reviews\ Nov 21, 2004 at 7:00 pm

Sonic Mega Collection Plus - PS2 - Review

Once again the old school bug has struck.  We’ve had a Street Fighter collection, a Mega Man collection, and reworks of several classic series released over this past year.  Well now Sega has given us another collection of games starring probably their most famous creation, Sonic the Hedgehog.  In case you’ve never played a Sonic game before, Sonic the Hedgehog is Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario.  Just like Mario, Sonic is an icon in the gaming industry and the Sonic games have helped shape the video game industry.  Sonic Mega Collection Plus is an expansion collection of games that offers players to see the good and sometimes bad side of the blue hedgehog.


Sonic Mega Collection Plus is the second incarnation of the Sonic Mega Collection.  The first Mega Collection was released for the GameCube but now patient PS2 owners have the same collection with additional games.  The games included in the collection are the entire Sonic series of games that were released on the Sega Genesis.   But this version of the collection includes all of the Sonic games that were released on the Sega Game Gear (Sega’s color portable system released in the early 90’s).  So while GameCube owners were able to play all of the Genesis games, PS2 owners now can play any Sonic game released on the Sega Genesis or Sega Game Gear. 


The complete list of Genesis games included are: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.  The complete list of Game Gear games included are: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic Drift, Sonic Chaos, Sonic Blast and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.  For the long time Sonic fan they will probably notice one omission, Sonic CD.  Yes fans, once again, Sonic CD is not included in this collection, so get those hate emails ready to go to Sega.


Sonic is a tried and true platform title, ala Super Mario Bros.  The basic premise of the majority of Sonic games revolves around Sonic trying to prevent Dr. Robotnik (now properly known as Dr. Eggman) from taking over the world by using the Chaos Emeralds.  The majority of the games revolve around Sonic running around the stage, destroying enemies, collecting coins and defeating Dr. Eggman at the end of each stage.  So what makes Sonic so special and precious enough to warrant so many sequels?   Well consider at the time that Sonic was an almost complete opposite of the platform king Mario.  To some Mario was boring and he lacked personality, according to some gamers.  Sonic on the other hand was full of attitude and offered something that Mario didn’t, speed. 



Blazing through a level at a breakneck pace was new, thrilling and exciting when the first Sonic game was released.  Never before did gamers have a character that moved so fast and possessed as much spunk and attitude as Sonic.  So instead of Mario being the sole king of the platform games, now the title was being shared with Sonic the Hedgehog.  In my opinion though the first Sonic title for the Genesis doesn’t actually capture the true essence of Sonic.  Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 are much better examples of just what Sonic became and I believe much stronger titles than the first Sonic game. 


All of the games on the collection control wonderfully.  Most of Sonic moves are performed with a simple press of one button.  As you get farther along in the series you will find additional moves not available in the earlier titles.  But all of the games respond exactly the same as the original games did when they were first released (having played a majority of the games back in the day).  The graphics are identical to the original versions as well, since these are the original titles.  Every pixel and sprite (and sometimes polygon) is included in their original glory to the same exact detail.  The framerate on all of the games are exactly the same as the original titles as well.  The sound effects are the same as the original as well.



In fact all of the games look, sound and play just like the originals except for one small exception; the screen size.  I’m sure this was a decision made by Sega, since Sega developed this collection themselves, but the games are presented with a black bar around the entire screen.  Yep, you read that right; the games do not display on the entire viewing area of your television.  The view of the games was done for a reason but it’s also something that will probably leave some gamers (especially gamers new to the Sonic series) wondering why a game from 10 years ago has to be played with black bar around the screen.   Isn’t the PS2 supposed to more powerful than the Sega Genesis?  If so then why do we need a black bar around all of the games?


The collection of games included is also another area that will have you cringing, or at least asking yourself "Why Sega, why?”  The first four Sonic games on the Genesis are classic games that everyone should play.  After that some of the games included could have been left at the design board.  Sonic 3D Blast is a prime example of a game that doesn’t help the Sonic legacy.  This was Sega attempt at getting Sonic into 3D but not with great success.  Many of the Game Gear titles are pitiful excuses for Sonic games as well. 


