Sega knows a thing or two about re-releasing their greatest hits in video game compilations. Over the past few years they've turned repackaging Genesis games into an art form, offering generous helpings of 16-bit games at a budget price. Now comes the Dreamcast Collection, a compilation fans have been demanding ever since Sega pulled the plug on the last-generation console. But don't be fooled. Dreamcast Collection is an abysmal failure, the type of compilation reminiscent of the bad old days of Sega Ages.
The Dreamcast Collection is nothing more than an excuse to put four Xbox Live Arcade games on a single disc. The package includes Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Sega Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5 Part 2. All four of these games have been announced for Microsoft's download service, though only two are actually available on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Currently this $40 disc is the only way to play Sega Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5 Part 2.
This selection of Dreamcast games is questionable at best. I understand the inclusion of Sonic Adventure, it may not be a great game but it was one of the most popular titles at the Dreamcast's 1999 launch. Crazy Taxi also makes sense; it's the kind of short attention span game you would expect on the Xbox Live Arcade. But Sega Bass Fishing? Even more baffling is Space Channel 5 Part 2. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against either of these choices, but they certainly don't make for a cohesive package.
As you read through this review you'll no doubt get the sense that I'm irritated by Sega's Dreamcast Collection. It's obvious from the title card that making this disc was low on the priority list. Considering how many amazing games came out on this sixth generation console, I'm a little offended that these four titles made the cut. Adding Jet Grind Radio, Chu Chu Rocket, Shenmue, or any number of other games would have gone a long way; instead we're left with the least inspiring collection of Dreamcast games imaginable.
Even if you can get past the tiny amount of games on this disc, you're still left with a collection of largely mediocre titles. The mainstream games aren't as good as you remember them and the other two titles certainly fall into the niche camp. There's nothing wrong with Sega Bass Fishing, but how many fans of this game are going to be excited about Space Channel 5 Part 2 or Crazy Taxi? It's as if Sega picked four games at random and just went with it.
Of the four games, Sonic Adventure was the biggest eye opener. I'll admit that it's been awhile since I played this Dreamcast launch title, but I wasn't prepared for how poorly the game has held up. It didn't take more than a minute or two to remind me why I hated this game in the first place -- it's never clear what you're supposed to be doing, the buggy levels, the shoddy 3D platforming, the fact that much of Sonic's gameplay involves you holding up, etc. The game is a tragic mess, the beginning of the end for Sonic the Hedgehog.Unfortunately, Sonic the Hedgehog isn't the only underwhelming game on this disc. I was equally disappointed by Crazy Taxi, a game I remember having a lot of fun with back in the day. The basic gameplay remains intact, but I wasn't prepared for the loose controls and shallow world. Because it was released before the influx of open world games, I remember Crazy Taxi's city as being considerably larger. But what we have here is a small area with too many obstacles and not enough payoffs. To make matters worse, all of the well-known advertising and music has been stripped out of this Xbox Live Arcade port. The new music is abysmal and the world doesn't feel the same without the large KFC signs.
Sega Bass Fishing is perhaps the most perplexing addition of the bunch. Although a smaller title, this launch title was designed to be played with a fake plastic fishing rod. The game is playable without the accessory, but it lacks some of the excitement of the original. Even without the fishing rod, the game held up better than I was expecting. Maybe it's because I don't have much experience with this series or maybe my expectations were incredibly low, but I had a good time with Sega Bass Fishing.
The final game is Space Channel 5 Part 2, an absolute treat. This is the Sega I like best, the one that isn't afraid to try out new game concepts. In this charming game you play a news reporter who must dance her way past aliens and other baddies. The game plays by familiar rhythm game rules, but there's something endearing about the story and characters. And did I mention the catchy space age bachelor pad music and 1960s Mad Men motif? Every inch of this game is dripping with style. Space Channel 5 Part 2 is easily the standout of the bunch, and the one Dreamcast Collection game I wholeheartedly recommend.
But as much as I love Space Channel 5 Part 2, I question why Sega didn't include the original. A package that comes with both Space Channel games, Jet Grind Radio and Chu Chu Rocket would be easy to endorse. Even if that's still only four games, at least those titles cater to the same audience. There's something to be said about creating a cohesive package that gives consumers what they want.
Sadly, it's not just the confusing choices in games that undermine the Dreamcast Collection. The disc is full of questionable design decisions, including the ugly menu to the strange aspect ratio changes made to some games. Even more troubling is the fact that every time you exit a game, you're pushed back to the Xbox Live dashboard. There's no way of switching from one title to the next without completely exiting the game. It's that kind of baffling oversight that makes leads me to believe Sega didn't put much time into the Dreamcast Collection.
Even if you want all four of these titles, you're better off downloading these games off the Xbox Live Marketplace. The sad truth is that not all four of these games are worth owning, so hold out until Space Channel 5 Part 2 shows up. Sega has demonstrated that they have no idea what they're doing when it comes to the Dreamcast. This game features too few games for too much money. It's littered with bugs and user interface problems.
More than anything, I fear that Sega will view the potential slow sales as a sign that people don't want Dreamcast games. That couldn't be further from the truth. I hope that Sega is able to right this ship and give us a Dreamcast collection that actually makes sense. In the meantime, let's just pretend that this Dreamcast Collection happened.