If you enjoy your retro games but sometimes find the quirks of old hardware and game design a little hard to bear, the Sega Ages collection for Nintendo Switch provides a magnificent collection of classic games, all with subtle enhancements for modern players to enjoy.
Sega officially ceased development on the Sega Ages series for Switch in August of 2020, noting that they would supposedly continue to rerelease old titles (including some from the Saturn and Dreamcast eras) via alternative means.
That means there’s now a “complete” collection of Sega Ages titles available on the Switch eShop — which naturally begs the question: which ones are worth grabbing if you don’t have them already?
Time for a Supertest, I say! In release order, then…
Sonic the Hedgehog
What is it? Sega’s classic Mega Drive platformer starring the company’s iconic and enduring mascot.
What enhancements are there over the original? The addition of moves from later Sonic games, such as the Drop Dash from Sonic Mania. This version also adds elements from the Sonic the Hedgehog arcade game, a Ring Keep mode which makes the game easier, and a stage select mode.
Is it worth it? While the enhancements are nice, the Sega Mega Drive Classics collection for Switch is better overall value.
Thunder Force IV
What is it? Technosoft’s notoriously challenging Mega Drive shoot ’em up, known for its impressive graphics and tough encounters.
What enhancements are there over the original? After you beat the game, you can replay it with the ship from Thunder Force III. There are also online leaderboards and an easier mode for those who find the regular game a bit too brutal.
Is it worth it? This is one of the best shoot ’em ups of all time, and it hasn’t seen all that many releases over the years. If you don’t mind a challenge, this is definitely worth your time.
What is it? Sega’s Master System RPG which combines first-person dungeon crawling with a lightweight sci-fi story. Went on to spawn several sequels and some of the most beloved online games of all time.
What enhancements are there over the original? Besides an Ages mode, which increases experience and money gain to alleviate grinding, the game also features a full automap facility that wasn’t present in the original.
Is it worth it? While purists may scoff at the enhancements (which are optional), this is by far the most accessible and enjoyable way to play the original Phantasy Star today.
What is it? Yu Suzuki’s influential “vanishing point” racer, featuring multiple routes to the finish line and a variety of stages to master.
What enhancements are there over the original? A slicker frame rate than the arcade original (with the option to play “old-style” if you prefer) plus optional upgrades to your car based on which endings you reach.
Is it worth it? Out Run is just as fresh and enjoyable today as it was back in the day, and this is the best way to play it by far.
What is it? A peculiar “action strategy” game in which you select from a wide variety of characters and attempt to rescue hostages while defeating enemies.
What enhancements are there over the original? “Full Member” mode allows you to play with all the characters from the outset rather than having to rescue them during gameplay. You can also select between the original arcade version and a “bug fixed” version, and play both the western and Japanese releases of the game.
Is it worth it? The game’s deliberately plodding pace is an acquired taste for sure, but take the time to get to grips with Gain Ground and it’s a decent amount of fun, particularly with a friend.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
What is it? Sega’s pre-Sonic mascot from the Master System era, featuring peculiar “rock, paper, scissors” boss battles.
What enhancements are there over the original? The option to look up the “solutions” to the rock, paper, scissors battles plus a rewind mode, a ranking system and two Time Attack modes.
Is it worth it? Some of the Alex Kidd games can be hard to go back to, but Alex Kidd in Miracle World is one of the better ones. It’s worth a pop if you’re interested in Sega history.
What is it? First installment in the long-running puzzle series, itself a spinoff from Compile’s Madou Monogatari series of dungeon-crawling RPGs.
What enhancements are there over the original? This has never had an official western release before; we got it over here as the Sonic-themed Dr Robotniks’ Mean Bean Machine. This version features online play, online rankings and the ability to rotate pieces in more than one direction.
Is it worth it? It’s hard to recommend this to all but the staunchest Puyo Puyo enthusiasts, as there are a variety of better ways to play Puyo Puyo today — perhaps most notably the two wonderful Puyo Puyo Tetris titles. A historical curiosity if nothing else.
What is it? Sega’s first polygonal racer, and the game that popularised fully three-dimensional racing games as opposed to the “vanishing point” titles of yore.
What enhancements are there over the original? A full upscale to 1080p widescreen resolution at 60 frames per second is the most notable, but there’s also an 8-player split-screen mode, online duels, an endurance-style grand prix mode and online rankings.
Is it worth it? Incredible. This is the definitive way to experience Virtua Racing. An essential.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
What is it? A curious attempt to bring the side-scrolling Zelda II-style action RPG formula to the arcade. In more recent years, WayForward has refined and popularised this formula with the Shantae series.
What enhancements are there over the original? Three challenge modes, online rankings, the ability to record and watch replays, and a “Power Up New Game” mode where you can carry across the gear from your previous run to a new game.
Is it worth it? It’s a bit clunky and an acquired taste, but it’s worth a play for the patient.
