[12 May 2010]
Like many, I’ve been playing video games for much of my life. My earliest home gaming memories involve playing Atari consoles at the houses of family friends. However, for fear of me being glued to the television, my parents didn’t allow me to have a console of my own until a few years after the release of the NES. I think that they felt that as my only source of discretionary income that they could ration out trips to the arcade with a level of control that a home console wouldn’t provide them. When I finally did get a console, the concept of having more than one seemed ridiculous. I had to make a conscious choice between the NES over the SEGA Master System. Similarly, I owned an SNES, not a SEGA Genesis. The first console that I saved up for and bought myself was the original Playstation, a choice I made in favor of the Nintendo 64. It wasn’t until the era of the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox and the benefit of some kind of income that I owned multiple consoles.
As such, I certainly missed out on many seminal console exclusives. While I would imagine that the repackaging of content from that era has largely been motivated by an attempt to mine nostalgia, there are certainly cases where the original material has aged well and serves as a treat for players that didn’t get a chance to experience it the first time around. For players that never played Super Mario World on the SNES, for example, the opportunity to do so on the GBA or the Virtual Console of the Wii was and remains welcome.
Sonic the Hedgehog, clearly an effort by SEGA to develop a mascot with as much star power as Mario, inarguably has a place in gaming history. While both Mario and Sonic have taken advantage of this star power, appearing in a number of games removed from their platform roots, it’s my opinion that Mario’s overall success has been greater due to a variety of factors. Of course, there’s the quality of the original games, though this is somewhat subjective, and there are certainly those die-hard Sonic fans that far prefer the Sonic style of platforming to Mario’s. More importantly some Mario spinoffs, like Mario Kart, have essentially pioneered new genres all on their own. Finally, high quality platformers starring Mario keep coming out.
Sonic’s triumphant return to platform glory is intended to be the forthcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 4, an episodic title for the Wii Virtual Console, XBLA, and PSN. Due out this summer, Sonic 4 is being co-developed by Dimps (the studio behind the highly regarded portable title Sonic Advance) and Sonic Team, the group that brought Sonic to life to begin with. Sonic Classic Collection for the Nintendo DS seems intended to remind everyone about Sonic’s glory days prior to the release of Sonic 4.
I’ve played Sonic games in the past, but they were always in bursts at the home of someone that owned a Genesis and never from beginning to end. Despite there having been Sonic compilations before, Sonic Classic Collection marks my first serious exposure to the classics in the franchise. It doesn’t come packaged with a ton of extras and how disappointing that is depends on what you’re looking for from this title. As a way to get familiar with the series, the convenience of having these titles all in one place supercedes the relative dearth of supplementary material. On the other hand, if you’re a longtime Sonic fan, you likely have all these games in some form or another already.
Over the years, I’ve settled well into my role as a die-hard Mario fan, yet I still had a good deal of fun with these classic Sonic titles. While it’s not too hard, with a little practice, to make Mario stop on a dime, it seems to me that part of the fun of Sonic is attempting to hold a tornado in your hand. Although I normally feel that precise control over the on screen character is a defining characteristic of a solid platformer, so to is the benefit of practice and familiarity with any particular level, and given the degree to which chaotic speed is central to the franchise, Sonic seems to be more interested in the latter than the former.
As much as I appreciate the ability to play these games, their ubiquity makes the initial price point feel a bit high. It’s been possible for years to appreciate these titles on virtually any console of your choosing. It’s actually somewhat surprising that it’s taken this long for a classic Sonic compilation to appear on the Nintendo DS, presently the most popular handheld. At the end of the day, the platforming action here is still quite fun, and Sonic Classic Collection certainly whets the appetite for Sonic 4. Whether longtime fans will find enough reason to rebuy titles that they likely already own simply for the convenience of having them all on the Nintendo DS is debatable, but from the perspective of a player relatively new to the series, it’s difficult to characterize Sonic Classic Collection as anything other than a success.