To many long-time Sega fans, it must have seemed like a dream: the Japanese gaming veteran released full mod support for all of its Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive, if you live outside of North America) games on Steam yesterday. The free update – which introduces what Sega calls the “SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics Hub” – for Windows PCs came a week after an initial announcement by Sega last week.
All one needs to do to access the Hub is to own a Mega Drive game on Steam. To get fans started, Sega has launched a 66% discount on all games supported by the Hub.
Below is a promo video for the service:
Already, the Classics Hub page is teeming with fan creations. Most of these mods lie in the realm of the benign: bug fixes and runspeed enhancements for classics like Phantasy Star 2 and Alien Soldier; a translation for the Japanese version of Streets of Rage 3 (Bare Knuckle 3); this delightfully silly audio tweak for Streets of Rage 2; and, of course, legions of mods for Sonic the Hedgehog games that run the gamut from sprite edits to complete game overhauls.
It should be noted that Sega is not releasing any modding tools with this update. Nonetheless, the Hub is an effort by Sega to highlight talent within their gaming community, and they hope that by granting modders an officially sanctioned place to host their work, they can “give a new perspective on so many beloved retro titles.”
Yet amid the quality ROM hacks are others whose contents dance in a rather hazy legal gray zone. Most of these hacks use characters from other companies’ franchises; ironically, most of these employ Nintendo characters. Other ROMs include unlicensed ports of games like Duke Nukem 3D, whose bootleg Genesis version dates back to 1998. Still others include uploads that consist of full versions of base games, like Contra: Hard Corps (the Hub page to which has since been taken down).
Sega has not yet commented on cases like the above. Still, the Classics Hub is sure to provide an outlet for all kinds of Sega and retro gaming fans alike. It’s a bold move by Sega, no doubt, and one that may set a precedent for other big name gaming companies in the future.
Are you taking notes, Nintendo?