Review by Chunkey Simmons
Sonic CD alone make this collection a true gem.
Sometimes when gaming, it's fun to step back and re-live all your childhood moments by playing your favorite classic games. Companies often release compilations for gamers like us to get our hands on these games that we might have misplaced or replaced in the past. A common example is Namco Museum, which has been released on nearly every console since the Nintendo 64. Before Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo had their own compilation for the Super Nintendo called Super Mario All Stars which featured the first three Mario titles with updated graphics and gameplay.
Sonic Gems Collection happens to be Sega's second compilation on the Gamecube, the successful Sonic Mega Collection being the first. My life couldn't have been happier after the release of Sonic Mega Collection, it brought back old memories of me playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at my Mom's old house when I was kid. All the games, including Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Sonic Spinball and a few others, were all emulated perfectly as if I were playing them on the Genesis; that's why it was so perfect. It's not about changing up the games like updating the graphics, patching glitches and errors, and updating the gameplay, we want the games exactly like they were when we were kids, and that's what we got. I already reviewed Sonic Mega Collection, so be sure to check it out.
Even with the great success of compilations, there's never going to be room for all of our favorites. That's why Sega made a second compilation that featured the rest of the old Sonic games, some of them being extremely bizarre.
The games include: Sonic the Fighters (arcade), Sonic CD, Sonic R, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (game gear), Sonic Chaos, Sonic Triple Trouble, Tails Adventure and Tails Skypatrol. Despite only listing these titles, Sonic Gems Collection actually also includes all the games that Sonic Mega Collection has, but there's a catch. I'll get to get later.
I'd like to point out that on the box Sega advertised this game as "3 Must-Have Hits, Including SONIC CD!" Sonic CD is definitely a must-have, but the other two are easily forgettable. The other Game Gear titles are advertised as bonus games, I guess to make up for the Gamecube Sonic Mega Collection lacking the Game Gear titles that the Playstation 2 version had. Speaking of the box to this game, the cover is the new style Sonic again! Come on now, you guys made that mistake on Sonic Mega Collection, not again! Look at the box to Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PS3, that has the old Sonic on the cover because it features the OLD Sonic games. Not a big deal. I'm going to check out every game and give a brief preview of each.
Sonic the Fighters
"© SEGA 1996, 2005" already a problem. Don't add 2005 to the copyright, it's a compilation! I don't know about you, but isn't it supposed to be an exact emulation?
Anyway, I've never played the Arcade version of this game so I can't compare them. There's not much to say, it's no Super Street Fighter 2. Sonic looks mad funny in fighting stance, hinting that Sonic should not be made into a fighting game. It's a huge drawback that you're restricted to moving only left and right despite each area being a full wrestling ring. The special moves are listed for each character in the instruction manual, the button combination aren't too hard to pull off like they are in other fighting games. Final verdict: not so great.
This happens to be the best game on the collection and arguably the best Sonic game ever made. It plays well, but there's one problem: it's not a perfect emulation. The introduction was made full screen, unlike the Sega CD version with its limited technology. Yeah I know full screen is better, but like I said before, isn't the emulation supposed to be EXACT? Sure, maybe it's more convenient to make the intro full screen, but that's not what we remember as kids! There were also a few graphical changes like water no longer being transparent. Why change? Well here's the answer: this is not the Sega CD version, it's the PC version. That's fine and all, but the box shows the Sega CD version on the back! I've never played the PC version so I can't compare them accurately.
Either way, the game is extremely fun. Great graphics, long levels, awesome soundtrack, extreme replay value because the levels can change each time you play, and an overall fun experience. It's the first Sonic the Hedgehog game on steroids. The Sega CD was short-lived so not many played this game. Maybe Sonic Gems Collection can redeem itself after all. I already fully reviewed this game so check it out.
For all those wondering, it uses the US soundtrack. The Japanese soundtrack is nowhere to be found.
Sonic R (not to be confused with Sonic Riders or Sonic Rivals)
*checks the copyright* NOOOOOOOOO! NOT AGAIN!
Once again, the PC version of this game is used, not the Sega Saturn.
This game gets heavy criticism but it's not that bad. It's a decent racing game with some of your favorite Sonic characters. They all have special abilities, carried over from Sonic 2 and 3; Knuckles can glide, Tails can fly, Sonic runs faster, etc. My biggest complaint are that the levels are too small, and plus there are only four levels, with an additional level that's unlockable. Since there are also unlockable characters, different ways you can race, different characters you can use and chaos emeralds to collect, it has high replay value, but only if you're willing to play it. Since it's the PC version, the graphics are better than the Sega Saturn. Final verdict: it's playable.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
I happen to have this game on Game Gear already so I can accurately compare both versions. Surprisingly, they're both exactly the same. I'm impressed, way to so Sega.
In this game, your friend Tails get captured by Dr. Robotnik (now known as Dr. Eggman, yeah I've been behind the times too) and you have to collect all the chaos emeralds and save him at the end. It's the first game to ever feature Tails.
Many will consider this game a drawback since you can't spindash and you can only play as Sonic, but remember this game came out before the Genesis version of Sonic 2. It's another great game on this compilation. If you like the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis, you'll love this one. It had good graphics for its time on the Game Gear, Sonic is still pretty fast in this release (compared to later titles like Sonic Blast) and it's memorable. In my opinion, this game tries too hard to act like the Genesis Sonic 1 despite the limitations on the Game Gear, and it suffered mildly because of that. However, it's still an awesome game. I already fully reviewed this game so check it out.
