Sonic Gems Collection Review: Is It Worth Buying?

Sonic Gems Collection Review: Is It Worth Buying?

Sonic the Hedgehog was (and to this very day still is) a fairly straightforward series that likes to stick to its roots. It’s a fast-paced, ring-collecting platformer featuring a colorful mascot with lots of attitude. What Sonic managed to do was capture a unique niche in the market, and it did so very well. But the gaming landscape has changed since the mid-1990s. In recent years, Sonic’s offerings have become fewer and farther between, and their quality has varied wildly from game to game. Sega’s Sonic Gems Collection, released in 2005, is an anthology of “classic” Sonic games. It would be tempting to call this a “best of,” but with the half-dozen Game Gear console titles in the offering, some of the games featured in the collection are definitely of a higher level of quality than others. Only a true Sonic fan is likely to appreciate this collection, but many diehard fans will already own the majority of these games. Probably the biggest benefit to owning this collection is that you can play all of the games on one system. 

Several Games in One Package

Screenshot from Sonic 2, featuring Tails going through a loop-de-loop.
Sonic wasn’t the only supersonic woodland creature in SEGA’s universe.

The games that come in the Sonic Gems Collection are Sonic the Fighters; Sonic CD; Sonic R; Sonic Spinball; Sonic The Hedgehog 2; Sonic The Hedgehog Triple Trouble; Sonic Drift Racing 2; Tails’ Skypatrol; and Tails Adventures. There are also two unlockable games, Vectorman and Vectorman 2.

That may sound tempting, but porting games can come with its own set of problems. The Game Gear titles, in particular, do not translate well to a larger screen. The low resolution and pixelation in everything from character and enemy sprites to the level backgrounds can cause headaches when viewed for any extended period of time.

A Mix of Genres

Sonic is a SEGA classic that has given the gaming world all kinds of games.

Sonic really gets around. Apart from platforming, he has dabbled in the racing, collecting, and fighting genres. Unfortunately, as some of the games in this collection show, applying a new genre to characters not adapted to it can produce some mixed results. The fighting game, Sonic the Fighters (originally released in arcades), features Tails, Knuckles, Sonic, and Amy in a very limited fighting game. The combat system is too simplified to provide a challenge to any fighting fan, or to any Sonic fan for that matter. Aside from the standard kick, punch, and block buttons, there is a Hyper Mode that lets you execute a special attack. Its inclusion in this collection, like the Game Gear games, is more for the novelty than for it actually being some kind of lost “gem.” While it stands as an interesting artifact of its time, it just doesn’t provide much of a diversion beyond the first hour or so. Fighting fans would be better served by sticking to SEGA‘s own Virtua Fighter series.

Similarly, Sonic R is a functional racing game, but compared to something like Gran Turismo, it comes across as a bit shallow and simplistic. Too bad, since Sonic and his friends are known for their blistering speed. There are some interesting ideas here that go along with racing on foot (like some platforming and exploration elements), but the execution is lacking.

Subpar Ports

The games have been ported as well as can be expected. They don’t look all that great, though, and although the sound effects and music are the same, the games look and sound a bit washed out on newer hardware. This could be from a repacking of the games on the same game disc/cartridge rather than just remastering the games.

Final Thoughts

Sonic 2, Sonic CD, and the Vectorman series are certainly good games in their own right, and they definitely make Sonic Gems Collection worth a rental if you haven’t played them before. Keep in mind that the gameplay is strictly old-school, so if you’re looking for something with all the modern bells and whistles, this game may not be right for you.

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