Review: Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection
Genre: Compilation
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 02/11/09

Compilations are usually a safe bet for consumers and publishers; consumers can expect to play through plenty of old classics that either remind them of their youth or let them experience games they were too young to remember, while publishers can clean out their back catalog of games, cram them on a disc, and make tons of cash for little to no effort. Everybody wins, more or less, which is probably why more than a few companies have jumped onto the gravy train in recent years. Sega is no stranger to the compilation game; aside from the fairly recent Sega Genesis Collection, they’ve released something like four different Sonic the Hedgehog collections in the past several years to varying degrees of success, as well as a few other compilations of variable content and quality, so Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is hardly a surprising product. That said, the promise of improved graphics for HD owners is a bit of a surprise, as is the fact that the disc comes jam-packed with content, and while this compilation doesn’t quite pay off on its promises, it’s still definitely worth its asking price because of this.

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection comes packed with nearly fifty games, spanning the Genesis, the Sega Master System and Sega’s own arcade library, making this the most packed compilation disc released by the company yet. In theory, this is really impressive, as it means there’s a ton of classic gaming on one disc for gamers to jump into and enjoy, but in practice it’s a little less impressive than it first seems. Of the twenty-eight games originally released with the Sega Genesis Collection, twenty-four are also included in THIS collection, meaning that anyone who owns that game will essentially be buying a lot of the same games they already have elsewhere. Granted, if you DON’T own that compilation, that won’t matter to you, but if you DO, that’s going to kind of sting a little. There are also two SMS titles and seven arcade games on this disc for players to unlock, which is nice, even if three of the seven arcade games here were, again, included with the Sega Genesis Collection. The physical design of the product is reasonably nice for those who are interested in such a thing; the top menu is designed in the style of the Genesis console, and the game selection menu features numerous sorting methods (including one method that allows you to rate the games on a scale of one to five, depending on your own preferences), which is also a functionally nice touch.

Visually, the games in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection look identical to how they used to look when they came out in HD, which doesn’t sound very impressive until you realize that, were these games displayed in HD without any upscaling, you’d be able to count the pixels in Sonic’s face. In other words: technically, the games do not actually look BETTER, but the fact that they do not look WORSE is something that should be lauded, especially if you’re an HD owner. There’s also an option to turn on a smoothing filter, which essentially blurs the sprites a bit to make the games look nicer than they do, though the actual effect of this option depends on the game; games with large, bright sprites will generally look as good or better with smoothing turned on, while games with smaller sprites generally looks a whole lot worse, so you might want to play around with the settings a bit depending on the game. Still, this is a good thing to have in the game, if nothing else. Aurally, the games sound mostly as good or bad as they ever did, as these are direct emulations of the original games, more or less. The emulation isn’t entirely perfect, as there will be the occasional audio hiccup here and there, but these flaws are thankfully infrequent and don’t diminish the overall experience as much as one might think. Since more than a handful of the games on this disc feature music done by Yuzo Koshiro, I’m going to say that the good in the audio department outweighs the bad here, as none of the games feature outright abhorrent audio or anything, but if MIDI music and poor voice samples get on your last nerve, you might have a problem with the audio here. Just saying.

Anyway, a compilation is only as good as the games in it, so let’s spend the next eight pages talking about said games, shall we?

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle – This one’s a game I rather enjoyed when I was a kid, but it doesn’t really stand up so well to the harsh light of day. It’s cute and there are plenty of novelties to it, like playing Janken (short form for Jan-Ken-Pon, AKA Rock-Paper-Scissors) for items that you can use as needed for added assistance, but it takes some getting used to, gameplay-wise, as the controls are a little floaty in most respects. It’s not so much bad as it is unimpressive, but it’s novel as all get-out, and that pretty much makes it worth playing, if nothing else.

