Sega Genesis Collection Review
Sega has always gone out of their way to reward the old-school gaming fans, and recently, they gave us all a big treat with the Sega Genesis Collection, which they released for both the PS2 and PSP. You can find our review for the PS2 version here, and now we get a chance to check out the PSP version...which is very much the same, but also a little different in a variety of areas. At its core, this game may appeal to more handheld fans than console fans, if only because it's usually more accepted to find older - or new 2D - games on them, and people have come to even expect such titles. The PSP is a perfect platform for this Collection, so let's take a look at how well Sega brings 28 classic Genesis games to a whole new generation.
We come across the first significant difference between the PS2 and PSP versions when we examine the graphics category. Obviously, we can't very well compare 16-bit visuals to current graphical presentations, but one thing is usually quite important- do these recreations faithfully depict those old classics correctly? The PS2 version may support progressive scan display, but the PSP version has a feature that might appeal more to gaming veterans: the ability to see the games in their native resolution, or even stretch the picture to fill the screen. The latter doesn't screw with the display as much as you might think, either, so it's a fine addition to the menu options. As for the rest, there might be a bit more in the way of graphical imperfections in the PSP version, but they're so minor they're hardly worth talking about. Overall, the games are produced with that same original flair we all know and love.
The sound is more of a mixed bag, as it tends to suffer from erratic drops and technical glitches. For example, the sound of a weapon striking an enemy might not always be consistent, and every once in a while, the sound disappears when walking or jumping. It's not a recurring problem and it only happens sporadically in a few of the games, but it happened enough in several hours of playing to be noticeable. The rest of the sound, just like the graphics, is all identical to that of the PS2 version, which is good news. It's not always easy to bring the same set of 15-year-old technicals to new platforms, and the PSP version of the Collection features all the old soundtracks and effects heard in the proper, ol'-fashioned way.
You've got 28 games, including multiple installments in the Vectorman, Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, Shinobi, Golden Axe, and Ecco the Dolphin franchises, and several singular titles like Alex Kidd: The Enchanted Castle, Comix Zone, Columns, Virtua Fighter 2, Ristar, and Super Thunderblade. How can you possibly go wrong? All the games are emulated nearly flawlessly, with the possible exception of those aforementioned technical glitches here and there. And to top it all off, you can save your progress whenever you wish, just like you could in the PS2 version. It's quite possibly the most appealing feature of the Collection, due to the outrageous difficulty of some of the games back then.
The selection of games is excellent, especially because it spans over five years of gaming and more than a few genres; this is a good representation of diversity. It's unfortunate the PSP version doesn't include the arcade version of Altered Beast (an unlockable in the PS2 version), because we all know the arcade version was much, much better. We also don't get the three extra arcade games you could find in the PS2 version: Zaxxon, Tac/Scan, and Zektor. These are definite drawbacks of the PSP version, but then again, the ability to take these games on the go with the PSP is a definite bonus...so perhaps they cancel each other out. We do wish both versions had somehow managed to include a Streets of Rage, Mutant League, and the niche cult classic, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, but oh well, we shouldn't complain.
The PSP version also gives us the benefit of playing via a Wi-Fi connection, and despite requiring multiple copies of the game, it's still a nice option to have. With multiplayer fun thrown in, a good time can be had by you and a friend, and if the both of you grew up with the Genesis, all the better. The loading times are more than acceptable and switching between games is easy as pie; you can jump directly from game to menu - perhaps after saving your progress - and sample another classic. Sega went into the project with one very simple philosophy: the wanted to reproduce the games with "the utmost accuracy to the originals as possible," and we must say they reached that goal. The PSP version doesn't quite match up the PS2 version in terms of unlockables, and we didn't notice the slight technical slip-ups in the non-portable version, either, but neither of those drawbacks is critical.
We do question the exclusion of certain titles and the inclusion of others, but then again, no Sega fan could ever be entirely satisfied with a Genesis collection unless there were at least 50 games included. For what this budget-priced title offers, there's very little to complain about, and although none of the games will take very long to complete, don't forget that old difficulty...yeah, you can save your progress, but you're still gonna need to retry those last few levels in Sonic and especially Shinobi III about seven trillion times. But hey, with the PSP version, you can share your frustration with a buddy; when approaching the end of super-tough games, you at least have two chances to make it through. After all, misery loves company.
If they ever release another Genesis collection for Sony's handheld, there are a few improvements they can make- firstly, even though the emulation is nearly flawless, it's closer to perfection in the PS2 version than in the PSP version. Secondly, would it not be a good idea to throw up some downloadable Genesis games on the PlayStation Store that you could add to an existing collection? They're already doing it with classic PS1 games; why not go a little Virtual Console and enhance collections in this way? Thirdly and lastly, perhaps Sega could hold some sort of online poll, asking fans which games they'd most like to see. Granted, the games included in this Sega Genesis Collection are great selections, but a few are still questionable, and we're well aware of a few more that fans desperately desire.
But all in all, it's a fine option, especially for gamers on the go. The PS2 version might have a bit more in the way of content, but the Wi-Fi multiplayer and inherent portability provided by the compact PSP makes this version equally attractive. However, just remember there's no real reason to own both, so simply select which best suits your lifestyle. Sega never ignores their fans!
2/27/2007 Ben Dutka