Retronauts Volume III Episode 15: Retro Compilations

Retronauts 15 cover
As I left the studio after recording this episode, I remarked that I always seem to do the episodes where there’s about 9,000 different examples to discuss. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment — both in trying to tackle the volume, and getting the feedback that always starts with “They forgot…” Well then, pardon me as I gorge on the history of retro game compilations.

My interest in multi-title old game packs is surprisingly strong, thanks to products like Microsoft Arcade and the original Namco Museum series (which we mention on the show, of course). A part of me enjoys seeing what companies will re-release next, though these days, I’m left wanting more bonus content; something that more clearly curates material instead of dumping it. Namco Musuem used to do this well, but now? Eh, as long as the menu works, right? Of course, as a proponent of game preservation, I can’t always expect corporate entities to go digging in the back room if it’s not going to help make money, but I still think all these gatekeepers of classic content could stand to have a little more pride in what got them here. Nevertheless, some compilations have interesting-slash-amusing stories behind them, like the Sega Smash Pack series. And then there’s just the fact that Japan’s M2 does amazing emulation work. It’s an admittedly light topic for Retronauts, but I think that’s a plus — a little meta, what with discussing the history of collections of history, but easygoing.

Our fourth chair this week is the affable Gary Butterfield from Watch Out for Fireballs, lending a reasoned voice to the discussion. He’ll be back next week for Pocket, as well. Listen, enjoy, and keep in mind that as I left the studio, I came up with a handful of other compilations I could’ve mentioned.

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This episode’s breakdown:

  • 00:00 | Introductions
  • 04:58 | Beginnings: Golden Oldies, Microsoft Arcade
  • 12:01 | Music: Namco Museum Vol. 5: Museum
  • 12:38 | Activision, Mario, Sega Smash Pack series
  • 30:32 | Music: Namco Museum Vol. 1: Museum
  • 31:02 | Intellivision Lives, Sonic Jam, Namco Museum series, other PlayStation import collections
  • 59:04 | Music: Namco Museum Essentials: Menu
  • 59:47 | Attack of the NES games, other GBA collections
  • 1:11:10 | Capcom Classics Collection
  • 1:14:26 | Sega Ages series
  • 1:20:20 | More recent compilations (Sega, Capcom, SNK, Vectrex, etc.)
  • 1:24:17 | NES Remix and the future of compilations
  • 1:32:27 | Plugs and outro (Music: Namco Museum Essentials: Credits)

16 thoughts on “Retronauts Volume III Episode 15: Retro Compilations

  1. You know it’s a good episode when you have far too many tabs opened trying to research information while listening.

  2. I love Sonic Jam on the Saturn, specifically because of the spin dash in Sonic 1. It completely changes the game for the better, in my opinion.

    That was a really good collection, all things considered. For a game in the Saturn era, they really did there best to hide loading times. I don’t ever remember having to wait for a stage to load. It flows as quickly as the cartridge versions.

    The only noticeable different in the Sonic Jam versions is that if you got the speed shoes, the music would stop dead and restart at the beginning of the track, as if it was redbook audio. I’m not sure why this occurs, but it’s such a small difference that I don’t think anyone really cared.

    The coolest thing about that collection is that the games retained all of the secrets from the Genesis versions, including those that weren’t discovered yet. The level select code for Sonic & Knuckles wasn’t discovered until after Sonic Jam came out, and it was awesome to find out that it still worked in the compilation.

  3. Nice work. What a great cross-pollination of two excellent gaming pods. ‘Watch Out for Fireballs!’ has quickly become one of my favorites, and the ‘podcast empire’ over at duckfeed.tv in general has been putting out some really great stuff.

    On the subject of compilations, I never connected the dots on how the progression of emulators and the release of compilations were interrelated. Makes complete sense though.

    Cheers!

  4. This was a really great episode. For some reason I’ve always passed over these kinds of compilations and never paid any mind to them. Probably because the only compilations I’ve really played were the Mega Man collections for Gamecube.

    I’m excited to go dig up some of these games. Thanks for sharing your interest!

  5. Hmm, looks like I’m going to be that guy you mentioned in the descriptions, but I really don’t mean this in a “They forgot…” sense, but in a “Here’s some more interesting, vaguely related stuff that didn’t necessarily have a place on the already super comprehensive podcast” kinda way:

    It may be not be something that’s on anyone’s radar, but I think it might be worthwhile to ponder how the Asian x-in-1 pirate carts that came around the early 90s (maybe even late 80s?) figure into all this, since they usually (at least the early ones) where typically also full of older games, because only those would fit on the cartridges in large quantities.

    Not quite as illegal, but also weird: For home computers there where some so-called “arcade compilations” featuring not a bunch of famous arcade games, but blatants clones of them instead. Don’t remember a titles or a time frame for any of those, though.

