In another reality, one where companies like Nintendo and Sony actually cared about preserving their old games and ensuring that their entire libraries were playable now and forever, something like Genesis Classics might not be a rarity. But it is, and hey, it’s pretty damn great.
Genesis Classics, which is already out for PC, PS4, and Xbox One and comes out next week for Switch, is yet another compilation of Sega games the likes of which we’ve seen on pretty much every console since Sega stopped making consoles (RIP). It’s got some old classics like Sonic and Phantasy Star IV as well as some hidden gems like Beyond Oasis.
I’ve been playing it on Switch, and I must say: This is how all retro games should be packaged. For some reason, the Switch version of Genesis Classics is missing two games that we’ve seen in other versions—the very good Wonder Boy in Monster World and Wonder Boy III—but otherwise, it’s got a solid lineup. There’s LandStalker, an isometric take on Zelda with some great music, two clunky but iconic Shining Force games, and plenty of quirky platformers.
What’s most impressive is the packaging. The menu screen for Genesis Classics is framed as an adorable little bedroom, with old-school Sega posters and a shelf of Genesis games that you’ll watch get inserted into a console whenever you pick a new one. (You can even put your favourites in a separate section of the shelf for easy access.)
You can play each game in full-screen or within the borders of the television, and while you’re playing, you can use all sorts of handy emulation features, like fast forwards, rewinds, and quick saves/loads—all essential for enjoying some of the clunkier Genesis games out there. LandStalker is way better when you can rewind every time the isometric camera forces you to miss a dumb jump. (LandStalker is still excellent, by the way—I found myself playing through most of the game on Switch and it holds up well, those camera quirks aside.)
It’s those features that are often ignored when companies re-release old games, but Sega has really nailed them here. The Switch’s right trigger fast forwards and the left trigger rewinds, and having such easy access to both functions makes playing games on Genesis Classics even more convenient than downloading an emulator.
Really, it’d be worth the money just to play Phantasy Star IV on the go. This is an excellent compilation, and a model for how classic games should be packaged in the future—one that hopefully Nintendo emulates.