Sonic Spinball (not to be confused with the Sega Genesis version)
It borrows a lot of aspects from the Genesis version, but the levels are slightly different and it doesn't play as well. The scrolling is not fluent at all, and the physics are a little off when you compare it to the Genesis version. The graphics are pretty close to the Genesis version and gameplay follows the same notion: collect the emeralds in each stage. One thing that drives me crazy are the alert messages because you can't cancel out the message, therefore you're stuck waiting for the text box to finish up. There's not much to say about this one, it's playable but chances are you'll be too focused on the other games to even bother with this one.
Sonic Triple Trouble
I also happen to own this on Game Gear and it's a perfect emulation. Most gamers will probably like Sonic Triple Trouble over the older Sonic 2 since it's more modern with spindash and Tails as a playable character. It's much easier than Sonic 2 with better graphics, new power-ups, more obstacles and Knuckles. It's a little too easy, and most of the boss battles are way too easy. You'll feel at home with this game. I already fully reviewed it so check it out.
Sonic Drift 2
Yeah I know Sonic is driving a car. As stupid as it sounds, it's average for a Game Gear game. It plays like Pole Position or Rad Racer, you follow a 3D road, you can't turn around or go backwards, you get the idea. The resolution sucks because half of the screen is the gameplay and the other half hogs up the score and the map. Does the map have to be so big? Other than a few minor problems it's not a bad game. It's underrated and heavily criticized because of the ridiculous concept. While the game is not very good, think about back then on the Game Gear. It was a decent time killer with pretty colors and superior graphics to the Game Boy. You could play as your favorite Sonic characters on the go, and it was 2 players so you could race your friends. Not the best choice of a game for this compilation, but definitely playable.
This game was only released in Japan, therefore making this compilation the first time I've ever played it. My first impression was negative since you can't touch the ground or any walls. Tails flies in the air the entire game while the screen scrolls on its own. Finally I gave the game a chance and played it for real. It's truly an enjoyable game. Tails carries one ring at all times, he swings on bars in order to reach the correct obstacle without dying. You have a life bar, which makes the game a lot easier, but also makes me more careless when flying through the obstacles. My only problem is the graphics because it's hard to tell what are boundaries and what's just the background. It's viewed as a puzzle game by many, but I think it's more of an adventure. Final verdict: great game.
I never had this game on Game Gear. It's way different from Sonic 2 and Sonic Triple Trouble, as it doesn't borrow any platforming elements from the Genesis Sonic games, besides Tails' flying ability. It stays away from the extreme fast speed and plays more like a simple side-scroller with a few non-linear aspects like finding objects and navigating through mazes. You're equipped with unlimited bombs which are used to break blocks and kill off birds and other enemies. The graphics are very nice with a lot of colors. I'm impressed with this game, especially because the soundtrack is excellent for a Game Gear title. Assuming you're sick of playing Sonic CD, you might like this game.
But wait, there's more...
Like in Sonic Mega Collection, there are unlockables, including pointless museum art from games that are not even on this compilation, two unlockable games (Vectorman 1 and 2) game tips for each game on this compilation, and lastly, game demos. Wait what? Game demos?
They're playable demos of the following games: Sonic the Hedgehog Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (both Genesis and Game Gear versions), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis), Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic and Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (both Genesis and Game Gear versions), Sonic Spinball (Genesis), Sonic Chaos, Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic Drift, Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic Blast. That's right, all the games from Sonic Mega Collection are on here and they're all fully programmed from beginning to end. There's a catch.
For starters, rather than logically starting you at the beginning of the game, these demos start you off at the final boss so that the ending is spoiled without even playing the entire game. The other catch is that you have a time limit. I think the limit is like 15 minutes which seems like a lot of time but isn't really. If you beat the final boss, you have to wait for the credits to roll and then you can play the full version of the game until the time runs out.
Several people hacked the game, lifting the time limit from the demos, possibly making Sonic Gems Collection superior to Sonic Mega Collection. Maybe so.
Sadly I don't have a memory card for my Gamecube so I won't be covering Vectorman 1 and 2, sorry. Maybe another time.
For a game with "3 Must-Have Hits" and 6 bonus games, there aren't that many "Must-Have" games on this collection; just Sonic CD and a few of the Game Gear titles. It's also lame that Sega used the PC versions of Sonic CD and Sonic R when the back of the box clearly states "previously available only in the arcade, on SEGA CD, SEGA Saturn, and Game Gear." However there's one thing I'm not factoring in: the price. It's extremely cheap at game stores, I happened to get it for $14.99, which is actually cheaper than buying a Sega CD console. Sonic CD alone make this collection a true gem. I say buy it used.
The extra unlockables are not worth it, unless you either want to check out the demos or play Vectorman (which I hear is an awesome game).There's also a documentary of the history of Sonic, but I haven't watched it. The museum art in my opinion is worthless, especially since most of the pictures are gameplay footage from games not on this collection, making you wish you were playing those games and not these ones!
Now I'm going to cut this review short with this last message: why didn't they put Knuckles Chaotix on here?!
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Sonic Gems Collection (US, 08/16/05)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.