Sonic Jam[a] is a video game compilation developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Saturn. It was released in Japan in June 1997, and in North America and Europe two months later. It contains the four main Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Sega Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles. It also features a 3D environment, "Sonic World", which acts as an interactive museum of Sonic the Hedgehog content.
European cover art
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
Development began after the release of Nights into Dreams in July 1996, and was revealed at the 1997 Tokyo Game Show as part of a project to increase market awareness of Sega and the Sonic the Hedgehog brand. The game received mostly positive reviews, and was praised for its value for money, though some criticised the exclusion of Sonic CD and Sonic Spinball. "Sonic World" was praised for its wide range of information and unlockable content, though its graphics gathered mixed responses. A cut-down port for the handheld Game.com console was released exclusively in North America in July 1998.
Sonic Jam is a compilation which contains the four main Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Sega Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles. Unlike future Sonic collections, Sonic Jam does not use a Genesis emulator; the games are proper ports, and all are nearly identical to the original Sega Genesis releases, with the exception of minor bug fixes. Sonic Jam emulates Sonic & Knuckles' "lock-on technology"—a special feature that allows the player to merge elements of Sonic & Knuckles into previous games, resulting in changes to the level design as well as the choice to play as Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Tails in Sonic & Knuckles.
The games can be played with three difficulty modes: Normal, Easy, and Original. Original mode is unchanged from the Genesis games, Normal mode slightly alters the stage layouts to create a unique (often less difficult) experience, and Easy mode adds platforms and removes many obstacles and some levels. New features include the ability to spin dash (introduced in Sonic 2) in the first Sonic the Hedgehog, play Special Stages separately, a "Time Attack" mode, and a "Time Out" option to disable the in-game time limits.
Sonic Jam also includes a special 3D environment, "Sonic World", whereby the player can move around freely as Sonic and interact with various objects. "Sonic World" acts as an interactive museum in which the player can access an array of information of Sonic the Hedgehog-related content, such as viewing concept artwork, manuals, character portfolios, music, and original Japanese advertisements. To access these features, the player must guide Sonic into specific buildings. "Sonic World" also features a "mission list" accessible via jumping on a trampoline. Missions include collecting rings, reaching goalposts, and locating Tails; if all the missions are completed, the player is given the opportunity to view the credits. Sonic Jam is compatible with the Saturn's 3D Control Pad.
Development and releaseEdit
At the 1997 Tokyo Game Show, Sega announced "Project Sonic", a promotional campaign aimed at increasing market awareness of the Sonic the Hedgehog brand. Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, declared that "phase one" of the project would introduce Sonic Jam as a compilation of games with several improvements rather than being direct ports. At the time of the Tokyo Game Show, the game was "88% complete". According to Naka, the purpose of "Project Sonic" was not only to increase consumer awareness, but to "renew the excitement" the world once had regarding Sega, as Sonic the Hedgehog was only initially successful outside of Japan.
Development began after the release of Nights into Dreams in July 1996, after Sonic Team received letters from fans asking "who Sonic was". Sonic creators Naka and Naoto Ohshima thought it was important to introduce people to the Sonic character, which was the basis for introducing "Project Sonic" to the public. Until the release of Sonic Jam, the studio had not worked on a Sonic game since Sonic & Knuckles in 1994. Naka thought that Sonic Team had had a period to "recharge our batteries" and had new ideas.
"Sonic World" was part of an experiment to see how a Sonic the Hedgehog game would work in full 3D, and served as a prototype for the first fully 3D Sonic game, Sonic Adventure, which began development for the Saturn but was moved to its successor, the Dreamcast. "Sonic World" uses the same engine as Nights. Naka's refusal to share the Nights engine with the Sega Technical Institute (STI) team developing Sonic X-treme—a factor in the latter's cancellation—may have been motivated by his preference for Sonic Team to create an original 3D Sonic game. Naka later expressed "relief" that X-treme was cancelled. Naka and Ohshima said the most difficult process was gathering game-specific information in "Sonic World", as "there are so many games we have never even heard of ... Sega's a big company and before we knew it lots of different game systems had sprung up (including Game Gear, Master System and Pico)."
Sonic Jam was released in Japan on 20 June 1997, and the Saturn version of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island was released in the end of that year. A port of Sonic Jam was released for Tiger Electronics' Game.com handheld console in 1998. It features scaled-down versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.
The game's 3D environment, "Sonic World", received mixed opinions for its graphics and array of unlockable content. Lee Nutter from the Sega Saturn Magazine said that it featured "some of the most astounding graphics witnessed on the Saturn thus far", rivalling that of Super Mario 64. Furthermore, Nutter pointed out that the game contained no clipping or glitching, and commended the 3D engine as "truly remarkable" whilst speculating that it could be the same 3D engine to feature in a future Sonic game. Glenn Rubenstein from GameSpot, however, stated that the game's 3D world was not impressive, opining that it did not look as smooth as Super Mario 64 or Crash Bandicoot. Rubenstein praised the unlockable content featured on the game, in particular the ability to view Japanese versions of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons and adverts. The Electronic Gaming Monthly review team described the 3D world as innovative and fun, but too small to serve as anything more than a preview. The lead reviewer called it "the best Game Select screen ever created" and emphasized that no one should buy the compilation for the 3D world alone. A reviewer from Game Revolution thought that the 3D graphics of the interactive museum were impressive despite criticising the set-up as mundane. They did, however, commend the idea of allowing the player to watch old Sonic the Hedgehog-related adverts as entertaining. Colin Williamson of AllGame opined that the 3D presentation was "gorgeous to look at"; however, he later thought that the overall experience was not as fun compared to Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. Special K from GamePro felt the game overall made a "great permanent record" of the original Sonic games. Steve O'Learly from Hyper praised the detailed graphics of "Sonic World", saying that it showed the Saturn did perform well if programmed correctly, although he thought that it did not appear as polished as Super Mario 64.
Reviewers largely praised the inclusion of the four Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis/Mega Drive games. Nutter acknowledged that the compilation "may not be everyone's cup of tea" and recommended that Sonic Jam was not worth purchasing if the player already owned the included games, although he praised its value for money. Rubenstein criticised the fact that the game did not include Sonic CD or Sonic Spinball, stating that "Sega could have made a far more complete Sonic collection" by including more derivative games that were released. He summarised that Sonic Jam was not a definitive Sonic experience, asserting that it had only been six years since the original Sonic the Hedgehog was released and "perhaps most of us aren't quite nostalgic about it yet". Game Revolution's reviewer echoed that the compilation was merely a "solid set of games that we've seen before", saying that the game was not recommended if the consumer was "tired of rehashes", but "well worth thirty or forty bucks." The Electronic Gaming Monthly team described the games as old and outdated, but still fun. Although Williamson noted that there was a lot of exploring for the player to do in Sonic Jam, he expressed scepticism that the majority of the game was from "yesterday" and there were not enough new innovations. O'Learly praised the faithful and accurate replication of the original games, though he felt they were "dated". By contrast, Ed Lomas of Computer and Video Games considered it "amazing how well the games have aged". In a 2014 retrospective, the staff of GamesRadar praised Sonic Jam's "loving" presentation, noting "this was back before classic Sonic games appeared on every device known to man."
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