This takes me back to a time when the only war that mattered was between the two super-heros of the gaming world. A revved up prickly hedgehog called Sonic from SEGA and a portly plumber named Mario from Nintendo, who, as I remember, was rather handy with his spanner. I can still remember the fights and jeers in the playground as champions of both put forward their arguments as to why their particular favorite was the best, and that was just the teachers. Ah the good old days...
Well, now the unthinkable has happened and Sonic is back and on the Nintendo GameCube. So if there is anyone out there who has never heard of the prickly peril, or maybe you fancy a bit of nostalgia then this is the game for you.
Sonic Mega Collection is essentially all of the seven original "Sonic" titles on one GameCube disk. Sonic the Hedgehog 1,2 and 3, Sonic and Knuckles, Sonic 3D Flickies Island, Sonic Spinball and Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. In addition to the games there are plenty of extras, including loads of original artwork, comics, a movie of the history of Sonic, you can even check out scans of the manuals that accompanied the original titles.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog was released in June 1991. It was a 2D platformer that at the time played completely differently from any game on any other format around. Dr Robotnik, a mad scientist (aren't they always!) has taken innocent creatures and turned them into robots, and it's down to our intrepid hero to save them and ultimately stop the demented doc. You play the game as Sonic a prickly little creature with a need for speed. You dash through six zones which are made up of three Acts. The object of the game is to avoid traps and hazards, battle bots and collect as many rings as possible. The purpose of the rings is to act as a kind of health bar. If Sonic is attacked or collides with a hazard you will loose some or all of the rings you has collected, therefore the more rings you collect the more hits/traps you will be able to survive. However you do loose a life if all the rings have are lost. There are also special items to collect that will help you on you way. These are in the form of video monitors, smash them open and you will be rewarded with extra lives, super power sneakers, shields etc. At the end of every zone there is a boss level, and the game ends when Dr Robotnik has finally been defeated. There are bonuses for defeating enemies and a secret zone that is unlocked if you have 50 rings left at the end of any Act.
Dr Robotnik is back in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, originally released in 1992. This time Sonic has joined forces with "Tails" the fox, and the dashing due have to stop the dotty doc from discovering Chaos Emeralds and creating the ultimate weapon the "Death Egg". This version is considered my many to be the best of the Sonic titles although still in 2D format. The game play is pretty much the same as Sonic 1, with the same objectives of collecting rings, avoiding traps and battling baddies. However this time around the game feels much faster, the graphics have improved and the scenery has become more interactive. There are levers to activate and vines to swing from as well as hidden items to find. There are still the special items to help you on your way and a special stage at the end of every Act. This time there is a 2 player mode available, whereby you and a friend adopt one of the characters and compete to complete each Act in the fastest time possible.
In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (originally released 1994) Dr Robotnik is back yet again. (He doesn't give up does he?) The ultimate weapon the "Death Egg" has crash landed on floating islands and he needs Chaos Emeralds to repair it. He tricks the emeralds guardian "Knuckles" into helping him. Sonic and Tails are back with yet more of the same. More levels, more bosses, more bonus and competition stages etc, etc. This version is still fun and the graphics have improved yet again, but this version doesn't seem to have the speed and excitement as Sonic 2 and lacks originality.
In 1994 Sonic and Knuckles was also released. Tails has gone, Dr Robotnik has taken a back seat and the baddie mantle has now been handed over to Knuckles. The now lonesome Sonic is still looking for emeralds and Knuckles is trying to stop him. This is the first time that Sonic has offered anything different in the way of game play. This version has a brand-new playable character in Knuckles, and also offers for the first time a 3D special stage (it is 3D but not as we know it!).
After a two year gap in 1996 Sonic 3D Flickers Island was released. Dr Robotnik is back (well you can't keep a good mad man down!) and has once again taken up his obsession of turning innocent creatures into vicious robots. Sonic 3D is completely different from the previous games. Its unique 3D feature give a very futuristic feel compared to the previous titles. (I know it's hard to believe but at the time this was technology a it's best). The game objectives have also changed instead of avoiding traps the aim of the game is to rescue flickies (that's, birds to me and you!) that are trapped inside robots. You release the flickies by jumping/spinning/dashing into robots, the flckies will then be released. You then have to get the flickie to follow you to a giant ring portal to be freed. Once all the flickies on that level have been freed you can then proceed to the next level via the portal. (The concept is very much like saving the Mudkons in Abe's Odyssey on the PSX). Although you do get to roam around which makes a change from the 2D format the camara angle cannot be altered which makes it very difficult to see where you are going and find hidden areas. Even so I thoroughly enjoyed this version and found it addictive.
The penultimate game in this classic collection is Sonic Pinball (originally released 1993). Dr Robotnik is once again turning animals into robots (This man is in serious need of a games console!!) and this time you use Sonic as a pinball to release the poor mites. You make your way through the fortress avoiding traps, uncovering concealed passageways and collecting emeralds. (You know 'm sure I've heard that somewhere before!). I have to admit to being a bit of a pinball addict, so I really enjoyed this one. As a diversion to the other Sonic formats it's bright, colourful and entertaining.
And last but not least in this collection is Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (first released in 1993).This is another variation on the Sonic format. Cloured beans are dropped from the top of a dungeon. The game is simple if not frustrating, join 4 beans of the same colour together and they disappear. Make the beans disappear before the dungeon overfills. You can alter the difficulty and play in two player mode. (If you like Bust A Move you'll like this).
The game play has stayed faithful to all of the original titles even down to the irritatingly repetitive music that accompanies most of the titles. The graphics aren't brilliant but then they're not meant to be. However, having the benefit of the GameCube's advanced gaming system has certainly improved all of the games graphically and the controller works just as well in this new form as the original.
These games may be old but at the time of their original release they were some of the best games around. It also just goes to show how far gaming technology has advanced in the last few years. If you have never played Sonic before in its original form then this classic collection is certainly worth a look. They may be old but they are still addictive. If you are like me and have had Sonic titles in the past but sold your SEGA system, then this is a chance to replace 7 original titles on one disc with slightly improved graphics