To be this good on PS2 takes AGES Vol. 1

Starting out as a joint venture between SEGA & D3 Publisher due to SEGA’s interest in the successful Simple Series from D3, the often overlooked 2500 series of SEGA Ages featured several interesting 3D remakes not found elsewhere. Following the departure of D3 from the 3D Ages project a year or so later, new volumes following on from that became less about remakes and more about ports & collections unfortunately. Still, with 33 releases in total on the Playstation 2, there should be some gems to find – so let’s take a look at a few that have arrived so far.

SEGA Ages 2500 Series Vol. 3: Fantasy Zone

May as well make a start near the beginning of the releases to make the most of the remakes, so lets begin with Fantasy Zone. This release offers up a 3D remake of the arcade version of the game, with gameplay not really changing up too much – it’s still that same vibrant horizontal shmup you’ve played via several collections over the years. The addition of an original mode does offer something a little extra as it makes use of the 3D to switch up the view when a boss is defeated, and the game has you bobbing & weaving debris etc. to collect coins.

As it plays similar to the original, it’s really the 3D remake aspect of it that would probably draw you in. The game makes use of cel-shading on the foreground characters which is a nice touch, with the 3D extending out to a couple of planes into the background. It manages to retain the look and feel of the original, even with the change to 3D, so would make a great buy for fans or those nostalgic for the series – for me its one the better releases. You’ll have to be wary when seeking it tho, as there is also a Vol. 33: Fantasy Zone Complete Collection that contains almost all the games in the series – but does lack this remake

SEGA Ages 2500 Series Vol. 5: Golden Axe

The 3D Golden Axe you’ve all been waiting for has been available on PS2 all this time! I jest, but like Fantasy Zone above, this one also plays quite similar to the original. If you take the 2D arcade version and convert to cheap 3D graphics then this is what you would get, with some minor changes here & there. Presentation now includes simple cutscenes alongside an arranged soundtrack, which is is decent to be honest, with the gameplay having some tweaks like magic regenerating from defeated foes.

Again it’s gonna be the graphics drawing interest, and this one doesn’t quite hit the mark. It seems to keep the colour palette, foreground detail is also decent enough with characters looking ok, but the background just seems really lacking and there’s not much in the way of atmosphere or ambience to the stages. Everything just seems a little basic, even noticed an enemies walking animation being exactly the same as a Yakuza’s in a Simple Series game I’ve played. That’s the problem with this 3D remake, it all just feel a little meh. It is probably more disappointing than anything as a little extra TLC would’ve made for slicker beat-em-up instead of the somewhat clunky one we got. Still, this 3D remake of Golden Axe Arcade is a decent oddity to have in the collection, or at least that is what I tell myself when I see the case on the shelf…

SEGA Ages 2500 Series Vol. 14: Alien Syndrome

Straight off the bat I’m just gonna say it, this is one of the best remakes in this series from the several I’ve sampled so far. Alien Syndrome harks from the mid 80’s, so there was plenty of scope to improve the experience with a 3D remake. The isometric run & gun gameplay is still there, only now we have twin stick control for a silkier blast through alien infested spaceships. Things can be as simple as just rescuing as many survivors and getting to the exit before the bomb explodes, but the enemy variety and traps/pitfalls can lead to some hairy moments.

Considering the Sega System 16 and Master System roots of the original, It’s no surprise to see a huge leap in visuals here. Gone are the bright stages of the original to be replaced by dark, shadowy spaceship interiors. Intro and outro cutscenes bookend a stage with a little added story that uses the in-game engine well. There’s also some decent designs for the aliens based on the classics, and the game doesn’t shy away from filling the screen with as many as it can on occasion. Looks good, plays good – a worthy 3D remake in the SEGA Ages series on PS2 . There was another Alien Syndrome released a few years later for the Wii & PsP, but that is a sequel – whereas this is a remake and certainly worth a look for those that may have sampled one of its many ports (including the NES) in the late 80’s.

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.

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