The idea of remaking a game is nothing new. Taking the same basic gameplay and just updating the graphics engine with a major facelift is. That's what Sega did over in Japan with the "Sega Ages" series. Each one of the 10 games included in this compilation was released individually overseas. We're lucky enough to have it all in one pack for a measly $20. Not all of them are worthwhile, but a few are actually better than their original counterparts.
Golden Axe: This is the game most toyed with by the programmers. This is hardly even the same game. All three of the main characters remain as does multi-player and the survival modes. Everything else is changed. Enemies have been plucked from other games in the series, levels have been extended, and the core gameplay doesn't have the "feel" the original did. Notably, Guilius Thunderhead is totally useless. His speed has taken a significant hit and he doesn't move fast enough to dodge most of the attacks. That's a critical, inexcusable flaw. Cinematics between stages are unskippable and pointless. You don't even get the little mini-game where you hack the little elves for magic and food.
The graphics engine is a disaster. Looking like a high-resolution PS One game, everything here is blocky, pixilated, and just ugly. It's almost understandable considering these were budget titles, but you rethink that stance once you see everything in motion. Even the animation is terrible and the developers didn't even take the time to clean up the slowdown. The music makes up for all of this a little bit. It's a shame the game has been extended by six levels as each of those wonderfully remixed tracks become grating as the game moves on.
Outrun: Not much has been done here. It controls just like the original and that's the key aspect. In fact, there is a chance all they did was coat the game with a weak polygonal engine and put it on a DVD-ROM. It's still a blast, the retooled music sounds fantastic in the background, and the sense of speed is wonderful. Still, there's not much explanation as to why the textures are so bland and pop-up is so constant.
Space Harrier: Another game with very little retooling. The biggest flaw of the game still exists; you can't see through your character so you'll never actually know what hit you. A good player can work around this with practice and it's worth it to see what the next stage has to offer. This is the only game in the compilation to offer an alternate graphics mode. You can play it with new ground textures or keep the classic scrolling checkerboard. Everything else always stays the same, including the awful looking explosions and slapped together 3-D enemies. It really doesn't make much sense considering you can hardly tell most of the game is polygonal.
Bonanza Bros.: This game hasn't been touched at all. Two players (or one if you're lonely) head into a bank to rob it. It's cartoony fun, dodging brain-dead guards to steal all the loot scattered about. The graphics are a tad more colorful and the music has a few more channels dedicated to it, but other than that, this remains a decent little game for those quick burst gaming sessions.
Tant R: This is a pointless game. Just a few mini games here featuring those characters from the previous title. There's little to discuss, as most of these games are dull and unimaginative. "Wario Ware" would do this much better years later and it's impossible to go back.
Virtua Racing: There's been a very slight facelift to this game, just a few scattered polygons here and there. What it really benefits from is the increased frame rate, coming in at a solid 60 frames at all times. That gives it an advantage over any of the other ports (or the arcade game for that matter). It remains a fun arcade racer with little depth. The biggest gripe is the infuriating sound of tires squealing. Every single turn you'll hear it and it's like nails against a chalkboard. At least you can hear it in a variety of modes, including split-screen multi-player and Grand Prix.
Alien Syndrome: Not only is this the best game in this set, it's actually a major improvement over the original. Offering dual analog controls was a great idea and the graphics upgrade is adequate if unspectacular. The gore factor has skyrocketed as every enemy gushes blood with every bullet fired. Co-op play in this overhead shooter makes it even more enjoyable.
Oddly, cinemas have been added in-between levels for no apparent reason. Thankfully, they are skippable. It would be nice to have the map feature always available on screen since you can wander for sometime without finding someone to rescue (required to clear the stage). Otherwise, this should be the first game played if you get this set. First impressions mean a lot.
Columns: There's not much you can do to this classic puzzler. The basic marathon mode is unchanged, there's just a little more color to the jewels. What made this a standalone product in Japan was the added multi-player gameplay from "Columns III." The jewels get a facelift in this mode, spinning and shining before falling. The biggest gripe is the inability to exit to the main title screen once in the game. You'll need to either reset or fill the screen up. Every other game has a way to exit, why not this one?
Fantasy Zone: This is a unique little shooter. It has benefited a little bit from the facelift that adds depth to the colorful backdrops. It would be great to see a Sonic title be remade like this. Almost nothing has changed in the gameplay. You still move about much like in the classic "Defender," zapping enemies until they're gone. You'll then be greeted by a boss. Once defeated, you'll head to a new 3-D bonus stages where you'll collect gold to be used in the shop. There's nothing offending about this as they add some variety to the usual 2-D gameplay. With the added remixed music, this is probably better than the original like "Alien Syndrome."
Monaco GP: This is a rather weak top down racer. It has a great sense of speed, but it's excessively difficult to control. You need to use the d-pad to dodge oncoming traffic and then all four triggers to make full turns. It's confusing and stupid. You can play the original mode without that control scheme however. The new 3-D engine does nothing for the game. Don't bother here and just play "Virtua Racing" for your fix.
Besides the games, there's nothing else on this disc. No interviews, flyers, ads, absolutely nothing. Nope, not even the original games. That's a bigger disappointment than most of the new graphics engines. It's a real shame a new generation of kids are going to be introduced to some of the classics in this form (more specifically, "Golden Axe). It's not a total loss as games like "Alien Syndrome" are worth the small asking price and we should be glad these haven't been released as separate games. There are a few games left out there in this series that are not included (like "Phantasy Star"), so there's a chance for another set too. If that happens, here's hoping they come out a little better than this and more time is spent reworking each title. Otherwise, don't bother.