This article was originally written for Sega-16 but was never published.
Sega has released a number of compilations and collections over the years. The Sega Arcade Classics Collection for Mega CD is one of the earliest, including four or five (depending on the version) Sega games. The first thing to get out of the way is the use of the word “Arcade”. While all four titles have origins in the arcade or at least arcade style gameplay, they are all Mega Drive/Genesis titles. The titles, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi, Columns and in some editions, Super Monaco GP are in all the ways that matter – the same as you would find on the Mega Drive.
All four (my version doesn’t include Super Monaco GP) games are booted from a menu. Once you are in a game, you are unable to return to the menu and the CD has to be rebooted to select a different title. Although the CD format has plenty of advantages, they haven’t for the most part been used. Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage and Columns play exactly as they do on the Mega Drive with the latter having a CD track used on the title screen. Golden Axe has the most notable difference, using the arcade soundtrack throughout the game. This is a welcome inclusion but I noticed the gameplay was a little more sluggish at times then what I had experienced on the cartridge. It wasn’t noticeable enough for me to be sure that it is more than an anomaly though.
After taking a look at Sega-16’s reviews of the four included games on my edition, I would only quibble somewhat with three and though I wouldn’t be quite as negative as in the Columns review; I’ve always considered it an unremarkable puzzler at the very best. Whether you have four or five games in the collection, it is certainly a diverse and worthy selection of games. The problem isn’t so much with the games it is that at the time and certainly today, the games are widely available and inexpensive. Golden Axe is the only game that received anything to significantly distinguish it and at least in my experience, it is somewhat to its detriment.
Sega Arcade Classics Collection is hard to recommend to anyone but collectors and this is whether or not you are coming to it now or when it was first released. At the time of release, anyone who owned a Mega CD almost certainly owned two or three of the titles and if not, all could have been obtained relatively cheaply even back then. On top of this, none of the titles differ in any significant way from the cartridge releases except Golden Axe which is possibly hampered by the change. As for playing it today, are you concerned for the life of your Mega CD laser? I am and as all four titles remain some of the most common Mega Drive titles and are available cheaply on multiple collections and systems, this title has only become more redundant. My scoring of this collection has no bearing on the quality of the games. Sega Arcade Classics Collection has three or four great Mega Drive games and Columns; you’d just be better off playing them on another system.