A fast from the past.
There's a good reason why Sonic the Hedgehog is still around and Kid Chameleon is off in some video game mascot retirement home - character. Sonic captured an arrogant self-confidence in the wag of a finger. He sped across miles and miles when others were still lightly trotting. He was one helluva mascot, that's for sure.
And now everyone who yearns for the Sonic of yesteryear or those new to the blue blur can find the past in one place, the Sonic Mega Collection. This is essentially a compilation of almost all of his 16-bit adventures on one disk. Sonic Mega Collection includes Sonic 1, 2, 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Spinball, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, and Sonic 3D Blast. That's a lot of hedgehog.
The emulation of these Genesis classics is well done, matching the look, speed, and even the processing faults of the original versions, point for point. Notably, the Sonic games feel comfortable on the Gamecube controller, complete with the giant jump button.
The gameplay, graphics, music, and atmosphere of the original Sonic the Hedgehog are still unmatched within the series, though the second Sonic does come very close. It was just such a different and special game in its time. But with each following game, as more and more supporting characters and features were being added, the simple and natural magic began to dull, eroded by clutter and age.
Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles used a revised character sprite and implemented special shields that granted Sonic new abilities. I didn't much like these two games back in their time, and even now, I don't think they hold up to the original two.
Sonic and Knuckles, in its original Genesis form, had an additional cartridge slot that allowed any of the previous Sonic games to be plugged in. This would open up combined versions of the games, such as being able to run through Sonic 2 with Knuckles. When the original Sonic was plugged into Sonic and Knuckles, a bonus game was accessible.
These "locked" versions of Sonic are included in the Mega Collection, but are not available from the outset. Ironically enough, they must be "unlocked" by playing the other games. Rounding out the list of unlockable games are Flicky and Ristar, two non-Sonic games.
Sonic Spinball is a combination of the core Sonic gameplay ideas with classic pinball playing fields. While I'm no pinball wizard, I can irrefutably say that pinball is meant to be played with two hands, each controlling a flipper. The major problem with Sonic Spinball was that it forced you to control both flippers with one hand. The D-pad was used to veer Sonic towards bonuses and switches, so the flippers were mapped to A and B. C would control both flippers at once. Awkward!
Those poor Genesis controllers never had shoulder buttons. If you haven't noticed, Sega, Gamecube controllers DO. So why didn't they have the common sense to give Spinball the one tweak it was always dying for? Alas, there are only 2 button mapping configurations, and neither of them do Spinball justice.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is the Americanized version of the classic puzzle game Puyo Puyo, utilizing enemy characters from the old Sonic cartoons. Colored blobs drop into the playing field and must be arranged into combinations of at least 4. The blobs gel together like amoebas when they touch another blob of the same color. It's among the best chain-minded puzzle games and holds up well.
Sonic 3D Blast is the Genesis version, not the slightly improved Saturn edition. Regardless, it's still an unlovable game that misses the entire point of a Sonic game: speed. In the name of completion, I'm glad it's in there, but it's not as good as the classic 2D games.
Woefully missing from this canon of Sonic game is Sonic CD. While they obviously couldn't really pack every single Sonic game ever into this collection, who decided to leave out this one? Sonic CD ruled and beats the pants off Sonic 3D Blast, but it's a no-show here. Bad move.
Sonic Mega Collection includes some light extras, but don't get excited. The art section is very incomplete. While the comic book covers of some 100 Sonic the Hedgehog comics are included, where are the pencil sketches or character concepts, the roots of Sonic? Instead, we get a few scans of post-Sonic Adventure art with other images that you can easily find online.
Several video clips are also included, such as the opening and ending animations of Sonic CD (which features a song almost bad enough to rival the DK monkey rap). There's also a silly video biography of Sonic that plays more like a commercial.
Where are the documentaries or interviews with developers? Where are the design docs or early concepts? Pages of history behind Sonic? Info on the mysterious Sonic Xtreme project? There just isn't much meat to the extras.
But you're probably not buying this for artwork or history. You're buying it for the slew of old-school Sonic games, a couple of which still provide some good fun. However, if you already have some of these games, I'd advise just blowing the dust off the old Genesis, because there isn't enough good extra stuff here.