Alien Storm – This is one of about one hundred beat-em-ups Sega released in the nineties, and as with most of them, it’s generally mediocre in most respects. The idea of kicking the crap out of aliens seems like a winner, and to its credit, Alien Storm features plenty of interesting alien designs and play sections, but between the annoying “one credit equals one life” aspect that essentially makes playing with a second player useless, the sluggish controls, and the occasionally cheap bosses and collision issues, this is a novelty at best and annoying at worst.

Alien Syndrome – This is unlocked by making it to stage 3 in Alien Storm, which isn’t particularly complex and should be easy enough after about two or three tries. Alien Syndrome is a fun overhead shooter that involves blowing up aliens and saving hostages. Think of it as a Sega-made Aliens game and it makes perfect sense. The alien designs are cool, the arcade graphics have held up well enough, and the game is still pretty fun years and years later, making this a winner for the collection.

Altered Beast – This comes in two varieties: the normal Genesis version and the arcade version, which is unlocked by earning 100,000 points by the end of the first stage, which isn’t too bad (beat the first boss without having to go to the second section of the first stage and that’s about it). The console version is probably the version most people are familiar with, though the arcade version is probably the more interesting version of the two if only because it’s a fair bit better looking and better animated. Both versions are mild diversions that are enjoyable enough to play, though you’ll probably be able to beat it in a sitting if you’re a reasonably skilled player, and there’s not much reason to come back after the first time. Still, worth a look.

Beyond Oasis – Now THIS is what I’m talking about! Beyond Oasis is a fabulous action/RPG from start to finish, featuring bright and fantastic visuals, outstanding music, and a long, enjoyable quest to complete. This is one of those games that anyone who loves (or missed out on) the 16-bit era really NEEDS to play, as it’s awesome from start to finish and almost justifies the cost of the compilation on its own.

Bonanza Bros. – Again? This is something like the third compilation this game has appeared on, and it’s not getting any less weak as the years pass. Essentially, you’re a thief who’s trying to steal stuff from various locations, using a combination of brute force and stealth to accomplish your goals. The concept is fine, but the game doesn’t play particularly well and the actual game itself feels like a less interesting, more linear Elevator Action. Not terrible, but not worth spending much time with either.

Columns – Line up gems, eliminate gems of the same color, try to keep the screen from filling up, you know the drill. The good news is that Columns is still a fun puzzle game, nearly twenty years later; the bad news is that you’ve most likely played a billion games like it already, meaning the novelty of the game will probably be worn a little. Still, it’s not a bad game and it’s well worth playing if you’re a puzzle game lover.

Comix Zone – Another game that hasn’t held up particularly well, Comix Zone was Sega’s attempt to emulate the EXTREME comics of the 90’s, and while the design and artistic style are still pretty cool, and the gameplay isn’t bad, it’s essentially a single-player beat-em-up that gives you one life to beat it and more than a few scenarios where death is all but unavoidable. As a novelty it’s worth a look, but it’s hardly a classic game or anything.

Congo Bongo – Sega’s answer to Donkey Kong, only half as interesting and twice as frustrating. As a historical artifact it’s amusing to see this included on the disc, but forget about playing it; the controls are unresponsive, the perspective is hard to work with, and the game itself simply isn’t very fun at all. Still, points for the sheer obscurity of the game and all.

Decap Attack – Back when this came out, I beat the game and don’t remember why I bothered. Decap Attack is essentially Psycho Fox with a horror theme attached, for the four people out there who will know what that means. The game does some novel things (throwing your head to attack enemies, using items to slow down enemies or increase your attack power, etc.), and the presentation isn’t at all bad, but once again, the game doesn’t play particularly well and isn’t terribly exciting or anything. Not bad, but not great.

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – This is just Puyo Puyo themed around the Sonic the Hedgehog TV show from the 90’s, meaning that the concept probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to most people, but the gameplay certainly will: unite four or more drops together to eliminate them and bury your opponent in drops, repeat as needed. Like Columns, the biggest failing point of this is that you’ve probably seen it a billion times before, but by and large, it’s pretty fun even so and worth fooling around with if you like puzzle games.

