I should probably point out before we begin that I never much cared for the Sonic the Hedgehog games. Hear me out now. Sonic's main gimmick is speed and so most of the levels in his games are designed with a fast-paced run-through-the-level-as-fast-as-you-can style in mind. But at the same time the placement of the traps and enemies seems to be intended more to PUNISH you for running through the stage quickly. There's nothing like running through a series of cool corkscrew turns and loop-the-loops only to smack into a wall of spikes and die to really make your day.
But despite my baseless hatred of a much beloved franchise Sonic is still Sega's mascot. The problem with being a company mascot, though, is that they can shove you into any number of games and no one will complain. (It's the same logic that created Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix.) Sonic Gems Collection is an anthology of such games: games that for one reason or another never became very popular and eventually faded into obscurity.
But what Sega forgot is that when a game becomes obscure it's usually for one of a few reasons: it wasn't marketed well, it was a limited release, or it totally sucked ass. Unfortunately, for most of the games on this anthology it's the latter. These games are for the most part of such a low level of quality that you won't even want to play them at all, much less for the seven hours required to unlock Vectorman and Vectorman 2 which, let's face it, are probably the main reason most people bought this anthology. And that's no good.
Annotation from The Future:
Hey, guys! Lately I've been adding annotations from the future, as you may have seen. For this review, though, it's far too big to just do one at the end like usual. Instead I'll add annotations after each game's entry to talk about that game. To prevent clutter, I've decided to forgo the usual "annotation from the future" tag and instead make them blue.
Sonic the Fighters
Sonic the Fighters is a fighting game starring Sonic the Hedgehog. I know, I was shocked too. There's some kind of lame plot involving Robotnik doing evil things or something like that and because of that all of the Sonic characters have to beat each other up. The plot sucks but to be fair, so does the game. After spending an hour fighting your way through this boring game you'll die against the totally cheap Metal Sonic and since the creators were nice enough not to include any manner of continue system at all you will have to do it all over again.
There's actually an interesting story behind this game. Apparently a designer at Sega AM2 was working on a fighting game called Fighting Vipers when he got bored one day at work and decided to put Sonic and Tails into the game as a joke. Though they were later removed, his coworkers and bosses loved it so much they decided to make an official Sonic fighting game.
Honestly, I gave this game crap but it's really not that horrible. That said, don't get me wrong. It is bad. This is a PS2-era game, but feels like something from the Nintendo 64. The characters do at least have different play styles and moves, but they're just too sluggish. Of course, as I mentioned, the biggest flaw is that there are no continues.
KR Rating:  BAD
Sonic CD is actually an okay game and is in fact one of the few games on this anthology I feel sorry for. You see, most of the other games on this anthology had reasons for dying in obscurity: they were crappy, they were just remakes for the Game Gear and not original games, or they were never really intended to be that big in the first place (for example, the two Tails games).
Sonic CD, however, doesn't deserve to be here. The time-period-switching mechanism provides an interesting touch and this game also features the very first appearance of the current Metal Sonic. You can tell Sega really tried on this game and as Sonic games go it's not that bad. Honestly, the only reason Sonic CD became so unknown is because it was made for the Sega CD.
I've heard bad things about Sonic CD, but honestly, it doesn't deserve any of them. To be honest, I didn't care for it, but only because -as I mentioned in the opening segment- I'm not a big fan of Sonic games. I recognize that this is a good game, and so have other reviewers.
Gamepro listed it as the 12th best platformer made between 1989 and 2009. To be fair, though, they put it above New Super Mario Bros, so clearly they're madmen. There's also the fact that EGM rated Sonic CD the best game of the Sega Mega-CD according to Wikipedia. Granted, calling something the "best game for Sega CD" is a lot like saying you have the "least painful gaping head wound." Still, that's something, right?
KR Rating:  GOOD
It's another racing game with Sonic! Well, I shouldn't say another, since we haven't gone over Sonic Drift yet. Unlike that Mario Kart wannabe, though, this is a foot race. Between the well-rendered tracks and decent play style, this is an excellent game. You know, I mean aside from the shitty controls, complete lack of any unlockables, and the fact that it is totally NOT an excellent or even GOOD game in any way, shape, or form.
Sonic R is a strange game. There's nothing particularly wrong with it. The controls aren't as bad as I said they were, the tracks and characters look nice, and the gameplay at least offers something new, even if it does handle a lot like Mario Kart 64.
