The Sega Smash Pack: Volume 1 is Segas version of the old-time compilation disc trend made popular recently by companies with a rich history of games—such as Namco, Konami and Midway. The disc includes no less than nine certified, triple-A, 16-bit classics out of the Genesis era as well as three other miscellaneous titles to add to the overall value of the purchase. The games listed on the back of the case are practically a "whos who" of the greatest cartridges available for Segas renowned machine. Included are: Golden Axe, Revenge of Shinobi, Shining Force, Phantasy Star II, Streets Of Rage 2, Altered Beast, Sonic The Hedgehog, Vectorman, Columns, Sega Swirl, Virtua Cop 2, and the previously arcade-only Wrestle War.

Taking a look at what titles they've chosen, this is an incredible trip through the golden days gone-by of the 16-bit era. Anybody who is old enough to remember the Genesis' release day will most likely fall down and weep for joy at seeing so many masterpieces in one package. The variety and selection here should easily be enough to put some of the other companies filler-stuffed discs to shame. It should, but it doesnt.

While the RPGs (Phantasy Star II and Shining Force) hold up very well in every department besides being a bit old-school in the graphics department, newer gamers probably won't be very drawn into the action games presented here due to the lack of sophistication compared to some of todays offerings. I freely admit that going back to Golden Axe or Revenge Of Shinobi didn't play anywhere near as greatly as I remembered them, and they didnt hold my interest for very long. For those who need a quick change of pace from the action or RPG titles, the puzzlers (Swirl and Columns) are good additions to the collection. While I personally wouldn't put either at the top of my "favorite puzzle game" list, they do help to round out and balance the choices available to help make it more appealing to a wider audience.

However, having said what I've just said, I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone buy this disc. The reason? The sound effects are so completely, utterly and hopelessly screwed up that the versions aren't even as good as they were on the Genesis. It's unbelievable that this disc passed QA, really—what kind of company releases a game that forces a player turn the sound completely off in order to have a chance of enjoying the gameplay?

I'm the type of gamer that doesn't really pay much attention to sound effects or music. If I don't notice them, then the composers and artists have a done a good job as far as Im concerned. The audio portion of a game is usually only brought to the front of my brain and noticed if its either divinely good or completely rotten. I sat up and took notice of the Smash Pack audio almost immediately, and NOT because it's divinely good.

Take my word for it—if you closed your eyes while playing Altered Beast or Golden Axe, you'd SWEAR that you were listening to someone playing an Atari 2600. (Provided that you are old enough to actually remember the 2600, that is.) I am in no way exaggerating, and Im being as literal as I possibly can be—the sound effects are just THAT bad.

I find this to be extremely intolerable while playing since it makes no sense to hear bloops and bleeps when the dated and dusty 16-bit hardware sounded infinitely better. I don't for one second believe that the Dreamcast is incapable of handling the amount of horsepower these games require. Laziness is the only excuse for something like this. In my opinion, having perfect editions of these classics is really the only reason for buying the disc since anyone too young to have played these back in the days wont be interested enough to enjoy them. For a full-priced game such as the Smash Pack on hardware that's light-years ahead of the Genesis, I expect nothing less than pristine and flawless conversions. What makes this even worse is that the disc was released by Sega itself! These are some of the games that helped build and define Sega's reputation as one of the premiere names in videogames, and to see these classics getting such a shoddy, lazy and supremely half-assed conversion shows to me that they have absolutely no pride or respect for their own rich heritage.

This is a disgrace.Rating: 4 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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