A Binge Gamer Review: Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
My first video game console was a SEGA Genesis. I got it on Christmas Day, 1994 along with copies of Sonic 2 and NHL 95. I remember sitting on my living room floor with a pillow under my backside, in front of a big 50” TV. It was one of those old-style television sets that was built into a wooden frame and basically doubled as a shelf. It was so old and worn that it would actually turn itself off every hour or two. It didn’t have a remote so you had to get up and manually turn the channel and adjust the volume. My current 34” 1080i LCD Flatscreen is far superior to that old jalopy in every respect.
However, as I sat here playing through Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, I would’ve traded anything to be able to play on that old ass TV one more time. Playing through games like Comix Zone and Vectorman again made me feel like a kid again and if you were a fan of SEGA in your youth, you would be hard pressed to not find a game on here that didn’t have that same effect on you.
Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection features 49 Genesis, Master System and Arcade titles, making this far and away the most complete SEGA compilation you could ever hope to find. Below is a complete list of games on the disc:
Genesis Games (40)
|Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle||Phantasy Star II|
|Alien Storm||Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom|
|Altered Beast||Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium|
|Bonanza Bros.||Shining Force|
|Columns||Shining Force 2|
|Comix Zone||Shining in the Darkness|
|Decap Attack starring Chuck D. Head||Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master|
|Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine||Sonic 3|
|Dynamite Headdy||Sonic 3D Blast|
|Ecco the Dolphin||Sonic & Knuckles|
|Ecco: The Tides of Time||Sonic Spinball|
|E-SWAT||Sonic The Hedgehog|
|Fatal Labyrinth||Sonic The Hedgehog 2|
|Flicky||Streets of Rage|
|Gain Ground||Streets of Rage 2|
|Golden Axe||Streets of Rage 3|
|Golden Axe II||Super Thunder Blade|
|Golden Axe III||Vectorman|
|Kid Chameleon||Vectorman 2|
Unlockable Master System and Arcade Games (9)
|Golden Axe Warrior||Altered Beast|
|Phantasy Star||Congo Bongo|
|Alien Syndrome||Fantasy Zone|
Now every game in this collection is between 15 and 20 years old, so I don’t think I have to go through and review each and every one of them. Instead I’m going to talk about the collection as a whole and I will start by saying that while the games are certainly the star of the show, it’s the little bells and whistles that help this package to stand out. For example you can rank each of the 40 default games on a five-point scale. That may sound rather useless but it actually serves a purpose: to sort your games when your menu is listed by “Favorites”. Right now the only two games I have listed as perfect 5s are Sonic 2 and Vectorman. Each game also has its own “Museum”, where you can read up on the history of each game and look at some original box art.
Each game has some sort of unlockable content, as well. In addition to the games you can also unlock a series of developer interviews where they talk about their experiences working on the game as well as give some insight into the process of bringing the game to both the Genesis and now these modern platforms. I know a lot of people scoff at games that have developer interviews as unlockables, but each of these are well produced (for not being in HD) and are actually interesting to watch… and read, since the developers are all speaking in Japanese.
I’ve always held the belief that old school games like the ones found in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection are best experienced on the PlayStation 3 (or Wii when possible) as opposed to the Xbox 360 because the PS3 has actual directional buttons instead of some sort of failed pottery project that Microsoft is passing off as some kind of D-Pad. Regardless, though, each game controls well. When you boot up a game the control scheme is displayed before you actually begin, and if you don’t like the way the controls are laid out (i.e. Sonic Spinball) you can change them to your liking quite easily.
Now, not everything about Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is peachy. Some of the game choices are questionable (Columns, E-SWAT, Bonanza Bros.?) while others are gems that you just don’t think about all that often (Ristar, Dr. Robitnik’s Mean Bean Machine). If it were up to me, I’d have taken out some of the older games in this collection (again, E-SWAT) and replaced them with Toe Jam & Earl or my personal favorite Genesis game, Dinosaurs for Hire, but none of that pales in comparison to the omission that is simply inexcusable: If you’re going to release a collection that has Sonic & Knuckles, for the love of God include the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on titles. Sure, it was explained that due to issues with the emulation and that to do so would have meant excluding the nine unlockable games. However, if push came to shove I would gladly take Sonic 2 featuring Knuckles the Echidna over Space Harrier – and I liked Space Harrier.
Another odd complaint I have is the complete exclusion of online leaderboards. Normally I wouldn’t make a stink over this but some of these very same games are available on Xbox LIVE and they all have online leaderboards so to see that this set doesn’t have that feature is somewhat curious. But it’s not a deal breaker.
Oh yeah, the “720p” HD resolution that’s boasted on the box? It’s there, but you really can’t tell.
Now there is one elephant in the room that most other reviews haven’t touched on, and that is emulation. I’m not stupid. I know most of you guys have a Genesis emulator and you probably have ROMs of each and every game in this compilation. Hell, I know I do. But at the same time, there is simply no substitution for being able to sit on your couch in front of your television (which I hope is larger than your computer monitor) and taking a trip down memory lane with some of these all-time SEGA classics. If you grew up owning a Genesis, this is a must-have. If you’re a younger gamer wanting to know what we used to play when you were outside enjoying your “baseball” and “sunshine”, there is no better introduction to the 16-bit era.