remake. Gone are the old 2D backgrounds and sprite-based graphics; replaced by 3D backgrounds and polygon-rendered characters. Likewise, all of the music has been remixed to sound more melodic. Many of the game's levels have been remixed as well, so that they're longer and contain enemies from later Golden Axe sequels. A survival and time-attack mode were also included.
You wouldn't believe it from looking at it, but Space Harrier was originally released in 1985. By layering 2D sprite graphics and using a few psychedelic visual effects in the background, the masterminds at Sega managed to put together one of the world's first 3D shoot 'em ups. When it later came out for the Sega Genesis, a pair of 3D glasses was actually packaged with the game! Players control a young boy with a jet pack strapped to his back and have to shoot at oncoming enemies as they appear up ahead. It doesn't get any simpler, and thanks to an onslaught of enemies, obstacles, and plasma bullets, it also doesn't get any more hectic. Just like they did with Golden Axe, Sega decided to replace the original sprite-based graphics in Space Harrier with high-resolution polygon characters and 3D backgrounds. Space Harrier in the Sega Classics Collection contains two play modes: original and fractal. Both modes play identically. The fractal mode adds more enemies (and an additional level) onto the original game and replaces the retro floors and horizons with true 3D landscapes.
Most people were addicted to Tetris back in 1990, so you shouldn't feel bad if you don't remember Columns. Whereas Tetris involves organizing the different shapes that fall from the top of the screen into lines at the bottom, Sega's take on the puzzle genre challenges players to organize and shuffle columns (each made out of three individual bricks) into like-colored groups on the game board. Clusters made up of 3 or more matching bricks will disappear. Chain reactions are very possible since any bricks sitting atop the mass will "move down" if you clear some from the bottom. The version of Columns included in the Sega Classics collection includes an arcade mode and a two-player versus mode. Except for the addition of artwork and drawings in the background, and a wider selection of theme music, this version of Columns is identical to the original game.
Alien Syndrome is a top-view, mission-based shoot'em up. The general goal is to search through each large space station and moonscape and rescue the children that are being held hostage by aliens. Like most games of its type, the concept behind Alien Syndrome is to shoot anything that moves. Different aliens and bosses populate each environment, and there are more than a dozen different guns that you can pick up and use against them. One or two players can play, which makes this a good multiplayer "couch" game. The version of Alien Syndrome included with Sega Classics Collection has the same number of levels as the original game did, and the level layouts are roughly the same too. What's changed are the graphics. Sega replaced all of the old 2D flat backgrounds and sprites with 3D backgrounds and characters.
A bug-like ship named Opa-Opa, a pastel-colored world, and cute fluffy enemies set this otherwise cookie-cutter shoot 'em up apart from all of the other side-scrolling shooters out there. Imagine R-Type or Gradius or Defender, only sickeningly cute and happy. This version of Fantasy Zone is identical to the original arcade game (same graphics, same audio, same everything). Like Alien Syndrome, this is another good "couch" game since it supports two-player simultaneous play.
Not to be confused with Super Monaco GP, this is the "oldie" in the collection. Monaco GP isn't a racing game in the traditional sense. There are other cars out on the track, but the main goal is to drive as far as possible before the timer runs out. If you manage to score enough points (e.g. drive fast and don't crash), you'll be able to move on to the next level. The original Monaco GP came out in 1980 and used vector overlays to display its very-simplistic top-view courses. Sega kept the top-down viewpoint for this version of Monaco GP, but has completely revamped the graphics so that the courses now resemble realistic racetracks complete with blacktop, fences, grandstands, grasses, and rumble strips.
Virtua Racing Flat Out
Many of you probably remember Virtua Racing, either because of its unique polygonal look or because the arcade game's cabinet was shaped like a F1 car. Sega blew the world away when it released this game in 1992 (only 12 years ago!). It was the first arcade racing game to employ true 3D graphics, thanks to Sega's inaugural Model 1 motherboard. More significant than that, though, the game's three lifelike courses ushered in the AM2 division's reputation for superlative track design, leading the way for games like Daytona USA and Ferrari F355 Challenge. The version of Virtua Racing included with Sega Classics Collection includes the three original courses from the arcade game, as well as the three courses that were later included in the critically-acclaimed yet rarely-purchased Virtua Racing Deluxe (which was released for the 32X, the failed Sega Genesis add-on device, in 1994).
Tant R & Bonanza Bros.
The last game in the Sega Classics Collection is Tant R & Bonanza Bros., which is actually two games combined into one. Tant R features 16 different mini-games (things like matching shapes, navigating mazes, popping balloons with an airplane, catching convicts, or putting together robots from mismatched parts). These mini-games form the basis for the more than 40 individual "trials" that make up Tant R. The other game in the pair, Bonanza Bros., is more of an action game. The basic idea is that you're a robber and have to run through properties and grab loot while avoiding the cops. The various levels include a house, a casino, a bank, a mansion, and so forth.
As you can see, the Sega Classics Collection packs a great deal of value into a $20 disc. You'll be able to see for yourself when it comes out on February 15th. Until then, enjoy our screenshots of the game.