Sega Ages Volume 1 (Sega Saturn) Reviewby@stefanopavone
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Sega Ages Volume 1 (Sega Saturn) Review

by Stefano PavoneJune 16th, 2023
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Sega Ages is an in-house brand used by Sega themselves to promote and release ports, conversions, remakes and collections of their classic games.
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The year is 1994, and Sega, fresh off their success with the Mega Drive (Genesis in the US) and, to a lesser extent, its Mega CD (Sega CD in the US) and 32X addons, unleash their next-generation console on an unsuspecting audience in Japan - the Sega Saturn. Backed by a series of awesome (and increasingly ludicrously humorous) commercials featuring the console’s mascot Segata Sanshiro (played by actor Hiroshi Fujioka, best known for his role as the original Kamen Rider) punishing those who refuse to play games on his parent company’s beloved console, the Saturn was a hit in the Land of the Rising Sun - the character was so popular that he even received his own game exclusive to Japan, and his theme song was also released as a single.

In the West, however, the Saturn did not fare as well, sadly - largely due to a mishap on Sega’s part by releasing it prematurely, and its higher price point than its most direct rival, then-newcomer Sony and their PlayStation console, did them no favours, despite a series of solid launch titles and early games like Virtua Cop, Virtua Cop 2, Virtua Fighter (original version and its Remix second edition), Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Fighter Kids, Panzer Dragoon, Panzer Dragoon 2 Zwei and the much-sought-after Panzer Dragoon Saga. However, it did get a brief second lease of life with the release of Sega Ages: Volume 1.

What is Sega Ages?

Sega Ages is an in-house brand used by Sega themselves to promote and release ports, conversions, remakes and collections consisting of their classic games from yesteryear, both arcade and console, typically for the Sega Master System (Mark 3 in Japan) and Sega Mega Drive. The series was first launched on the Sega Saturn in 1996 and has survived into the 21st Century on the PlayStation 2 under the Sega Ages 2500 name (referring to its budget price of ¥2500, equating to around £14 or €18 in Europe, or about $20 US), and continues to thrive today on the Microsoft Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Switch, with the original name restored in the latter’s case - the phrase itself is a palindrome (spelled the same way backwards and forwards) and was originally used in European marketing campaigns during the 1980s and 1990s.

During the Saturn’s lifetime, most Sega Ages titles were only released in Japan, and typically consisted of an arcade-perfect port of a classic game complete with some new features, such as unlockable extras, new game modes and a choice of original and remixed soundtracks. Three (3) of these games - Space Harrier, Afterburner 2, and Outrun, all created by the legendary Yu Suzuki and featuring soundtracks by Hiroshi Kawaguchi - were compiled together onto a single disc and released under the title Sega Ages: Volume 1 in Europe in 1996 and a year later (1997) in North America. Despite the title, there would be no future releases in these territories, as the Saturn was essentially defunct by the end of 1998 and replaced by the Dreamcast a year later (1999). This 3-game-on-1-disc collection is going to be the focus of this review.


Well, at least my emulator (SSF) works fine, even if I did have to mount a region-specific ISO.

When the disc boots up, you are greeted with the Sega Saturn intro sequence (which also doubles as a rudimentary copy protection scan - if you get the logo above on your screen, then you’re OK). No time is wasted getting to the point, no bullshit intro cutscenes, no minute-long unskippable opening credit sequence.

You heard - or rather, saw the screen - press the start button. Do what it says.

A space shooter, a Top Gun-styled action arcade classic, and a nonlinear race to the finish - take your pick.

Pressing the Start button allows the user to select each game in turn by pressing Left and Right on the controller - amusingly enough, the logo moves across the screen in time with each directional press. When you are satisfied, press the Start button again to begin the game in question - each game has its own unique loading screen and opening animation for the Sega logo, and you can adjust each game’s individual difficulty level, lives, score required to get an extra life or continue, control scheme and even use a sound test in their respective Options submenus, along with the option to play each game in either stereo or mono (yes, it may be hard to believe, but even in the mid-1990s, there were still some households with mono TVs, even though stereo was commonplace).

