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Sega Smash Pack

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Codefire
Publisher:  THQ/Sega
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Compilation
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  12-4-02

Nintendo's had a ton of success bringing back old franchises and SNES titles in portable form. Not only does it give older GBA owners a second chance to play games they could never afford during the 16-bit days, but it also gives younger gamers a chance to experience titles they may otherwise have never played. Thus it's no surprise that other companies have tried to cash in as well, and in this case Sega has a huge catalog of titles worthy of updating for a new generation of gamers. If Sega's going to convince younger gamers that these titles are really worth experiencing though, they need to do a better job with the porting than this.

I have the original versions of each of these games (Ecco is the Sega CD version), so luckily I can compare these to them. I've always had the fondest memories of Golden Axe, so I choose to play through it first. Unfortunately, it's the worst game in the pack. Golden Axe is essentially a Streets of Rage type game set in a fantasy setting, where players take one of three characters through 8 action packed levels. While it does look like the Genesis port and uses all of the same art, the actual presentation of the world is way off. Enemies are often incredibly dark and hard to see against the dark backgrounds and the colors themselves are way off. Most of the level animation is missing, including flowing rivers and feathers not soaring through the air. The sound is also very poorly implemented, as everything sounds extremely tinny (even moreso than the Genesis original) and often cuts out when two or more sounds try to play at once.

Additionally, the gameplay doesn't hold up well at all in this day and age. Too many times the player will endure incredibly cheap hits from off-screen, and there are several moves that can practically keep the player from even being touched if performed properly. It's certainly old school, but in a bad way. Worst of all the two-player co-op game was completely taken out, leaving in its place a lame Head-to-Head mode.

Sonic Spinball is what it sounds like - a Sonic game with a pinball interface. The player navigates Sonic (via flippers) through a variety of different areas and objectives in a strange yet enjoyable mix of platform and pinball elements. It's a lot like the Casino Zone found it the original Sonic, although with a more pinball feel. The graphics and sound are both very faithful to the original game, but that doesn't change the fact that the soundtrack always sucked anyway. Sonic Spinball was never as good of a game as the standard platform series, but it is a nice inclusion and puts Sonic's game-selling mug prominently in the middle of the box.

I'm sure many people will think that Ecco the Dolphin is the best game of the bunch, and from a technical standpoint I agree with them. Ecco the Dolphin on the Genesis was a beautiful and mesmerizing platform/action title, with an unique interface in which the player controlled a dolphin through large water-filled areas. Ecco's able to communicate with other dolphins via sonar, jump out of the water and over mini-islands to reach additional areas, and attack enemies with a charge attack. The graphics are easily better than the other two games in this collection, and they have been faithfully recreated from the original. Unfortunately the soundtrack has been butchered, and turned into a grating and short loop. I'm honestly not sure how good the original music was as I only own the Sega CD version (with enhanced QSound!), but it has to be better than this tinny crap. I prefer Spinball's gameplay just a little bit more, but overall Ecco is a worthy inclusion as well.

In collections such as this, it's almost standard these days to include some sort of extras. Sega Smash Pack, however, is devoid of almost any trimmings. Press start on the main screen, and the player is taken to a very simple scrolling menu that presents each game, an options screen, and a credits screen. All the options screen allows the player to do is assign each function to a different button…that's it. There's no "museum" feature, no hidden games, and no fancy nostalgic graphics…nothing. Worse still is that it takes forever to get to this menu. From start up of the system, it takes 35 seconds (I timed it) of sitting through a number of legal screens and company logos (THQ, Codefire, and Sega's) to get to the main menu! To be fair this is a problem with a lot of GBA titles these days, but this is by far the worst I've seen it. Ecco the Dolphin still has it's password system, but it would've been nice to get some kind of battery backup for the other two games - especially for Sonic Spinball's high scores. Then again, it's not as if Golden Axe takes long to beat anyway…

Highs:

  • All three games are fun to play, and can now be played on the road.
  • There's a good bit of variety in this pack.
  • Ecco the Dolphin and Sonic Spinball are mostly faithful to the original games.

Lows:

  • The music is butchered in Ecco & Golden Axe, and it always sucked in Sonic Spinball. Additionally, Golden Axe has some severe music slowdown and sound effect glitches.
  • Golden Axe's colors have been altered, level animation has been cut out, and enemies are noticeably darker than the heroes. Even for a 10-year-old Genesis title it's ugly.
  • Three games ported over with no frills or extras that sell these kind of things.
  • Golden Axe's graphics have been butchered.

Final Verdict:

At a MSRP of $29.99 (roughly $10 a piece), it's hard to recommend inferior versions of these games when you can get a Genesis and the originals on eBay for roughly the same price. With a little more TLC this could've been a great pack, but as it stands it's a questionable purchase unless the benefit of portability is a real draw.

Overall Score: 5.8

 



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