Review by JD Fedule
The Old School beckons...
Immediately following the demise of it's ill fated Dreamcast console, Sega was temporarily at a loss of ideas for what to do with Sonic. Then, for some reason, they let Nintendo have him. Nintendo's first ever Sonic game was a rerelease of Sonic Adventure 2, with some multiplayer features added. It was appropriately called "Sonic Adventure 2: Battle". Some time later, the first Adventure game was also moved to the Gamecube and underwent something of an overhaul, with updated graphics and a whole new "mission mode", as well as some easter eggs for good measure. The Chao Gardens in both games were redesigned to work with the Gamecube's Connectivity features, to top it all off.
This created a slight problem. Moving Sonic to a Nintendo console inevitably extended the fanbase to those who had yet to experience the original Sonic games, and these new fans were now living amongst those who had. The solution was obvious, and Sonic Team jumped to it at the first chance they got and subsequently made one of the smartest business moves in Sega's history: Release all of the original Sonic games on the Gamecube.
Sonic Mega Collection is, as the name suggests, a collection of past Genesis classics, ranging from the original Sonic right up to Sonic 3D, and even including some of the oddballs, such as Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, and a Master System classic "Flicky". Everything appears on the Collection exactly as it did on their earlier systems - they have been emulated to perfection. These games are identical to their Genesis counterparts, and this is why Sonic Mega Collection is one of the best games out there. It's not perfect - Sonic Team decided to include a few... less than average games that may have been better used for games such as Knuckles Chaotix, or Sonic CD (assuming Sega managed to get the emulation working properly. Sonic CD was originally part of SMC, but was dropped due to difficulties emulating the Sega CD).
Each game is rated individually, although the game as a whole still has it's own rating.
The Canon Games:
Sonic The Hedgehog: 9/10
The birth of a legend. The original Sonic The Hedgehog was an instant hit - it took the Genesis' amazing side scrolling skills and put them to full use by making Sonic run at ridiculously fast speeds through colourful worlds such as Green Hill Zone, Marble Zone, and the classic Star Light Zone. The graphics were amazingly good for a game of it's time, and there is an undeniable sense of that Sonic "Magic" that Sega has been trying to perfect to this day. Every part of this classic game has been recreated to perfection - even the glitches are there, as is the most classic cheat code in existence (in addition to the debug mode). And, showing the utmost consideration, Sonic Team have even included two extra versions (which require cheats to play) that update background graphics and fix that incredibly annoying glitch that causes you to die when you hit two sets of spikes one after the other. How considerate.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2: 10/10
Some argue that Sonic 2 was the greatest Sonic Game ever to be made, and you can see why from the very beginning. Sonic 2 was one of the biggest standalone Sonic Games, weighing in at 10 zones, not including the first ever appearance of the Death Egg zone, and Metal Sonic, a phenomenon which lives on to this day. It also saw the first ever appearance of Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonic's new best friend. The inclusion of Tails meant that Sonic Team could include a multiplayer feature - 3 full zones of racing action and even a Special Stage to play in. Sonic 2 saw the first ever 3D special stages and they were done well and played fantastically, even if the graphics were a little crude. Those who enjoy the crudeness for it's oldschool value will be pleased to hear that it remains, as ever, as it was when it began. Sonic 2 was basically Sonic 1 on steroids, and the result was fantastic. Sonic 2 also saw the birth of Super Sonic, Sonic's powered up form with incredible abilities. Although new, Super Sonic did not yet feel like anything new - he was just Sonic who could run fast and jump high. But that was to change...