Nice desktop wallpapers.

Game 1: Space Harrier

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone - get ready!

I decided to start with my least favourite of the three games in this collection, largely because it is a game I am unfamiliar with when compared to its contemporaries by the same company. However, I will do my best to be fair - this game was also ported to the 32X, arcade-perfect and all.

Pressing the Start button gives the player a menu, with a choice to play the game, go to the Options submenu or to exit back to the title screen. For this review, I am playing on the easiest difficulty level known as Extra Easy and with a special feature enabled called Trial Time - what this does is grant the player a minute (60 seconds) of infinite lives - when the timer expires, they will then have to complete the game with a finite amount of lives. There are no hit points - you get hit, you lose a life. There are no continues - at least, not that I know of, I did not make it far enough to see if there is an option to continue. Extra lives can be obtained by reaching a score-based interval (every 3 million or 5 million points - user-definable).

You can hear it, can't you? The music, which is totally not a ripoff of the Blake's 7 theme tune.

The controls are simple - use the controller to move the on-screen character (the eponymous Space Harrier) and the A, B and C buttons to shoot the enemies (you can choose whether or not to invert the vertical controls, so Up goes down and Down goes up like in a flight simulator). The 3D perspective, while visually jaw-dropping (particularly for a game originally released nearly 40 years ago), can also be a little bit distracting for some players, as there is no on-screen reticule, no means of knowing whether or not your shots will land, something which plagued quite a few early 3D shooters.

At the end of each stage (18 in total), except for Stage 5, which is a bonus stage, a boss fight ensues - defeat it and you can proceed to the next level. From what I understand, this version is missing what was going to be the original final boss of the game, a twin-headed dragon called Haya Oh, which was removed from the arcade version due to time limitations. The only port that I know of which contains this final boss (without fulfilling any special requirements) is the Sega Master System/Mark 3 version, so the final boss fight consists of a rematch against the previous bosses followed by one last new enemy.

Well, shit. Then again, this game was an arcade title, so rock-hard difficulty is part of the experience.

Game 2: After Burner II

Take note of the blank space in between the "Start" and "Options" selections.

Moving onto Afterburner 2, which, despite its name, feels more like a revision or an update to the original game as opposed to a true sequel - a second edition, if you like. This version was also ported to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and 32X. The options are the same as for Space Harrier, complete with difficulty selection, amount of lives (again, one hit and you lose a life), control scheme (complete with normal or reversed vertical controls) and a sound test, along with an option to have the in-game aircraft’s machine gun/cannon fire automatically, and whether to perform a 360-degree roll with the control pad or an action button on the controller. Again, I am playing this on the Extra Easy difficulty level with the auto-fire on.

There's no two ways about it - this is essentially Top Gun: The Arcade Game in all but name.

Depending on your configuration, the lower buttons on the Sega Saturn’s controller (A, B and C) will either perform a 360-degree roll, fire a missile (of which you have a finite supply) or fire the machine gun/cannon (known in-game as the Vulcan), while the upper buttons (X, Y and Z) control the speed of the afterburner thrust (slow, medium and fast respectively). A hit counter keeps track of your kills (which is reset every few levels and added to your score), while a basic radar in the upper right-hand corner of the screen shows you both your position and that of your enemies (later stages involve you trying to shake off enemies from behind, represented by large circles). This game is composed of 23 stages, although Stages 5, 13 and 23 are nonplayable cutscenes featuring the player character landing and refueling (and arming up with new missiles, although a supply plane will appear every few levels and refuel automatically to help mitigate this), while Stages 8 and 17 are bombing run levels taking place in vast canyons.

Stage 6. Not bad, definitely easier than Space Harrier, but still tougher than titanium.

The trick to survive in this game is to watch the radar and constantly do 360-degree barrel rolls whenever possible. Also, try to use your missiles to dispatch multiple opponents, as a single missle can lock onto multiple enemies, but use them sparingly.

So that's what that blank space is for.

