Sonic Classic Collection (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 11.05.2010

Review for Sonic Classic Collection on Nintendo DS

Sonic Classic Collection, in theory, is something that I've dreamed of for a long time. I've always wanted to own the classic Mega Drive Sonic games on a handheld format, but this hasn't been an option before - we can pretty much disregard the infamous Game Boy Advance port of Sonic the Hedgehog. On the basis of the final product, however, it seems that I should probably keep on dreaming just a little while longer. Nothing's ever as good in reality afterall, is it?

Sonic Classic Collection is flawed. As an avid fan of everybody's favourite needlemouse from an early age, I've witnessed his highs and lows as everybody else has. No matter what happens, though, I know that nothing can change the fact that Sonic, as a series, still has to its name four of the finest examples of gaming ever created, in the Mega Drive titles. The existence of Sonic Classic Collection does not alter this, but there is something disturbing about the idea that those four games, combined into one package, could not turn out perfectly. Sonic Mega Collection did it. Sonic Jam did it. Sonic Classic Collection should have been a shoe-in for one of the easiest, and most well-deserved, high scores ever handed out, but something has clearly gone a bit wonky along the way.

The games that make up the collection - Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and the additional interpretations of the second and third games originally made possible by the cartridge lock-on function of Sonic & Knuckles - are not to blame for the package's downfall. They're the same titles that unleashed great amounts of joy in the 1990s, the same that are responsible for much of the adulation that Sonic receives to this day. The problem lies in the way that they have been presented, almost as if they have been put through a glitch filter before the cartridges were pressed. They are marred by slowdown, niggles and omitted features, none of which were issues with the original releases. Why are they here now, then, decades later?

The slowdown is the most prominent downside about Sonic Classic Collection. Basically, if your main character is occupying the screen with more than one or two enemies at a time, it's susceptible to drops in framerate. When you get hit and your rings tip all over the screen, the games chug along for a second or two. When you move underwater, your character travels even slower than you might expect, even taking into account the reduced speed in that terrain. Better yet, should you choose that Sonic should be followed by Tails in Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 (& Knuckles), you are at constant risk of entering unwanted slow motion due to the extra character occupying the screen. It's the last thing you want in a game based around a character who is supposed to be the fastest thing alive. Also bear in mind that DS has had two Sonic Rush titles created especially for it, that are far faster and more advanced visually, that do not suffer from this sort of thing.

Graphical glitches are rife throughout, from the small and innocuous (occasional fragmented lettering in the limited amount of text that there is), to the disappointing (background items flickering and changing colours as you move), to the potentially infuriating (key elements becoming obscured, such as some of the pixel-thin arrows needed to defeat Sonic 2's Aquatic Ruin Zone boss, blending right into the background). It appears that the games have not been scaled properly to match DS' resolution, resulting in a huge bundle of visual mishaps that, while being harmless the vast majority of the time, simply should not be there. Peering at the credits goes some way towards figuring out why the issues exist. The collection does not appear to have been created entirely in-house, with the lead DS programmer being one Stephan Dittrich - creator of the Mega Drive DS emulator jEnesisDS. The games have not been properly ported; they are being emulated, and not even through a SEGA-created emulator.

Screenshot for Sonic Classic Collection on Nintendo DS

Other glitches are more severe - there are collision detection issues. I passed through things that I should not have been able to on more than one occasion. To my benefit, Sonic sailed through the electric field wielded by Sonic 2's Casino Night Zone boss unharmed; to my detriment, I tumbled through the bridge destroyed at the beginning of Sonic 3's Angel Island Zone main boss battle - before it had even collapsed. These occurrences are infrequent but, again, should be nowhere near the game in the first place.

Any multiplayer functionality that the later games introduced are now missing. It's a massive shame, as the race modes could have benefitted from being spread out over two systems so that players could play in full screen, rather than being restricted to split screens as in the originals. Due to DS' second screen, the opponent's progress could even have been shown on the bottom screen to retain the same feeling. These modes could have made for some fun local and/or online multiplayer, but alas. Of course, this also means that you cannot partake in some co-op action, as you could in the originals by plugging in a second controller.

Emulation cannot be blamed for everything; it cannot justify the poor use of the touch screen, for one thing. Its main purpose is to display little blurbs describing the game that you're playing, as well as letting you check the controls. There isn't exactly much that could have been done with it here, to be fair, and at least extraneous touch gameplay features have not been shoved in for the sake of it. What is annoying, though, is that you cannot merely press the Start button to pause the action - you must press the icon on the touch screen, which is just impractical in a game that is entirely button-controlled otherwise. The touch screen is home to one of the good features of Sonic Classic Collection, though; it is through touch-based options that you can save and load progress in Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, allowing you to kick off from the start of your current Act should you need to shut off in a hurry. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 utilises the same battery back-up save function that it did in the original, so the option is not applicable here.

There are certainly things that Sonic Classic Collection handles very well; surprisingly, the most graphically challenging sections of the originals, the 3D special stages, work absolutely flawlessly, which makes it all the more painful that the main action is not so smooth. Play the game with a single main character and things look up, until you encounter other causes of the slowdown, and Sonic & Knuckles seems to fare generally better than the rest of the package on this front. The music is still as fantastic as it ever was. For all that is wrong with Sonic Classic Collection, the four games contained within are still great fun - the problem is, there are a number of issues that crop up far too close for comfort, which holds the whole thing back and will, unquestionably, detract a lot of fun from the games for fans.

Screenshot for Sonic Classic Collection on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

If you desperately need handheld versions of the classic Sonic titles, you have no alternative than to buy Sonic Classic Collection. However, the true greatness of the games on offer here does not get to shine through properly as there are a number of a issues, from glitchiness and slowdown to removed features. The Mega Drive Sonic games continue to be best experienced on the television, whether it be by booting up the GameCube's Sonic Mega Collection, downloading digital versions on your home console, or even dusting off the trusty old Mega Drive itself.

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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