Sonic The Hedgehog 3: 9/10
While maybe not the best game ever, Sonic 3 was when the series took off on full thrust. The graphics in the game were amazing for the time, and the Sonic Magic was definitely there. It had some great music to go with the game, and some of the catchiest themes ever made. The special stages in this game are one of the things by which Sonic is remembered the most fondly - instead of Sonic 2's pseudo 3D engine which looked a bit crude, Sonic 3's Special Stages looked and played as if they were in full 3D. Sonic 3 also saw the introduction of Knuckles The Echidna, a rival to Sonic. Knuckles was made famous for jumping on switches and the like for the purposes of making Sonic's life difficult. Sonic 3 was also the first game in the series to feature different musical tracks for each act in the zone. Finally, this was the first game in which Tails could actually be flown by the player and carry Sonic around - Sonic Team drove this fact into our minds by having an entire boss fight in the air with Tails as the only means of support...
Sonic and Knuckles - 10/10
This game was basically Sonic 3 on steroids. It picks up immediately after S3, and because of this, the difficulty curve is very steep and the game is much more challenging. In terms of mechanics, the game is identical to S3. Even the Special Stages are the same, although there are some new stages, they're running off the same engine and have the same goal. The significant upgrade here is the playable debut of Knuckles, and his signature moves (Gliding and Climbing Walls) added a new style of gameplay to the series, and a welcome one. The different characters could take different paths through the many levels, and could find different hidden items. From the fourth zone onwards, the game splits into two - the two characters have different final bosses and different final zones. There were two major, major factors that made S&K truly great. One was the innovative lock-on feature, that enabled you to play S3 and S&K (called "S3&K) as part of the same game (more on that later) and to place Knuckles in Sonic 2. The other one was, along with the return (again) of Super Sonic, the inclusion of a Super Sonic only zone - The Doomsday Zone. This featured Super Sonic actually flying through space and was truly a spectacle to behold and a wonder to play. The only other unique aspect of the game was the fight with Knuckles midway through - it made a nice change from regular boss battles.
The Lock On Games:
These games are not rated because they are essentially the same as Sonic 2, 3, and &K.
Sonic and Knuckles + Sonic 2 =
Knuckles The Echidna in Sonic The Hedgehog 2
This is what it says - you play through Sonic 2 as Knuckles, complete with signature moves. This enables you to discover some places in Sonic 2 that were previously inaccessible, but is otherwise the same game.
Sonic and Knuckles + Sonic 3 =
Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Separated, they were massive hits. Together, they were simply awesome. Sonic 3 and Knuckles was probably Sonic Team's greatest creation ever, for many reasons: One - because of the continuity of the two games, they went together to make one massive game - 14 zones in total, playable as either Sonic or Knuckles. These 14 were the stages of Sonic 3 and the stages of Sonic and Knuckles, one after the other. The ending of the final zone of Sonic 3 and the beginning of the first zone of Sonic and Knuckles were altered slightly to allow them to be placed one after the other, and, to make things more interesting, Sonic Team added a second set of Chaos Emeralds (the Super Emeralds), the collection of which allowed access to Hyper Sonic, who even had his own unique attack - a flash that quite simply destroyed everything on screen.
The Non Canon:
Sonic Spinball: 5/10
I honestly don't know what possessed the game's creators to unleash this horror upon us. You may rest assured that this game was not made by Sonic Team and is not part of the Sonic Continuity in any way - it is (and how ironically so) a spin off. The game sees Sonic attempting to penetrate Robotnik's Veg-O-Fortress by breaking through it's pinball defense system. There are four "tables", each with it's own objectives and a boss. The general idea is to get shot around and gather Chaos Emeralds - doing so will unlock the boss, who will require further shooting. Between each level is a bonus stage consisting of... surprise, surprise - pinball. Collecting EVERY ring on a level unlocks a multiball round, accessible through bonus gates scattered around the level. The pinball physics themselves aren't all that bad, and the gameplay is well executed and addictive. The main problem is the sound effects - they are nothing like what you'd expect of a Sonic game. Compared with other games in the series, this is nothing but a festering pile of rubbish. The jump sound is rubbish, the spindash sounds are rubbish, the ring sound is rubbish, the pinball jingles are rubbish. There are exactly three decent pieces of music - the first level theme, the third level theme and the bonus theme. I think this game wasted a spot in the collection.
