Sonic Gems Collection review

NGC reckons you'd have more fun with a saucer of milk and a shotgun...

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To say that Sega is scraping the bottom of the barrel is something of an understatement.

There are three main 'gems' on the disk - Sonic CD, Sonic The Fighters and Sonic R - none of which were anywhere near as popular as the original Sonic trilogy, mainly because they appeared on systems that never sold particularly well.

The pick of the bunch has to be Sonic CD, a game many claim to be the best 2D Sonic platformer ever made, and something that we can remember enjoying a great deal. It doesn't bode well then, that even this hasn't aged very well.

Yes, it's certainly quite pretty in places, and the ability to leap between the past and future in the same level was quite clever back in 1993, but in this day and age it all seems very fussy and convoluted.

To be perfectly honest, some of the level design is also a bit of a mess, feeling unnecessarily slap-dash, unfocused and as it lacks the streamlined purity of the earlier Sonic games, it can often feel like too much of an effort to play.

That's not to say it's a poor game, mind - it's still a very solid and enjoyable platformer, it's just not as good as we remember it being, and we're not quite as forgiving as we were back then.

In fact, the only thing that has stood the test of time is the excellent music, which is hardly a reason to buy Sonic Gems Collection in itself, and will probably only be interesting for the people who played the game the first time around.

Which leaves us with the rest of the disc to consider, and we're sad to say it goes downhill rapidly.

Both Sonic R and Sonic The Fighters both look reasonable enough, and the clunky 3D engines powering them both lend a certain charm, but actually playing them is another matter.

Sonic R, the Mario Kart-style racer of the pack, while reasonably speedy, is an absolute pig to control, with each racer skating around the circuits with all the grace of an inebriated toddler.

Fighters isn't too hot either, shoe horning Sonic characters into the frankly decrepit Virtua Fighter engine.

It's painfully slow and unresponsive, and while there's plenty to master in terms of move sets and combos, we can't imagine anyone wanting to put in the effort when the fighting genre has been refined significantly over the last decade.

The final nail in the coffin has to be the collection of awful Game Gear games, which were pretty terrible the first time around.

The only ones worth more than five minutes of your time are the mildly interesting Skypatrol - which, despite being unique in its aerial puzzling action, is still a frustrating chore of a game - and the reasonably competent, but no less tedious, Triple Trouble.

The only thing that could have saved Sonic Gems Collection is the extra content, and it fails in this respect too.

The fact that the only unlockable extras are the Vectorman games is scant consolation considering the Japanese version includes Streets of Rage and its sequels - three games that would definitely have made this compilation worth considering.

So there you have it, completely underwhelming all round. If you have to buy a Sonic Collection, then the previous one is far superior.

To start with, the games on that disc are actually pretty decent and, as an added bonus, extras like Flicky and Ristar really round the package off. The only people we could possibly recommend this to are collectors.

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