In a perfect world, there’s surely only one score we could give the first fully portable collection of the hedgehog’s finest outings: a well-deserved 10/10. SEGA’s handheld equivalent of Super Mario All-Stars, Sonic Classic Collection features the first four Sonic titles along with Knuckles’s appearance in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, making a beefy portfolio of six games in total. But the world isn't perfect, and neither is this compilation.
Having already attempted to convert the original Sonic to a Nintendo platform with 2006’s woeful Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis on GBA, you’d have thought SEGA would have pulled out all the stops to make sure this was 100% accurate to the original. Although the vibrant graphics, sounds and classic level design all survive the transport intact, there are still one too many irritating issues.
Entering a Special Stage in Sonic 3 introduces one such problem: the animation of the ball stutters around, making tackling the stages needed to finish the game properly an exercise in nausea control. Once you start tackling the more fiendish stages and having to reverse in some areas, the issue is irritating enough to make you actively not seek out special stage rings.
At least that issue is avoidable: the slowdown that occurs in the main games is not. Even something as simple as running past a Chomper in Green Hill Zone has a noticeable effect on the framerate, and losing rings slows things down too. Getting hit in one of the underwater zones amplifies this problem, and although the game never slows down to the extent of Sonic’s infamous GBA outing, it’s a fact that the DS shouldn’t be struggling with these games.
Elsewhere a few niggles persist: the ability to “save anywhere” actually only restarts you at the beginning of the Act, and although the addition of any kind of save feature to Sonics 1 and 2 makes them even easier than before a proper resume feature would still have been better. The inability to pause the game using the Start button is mystifying too, asking you to tap on the bottom screen to save; it’s not a huge issue, just hard to understand why the Start button would be neglected.
In terms of fidelity to the originals, Sonic Classic Collection emulates the same screen ratio as the Mega Drive, meaning there is some unavoidable flickering and compression, particularly noticeable on text and some background objects such as palm trees. It’s not a huge problem, and probably still preferable to keeping sprites the same size and reducing the viewing area, but it can cause some minor annoyance for purists.
Some games do sadly lose content: there’s no multiplayer mode in any of the titles, not even by local wireless play, and although they were never big draws in the first place it’s a shame to see them omitted here. The screenshot of Mushroom Hill Zone showing Sonic and Knuckles in the same screen must be for illustrative purposes only, as that scene never occurs in the game itself. Want a friend to play as Tails and help Sonic out in Sonic 3? Not going to happen, sadly. The originals were never big options-fests anyway so it seems a shame to gripe, but it's still disappointing when content is removed.
All these issues, taken individually, do little to diminish the games’ appeal: you still have a fantastic library of some of Sonic’s finest appearances and the ability to play them anywhere you want. It’s only when they add up that you start to get disappointed: lose your rings and enter a special stage in Sonic 3, for example, and you’re jerked out of your comfort zone.
Sonic Classic Collection could have been a true must-have for DS-owning Sonic fans, but sadly it’s marred by enough small issues to put you off playing for too long. The games themselves still shine, just not as brightly as they should.