Sonic 3D - 7/10
Some hate Sonic 3D. I, however, see it as a great success. The gameplay style was to a degree unique, and the music was just great - there have been many remixes of these themes, some used by Sonic Team themselves in Sonic Adventure. The basic idea of this game is that Sonic runs around stages, rescuing animals (actually rescuing them, not just destroying the host robot) and transporting them back to the dimension ring to safety. The game looked 3D, but the engine was not 3D - it was actually an isometric engine, played in two dimensions, but using four directions instead of two plus up and down. Jumping is possible, but due to the engine, targeting can be confusing. The game was also quite difficult at times, and was definitely original. The inclusion of Tails and Knuckles as methods of reaching Special Stages was a nice touch, but perhaps it would have been better if they were playable, too. As ever, there are Chaos Emeralds, but no Super Sonic. There is, however, a true final boss that requires all the Chaos Emeralds. I mentioned this game was a success, and Sonic Team apparently agree. Numerous features from this game also featured in Sonic Adventure. I mentioned the remixes already, but there were others - The blast attack enabled by the Gold Shield evolved into the Homing Attack, and the idea of rescuing animals went on to become an integral part of Sonic Adventure's highly successful "A-Life" system, known affectionately as the Chao Garden. A good job.
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine - 9/10
A classic, but for entirely different reasons. There will be no running around at the speed of sound in this game, although the pace is still as fast as Sonic is famous for. No, Mean Bean Machine is a puzzle game, similar in style to Puyo Puyo, now reincarnated as Puyo Pop Fever. The idea is to group falling "beans" into groups of the same colour to make them disappear. The game is played with two people at once, and the idea is not to see how long you can last, but to make your opponent lose by forcing "refugee" beans into their field. This is done by eliminating beans from your own field in chain reactions. There is a comprehensive explanation of the rules and mechanics included, and a password system so you can continue from where you left off - vital due to the steep difficulty curve. The game is multiplayer, and this piles on the replay value. A right round great game.
Blue Sphere - 8/10
Blue Sphere is the memorable special stage from Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles. This mini game was available when you locked a game other than Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 onto Sonic and Knuckles. It contains over 500 Special Stages for you to get into. The concept is simple - just get all the blue spheres and avoid the red ones. Go on, give it a try... this game is hugely addictive. Only problem is that the stages are played in order, and passwords are required to save progress.
The Non Sonic
These are games that were included on the disk as bonuses. And because they're just so great. They are, however, loosely related to Sonic.
Flicky - 7/10
Flicky is an incredibly simple yet dangerously addictive arcade game in which you must rescue flickies (similar to Sonic 3D) from marauding lizards and tigers. Catch one, they tag along. They get caught, they break off. You get caught, you die. Rescue many at once for bonuses! Try it! It's fun!
Ristar - 10/10
Now HERE is a great, great, great game. Possibly the best game on the disk, it's right up there with S3&K. Ristar was developed by one of the former members of Sonic Team, and evolved from "Feel the Rabbit", who was himself a contender for the position Sega later gave to Sonic. This game sees Ristar, a personified shooting star from an endangered solar system, traveling through the seven planets in the system in an attempt to save said system from the space tyrant Greedy, and to save his own father, who has been taken hostage. He attacks by grabbing enemies and head-butting them, and can swing of "star handles" as a shooting star capable of causing utter destruction all round. The environments are done to a fantastic level of detail, and the music is downright perfection. Each individual theme is totally appropriate for it's environment, and there is even a level in which the theme builds itself as it changes. The gameplay is incredibly addictive and can be quite fast paced at times, although Ristar was not created with speed in mind (despite the fact that he's a shooting star).
Gameplay Rating: 9. Yep - good.
Graphics Rating: 9. Emulated perfectly.
Sound Rating: 9. Ditto.
Replay Value Rating: 9. Over ten great games to play, each with it's own replayability.
Overall Rating: 9
Nostalgic Overdrive, and then some. Go on. Return to the old school.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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