Why EA hadn’t jumped on the retro compilation bandwagon before now is a bit of a mystery. Maybe it’s down to format choice: when the Saturn and PSone were in their prime, the Mega Drive and SNES were still a recent memory. PlayStation 2 and Xbox were probably a contender at one point, but EA seemed happy pumping out nothing but war, racing and sports games. Game Boy Advance? The carts would have been too small – Sega could only fit a pathetic three games on their Mega Drive compilation. And none of the games here would put the DS’s touch screen to good use. PSP it is, then.
Fond memories of Road Rash? Good, because all three of them are here. The original is almost unplayble due to the stupidly high-pitched engine noises, and is a pointless inclusion anyway as the sequels are far better. Road Rash III has digitised characters, more weapons and introduces helicopters that try to knock you off your bike, but Road Rash II is the best in our opinion. Trying to kick rivals off their bikes and out running the police is still good fun. It doesn’t seem to be the original music in II and III though; it sounds like CD-quality, so our guess is that they’ve used the soundtrack from 3DO Road Rash.
There’s also Desert Strike and Jungle Strike. No Urban Strike, sadly, as it features the Twin Towers. The PSP’s analogue stick works really well for manoeuvring the helicopter around, but both games are very unforgiving by today’s standards. They pretty much boil down to memorising where the ammo and fuel pick ups are; if you run out of either when in a tough spot then you’re a goner.
Platformer B.O.B was hardly acclaimed when it was first released. We did smile at some of the dying animations, however. Brawler Budokan was one of the first Mega Drive games and it really shows. Time has also been hard on Virtual Pinball, which there’s nothing virtual about at all. We liked the blueprint table, but that’s about it.
Mutant League Football is probably the most annoying game ever. You kick the ball, then an ugly menu comes up. You choose a play strategy, kick the ball then your manager’s pixellated face comes up and barks some indecipherable digital speech.
Ultima: The Black Gate is the only RPG on the UMD. It’s viewed from a top down perspective and has a fair bit of freedom. You can just go around murdering people if you want. Wing Commander and the Secret Mission expansion are okay for a while. A while being about ten minutes.
The real star of the show – and possibly the collection’s saving grace – is a little known game by the name of Haunting: Starring Polterguy. It’s an isometric affair in which you have to scare the pants off various families by possessing their furniture. The animation is a little crude, but it’s a really fun game. The only annoying thing is that you have to keep visiting a dank underworld to collect green goo.
As a package things don’t really stick together. The games load up quickly, but generally the presentation is poor; it’s like EA gave the project to a group of new graduates to knock out on the cheap. Fourteen games – or thirteen, if you remove the pointless Wing Commander expansion pack – is a paltry number when you consider that Sega Genesis Collection packed in nearly thirty games, most of which have surprisingly stood the test of time. And that’s only £20; EA are charging full whack for this. You can view box art for each game (the format holder logos have been omitted, incidentally) and unlock a few extras, but there’s nothing in the way of developer interviews or such. In fact, the most prominent extras are trailers for the likes of Madden 07. That’s not retro!
We don’t care that the original FIFA or Madden games aren’t here. General Chaos, Rolo to the Rescue, Populous, Skitchin’, Techno Clash and Theme Park, on the other hand, could have turned this from an average collection into a great one.