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October 12, 2005
Sonic Gems Collection - Review
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The main reason to own this...
It wasn't even eight months ago that Sega released a compilation called Sonic Mega Collection; a compilation which took the best games in the Sonic series from the Megadrive and Game Gear and bundled them all together for a budget price. There wasn’t much missing with most titles included and even a couple of non-Sonic extras. Now, however, we have a second compilation, and its clear that Sega have struggled to compile a list of must have games for the disc, with most good Sonic games seemingly already available in the previous compilation. What this compilation does include are some of the more obscure and lesser seen titles starring the famous blue hedgehog.

According to Sega's literature "Sonic Gems Collection is a compendium of the best-kept secrets in Sonic's gaming history." What they should really have said is that "this compilation includes the games have only been available on systems that didn't sell well; the Sega Saturn, the Mega CD and an expensive Arcade system". That's right, the meat of this compilation is three games, Sonic R, Sonic Fighters and Sonic CD with a few other Game Gear titles thrown in for good measure. Sadly the three main games are a very mixed bag.

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Sonic R looks quite nice.
First off the rank is Sonic the Fighters which was originally released in the arcades in 1996. To say that this is a simplistic one-on-one fighting game would be an understatement. In fact, considering this game came out in the same year as Virtua Fighter 3 is downright embarrassing for Sega. Each of the characters has a very limted range of moves, the backgrounds are uninspiring and it's so repetitive it becomes mind-numbing. It also has very few characters you'll know about unless your a die-hard Sonic fanatic.

Faring a little better is the Sega Saturn title Sonic R which actually looks partially decent and has been ported quite well from the Sega Saturn. The game is essentially a racing game with most characters tearing around the tracks on foot. These tracks are littered with pickups, multiple paths and obstacles to overcome however the handling is rather haphazard, it's hard to take the tight corners at any speed and can become might annoying as a result. Still, this is a fun title that will keep you amused for some time.

The highlight in this compilation is without a doubt Sonic CD which, unless you were one of a couple of hundred thousand who owned a Mega CD, you're unlikely to have ever seen. The game is as good as the original Megadrive titles, it's fast and requires quick reflexes. In fact this game is so much fun that you'll wonder why Sega don't make Sonic a side scrolling platform title any more.

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Sonic the Fighters.
As well as those three games the developers have thrown in six Game Gear titles including Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Spinball, Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble, Sonic Drift Racing, Tails' Skypatrol, and Tails Adventure. These are all pretty nice additions to the compilation and probably ported as well as can be expected. At times some of the games seem a little sluggish, and without the originals I can't do a direct comparison sadly. There are two bonus games on this disc, Vectorman 1 and Vectorman 2, but the removal of Streets of Rage which appears on the Japanese disc is criminal. Planning a third compilation are we Sega?

For this compilation I can virtually use the same comments from Sonic Mega Collection Plus. In fact I will, so here we go... When you're looking at retro games it's hard to give them a score for their graphics and Sonic Mega Collection Plus (change that to Sonic Gems Collection) is no exception. During their time the games really were quite revolutionary, and even today they still look nice. However with the lower resolution, limited colour palette and lack of action on screen it looks lacking. How do you score that? Resolution becomes a major issue for the Game Gear titles which look quite average on a large TV when they were designed to run on a screen only a matter of inches in diameter. Another disappointment is that the PAL version doesn't include a 60Hz mode to run the games in full speed.

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Graphics are pretty nice.
With the three main games on this disc being ported from the arcade roms, or console CD's, the audio quality is a few notches above what we've come to expect from retro compilations. This is classic Sonic without a doubt. Less impressive is the Game Gear titles which are hissy and obviously suffering from compression for the handheld system.

In the end the games on this disc should have been added onto Sonic Mega Collection Plus to add even greater value, and the complete Sonic collection, to that disc. Given that all the data on this disc adds up to only 1.68GB it should have easily been possible. This is a case of greed on Sega's part, and one which I won't, and you shouldn't, fall for. If you really want to play some old school Sonic then grab Sonic Mega Collection Plus instead unless you really must have Sonic CD.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSThe three main games look very good, Gamegear ones quite blurry.
SOUNDGamegear titles are poor, the three main games are good quality.
GAMEPLAYStandouts are Sonic CD and Sonic R. The rest are pretty average.
VALUEEven at $59.95 you'll struggle to get the value in this package.
OVERALLSonic Mega Collection Plus could be seen as the essential purchase for gamers from the 16-bit era. This compilation will have you hooked for weeks, if not months and is well worth the price.

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