Rveiew #253 (Oops Forgot to cross post this!)

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Genre: Retro Compilation
Release Date: 2/11/2009

Ah, the Sega Genesis – the best showing a Sega system ever had, and they make sure you know this with each passing console generation. The Dreamcast has Sega Smash Pack, the Xbox and PS2 had Sega Genesis Collection, and now here we are with the Ultimate Genesis Collection, sponsored by Sonic for some reason…

sugc1Even though I already own the PS2 Genesis compilation, I picked this up for the extra games. The total of games jumped from 28 to 39 Genesis games, with nine unlockable Sega Master System titles. Not too shabby. Add in trophies, videos and more, and you’ve got yourself a nice little retrogaming package. In case you’re wondering it’s exactly duplicate of the PS2/Xbox version. Missing from last generation’s compilation are: Ecco Jr., Shadow Dancer, Sword of Vermillion and Virtua Fighter 2 I was really disappointed that the PS3 comp was missing the first Genesis RPG (and one of the best) along with what is generally considered the best Shinobi game. I’m also bummed that Eternal Champions has not appeared on either compilation. Either way, 39 games for under $30 USD is a better price than the eight bucks a game you pay on the Virtual Console…

As well, I’m worried about how Sammy Sega is neglecting the other Sega consoles. I’d love to have a Sega Saturn compilation with all three Panzer Dragoons, Blazing Heroes, Guardian Heroes, come Virtua Fighters, Clockwork Knight Shining the Holy Arc and more. Or what about a Dreamcast collection with Sonic Adventure, both Shenmues, Crazy Taxi and Typing of the Dead? Hell, even a Sega CD collection with games like Shining Force CD and Sonic CD would sell decently. Come on Sammy Sega – let’s see your other consoles get some retro love as well.

Okay, my side rant is over. Let’s go take a look at this Ultimate Genesis Collection and see if the collection lives up to its name.

Let’s Review

1. Collection

Usually our first section is reserved for talking about story or available modes. As this is a compilation, I will instead be running down all forty games and talking briefly about each one. I’m not going to talk about the nine unlockable games as they are not available to all at the start.

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle. It’s okay, but the Rock, Paper, Scissors aspect gets old fast. 0 for 1.

Alien Storm . Oh yeah baby. A really fun (and pretty for its day) side scrolling run and gun title. 1 for 2.

Beyond Oasis. A fun little action RPG. Nice inclusion. 2 for 3.

Bonanza Bros. Only worth playing in two player co-op mode, and even then it’s only mediocre. 2 for 4.

Columns. I suck at it, but it is one of the best known puzzle games in gaming for a reason. 3 for 5.

Comix Zone. I hated this game as a kid and time has not done it any favours. All style, no substance. 3 for 6.

Decap Attack. I was not a fan when this originally came out, but the humour and gameplay has grown on me, so I’ll be kind to this platformer. 4 for 7.

sugc2Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. I’m glad they finally put this on. I’m also glad they didn’t change the name to Eggman. God, that’s such a bloody stupid name for a Big bad. 5 for 8.

Dynamite Headdy. This is both a surprising and a forgettable choice. 5 for 9.

Ecco the Dolphin One of Sega’s best known games for a reason. 6 for 10.

Ecco: The Tides of Time I actually like this better than the first. 7 for 11.

E-Swat. Another nice surprise. An often overlooked action game getting its due. 8 for 12.

Fatal Labyrinth. Sega’s only “rogue-like” game. I guess Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was an influence here. This still holds up quite nicely. 9 for 13.

Flicky. God I hate Flicky. It’s a puzzle game with awful controls. Of course, Flicky’s next appearance would be even worse… 9 for 14.

Gain Ground. One of the most original action games I’ve ever played. Almost worth the price of admission on its own. 10 for 15

Golden Axe. Controls are bit sucktastic at times, but it deserves to be on here. 11 for 16.

Golden Axe II A very generic cash-in on the first game. The worst in the series until The Duel. 11 for 17.

Golden Axe III. My favorite in the series. A nice button masher. 12 for 18.

Kid Chameleon. Lame platformer involving a kid with a mask fetish. 12 for 19.

Phantasy Star II. One of the greatest RPG’s of all time. It’s what Final Fantasy VII strived to be but failed miserably at. Also – HORRIBLY DEPRESSING ENDING. Just a head’s up. 13 for 20.

sugc3Phantasy Star III. This is considered the black sheep of the PS series, but it’s actually a pretty good title. It looks and feels more like Sword of Vermillion than the previous PS games, but there’s some great story moments here and it’s the first major release where characters have sex and pop out babies. 14 for 21.

Phantasy Star IV Worth the price of admission alone. 15 for 22.

Ristar Awful awful platformer. 15 for 23.

