Review / Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (PS3)

Compared to other forms of entertainment, gaming is a young industry. While musicians, writers, and filmmakers have been mining their rich histories and peddling throwbacks and remakes for decades, videogames have only recently embraced the phenomenon.

Consider a game like Super Mario All-Stars. When it released in 1993, the idea of repackaging games from the past — so both seasoned gamers who loved the originals and newbies who missed them on the first go-round could experience them — was a foreign one. Today, you couldn’t throw a dart at your local retailer’s videogame section without hitting a retro game collection. Factor in the convenience of digital distribution services, such as the Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network, and you don’t even have to leave your houses to bathe in pixel- and polygon-flavored nostalgia.

With so many opportunities to slake our old-school thirsts, we must consider each collection’s value proposition before taking a sip. Does it compile an impressive selection of beloved and obscure games? Does it provide extra material for gamers to discover and explore? And, most important of all, does it provide a good overall value when compared to other available options? With Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, the answer to all three questions is a resounding “yes.”

When it comes to collections, everybody has their opinions on what should and shouldn’t be included, but by including a whopping 49 games on disc, Sega and Backbone Entertainment have made that discussion largely moot. Some gamers might complain about the glut of Sonic titles — especially when you consider that these games have been available on previous collections — and others will no doubt find a missing game or two (where’s my Chakan: The Forever Man?), but the variety displayed here is impressive.

The classics are covered: the Golden Axe trilogy is here, along with the Shining Force, Ecco, Streets of Rage, Vectorman, and Phantasy Star games (even the original for the Master System). Want some more obscure titles? How about Decap Attack starring Chuck D. Head, Flicky, Gain Ground, and Bonanza Bros.? On top of that, you’ll even get some unlockable arcade and Master System games, including Altered Beast, Shinobi, Space Harrier, and Fantasy Zone. Bottom line: if you’re a fan of old-school Sega games, you’re going to find a lot to like in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

In terms of extra content, the collection includes some really nice features that effectively push the nostalgia buttons. In addition to the unlockable arcade and Master System games mentioned above, there’s a museum where you can read some history and trivia about each game and view the original cartridge and clamshell artwork. Sega and Backbone have also included unlockable interviews with the games’ creators, which gives gamers a rare chance to hear from the creative minds behind these classics.

And if you’re the type of person who shudders at the term “unlockable,” you should know that the requirements for unlocking these features are rarely demanding. For example, if you want to unlock the original Phantasy Star, all you have to do is grab a buddy and beat the first boss in Sonic 2 with Sonic and Tails. Easy enough, right? The game also includes options to smooth the pixels and stretch the display to a 16×9 aspect ratio, both of which look atrocious. Trophy support is there as well, which adds a modern twist to the retro proceedings — there’s something oddly satisfying about seeing a trophy appear when you’ve collected 20 magic power-ups in Golden Axe.

In order to show the insane amount of value that Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection offers, I’m going to do a bit of math for you. The collection retails for $29.99 and includes 49 titles, which means you’re paying 61 cents for each game. That’s an impressive number in and of itself, but consider that some of these games can be purchased on the Wii’s Virtual Console for $8.00. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that all 49 titles were available on the VC and each one cost $8.00 — it would cost you $392 to download all of these games.

So we’ve established that the collection is cheap, especially when compared to other options, but just how much game are you getting for your 30 bucks? While titles like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage can be completed in a couple of hours, the Phantasy Stars and Shining Forces have been known to keep players engaged for 30+ hours. Let’s meet in the middle, though, and say that each game provides approximately 10 hours of gameplay. That means the collection as a whole offers upwards of 490 hours. With that sort of bang for your buck, I think it’s fair to say that Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is the perfect game for our troubled economic times.

In the end, though, your enjoyment of this collection will depend on how important the 16-bit era was to you. If you owned a Genesis and bragged to your friends about “arcade-style graphics” and “blast processing,” then this one’s a no-brainer. On the other hand, if your first system was a PlayStation and you have no affinity for pixels, then you’ll probably find the gameplay dated, the graphics ugly, and the music overly reliant on bleeps and bloops.

+

  • The most expansive collection of old-school classics yet
  • Unlockable games, developer interviews, and trophy support will keep you coming back
  • “Wise fwom your gwave!”

  • Some players will inevitably find a missing game or two
  • We’ve seen most of these games before in previous collections
  • What the hell does “Wise fwom your gwave” mean?
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