Sonic Genesis Collection does exactly what it's supposed to; brings classic genesis favorites to your DS.
(-) We've already played through these games multiple times already / some minor sound effects and graphical effects are off / almost no worthwhile extra features make this a pretty bare-bones package
We see them all the time. Re-releases. Plenty of the most influential video games from the past have made reappearances in the form of compilations to remove the need to shovel out your dusty old consoles and instead enjoy your favorite classics on your new modernized game consoles. And with plenty of liable candidates under their belt, Sega have plenty of options to bring people throughout their library from way back when they were an actual competitor.
And few of their contributions have made their mark quite as well as Sonic, the speedy blue devil that burns the tarmac with his light speed shoes and tramples over Alex Kidd, Sega's former mascot. He's already made many major appearances on other consoles since Sega retired from the hardware business, beginning on the Gamecube with Sonic Mega Collection, a well received compilation that even earned Player's Choice status. Soon enough, the PS2 and Xbox followed suit.
But there was something wrong. Up until now, Sonic had a hard time bringing his best classic adventures into handheld form. The first attempt was back on the Gameboy Advanced with Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis, universally panned by critics for its messed up music and sound effects, small camera scope, abundance of glitches and bugs, and general awfulness. Worse still, it just so happened to be released days away from Sonic the Hedgehog 06 on the X360, also known to be a complete disaster, making Sonic's 10 year anniversary a cringe-worthy occasion.
Sega somewhat redeemed themselves in the handheld market with Sega Genesis Collection which was released on the PSP in addition to the PS2, but it only included the first two games. But for the first time, now all three major installments are together in handheld form with Sonic Classic Collection on the DS. You get the whole package. Sonic the Hedgehog (1994), where Sega showed what Blast Processing could do and gave us both a technical marvel and an irresistibly fun adventure. And it's sequel from 1992 has been thrown in here as well, where Miles "Tails" Prower made his fateful debut, as did one of the most frustrating final bosses in the history of video games.
What's most surprising about this little DS chip is that it even includes the final game (or games, depending on how you wish to look at it) that's offered in this collection. And that's the ultimate Sonic the Hedgehog 3. In a ballsy move by Sonic, they included the whole thing. Sonic 3, and even the the next half that was in production, Sonic and Knuckles, are included. Which means, you get the ultimate game: Sonic 3 & Knuckles, where the developers included so much game that the old Genesis couldn't handle it in one cartilage alone and they had to find a way to "trick" the system into reading two different games as one by modifying the cartilage of Sonic and Knuckles to allow insertion of another Sonic game. You can even run through Sonic 2 as Knuckles, another clever technical feat they accomplished this way. Having all this, in one package, on a handheld no less, amounts to one heck of a deal, enough content to be played for hours.
The only problem is, if you're like most people, you've probably already played these for hours. The Genesis Sonic games were great back in the day, and chances are good that if you've had the system you've played the games to death. So it's largely questionable whether or not having all these together on a handheld is big enough incentive to warrant buying them again. But if you're always up for more, you'll be happy to know that these games still hold up as being incredibly fun, well made games. And it's amazing how long Sega took to give the entire collection a proper release on the handheld on one collection. Sonic's chaotic speed has always paved the way for some pretty twisted level designs, and years later they still amaze. From the beautiful grassy meadows, pollution filled oil plants, brightly lit neon casinos, lava caves, you'll get yourself into all kinds of crazy situations.
Whether you're beating Eggman's silly contraptions down to size, playing around with the gamble machine to see if you'll win big or lose all your precious rings, or exploiting a certain glitch in Oil Ocean to make you jump twice as high to see if you can make it to the end of the level without losing it, it's easy to forget that these games were quick ports. Even the graphics and music. The fast speeds and bright colors shine through on the tiny DS screen, but you will be dealing with a few more frame rate hitches than you probably remember. The music is similarly fantastic, just one play-through and you'll be humming some tunes the rest of the evening. There's some small, very small, glitches however that while they don't tamper with the experience, they keep them from being a flawless port. There's no gap between the music tracks when they loop in and out, and more importantly, if you grab the sneaker box that makes you run faster, instead of the music speeding up, it'll rise in pitch. A minor oversight, but an oversight all the same.
And don't be too concerned about playability. While the reduced screen size does take some getting used to, these games are perfectly fine to be played on the DS. There are moments when you'll see Sonic trip and fall after being hit by a tiny speck of fire you couldn't see, but for the most part the screen size feels just right. It's reduced, but not as much as it was on the Gameboy Advanced. The only time you'll really notice it is when the credits roll, you'll see that the screen border obscure's some of the staff's names. The only thing that might come as a real bother is pausing the game. You can't just press pause and walk away. You need to press a button on the touch screen. Why? On a brighter note, in Sonic 1 and 2, you can also save this way, which is great because unlike Sonic 3, those games never had their own built-in save feature.
However, if you're looking for any extra bells and whistles, there simply aren't any. Unless you count some folder of concept art that'll take approximately sixty seconds to skim through before you never return to it again. Honestly, from the lack of extra features to the opening menus, you'll quickly get the feeling that this collection was shoved out the door as quick as possible without the time of day. But don't get the impression that this makes for a bad game. If all you want are the games, then this is the best you could possibly do on a handheld. With three games for the price of one, all award winning classics that are loved by many, it's hard to pass up. They play amazingly well on the Nintendo DS, and that's all that really matters.