Review by Ace Conroy 2

Reviewed: 03/13/03 | Updated: 03/13/03

Hello, I'm Sonic the Hedgehog. You may remember me from such games as Sonic Adventure 2, and Sonic CD. Here are some others.

I've got very fond memories of the old Sonic games. The first time I ever played one was on my cousin's Master System years and years ago. I thought it was great, I had no idea games could be so fast. Then, a couple of years later I bought myself a Genesis console (or a Megadrive, as they were known as here in Britain), and became addicted all over again. Now, almost ten years later, my Megadrive has long since stopped working, so when I heard that Sega were going to re-release all the old 16-bit Sonic games on the Gamecube, I was really pleased. It's great to see that in this day and age of spectacular graphics and stunning realism, developers aren't afraid to remember their past. So I bought this pack on the day it came out. Now, a week later, part of me wishes I'd never bothered. Why? Here's why.

Contained within the Sonic Mega Collection disc, you get 7 (count 'em!) Sonic themed games - Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3D, Sonic Spinball and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. There are even a couple of non-Sonic games for you to discover. So, let's be methodical about this. I'll take one game at a time, strap it to a chair, shine a spotlight into its face, and interrogate it ruthlessly.

We begin, predictably, with Sonic 1. The games have all been ported directly from the Megadrive/Genesis version, even down to the original cheat modes. (Though, annoyingly, all but one of the games - Sonic 3 - has no save mode. It was annoying enough to have to complete the games in one long slog in the first place, and Sega had a great chance to put things right here. I mean, what kind of moron would complain about the inclusion of a save option? If you don't like it, don't use it. But anyway.) To my mind, this is still the best game in the series, but this may be my feelings of nostalgia clouding my judgement - it was just such a different game back in it's time. Even today, platform games are rarely as fast and furious as this. Like all the best videogames, this is timeless stuff - the graphics still look very respectable, and the only thing that really bugs me is that awful sound effect whenever you press the jump button. The game sits well with the Gamecube controller, using the A, B and X buttons to represent the Genesis A, B and C buttons. And you can even choose between the analogue stick and the D-pad to control movement, which is great because I found the D-pad just too small to operate with any degree of accuracy. Anyhow, there's really not a lot else to say about this. If you've played it, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, then you're quite clearly mad. Individual game rating - 8/10.

Now we move onto Sonic 2. This game featured slightly improved graphics, and also was the intoduction of Sonic's tremendously annoying sidekick, Tails. Tails follows Sonic around throughout the game, but doesn't actually do anything besides get in the way, and even causes you to die (if he jumps slightly ahead of you and destroys the enemy you were hoping to bounce off of). And on the special stages, he has an irritating habit of managing to get in front of you, collecting all the rings for himself, and then losing them by not jumping out of the way of the bombs (you'll know what I mean when you play it). But, by a swift visit to the options screen, you can opt to just play through as Sonic on his own, so phew. This game manages to be even faster than the first game, and is also a hell of a lot of fun. However, it is also almost insultingly simple (it won't be until the sixth zone - Oil Ocean - that it takes you longer than about two minutes to finish a level on your first go). Despite this though, and I find this really puzzling because I normally cast really easy games aside with a haughty sniff, it still proves to be an entirely worthy way of spending part of your afternoon. The 'jump' noise still irritates beyond the point of all reason, though. Individual game rating - 7/10.

Sonic 3 (bet you didn't see that one coming, eh readers?). The only game here with a save function, so respect there. However, the game manages to completely ruin the greatness of the previous two titles by being guilty of virtually ever videogame crime there is, so respect swiftly retracted again. This is the game I was most looking forward to playing, as I missed out on it on the Megadrive/Genesis (why couldn't they give the damn console one name for the whole world to use? Sega were rubbish at console names in the first place, so why inflict one console with two terrible names? But I digress rather wildly). And this is just hideous. Enemies that pop up out of nowhere with tiresome regularity ensure that the breakneck pace to which Sonic lovers have become accustomed is replaced with players having to edge their way slowly through the levels. Bad guys that kill you even when you attack them in the same way you would any other bad guys, and enemies disguised as scenery make sure that your controller is always being hurled at the TV screen. Tails is still really dumb unless you turn him off as well. I had a smidgen of fun with this for a while, but by and large, this is a pretty bad game. If it wasn't a Sonic game everyone else would hate it as well. Individual game rating - 3/10.

Sonic & Knuckles makes up for this slip by being great fun, challenging in all the right ways, and it's also pretty big as well. Knuckles is a great character, and just the breath of fresh air that the series needed. This is good, solid, fun stuff, and I'll certainly be playing it for years to come. Once you've completed the game, you'll be able to play through Sonic 2 & 3 as Knuckles as well, which ups the replay value a bit. Individual game rating - 8/10.

Sonic Spinball is pretty much a disaster. Featuring Sonic as the ball in a pinball game (no, really), this has you controlling the flippers as well as Sonic (as he destroys enemies in mid-flight). This makes things needlessly complicated in the controls area, and the game is consequently almost no fun. The graphics are functional at best, and it sounds like a keyring. It's a really neat idea, but what good is that when the execution is like this? Rubbish, quite frankly. Individual game rating - 2/10.

A more appropriate title for Sonic 3D would have been Sonic On Ice, such is the abysmal control. This was an attempt to update Sonic for the new generation, but they really shouldn't have bothered. Whenever you kill an enemy, you must attract the attention of the cute birdie within, whereupon it will follow you until you set it free into a hole in the ground (seriously), unless you get hit by another enemy, in which case it will fly off and you'll need to attract its attention again. The graphics will hurt your eyes. Actually, they won't, because you won't play the game for long enough because it's so unlovable. It's a shame that the last Sonic game for the 16-bit era was so pants, but that's life I suppose. Individual game rating - 1/10, and it can count itself lucky it's even getting that much.

Lastly, we come to Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, which doesn't actually feature Sonic at all. It's a puzzle game in the Tetris-style vein, where you have to arrange different coloured falling blobs. Connect 4 or more of one colour, and they vanish and you get points. Fill the screen up and it's game over. Terrifically simple, and great fun, particularly in 2-player mode. It suffers from having a difficulty curve that gets too hard too fast, but it does have a password system for the 1-player mode (as well as a charmingly bad plot), so I'm not going to be too hard on it. Individual game rating - 6/10.

So then, the summing up part. Well, here you have three great games, one okay-ish game, and three complete duffers. Add in the extra games to unlock, plus the other extras (which are actually so poor that I'm not even going to tell you what they are), and you have a pretty decent package. Just don't be expecting any updates to the original versions - these can look really rough next to a copy of Super Mario Sunshine (though they're ALL infinitely more fun). However, if you still own your Megadrive/Genesis and a copy of Sonic 1, 2, or S&K, then just stick to that. If you fancy a trip down memory lane, and want some pure arcade fun, then go now to your local games shop and pick up a copy of this. Tell them I sent you.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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