Sonic Classic Collection is about as slim as a compilation can get, but that doesn't stop it from being a blast to play.
Sonic the Hedgehog was a groundbreaking title. Gamers had become accustomed to slower, more methodical platforming, and Sonic's debut on the Genesis threw a great deal of that mentality out the window. Sonic was fast, blazingly fast, focusing more on reflexes than precision. Sure, the level design did on occasion throw spikes in the middle of your way, but that didn't stop Sonic from giving the platforming genre the adrenaline boost that it needed. Loops and jumps were frequent, springs ricocheted Sonic across levels, and the gravity-defying Special Stages were colorful and challenging. The harmonic sound of collecting rings and busting monitors became infused into gamer's minds. While the original Sonic the Hedgehog has been ported and put into collections on multiple systems repeatedly since its release, the DS compilation version isn't perfect (but it's unquestionably better than Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis game on GBA). The frame rate feels a bit off and the music doesn't sync up as well as the original Genesis title, but still, this is a solid port that retains the challenge, pace, and performance that gamers have expected from the original Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic the Hedgehog's platforming crown was immediately usurped by its sequel, which essentially offered more of everything. With a new sidekick in Miles "Tails" Prower and a new Robotnik project to stop, Sonic shattered sales records with Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The levels were larger and more intricate, introducing multiple paths and branching trails for Sonic and Tails to run through. The game's use of "blast processing" allowed for faster movement, a smoother performance, and even wilder level design. The variation in the level design, both structurally and aesthetically, is a major step ahead of the original. The Special Stages still can be difficult and some of the later levels have their share of serious challenge, but Sonic 2 remains a lengthy, varied, and enjoyable sequel that surpasses its predecessor across the board. Even in its ported form, Sonic 2 doesn't suffer from the DS hardware limitations at all, only leaving a few gameplay glitches throughout the entire adventure. Sonic 2 is new to the handheld world, but Sonic Classic Collection delivers the superb sequel in a portable and well-constructed form.
Sonic 3 changed things up in a number of ways. It had a more powerful graphic engine, offering for some great-looking levels for its generation, but there were significantly fewer levels. The Special Stages were changed into the 3-D Blue Sphere, which were activated through giant rings hidden throughout the stages. This resulted in a much more exploration-based gameplay setup, slowing down the game a bit. The structure of the level design was much slower, nowhere near the frantic pace of Sonic 2. Fortunately, the game is ported fairly well, with only a few hitches here and there. The music sync and sound effects can also feel off at times, but these are rare occurrences, and considering that this is the first port of Sonic 3 on the DS, it's very impressive.
Sonic and Knuckles follows right after Sonic 3, and essentially plays very much like it, with the same engine. It was the first game to introduce Knuckles as a playable character, and his special abilities like climbing and gliding are easy to learn and fun to use. The levels finish up the Death Egg saga, offering some stellar graphic design in the stages, especially the later ones. It, for better or worse, follows the same exploration-based gameplay of Sonic 3, but with some unique level design twists. The Blue Sphere minigame returns in Sonic and Knuckles as well. Sonic and Knuckles doesn't suffer from its handheld-ported state much, but there was the occasional random badnik attack. Sonic and Knuckles did have some of the best cosmetic level design in the entire series, and having it on a handheld is a great way to revisit these memorable locales.
Sonic Classic Collection advertises the use of a "save anywhere" function, but this is only half-true. You can now save not only in the Sonic 3 and Sonic 3 and Knuckles games, but also in Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic and Knuckles, and Knuckles in Sonic 2 games. The catch is that it only saves from the start of an Act (or in the case of Sonic and Knuckles, the start of a Zone). It's essentially the same save system used in Sonic 3. While any sort of save system is appreciated, the whole "save anywhere" claim is deceiving. When used with skill, the save system can definitely make taking on the challenges much more manageable. Still, it would've been better to have a full "save anywhere" system.
Having what are arguably the best Sonic games ever made altogether on a single cartridge that you can play on the go is enough of a reason to check out Sonic Classic Collection, but really, that's all that you get. Aside from a very slim art gallery, Sonic Classic Collection is four Genesis-era Sonic games with two lock-on games. No Spinball, no 3D Blast, no Game Gear titles, no extensive movie collection, no comic illustrations, no Blue Sphere minigame. Not even the multiplayer modes of Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 were kept. Sonic Classic Collection is exactly what the compilers wanted to do: put the six Genesis Sonic games together and market it off. Is that a bad thing? Well, no, but it could've been better. As great as these Sonic games are (and trust me, they're amazing), the lack of any extra effort towards Sonic veterans' wants makes Sonic Classic Collection feel slim. Still, these are fantastic titles and well-worth playing, especially to those who have yet to experience through Sonic's finest memories.
+ Six of the best 2-D platformers of the 16-bit era, now on the go
+ Save system helps quell the frustration
- Save system only saves the current stage or zone
- No multiplayer
- Very few extras
- Minor graphical hitches
Sonic Classic Collection is exactly what it's advertised as: six Genesis-era Sonic games on a DS cartridge, nothing more, nothing less (but especially nothing more). The games aren't perfectly ported, the save system is deceptively slim, and the lack of any real extras may turn gamers away, but anyone who wants some of the best side-scrolling platformers of the 16-bit era with them on the go will find Sonic Classic Collection to satisfy. You'd be surprised to see how addictive these titles still are, and while the save system isn't the "save anywhere" deal that many had hoped for, it does take away a lot of the frustration. It has its moments of bittersweetness, but Sonic Classic Collection retains a good deal of fun factor that the compiled games have always had. Let's just hope that the next Sonic compilation has a bit more meat on its bones.