The main problem is that it just gets so dull so quick. There's nothing to unlock, and while the tracks may look nice they all feel basically the same when you're running on them. The game isn't bad, it just gets old so fast.
KR Rating:  MEDIOCRE
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
No, it's not, Sega. I don't mean that it's just a port to the Game Gear, I mean it's not even the same game. The levels are all different, bosses are all different, and the plot isn't the same either. It's not even as good. Or beatable. Does anyone actually know anyone first hand who has gotten past the first level? That's a real question.
I'm still not joking. I remember playing this on a friend's Game Gear as a kid and getting stuck on the boss of the first level. Unlike most other games that seemed hard when I was little, this one did not get easier as an adult playing it on this collection. I am absolutely serious. If you made it past level 1 without cheating then congratulations, you don't exist!
KR Rating:  MEDIOCRE
When I ask people what they liked best about Sonic 2, and I do, I always get the same response: the fact that Sonic and Tails are both naked. But when I ask what they liked second best they usually say they liked the pinball segments in Casino Night Zone. In fact, the pinball segments were so popular that Sega eventually released an entire game based solely around them.
What Sega didn't realize is that the pinball segments are only fun for a few minutes, then you get bored and want to go on and finish the level. Unfortunately, Spinball doesn't change that fact a whole lot. Although they did add more stuff Spinball will still get tedious after only a few minutes.
That being said, this is not Sonic Spinball. No, like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 before it, this is merely a crappier remake which was ported to the Game Gear. That means someone took the worst idea ever and made it even worse. That's gotta be worth some kind of Nobel Crap Prize.
Aside from beginning and ending on jokes I'm pretty sure I stole from Seanbaby, this one is still totally true. Game Gear Spinball may not have gotten anyone fired, but it god damn should have.
KR Rating:  HORRIBLE
Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble
It's Sonic the Hedgehog 3, only ported to the Game Gear and injected with a concentrated shot of purified suck. Why did you keep on doing this, Sega? I'd tell you more about this game but I find it difficult to give a rat's ass about something so imbecilic.
Games like this are why I feel like Sega is the Apple to Nintendo's Microsoft. Sega was better than the competition from a techological standpoint, but they had no idea what to do with their technology. Sure, the Gameboy looked like crap with its monochrome screen that wasn't even lighted, but it had classic games like Pokémon Red/Blue and Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins.
Meanwhile, Sega had the superior system in the Game Gear, but wasted it. They spent all their time porting over Genesis games instead of making new ones, not once realizing that the technical limitations of a handheld meant those games would invariably have to be WORSE than the originals...and they were.
KR Rating:  BAD
Sonic Drift 2
Sonic Drift 2 is a racing game starring characters from the Sonic universe...using go-karts. Let me say that again because I don't think you're getting the full effect. Sonic Drift 2 stars Sonic the Hedgehog IN A GO-KART. The dude can run faster than the speed of sound. What the HELL does he need a go-kart for?
But the fact that this game was clearly designed solely to compete with Mario Kart could almost be forgivable except that this game isn't nearly as fun as Mario Kart. The track is devoid of anything interesting and none of the characters have any interesting abilities they can use either. Plus the game is designed so you can only see the part of the track you're on, nothing ahead or behind, so by the time you see a turn you're already off the road and kicking up dirt.
Just to really make your brain explode, think about this: this game is a sequel. That means not only did someone have the idea for this game, they had that idiot idea TWICE. And both times there was no one in the room willing to smack them in the back of the head and call them a dumbass.
To REALLY really make your brain explode, think about this: this stupid idea actually got made THREE times as of 2010, when Sega released Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.
KR Rating: UP YOURS
Tails' Skypatrol is a game starring Sonic's vulpine sidekick Tails. I must admit I don't know a whole lot about this game because the digital manual included on the anthology is completely in Japanese but I do know that it apparently involves witches that ride mine carts and freakishly hideous rabbit things riding giant carrots that blow kisses at you. Seriously, folks, there's a reason this game was never imported to the United States: it's because it's fucking insane. In fact, I used this game in my award winning thesis "101 Reasons Why Japan Should Be A-Bombed Off the Face of the Earth." But don't listen to me. I'm just mad because I couldn't get past the yellow spinning walls in the first level.
I ended up looking up a translation of this game's manual. Knowing what it says makes me feel like I could do better at the game today, but it does nothing to make the character designs less horrible. Also, seriously, eff those stupid yellow spinning walls.
