Friday, December 18, 2009

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

Last week I ripped through Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. That's Sonic, as in Sonic the Hedgehog. It's a compilation disc containing Sonic's favorite Sega Genesis games. He's apparently a pretty narcissistic woodland critter, because it feels like Sonic himself is featured in about half the games.

The disc boasts 40 Genesis hits, though some of those are unlocked only after completing challenges in other games. It's a pretty wide variety, including RPGs (Phantasy Star), strategy games (Shining Force), brawlers (Streets of Rage), puzzlers (Columns), and a bunch of old-school platformers. Some of these games were pretty famous (who doesn't know Sonic?) while others were far more obscure to all but the biggest Sega fanboys (who the hell is Ristar?).

Since there are so many games on the disc, it would be pointless to try to describe every one of them. Instead, I'll just say that these are very faithful adaptations of the old Genesis titles, for better or worse.

If you're really into "nostalgia gaming", then you'll probably enjoy the collection. Me, I was more struck by the irony that I own a 2000 dollar television and a 300 dollar piece of gaming hardware so I can produce a picture like these:

And if you think those look a little rough these days, you should hear how they sound. It's actually a little amazing to think that this was cutting edge stuff a decade and a half ago. Now these games are comically low-resolution, and they sound like sharp pieces of metal being grated together.

Granted, some of these games were made really well, so the gameplay still holds up even today. The real question, then, is which games are still fun and which games are massively disappointing once the rosy-colored glasses of nostalgia are removed? Well, Shinobi and Streets of Rage are both still great. The Shining Force and Phantasy Star games were ahead of their time as well, so they've aged reasonably well. I hadn't played Comix Zone before, but I liked its visual style a lot and was impressed with the gameplay. And of course Sonic's platformers are still pretty fun.

On the other hand, Altered Beast has aged about as well as an NBA center. That thing was beat half to death with the ugly stick, and the emulated sound is beyond awful. Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic Spinball both sucked when they came out, let alone now. And Ecco the Dolphin...why was this a thing? Does anyone remember? He's a dolphin. He swims around. He eats fish. He uses sonar to talk to other dolphins. I don't really see the appeal.

But the biggest kick in the grapes was reserved for a game that I loved as a kid, Golden Axe. This is the danger of going back to these things later in life. It's one thing to fondly remember The Thundercats, but another thing entirely to sit through an episode today. Playing Golden Axe was both distressing and perplexing. Was this game always so shitty? Why did I think this was fun? Did the female warriors always look like dudes?

Anyway, if you have fond memories of Genesis titles and you don't mind risking them being sullied by the harsh light of present-day reality, feel free to give this one a shot. But I strongly recommend a rental...these games just don't have a lot of lasting power compared to today's digital marvels.


  1. Jeff, I know what you mean. A few years back I bought a Sega collection for my CameBoy Advanced and it had Sonic Pinball, Ecco the Dolphin and Golden Axe. It was the worst 40 dollars I ever spent, and I had bought it entirely for Golden Axe. I tried the other two games and then gave the game to Scott because he has always loved Golden Axe.

  2. Yeah, sometimes I think it's better to just leave this stuff in your memory.

  3. This is exactly why I haven't watched Labyrinth again. But as I recall the voices in Labyrinth were not scary electronic scratches (high-pitched for the ladies, low-pitched for the menfolk).