Dynamite Headdy – Our one and only Treasure game on the disc is a game almost nobody played. Go figure. Dynamite Headdy, as you might guess, smacks enemies with his head, and as gimmicks go, there are certainly worse. As a platformer, the game is pretty entertaining, and while it’s not one of Treasure’s best efforts, it’s still pretty fun and is worth a look if only because most people probably haven’t played it.

ESWAT: City Under SiegeRobocop for Sega fans, more or less. This is essentially a side-scrolling shooter with a robotic police force theme, and as such, it’s decent fun, even if it isn’t as exciting as it was when it came out. The game still looks pretty nice, and it’s pretty fun, but nearly two decades later, it doesn’t hold up as well as other games on the disc. How much you like it will mostly depend on whether or not you dig the concept. If you do, you will, and if you don’t, you’ll probably get bored fast.

Ecco the Dolphin/Ecco: The Tides of Time – Since these are essentially similar games, we’ll cover them together. The first two Ecco games are games you’ll either love or hate: fans will love the interesting storyline and progressively dark and interesting themes of the games, while haters will point out that the game is a bear to play and not particularly friendly, difficulty-wise. Both viewpoints are mostly correct: the games are interesting and aesthetically pleasing, but feature a fairly steep learning curve and are not particularly easy to adjust to, meaning you’ll have a fair bit of practice ahead of you if you want to get into these.

Fantasy Zone – This arcade classic is unlocked by earning 80,000 points in Flicky, which we will discuss in a bit. This is also one of the better Sega-made shooters out there, which makes it worth a look for shooter fans in general. The concept (fly around and shoot things) isn’t anything new, but the actual game is surprisingly interesting because of the many things it does that few other shooters have ever done; from the bright, colorful and absurd visual style to the ability to trade cash for upgrades to the weird monster and boss designs that look like something out of an acid trip, Fantasy Zone is definitely its own unique thing, and because of that, decades after the fact, it’s still outstanding.

Fatal Labyrinth – The only thing I have to say about this is that it was a horrible game when I bought it for five dollars at Blockbuster Video, and time has not done anything to improve it. Fatal Labyrinth is a belligerently difficult, ugly, uninteresting attempt at trying to replicate the Roguelike experience, and the end result is a game that is, simply put, not going to be fun for anyone who isn’t masochistic.

Flicky – What, AGAIN? This is, again, a game Sega keeps sticking onto their compilation titles that no one played and fewer people cared about, and time has not made it any more interesting. The fact that one MUST play it to unlock Fantasy Zone is fairly annoying as well. Sega, why must you force the player to play a BAD game in order to unlock a GOOD game? Who thought this was a good idea? Fire him. Anyway, you gather up birds and lead them to an exit to earn points, all while avoiding cats. Think one part Pac Man, one part Snake, and one part Mappy, then make the controls floaty and unresponsive, and you’ve got Flicky. Pass.

Gain Ground – Another game that’s held up fairly well, all things considered, Gain Ground is surprisingly enjoyable, both alone or with a friend, largely because it’s still fairly solid years later. The gist is that you have to take a group of characters through numerous screens of enemies, killing foes and rescuing allies as you go, and while that might not sound very creative, the game does do a few interesting things (like allowing you to save defeated allies if you have a character in reserve or allowing you to choose to kill all the enemies OR escape the level as desired) that make it worth checking out. The gameplay takes a little getting used to (It’s similar to Smash TV, only less intuitive.) but once you do, it’s still good times.