Every few levels, you will get the option to continue from your last checkpoint, which occur at Stages 5, 9, 13 and 19. I don’t know if this is a holdover from the original arcade version, but it’s nice to have at least, and this game is definitely easier to play than Space Harrier, largely due to its faster pace and visual indicators to help the player aim and manoeuvre their way to safety.

Yay, a continue point! Hang on, it's a cutscene!

Game 3 (Last Game): Out Run

I can smell it - the breeze, the sun-kissed atmosphere, and a lot of crashes sending the player into a rage.

Saving the best for last, this is my favourite game on the disc - an arcade-perfect port of Sega’s classic racer, Outrun, which went on to have a sequel in the form of Turbo Outrun, though not as successful. The options are the same as in Space Harrier and Afterburner 2, although with some unique special features: there is a hidden option to turn on what the game calls a Smooth Mode, which increases the in-game framerate to help with the game’s fluidity and to make the controls more responsive.

Another hidden option comes in the form of Easy Cornering, which reduces the traction during turns, bends and corners, improving the in-game car’s handling characteristics. Furthermore, the player can choose whether to play the original Japanese courses or the new tracks released in the overseas version of the game. Depending on your configuration, the lower A, B and C buttons can be used to accelerate, brake or change gear, or they can be used to accelerate and brake only, while gear changes are relegated to either the upper buttons (X, Y and Z) or Up and Down on the control pad. You can choose whether to play with a manual or automatic gearbox.

I will be playing with an automatic gearbox on Extra Easy, on the overseas tracks, and with both Smooth Mode and Easy Cornering enabled. This version of the game also supports analogue controls in the form of a steering wheel such as the Sega Arcade Racer or the analogue stick on the 3D Control Pad (which can be used in either analogue or digital mode but few games are compatible with the former feature, the most notable being Nights into Dreams).

One thing of note is that this game is nonlinear - at the end of each stage, the player’s car will come across an intersection, and must decide whether to go left or right. This opens up a lot of replay value, and ultimately leads to five (5) different endings, depending on which route the player takes and which goal they reach - a map of the player’s chosen route is displayed at the end of the game. The left route is usually easier than the right one.

Choose your in-game music! Incidentally, the radio frequencies shown here tune into actual radio stations in Japan.

Before the game begins, you can choose your in-game music from a choice of three (3) compositions - the classic Magical Sound Shower with its Caribbean-influenced melody and rhythm, the overlooked Splash Wave with its dramatic thunder, and the unfairly-singled-out Passing Breeze, with its casual tone and happy-go-lucky beat (this last track is missing on most early home computer and console releases).

Trivia: the arcade soundtrack (albeit edited into a 5-minute medley of all 3 tracks) was released as a free bonus with the original home computer (ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga and Atari ST) releases, as a means of enticing potential buyers. Suffice to say, the soundtrack was far more enjoyable than the game on most of those platforms save for the C64, though its linearity hampered the experience (each course had to be loaded in separately if you wanted to experience a different route).

Choose your destiny - an easy left or a hard right.

The game starts by giving you a generous 80 seconds (1:20) for the first stage. It will take on average about a minute to clear each level, so try not to crash (crash at least 3 times and you’ve basically run out of time to complete the current stage).

Hooray! Side note: this is only one (1) of FIVE (5) possible endings.

Yes, I picked Route A - the easiest of them all.

After the humorous ending sequence (one for each route), you are then shown a course map showing your progress throughout the game’s varied locations (I think this game might take place in New Zealand, considering it’s got every climate and environment imaginable all on the same map). This map also appears if you run out of time, with the car stopping at the point your game ended.

That's right - I'm the ace! I'm the daddy now!

The Review

Similar to my review of the Tekken Trilogy for the PS1, I cannot compare the various aspects (graphics, sound, controls, gameplay) of three games using very similar hardware which all build upon each other. Instead, I will give each element a score out of 5 stars and calculate the average based on the overall score for each game, before declaring one game the ultimate victor and deciding whether or not this collection is worth the price of admission.


