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.
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
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
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
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