Title :Sega Smash Pack
Platforms :Sega Dreamcast
Publisher :Sega
ESRB Rating :Everyone to Teen
Game Rating :8.4
Review by :Ken Gagne

In my younger days, when I could identify every Transformer and G.I. Joe character, I hated the name Sega. The smart-aleck blue hedgehog, a pretender to Nintendo's throne, had nothing to offer over my Italian plumber and friends. 

Oh, what a fool I was. 

Now Sega is withdrawing from the hardware market, to make software for other systems. Though this decision promises to be lucrative for Sega, it's the end of an era for Sega fans, among whom I finally count myself. The Dreamcast has been my favorite system since it launched a year and a half ago, and is likely to remain so until Nintendo brings their mainstay heroes to the GameCube. 

One of the effects of Sega's withdrawal is a Dreamcast price drop. For $99.99, you can invest in the first and finest 128-bit gaming system. Or, for $119.99, the same package can include the Sega Smash Pack, a single-disc compilation of twelve of the best Sega games ever. 

The disc includes Genesis games Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Columns, Golden Axe, Phantasy Star II, Revenge of Shinobi, Shining Force, Streets of Rage 2, Vectorman, and Wrestle War, plus the Saturn game Virtua Cop 2 and Dreamcast puzzler Sega Swirl. 

Unlike Super Mario All-Stars or Final Fantasy Anthology, this collection makes no effort to improve on the originals. There are no added features, developer interviews, or enhanced graphics. But whereas other collections have only a handful of games of enhanced quality, Sega Smash Pack provides a full dozen games of original quality. 

The graphics may be dated, but these games come from a time when the technology wasn't available for graphics to carry a game: a solid title was based on gameplay. Due to that all-important factor, many of these games aren't just nostalgic to play; even if this is your first time experiencing Sega's earlier years, they're still fun. 

The games control well with the standard Dreamcast controller, with configurable buttons and support for both the analog and digital pads. But there are two odd quirks of the interface. To exit the game and get to the system menu, players need press A, B, X, Y, and Start simultaneously. Despite many attempts with my large thumbs, I could get this combination to work maybe one in twenty times. Yet accessing this menu is necessary when playing Shining Force and Phantasy Star II; these RPGs' "save game" functions do not work alone, and require using the Dreamcast menu's "save game" command as well. So not only is the system menu nearly impossible to access, it's essential. But since most of the games don't require this feature, it can often be overlooked. 

The Smash Pack is bundled with the Dreamcast hardware and is currently unavailable as a separate product. Fortunately, there's never been a better time to become a Dreamcast owner. The price is right, and Sega has dozens more exclusive titles in its 2001 lineup — proving that it's never too late to catch some of the best games ever. 

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 12-Feb-01