Mega Drive Mini spearheads Sega's retro-revival efforts
No doubt buoyed by the success of Nintendo's own NES Classic and SNES Classic, Sega used its FES event to announce the Mega Drive Mini, a modern take on its classic 16-bit Mega Drive console (named Genesis in the US) first released in Japan in 1988 and synonymous with the original series of Sonic the Hedgehog games. But this just one of a series of recent announcements set to capitalize on Sega's back catalog. Let's take a look at Sega's retro plans…
Mega Drive Mini
Marking the 30th anniversary of the release of the Mega Drive in Japan, the updated machine has so far only been confirmed for release in that territory later this year. Few hardware details are known, but in an interesting twist, the company AtGames took credit for the hardware in a post on Facebook, since deleted.
AtGames' involvement suggests a direct link between the Mega Drive Mini and AtGames' Genesis Flashback, a similar proposition that met with critical reviews last year thanks to performance issues, omissions of Sega classics and the inclusion of original new games of dubious quality. It sounds as though Sega will have a firmer hand on the tiller this time around (whether or not AtGames is involved) so hopefully the quality will be up to scratch.
As to which games are to be included, perhaps we can take some cues from…
Mega Drive Classics collection
Those of us with a current-generation games console may not need a Mega Drive Mini at all. The Mega Drive Classics collection (named Genesis Classics in the US) will see over 50 games come to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from May 29.
The full list of games is at the foot of this article, but picks include Columns, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the Streets of Rage series, The Revenge of Shinobi, Gunstar Heroes and the Phantasy Star sequels. The package is essentially a re-release of collections for PC and prior console, though Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are notable by their absence this time around. The games will include aesthetic filters for an authentic look, and a "flip mode" to play games back to front for added challenge.
The approach is arguably less cynical than Nintendo's, a company that is never likely to compile a retro bundle for Xbox and PlayStation, or even the Switch. If and when it comes, Nintendo's Virtual Console should sell Nintendo classics on Switch (yet again, and at a hefty premium), but that's very different prospect to a bundle including dozens of games.
Sega Ages for Nintendo Switch
Perhaps spurred by the delay of Virtual Console (or perhaps even as a direct challenge to it), Sega also used its recent FES event to announce the continuation of its Sega Ages series on Nintendo Switch. First in line are Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Gain Ground, Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star and Thunder Force IV. In Alex Kidd and Gain Ground, Sega is showing a willingness to look beyond the Mega Drive, adapting Master System and arcade titles too, respectively.
The Ages series has previously seen the re-release of Sega classics on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo 3DS. As previously, the conversions will be handled by Sega's M2 division. The games are expected to appear in the coming months.
Shenmue and Shenmue 2
Sega also recently announced the forthcoming release of Dreamcast RPG classics Shenmue and Shenmue 2 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The company promises that these will be the definitive versions, with resolution improvements, enhanced controls and a choice of Japanese and English dialogue tracks. The games are expected this year, as is the new Shenmue III, to be published by Deep Silver.
The prospect of playing an updated Shenmue trilogy on current consoles will have fans of the series salivating. The original helped popularize the open-world format, and has gained cult status in the years since its release.
As promised, here's the full list of games included in the Mega Drive Classics collection:
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Alien Soldier, Alien Storm, Altered Beast, Beyond Oasis, Bio-Hazard Battle Bonanza Bros., Columns, Columns III: Revenge of Columns, Comix Zone, Crack Down, Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Dynamite Headdy, ESWAT: City Under Siege, Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, Gain Ground, Galaxy Force II, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Golden Axe III, Gunstar Heroes, Kid Chameleon, Landstalker, Light Crusader, Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium, Ristar, Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, Shining Force, Shining Force II, Shining in the Darkness, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Space Harrier II, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, The Revenge of Shinobi, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, ToeJam& Earl, Vectorman VectorMan 2, Virtua Fighter 2, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Wonder Boy in Monster World
Source: Sega (in Japanese)