Like Brad, I have issues with Sega Smash Pack Volume 1. There are some true standouts in Streets Of Rage 2, Shining Force, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Virtua Cop 2 (even without light-gun support); all are shining examples of the Sega at its best in the pre-PlayStation age. The rest, however, are either throwaways like Sega Swirl and Wrestle War or games that do not stand the test of time like Phantasy Star II and Altered Beast. This has always been a sore spot of mine with these compilation releases. They either feature too many lousy games that only pad the feature list on the back of the casing or they consist of too few games that fans would actually want. In the case of Sega Smash Pack Volume 1, its a matter of having too many unnecessary titles thrown in to justify its existence.
What all these games, good or bad, have in common is that they sport some of the worst audio I have heard in years. Brad was not exaggerating in his assessment of these aural emanations. Some of the music and sound effects in these games are worse than anything you might have heard on Nintendo's original Game Boy. Why would Sega release a product so lacking in such an important area? Did it occur to Sega that the more discerning ears of today's gamers would notice how truly terrible the audio was? Didn't they care about the quality of their own product?
Another gripe I had with this release was the bare bones instruction manual. By today's standards, a lot of these games are old hat to anyone who has ever picked up a controller. Most of the games use two buttons at most so there isn't a lot of break-in time needed before you've mastered the controls. It would also stand to reason that since this is a compilation of classic Sega releases, its target audience would consist of gamers old enough to have played these games in their original forms. However, games like Phantasy Star II, Shining Force, and even Golden Axe—games dealing with lots of items, spells, and the like—would have benefited greatly from some form of visual instruction as to which spells or items did what. Sega simply leaves you to figure it out as you go along—always a bad idea with such content-heavy games.
Aside from allowing me to play some of Sega's better games, Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 has the ironic distinction of serving as a wake up call. As a gamer in his mid 20s, Ive been playing games since the industry was in its relative infancy. Ive played tons of arcade and console games that were revolutionary for their time, but could now be easily ported to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance handheld. I formed a great attachment to those games and, like most gamers my age, I held fast to the belief that these games were some of the best ever made or at the very least more fun than today's releases. It was startling to see that industry classics like Revenge Of Shinobi and Altered Beast are not nearly as entertaining in 2001 as they were in the 1980s. It had me thinking seriously about other games I loved in my youth and how they would fare if I played them today.
When it is all said and done, Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 was a nice idea ruined only by Sega's disregard for the quality of their own release. If Sega had been more selective with the titles it chose to include and treated the porting process with more care and diligence, this could have be a "game" to recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in games of old. Instead, Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 will be added to a long list of compilation releases that should be avoided by all.