Some may argue that Sonic has worn out his welcome by now, but thereís no arguing that some of the classics can still rock. Sonic Gems collection is a compilation of Sonic games that most casual and some hardcore gamers might have missed out on due to Segaís phase of bringing out new technology every six months such as the Sega CD or platforms that just flat out failed like the Game Gear and Saturn. While this collection definitely wields some gems, there are parts that mainly serve as filler or shouldnít have been selected in the first place.
Sonic Gems collection consists of a collection of Sonic (or Sonic related) games that appeared on the Sega CD, Saturn, and Game Gear as well as a couple of extra surprises. Each one brings something different to the table in terms of quality and gameplay and most turn out to be surprisingly enjoyable.
After clearing off an entire memory card, you can finally get into the game, that is, if you want all of the unlockable content. From the main menu you can go to the games, view the manuals, check out the museum, or go into the extras to view hints or (god forbid) check out the credits. Viewing the game manuals is interesting since the manuals for both the PC and Saturn versions of Sonic R are included which surprised me at the fact that you could play Sonic R over a modem or network connection. As you play through the collection, youíll unlock some rather pointless artwork in the museum. Artwork that is earned for completing certain games isnít really worth the work, but then again, itís all about the games.
Sonic CD is definitely the highlight of the collection, especially for those who arenít the three people that owned Sega CDs. It offers the same classic Sonic gameplay with plenty of CD based early nineties cock rock to back it up among other musical stylings. The big addition to the gameplay is the element of time travel where you can hit signs that will take you to the future or past and get an entirely different level out of it. The visuals are either on par or one notch above those seen on the genesis, but in terms of content, thereís a lot to play through on this one.
Sonic: The Fighters is a port of the generic and straightforward fighting game that takes place in the Sonic universe. All of the major players are here in addition to some lesser known Sonic friends. You can choose between Sonic, Tails, Fang, Bean the Dynamite Duck, Bark, Espio, Amy, and of course Knuckles. The fighting in Sonic: The Fighters isnít particularly deep, nor has the game aged that well in terms of visuals. You can beat the game in less than fifteen minutes, despite having trouble with the last couple of battles. Blocking is limited to protect against anyone being a ďturtleĒ where you have five barriers that can be used. Strategy usually comes down to mashing buttons to break all of your opponentsí barriers then wailing on each other until a winner is declared. There are come neat moves like the Sonic spin move, or moves where you can bash an opponentís head flat.
Sonic R is an on foot racing game that originally came out for the Saturn and features characters from the Sonic universe racing each other on five different courses. There isnít much to the game aside from the goal to win first place on the four starting courses to unlock the fifth course. There is also a time attack mode present, but that, in addition to the badly dated 3D visuals doesnít do much to add to Sonic Rís value.
Filling out the compilation are six Game Gear games that, in some cases, are surprisingly good and end up being more entertaining than the supposed main draws of Sonic R and The Fighters. Each of these titles varies in quality in terms of emulation of graphics and sound and all of them can be played in a small window or blown up to almost full screen in all of their hardware stretched glory. Sonic 2 is an obvious first generation Game Gear title that sports the same classic Sonic gameplay with Master System visuals. Sonic Spinball, also known as the bastard child of all Sonic games, is a game where you guide Sonic through a series of levels by means of bumpers, flippers, and tubes while trying to collect enough emeralds to get to the next level. Sonic Triple Trouble, like Sonic 2, features the same Sonic 2D gameplay only itís better in terms of execution and looks. Sonic Drift 2 is a kart racing game featuring the usual cast of Sonic characters where youíll battle through a series of races and horrible video emulation that doesnít want to draw the track correctly and is definitely the worst of the bunch. Tailsí Sky Patrol is an interesting game that was only released in Japan where you have to guide Tails through levels full of obstacles and manipulate objects as well as take out enemies with a ring heís carrying while keeping an eye on your flight meter to make sure you donít crash. Tails Adventures is perhaps the most interesting of the Game Gear crowd where the typical Sonic gameplay is jettisoned for more of a platforming style of game where Tails bombs his way through an army of what look like evil ducks in mechs and looks just as good as most of the games that the Genesis cranked out. If you manage to play enough, youíll eventually unlock Vectorman 1 and 2 for the Sega Genesis which is a very welcome surprise. Both games looked great when they were released and continue to hold up well. These are worth unlocking just for the pure unadulterated fun theyíre capable of.
While a few of these games can be passed off as curiosities rather than actual gems, Sonic Gems collection does offer a few nice surprises. While the original Genesis games can be found on the Sonic Mega Collection, a lot of these may be a bit harder for the casual Sonic fan to accept, therefore it can only be recommended for those hardcore Sonic fans or those who are curious about what else the series has to offer.
- Brad Hicks (Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media