Sonic is back on the PlayStation 2, but this time fans of the speedy blue hedgehog will be playing something extremely familiar. Sonic Mega Collection Plus is basically the same as its Gamecube counterpart only with some added features and more games to boot. The games follow through seven of Sonic's Genesis adventures and it now features some Game Gear games as well. There are also scans of various comics from either Archie or other spin offs, video clips of the unfinished and finished Sonic Heroes FMV's, and character bios. All of this just for $19.99; sounds like a bargain.
The game consists of seven Sega Genesis games: Sonic 1- 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3D, Sonic Spinball and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine all in their entirety. The game also includes six Game Gear games from the Sonic world, some of these games are rather weird or just seem like novelties, but diehard Sonic fans will be pleased to see that they are included. Your collection of games can also be improved by completing or playing through the initial set, which once beaten unlocks Sonic & Knuckles, where you can play Knuckles in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3.
None of the core basics of the game have changed; all the strengths and defects of the Sonic games are still in, and all though this preserves the classic games, it would have been nice if they had been brought up to speed with the PlayStation 2's emulation capabilities. However, as noted in the manual, there have been minor graphical modifications. This has can interrupt your gameplay by making slight screen distortions and graphical errors, which can be escaped by pressing R1 during gameplay. Ignoring this, the gameplay is as it was primarily intended to be, which proves to be quite the walk down memory lane.
For anyone who hasn't played a Sonic The Hedgehog game before, the game's are all about speed, speed, and more speed. The levels generally move from left to right and feature the blue blur collecting rings, spinning through loops, avoiding bad guys, while trying to make it to the end of the level as fast as possible. His nemesis is the evil Dr. Robotnik who kidnaps cute little animals, tries to take over the world, and is always a thorn in Sonic's side.
The controls are fairly simple within the Genesis games, but differ completely in the Game Gear as the set up for each game is different. It doesn't take long at all to get used to the controls, but it is still annoying from time to time, especially if you forget the controls when you go back to the game later on. The menu has a nice lay out and also isn't hard to get around.
Perhaps the most important new element to Sonic Mega Collection Plus is the ability to load and save games. Choosing to save will save the exact point that you are at before you paused, whilst loading a file will load exactly where you left off. So even if you are in the middle of a boss, you can save your file. This may be exploited to win bosses without losing a life, and a lot of hard core Sonic fans may think this is cheating but, this is a nifty little feature.
Most of the Genesis games are masterpieces, showing exactly what Sonic Team used to be capable of doing, and it will make you long for the Sonics of yore, where a lot of creativity and polish were used. Sadly the closest I, and many other people like me will get to this is through ports of old series and classic innovations of the 16 bit era. The Sonic games retain this playability in all their glory, and also prove that 2D games are just as fun as they always used to be, with gameplay that is fast paced and very stylish.
The graphics, by today's standards are not brilliant, but at the time this was the pinnacle of platform gaming. The colorful, bright, and beautiful visuals would have pushed an old Genesis to its limits. These stunning 16 bit graphics not only show that the Sonic games haven't lost their touch, but, that 2D visuals can still be pleasant to the eye. The menu lay out also show nice, simplistic graphics, with the covers of each game shown and small clips of various games in small windows on screen. The graphics look smart, but are nothing ground breaking.
The songs and jingles in Sonic games have always been a brilliant fundamental to the style of gameplay. Each zone has a fantastic, funky melody that suits the style of level perfectly. The Midis have not been changed at all in Sonic Mega Collection Plus and are arguably the best of their time. The sounds of television-like boxes smashing and rings being collected still brings a smile to my face, and all of the bonus stage noises are as funny as ever. The menu also has a pleasant melody in the background but it's nothing particularly special.
Sonic Mega Collection Plus has a number of fantastic games on it that will have you coming back for more every so often, but these games have been released in previous collections already, and the omission of Sonic CD (considered the best Sonic to date) and Knuckles & Chaotix, while expected, is a letdown. It's disappointing to see the once great Sega having to rely on their classic games to get by these days. If Sonic Team were to spend less time releasing ports, and concentrated more on getting more original games, or sequels to their already good number of franchises and series, they may still be as good as they were when these games were originally released. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is a Sonic fan or even someone new to the franchise, especially it retails for the mere price of $19.99 If you already own the GC version or still have all the old games, there is no need to bother with the PS2 version.