KR Rating:  BAD
Tails Adventures, like Tails' Skypatrol, stars Sonic's sidekick Tails on his own. Unlike Skypatrol, however, Tails Adventures is a plaform game and doesn't completely suck ass. In it, Tails is spending his vacation on a small island he's named "Tails Island" when the island is suddenly attacked by robot birds. Who are the birds? What do they want? This is a Sonic game, you numbskull. There's no plot.
Tails Adventures is actually a fairly decent game and is one of the few games on this anthology that I consider worth playing. The storyline is light but the gameplay is fun, being based more on thinking and using your gadgets then on fact-paced running through the level. But then again, I always liked Tails better than Sonic anyway, which could be my main reason for liking this game so much. I'm not quite sure what it says about me that even as a child I liked the cute, nerdy fox boy better than the rad to the max blue hedgehog. Regardless, what's most important is that this game's existance along with Skypatrol means that Tails got two video games before Mario's sidekick Luigi even got one. (I'm not counting Mario is Missing.) No wonder the green plumber is so angry.
Back on the topic of how much I loathe Japan, the complaint I had about the story? Only an issue in the western version, apparently. In the Japanese version the story takes place before Tails met Sonic, meaning Tails was actually a hero before meeting his idol, and not just a sidekick. Apparently Japan thought Americans wouldn't "get" the idea of a sidekick having his own life. Basically what I'm saying is that Japan is like Joss Whedon: they make awesome stuff, but they just make it so hard to like them.
KR Rating:  GOOD
If you can stand playing this massive tribute to Sega's greatest failures for seven hours - or if you have a Sonic Mega Collection save on your memory card - you can unlock the only game that makes this anthology worth shelling out the money for: Vectorman.
I know most people probably won't believe me when I say that so let me tell you a little bit about this game. Developed by Blue Sky Software and published by Sega, Vectorman is famous among gamers and graphics designers for having near PSX quality graphics on the Sega Genesis, a 16 bit console. Don't believe me? Play this game then go play Megaman X4 for the PSX. It's not quite the same level of graphics but it's damn close.
Now, far be it for me to praise a game solely for graphics, even if it was the best looking game of its day and for many days to come. Did I forget to mention that Vectorman is also a game starring a break dancing robot made of floating spheres that can turn into an atomic bomb AND the final boss battle is a disco dancing competition against the evil arch-enemy? If that's not the definition of COOLEST DAMN GAME EVER then nothing is.
All things considered, Vectorman is the greatest game of the Sega Genesis and quite possibly one of the greatest games of all time. The fact that it's on an anthology alongside such horrible trash as Sonic Drift 2 and Tails' Skypatrol is an insult beyond measure. The fact that it was only even included just to get people to buy this load of crap only makes the insult far worse. I suppose I should just be glad that I get to play it again but unfortunately I'm not that non-spiteful.
The world isn't fair. Here I am, posting on a blog that is regularly read by maybe five people. As of this writing I have 7,930 pageviews total, for all of my posts ever. Meanwhile Lucas Cruikshank, creator of Fred Figglehorn, made videos of himself screeching at his webcam and gets the most popular channel on YouTube, and is now a world famous actor/director with credits on at least 10 movies and TV shows according to IMDb, and people like me continue to help advance his career just by the simple act of saying his name on our blogs and video shows.
Now that I'm depressed again, the point I'm making is that the world is awful, and if you need more proof you need look no further than Vectorman. Vectorman should be considered one of the classic game series of all time that everyone knows and loves, like Pokémon, Super Mario Bros, or Final Fantasy. The fact that it isn't even B-list is a travesty for the ages. The last anyone ever even heard of the series was a failed project from 2003 that hoped to revive it as a godawful third person shooter, with Vectorman played by a robotic Master Chief. Statistically speaking, you probably didn't even know this game existed before you read about it in this review.
Screw it, here's a picture of a cat eating a dalek to cheer us all up.
KR Rating:  GREAT
It's the second Vectorman! It was just as well rendered as the first and involved fighting giant bugs. Weirdest thing, as a kid I remembered not only liking this one way better but also finding it much easier. When I replayed it as an adult it was the opposite. Vectorman 1 just has more charm. Mostly, it's the minigame rounds between levels.
To be fair, I think the transformation system was much better in the second game. Vectorman's different forms last the entire level instead of just a few seconds, and each adds a whole new feel to Vectorman's play style. Still, I have to say the first was better.
KR Rating:  GREAT