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Sonic Classic Collection

17:4521/03/2010Posted by Chris MorellNo Comments

The speedy hedgehog has been doing quite well for himself of late, with games such as Sonic Rush, Sega All-Stars Racing and the day levels of Unleashed reminding us why the spiky one became such a beloved icon all those years ago. Now Sega hopes to cash in on the nostalgia factor with yet another Sonic collection – this time on the Nintendo DS – in preparation for this summer’s anticipated Sonic 4. With so many conversions released over the years, it’s likely even the youngest of gamers will have experienced these side-scrollers in some form or another, so it’s a fair bet any decision regarding a purchase will depend on how well they perform when compared to other versions.

Classic Collection is a fairly barebones package including the first three Mega Drive titles, Sonic and Knuckles and the add-ons that game offered. You know the games, you know how they play and if you’re anything like us much of it will be ingrained in your memory. There have been no significant changes besides the inclusion of a save system for the first two games, though the selling point for the fans will no doubt be the ability to play the epic Sonic 3 and Knuckles with the original method of saving and loading intact. Once the initial run-through is complete, level select becomes available allowing for the Chaos Emeralds to be collected for a final stage involving Super Sonic. Playing as Knuckles and Tails opens new routes and changes the play style through their unique abilities and serve as decent alternatives should you tire of the main hero.

The single issue that might put the fans off this collection is the frame-rate, which can get choppy during some of the more detailed stages such as Chemical Plant Zone. It sounds worse than it is, as it doesn’t ruin the games despite making it more of a nuisance to regain your rings after taking a hit. Die-hard fans may well curse the port for degrading the experience and if this were Sonic Rush we would whole-heartedly agree. These classic games require much more patience and caution than the modern ones however, so it very rarely becomes a problem. All types of multiplayer have been removed from the collection and while this omission comes as little surprise, the inability to tackle the stages with a friend makes the option to play as Sonic and Tails even more redundant than it was initially.

The music fares just as well on the DS as it did on the Mega Drive and all the tracks are as impressive as ever, so long as you can bypass the tinny speakers with a decent pair of headphones. The various sound effects will be instantly familiar as will the layout of the levels, just be warned they may be more difficult than you remember due to the extremely reduced screen size. Our suspicions of a cropped display were seemingly confirmed when the credits rolled, though the fact this change is not immediately obvious means it’s been handled skilfully. The alternative would have been a bordered screen, so it’s just as well the folks at Sega chose the option they did.

Anyone tired of paying for Sonic games they already own might want to give this collection a miss, especially given the lack of extras (though we do appreciate the limitations of a DS cartridge) but if these classics have evaded your gaming shelf over the years for whatever reason, they are more than worth the twenty notes of your hard-earned cash, if only to find out just what all the fuss is about. Ice Cap Zone still has one of the best tunes in gaming and Sandopolis Act 2 is still hell, meaning the games present the same experience whether you picked them up yesterday or fifteen years ago.

Fun, challenging and frustrating in just the right measures, the collection highlights the respect Sonic holds as an old-school entity, even though the years that followed spelt disaster and led to his dethroning as a modern icon. The games here do have their flaws – for example, there’s no charge spin in the first game, spikes pop out just when you’ve picked up a reasonable speed and the projectiles are even more irritating than before as you struggle to make them out on the smaller screen – but they remain the pinnacle of 2D gaming irrespective of this and represent the best that gaming had to offer in the early-to-mid 90’s. With Sonic 4 looking to bring our hero speeding into the modern era minus the bloated cast of unwelcome characters, there’s never been a better time to take one of gaming’s most cherished mascots for a spin.

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