Every couple of weeks, Sega will dump a bunch of new-old games alongside those in its debut Sega Forever line-up: Sonic The Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Phantasy Star II, Comix Zone and Kid Chameleon. Though the first games are all Mega Drive titles, Sega is promising titles from across its entire history.... once it figures out how to escape The Red Bathroom (emulate the Saturn and Dreamcast).
Best of all: the games are free, providing you don't mind in-game ads. And if you do mind those, then you can waste your inheritance to play the games ad-free.
Regrettably, the launch has gone down about as well as a fragrant breeze at Stink Con 2017. Reports of bugs and weak emulation, a cloud save feature meaning the games can only be played while you've got a full phone signal or wifi, and the dreaded virtual controls being as achingly wrong as they always are, have marred what Sega clearly hopes will herald an upswing in its fortunes.
To be honest, having had a go on the games, they don't seem that buggy... but the controls are indeed off-puttingly vague. Also: in-game ads are enjoyed only by masochists with names like Ad Adsley and Adadad Addison-Adoodah.
However, having revealed earlier this year that it plans to revive some of its "major IPs", Sega Forever is essentially a test to see which of those IPs is most popular. Indeed; snuck into the games like a secret William are surveys designed for precisely that purpose.
It's well intentioned, but to be honest it's hard not to feel a little disappointed in the initial line-up. Sonic has been knocking around on smartphones for years, Altered Beast is one of the worst games ever released for the Mega Drive, while Comix Zone and Kid Chameleon are far too fiddly to play on an iPhone. Only Phantasy Star II feels suited to touch screen larks.
Sega has built controller support into the games.... but most mobile titles are played on the train, on the way to work, or in a subterranean abattoir, where - lest we forget - staying online is intermittent at best.
But! It's a reasonable start. It's easy to be snarky about how Sega has mismanaged its heritage in the last couple of decades, but I want Sega to come back. There are too many classic Sega games that deserve another lick of the berry, so here, for the sheer ruddy heck of it, I waft my hand over those initial Sega Forever games.
Also: we're getting Sonic Mania in August, a brand new retro-style Sonic game, which may well serve as a better reminder of Sonic's squandered potential.
It's actually a good example of why Sega Forever is well-intentioned, but largely irrelevant for now. Most Mega Drive games are freely available to anyone with even a shred of nous. Even then, you can still play most of these games via entirely legitimate means - there are licensed versions of them on most systems, or those retro consoles you can get.
To really make an audience sit up and take notice, it might've been wiser to go with some less obvious releases.
It's a side-scrolling beat 'em up, set within the pages of a graphic novel. It's actually a fairly simplistic and repetitive game, but enlivened by its visuals and clever approach. Also, what you might not know is that the game started life as a demo for the Amiga. And yet: I still like it!
This remains high on my list for Sega games I'd like to see modern sequels to, but I'm not sure I'm going to be playing it on my phone. Actually... I am sure: I'm sure I'm not going to.
Average and ugly rather than out-and-out bad, Kid Chameleon was nonetheless overshadowed by the release of Sonic. Also, there's something a bit "Poochy the Dog" about "Kid", with his stonewash demin, white trainers, and sunglasses.
Amusingly, the main character is called Rolf... though why is the series called Phantasy Star and not Fantasy Star? Because of this: phart reasons.
A well-received arcade game upon its release in 1988, Altered Beast subsequently became better known as one of the worst Mega Drive games ever created. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Sega chose it as the pack-in game in initial Mega Drive bundles - ensuring that early adopters were thoroughly underwhelmed.
Amusingly, the backstory has your character - an Ancient Greek warrior who has been "altered" into a "beast" - attempting to rescue his daughter from a demon called Neff, who lives in a city called Dis.
"New phone. Who Dis?"
It's as basic a side-scrolling beat 'em up as one can imagine, with some truly wonky animation, and leaden combat. Which, of course, are only made all the more awful by virtual controls.
So, in conclusion... it's early days for Sega Forever. Getting people excited about old Sega games, so that they can release new ones, isn't the worst idea in the world... but I'm not sure anybody is really going to care, given the way they're being presented here. Disappointing implementation, a so-so line-up, and touch-screen controls ensuring that these games are hardly shown in the best light. It might strangle Sega Forever out of the gate.
Nevertheless, it's a promising step in the right direction for a company that has, in recent years, turned its back on its past - with the exception of Sonic. Sega was one of the biggest games companies in the world for good reason. I wonder if there might've been more interest in Sega Forever if it had focused more on that history, gone right back to its roots, and started releasing games chronologically.
It would've cost too much to recreate some of those very early mechanical arcade games, but a sort of museum-type front-end, which gave them some historical context - along with playable versions of, say, Heavyweight Champ and Monaco GP, before moving onto Zaxxon and Pengo - might've done a better job of reminding the world of Sega's important role in gaming history. They could've treated it like an interactive documentary series almost - and bundle interviews with developers, and historical documentation. That might've protected the games from the criticism they've received.
But then... what do I know? I'm sat here in the bloody nude, munching on a lime! Goodbye.