Insert Disk collects Sega Ages Volume 1 for the Sega Saturn.
Today’s retro game review is Sega Ages Volume 1 for the Sega Saturn. This retro gaming classic compilation by Sega features 3 of Sega’s best known arcade hits. After Burner 2, Space Harrier and Outrun. Each has been lovingly ported to run on the Sega Saturn hardware. The Sega Saturn was known for it’s outstanding 2D catalogue of fighting games but it was also very adept at resurrecting arcade classics and building our sense of nostalgia.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today we’re going to be using an old Sega System to play an even older set of Sega games. Have your coins ready as we’re off to the home arcade to play Sega Ages Volume 1 for the Sega Saturn. The 80’s and early 90’s were a boom period for Sega. I was lucky enough to be born just at the right time to grow to experience a monumental shift in what gaming was and what it would become. No stranger to success Sega ran riot during this period. Altered Beast, G-Loc, Golden Axe, Hang-On, Zaxxon and many more delighted the arcade goers of the day. For Sega, they had found a winning formula in the arcade it was then a case of bringing that in to the home with the Sega Master System and Sega Mega Drive and Genesis. Re-creating these arcade classics in the home.
Whilst most games were re-made for the 8-bit and 16-bit home platforms they were not “arcade perfect”. Being cartridge based it was inevitable that digitised speech was at times compromised, layers of parallax scrolling reduced and number of sprites also lowered to match the hardware capabilities. Having said that I really enjoy these home conversions, especially the Mega Drive / Genesis editions. Time passed though. By 1995 2D was out and it was all about the polygons. Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing, House of the Dead and Sega Rally became the new darlings of the arcade. It was another bumper crop of games for Sega and proof that the arcade was where they were at their best. But Sega hadn’t forgotten their roots. The 16-bit home console era had mean that games were converted in to a home release, essentially re-made. The dawn of the Sega Saturn though meant that Sega could now more faithfully port their back catalogue. Rather than remaking the games a port enabled original code and graphics to be reassembled with some minor adjustments.
It was time process that allowed Sega to really bring the arcade home with its first nostalgia packed entry of “Sega Ages Volume 1”. The compilation features After Burner 2, Space Harrier and Outrun. Three of the best from the golden age of Sega’s arcade empire. For the purpose of this review I won’t be covering the games in detail as they deserve to be re-visited individually in their own episodes. I will give you the high level view though. Firstly, After Burner 2. This is a really solid start to the compilation. The graphics are crisp and the music really delivers the arcade experience you’re looking for. I’d forgotten just how good this game was. It’s fast and frantic and sits head and shoulders above your average flight sim fighter. Covering oceans, day-night cycles, various enemies this is a real treat from the past.
Second on our list is Space Harrier. Now I’m a bit of Space Harrier addict, you may have seen my coverage of Space Harrier on the Sega Game Gear recently. I also have great memories of Space Harrier 2 on the Sega Mega Drive. As you step out on to the planet of Moot in Space Harrier though it brings it all back. This is proper gaming. This arcade to Sega Saturn version is spot on. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s relentless and if you close your eyes you’re that in an 1980’s arcade again. Space Harrier really sets the bar for me with home conversions. Fighting dragons, running at high speeds and weaving through the scenery. It makes you realise just how lucky we were to live in a time when gaming came of age.
After far too long on Space Harrier I went on to Outrun. The last game on the disc. It’s been many years since I sat in the arcade machine but I am well versed in the Sega Mega Drive edition of the game. Instantly it’s that same transformative experience. Select your radio station and then it’s out in to the endless road in your Ferrari. Outrun is reasonably challenging but it is most definitely fun. You realise why the compilation was needed. Just look at the detail and sprite count in the scenery. This is just pure arcade gold. Although you can get conversions of After Burner 2, Space Harrier and Outrun on the Sega home consoles this arcade port version of the games just lifts things to another level. I’m lucky enough to own a full sized arcade machine collection. I have Sega Titan chipsets, standard JAMMA, the Neo Geo MVS system and even a Sega 8 setup. I’m not a snob when it comes to gaming but I do enjoy the feel of real hardware running the original code where possible. It’s difficult to explain fully but it just feels right and genuine. So, what do I think of Sega Ages Volume 1? For me it’s an absolute smash success. It’s the attention to detail and love put in to the ports that won me over. As much as we could potentially look down on ported games as an inferior pretender to the throne this compilation is a winner, it’s the real deal.
There’s one more element that really brings the arcade experience home and that’s a Sega arcade stick. This is no ordinary arcade stick though, this is the Sega HSS 104 control stick. Not only does the HSS 104 include all of the buttons on a regular pad including the shifts you’re also treated to a fully adjustable auto fire panel. This allows you to not only turn autofire off and on for each button but also adjust the rate of fire. If you’re worried about wear and tear fear not. The HSS 104 is built to last, it’s as sturdy a device as I’ve seen for a mainstream arcade stick release and the base is solid metal to give rigidity and weight. Hook this up to your Sega Saturn and you’re really good to go. The build quality is fantastic and oozes nostalgia. Whilst the games do play perfectly on a standard Sega Saturn gamepad older generations of gamers will get a real sense of stepping back in to the arcade.
The game being a CD based format you also get the high quality soundtrack on the disk. So next time you’re on your way to work you can chill with the soothing sounds of Outrun or tear through the city to the throbbing soundtrack to Space Harrier. It’s not often I enjoy game compilations, usually as I have the original source. Outside of buying the original arcade machines though this is about as close as you will ever get to the real experience. For around £15 or less than $20 you can own this nostalgic game set. The UK Pal edition is well presented in a hard case format and comes with a neat manual and standard Sega Saturn CD. Sega have been in my gaming life for about as long as I can remember. This compilation really does the subject matter justice. Even small details such as the Sega Ages Skull in the box artwork is a nod to Sega’s glory days.
Whether you’re a Nintendo, Commodore, Sinclair, Oric, Atari, Colecovision or more recent brand of collector. I think we can all set our differences aside and acknowledge that Sega really did once set the bar for arcade gamers.