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Sonic Gems Collection Review

Developer: Sonic Team Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: August 16, 2005 Also On: None

The biggest complaint leveled against Sonic Mega Collection when it was released in 2002 was the omission of Sonic CD. After three years, Sega has finally listened to its fans and has responded by releasing Sonic Gems Collection, featuring Sonic CD as well as two other significant Sonic titles that were released for systems other than the Genesis. Complementing these three main titles, unfortunately, are six Game Gear games that were already available as unlockables in Sonic Adventure DX, as well as two unlockable games that have nothing to do with Sonic at all.

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The first game on the list when you go to load the games is Sonic the Fighters, a fighting game that was originally released in the arcade. I believe the title was actually called Sonic Championship in America, but the name isn’t really that important. It is exactly what it sounds like, a fighting game. Sonic the Fighters features eight characters, mostly from the Sonic universe although a couple of them I am unfamiliar with, leaving open the possibility that they were created for this game.

Like most arcade fighting games, Sonic the Fighters features a one-player arcade mode and also has the option of going one on one with a buddy. The version in Sonic Gems Collection, however, has an options menu that allows you to change a number of options pertaining to the game, including the difficulty level, a feature that I find it difficult to believe was in the arcade version. That addition makes it seem more like a console fighting game in some respects, but it also means that you can practice against weaker opponents if you’re not as good at the game.

Sonic the Fighters plays like most other 3D traditional fighting games. There is a basic moveset that is common to all of the players, and each player has a set of special moves that can be used through specific direction and button combinations. Overall, the game seems to execute well, and it doesn’t come across as either a game that requires high levels of strategy to suceed at or a button masher, but rather a happy medium of the two.

Aesthetically, the game isn’t too bad either. The graphics look very nice and seem like the game would have been right at home as a late-generation Saturn release. The sound effects are pretty average for a fighting game, and the music likewise is nonobtrusive but not particularly memorable. All of this serves to make Sonic the Fighters a fighting game that, although it might not appeal to hardcore Soul Calibur fans, should satisfy fans of Sonic or of less complex fighting games, at least for a while.

The second game in the compilation is Sonic CD. The re-release of this game in a compilation has been clamored for by Sonic fans ever since Sonic Mega Collection’s release, and it is probably as a direct result of that fact that I was not particularly impressed by the game. Now, before you go off and tell me that Sonic CD is one of the best 2D Sonic games of all time and that I have no idea what I’m saying, let me say this: I agree. However, especially after watching the movies from the game in Mega Collection, I had expected Sonic CD to be a 3D game, which it isn’t.

Sonic CD is basically just another 2D Sonic platformer, but with a twist. Each level exists in two time periods that Sonic can travel back and forth between by running through poles in the level. Sonic can get to the end of the level in either time period, but it seems that it is predetermined which time period you start a level in regardless of what time period you ended the last level in. Beyond this one gameplay change, Sonic CD plays just like any of the Genesis Sonic titles, with Sonic racing through levels trying to get from the beginning to the end. The third level of each zone features a battle with Robotnik just like in other Sonic platformers.

The music is radically different in Sonic CD than in the Genesis Sonic platformers. The Sonic games on the Genesis featured the same type of music that Sonic’s rival, Mario, had, pure melodies composed for the levels, instrumental stuff. I don’t know if the music in Sonic CD was licensed or not, but even if it wasn’t, the music in the game was a stepping stone between the old midi music and the licensed stuff that would follow in the Sonic Adventure series. I, being a purist, therefore do not like this new type of music, although I must admit that most of it is pretty good for what it is.

Basically, if you’ve played any of the Genesis Sonic games, there will be little in Sonic CD that will surprise you beyond the time travel mechanic. Even the graphics look just slightly better than if Sonic CD were a normal Genesis game. The sound effect set is the same as in Genesis Sonic games as well. Overall, if you like 2D Sonic platformers, you will be right at home with this game.

The third major title in Sonic Gems Collection is Sonic R, a racing title that was originally released for the Sega Saturn. Sonic R is the first racing title I have ever seen where the participants were primarily on foot, but given the fact that Sonic’s trademark is his speed, it makes sense for a Sonic racing game to be unique in that way. Sonic R is neither Sega’s answer to Super Mario Kart nor a particularly simlike racing game, but it is a worthwhile diversion nonetheless.

Aesthetically, there is nothing noteworthy about the game. The graphics look like the graphics off of a 32-bit game, and the sound and music in the game are neither horrid nor memorable. The courses and options available in the game match what was typical for racing games, with 1-player grand prix modes and also the option for multiplayer races. I should mention that this game has multiplayer for up to four people, just like Mario Kart, making it a pretty decent party game if your friends are Sonic fans.

If you’re playing single player, there’s plenty to do as well. Beyond simply trying to win the race, you can explore the courses and try to find special items along each track that can be used to unlock things. This should keep you busy for a while if you are dedicated enough to worry about collecting it all. For those who aren’t completists, however, the game might not last very long. Either way though, the game is fun, at least for a while.

Sega itself knew that the aforementioned three games were the big guns that were going to sell this collection, and, indeed, by all means they should be. However, they also included six Game Gear games and two other unlockable titles. I am not going to reveal anything about the two unlockable games to you, but I will give you an idea what to expect from the six Game Gear games for those of you who never unlocked them in Sonic Adventure DX.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble are 2D Sonic platformers, and they play like 2D Sonic platformers. The only noteworthy thing to mention here is that in Triple Trouble you have the option of playing as either Sonic or Tails. Sonic Spinball is basically a pinball game with Sonic as the pinball, very similar to the Genesis game of the same name. Sonic Drift 2 is a racing game, and it even features splitscreen multiplayer for those who are interested. Tails’ Skypatrol is a horizontal shooter starring Tails and using a power ring as the projectile weapon. Tails Adventures is a 2D platformer starring Tails. All of these games are worthwhile diversions from the main three games in the collection if you haven’t already unlocked them in Sonic Adventure DX.

Like Sonic Mega Collection, Sonic Gems Collection features the original manuals for the included games, as well as extra artwork, unlockable hints, and other such things. Most of this stuff is intended to strike the fancy of hardcore Sonic enthusiasts, but the casual Sonic fan such as myself likely won’t be too interested in much of it. It is a nice addition however. The biggest problem with this collection is that half of the games in it are games that most Sonic fans already have access to on the GCN through Sonic Adventure DX. The exclusion of Knuckles Chaotix for the Sega 32X is also questionable. However, even if you are looking at buying this game only for the three main titles, this compilation still proves a nice complement to Sonic Mega Collection, and at a launch price of $30, most Sonic fans wouldn’t go wrong in getting it.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.8
Written by Martin Review Guide