Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection has an obvious appeal. For only 30 bucks, gamers can own a collection of 48 Sega Genesis, Mega Drive, and Arcade games to play on one disc. From every major Sonic the Hedgehog iteration to lesser known titles like Comix Zone and Beyond Oasis, Sega fans can carve out hundreds of hours of gameplay in one location.
But what isn’t obvious about this compilation is that an inherit aging problem hurts some of these games. While they are all presented in top-notch form, with perfect emulation, customizable controls, and a wide variety of unlockables, some of these games are simply not worth playing anymore. Those looking for nostalgia will no doubt find their fix here but newcomers will uncover both classics and absolute duds.
Feb. 10, 2009
The commendable amount of attention paid to this collection is recognizable from the very start. The main menu resembles the classic Genesis system with a large black panel on the left, L-shaped with a round center, listing all games immediately playable. On the right, video previews of selected games play within the shape of the standard Genesis cartridge, even exposing the motherboard slightly on the bottom.
Each game on the main list, one that can be sorted multiple ways (Alphabetically, chronologically, or by genre and preference), is given perfect presentations with multiple display options. As a default each game will start in their original format of 4:3. Those with widescreen TVs will see a game-specific background and a border adorning the edges of the reduced gameplay screen. However, in the collection’s pop-up menu, accessed by hitting Select, the game can be stretched to fill a 16:9 format.
Under that same “Video Setup” menu, a “Smooting” option can be activated, which gives each game a waxy veneer, apparently hoping to make them look more presentable on bigger TVs. While it does help to wrinkle out some otherwise noticeable imperfections, it also hinders the original look and style which will definitely drive some away. Also, games with heavy uses of text, like the Phantasy Star saga, don’t utilize the feature that well as some of the words become harder to read. Luckily, though, it can turned off, which is highly recommended.
Also in the pop-up menu are options to change the control scheme. The compilation automatically uses an altered layout to help fit the 360 controller, assigning actions where they feel more comfortable. But an “ABC Mode” is also available, which gives the A button of the original Genesis to the X button on 360, the B button to A and the C button to B. This won’t effect most games but others, like Vectorman, will definitely feel different.
Using the ABC mode, Vectorman jumps with B and fires with with X and A on the 360 pad, but with the default controls he jumps with A and shoots with X and B which seems to fit with most platformers available on the more modern system. On the original Genesis controller, all three main buttons were aligned horizontally, making it easier to assign a jump button to C, since most gamers could place the lower half of the thumb on that button and easily reach A and B with the top. The 360 controller, however, aligns its buttons in a square, so having a platformer use the jump button on anything other than A just feels awkward.
Regardless of the choice, 360 owners using the standard controller will not be able to escape the dreaded D-pad. Unlike the PS3, which uses four distinct buttons for all four directions, Microsoft’s pad is one large concave piece that feels mushy and unresponsive. Developers have dealt with this issue in the past but it particularly hurts Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection since these retro games were designed to be played with the D-pad. The only other option is the analog stick, which works in some instances, like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Streets of Rage, but not so well in other cases, like Fatal Labyrinth and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. The latter games require precise movement to play effectively and the analog stick just doesn’t match what a good D-pad can offer.