[EDITOR'S NOTE: Our buddy Jiji ran out of stuff to post for his 'Compilation Catalog' column, so we're calling it 'A Life In Obscurity', and he'll alternate random D3 musings with compilation round-ups and other odd reviews, semi-regularly. Only on GSW! Because only we're crazy enough!]

cover scanOn the eve of the retro-bonanza promised by Nintendo's Virtual Console, Sega of America released another in a long line of retro compilations for modern consoles. This time, Sega Genesis Collection brings together titles from throughout the 16-bit console's life, with no particular series as its theme. Digital Eclipse, the western game industry's favorite studio for retro emulation, produced this package, and the development team shares most of its members with the team responsble for the excellent Capcom Classics Collection Remixed (PSP).

Mmm, Shiny Interface!

Sega Genesis Collection has a rather shiny interface that's very similar to the Capcom packs, and it includes a similar variety of game tips and trivia. There's a nice variety of unlockable bonus material here, including video interviews with Sega development staff and several of Sega's arcade games (Zaxxon, Zektor, Altered Beast, Tac/Scan, and Future Spy).

Many of the twenty-eight titles present here have shown up in previous retro compilations, and indeed, some have made multiple showings already. But there are some interesting inclusions here that are worth some attention. The arcade version of Altered Beast, never seen on consoles until now, is quite a bit more attractive and playable than the hoary old Genesis version. But let's face it: Altered Beast was never a particularly good game.

Gain... Virtua?

Gain Ground is a refreshingly tactical single-screen shooter that has the player controlling warriors from various time periods and settings, past, present and future, and rescuing hostages. Rescuees join your team and contribute their unique talents, and captured allies can be regained if you're skillful. Alex Kidd is an interesting glimpse into what Sega's character-mascot strategy was like before the abandoned the character for the more internationally-appealing Sonic. Golden Axe III was never released outside of Japan before its appearance in this package, but unfortunately it's not quite up to the level of the previous two games.

A few of the games in the package seem to be here simply as a gesture to players who suffered through them on the original console - or to pad out the title count. The completely-2D version of Virtua Fighter 2 is somewhat competent in its own right, but it's such a silly port of the original that it's hardly relevant now. Super Thunder Blade shares the same fate: who wants to play a choppy, substandard port of a 1987 arcade game? The shape-changing platformer Kid Chameleon still somehow manages to have fans, but now more than ever it's easy to see how wholly derivative of Mario it is. And Ecco Jr.? Dreary edutainment, ahoy!

Go, Gimli!Technical Pluses, Minuses

Video is mostly respectably emulated, but Digital Eclipse's usual lack of any support for these games' native resolution has once again left this writer in the lurch. They did include an option for progressive-scan, though, which will marginally help these games' appearance on HD sets. As they are, in 480i, they look swimmy, indefinite, and flickery.

Sound emulation doesn't fare much better. The music seems to be streamed off the disc to save on CPU usage, but this has caused oddities like the music in Sonic 1 and 2 not speeding up when it should. Plus, there are glitches here and there with music starting or stopping in the wrong place. Sound effects sound fine in some games and dreadful in others, but there's a general cast of inaccuracy over the whole package that will grate on you if you've played any of these games recently.

Exciting Conclusion!

Sega Genesis Collection comes off as being mostly unnecessary. Fans of Sonic and Ristar probably already own those games in previous compilations. Bonanza Bros. was in better form in Sega Classics Collection. Even Phantasy Star fans would be best advised to hold off and wait for Sega's import-only Phantasy Star Collection, as the often-pricey games have been graced with some of the most grievous sound problems in the collection. The rest of the games often go for under five dollars apiece on the used market and are more enjoyable in their original format. It's hard to recommend this collection if you're interested in it for any reason other than a quick romp down memory lane.

(For the sake of thoroughness, here's the full list of Genesis games included: Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Golden Axe I-III, Phantasy Star II-IV, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2, Ecco 1, 2, and Jr., Ristar, Columns, Virtua Fighter 2, Shadow Dancer, Shinobi III, Super Thunder Blade, Bonanza Bros., Decap Attack, Kid Chameleon, Sword of Vermilion, and Vectorman 1 & 2.)