It’s been a while since I wrote a feature so have opted for one on Sega Ages, having recently been playing a few retro titles on the ol’ Switch-a-majiggy.
Do you remember the console wars back in the 90s? The dedicated Sega fanboy reading Mean Machines, the Nintendo peep reading Nintendo Power, while the rest of us would watch from the sidelines with the best of both worlds reading C&VG and Gamesmaster. While we can all recollect our console war stories, I always preferred Nintendo over Sega – that is, until the Dreamcast (phwoar!), but didn’t take sides. Us Amiga guys were too busy with X-COPY. Ahem.
Anyhoo, if I’ve lost you with all those references because you weren’t even an egg in your mum’s ovaries, the skinny is we now have the best of both worlds: Sega games on the Nintendo. It’s not an exclusive deal as you can play Sega titles on most systems. Still, the significance is this former rivalry has metamorphosed into a pixelated butterfly on the Nintendo Switch: Sega Ages.
More (Sega) Cowbell
We aren’t entirely spoilt for choice as some titles are missing (Afterburner, Altered Beast et al. – well, you can play them in Sega Mega Drive Classics), but more like preferences than must-have titles. You can already pick up Toejam and Earl (also in the previous compilation) on the Switch, as well as many more, but this made up feature concentrates on the Sega Ages catalogue.
You can, of course, pick up other Sega catalogues from gadgety Mega Drive emulators from Argos to official Sega Mega Drive Minis, or even compilations for a number of other platforms. But this is based on the Sega Ages label via M2, not exclusively Sega titles.
Most of them resemble one another in that they have the same setup with various game modes, online leaderboards, a manual (what the funk is that?!!) and some retro bezel’s that you either love or hate. Without further ado, here are my personal favourites from the Sega Ages library:
Sega Ages: Space Harrier
Space Harrier was the ultimate arcade machine. With a joystick between your legs (steady), you’d run frantically on the floor as if your tie was caught in a car door and being dragged along, then a gentle pull of the stick and you were flying freely through the air.
Depending on what machine you were in, you’d get the experience of full hydraulics as you’d shift from left to right while being attacked by neon rugby balls or colour-changing dragons that would shoot firey meatballs at you. At the same time, you’d erratically dodge them or the trees on the ground level.
Though one of my favourite arcade games and experience, the transition to the home system wasn’t as good at the time. I seem to recall the Amiga version being operated by the mouse, which would have been better than the joystick in my opinion, but it lost its magic – the same when experiencing in Shenmue.
Sega Ages: Space Harrier Features:
- Online rankings.
- Save replays.
- Adjust resolutions.
- Change the in-game parameters to make it ‘easier’.
- Neon rugby balls and flaming meatballs.
Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog
Let’s get this out of the way quick: I never liked Sonic the Hedgehog. It was too fast for me. While my buddies were playing this new title on their Mega Drives, I was too busy playing New Zealand Story or Batman the Movie. Besides, I’d rather have stuck with the obese plumber at a leisurely pace.
That didn’t stop me from drawing countless pictures of the rodent in school books, scrap pieces of paper and toilet walls with a link to a friends number asking for a good time. Sonic was a cool character, but perhaps too cool for me.
With that said, Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog was a game that I picked up on a whim on the eShop and had quite a bit of fun. Sure, I prefer Mario, but regardless, it prompted a welcome bit of nostalgia to the days of the magazines earlier, and the sporadic TV shows with gaming footage such as Gamesmaster, Bad Influence and I’m sure The DJ Kat Show featured gaming segments. Hell-o, internet.
Sega Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog Features:
- Mega Play (timed stages).
- Drop dash from Sonic Mania.
- Ring Keep mode.
- Stage select.
- Pricks. From Sonic’s spikes.
Sega Ages: Virtua Racing
One of the earlier reviews I did for this site, Sega Ages: Virtua Racing is an arcade-perfect conversion of the game. Far better than the 32X version, in my humble opinion, notably, because this is all in HD where the former is not.
But Virtua Racing wasn’t about wowing us with realistic graphics, but arcade precision of pick up and play, then dashing through a track as fast as possible to the next checkpoint before the time ran out.
Arguably one of the best driving games on the Nintendo Switch right now, and a title that has been influential for several other top titles, such as the more recent Hotshot Racing. If you haven’t played that one yet, add that to your list too.
Sega Ages: Virtua Racing Features:
- Rankings and replays.
- Online two-player races.
- Offline multiplayer up to eight players.