However love is a gift of cherishing the good and overlooking the bad (no matter how bad it can be sometimes).   Fans of Sonic will no doubt love this collection because it includes almost every early Sonic game released (pre-Dreamcast era).  If you love something (Sonic 1, Sonic 2 and Sonic 3) then you can overlook the bad (Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spin Drift) and be happy with the collective sum.  Even if your love affair with Sonic only last one or two games, Sonic Mega Collection Plus is the ultimate way of rekindling the fire from yesteryear.  Great games are great games, no matter how old they get. 

Review Scoring Details


Gameplay 8.0 

All of the games played true to the original games, with the majority of the games offering tight and responsive controls.  The standard Sonic games (Sonic 1 to 3, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic the Hedgehog and Game Gear) all very similar to each other in terms of gameplay.  You control Sonic with the directional pad (or analog stick) and then perform moves with a press of a single button.  Some of the other games in the collection are just not up to par as the standard Sonic games, with unresponsive controls and lackluster gameplay.  But as far as a collection goes all of the games control true to the originals and PS2 owners shouldn’t have a problem jumping in right away.


Graphics 7.6 

Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles for the Genesis are standard bearers for great graphics.  Beautiful stages, fast action and detailed sprites all prevalent throughout those games.  When you get to Sonic Spinball and some of the Game Gear titles you will probably want to have your eyes checked.  You will be asking yourself if you’re even looking at the same game.  The Game Gear titles, while still looking the same as they did years ago, have a very washed out look to them.  Once again while you take the greatness of some of the games, you have to put up with the ugliness that is the rest of the games. 


Sound 7.5 

The same can be repeated for the sound effects as what I mentioned for the graphics.  All of the games sound exactly the same as the originals and are emulated perfectly.  You probably don’t want to blast these through a 5.1 surround sound system though since you’re listening to retro gaming sound effects and music.  The Genesis games sound great and all of the catchy Sonic tunes are included.  But the Game Gear games try really hard to duplicate the sounds of their Genesis counterparts.  The results are a mixed bag with the majority of the sound effects sounding muffled and a little distorted.


Difficulty Easy to Medium 

The difficulty level in the game really depends on whether you will use the in-game save feature.  The game allows you to save any of the games at any time, which is a tremendous help in beating the titles included.  But at the same time this diminishes the difficulty of the games.  The original games were designed to be tough and challenging.  The in-game save feature almost removes the challenge but it’s something that you don’t have to use.  If you want to take it old school, then resist the temptation of the in-game save system. 



Some of the games in the collection allow up to two players to play at the same time.  Most of the two player modes allow for competitive play and cooperative play (so you and a friend can try to finish the game together). 


Concept 7.8 

Another collection of classic games released for a modern system.  When will this trend ever end?  Probably never since people are still buying these games, sometimes even if they own the originals.  Being able to play the games on a modern system is usually easier then having to dig out the older system and all of the games.  Putting in one disc with all of the games is much more enjoyable to hoping the old games still work.  By including the Game Gear games on this collection, the PS2 version has a heads up over the Gamecube version.  However some of the games included will leave a bad taste for some gamers.  Being able to relive history, especially the dark parts, is always a welcomed treat.


Overall 7.7 

Sonic Mega Collection Plus is a good addition for any gamers collection.  Sonic is a true icon in video games and this collection offers a great insight into his history.  All of the great games included are replicated beautifully, with the same excellent gameplay, sound effects and graphics that you remembered from long ago.  However this collection also gives you an insight into some of the Sonic games that some players wished would disappear.  While the emulation is spot-on for the games, having to put up with a black bar around the screen could be upsetting to some.  But in the end Sonic Mega Collection Plus is the ultimate assortment of Sonic games ever assembled.  For older fans or new fans, Sonic Mega Collection Plus is a solid purchase for your collection.





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