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Hands-On: Sonic Mega Collection Plus (PlayStation 2)

Genre: Compilation Developer: Sonic Team Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 11/2/04

Naturally, you can’t talk about Sega without thinking about Sonic. The Sonic the Hedgehog series of games will always be remembered for bringing the Sega Genesis into the spotlight with their fast action and exciting, fun gameplay. Back in 2002 Sega released a compilation disc for the GameCube called Sonic Mega Collection, giving ‘Cube owners the chance to relive Sonic’s Genesis adventures. Now two years later Sega has released a new version of their collection, this time for the PlayStation 2 and X-Box called Sonic Mega Collection Plus. That’s right, Plus, meaning new content not found in the GC collection.

When you boot up the disc, you get a nice selection of games. First off, you get the Sonic games released for the Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog 1-3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Spinball, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and Sonic 3D Blast (the Genesis version, not the Saturn version). Moreover, the disc includes six of Sonic’s Game Gear titles (hence the Plus). You can play Sonic 1 (GG), Sonic Chaos, the GG version of Mean Bean Machine, Sonic Drift, Sonic Blast, and Sonic Labyrinth. There are other games as well, but these are hidden and need to be unlocked first. You do this by playing the main games at least 20 times. Among the first items you can uncover are the different Sonic & Knuckles lock-on combinations, such as Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Knuckles in Sonic 2, and the Blue Sphere mini-game. You’ll also find several non-Sonic Genesis titles as well. You can unlock the early Genesis title Flicky, in addition to several late-era games released in 1995: Ristar, Comix Zone, and The Ooze.

If you’re wondering how the games compare to the originals, worry not. The included titles are perfect emulations, down to the last pixel. Also, the simultaneous two-player action in most of them is intact. Even the original bugs and slowdown are here as well. The games play fine and the PS2 controller does a good job simulating the old Genesis pad. One thing to note is that, unlike the GC original, you now have the ability to save or load your game anytime, anywhere. This can be considered either useful or cheating, depending on your tastes. The Extras menu has also been beefed up slightly. You can now view the movies from Sonic Heroes and some cool art. You also get a gallery of cover scans from the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. Best of all the disc includes the full scan of the Sonic Firsts special issue, readable in its entirety. It’s a nice bonus, though you have to zoom in to read the text. You can also check out the scanned manuals for all the included games.

If there’s one major downside in the compilation, it’s the game lineup itself. While the those present make a good collection, more titles could have been included. Yes, Sonic CD has once again been passed over. My main concern is the Game Gear titles. First, don’t forget there are only six titles, as opposed to 12 on Sonic Adventure DX (GC). You won’t find Sonic 2, Sonic Triple Trouble, or Sonic Drift 2 here. As for the games themselves, they play okay but don’t translate well onto a big television screen. The animation is choppy and the character sprites are too big to really see anything. Several of the Game Gear titles were released on the Sega Master System in Europe; surely Sega could have used those instead of the handheld versions. They probably would have translated better to the television screen, and given American Sega gamers a taste of what they missed.

For what it’s worth, Sonic Mega Collection Plus is still a first-rate classic game collection. You’ll get to relive a lot of old-school memories, as well as have a visual timeline of how far Sonic has come. The best part about the collection is that you can buy it for the budget price of only $19.99. If you’re a Sonic fan who still enjoys his Genesis exploits, do not pass this up.

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