When I picked up Sonic Mega Collection for the Gamecube, the big think I wondered about it was how Sega would handle the backward compatability of Sonic and Knuckles. One of the most innovative features about Sonic and Knuckles was that you could play Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 as Knuckles or Sonic and Knuckles as Tails when you hooked one of those two games up to the cartridge. Well, unfortunately, I was very disappointed with Sonic Mega Collection. It didn't do anything whatsoever to capture the backward compatability of Sonic and Knuckles. That's not just a shame, it shows a lot of laziness on the part of whever compiled Sonic Mega Collection. It makes you leave areas of those three games unexplored.
So how good is Sonic Mega Collection otherwise? Well, in terms of the games it holds, it's just fine. But reviewing a nostalgia package, I've come to see, has more to do with just telling people whether or not the games on them are any good. Presentation and game selection both count for something too. Sonic Mega Collection gives you seven games starring the Marvelous Marsupial from Mobius: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic Spinball, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Sonic and Knuckles, and Sonic 3D Blast. There are a number of Game Gear Sonic adventures on Sonic Mega Collection which are unlockable. There are also a number of bells and whistles, like videos and artwork, which can also be unlocked.
As a collection, Sonic Mega Collection doesn't rank very far above the terrible Sonic Gems Collection. I'll give it points in the end for using the core series on the Genesis to entice people into buying it. Unfortunately, on the back of the freaking package, it mentions how there are Game Gear titles too. Every Game Gear title on this nostalgia package has to be unlocked if you want to play them. I have not yet figured out how to unlock any of the unlockable games on Sonic Mega Collection. I've managed to unlock most of the videos and a large chunk of the artwork, which include comic covers and a full issue of one of the comics. But as far as the travel versions of Sonic go, well, maybe the way to unlock them is mentioned in the manual. But my game was used and the owner clearly misplaced his instruction booklet.
Let's see what's on Sonic Mega Collection among the games which are immediately available: You have the core Sonic titles, which are all excellent. You have a Sonic-themed take on Dr. Mario, which is a fun little puzzle game. Then you have Sonic Spinball, in which a bunch of people at Sega tried to kill two birds with one stone and failed miserably. You also have those Game Gear games, which as I said have to be unlocked.
One thing which you will not see on Sonic Mega Collection is Sonic CD. Despite my own complaints about it, this is often considered the best title in the entire Sonic series. Not just the core series, not just the Genesis titles, but of every Sonic game ever made, Sonic CD is revered as the ultimate Sonic experience. So how dropping it from Sonic Mega Collection made sense to Sega is a mystery the CIA should probably look into. Sonic CD is part of the core series and it was even slated to be the second Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Genesis. It's also very rare, and so including it in this package would almost certainly have been able to sell more units. What was Sega thinking? Maybe they wanted to save it for Sonic Gems Collection, knowing that no one would buy it if it didn't include Sonic CD.
Chaotix and Sonic Jam aren't in here either. Is Sega just trying to pretend the Saturn and the doomed-at-launch 32X never existed?
Sega decided to forgo the most revered Sonic game in the series. What were they kind enough to give us instead? Sonic 3D Blast. For those who aren't in the know, Sonic 3D Blast is the 3/4 overhead view Sonic game for the Genesis. This would seem to moot the whole point of Sonic the Hedgehog because it's tough to create a pseudo-3d environment which can go that fast. And well, that's exactly what happens. It's an effort, undoubtedly. It looks and sounds really good too. But it also kind of kills what it is we loved about Sonic the Hedgehog in the first place - speed. It also makes the mistake of turning Sonic into a scavenger hunt. The object of the game is to find little Flicky birds and lead them to safety. The Flickies have a bad habit of scattering whenever they get hit with anything. What it really is, more than anything, is just a topwise version of the Genesis game Flicky, which was in two dimensions and much more fun than this.
Sonic Spinball was another mistake. Sonic tries to be a pinball, and the physics of the Genesis version of Sonic Spinball are infinitely better than the physics of the Game Gear version. But ultimately, it's not much different. Plus it makes you give up way too much control of Sonic, so getting through the game can be very infuriating.
I liked Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. It's a great two-player game, and just an outstanding puzzle game to play for ten minutes or for an hour. The only problem with it is the story mode - the computer is ultra-tough. It hits you hard with combos right when you first begin and it never lets up. You need the help of a series of really lucky breaks if you want to last beyond the second opponent. This game plays a lot like Dr. Mario but without the little viruses you have to kill in order to advance. To eliminate the "beans," you have to line up four of them in a row. If you're playing the two-player game, you can create avalanches on your opponent's screen by doing this. It's well done, but the avalanches tend to come off as just a little cheap.
The core series is really just the same as ever. It's emulated, which can mostly be heard in the audio department. However, the emulation is very good, and those who don't have ears for video games will never notice the difference. So whether speeding with the Power Sneakers, getting a lift from Tails, or knocking out Dr. Robotnik's latest creation, there's no faulting the games which compose the original Sonic the Hedgehog series. The one real problem I had was already mentioned: You can't make use of the backward compatability feature from Sonic and Knuckles. This is a real shame because it opened new areas to explore in both games and even made them a little bit easier. It's worth the effort with Sonic and Knuckles itself, which is by far the toughest game in the core series and where a gamer of average skill would really need a leg up.
The bells and whistles aren't a whole lot to write about. The one notable thing about them is a quick video about the history of the Blue Blur. It's interesting and amusing to watch, but it really doesn't give you a whole lot of facts that even the most casual gamer wouldn't know. Sonic Mega Collection is a fine collection of games featuring a Silver Era icon, and for people with any appreciation of gaming history, it's probably worth a pickup. Just don't expect it to include anything rare or groundbreaking or to do anything you haven't seen before.
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
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Take a trip back in time with the character that redefined video games in Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo GameCube. Sonic Mega Collection is packed with seven classic Sonic games, each presented in its original blistering-fast form. Trace the blue blur's roots in the first three Sonic the Hedgehog® games, and expand the experience with Sonic & Knuckles' lock-on technology. Then mix things up with Sonic Spinball, Sonic 3D Blast, and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. And if you need a break from the action, head over to the Extras section and check out movies, illustrations, and comics of Sega's signature character. You'll get it all seven times over when you pick up the Sonic Mega Collection!