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'Sega Forever' Brings Classic Games To Mobile Devices

Game companies often peddle in nostalgia. Nintendo continually sells access to its classic titles via the Virtual Console (except on the Switch) or the short-lived NES Classic Edition. Atari is making its first home console since the Atari Jaguar was released in 1993. And now Sega's getting in on the action with Sega Forever, a program through which it plans to bring games "from every console era" to iOS and Android devices.

Sega Forever will start with five games originally made for the Sega Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Phantasy Star II, Kid Chameleon, and Comix Zone. In a press release, Sega said that it plans to expand the program to "include both official emulations and ported games that pan all SEGA console eras, each adapted specifically for mobile devices while remaining faithful to the original games."

All of these games will be free-to-play and (you guessed it) ad-supported. You do have the option to purchase each game for $2, however, which is less than you'll pay for mobile versions of other classic games. Sega also built controller support, leaderboards, and cloud saves into the games, and the company said you'll be able to play them offline, so those cloud-based features shouldn't bother you while you're playing.

It's hard to fault Sega for this approach. The company doesn't have its own console anymore, but for a while it was Nintendo's primary competitor. Series like Sonic the Hedgehog, Shining Force, and Streets of Rage were all found on Sega consoles, and Sega Forever could be the first chance many people have to experience these games for themselves. Everyone else can treat themselves to a cheap hit of nostalgia.

Sega said as much in its press release:

“Above all else SEGA Forever is a celebration of nostalgia. It’s about allowing fans to reconnect with past experiences and share them with family and friends in an accessible and convenient way,” explains Mike Evans, CMO of SEGA’s Mobile Division in the West. “Join us on a journey of rediscovery as we roll out two decades of classic games free on mobile. Create your own ‘SEGA Forever folder’ and collect your favorite classics. Enjoy moments of nostalgia on the go, or sync a Bluetooth controller to enjoy a console-like experience in your living room. SEGA Forever democratizes retro gaming, and seeks to change how the world plays, rediscovers, and shares in classic game experiences.”

New titles are expected to be added to the Sega Forever collection every two weeks. You can find download links to the first batch of games on the program's website, and Sega's encouraging people to share the games they'd like to see next via the Sega Forever page on Facebook. The options won't be limited to Genesis titles--Sega said it's also planning to revive games from the Master System, Dreamcast, and other consoles.

  • bloodroses
    Very cool as I've downloaded the 5 released so far. While I already have them through normal emulation, the cloud save feature is very handy and worth the ads/purchase. It is irritating that Phantasy Star II's audio is off compared to the original console though, but so far that appears to be the only game that I've noticed that problem.
    Reply
  • cfenton
    $2 per game seems like a good price, especially since you don't have to buy them in bundles. Adding features like cloud-saves also gives people a reason to buy these versions instead of just playing ROMs.
    Reply
  • silverblue
    So... Sega are going to port over some Saturn games, are they?

    I'll believe that when I see it.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    I feel like they missed the main market window for this - back when cell phones were fast enough to run the emulators, but too weak to play anything much better than old 8-bit and 16-bit games.
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  • alextheblue
    19845652 said:
    Very cool as I've downloaded the 5 released so far. While I already have them through normal emulation, the cloud save feature is very handy and worth the ads/purchase. It is irritating that Phantasy Star II's audio is off compared to the original console though, but so far that appears to be the only game that I've noticed that problem.
    Sound emulation is one of the trickiest aspects of the Genesis to get perfect. Heck, even different revisions of the sound chip in physical Genesis/Megadrive units altered the sound a bit. I prefer my Model 2 overall, but there are certain titles where my old Model 1 was better (assuming you used a y-splitter and used the front output or otherwise modded it for stereo). I no longer have the Model 1 though, have a matching Model 2 Sega CD and ended up selling the Model 1.

    Anyway, I would bet the sound emulation simply isn't very accurate (in general) in the emulator they have licensed. It's just a lot more noticeable in certain games. PS II is a good title to test for sound accuracy, the intro music right off the bat reveals weaknesses in emulators. I have PS I-IV on cartridge... although I don't have PS I repackaged for the Megadrive (was literally the SMS version running on the MD - used the MD's backwards compatibility but in a special edition cart instead of the adapter).

    On the PC we have essentially perfect emulation with Fusion (especially with a few settings adjusted), though I haven't run it on Win10 to verify it works OK. Worse case run it on a VM. :D
    19846271 said:
    So... Sega are going to port over some Saturn games, are they?

    I'll believe that when I see it.
    Sega has already ported Saturn games to PC in the past. It's not impossible if you have the source. With that being said the effort to port an old game is no longer worth it, so they use emulators. Even though it's a very complex piece of hardware, there are competent emulators out there and Sega themselves had purchased one a while back. They used it for a while for an online gaming service that offered some Saturn titles. They could do even better with a more modern emulator. They would probably have to limit it to devices with high-end SoCs and there would be some limitations. So who knows if they'll bother - but it is feasible.
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  • salgado18
    19847105 said:
    I feel like they missed the main market window for this - back when cell phones were fast enough to run the emulators, but too weak to play anything much better than old 8-bit and 16-bit games.