Golden Axe/Golden Axe II/Golden Axe III – These are essentially similar games, so again, we’ll discuss them together. While the Genesis version of the first game isn’t quite as impressive as the arcade version, it’s still lots of fun for one or two players. You can choose from one of three characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and hack your way through barbarian hordes, killing foes and casting magic all the while. The game is still quite fun and challenging, and while there are better beat-em-ups on the disc, that isn’t to say Golden Axe isn’t worth fooling around with, as it’s still a classic, and a pretty fun one to boot. Golden Axe II, taken on its own merits, is a fairly enjoyable game, but when compared to the first game, it’s essentially the exact same thing with some new levels, and as a result, it feels kind of lame in comparison. It’s not BAD so much as it is more of the same, and the enemy designs aren’t as interesting as those from the first game, which makes this feel like more of a cash-in than an actual sequel. The third game tries to change things up a bit by offering branching paths and four characters (an Axe-Battler clone, a Tyris Flare clone, a giant barbarian thing, and an anthropomorphic panther… yes), but it’s still essentially the same game, and still kind of lacks the charm of the first title. It’s nice to have all three games in one place, certainly, but only the first feels like anything special; the others, though playable, just aren’t as interesting in comparison.

Golden Axe Warrior – A Sega Master System game that is unlocked by using magic ten times in Golden Axe III (which is more tedious than difficult), Golden Axe Warrior is The Legend of Zelda for Sega fans. No, really. Overhead perspective, changing screens, item management, the whole bit, it’s all here, and it’s all kind of… well… lame if you actually stop and think about it. The game looks and plays fine, considering it’s an SMS title and all, but it’s pretty unashamed of the fact that it’s ripping off The Legend of Zelda, and the comparisons are blatant and borderline offensive. Still, it’s pretty fun and if you can get past the blatant “me too” presentation of the game, it’s worth checking out.

Kid Chameleon – Yet another game that hasn’t held up particularly well, Kid Chameleon is at least interesting in concept: you play as an awesome gamer who has to go into a virtual reality world and don various masks (each with different abilities) in order to shut down the game, as it’s become self aware and gone rampant, more or less. The concept is interesting, as are many of the gameplay elements (equipping helmets to change your abilities, using gems for special attacks, warps that take you all over the game world), but the actual gameplay is slippery and the platforming elements are very touchy. If you can learn the timing of the jumps and how to correct your landings, you’ll have lots of fun with this, but otherwise, it’s kind of frustrating in less than pleasant ways.

Phantasy Star – This is unlocked by beating the first boss of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with two players, or more correctly, by turning on the second controller and beating the boss on your own. If you don’t own a second controller, I guess you’re kind of beat, but most everyone else should be fine. Anyway, this was immensely impressive back in the day, thanks to the awesome visuals, the great animations, and the surprisingly explanatory story (those who have played 80’s RPG’s will know what I mean by that), but now, it kind of shows its age. The game never really tells you where to go, it’s incredibly difficult and requires much grinding, there’s a level cap, and by today’s standards it’s almost maddening. That said, it still has tons of personality, and since I can remember exactly how to beat it from beginning to end (as opposed to being able to remember useful things like, oh, anything from my History classes, ever), I’m going to say it’s worth playing through.

Phantasy Star II – The first of three Genesis Phantasy Star games, this game also shows its age a bit, though not as badly as its predecessor. The plot and dialogue, while minimal by today’s standards, manage to hold up reasonably well, and the ability to switch up your party as you see fit was something few RPG’s had considered at this point (and oddly, was something this series never did again). It’s still incredibly rough, difficulty-wise, and requires hours of grinding to make significant progress, and the three major plot points aren’t as exciting as years of hype have made them out to be, but the game itself is still pretty sweet and well worth checking out.

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom – This is pretty much the black sheep of the Phantasy Star series, and it’s not hard to see why; nothing in it, in any way, is really reminiscent of the series. It’s not a particularly BAD game, and had it been released under a different name it might have actually been better regarded than it is, but because of the name attached to it, it’s generally poorly regarded, and that’s a shame. The game still requires lots of grinding to survive, of course, and some things in the game don’t make a whole lot of sense (Poison status, for instance, means you can’t be healed, not that you take damage over time). It’s also not as visually impressive as any of the other games in the series, sadly, as it combines the “show the strike and not the character delivering it” combat visuals of the first game with the “make the enemies pretty but don’t bother animating them” style of early Final Fantasy games, and the end result is fairly bland as a result. Still, the game is challenging and the story is solid, making this worth playing, at least until you figure out if you like what it does or not.

