'Sega Forever' free-to-play classic games for iPhone are off to a good start, but aren't p...

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Sega has released four classic games into their ad-supported free-to-play Sega Forever initiative, including Kid Chameleon, Altered Beast, Phantasy Star II, and Comix Zone. AppleInsider gave the retro titles a spin, and found room for improvement.




The four titles are reasonably faithful ports of their original titles, not new titles or remasters of existing collections, and are presumably ROMs running on Sega-created mobile emulators. Visually, all the titles translate over to the small screen adequately and for anyone who is looking to relive some retro-gaming moments being able to tote these titles around in their pocket (legally) is definitely a boon.




Altered Beast, which originally released in 1988, is a Genesis port of an arcade game that follows a centurion on his mission to rescue Athena. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up that has the player defeating wave after wave of increasingly more difficult enemies.

For some odd reason, the centurion is capable of turning into different forms of were-beasts by collecting items within the level. Each of these forms, which are werebear, weretiger, werewolf, and weredragon, have different abilities that can be used to give the player an edge over particularly difficult enemies.




Kid Chameleon is a pretty standard action platformer that dropped in 1992 for the Genesis. It follows a kid named Casey as he attempts to save the world from a video game boss turned-real. Adopting the alias of Kid Chameleon, he progresses through different levels while collecting various masks that each bestow a different power to him.

The game has just over 100 levels, though it's possible to beat the game by completing just around half of the levels. It's a classic platformer in every sense of the word, and if players were fond of any of the other late-'80s and early-'90s titles in the same vein, we're willing to bet that this is going to be palatable as well.




Comix Zone is another side-scrolling beat 'em up that follows an artist, musician, and pony-tailed New Yorker named Sketch. One night, Sketch is working on his video game when a page is struck by lightning in a freak storm. Following true video game logic, this means that the villain of his comic book, a mutant named Mortus, is immediately brought to life and decides to attempt to kill Sketch and utterly destroy The Big Apple.

Comix Zone is a bit different from Altered Beast as it's quite a bit more mechanically complex, likely due to the game's 1995 release date. Many of the levels require the player to solve puzzles in order to progress, which may be appealing if you like cross-genre blending.




Rounding out the first wave of releases is Genesis role-playing title Phantasy Star II. In its day, Phantasy Star II was well received and is still listed as one of the better retro-RPGs out there. Following the protagonist Rolf, players acquire a party of four characters, each with different abilities, sets of armor, and weapons.

A top-down, turn-based RPG, Phantasy Star II is worth an examination if you like other Genesis/Nintendo Entertainment System era RPGs. Out of the four games released to the App Store in this batch, Phantasy Star II feels the most natural to play on a touch screen interface.

Nothing's quite free

Sega has released the collection as free-to-play and the games are supported by pop-up advertisements that show up between levels, after deaths, or before you start the game. Overall, they're not terribly intrusive, but if you're looking to remove them, you can remove third-party ads via an in-app purchase of $2.

Sega's own ads for future releases and other titles in the series persist, even with purchase.

And, not perfect controls

The problem that we had with most of these titles is that unless you've got a Bluetooth gamepad at your disposal, they don't translate over well to the touch interface. The directional gamepad is jammed together closely in the corner of the screen, and there's quite a few opportunities to hit the wrong button, sending yourself careening off a ledge or smack-dab into an enemy.




For example, Kid Chameleon suffers from the same issues that other ported platformers have -- you're expected to jump over especially tall obstacles or long gaps by holding the action button to run faster and quickly tapping jump. Without any tactile feedback, timing these jumps is incredibly hard unless you're looking directly at the buttons, rather than where your character may end up.

Not for the obvious platform -- the Apple TV

For whatever the reason, Sega hasn't released the titles for the Apple TV. We're going to come right out and say it -- we feel that this is a boneheaded move, that we hope is rectified.

The television is a natural place for these titles.

A Sega spokesperson told AppleInsider that the company's Sega Networks division, which is responsible for its mobile ports, is "set on" bringing games to tvOS in the future. However, no timeline was provided.