What is it? Yu Suzuki’s spectacular 3D shoot ’em up, and one of the first showcases of Sega’s “Super Scaler” technology.
What enhancements are there over the original? The addition of a rapid fire button, and a new “KOMAINU Barrier Attack” mode, in which two lion statues protect you from colliding with the scenery.
Is it worth it? The new features, while seemingly minor, make this a lot more accessible to newcomers than previous ports have been. Definitely worth a shot.
What is it? A monstrously difficult version of Sega’s colour-matching puzzler that was previously confined (quite rightly) to arcades.
What enhancements are there over the original? Unlockable characters and an online mode — plus the fact this has never seen a home port before. It also includes the Mega Drive version of the original Columns, which hates you much less than Columns II does.
Is it worth it? This game utterly despises everyone who plays it and makes that very clear with its extreme difficulty curve, so it’s probably one for the hardcore puzzlers only — though the original Columns is still fun. You can get that as part of the aforementioned Sega Mega Drive Classics collection, though, which might be a better option.
Puzzle & Action: Ichidant-R
What is it? A competitive puzzle game spinoff of Sega’s stealth game Bonanza Bros, featuring short-form timed puzzles for one or two players.
What enhancements are there over the original? This game has never had a western release before, though its predecessor Tant-R was found in the Sega Classics Collection for PlayStation 2. This version also features the Mega Drive release of the game, which includes a full RPG-style mode — but sadly no attempt has been made to localise this, so you’ll need to know Japanese to get the most out of it.
Is it worth it? It’s a fun game, particularly for two players — it’s just a shame you can’t enjoy the Mega Drive version in English.
What is it? A classic platform action game in which you take on the role of ninjutsu master Joe Musashi and attempt to save the children.
What enhancements are there over the original? The addition of a new melee button, plus an easier Ages mode in which Joe starts with powered-up weapons and the ability to take more hits.
Is it worth it? Shinobi is a classic that remains worth playing today — though the ending is rubbish. It’s all about the journey, not the destination, though.
What is it? A side-scrolling shoot ’em up in which you fly across various colourful backgrounds in order to destroy enemy bases.
What enhancements are there over the original? An expanded interface makes it much easier to keep track of what’s going on and what all the different available ship parts do. There’s also a mode where you can play as protagonist Opa-Opa’s brother Upa-Upa.
Is it worth it? Fantasy Zone is still an excellent, highly playable game today. Well worth it.
Puyo Puyo 2
What is it? Second in the series of blob-dropping puzzlers.
What enhancements are there over the original? Again, we never got this in the west before, so it’s new to us. There’s also online play and leaderboards.
Is it worth it? See comments above for the original Puyo Puyo; they all apply here, too, although this version has more ways to play. Puyo Puyo Tetris is still probably a better bet for newcomers.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
What is it? Second of Sega’s mascot platformers, featuring more speed, more levels and the ability to play with a friend.
What enhancements are there over the original? Same as with the original Sonic; the addition of the Drop Dash move from Sonic Mania, plus Ring Keep and online rankings. This release also allows you to play as if you’d plugged the original Mega Drive version into the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge, which hasn’t been seen in any other rerelease of this game over the years.
Is it worth it? Again, you’ve probably got multiple copies of this across various platforms, but the addition of the Knuckles material makes this a bit more worthwhile.
G-LOC: Air Battle
What is it? First-person jet combat game, and the follow-up to After Burner.
What enhancements are there over the original? This has never had a good home port before, so that’s a novelty in itself. There’s also a mode that simulates the hydraulic sit-down moving cabinet of the arcade original, plus a new Ages mode with revamped mechanics and new missions to take on.
Is it worth it? This is a game that is still spectacular to look at and a ton of fun to play today. Definitely worthwhile.
Thunder Force AC
What is it? Arcade version of Technosoft’s side-scrolling shoot ’em up Thunder Force III.
What enhancements are there over the original? Thunder Force AC is much less commonly seen than Thunder Force III, so that in itself is noteworthy. Besides that, there are unlockable ships from other Thunder Force games, online rankings and an easier Kids Mode for those who can’t take the heat.
Is it worth it? One of the best games in the Thunder Force series, and a little more forgiving than Thunder Force IV can be. Definitely worthwhile for shoot ’em up fans.
What is it? Real-time strategy game from the creators of Thunder Force.
What enhancements are there over the original? A full, extensive tutorial delivered by a delightfully animated 2D character that uses the same E-Mote technology found in Nekopara, of all things. (M2, the people behind the Sega Ages ports, developed E-Mote, don’t you know?) An enhanced interface that makes it much, much easier to stay on top of the state of the battlefield. Plus online play, replays and save states.
Is it worth it? This game has one hell of a learning curve, but the tutorial helps make it a bit more accessible. If you’ve got the time to learn it in the first place, this one will keep you busy for hours — just don’t expect to master it right away.
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