This, as the Americans might say, is the darndest thing. On the surface it looks like a cracking deal, what with you getting not one, not two, not even three or between four and seven, but an incredible eight old Sega arcade games remade for PlayStation 2. Sega made the best old arcade machines ever, and now you're getting eight of them for 20 quid. What an amazing deal! It looks too good to be true!
And as with all bargains that look too good to be true, this one quickly falls apart under close scrutiny from Nicky Campbell and the Watchdog team. The quality of the conversions and upgrades is the big problem here - almost every game is a disappointing bland and underwhelming rehash.
What Sega - or the weird offshoot of Sega Japan responsible for these remakes - has done is not simply emulate the old games. Everything has been stripped down and rebuilt using today's modern '3D' graphics technology. So here we get polygon-based, more-than-16-colour-using remakes, that paste more colours over the original gameplay so 'the kids' think they're get the hot new stuff. But they're not.
The puzzling thing about these remakes is the way they look like PSone games, or at least some weird versions remade for a particularly powerful mobile phone. Don't think you're getting full-power PlayStation 2 graphics. It's disappointment all the way.
Take Golden Axe. No, really, take it. We got bored of playing it over a decade ago, and god knows why Sega insists on remaking it and re-releasing it every time it makes some duff old retro compilation for yet another format.
Here, Golden Axe has been rebuilt with spindly 3D characters and a '3D effect' scrolling floor. It's so heartbreakingly rubbish. If you're going to remake the characters in 3D, why not make them big, chunky, cool and sexy? PS2 can handle it. And also make them move properly while you're at it. Columns is part of this pack too, which must be the second most whored-out, emulated, retro-repackaged and tired old game in all of Sega's glorious back catalogue. Flipping heck, Sega, invent something new.
The best one on here is Virtua Racing. PS2 is powerful enough to do the original game justice and it's not yet been featured on any other retro compilations so feels quite new. At least, as new as a 13-year-old game ever can.
Thankfully, Virtua Racing has been left alone. They haven't crudely pasted textures over everything to make it look more modern as they've done for OutRun and Golden Axe. Instead, VR is pretty much arcade perfect - pop-up, triangular trees, road-built-out-of-tarmac-squares and all. If you're after a decent, smooth version of Virtua Racing to play in your house, Sega Ages Collection might just be worth 20 quid.
But the rest of the games are just plain dull. Take what they've done to OutRun. You don't mess with OutRun! The one thing you don't ever do is take the beautiful, beloved, fondly remembered classic and rebuild it in duff 3D. It's like McFly doing a cover version of Bohemian Rhapsody and expecting us to be grateful.
It's playable, but not right. Again, it looks like an awkward halfway house game positioned between Sega Saturn-standard graphics and something off the PC in 1999. The newer, 3D graphics have been stuck over the top of the same old 2D play of the original, 20-year-old OutRun, which confuses the brain. The poor brain is expecting something new, not the same simple OutRun handling only with 3D backdrops. It just doesn't cut it as a modern game. If this was an accurate emulation you'd be prepared to forgive its simplicity, but as a supposedly enhanced remake it's just inadequate.
Monaco GP is a weird choice. It's a top-down arcade game, that's been remade in a top-down style. So it's a bit prettier. Why do that? We should at least be getting Super Monaco GP, the infinitely better and 3D-er arcade sequel. You also get Space Harrier, Bonanza Brothers and Fantasy Zone, the latter of which has been made to look like a SNES Mario game and is actually quite a laugh for a hard old 2D shooter.
And there's another saving grace - we're very happy that Streets of Rage isn't on this collection. If Sega messed with SoR we'd have no option but to officially hand over our Sega Fan Badge and Virtua Cop light gun in protest. The day Sega ruins Streets of Rage 2 is the day Sega dies to us. Seriously.
This whole collection isn't exactly doing the mighty Sega brand any favours. It's not reliving happy Sega memories, it's annihilating and destroying them and there's absolutely no need for this to exist. If you're a hardcore retro gamer you either want to play the originals as they were meant to be or you'll already own the things in some emulated format or compilation. What you don't need is a bunch of half-hearted upgrades that ruin your sunny, youthful memories.
And, if you're a modern, fashionable youth into today's hottest and newest video games, you're not going to be best pleased with a pile of quite shoddy efforts. If you want to play something by Sega that's remade and new, get OutRun2 on Xbox, and if you've already got that wait a few weeks and get OutRun2 Coast 2 Coast. That's almost certainly going to be vastly better than anything on here.
In short, this isn't going to please anyone, apart from the few of you who are after a decent Virtua Racing for the lounge. Sega, if you want to really please your fans, stop messing around with stuff like this and make us a Daytona USA that works on Xbox 360 or something, and use that Model 2 emulator from Sega Rally 2006 to do the ultimate Model 2 arcade compilation. And put Columns back in the cupboard. If we get another version of Golden Axe in three year's time we're not going to be happy.