All Together Then: Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
It belongs to Sonic but he will allow you to play. Briefly
For the sake of clarity, while I refer to the Sega Genesis by its "Mega Drive" nomenclature as a rule, in this article I'll stick with Genesis given that the collection in question is best known by its US title, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection.
In the wake of the Genesis Mini reveal, my sheer excitement for the device prevented me from covering anything else in this fortnight's edition of All Together Then. As any fule kno, Sega Genesis collections are ten-a-penny, largely offer much the same selection of titles and often disappoint with the quality of their emulation. That said, there's something to be said for quantity, and Sega don't tend to skimp. The last Genesis collection (the imaginatively-titled Sega Genesis Classics) packed a massive 53 games on PS4, and the compilation I'm examining today features 49.
The base offerings on the PS3/360’s Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection are, largely, what you'd expect. Altered Beast, Columns, Ecco the Dolphin, Golden Axe, etc. The brace of titles is a strong one overall, featuring the complete Streets of Rage series compiled for the first time outside of Japan, as well as plenty of fan-favourites like Dynamite Headdy, Beyond Oasis and Ristar. Excitingly, it also offers a suite of RPGs with Shining Force and its sequel, as well as the beloved Phantasy Star series.
There is a major - and deeply confusing - omission, however. While the four major Sonic the Hedgehog games are included (the original, 2, 3 and Sonic & Knuckles), the inability to "lock on" Sonic the Hedgehog 3 with its predecessors robs us of the ability to play the definitive Sonic game, Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The official explanation for this is that several titles would have had to be dropped to accommodate it, but that would have been fine. The world could come to terms with the loss of the appalling Vectorman if it gave us Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
It's the bonus features that really shine, here. Reaching certain (fairly simplistic) milestones in the base games, the player is able to unlock additional titles from Sega's coin-op offerings as well as a couple of Master System games. From the arcade we have top-down maze shooter Alien Syndrome, the redundant inclusion of Altered Beast, the wonderful Tip Top (better known as Congo Bongo), pastel-colourful shooting action inFantasy Zone, peerless ninja brilliance from Shinobi, stone-cold classic Space Harrier and isometric spaceship-'em-up Zaxxon. On top of these, Master System offerings Golden Axe Warrior (a very solid Zelda clone) and the original Phantasy Star round out what amounts to a superb package. A handful of brief, fairly uninteresting interviews are offered alongside the customary image galleries and trivia, but this set of bonus games is esoteric and fascinating and pretty much justifies the collection by itself. Hell, I'd pay full price just for Tip Top.
Enthusiasts have noted that the sound emulation is a bit substandard, though this is irritatingly par for the course with Genesis re-releases. I didn't detect any major issues - perhaps a brief, half-second hitch every once in a while. There's so much here and the extra games offer such an interesting dive into Sega's arcade history that it's an easy recommendation.