Ah, the glory days of Sega. When THQ and Sega signed a licensing agreement last year, one of their main concerns had to be with classic Sega games being ported to the Game Boy Advance. With Nintendo already showing that it can be done (with the MARIO BROS. titles), Sega went to Codefire, the development team responsible for the Dreamcast SEGA SMASH PACK. They began working on a title of the same name for the Game Boy Advance.
Codefire decided to include three Sega classics on this cart: GOLDEN AXE, SONIC SPINBALL and ECCO THE DOLPHIN. All three of the games were originally Genesis games, although GOLDEN AXE was released at arcades first. All three are decent ports (yes, I did boot up every one on my old Genesis...which had about five years worth of dust on it). Although they all have a few flaws, they are still good games; but I'll get into them separately.
GOLDEN AXE was a favorite at arcades, but for some reason wasn't a strong seller on the Genesis. You take control of one of three characters, and bring them through eight levels of DOUBLE DRAGON style fighting. At the end, you come face to face with the mysterious and evil Death Adder. GOLDEN AXE is a decent port, but unfortunately, it seems to be a port of the Genesis version instead of the arcade one. And where is the two-player co-op mode? One of the best things about GOLDEN AXE was the two-player mode, where you and a friend could join forces to explore the game together. In this version, there is only a head-to-head mode, which really isn't that fun.
ECCO THE DOLPHIN is probably the best game ported on this cart. In ECCO, you are a dolphin who has lost his family, and must save them by using exploration, puzzle solving, and his dolphin abilities like sonar. ECCO seems to be a near perfect translation graphics-wise, as the game really has the look and feel of the Genesis version. The only difference is the lack of the Genesis version's soundtrack. There seem to be only a few short tracks in the game, and they are on a continuous loop. So you might want to bring a CD player along and turn down the sound on the system.
SONIC SPINBALL just doesn't seem to fit in this package. It really seems like Codefire just had to find a way to fit a SONIC game into this compilation, and SPINBALL must have been the only one that fit. It's not that SONIC SPINBALL is a bad game, it just isn't your normal pinball game; it has some platform elements to it, as Sonic has to accomplish certain goals and defeat certain bosses to move onto the next level. The game plays a lot like the Genesis version, but seems a bit more confined as the Game Boy Advance screen size plays a big role in this.
I'll give kudos to Codefire for coming out with a decent compilation pack for the Game Boy Advance. They may not have been the games I would have chosen, but they work. I'm sure we'll see another SEGA SMASH PACK soon.