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium – While its overall place, quality-wise, in the series might be contested, one thing certainly isn’t: Phantasy Star IV rocks like crazy. To copy my commentary of the game from its Virtual Console release a couple months ago: “The plot, cliched though it is, is done in such a fashion that it works not only in spite of but also BECAUSE OF its cliched nature, and the end result is compelling and enjoyable. The gameplay is largely what fans of the genre would expect from such a game, though it has its own interesting quirks (including team-up attacks over a year before Chrono Trigger debuted and an interesting way of keeping players from having to pick and choose their teammates by writing team members into and out of the plot as needed). The visuals, though dated at this point, are still charming and colorful whether you’re seeing them for the first or the fiftieth time. The game is also rather challenging, and not just in the “level up for five hours until you can tackle the next dungeon” sort of way that so many RPG’s of the time were, but in an, “Enemies will combine and team up to deal more damage so you need to isolate weak links and end them” way that modern RPG’s have begun to embrace more readily as time has gone on.”.

So, yeah, PLAY THIS.

Ristar – Another odd Genesis platformer, this is interesting more for its gameplay elements (grabbing and tossing enemies to defeat them) than for anything it does otherwise. It plays like most Sega platformers, looks as bright and colorful as any Sonic game, and is generally cute and entertaining, but otherwise, it’s not really a “MUST PLAY” game. There are some interesting ideas and gameplay elements in it, and it’s pretty fun, all in all, so it’s still worth a look, but don’t go in expecting it to be a hidden treasure or anything.

Shining in the Darkness – More classic Genesis RPG goodness, though as expected, your definition of “goodness” will depend on your temperament. This is more of a dungeon crawling RPG, meaning you’ll be spending hours and hours hacking through enemies while descending into an evil, hostile dungeon of many floors, but the combat is fairly standard turn-based fare, and you’ll have allies to back you up, making this a bit more accessible than one might first expect. The story is also pretty solid and has held up decently, surprisingly enough. On the downside, the game is fairly basic and this is another game that’s going to expect you to grind for hours to make progress, but if you can look past those faults, this is yet another awesome game on a disc full of them.

Shining Force/Shining Force II – These games are similar enough that lumping them together isn’t too confusing, so let’s go with that. These are, obviously, the first and second games from Sega’s classic turn-based strategy series, and as such, they play about as you’d expect: move your forces, attack enemies, heal troops, and hope your party lives to the next round. Fans of Fire Emblem will know EXACTLY how this works, more or less, although the Shining Force games are generally more accessible and less… annoying, shall we say, than their Nintendo counterparts. In other words: nearly everyone will be able to play these and understand them. The games are, surprisingly enough, reasonably well-balanced, meaning that grinding isn’t REQUIRED in order to enjoy the experience (though it does help), and both games have plenty of hidden goodies (Including the ability to rename YOUR ENTIRE SQUAD as well as hidden troops and items.), which makes them well worth playing unless you specifically hate the genre or something.

Shinobi – This arcade classic is unlocked by beating the first stage of Shinobi III without continuing. Not DYING, CONTINUING. This is not very hard, for the record. Shinobi is basically similar to Shinobi Shadow Dancer in design and execution, meaning that you have melee attacks, infinite shurikens, and ninja magic (chosen by stage), but you have to rescue hostages and you die in one hit. The game itself is fairly basic; kill enemies, rescue hostages, fight bosses, and so on, but it’s still pretty entertaining all in all. It looks pretty decent, considering its age, though the fact that this is the arcade version probably has a lot to do with that. Chances are good that you won’t be spending hours and hours with the game, mind you, but it IS pretty entertaining, honestly, and as this is one of the very few games I’ve seen where you get to play as a gun-wielding ninja (seriously), it’s worth playing to see that, at least.

Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master – This game is essentially The Revenge of Shinobi, only not very good; as such, you have melee attacks, limited shurikens, and ninja magic (chosen by your own need), you needn’t rescue anyone, and you have a life bar. This worked surprisingly well in The Revenge of Shinobi, but while Shinobi III does a lot more with the concept (including adding in triangle jumping and horseback-riding stages), it doesn’t really play as well as its predecessor and is fairly bland in its actual execution. Again, it’s not BAD so much as it is UNDERWHELMING, and while you can certainly play it and have fun with it, it isn’t going to really astound you or anything.

Sonic 3D Blast – So, I’m curious about something here: who in the Sega offices decided that making a video game that combined the worst aspects of Marble Madness and Flicky and sticking Sonic’s face on it would be a good idea? Because I hate him a lot. This game is a borderline unplayable mess of epic proportions, and time has not even been remotely kind to it, as it’s now UGLY in addition to the above. In short: No. Just no. Stay away.

Sonic Spinball – Yet another novelty Sonic game, this game is actually still somewhat playable at this point, even if it isn’t particularly good or anything. The game is essentially attempting to combine Sonic the Hedgehog and pinball, and while the end result is certainly better than, say, Mario Pinball Land, it isn’t particularly good. It’s very difficult to get a firm grip on where you’re supposed to be aiming Sonic at any given time, the instant game over nature of pinball doesn’t fit well with the character as players understand him, and it takes hours to get ANYWHERE in the game unless you’re Tommy (go ask your parents). Worth playing for the novelty, but unlikely to hold your interest.

Sonic the Hedgehog/Sonic the Hedgehog 2/Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Sonic & Knuckles – Aside from the improved visuals and added power-ups from one game to the next, these are all essentially the same game and shall be treated as such. Generally, the Sonic games are all pretty entertaining; they’re essentially platformers where speed, above all else, is the most important thing, and they play well, look nice, and are a good amount of fun. It does seem odd, in fairness, that Sonic 3 and Knuckles is absent from this compilation, as it’s arguably the best version of these games one could possibly play (I say “arguably” because Sonic CD is also epic win), but the games that are here are still quite good and very enjoyable, all told.

Space Harrier – This arcade classic is unlocked by scoring 1,500,000 points in the first stage of Super Thunder Blade, which is surprisingly easy once you figure out how to SURVIVE the first stage of Super Thunder Blade. This is essentially a behind-the-back shooter where you’re expected to dodge fast-moving obstacles and shoot everything you see, and it’s still as fast-paced, frantic and awesome as ever. The arcade visuals hold up surprisingly well, all in all, and the game is still a blast to play, even if it is pretty basic.

Streets of Rage/Streets of Rage 2/Streets of Rage 3 – Once again, since these are very similar to one another, we’ll cover them all together. As Sega-made beat-em-up franchises go, this is probably the best of the lot, largely because all three of the games are still pretty enjoyable, years and years later. The first game is pretty basic in comparison to the others; the Super Attack system is basically of the “smart bomb” (limited number of over-powered full-screen attacks) design instead of the “desperation attack” (attacks that knock back foes and deal damage at the cost of your life bar) design, the animations and graphics are low-res, and many of the combat mechanics haven’t been polished to the extent they would be in the sequels, but it’s still fun to play and generally well done. The two sequels, of course, are more balanced and enjoyable across the board, feature more (and more interesting) playable characters, and are generally better games all around. All three games are absolutely worth playing and owning, however, and it’s about time we saw these in a compilation, which pretty much makes this disc worth owning if you’re a Sega fan for these games ALONE.

Super Thunder Blade – Basically like After Burner in a helicopter, meaning you can hover in place to dodge attacks in addition to rocketing forward at high speeds. The game alternates between overhead shooter sections and behind-the-back shooter sections, both of which are generally okay, but the game isn’t visually appealing and seems like it INVENTED the concept of “pop-up” in games, plus the hovering gimmick is required if one values life, which kills the excitement of the game a bit. Still, it isn’t a bad game, and if you like games like After Burner and Space Harrier you’ll have fun with this.