That said, Sega is in the process of migrating its back-catalog already on iOS and Apple TV to the new initiative. Sonic and Sonic CD are both available on the Apple TV and now free.

In the case of Crazy Taxi on iOS, if you'd already paid for the title, Sega is "grandfathering" the purchase and removing ads.

For the casual fan, not the devoted

Performance is mixed bag. Frame-perfect emulation they are not, so purists will have to look elsewhere. For everybody else, though, the collection is a good start, and maybe Sega will beef up its emulation engines before the next wave of releases.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    These games do appear to have Bluetooth controller support (I checked for Altered Beast), so you're not limited to the touch controls.
    lolliver
  • Reply 2 of 15
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,912member
    Waiting for ports of Robotron: 2084, Xevious, Donkey Kong and Joust (all my old favorites...Yes, I know they're not SEGA games).
    pscooter63
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,339administrator
    These games do appear to have Bluetooth controller support (I checked for Altered Beast), so you're not limited to the touch controls.
    Yup. Amber mentioned that in the piece. 

    She's a little more tolerant than I. I don't think that they're playable without an external controller.
  • Reply 4 of 15
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,867member
    This is something Nintendo should have been doing!!! Bring back the classics for cheap. They could even release their own Bluetooth controller and really make it Nintendo Game playing.
    txsbaker75pscooter63
  • Reply 5 of 15
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,339administrator
    Waiting for ports of Robotron: 2084, Xevious, Donkey Kong and Joust (all my old favorites...Yes, I know they're not SEGA games).
    Joust is in Midway Arcade, which is available.

    Xevious used to be in Namco Arcade, but is 32-bit only and now gone. Robotron was Williams, but is now Midway. I'm not sure it's going to see the light of day on iOS.

    Donkey Kong. Well. You know who that belongs to.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 15
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 749editor
    Waiting for ports of Robotron: 2084, Xevious, Donkey Kong and Joust (all my old favorites...Yes, I know they're not SEGA games).
    Robotron/Smash TV creator Eugene Jarvis has a new twin-stick game out called Nex Machina that is receiving pretty good reviews... but it's only for PS4 and PC, not iOS. I think on iOS, your best twin-shooter fix is Geometry Wars 3.

    Side note about Geometry Wars 3: It supports physical controllers on tvOS, but the sticks are weirdly flipped (left for shooting, right for moving). It makes my brain hurt, and there is nothing in the settings to address this, unless the title was updated in the last six months. I sometimes wonder if I am the only tvOS gamer who has a physical controller, so I'm the only one aware of this issue.
    edited June 2017 SpamSandwichlolliver
  • Reply 7 of 15
    Too little too late for the hardcore fan.

