Released on PlayStation 2 back in 2005, SEGA Classics Collection is a small part of gaming history. Not so much in terms of the collection’s content, but rather a display of Sony’s seldom seen authority.
Over in Japan the games in the eight-strong compilation were released individually as part of the SEGA Ages 2500 series. That ‘2500’ related to their price in Yen – around £15 ($22) or so.
Rather than being simple re-releases of SEGA’s arcade and console classics, each title received a major 3D revamp along with additional modes and in most cases remixed soundtracks. Development was handheld by studios close to SEGA including SIMS and M2, with budget specialist D3 co-publishing.
Following strong sales in Japan, now defunct US publisher Conspiracy Entertainment picked up the rights for a handful of titles in 2003.
Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) however disapproved of the decision to release them individually outside of Japan.
To quote SPOnG from a news article back in October 2004, “Sony argued that offering a massive range of cut-price reworked games would impact on full price sales and that comparisons with Japanese successes with such products were not valid, given the massive difference in buying habits in the two countries”.
Conspiracy wasn’t the only publisher to have budget re-releases rejected by Sony – reportedly SNK had also seen titles denied on the grounds that not enough value was being offered to the consumer per release.
Conspiracy went back to the drawing board and proposed the release of two separate compilations – SEGA Ages: Classics Collection (containing Fantasy Zone, Golden Axe, Monaco GP, and Space Harrier) and SEGA Ages: Phantasy Star Trilogy, which would have comprised of Phantasy Star: Generation 1, Phantasy Star II, and Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium.
Much to the frustration of Phantasy Star fans in particular, SCEA again refused their release, presumably for the same reasons as before.
With Conspiracy’s plans put on hold, SEGA eventually took back the licenses and bundled eight of the first SEGA Ages titles together to form SEGA Classics Collection.
Retailing for around £20, this move actually benefited gamers as had the eight titles been released on their lonesome as planned a complete set would have cost over £100. So although Sony seemed harsh at the time, some good eventually came of their decision.
When the first reviews of SEGA Classics Collection begin to surface, it quickly became clear that Sony believed quality was an issue as well. These were budget games in every sense of the word with the majority of titles suffering from fuzzy textures, low polygon count models and basic, disjointed, animation.
Quality varied so wildly from title to title in fact that even with eight of them bundled together for £20, most critics found that the package was still distinctly lacking in content and value. So not only had Sony saved SEGA fans money, but also potential disappointment.