Vectorman/Vectorman 2 – Once again, both are essentially similar games, so we’ll discuss them together. Vectorman is essentially a platformer/shooter that was designed to be interesting because of its visuals, which were pseudo 3D (IE 3D models presented in a 2D format) at a time when 3D was becoming the next big thing. The game still plays perfectly fine, and there some interesting gameplay elements thanks to the transformation mechanics (Vectorman can transform into different things, basically, which are different from one game to the other and are meant to give the game some added variety), but the visuals have not held up particularly well, meaning this game isn’t as interesting as it was when it first came out. It’s still worth checking out if you’re a fan of the sort of game it is, because it is pretty fun all the same, so long as you’re not expecting it to blow your socks off.

Zaxxon – This arcade classic is unlocked by collecting five coins in Decap Attack, which is kind of a pain in the butt and isn’t terribly worth it, frankly. Zaxxon is an odd shooter where you could (and really had to) change your height to shoot up enemies and dodge projectiles. The game is something of a bear to play at this point, and time has not been kind to the visuals, sadly, making this another historical curiosity instead of a must-play game.

So, yeah, that’s a whole lot of games, and a lot of them are good! The disc also features a museum option that showcases box art and fun facts about the games, as well as some interviews with game developers, for those who love unlocking and playing around with the extras in their games. You can play a whole bunch of these games with multiple players, if such a thing is up your alley, and many of the single player games are RPG’s of some sort or another, and as such, the contents of this disc will keep you occupied for days, if not weeks, especially if you’ve never played some of these games before. You can also save your state in any game at any time, which means you might actually be able to beat Kid Chameleon without having to spend an entire day doing so, which is a fantastic thing and I’m glad it’s here. In short, this compilation is mostly awesome.

That said, there are three notable issues with this compilation:

1.) Lack of certain features. There is no online support for the game at all, meaning you HAVE to play these games with local friends, and while that isn’t HORRIBLE (everyone should have local friends), it’s going to put some folks off. There are no leaderboards, either, and while the option to save your state would make these a bit difficult to really trust, it’d still be a nice feature.

2.) The actual games on the disc. Look, I know someone at Sega is in love with Flicky and thinks that Toejam and Earl wasn’t very good, but seriously, SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH HIM. He needs to be locked away in an asylum, not sitting around making decisions about what games need to go on these compilations. Also, and I know this is going to be a sore point for Sega but it really needs to be said, THERE ARE A LOT OF COMPILATIONS WITH SONIC THE HEDGEHOG GAMES ON THEM OUT IN THE MARKET. IF I WANT THOSE GAMES, I CAN BUY THOSE COMPILATIONS. Okay? We don’t need any more compilations with Sonic on them for a while. You have other games that you have yet to release stateside in compilations that deserve the recognition. Gunstar Heroes. Landstalker. Toejam and Earl, again. The Revenge of Shinobi. Wonder Boy in Monster World. Bio-Hazard Battle. Herzog Zwei. You get the idea. It’s not even so much that so many of the games on this compilation are taken directly from the Sega Genesis Collection as it is that so many of these games have either been beaten into the ground or weren’t that good to begin with, and there are other lesser-known and better games out there that we could be playing. Yes, it’s great that we got Streets of Rage and Dynamite Headdy is a great concession for fans of obscure games, but did we REALLY need Vectorman AGAIN? Come on.

3.) In the end, it’s still a bunch of old stuff. How interested in this you are will depend on how OLD you are, or at least how interested you are in old games. Older gamers and people who grew up with the Genesis will love this, obviously, as will those of us who love nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, but for a lot of you out there, this is a disc with a bunch of ancient games on it (some of which you may well own already), meaning it’s not really the best value for everyone.

Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t own any of the other Sega compilations for whatever reason, and you like classic old games, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is a must have compilation, and even if you DO own other Sega compilations, it might be worth picking up all the same. This collection contains forty-nine games, most of which are at least “decent” and many of which fall in the Good-Great range, and a lot of the games here don’t appear anywhere else except their original Genesis release, making this worth owning for a good many reasons. A lot of the content here is replicated from the Sega Genesis Collection, and this is missing some features it might have benefited from, but in the end, it’s budget priced and contains a whole mess of awesome games, and if that isn’t a strong enough selling point for you, nothing else will be.

The Scores:
Game Modes: GREAT
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: UNPARALLELED
Balance: GOOD
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD
Final Score: GOOD GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is pretty much nostalgia distilled to its purest form, and while it might not be a must-have title for someone who started gaming during the 32/64-bit eras and beyond, for older gamers or those who are looking for some awesome games, regardless of age, it’s pretty much a safe bet. The disc contains forty-nine classic games, most of which are at least decent or better, as well as some historical content and developer interviews, all of which justify the budget price nicely. Add to this the fact that there are plenty of lengthy RPG’s and enjoyable two-player titles in the mix, as well as some games you can’t get anywhere else, and this disc is almost a requirement for the committed gamer. Sadly, there’s no online support to speak of, nothing on the disc has come out in the last ten years, and if you own any of the other recent Sega compilations you’ll be buying some games you most likely already own, which might put some players off. For everyone else, though, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is pretty much worth its asking price, both because it’s stuffed full of content, and because a whole lot of that content is pretty awesome.



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5 responses to “Review: Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (Microsoft Xbox 360)”

  1. Genjuro666 Avatar

    Without Afterburner arcade, this game is full of FAIL!

  2. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Yes, that’s another game we can add to the list of games I’d have sooner seen on this compilation than Fatal Labyrinth. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. nestlekwik Avatar

    Not a fan of the Mystery Dungeon franchise, I see. How can you be a hater of Fatal Labyrinth’s funky music? ;)

    And it’s about damn time Streets of Rage is collected all on one disc. I wanted to bust heads when I found out Sega of America was removing the SoR 1-3 unlockables from the American version of Sonic Gems Collection for the Gamecube.

    One thing I would note is the fact the achievements do actually stretch out the playability of the games (even the bad ones) if you’re all about the achievements. It’s the only way I can explain why I played Sonic 3D Blast for so long. However, yes, there were a bunch of cheesy self-promotion achievements such as “watch all videos” and “view all art.” I suppose this is one of those “fair” achievement points games where 1,000 points is feasible to most people but they aren’t just handed to you either.

    I think the disc is a good deal for $30 and it definitely held me over a week in waiting for Street Fighter IV. Of course, we’re getting many of the same games we’ve seen on other compilation discs but I think the concept stems from the fact this is the first time these goods have appeared on the Xbox 360 with achievements to hit a new audience. Myself, I wish Sega would tap into its Sega CD/arcade/Saturn catalog a bunch, but I suppose it’s just easier to throw a handful of megabytes that have already been emulated 70 times before onto a disc for some quick bucks.

  4. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    I like Mystery Dungeon games a lot; just not this one. The way Fatal Labyrinth chooses to do things pisses me off to no end, period, and compared to any one of a number of better games of this type (Torneko: The Last Hope, Shiren the Wanderer, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Azure Dreams, hell, IZUNA), Fatal Labyrinth simply feels more belligerent than any of those.

    Yeah, I was pretty happy about having SOR on the disc, even if I’d already downloaded the games on the VC. Oops.

    Well, uh… I mentioned that the Achievements were there?

    Well, I’d think that the Sega CD library would lend itself well to being added to future compilations, especially since most of the SCD games were only large games because of their audio, and you could easily convert the Redbook audio to MP3’s or what have you and conserve space on the disc. A second compilation featuring, say, Sonic CD, Sol Feace, the SCD version of Revenge of Shinobi, Shining Force CD, and maybe After Burner III, along with a few arcade, Genesis and SMS titles would be worth it.

  5. […] with the value of getting multiple games for the price of one? It’s for this very reason that Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is one of my favorite things I own for the Xbox 360, as many of the games on there I’d have […]

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