    Another kind of predecessor may be the Atari 2600 double-ender cartridges. I think at least some of them had been available as stand-alone previously, dunno if there also were double-ender exclusives.

    Also, this pertains to an older episode, the one about Quintet, but since the comments for that aren’t open anymore I’ll post this here: I’m currently looking at the staff credits for Legacy of the Wizard (at http://dslabo.info/ds/kaisetu/SDSLds4staff.html ), and it’s really weird that the only two names that connect the game to Actraiser seem to be the Koshiro siblings. None of the actual Quintet mainstays appear to have worked on this, and yet the credits are closed with the “Quintet” label… this company is only getting more mysterious the more you look at it.

    • Interesting suggestions!

      Quintet really is one of gaming’s most enigmatic studios. If I didn’t own some of their games, I’d think they were a hoax on the level of Polybius.

  6. Well, I’m going to defend the honour of the Gamecube Mega Man X Collection. This game doesn’t have the A and B swapped issue of the previous collection. In fact, all the X games have fully customizable controls, so the controls are fine (I recommend Y shoot, A jump and Dash on a trigger, personally). The emulation is also solid, and there are save slots so you don’t have to mess around with passwords.

    As for retro collections in general, I liked them quite a bit. Nowadays they feel outdated since you can buy games à la carte from download services, but I liked the extras included. Sure, we may see all the core Mega Man games get VC releases, but when is Capcom ever going to re-release the Power Battle games or Mega Man Battle & Chase again?

  7. Great episode. I have a hard time buying retro collections sometimes with the availability of emulators and MAME. But what sells me on them are the history and presentation. If your gonna package these games for resale give them some added value. Like Namco museum obviously excelled at this. The mentioned Sonics ultimate Genesis collectins had great graphics options for the games and game history and video interviews on the disc. And my favorite is NES remix, adding a ton of of value, more so than actually going out and playing the original games in most cases. And the job M2 has done on the the 3DS has made it it totally worth it to buy the games with all the added features and options that blows away simply playing on an emulator. Who thought that streets of rage would actually look good in 3D? I didn’t. But it does. Motion controlled Hang on with tilting screen support and arcade cabinet art and sound effects. Yes please. The most accurate port ever of Space Harrier with 3D and analog controls? Amazing. I really wish they would have bought there Sega Ages stuff to America. I will continue to buy these, even Ecco 3D, if only to give them support to release future amazing retro collection and ports.

  8. Great episode! Also worth mentioning the Taito Legends collections. Tons of amazing arcade games spanning multiple decades.

  9. It took awhile for Japan to use emulation in these compilations. PS1 Namco Museum, Capcom Generation, or Saturn Sega Ages didn’t use emulation as far as I can tell.

    Namco Museum had a nice interface, but I don’t know if the content was there. The old Digital Eclipse compilations were kinda glossed over. At least those had interviews, not just pictures of stuff.

    Namco game training on the DS:

  10. Great episode as usual. Glad Ray covered a lot of the more unknown Windows 95 and Sega stuff especially.

    One small correction; the Sega Smash Pack Vol. 1 for Dreamcast did eventually see a separate release for $20-$30. You can tell which is which on the back of the case. The bundled version will say NOT FOR RESALE, and retail version will have a UPC.

    The only reason I know this is because I was one of the saps that paid $50 on eBay thinking it was going to remain bundle-only. Lo and behold, a few weeks later it released for about half of what I paid. That stung, especially on top of the bad sound in the collection.

  11. You briefly mentioned Xbox’s Game Room but that train wreck should be elaborated on further. GiantBomb did a video for every single weekly Game Room release and got progressively more and more exasperated with how bad the game content was until the very end, where the final game they released for Game Room the infamous Venetian Blinds tech demo which was basically Activisions joke response to an Atari lawsuit, and they expected you to pay $4 for it. It’s hilarious to see what Microsoft was initially saying about Game Room, how they were going to port original Dreamcast, Xbox, and other Arcade titles to the platform but wound up only getting 2600 and Intellivison titles and the arcade interface itself was glitchy and half-completed.

    The worst part of the whole mess was Sunset Riders arcade was going to be released for Game Room which would mark the only official actual arcade release of the game, and the game itself is in Game Rooms code completely intact but Game Room never got around to releasing it.

    • A few people were mad we never talked much about Game Room on the old show, but I soured on it in my first demo. Lots of talk about how cool and immersive the interface was, lots of really vague talk about future plans with no sense that there was a solid goal behind it all, and a pricing model that made Virtual Console look like a bargain basement. It could have been so good! That was developed by Krome, right? I got the feeling the developers’ hearts were in it but the people calling the business shots were a bunch of clueless dopes.

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