Contrary to its name, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection is not merely another comprehensive collection of our favorite hedgehog's 2D adventures. Instead it's an update to the Sega Genesis Collection, an inexpensive 16-bit compilation released a few years ago on the Sony PSP and PlayStation 2. Packaged with more (and better) games, a few cool extras and achievements, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection proves to be one of the greatest video game compilation discs ever made. While not every game in this package is worth it, at $30 you're getting more than your money's worth. Even with its misleading name, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection is one of the first must-own games for the Xbox 360 this year.
This compilation features 40 of the best Sega published games on their 16-bit Genesis. We're talking about games like Shinobi III, Ecco the Dolphin, Beyond Oasis, Ecco the Dolphin, Vectorman, Space Harrier, Ristar and Flicky. But wait, there's more! This $30 disc features all four of the story-driven Phantasy Star games for the first time in the U.S., it features all three Streets of Rage games, all of the 16-bit Golden Axe titles and a bunch of Sega's "Shining" series (Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force and Shining Force II). Throw in some cool arcade rarities and six (yes, six) Sonic the Hedgehog games and you have a classic game collection worth owning.
Like all video game compilations, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection has more than a few clunkers worth avoiding. For example, Sonic 3D Blast is definitely not worth playing, and neither are the final two Golden Axe games. And were there that many people demanding a pixel-perfect port of Decap Attack starring Chuck D. Head? Thankfully the majority of the games are better than Fatal Labyrinth and Super Thunder Blade, for every bad game there are at least two must-play titles. It's easy to forget about how crummy Columns is when you're busy trying to beat Dynamite Headdy so you can move on to Zaxxon.
The presentation of all 47 games is near perfect, with accurate ports and the original music. Better still, you can choose how you want to see each game. That is, you can choose to have the game in a window preserving the original aspect ratio, or you can stretch the game out to fill up your entire widescreen television. What's more, you can turn on "enhanced" graphics ... but they feature weird smooth edges and it never looks quite right. Thankfully each game defaults to the original art style. The game also allows you to change the controls in any number of ways, fiddle with the audio and save/load from just about anywhere. In other words, it offers just about everything you could ask for from a collection of 20 year old games.
It's not often that I talk about a game's achievement points in the full review, but I feel that this Genesis collection has a few rewards worth talking about. As you might imagine, most of the games have individual achievements. This isn't like The Orange Box where all of the games have multiple achievements, but rather the variety where you get one achievement per game. Most of the big Genesis games have these rewards, and most of the achievements are nothing more than beating the first level or getting to a certain score. It felt like these rewards were given simply for sampling each of the Genesis games. I'm sure it would have made more sense to give about the awards after you beat a game, but it's nice to see Sega use these points to get you to play as many different games as possible.
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