"Opening the closet."

Gems Collection picked up where Mega Collection left off. The original compilation featured four of the top Genesis titles and a slew of not so great games. This one changes things by collecting some of the lesser-known games as well as a small selection of the better Game Gear titles. With the first ever console ports of the superb Sonic CD and the surprisingly entertaining Sonic Championship, this collection proved to me a lot more valuable than the previous Mega Collections, due to the fact that these titles are pretty difficult to emulate.

Sonic CD is obviously the highlight of the collection but to my dismay, I discovered that the American version had been stuck in, not my treasured European version. The actual game is still as brilliant as what I experienced on my Mega CD but the American soundtrack took away a lot of the games original charm. The legendary compilation of unforgettable tunes have been wiped away and replaced by a rather mediocre score of horribly bland music. However, the creative level design, the time travelling and wonderful bosses still remain as concrete as they did in 1993.

The first ever console release of “Sonic Championship” is another great inclusion in this collection. This 3-D fighting game will surely warm the hearts of Sonic fanatics and be an interesting experience for most gamers. It takes some of the popular Sonic characters such as Tails and Knuckles and adds in some rather obscure ones such as Espio (from Knuckles Chaotix), Nack the Weasel (a treasure hunter from a few Game Gear titles) and Bean (the main star of the obscure arcade treasure Dynamite Dux. )

It's basically your standard 3-D fighter incorporated in the Sonic universe. Sonic attacks with his spin dash, Tails drops his foe from a height and Knuckles uses his glide ability to ram his fists into his opponents face. Every victory gives you a chaos emerald and as you progress you'll enter Robotnik's Death Egg II. Here, you'll battle with the evil Metal Sonic and Robotnik himself, armed in a horribly slow robotic walker. The use of Barriers is a rather interesting concept, every time you someone blocks, you can keep on punching them until they lose all of their barriers and are unable to block. Barriers can also enable your fighter to use Hyper Mode, this allows you to pull off more moves and run faster for a short period of time, basically allowing you to dominate your foe for the match.

Sonic R is the third headliner in the collection; it's also one of the poorer titles. It's a rather generic racing game with some very rusty polygon style graphics. The fact that we only have five racers available is also something that's a little off putting. Also, the controls are extremely stiff and very unresponsive which doesn't fit very well with a game that is based on speed. As you can imagine, the game goes like a bullet so the nasty controls aren't welcome. However, Sonic R does promote some nice features, the ability to use trademark Sonic moves in a racing game is a great idea but it's hard to appreciate it with the horrible controls.

We also have a handful of Game Gear titles to take up some time. Instead of throwing us twelve rather bland titles, it picks six of the best and has them available for immediate play. Apart from the rather horrid Sonic Drift 2 (that suffers from Sonic R's problems) we have some interesting titles such as Tails' Adventure and Sky Patrol. Adventure is a fun yet slow moving platform/adventure title and Sky Patrol is an airborne platform game that sees Tails use a ring to hook onto poles, mine carts and weights for his advantage. Sonic 2 and Triple Trouble are fun platform outings that will keep you occupied for about half an hour max. As you imagine, these titles are purely filler and serve only to fill up some boring free time.

Sonic Gems has a few interesting unlockables that are acquired by playing the various games for hours on end or completing them a number of times. You can collect artwork and music for all of the various titles by playing them constantly. It's not as tedious as the enter-exit tasks in Mega Collection but playing Sonic R for two hours just to unlock a few pictures is asking far too much. Constant play will also unlock the 3-D rendered Mega Drive game Vectorman and its sequel. These games are rather decent to play and are more entertaining than the Game Gear titles but I think that the majority of us were hoping for the inclusion of Sonic Arcade and Knuckles Chaotix. Those two titles would completely round off a true Gems collection and their absence is truly felt.

It certainly is something for the true Sonic enthusiast and for those who have been waiting for Sonic CD for all of these years. Two of the three main titles are brilliant games that all Sonic fans will welcome while the others remain as fun time wasters. The inclusion of rarities like Chaotix and Sonic Arcade would close the lid on the treasure box but even without these titles it still remains as a fun collection that will please most fans. A few small problems drag it down (such as the soundtrack on Sonic CD or the inclusion of two Vectorman games) but its collection of special rarities will be the hook for true Sonic fans.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/10/05

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