Shining Force. This is the game that made me a lifelong RPG fan. 16 for 24.

Shining Force II Our own Bebito Jackson’s favorite game of all time and easily in my top ten. 17 for 25.

Shining in the Darkness Whooo! Makes me wish I hadn’t paid for it on the Virtual Console though. I love first person RPG dungeon crawls. 18 for 26.

Shinobi III By far the easiest of the Shinobi games, but great like all the others. Still, no Shadow Dancer? 19 for 27.

Sonic 3 The first appearance of Knuckles and a fun little platformer. 20 for 28.

Sonic 3-D Blast WHAT THE HELL? WHY WOULD YOU INCLUDE THIS? Having to replay this made me appreciate Sonic Unleashed and Shadow the Hedgehog. It’s that awful. Plus, more Flickies. 20 for 29.

Sonic and Knuckles. It’s hard to believe that the first four Genesis Sonic games and the Sega CD Sonic were amazing, and then everything since then has been awful. This is the game right before the crash into god awful gaming for Sonic. 21 for 30.

Sonic Spinball. I’m a sucker for pinball. 22 for 31.

Sonic the Hedgehog. This is the game that saved Sega’s hide and for a time Sonic was the biggest thing in gaming. Come see why. 23 for 32.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2. My favorite Sonic game after Sonic CD. Go Tails! 24 for 33.

Street of Rage. One of the best beat ‘em ups ever. About freakin’ time this game and its sequels got onto a compilation! 25 for 34.

sugc4Streets of Rage 2. The best game in the series and the game many people consider the best beat ‘em up of all time. 26 for 35.

Streets of Rage 3. My least favorite of the series, but still a good game. 27 for 36.

Super Thunder Blade I gave this a thumb’s up in the Sega Genesis Collection review a few years back, but after playing it again, I have to give it a thumb’s down. Awful controls – at least in this version. Lots of lag. 27 for 37.

Vectorman Considering most of us bashed the game when it was released on the Virtual Console, it’s so surprise here I’m saying this game still sucks. 27 for 38.

Vectorman 2. Second verse; worse than the first. 27 for 39.

Not bad. 69.2% quality ratio compared to the 64.2% ratio in the LAST Genesis compilation. On one hand I want to give this an extra point for the nine Sega Master System games, although I’d have rather seen arcade cabinet versions of Shinobi or Golden Axe. One the other hand, I want to take off a point for leaving off high quality Genesis titles like Sword of Vermillion, Shadow Dancer, Space Harrier 2, Rent a Hero, Herzog Zwei, Mystic Defender, Gunstar Heroes, Toe Jam and Earl and many other high quality games that could have been on here instead of awful crap like Ristar or Sonic 3D Blast. I’ll never get the selection process for these things.

So good, but by no means ULTIMATE.

Compilation Rating: 7/10

2. Graphics

Sega Genesis games in HD! Now for those of you worrying about the quality of these games being ruined, stop right now. All this means is that the graphics are upscaled so they look smoother and far less jaggie by today’s standards than they would if you say, put the PS2 Genesis collection in your PS3. It just means the graphical integrity of these titles are left intact and every game looks and feels just as you remember it.

Aside from Sonic 3-D and Bonanza Bros., there really isn’t an ugly game in the lot by 16-bit standards. Many of these games like the Sonic and Shining Force series, really set the benchmark for 16-bit visuals and they still hold up nicely today.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

sugc5There are so many great aural memories from this collection. The music from the Phantasy Star and Shining Force games, the score from Sonic, the “Wise Fwom Wor Gwave” voice acting of Altered Beast. In most cases the music and effects are of the same quality as the last two Genesis collections Sega released. There are a few sound issues here and there such as slow down or a bit of delay from where the effects should be, but that has more to do with the emulation process than anything else.

This collection is sure to inspire waves of nostalgia from those of us that were old enough to remember actually playing the Genesis as tykes, or who actually still own one. Like everything else about this package, when you have forty games on one disc, there is a wide range of quality, but for the most part this is wonderful package across the board.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Gameplay ranges from exceptionally tight controls like in the RPG’s contained in SUGC to some of the worst controls you will ever find in gaming like in Sonic 3-D Blast. For the most part the experience is authentic to what you would have had in the 16-bit era save for the fact the Dual Shock and Sixxaxis are laid out poorly compared to the original three and six button Genesis controllers. I’d suggest grabbing one of those new Street Fighter pads from MadCatz and seeing how that works for you.

