My thoughts on SEGA Forever

SEGA’s endeavour to make their classic titles accessible on mobile sounds great on paper. A free library of games playable on-the-go and lacking overly intrusive ads – what’s not to love? For some people I know it’s perfect, allowing them to get a small taste of the past without dropping a couple bucks on it. Unofficial means playing these games without paying do exist, of course, but it’s undeniably convenient that people are able to download them straight from an app store, compared to the process of finding an emulator, locating games, and configuring them to work properly. For what reason would you go through that when a far simpler process exists? The answer, unfortunately, might be quality.

The games utilise touch controls, but can be played with a gamepad. Maybe. I couldn’t get it to work properly with any of my gamepads.

I’m disappointed – the games are serviceable, but aren’t presented in a manner that makes me feel the convenience factor is actually worth it. As much as I enjoy Phantasy Star II, I’d much rather stick to playing it on my PSP – at least over there the graphics are crisp and the sound quality is decent. There’s a bilinear filter on the mobile release, and there’s just something off about the instrumentation that I can’t describe well. A friend describes it as sort of crackling – at any rate, the end result is me keeping the audio off. It also felt as if there were a framerate lock of 30fps with occasional dips, and I have to ask why. It’s an old game that should have no issues running at 60fps. I don’t mind watching an ad to save – it’s not that offensive, and removing them takes three bucks. The real issue is that the saves don’t register at times – I had to recruit Rudo to my party twice because next day I played, my file was just gone.

I may be talking about Phantasy Star II here, but issues like these apply to every Forever game I’ve tried. I have never seen games from the Mega Drive/Genesis era run so abysmally before. I haven’t seen this happen with emulators before, and that includes SEGA’s older re-releases. What happened here? I mean, I know – a quick search on the topic brings up a lot of discussion on the use of Unity for emulation. It just leaves me blinking in confusion, though.

Oh, you filthy liar, Rolf.

I feel that the marketing for SEGA Forever was actually better than what was being advertised. It was fun seeing social media accounts tease about what was to come, and the launch trailer just oozed so much of what I loved about 90s SEGA. I don’t know where they’re going to go from here. The Forever homepage implies the release of games from the Saturn and Dreamcast consoles, but if they can’t even get their 16-bit titles running properly, what can we expect from titles after that era? I can only hope that some sort of fix comes for the games that are out already, and that future releases don’t present the same flaws. I like the concept of Forever, but the execution just leaves so much to be desired.

Can I recommend these games? That depends – does convenience matter a significant amount to you? Are you not concerned with framerates? Do you not care about audio accuracy? Have you never played these games before? Then yes. Are you a classic SEGA fan who knows these games in and out, and still has access to them on a variety of systems? Unless you’re like me and have a need to try everything, then probably not.

Also, this is a really minor complaint, but I can’t stand the SEGA intro in these games using the ring loss sound from Sonic – it’s an indication of damage. What are they trying to say? It bothers me every time I hear it…

EDIT: As of writing this on the 22nd of July, the sound emulation issues have been fixed. Frame-rate is still rather iffy, though.

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