- Crash-disabling helper mode.
- Motion controls.
Now featuring rankings and replays, online 2-player races, offline multiplayer races (up to 8-players at once on a single Nintendo Switch), the crash-disabling helper mode, and motion controls.
Sega Ages: Shinobi
There were three main arcade machines on rotation at our local takeaway: Defender (or a similar clone), Kung-Fu Master and Shinobi. The latter was hands down my favourite were you play a ninja schoolboy showing his face off to everyone. That’s a faux pas in the ninja world, so he has to kill ’em all as they’ve seen his face.
Combat was simple enough, and on par with the likes of similar titles such as Dragon Ninja, only in this version, you had an almighty super that would launch ninja spirits into the ether, wiping out all those who dare to live.
Quite possibly the first real ninja title I played, except for the titular Ninja Scooter on the ZX Spectrum, it paved the way for future stealth face coverings such as The Last Ninja and Shadow Warriors, also sparking interest in the future Ninja Saviors game.
Sega Ages: Shinobi Features:
- Rewind features.
- New melee attack for bonus scores.
- Leaderboards as before.
- Ages mode with boosted attacks.
- A ninja with a face.
Sega Ages: Out Run
Another arcade classic that went hand in hand with Space Harrier, Hang On, then later Daytona USA – oh, and can’t forget Sega Rally – Out Run was pivotal in racing games.
Around the time, the Ferrari Testarossa was the dream car that most of us drooled over, either that or the Lamborgini Countach, and this was the closest thing to driving one back then.
Gameplay could be quite monotonous when you look back at it, and the checkpoint system was pretty ruthless. As a child sitting in that big bastard frame of a fibreglass Ferrari, I never got past the third or fourth checkpoint until the home versions.
Out Run also had that distinctive soundtrack that was a highlight of the arcades, often hearing it over the droll of the fruit machines and air hockey tables – even Donkey Kong. While a classic, the latter on repeat slowly steals part of your soul.
Sega Ages: Out Run Features:
- Motion controls.
- Additional music tracks.
- Ranking system.
- A Ferrari!
Sega Ages: Alex Kidd In Miracle World
Putting aside Ninja on the Master System – hands down my favourite game for the platform at the time, the next highlight would have to be Alex Kidd In Miracle World as it was built-in to the system that my cousin owned.
To this day, I’ve never finished it, but have played that opening section more times than I’ve probably had hot dinners. Playing it again in this iteration triggered the motor memories of dashing left and right, clearing the embedded stone that sends that nasty ghoul after you. Following this, you completing the swimming section (nowhere as good as Super Mario Bros.) then get a trike to smash through many goodies. Ah, the memories…
Sega Ages: Alex Kidd in Miracle World Features:
- Ages mode with rewind feature.
- Two time attack modes.
Sega Ages: Puyo Puyo
Puyo Puyo was pretty big in Japan, but as a non-Japanese, and not getting my first taste of the Land of the Rising Bum until into my 20s, I’d never heard of it until experiencing it on a console that was installed in the hotel. I have no idea what machine it was as it played Sega and Nintendo but didn’t appear to be from ROMs, a.k.a. an emulator.
Anyhoo, for the casual player or competitive types, Puyo Puyo took the lead compared to Columns, mostly because of the madness that followed with the characters involved and had much more character than solid shapes. Puyo Puyo Fever 2 was a favourite on the PS2 and one of the few games that would lure my non-gaming wife into playing for a bit.
Sega Ages: Puyo Puyo is naturally faithful to the original, but I’d have to say that I prefer Puyo Puyo Champions. Sure, it’s a newer game with more bells and whistles, but it takes the fundamental gameplay and makes it a bit more enjoyable, albeit, seriously challenging.
Sega Ages: Puyo Puyo Features:
- Online play.
- Reverse rotate controls(?).
Well, That Took Ages…
All of the above are available on the Nintendo eShop and though they’re moderately priced, frequently appear on the sales, so if you haven’t picked any of these up and a bit of a skinflint, add them to your wishlist and keep an eye on the price.
What I want to see though are these Sega games remastered on a Sega system. While it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see a brand spank me new Sega home system again, I’m ever hopeful of a Sega Dreamcast Mini with the convenience of an HDMI connection and pre-installed games instead of having to buy a new VGA box, or GDP card from China to play my ‘backups’. Small print: I do own my Dreamcast games, thank you. All in their broken PAL jewel case glory. Ness.