Review: Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

Many of us have fond memories of the Sega Genesis. It was the home to many a beloved franchise over the years like Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Phantasy Star, and a host of others. With that said, this compilation is quite possibly one of the greatest gaming throwbacks currently available. Combining over 40 different familiar Sega titles with new save mechanics and a slew of extra content, this is the definitive Sega sampler to pick up, especially if you missed out on these games the first time around.


As far as games go, the collection lines up 40 Sega Genesis games as well as 9 from the Sega Master System. Obviously, this won’t be a review of each game individually, but a look at the entire package. While some of the choices that have been included are indeed a bit iffy, the overall package is masterful. There are a few featured that could well have been traded out for better choices (Gain Ground, Flicky) but the discrepancies in what is presented and what would have been a definitive list are so small that they are a non-issue. The master list of games included is an impressive one:

  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  • Alien Storm
  • Alien Syndrome
  • Altered Beast
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Bonanza Bros.
  • Columns
  • Comix Zone
  • Congo Bongo
  • Decap Attack
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • ESWAT: City Under Siege
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Ecco: The Tides of Time
  • Fantasy Zone
  • Fatal Labyrinth
  • Flicky
  • Gain Ground
  • Golden Axe
  • Golden Axe II
  • Golden Axe III
  • Golden Axe Warrior (Sega Master System)
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Phantasy Star (Sega Master System)
  • Phantasy Star II
  • Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
  • Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
  • Ristar
  • Shining in the Darkness
  • Shining Force
  • Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing
  • Shinobi
  • Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  • Sonic 3D Blast
  • Sonic & Knuckles
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 3
  • Space Harrier
  • Streets of Rage
  • Streets of Rage II
  • Streets of Rage III
  • Super Thunder Blade
  • Vectorman
  • Vectorman 2
  • Zaxxon

While some of these games are reserved for unlocking after completing several requirements, the list is so expansive that it shouldn’t take long to get to the juicy hidden content. Before getting into the game, there is a screen with information and controls about the ensuing adventure, ensuring that each new player is well-acquainted before beginning. Since the game’s manual obviously does not cover each of the titles included, this is a very useful addition to the compilation.

Every game’s control scheme has been lovingly preserved and controlling via the Xbox 360 controller (or PS3 if you own that version) feels natural, if you ever thought it possible. Analog sticks provide freedom of movement that you may never have envisioned before. It’s as if the games were meant for next-gen systems! Preposterous, right? Seriously, each game plays so comfortably that it’s almost like being instantly transported back to your childhood, sitting in the floor, mouth ajar while ripping through your favorite games.

Perhaps the most innovative and useful aspect of this collection is the ability to save wherever you fancy. Having trouble on a specific Sonic boss character? No problem – simply save right before your encounter and you’ll get unlimited tries. This is an invaluable mechanic that will save hours and hours of your precious time as you go through the game. Though some may call it cheating to be able to save at any time, it’s invaluable in the eyes of many gamers. These days, we’re not all able to sit and retry the same area over and over – real life awaits.

In addition to the fantastic save system and polished controls, there is the option to rate certain titles as your favorites. This is accomplished through selecting red lights next to the game title. This way, you can sort from favorites to those who can’t stand so much (personally, I avoid Sonic 3D Blast like the plague). There’s more – each game comes with its own little slice of history. Before selecting a game you can scroll through a short excerpt giving an explanation and fun facts about every single title. This is a neat little addition that will no doubt delight fans of retro gaming or even those who, like me, grew up in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. If that doesn’t quite satiate your appetite for all things related to Sega’s history, then as part of the slew of unlockable content, there are video interviews available to digest spanning 9 of the different games included. In order to get to this content and the extra games (as well as earn achievements), many feats will have to be accomplished first – collecting a Chaos Emerald, completing the first chapter of Comix Zone, or even reaching 1,000,000 points in Sonic Spinball’s first table. While some of the requirements are simple, others are not, and this can get frustrating. That’s all the more reason to thoroughly enjoy each game included, though, rather than to speed through or pick and choose.

What can be said about the graphics that Sega fans don’t already expect? These are the same exact graphics you’re used to, right down to the last detail. Each game receives a frame of color around the gameplay area, and frame rates move smoothly. There have been no improvements, but that is to be expected. The music you remember from your childhood is preserved as well – every “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone!” and the SEGA! chorus is present. Everything is here except for multiplayer options. A few of these titles are available for purchase via the Xbox Live Arcade and feature leaderboards to compare your score with others. Strangely, this compilation does not. A minor flaw, but multiplayer via Xbox Live would have been a dream. To replace this, using two 360 controllers will work for local multiplayer where appropriate.

If you’re any kind of fan of all of some of these Sega greats, then this compilation is quite the bargain, priced at $29.99. Just imagine trying to buy to compatible systems and each individual cartridge to recreate the experience otherwise! This is the definitive collection that has earned its rightful place on the shelves of gamers everywhere, and we can only hope that more publishers follow suit in the future, providing revered classics for affordable prices, laden with extras and interesting unlockables. Haven’t experienced the Genesis years? Now’s the best time to do so.

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