We've seen a lot of retro game collections during the last generation of gaming, and even as the next generation of consoles shift into high gear with various à la carte retro offerings, Sega has decided to bundle nearly thirty of their Genesis classics into a single collection for the Sony PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. Most of your old favorites are here (along with some unfortunate filler), and while we've seen several of the included games in other places recently, the Sega Genesis Collection goes the extra mile with a ton of unlockable developer interviews, some mildly interesting trivia, and a budget price.
Like any retro collection, this set features a handful of games that stand out from the pack. The developers assume you'll want to play Sonic the Hedgehog right away, because that's where the game selection menu defaults when the game loads up. Beyond that are such venerable titles as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ristar, Comix Zone, Phantasy Star II, III, & IV, Vectorman & its sequel, and three Ecco the Dolphin installments. Then we come to the games that just don't stand the test of time, such as Altered Beast, Virtua Fighter 2 (the Genesis version, of course), and Flicky. I'm not one to criticize a collection based on what it does not include, but I can't help but feel that the set would be better served with the inclusion of beloved classics such as, say, Toejam and Earl or Streets of Rage over yet another appearance of a weak title such as Flicky (already found on Sonic Mega Collection and its Plus variant). Nevertheless, there are some strong hits here that deserve a little more time in the spotlight.
Moving beyond the games themselves, each title in the set includes some interesting interviews with the original developers. Complete specific goals in the various games and you'll unlock these video clips in which Sega personnel discuss developing games during the 16-bit era and other such things. Be warned, however, that most of these segments are in Japanese (which is to be expected considering that a lot of these games were developed in Japan) and contain subtitles in English that are written in a small funky font that is basically unreadable on the average non-HD television. While exploring the collection I was looking forward to hearing/reading some of the old Sega war stories, but was unable to make any sense of the captions on my apparently puny television. There's also a "museum" entry for each game that provides some (readable) text about the storyline and a few bullet points worth of game-related trivia (such as, for instance, the plot of Bonanza Bros. changing to suit American audiences). There are also a few unlockable bonus games included in the set such as Zaxxon and the arcade version of Altered Beast.
The emulation behind these titles is about as good as we've seen in similar collections. Some of the sound effects aren't quite right in places (the star chime effect that precedes the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 title screen sequence sounds rather tinny and flat compared to the original sound), but visually the old games are as vivid as ever. Some games feature a simplified control set. Consider a game like Sonic the Hedgehog where the A, B, and C buttons on the original Genesis controller all performed the same function. In the Collection the A button is mapped to the X button and no other buttons on the PS2 pad are active. Players who demand the redundant buttons can turn the whole deal back on in the options menu. Games that make unique use of all of the original Genesis controller's buttons do not feature the simplified controls. Games that used a six button controller back in the day (such as Comix Zone) wind up making use of the L1 and R1 buttons in addition to the PS2 controller's four face buttons, too. An autosave function retains game progress in between play sessions as well.
Considering that some of these same Sega games are available on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console at $8 each it's hard not to recommend picking up the PS2 version of the Sega Genesis Collection at its $20 budget price. Better yet, the $30 PSP version allows players to take 16-bit classics such as Sonic and Vectorman on the road for the first time. Even with a few clunkers in the collection, this disc represents some of the best gaming the Sega Genesis had to offer back in the day. Consider it recommended if you're looking for some 16-bit joy at a reasonable price.