Welcome to Living in the Past, a weekly column about what's new in old games. Now get off our lawn.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I used this column as a platform to praise Sega's handling of an obscure retro game, and to urge you all to buy said game. I guess that's going to be a regular thing now!
The latest Sega release to go above and beyond is Sega Vintage Collection: Toejam & Earl (and the two Toejam & Earl games on PSN, sold separately). While previously I would have said that the best case scenario for such a release would be an unaltered ROM dump – and the worst, a poorly performing ROM dump – Sega went one step beyond and added online co-op.
I had Toejam & Earl as a child, but I don't recall ever having the opportunity to play its multiplayer. This re-release will make it much easier for me to play the game as it was meant to be played.
Of course, I don't think the presence of another person will make Toejam & Earl that much more comprehensible. It's still a real-time roguelike-style dungeon crawler about aliens picking up Christmas presents dropped by Santa on floating flat chunks of Earth. But at least you and a friend can be baffled together.
Beyond Monster World IV's surprise localization and this game, Sega has been doing some nice things with its vintage re-releases. It's rare for re-releases to be objectively better than the originals; usually it's just the same exact thing, or the same thing but in HD, or worse, a broken version of the same thing. But Sega's re-releases give you a reason to play them above simple compatibility with current hardware.
NiGHTS into Dreams came with its rare "Christmas NiGHTS" content, and Jet Set Radio included an interesting mini-documentary with developer interviews, both of which seem like excessive amounts of care to put into downloadable re-releases. I was happy with the diligence Sega put into acquiring the proper soundtrack for that game, as well.
Sega showed the same care when recompiling Crazy Taxi's soundtrack ... but only on iOS, after using soundalikes for the PSN and XBLA versions. At least the iOS version has the correct soundtrack; in any case, I don't ever need to hear Offspring's "All I Want" again.
Sega is even bringing back a bunch of Model 2 games that seemed destined for obscurity, and working with Hori to re-release the Virtual On Twin Stick controller for one of them.
It would appear that Sega's reorganization to focus on digital games has meant not just more digital games, but more quality put into them. The care turns simple upscaled ports of old games, which could have been filler releases between real projects, into event games for an admittedly small number of people.
I have no idea how this is working out from a business perspective, but it's quite nice for me.