Reviewed by Tom Lenting on
Tom Lenting celebrates Sonic the Hedgehog's 25th anniversary by reviewing Sonic Jam, the curious compilation on Sega Saturn. Released at a time when Sega was shifting from the 2D classics to 3D train wrecks, this is a collection of most of Sonic's best games. Is it worth picking up to experience Sonic World? Find out when Tom reviews Sonic Jam on Sega Saturn!
Sonic Jam is an interesting collection of Sonic games, since it marks the spot between the classic and successful Sega of the past and the troubled franchise it is today. This collection contains the first three Sonic games, as well as Sonic & Knuckles and a brand new mode called Sonic World (more on that later). It is also a notable collection, since it is one of the very few Sonic collections that offers support for the 'lock-on' function of Sonic & Knuckles. So it's possible to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2 and to enjoy the excellent Sonic 3 & Knuckles combination. I have replayed all those games many times since the original release, so my opinion might be a bit affected by nostalgia, but I still think these original Sonic games represent the 'classic' Sega very well. Sonic 1 is still a very good game, Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles are fantastic platform games. (Sonic 3 on its own is also classic, Sonic & Knuckles is less interesting as a standalone title).
According to the tech nerds, the games have been recreated for the Saturn and are not emulated. They all run very well, I only once experienced a loop in the music in Sonic 2. For each game in the collection, you have the option to play Original, Easy or Normal difficulty. Easy isn't recommended, since it only lets you play a simplified version of the first level of every zone. I mostly played in Normal, and the one thing I noticed is that the Blue Sphere bonus levels in Sonic 3 & Knuckles are a lot easier than on the Sega Genesis original (as they run a lot slower).
The graphics and music are still as great as you remember. Furthermore, you get an option to use the spin dash move from the first Sonic, which is a nice addition. Every game also lets you select a saved game, even when there isn't a save state. It is not possible to save in Sonic 1, Sonic 2 or Sonic & Knuckles, so it you start the saved game you just start at the first level. In Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it just uses the save game on cartridge. I found this to be quite a silly touch, in an otherwise fine collection.
Besides the classic games, this collection offers Sonic World, which I see as the beginning of the road for the suffering Sega of today. This 'World' is unique for the Saturn -- the only Sega platform without a proper Sonic platform game -- and is just one zone with messy 3D graphics, annoying camera angles and buildings with history on Sonic (artwork, commercials and so on). (Those old video game commercials are very childish and painfully unfunny -- not much has changed). It also offers a few challenges, like collecting items in a certain amount of time. When you complete all tasks, a giant ring pops up. Jump in it and you see the credits, yeah!
It is said Sonic World is the predecessor of Sonic Adventure and it shows -- it is very much like the annoying 3D Hub World in the Dreamcast sequel. I completed all tasks in Sonic World once for the sake of history, but I'm pretty sure I will not do it ever again. But for some reason Sega thought for the next 20 years that followed after Sonic World it was a good idea to stick with the crappy 3D Sonic instead of the classic 2D Sonic. This collection reminds us once more why the original Sonic games were so beloved and why Sonic in 3D doesn't work very well.
Overall, Sonic Jam is an excellent collection with four great platform games that are still enjoyable today. The addition of the lock-on function of Sonic & Knuckles is also pretty unique. Sonic World is not great at all, but is interesting to experience to see where Sonic went wrong.