Hello everyone, and welcome to Musgravian Musings, a little space of my own where I can do some non-review reflections on recent game releases. In general, the featured games are ones that have caught my interest in some way or another, and will tend to be games that I didn't (and won't) review. This time, we're circling back around to check out how SEGA's SEGA Forever initiative is doing now that a half-year has passed. The June 2017 launch was embarrassingly poor for a number of reasons, some of which I outlined in a previous edition of Musgravian Musings. While SEGA could have thrown in the towel like certain other established publishers who put out poor-quality ports this year, the company has stuck to its guns and worked hard to improve things. Things are indeed better, but by how much?

Looking back at my previous article, I had several issues with the SEGA Forever launch releases. First, I felt the selection of titles available wasn't great. They were all Genesis games, more than half of them had already been released on iOS before, and the two new games didn't exactly impress me. Second, the emulator quality on those Genesis titles was extremely poor. Framerates were all over the place, the audio sounded terrible, and the wrapper everything was running under seemed to suffer from odd fits on certain devices. Finally, the new versions seemed to lack even basic extras like being able to change the size and position of virtual controls or being able to use a six-button layout for games that supported that controller, let alone any advanced options. Let's hit those issues one at a time and see how things have changed.

The Selection

First, the bad news: this is still more or less SEGA Genesis Forever. A couple of previously-released Dreamcast ports have been updated and rolled into the brand, but it's been a straight stream of Genesis titles besides those two. That's a little disappointing, but let's just accept that and see how the library stands.

The line-up to date includes:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog [Free]
  • Altered Beast [Free]
  • Phantasy Star 2 [Free]
  • Kid Chameleon [Free]
  • Comix Zone [Free]
  • Virtua Tennis Challenge [Free]
  • The Revenge of Shinobi [Free]
  • Ristar [Free]
  • Golden Axe [Free]
  • Space Harrier 2 [Free]
  • Crazy Taxi [Free]
  • Beyond Oasis [Free]
  • Decap Attack [Free]
  • ESWAT: City Under Siege [Free]
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [Free]
  • Streets of Rage [Free]

That's a total of sixteen games in just under six months, putting SEGA ahead of their stated schedule of a new release every two weeks or so. Of those sixteen, four had already been released and were still active on the App Store, though Virtua Tennis Challenge was indeed in sore need of the update that came with its re-branding. Another five had been released before on iOS several years ago but had long since been removed after breaking with one of the annual big iOS updates. If you had paid for any of these nine games before, you had but to restore your purchases on the new version to remove the non-SEGA ads and enable all the extra features that come with that IAP normally. That's a kind thing to do, and I'm glad that SEGA did it.

With those nine games sorted out, that means we have received seven games that are completely new to iOS. That averages out to more than one per month. Those seven games include quite the mix. There are a couple of well-known hits in the form of The Revenge of Shinobi and Comix Zone. Then you have a few beloved under-the-radar titles in Ristar, Beyond Oasis, and Kid Chameleon. Finally, there are a couple of very deep cuts in Decap Attack and ESWAT: City Under Siege. You can tell whoever is in charge of picking the titles is a genuine fan who isn't necessarily going for the games that will bring in the biggest money first. I like that a lot. I should mention that some of these new titles aren't the best of fits for virtual controls, but everyone has a different threshold in that respect so I can't complain much.

Between the lot, we've got quite the spread of genres here. Lots of platformers, of course, but there are also some shooters, beat-em-ups, RPGs, adventure games, and so on. It's a solid cross-section of the first-party SEGA Genesis library, and though I'm definitely waiting in anticipation of titles like Shining Force, Phantasy Star 4, and Streets of Rage 2, I'm happy oddballs like Decap Attack are getting their chance to shine. I really hope to see other SEGA platforms represented as we roll into 2018, but if we must be wedded to the Genesis line-up, the releases so far have contained some pleasant surprises.

Emulation Quality

There's no question that SEGA has made considerable strides here. Framerate issues have mostly been sorted out, and the audio seems to get better with each new release. The issues with the wrapper were mostly solved in short order, though there are still some problems when anything busy is going on in the background with your internet connection. Some of the older releases haven't received updates to the latest version of the emulator in a while, which is a bit of a bummer but understandable so long as they eventually do get upgraded.