My only real problem is the actually navigation between the games. You use up and down on the D pad to switch between games, but if you do left and right you end up “rating” the game currently highlighted. This is a bit off-putting. So too is the navigation between the extras such as the artwork, game history and interviews. The overall navigation of these menus is poorly done and not at all what you would instinctively think of for moving from one game to the next. The L2 and R2 triggers are an awkward choice and I have to wonder what Sega was thinking of here.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 6/10

5. Replayability

Umm….48 games plus trophies equalls a lot of time spent with this blu-ray disc. In fact, you could just play the Shining and Phantasy titles and find yourself with enough gaming for 2-3 months. That’s only seven titles. Forty-one more to go!

This is easily the best deal for your buck in this current generation of console gaming. For many gamers, this is the only disc you’ll need for a long time.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

sugc6Again, this is a bit hard to rate simply because there are forty Genesis games and nine Sega Master System titles to unlock. Unlocking games and getting trophies is pretty easy for the most part, although unlocking Phantasy Star is a bit cruel as you need to beat the first stage of Sonic 2 with two players. This is a little unfair and if you don’t have two joysticks it means you lose out on easily the best SMS game ever made. Is it worth buying another controller though? Not really, especially as you can get the GBA or updated Sega Ages version for less than another Dual Shock.

I should point out a lot of these games are in fact, pretty hard compared to today’s titles. The first two Phantasy Stars were notoriously hard and the post game battles of Shining Force 2 were equally relentless. After playing a lot of these games again, it’s easy to see how much wimpier we’ve become as gamers. Overall though, the games are just as hard (or easy) as they were four gaming generations ago, and for those of us who still love the classics, it means we can remember how good (and tough) the old days used to be.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

As I mentioned in my previous rant, Sega has been squeezing as much blood as it possibly can from the old Genesis line of games. Almost all of these games have been re-released a half dozen times OR MORE. It’s great to see Alien Storm and Fatal Labyrinth and the Streets of Rage trilogy, but god damn, HOW MANY times has Golden Axe or Sonic the Hedgehog been ported or re-released? The last collection isn’t even two and a half years old yet. TWO AND A HALF YEARS.

Come on Sega, you have this massive library of games. Just give us some old Sega CD, Saturn, or Dreamcast games instead. You get points for finally re-releasing some of these titles and giving us SMS games, but that’s it.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

sugc7A lot of these games are arguably not only the best of the era, but amongst the best of all time. The PS and SF games are still as amazing as ever and if you can’t enjoy these, you can’t enjoy RPG’s. If you don’t fall in love with Streets of Rage 2 almost instantly, then you might as well never play another beat ‘em up. The first two Sonic games are amongst the best platformers ever made. The list goes on and on. There will be at least half a dozen games on this list that you will be sucked into and consider some of the best games you have ever played. This collect highlights why for many, the 16-bit era was the best overall for gaming with a wide range of titles coupled with innovations and originality – things a lot of titles these days are missing.

If you get this, you’ll be drawn in for quite some time. Considering how many titles you get for your buck, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend your disposable income.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Any gamer in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties will easily have a lot of fun with this collection. For many of us, the 16 bit era was what made us fall in love with gaming. For younger gamers, they can finally get a chance to see what all the fuss was about. For parents, this is a cheap way to give your children a a lot of well made games that defined the industry for quite some time. Plus, kids don’t really care about up to date in your face graphics as much as they care about fun, and SUGC has that in spades.

Honestly, I can’t think of a gamer who wouldn’t have fun with this unless they are unable to appreciate a well made engine or truly groundbreaking titles simply because the graphics are outdated.

Appeal Factor: 9/10

10. Miscellaneous

sugc8Although Sega keeps beat the dead horse known as the Genesis/Mega Drive, at least they threw in a bunch of Master System games as well this time. As I’ve said sporadically throughout this review, I’d like to see Sega move past 1995 in terms of retrogaming so we can get a Shining Force III compilation or all of the Panzer Dragoon games one more time, but it’s hard not to be happy with this. Yes the collection has made some odd choices here and there with what they put on it and more importantly, with what they left off, but there is something here for everyone.

Highly recommended even if, like me, you own the PS2 Sega Genesis Collection simply for the addition of the Streets of Rage franchise and several other games finally getting put on a compilation. Now where’s my Eternal Champions and Space Harrier 2?

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

The Scores
Compilation: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 7/10
Control and Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 9/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Total Score: 71
FINAL SCORE: 7.0(GOOD GAME)

Short Attention Span Summary

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is a good addition to any gamer’s library. With forty-nine Genesis titles and nine Master System games, it’s hard to think of a reason why someone WOULDN’T buy this. I admit I’m disappointed that Eternal Champions, Toe Jam and Earl, Space Harrier 2 and other great games have once again been shafted for horrible games like Sonic 3-D Blast and Bonanza Bros., but what can you do. Who knows, maybe when Sammy Sega FINALLY gives us Ultimate Sega Saturn Collection those will be hidden or unlockable games as well.

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