Review by darthjulian

"Valuable history lesson for Jump and Run fans"

With Sonic, Sega had finally found its mascot to rival Nintendo´s Super Mario, a worthy opponent after the likes of Alex Kidd and Wonderboy were not successful or popular enough to become Sega´s main attraction, but Sonic was cool and charismatic enough to be the perfect alternative for Nintendo´s cute and chubby plumber. Having become one of the greatest and longest-running video game franchises of all time by now, it´s no surprise that Sega tried to relieve Sonic´s glory of the past with game collections for modern consoles, so a whole new generation of gamers could experience the origins of the series, and "Sonic Mega Collection" for Nintendo GameCube (it still feels quite ironic to see Sonic appear on a console by Nintendo, the developer he was originally intended to "destroy"...) might be the best of them all.

Being a collection of Sonic´s most memorable Sega Genesis titles, it´s no surprise that the game offers a good deal of variety in the gameplay department. The icing on the cake of this collection, however, are "Sonic the Hedgehog", "Sonic the Hedgehog 2", "Sonic the Hedgehog 3" and "Sonic & Knuckles" (with "Sonic 2 & Knuckles" as well as "Sonic 3 & Knuckles" being unlockables), not only because they represent the main Sonic series, but also because they simply deliver fantabulous old school Jump and Run fun. Either of the four Sonic Jump & Runs still is a lot of fun to play, no doubt, and it´s the kind of game you can always pop into your GameCube whenever you need some quick and flawless fun. Sure, these games might not be flawless, especially since Sega didn´t change anything about the roller-coaster difficulty level due to the unfair placement of some enemies you can´t avoid running into because of your enormous speed, but the great level design, tons of cool ideas and near perfect controls more than make up for that, and all 4 of them more than deserve their classic status they still enjoy among legions of fans. The other games in this package, though, differ greatly when it comes to the sheer enjoyment of the gameplay. "Sonic Spinball". for example, was a disastrous attempt to exploit Sonic´s popularity by creating a pinball game around the main character, but the concept just doesn´t work for me due to shoddy controls and some serious frame rate issues. "Dr. Robotnik´s Mean Bean Machine" merely is a clone of games like Puyo Puyo or Columns, using the Sonic license to make the game more appealing for a wider audience, and it remains a solid play for puzzle game fans. And then we have "Sonic 3D Blast". Released near the end of the Genesis´ life circle, it was supposed to be a worthy farewell-title for Sonic on Sega´s 16-Bit machine, also trying to push the old fashioned hardware to its absolute limits, but unfortunately, it ended up being a mediocre experience at best, most likely because Sonic Team was not responsible for programming this title, and their experience and input is sorely missing here. "Flicky", one of the two unlockables, is a strategic Jump and Run not really worth mentioning, not having aged gracefully, while the other unlockable game, "Ristar", is a surprisingly enjoyable and solid Jump and Run in the same vein as the Sonic games, for that matter. Fortunately, all games are wonderfully playable via the GameCube controller, and I´d say you can control this game just as good as with the original Genesis controller. So, while not all games in this collection are exactly worth of being called classics, at least the main Sonic series consists of 4 all-time classic Jump and Runs every fan of the genre should have played at least once if he or she missed the originals on the Genesis.

While the games certainly offer a different level of quality in terms of visuals depending on what year they have been released in, but overall, they´re on an above average 16-Bit level. Looking at the three main "Sonic the Hedgehog" titles as well as "Sonic & Knuckles", for example, you will definitely be able to notice that from game to game, the visuals have been improved, featuring more colorful levels, smoother animations, more details in general and of course less slowdowns, and it´s safe to say that they rank among the best the Genesis had to offer back in the days, and even nowadays they remain pleasant to look at. As for the other games, they´re a mixed bag in terms of visuals. "Dr. Robotnik´s Mean Bean Machine" for instance looks very simplistic, with the only indication for this having been a Genesis title back then being the colorful gameplay sequences and "cutscenes", but seeing that it´s practically a Puyo Puyo clone, graphics don´t really matter here. "Sonic Spinball", on the other hand, is being plagued by some heavy slowdowns, a fact which harms the gameplay in general, and it´s sad to see that Sega did not put any effort whatsoever into trying to improve this in the Mega Collection. "Sonic 3D Blast", while being the black sheep of the series in terms of gameplay, at least does a decent job in the graphics department, featuring some visuals that can actually be considered to be impressive for a late Genesis game. As for the two unlockable games, "Flicky" and "Ristar", "Flicky" looks extremely weak, even for a Genesis title, and it´s merely a relic from the late 80s, while "Ristar" is a colorful experience similar to the main Sonic games in terms of quality, while being more reminiscent of a Mario game from an artistic point of view. Of course, none of the games can even remotely live up to GameCube standards at all, but the 16-Bit charm is still there, and that´s what counts in a classic games collection.

The same goes for the music, of course. The quality of the tracks differs from game to game, but they´re overall pretty neat and classic. Again, the best music of them all is being provided by the main Sonic games, being the towering highlights of the collection nearly every single regard, anyway, and despite the Genesis´ limited sound capabilities, they sound excellent for the time they have been released in, at times even being on an SNES level. As for the other games, the music mostly remains alright. There´s nothing too outstanding about them, but they´re fairly decent and add to the mood of the games nicely, even though I have to admit that I did not really like the music in "Sonic Spinball", being somewhat lacking when it comes to charm and atmosphere. The sound effects are nothing exceptional to write home about, either, so overall, you should be able to live with the audio in "Sonic Mega Collection".

So, since there are four games in this collection worth a 9/10 or even 10/10 rating, the question is: why does this collection not get a perfect score? Well, for one because of the fact that except for these four magnificent Jump and Runs, none of the other titles manages to impress nowadays, mostly having been rather flat and unexciting back in the days, a fact that must be considered while giving the rating. I am also quite disappointed that Sega failed to include more Sonic games in this collection, since I firmly believe that there certainly would have been enough space on a GameCube disc for more titles, and especially the absence of "Sonic the Hedgehog CD" is a hue letdown, but overall, this collection disc is still a good investment for Jump and Run fans who missed these games the first time around, making for a valuable history lesson that is even being made sweeter with some making of videos, comic book scans or the intro and outro for Sonic CD. However, whether you should buy this version of the collection or "Sonic Mega Collection Plus" instead is up to you, since the inclusion of the Sega Game Gear Sonic titles is not really an addition that makes the whole package more worthwhile. Overall, this disc is a nice service for Sonic fans.

Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/11/06

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