Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection Review

By Matt Keil - Posted Feb 19, 2009

In this X-Play Review, we take a look at 'Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection' for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. With over 40 classic SEGA games to choose from, how could you go wrong?

The Pros
  • Great collection of classic SEGA games
  • Excellent emulation quality
  • All games upgraded to play in 16:9 at 720p
  • All the Phantasy Stars in one collection for the first time
The Cons
  • Smoothing feature fairly useless
  • No Sonic & Knuckles lock-on ability
  • Some real stinkers in the mix
  • Where the hell is Revenge of Shinobi?

SEGA has collected numerous Genesis hits into compilations over the years. Many have been adequate to good, but for the most part they’ve covered Sonic and that’s about it. Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection rights this great wrong at long last, and actually manages to live up to its “Ultimate” moniker in most respects.


Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection ReviewSUGC boasts over 40 SEGA titles from the Genesis, Master System, and arcades of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Many of the greatest games of the era are featured in the roster, including all the Genesis Sonic games, all four Phantasy Stars (together in one collection for the first time in the U.S.), Treasure’s underappreciated classic Dynamite Headdy, the beautiful action RPG Beyond Oasis, the superb Shining games, the entire Streets of Rage series, and Sonic Team’s all-but-unknown Ristar.

In addition, accomplishing certain goals in some of the games will unlock 7 arcade games, two Master System games (including the first Phantasy Star), and several interviews with the designers behind SEGA’s golden age. The game is arguably worth the $30 price tag just for the arcade lineup, which covers a wide spectrum from Altered Beast to Fantasy Zone to the never-before-collected Shinobi.


Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection ReviewEach game has been reworked visually to display correctly and accurately at 720p, and the results are surprisingly good. There is a smoothing option that can be turned on at the player’s discretion, but this mostly makes the games look blurry and sort of like someone smeared Vaseline all over the textures. Standard unsmoothed Genesis style is preferable in pretty much every title.

Also available is the option to display each game at 16:9. This stretches the image a bit, but is not especially noticeable, and most players will probably prefer it to the 4:3 option, which forces you to deal with invariably ugly frame border pictures that can distract from the game visuals themselves. All these display options are readily accessible through the pause menu at any time, so it’s easy to find settings that appeal to your own preferences.

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Longtime SEGA fans may recall the disastrous SEGA Smash Pack on the Dreamcast, which featured a fine lineup of Genesis titles but horrendous emulation that led to mangled sound playback. Happily, Backbone Entertainment did a fantastic job avoiding the pitfalls of previous collections like Smash Pack and have delivered a rock solid piece of emulation work. Graphical errors are non-existent and the sounds are spot-on. Everything looks and sounds just like you remember it from the old days.

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection ReviewOn the negative side, there are some real stinkers in the lineup along with the classics. No one really needed to be reminded of Alex Kidd, Flicky, or Sonic 3D Blast. A few titles, such as Congo Bongo, Super Thunder Blade, and E-SWAT, feel intensely primitive and dated even compared to other games in the collection. And of course there are the Golden Axe sequels, which were never any good to begin with. One has to wonder why these titles made the cut, but Gunstar Heroes and Eternal Champions didn’t. Why there is no option for Sonic & Knuckles to lock-on with the other Sonic games? And while Shinobi III is a top-quality entry in the venerated ninja series, where the hell is The Revenge of Shinobi?


Despite the occasional dog in the roster, there is more than enough gold in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection to justify the purchase at double the price. Older gamers looking for a shot of nostalgia will absolutely find it here, and younger gamers wondering what all the fuss was over that mysterious “16-bit era” they keep hearing about will find an excellent education in the digital classics. Here’s hoping SEGA keeps the collections coming in the future. X-Play humbly suggests a SEGA CD Collection and a Shinobi Collection.

Article Written By: Matt Keil