Is the emulator perfect? No, and it probably never will be. Solving the framerate issues seemed to introduce some screen-tearing problems that have had to be quieted down. The audio is still a little off. But I can say that had the games launched with the current version of the emulator, I doubt that the response would have been nearly as bad as it was.

The Extras

Some great work has been done in this category, though as with the emulator upgrades, many of the older titles have yet to receive the fruits of those efforts. Since the launch, we've seen the additions of new filters, fully customizable virtual controls, six-button options for games that support that layout, a handy rewind feature for rolling back your mistakes, local WiFi multiplayer support, and incentivized ads that let you cheat a little. It's a fairly solid list of extras, especially if SEGA can get all of them into the older releases.

At this point, I can really only ask for a couple more things. First, I'd love it if SEGA looked into bringing some archive content like manual scans, artwork, and such to each game. Second, I would love some M2-style extras like selectable international versions and always-on modifications like double-experience/meseta in the Phantasy Star games. Neither of those things are very important, though. I really can't complain much with SEGA's work in this area at all.

Overall

If you wrote off SEGA Forever after the dismal launch, it's worth looking back into it at this point. SEGA took the complaints seriously and put in some hustle on fixing things. Though the selection remains largely anchored to the Genesis, it's far from the expected list of titles. The emulation accuracy has made some big leaps, and the extras have been nicely rounded-out. If SEGA Forever had been near this quality at launch, I think the reaction would have been very different. Credit to SEGA for continuing to work at it rather than taking their ball and going home. I sincerely hope when I look in six months from now that we'll have at least one new non-Genesis title to talk about, but the very existence of that hope shows how far this has come in a rather short span of time.

  • Lodmot

    Now all they have to do is collaborate with Motorola to get all the Genesis games working with the Moto Z Gamepad mod. > u <

  • baconcow

    You still cannot jump, immediately after landing, in Sonic 2 using an MFI controller. This is something you could do in the original game and every other re-release. Not sure that is very optimistic.

    • korossyl

      No, I've got similar issues too, and I'm using the on-screen buttons. It's deeper than mfi.

      • Shaun Musgrave

        Interesting. I just tested the pre-SEGA Forever version and the current version and both behaved similarly, with no noticeable issues with jumping. I'd recommend tweeting SEGA Forever's account about the problem.

      • baconcow

        I tested against my Steam Genesis Collection rom, and the issue is obvious when side-by-side. What MFI controller are you using? The issue is more noticeable with a physical button. If you have another version of Steam Sonic 2, try comparing the jumping. You should be able to hold down the button before hitting the ground, to quickly jump again. The iOS version doesn’t allow this. Makes it very difficult to do well in this precise platformer.

        I’ve looked through some forums and the reviews, and several seem to have this issue.

        I’ve been ignored on Twitter, for well over a week. Emailed Sega support. One of the questions they have asked me: “How are you connecting to the game, through a cell connection or wifi?” lol

      • Shaun Musgrave

        Oh, no, I just tested the touch controls. I loaded up the 3DS Classics version and the PSP Genesis Collection to see if I could spot a difference there, but I at least couldn't tell if there was one. It could be a quirk of the Hedgehog Engine used for the mobile ports, though. Does Sonic 1 behave similarly? Aside from that I can only guess it's based on hardware/iOS version.

        Anyway, I can ask one of the SEGA Forever people about it directly. Surprisingly, they still talk to me.

      • baconcow

        I just received a response from Sega Mobile Games support that includes:

        "The development team are aware of this issue and are investigating a fix."

        Hopefully, this gets fixed. I have not tested Sonic 1. I will also try it on touch, without an MFI controller. It would be great if you could find something out directly from the SEGA Forever people.

  • accolade

    The Sonic 2 game was crap and this is off a Galaxy S7 Edge.

    My previous phone a Galaxy S4 (RIP 2013-2017) played the Sonic 1 game rock solid. Sonic 2 on my new phone was so sluggish. Poor emulation.

    Also SEGA needs to release some fighting games.

    Eternal Champions.
    Virtua Fighter (32X at least, although they should be putting out the original Arcade version with today's hardware)
    Fighting Vipers

    Come on SEGA!