    I already have all the Sega games I want running in Provenance on my Apple TV and controlled via MFI controller.
    lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 15
    I'm baffled by the continued lack of tvOS support by game developers. Is Apple really making it that difficult to port? I have an AppleTV and 2 Steel Series controllers. It works great and has some decent games available, but there could/should be so many more. I've got great games on my iPhone and iPad that would be more than welcome on my AppleTV. How hard can it be to port an existing iOS game to tvOS with controller support? Even stranger than lack of an AppleTV port, some of the games there have bad or missing controller support. Apple is really missing an opportunity with the AppleTV and gaming. They should be looking at the Nintendo Switch and Wii for what works (and what doesn't) in moderate-power home console gaming. And maybe even talking to Nvidia about a GeForce Now tie-in. My $0.02, of course.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,022member
    I'm baffled by the continued lack of tvOS support by game developers. Is Apple really making it that difficult to port? I have an AppleTV and 2 Steel Series controllers. It works great and has some decent games available, but there could/should be so many more. I've got great games on my iPhone and iPad that would be more than welcome on my AppleTV. How hard can it be to port an existing iOS game to tvOS with controller support? Even stranger than lack of an AppleTV port, some of the games there have bad or missing controller support. Apple is really missing an opportunity with the AppleTV and gaming. They should be looking at the Nintendo Switch and Wii for what works (and what doesn't) in moderate-power home console gaming. And maybe even talking to Nvidia about a GeForce Now tie-in. My $0.02, of course.
    I wouldn't call the Switch moderate power when it can't even run the few games it has smoothly. It is baffling why these games aren't coming out on the Apple TV. It would have been cool had Nintendo ported over the Mario game. There are actually quite a few games that would be great on the Apple TV. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 15
    I'm baffled by the continued lack of tvOS support by game developers. Is Apple really making it that difficult to port? I have an AppleTV and 2 Steel Series controllers. It works great and has some decent games available, but there could/should be so many more.
    I think the number of games available for Apple TV these days is probably more than what most people would expect. It did take about a year to really start to fill out, and you're right that there are still plenty of "I wish this was available for Apple TV" types of games, but it's starting to mature into something more than an "extra" on the platform.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    I'm baffled by the continued lack of tvOS support by game developers. Is Apple really making it that difficult to port? I have an AppleTV and 2 Steel Series controllers. It works great and has some decent games available, but there could/should be so many more. I've got great games on my iPhone and iPad that would be more than welcome on my AppleTV. How hard can it be to port an existing iOS game to tvOS with controller support? Even stranger than lack of an AppleTV port, some of the games there have bad or missing controller support. Apple is really missing an opportunity with the AppleTV and gaming. They should be looking at the Nintendo Switch and Wii for what works (and what doesn't) in moderate-power home console gaming. And maybe even talking to Nvidia about a GeForce Now tie-in. My $0.02, of course.
    I wouldn't call the Switch moderate power when it can't even run the few games it has smoothly. It is baffling why these games aren't coming out on the Apple TV. It would have been cool had Nintendo ported over the Mario game. There are actually quite a few games that would be great on the Apple TV. 
    I have a Switch and it runs very well. The new Zelda game is fantastic. I'm still astounded by it's scope and depth. I definitely recommend the Pro controller, though. The current AppleTV is probably not quite as capable as the Switch with respect to hardware, but it's not too far off. If it was updated to the latest generation of Apple chips, it would probably be on par with it. It's already at least as powerful as most iPhones and iPads out there.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,271member
    Sega Megadrive nostalgist here. Love many of the games. But there is something very wrong here..

    Phantasy Star 2, at the time a fairly large game, 786kb for the ROM = 120MB on the iPhone.
    Altered Beast, at the time a pretty mediocre arcade port, 525kb for the ROM = 119MB on the iPhone.

    Something tells me that Sega's own emulator is embedded in each game, and that it's around 100MB!!? A respectable Sega Megadrive emulator for the Mac takes 982kb of space for the whole app.. What is going on in these files!? I hate to waste space like this..
  • Reply 13 of 15
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,180moderator
    palegolas said:
    Sega Megadrive nostalgist here. Love many of the games. But there is something very wrong here..

    Phantasy Star 2, at the time a fairly large game, 786kb for the ROM = 120MB on the iPhone.
    Altered Beast, at the time a pretty mediocre arcade port, 525kb for the ROM = 119MB on the iPhone.

    Something tells me that Sega's own emulator is embedded in each game, and that it's around 100MB!!? A respectable Sega Megadrive emulator for the Mac takes 982kb of space for the whole app.. What is going on in these files!? I hate to waste space like this..
    If you download the app via iTunes, right-click the app in the list and Show in Finder. Then copy/paste the .ipa file somewhere, rename .ipa to .zip and double-click it. If you go into the payload folder, right-click the .app and show package contents, you will be able to list the contents by size to see what is using the space.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    sog35 said:
    Too little too late for the hardcore fan.

    I already have all the Sega games I want running in Provenance on my Apple TV and controlled via MFI controller.
    do you have a developers account? If so how often to you have to rebuild the app?

    without a dev account the Provenance does not work after a week
    I signed it and deployed with cydia injector i think. works fine. been going a year at least

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