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Sega Smash Pack Volume 1

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone to Teen
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Media: GD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Er. Well, see, all but two of the games on the Sega Smash Pack are emulated Genesis games. As such, they look, well, sixteen bit. Not only that, but most of the games on the disc are from the early days of the Genesis, before a lot of the raster effects were being used frequently (Vectorman being a major exception here). So, well, for the most part, the Smash Pack looks a whole lot like your old sixteen-bit system. There are two games on here that are Dreamcast exclusive--Virtua Cop 2 and Sega Swirl--but both of those are PlayStation quality at best.

However, the graphics didn't particularly bother me--my Genesis is still hooked up, after all, and I don't much mind the way the games look. Hell, I still play Solar Jetman on my NES. What does get my goat about the Smash Pack is the awful treatment that the Genesis' sound system gets. Instead of the solid sounds that that machine made, the Dreamcast pumps out some amazingly tinny and often downright wrong versions of the music. I've played enough Shining Force to know that the music sounded a hell of a lot better than it does on the Smash Pack. And there are emulators out there that have better sound support than the one used here as well--what's up with that? Was development so rushed that the sound couldn't be tweaked closer to its correct values? It's frustrating, and downright irritating on the ears, which is a shame.


It's a shame because the Sega Smash Pack has some of the Genesis' shining moments, games that are still as fun to play today as they were when they originally came out. While there are a few dubious games on here, there's more than enough classic hits to make it worth the money. Hell, Shining Force and Phantasy Star 2 are worth it--the rest are just gratis.

To be specific, the Smash Pack has twelve games on it, ten of which are old Genesis titles--Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Shining Force, Wrestle War, Streets of Rage 2, Columns, Phantasy Star 2, Vectorman, Altered Beast, and Revenge of Shinobi. Along with those, two Dreamcast titles come along for the ride--the now-classic Sega Swirl and the never-before-released-in-America Virtua Cop 2.

A quick run-through of these games will have to suffice, unless you'd like to read for ten pages. First, the games that didn't particularly enthuse me. Wrestle War is an adequate wrestling game, but it's just not my style. Revenge of Shinobi strikes me as nowhere near as brilliant as the first game, but it's still a relatively entertaining side-scrolling platformer-beat'em'up. Streets of Rage 2 is mildly entertaining, and the moves sure are fun to pull off, but the game is way too easy, and you'll find yourself kicking your way through it in no time.

Now, Golden Axe was a blast in the arcade, and while it definitely lost some of its oomph on the translation to the Genesis, it's not a bad title at all. It's still fun to run around hacking enemies to bits, and there's something about the gameworld that's always appealed to me. The same goes for Altered Beast--classic, cheesy, and a hell of a lot of fun. It's another one where experience makes the game rather easy, but unlike Streets of Rage 2 there's some degree of campiness that makes it all the more worthwhile. Vectorman is an amazingly solid platformer by Blue Sky Software, but its difficulty level is probably higher than most people nowadays could handle.

Columns, while never the puzzler that Tetris was, is still an absolute blast to play. There's something about line-em-up games that keeps you coming back for more, and Columns is no exception. The fact that this implementation of the game is probably the least grating of all of the official ones helps--it really doesn't get any better than this. Sonic the Hedgehog . . . ah, where do I start? It's fast, it's furious, it's a lot of fun. The game still chugs too much when there are a lot of rings on the ground--sometimes the emulation here is a little too perfect--but there's something to be said for our favourite blue mascot. While not quite the perfection that Sonic 2 was, the first game is still amazingly fun.

The two shining stars in the Genesis segment for an RPG fan like me, however, are Shining Force and Phantasy Star 2. The first is an epic strategy-RPG--one of the first, actually--and the latter is an involving science fiction RPG. Both are absolutely huge, offering more hours of gameplay than most games nowadays, and while neither's graphics are particularly impressive, there's something to be said for two RPG classics on one disc. Shining Force is my favourite of the two, mainly because I'm a complete strategy-RPG whore, but both are fantastic, and amazingly hard to find if you actually want a copy for your Genesis.

The two Dreamcast games are nice, but nothing particularly amazing. Sega Swirl is a console adaptation of a game that started out on the TI calculators; Virtua Cop 2 is a conversion of an arcade rail shooter. Both are entertaining--Sega Swirl more so--but they feel more like filler and less like main content.


Uh. There's twelve games here. They range from the easy (Streets of Rage 2) to the amazingly difficult (Vectorman and Phantasy Star 2), with many gradients in between. Of course, there's the difficulty of getting a working copy of this disc, but that's another matter entirely. Suffice it to say that there's a game here for every skill level of player, and some of the games support multiple skill levels.

Game Mechanics:

BIG NOTE: Although the retail version of this disc that we got worked beautifully on my Dreamcast, the first three (!!) copies of the 'pack-in' discs worked sporadically or not at all. There seems to have been weird issues with these 'pack-in' discs, and I hope that they work okay with the Smash Pack Dreamcasts they were bundled with. I don't know if we were just unlucky--we tried them on two other Dreamcasts, and they usually worked on one but not the other--but be forewarned that this disc has a history of issues. Hopefully, though, those were fixed with the retail version.

That being said, each game has its own set of controls, with the Genesis games having another meta-control set to let you save the SRAM data and exit out of the games. You open it by pushing up on the analog stick and pressing Start--at least, that works for me. Make sure you remember to save the data on that menu after saving it in Shining Force or Phantasy Star 2, or you'll lose all your progress. Eep. The emulation is solid--other than the sound--and I didn't encounter any problems with it that I could tell, other than some wavering sprites.

The games may be old, but that doesn't necessarily mean bad. The Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 has quite a few gems on it, and even if a few of the games are a little 'fluff', there's enough good stuff here to keep you occupied for weeks. As long as you don't mind the outdated graphics, and you turn the TV down so that the awful sound emulation doesn't grate on your ears, there's a lot of fun to be had with this disc. It's not for everyone--those looking for the latest and greatest should stay far away--but for those of us who value gameplay over graphics, the Smash Pack is a winner.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Sega Dreamcast Phantasy Star Online Sega Dreamcast Soldier of Fortune

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated