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Sonic Mega Collection

Review By:  Josh Fishburn

Developer:  Sonic Team
Publisher:  Sega
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  5-12-03

Hit rewind and go back 12 years.  There I sit on a rainy day with a brand new Sega Genesis in my hands, purchased with money from my paper route.  I used 60 early mornings for my first system purchase without parental assistance.  With that system came Sonic the Hedgehog, to date one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.  When it comes to games, there isn’t much that makes me wax nostalgic like Sonic does.

At this point it sounds like I don’t even need to continue on to review Sonic Mega Collection, Sega’s latest collection of games featuring the blue blur.  This type of collection was obviously made for gamers like me.  But what about somebody who has never played a Sonic game before?  A good question, and one I will attempt to answer with this review.

Sonic Mega Collection contains 12 games total.  The seven initially playable games are Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.  I will not reveal the unlockable games here, but they range from old-school Sega games to bonus games to playing as Knuckles in Sonic 2 and 3.  Each game is a carbon copy of its original release, including all the codes and debug modes.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Sonic series, it revolves around a blue hedgehog capable of insane speed named Sonic and his attempts to foil the plans of an egg-shaped villain named Dr. Robotnik, who plans to take over the world by imprisoning animals inside evil robots.  Each game in the series recycles this concept, sometimes adding new heroes and villains along the way.

Sonic the Hedgehog has always been my favorite of the series.  The graphics are obviously dated, but still hold up well today.  The music is as great as it always was, and the fun roller coaster gameplay also stands the test of time.  Its only read shortcomings are its length and difficulty.  You can easily beat it in an hour or so.  Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a great sequel, upping the ante in every category.  It introduces Miles “Tails” Prower, a young fox with two tails who looks up to Sonic and aspires to someday match the speed of his blue bro.  It is also about double the length and much more difficult than Sonic 1, has larger levels with more paths, a fun bonus round, and a 2-player mode.  Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles are twins in pretty much every way besides the characters.  While not as significant of a jump from Sonic 1 to 2, Sonic 3 is still a great game, introducing new powerups, a new bonus round, better graphics and once again, more expansive levels.  Sonic 3 also introduces Knuckles the Echidna as a potential villain.  In Sonic and Knuckles, however, Knuckles and Sonic join forces.

The next proper Sonic sequel, Sonic 3D Blast, uses an isometric 3D perspective to “advance” the series.  This game fails to hold onto the magic that previous Sonic games introduced.  I am a firm believer that 3D games can work well, but the 3D effect in this game feels more like an attached novelty and really ends up hurting the game.  Sonic Spinball is a pinball game with Sonic starring as the ball.  This game may appeal to some, but it’s four stages-short and very difficult.  Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is an English version of Puyo Puyo, a Japanese puzzle game.  This is one of the best puzzle games out there and definitely an awesome addition to this collection.

So, now that we know about the games in the collection, how does everything else measure up?  The menus are easy to navigate, and the game actually includes the instruction manual for each game.  Even more interesting is that they are the complete original instruction booklets scanned in to the game.  You can scroll, turn the pages, and zoom in and out.  Also included as extras are comics, illustrations, and movies.  The comics are neat to look at but unfortunately some of them are so hard to read that you will have to zoom way in and scroll the screen around just to see them.  I appreciate them as extras, but I wish there was some way they could have formatted them to better fit the TV screen.  The illustrations are cool, but you’ll probably only spend a few minutes with them.  The movies are an interesting hodgepodge of clips from Sonic CD, promo clips, and other Sonic related videos.  Although I try to focus on what IS included in a collection rather than what is not, the Sonic CD clips make the absence of the Sonic CD game glaring.  Unless Sega is planning to release another Sonic collection, that game should definitely have been on this one.

Along with all these extras, the unlockable games are also a nice bonus.  Unfortunately, the method of unlocking the games seems random.  It is based on the number of times you have played each game.  Including sets of goals to accomplish to unlock the extra games would have been much more enjoyable than simply playing the games over and over again.

Highs:

  • Good collection of games, all exact ports
  • Cool extras including short histories on each game, Sonic comics, pictures, and movies
  • Gameplay is unique, most of the games have aged well
  • Nostalgia factor for those of us who have played these games before

Lows:

  • The inclusion of Sonic CD movies reminds us of the unfortunate omission of that game
  • Save option would have been nice (a la Super Mario All-Stars)
  • Some of the comics are awkward to view
  • Unlocking the games should have been goal-based

Final Verdict:

For fans of the old-school Sonic games that also have a GameCube, Sonic Mega Collection is a no-brainer.  It has a great collection of games, some cool extras, and lots of unlockable games.  For those who have never played an old Sonic game, this is a fantastic rental.  You can beat each game in a reasonable amount of time (1-3 hours) and check out all the extras to decide if it is for you.  It is certainly easier (and cheaper) than tracking down all the old carts. 

Overall Score: 7.5

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