    I believe they are right on time, if just a bit late: Super Mario Run was launched recently, and wasn't that good, they are launching a new Genesis/Mega Drive with all the features we want, people need fun games not graphics games, and emulation never was mainstream.

    Great features, great games, great price: Sega got it right for a change hehehe
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19849321 said:
    Great features, great games, great price: Sega got it right for a change hehehe
    You sound like you want it for the nostalgia. That's great, but I think most folks who didn't play these games the first time aren't going to start playing them now.

    There was a time when cell phones had about the same resolutions and a fair bit more horsepower than 16-bit and 32-bit consoles. If they'd ported their games at that time, they could've been the best mobile games available and would've gained huge new audiences.
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  • alextheblue
    19851177 said:
    There was a time when cell phones had about the same resolutions and a fair bit more horsepower than 16-bit and 32-bit consoles. If they'd ported their games at that time, they could've been the best mobile games available and would've gained huge new audiences.
    Yeah! For example, Nintendo will NEVER sell any of those retro NES consoles. Nobody over 25 plays games, let alone classic titles. :P

    Also: While resolution might have been low, so was display size. Playing console games designed for a TV and controller on a tiny screen with your thumbs in the way (simulated controller via touch input)? Yeah, that was so awesome. I bought a BT controller so I wouldn't have to put up with that BS. Back in the 4"-ish (or smaller) display era either physical keys or a BT controller was a must for me. Now the displays are large enough that it is tolerable, especially if they've tweaked games for it. Still would prefer a controller.

    Anyway I agree with cfenton on pricing. Free with ads or ad-free for $2? I think they nailed it
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  • bit_user
    19851684 said:
    19851177 said:
    There was a time when cell phones had about the same resolutions and a fair bit more horsepower than 16-bit and 32-bit consoles. If they'd ported their games at that time, they could've been the best mobile games available and would've gained huge new audiences.
    Yeah! For example, Nintendo will NEVER sell any of those retro NES consoles. Nobody over 25 plays games, let alone classic titles. :P
    No, what I was saying is that the people buying those things (and playing these games) are the same people who played them the first time around.

    If most of the good 16-bit console games had been ported to phones like 10 years ago, you'd have gotten a whole new generation playing them + the older folks who played them back in the day.

    19851684 said:
    Also: While resolution might have been low, so was display size. Playing console games designed for a TV and controller on a tiny screen with your thumbs in the way (simulated controller via touch input)? Yeah, that was so awesome.
    Well, old games tend to look pretty awful on big, HDTVs. So, I think a small screen is probably a plus for most of them. How small, I can't really say. I do think 1080p is wasted on a 5" screen, so 4" sounds pretty good.

    As for the control scheme, that would be the benefit of these guys having the actual source code - perhaps they could tweak it to be more phone-friendly.

    Anyway, it was just some idle speculation, on my part. I played 8-bit games enough, the first time around. I also had a SNes, but I was mostly into PC gaming by that point. The main thing I'm nostalgic about is video game music.
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  • alextheblue
    19851905 said:
    No, what I was saying is that the people buying those things (and playing these games) are the same people who played them the first time around.
    Even if there was a more ideal era, your current options are: A) Release now or B) Don't release now. There's still plenty of room for them to make money.

    19851905 said:
    Well, old games tend to look pretty awful on big, HDTVs. So, I think a small screen is probably a plus for most of them. How small, I can't really say. I do think 1080p is wasted on a 5" screen, so 4" sounds pretty good.

    As for the control scheme, that would be the benefit of these guys having the actual source code - perhaps they could tweak it to be more phone-friendly.
    I wasn't talking about how they would look as much (although at smaller sizes in-game dialogue would be hard to read). Even on relatively large modern displays there are ways to make them bearable (scanline emulation and/or really good filters). But I digress. I have used genesis emulators on smartphones, and without a large display and/or a non-touch interface, they were bad. On sub-4" devices, after adding virtual touch buttons you were basically out of screen real estate and your fingers obstructed your view. Even at 4" or so it's not very good. Also touch controls emulating a d-pad are just very dissatisfying to use, particularly on small displays. Of course some devices had physical keys such as a slide out keyboard, which was OK. BT controller was still far better.

    Even for titles where they have the source code... 16-bit and earlier era games still would largely have to be emulated. They were written to the metal, very specific to the 68K, VDP, Z80, YM2612, 76489 chips. They would at best make minor tweaks and customize the touch control layout on a per-game basis. With a large enough screen, I would recommend they limit the actual game window size and have the touch controls on the resulting unused screen real estate. Fighting games would still be a no-go without a controller, IMO.

    If they had decided to do this a decade or so ago, I'd have suggested they require a physical controller to be present for the game to function. I would be happy with that be it has drawbacks and limits their audience, for sure.
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