Space Harrier: 5/5 (nice title screen and loading screen, but this game really is a tough cookie - shame about the lack of the original Haya Oh final boss, though)

After Burner II: 5/5 (same, but slightly easier, and the game’s cutscenes and continues help elevate it beyond a standard shoot-em-up)

Out Run: 5/5 (I love that intro, I love the loading screen, and the extra hidden features make this one worth it)


Space Harrier: 4/5 (questionable usage of colours and Sega’s use of the Super Scaler technology doesn’t quite work as well here as it does on later titles)

After Burner II: 4/5 (better-looking graphics than Space Harrier with more appropriate colour palette, though the text and visuals on the Heads-Up Display or HUD can blend in a little too easily, making it difficult to focus)

Out Run: 5/5 (just right - the colours don’t bleed into each other and the HUD is clean and clear, plus, the Super Scaler technology, which simulates incoming 3D objects, is perfected here)

Sound (SFX & Music)

Space Harrier: 3/5 (the weakest game, sonically, as the sound effects can be quite cartoonish, and the voice acting is a little too overacted - the music for the first stage sounds eerily similar to the theme tune to the classic TV show Blake’s 7)

After Burner II: 4/5 (awesome soundtrack, although the sound effects do cover up the music for the most part, which is a bit of a problem considering the music is a major part of the experience)

Out Run: 5/5 (there’s a song for a happy, sad or angry mood, and the sound effects are appropriate for the game’s atmosphere - nothing sounds out of place)


Space Harrier: 5/5 (fully functional, perfectly responsive, and the option to fly flight-simulator-style is a nice touch)

After Burner II: 5/5 (ditto, plus the ability to speed up and slow down actually add a light element of strategy to what is an otherwise all-action arcade game)

Out Run: 5/5 (the additions of the Smooth Mode complete with increased framerate and Easy Cornering to facilitate handling on turns make this game a joy to play - almost too easy)


Space Harrier: 3/5 (it’s not great, but it’s not bad either - the game’s main weakness is the lack of any visual sighting mechanic, leaving the player with no choice but to fire blindly and risk getting their projectiles mixed up with enemy fire, which is not something you want in a game of this type)

After Burner II: 4/5 (much faster paced than Space Harrier and thus, more enjoyable - although sometimes it can veer too much in the opposite direction with the same result, though the addition of a targeting mechanic makes this game easier to play along with the continue/checkpoint system)

Out Run: 5/5 (its nonlinearity with multiple routes to take encourages replay value unlike its brethren, and when coupled with a choice of courses based on either the original Japanese version or the overseas release, this game is practically chock-full of content, particularly considering its age and arcade genesis)

Final Score

Space Harrier: 3/5 (an OK game, but not my first choice)

After Burner II: 4/5 (much more appealing to both gamers and non-gamers alike, especially with Top Gun aficionados)

Out Run: 5/5 (this game deserves all the praise it gets due to its ease of play and accessibility)


There’s no doubt about it. Sega Ages: Volume 1 for the Sega Saturn is a must-buy, not even a rental. It’s a shame that Sega never put out any other collections of this type in the West, because their arcade and classic console catalogue are revered as some of the most memorable videogames to come out of the 1980s and 1990s, and for good reason: they helped sell arcade machines, home computers and game consoles. I can only imagine what the hypothetical Volumes 2 and 3 could have been - they could have been grouped together by theme or genre: Enduro Racer (with an option to unlock the full-length Japanese Sega Master System/Mark 3 version as a bonus) Hang-On (a downscaled version of which later appeared on the Sega Master System/Mark 3) and Super Hang-On (more famously ported to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, which I reviewed here), or Thunder Blade (loosely inspired by the cult 1983 movie Blue Thunder), Power Drift and Fantasy Zone. The Sega Saturn, despite its complexity and troubled lifespan, did have some good games on offer, and this collection is one of them. This is one title that deserves to be in any Saturn owner’s personal library - to me, the jewel in the crown is Out Run, but it’s worth it for the simple fact that you get three iconic arcade games on a single disc for the price of one Saturn game alone.

The End.