Sonic the Hedgehog

With so many gamers from the '80s and '90s growing older, retro gaming has been a growing market. Game companies re-release old titles on new platforms so fans can play their favorites without having to find and dust off their original systems, and developers love doing it because it takes almost no time to reproduce these games compared to the months of development for new games on the current generation of consoles.

Before game consoles had access to the Internet, the only way these titles could be released was on a compilation disc, most times costing around $30 for a collection of 10 to 15 games. With the current generation of systems, the Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Network, or Wii Shop Channel can be accessed to download the most popular titles individually for a cost of $4 to $15, which eliminates the costs of disc production and shipping, resulting in bigger gains for publishers for less work.

Don't get me wrong: It's nice being able to download the games I can't find and have them saved somewhere I won't lose them, but it was the selection that I loved about compilation discs. I would have never played classics like Joust or Centipede without them.

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection was released in February and features 40 titles from Sega Genesis, the gaming system from the 1990s, along with eight extra games that can be unlocked when certain conditions are met (obtaining a high score, reaching a certain area, etc.). Pop the disc in, turn on the system, and choose your game. Get bored playing after a bit, choose another.

The titles include classic platform jumping in the Sonic the Hedgehog series (five games), slaying barbarians in the Golden Axe series (three games), beating down gang members in the Streets of Rage series (three games), putting puzzle pieces together in Columns, and saving the world in the role-playing Phantasy Star series (four games). All these games were big hits when they were originally released, and considering that compilation discs generally have smaller games bundled together, it's nice to see the larger-sized role-playing games such as Phantasy Star included.

One less-welcome surprise involves Street of Rage and Golden Axe. Because the digital-download versions have new online multi-player options, I don't understand why the same features weren't included with the compilation.

The variety is wide enough that you shouldn't get bored with it any time soon. Sure, veteran players could beat Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in a couple hours and consider themselves done with it, but they'll also spend more than 40 hours playing Phantasy Star IV, striving to find any secrets they might have missed.

It's easy to access the games as well: Players can hop in and play right away without any second thought or major goal and still have fun. For more dedicated players who want a challenge, Xbox 360 Achievements Points and PlayStation 3 Trophies are available for online bragging rights, all of which revolve around reaching certain milestones.

And don't go thinking these will be easy just because the games are old. They're just as tough now as they were back then, and games today have been made easier to appeal to a wider audience.

When it comes to presentation, every game starts in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, with bars on the sides on widescreen televisions. When switched to widescreen mode and played on a high-definition TV, the original sprite animations look blocky and I daresay ugly in some cases. Fortunately for people who get annoyed by the bars on the sides of their TVs but don't want to sacrifice visual quality, there's an option for smoothing the graphics out to make things more bearable. The original soundtracks and sound effects have transferred well, also, with few hiccups. It's by no means fantastic by today's standards, but for a trip down memory lane, it's easily acceptable.

For $30 - half the price of most new games - you get 48 games, with a number of titles that haven't been released as digital downloads and are increasingly difficult to find (and therefore expensive) such as Streets of Rage 3 and Phantasy Star IV. It's a perfect fit for the whole family, with games everyone can sit down and enjoy. If you're a fan of games from the early '90s or Sega Genesis in general, I can't recommend this enough.

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection is available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles for $29.95. For this review, the author played the Xbox 360 version and tested every game on the disc.

Luke Hamilton is a buyer, creative designer, and online coordinator for Video Games Etc. He can be reached at

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