Review by FightinMongoose

"A rare opportunity."

Sonic Gems Collection review
By FightinMongoose

Sonic Gems Collection is a compilation game, containing mostly the harder-to-find games in the series. It is intended as a follow-up to Sonic Mega Collection for the GCN, as well as the Plus edition for the PS2 and Xbox. It contains Sonic the Fighters, Sonic CD, and Sonic R, along with the 6 Gamegear games that didn't make it onto Mega Collection Plus. (For those of you who don't know what a gamegear is, it was sort of the Sega equivalent of a gameboy.) The two Vectorman games are also unlockable. Unfortunately, the Streets of Rage trilogy was taken out of the US release due to rating issues. (Given Jack Thompson's iron grip on the ratings, this doesn't seem surprising.)

First up is the main “Gem” of this game, and probably the biggest reason for a purchase: Sonic CD. Released on the ill-fated Sega CD console, Sonic CD is widely considered to be one of the best in the series, second only to Sonic 3 and Knuckles. The story involves Sonic and Amy going to The Little Planet, a world where one can move about freely through time. However, their fun is interrupted when Eggman unleashes Metal Sonic and kidnaps Amy! As Sonic, you must travel across 7 Zones (Or “Rounds” in this game's terminology.) and save the future.

For the most part, Sonic CD plays like a speeded-up Sonic 1. The main gimmick is that you can travel to the past and future versions of the levels, which adds flavor to the game. In every level's past, there is a machine that Sonic must destroy to stop Eggman's robots from causing havoc. If you destroy this machine, the future will be calm and peaceful. But if you don't destroy it, then the future will be polluted and broken down! This adds an element of exploration to the game, which is a plus.

Something you should know: The NSTC version of Sonic Gems uses the American Soundtrack for Sonic CD which consists mostly of 80's-90's style Rock music as opposed to the Upbeat J-pop of the Japanese and European Soundtrack. Many people prefer the Japanese soundtrack over the US one, but I personally like both of them equally. It's all a matter of preference.

The next game up is Sonic the Fighters (Or Sonic Championship as it was known in the US), an arcade fighting game that had a very limited US release. Some people have compared it to another Sega game called Virtua Fighter, which I have not played. The basic situation is that Eggman has built the Death Egg 2 (which looks like an overblown classroom model of a molecule.) and is wrecking havoc. Sonic and crew must now battle it out to see who is worthy of beating Eggman. Not exactly Shakespeare, but then again, you don't play Arcade fighting games for the story.

The controls for StF are very simple. Aside from using the control stick to move, jump, etc., there are three main buttons: Punch (A), Kick (X), and Barrier (B). The L, R, Y, and Z buttons can also be used as shortcuts for different combinations of the buttons. And if you're not content with the default setups, you can customize the setup to your own extent in the options menu. Like all fighting games, every character has special moves that you can pull off with different button combos. Fortunately, you can view all the moves for your character on the pause menu during a match.

The main game isn't very hard. Basically you pick a character and fight every other character (Including a black & white clone of yourself) in a set order. The playable characters are Sonic (Duh.), Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Fang (Aka Nack the weasel), Espio, Bean (A green duck with a thing for bombs), and Bark (A polar bear). In arcade mode, you will also Fight Metal Sonic and Dr. Eggman (Unfortunately, neither one are playable without an Action Replay). You can usually complete arcade mode in less than 10 minutes, but it's fun to go through and beat your previous times with different characters.

The Graphics and Music, while slightly better than N64 quality, are surprisingly good. Thank goodness Sega added a sound test to the options menu. If there's one disappointment about Fighters, it's the lack of the rumored Tag-team mode that was to be added to the console version. I guess some things aren't perfect.

The last “major” game on the disc is Sonic R, a racing game for the Sega Saturn and PC. For this compilation, Sega decided to port the PC version, which had weather effects such as snow and rain. Fortunately, they managed to include the music, which was nonexistent on the PC, due to an error. Speaking of the music, Sonic R has what I feel to be some of the best lyrical songs in gaming history. This stuff could even pass as real music that you would hear on the radio! (Well, except for Super Sonic Racing maybe.) If vocals aren't your thing, you can turn them off in the options menu.

Sonic R plays somewhat like a watered-down Sonic Adventure. You can run with the control stick (You can also use the B button to accelerate), Jump with the A button, and make sharp turns with the L and R buttons. Most characters have a special ability. For instance, Sonic can double-jump, Tails can fly, Knuckles can glide, etc. However, you cannot run backwards or turn quickly, which makes it annoying if you get stuck in a corner. Other than that, it's relatively easy to control your character.

Sonic R only has 5 tracks, which is a slight letdown. Of course, back on the Saturn, these were probably all they could fit onto the disc (If I recall correctly, Daytona USA only had 3 tracks.). Fortunately, there are a good number of unlockable characters, but you'll probably have them all available within an hour of gameplay. Still, despite the limited amount of tracks, I never seem to get bored with this game.

The Gamegear games are a nice addition, but only a few of them are really any good. If you have unlocked them all on Sonic Adventure DX, they probably won't be very special to have them on here. But if you haven't unlocked them all or you don't have Sonic Adventure DX, these games will probably be of slightly more value.

Sonic 2 for GG is probably the hardest Sonic game to date. From making blind jumps across bottomless pits to fighting tough bosses with no rings, Sonic 2 makes for a very frustrating game. Nothing like the Genesis version, and a lot crummier. The only real plus I see here is that one of the levels uses the Japanese opening to Sonic CD, though on an 8-bit scale, of course.

Sonic Spinball is worth a playthrough, but good luck beating it without the Save State feature (See below.). I actually managed to beat it, which is more than I can say for the Genesis version.

Sonic Triple Trouble (Aka Sonic and Tails 2) is a decent side-scroller that's relatively easy. My only real complaint is that sometimes the Score, Rings, etc. meter gets overlapped by the background at certain point in the levels. This shouldn't be too much of a problem though.

Sonic Drift 2 is a kart-racing game. While it's nothing compared to Mario Kart (Which it obviously was inspired by), I love playing it. The graphics are a major improvement over the first Sonic Drift, and the wide variety of courses makes this game much more fun than I expected it to be. (Hint: If you want to take the turns easily, use Knuckles.)

Tails' Skypartol is just… bleah. I have absolutely no idea how to play this game, and since it was never released in the US, the in-game manual is in Japanese. I can't even get past the training level for crying out loud! C'mon Sega, Tails deserves better than this.

As for Tails Adventures, now THIS is what I call a real game! Think a combination of Metroid, Castlevania, and Zelda, with an occasional Starfox-style level now and then and you've got Tails Adventures. Now this is a real Tails game!

One of the best features of this game is the ability to save the game at any time you wish, similar to using savestates on the Emulator. This allows you to pick up where you left off without having to go through the whole game again. This feature is especially helpful on games like Sonic Spinball and Vectorman, where there is no built-in save feature. The downside to this is that a single savestate takes up 27 blocks on the memory card, which can really eat up free space. I'd suggest using this system only when you need to.

As for extras, Sega really went out of their way on this one. By completing certain requirements (Play game X 20 times, Play game Y for 30 minutes, etc.) You can unlock tons of official artwork, as well as remixes of well-known Sonic tunes, and even 5-20 minute demos of other Sonic games! Sadly, Knuckles Chaotix and SegaSonic arcade, two highly popular and rare Sonic titles, were not included on this collection. Sega has said that if this collection does well, then they will be put on another collection. Hopefully this will be the case.

For the die-hard Sonic fan, this game is a great opportunity to play some of the lesser-known-but-still-great games of the series and is totally worth the purchase. If you're just a casual gamer though, the only really outstanding one here is Sonic CD, so it might be better for a simple rental. All in all, I would say that Sonic Gems Collection offers a great opportunity to play these rare games at a low price. FightinMongoose out.

Sonic CD
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 9/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Difficulty: 3/10

Sonic the Fighters
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Difficulty: 5/10

Sonic R
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Difficulty: 4/10

Sonic 2: 2/10
Sonic Spinball: 4/10
Sonic Triple Trouble: 7/10
Sonic Drift 2: 7/10
Tails' Skypatrol: 2/10
Tails' Adventures: 8/10


The Good:
+ 3 awesome rare titles
+ Includes the harder-to-unlock GG titles from SADX.
+ Lots of nice artwork
+ Playable demos of S1, S2, S3, S&K, Spinball (Genesis), S1 (GG), Sonic Chaos (GG), Sonic Blast (GG), Sonic Drift (GG), Mean Bean Machine (Genesis and GG), Sonic Labyrinth (GG), and 3D blast.

The Bad:
- No Streets of Rage for the US release
- Only one Soundtrack for CD
- Where are Chaotix and Segasonic Arcade?

The Hilarious:
* The Sonic CD manual referring to Amy as “Princess Sally” XD

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/29/05

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