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RELEASE DATE (NA): July 31, 1997 GENRE: Compilation
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

This isn't any of that marmalade or vegemite nonsense...

Back before the great fire when SEGA lost every piece of source code they had, ports of games were more than just ROM files and an emulator put together on the one disc. When the Saturn was hurting for a Sonic the Hedgehog title, SEGA released a small collection of the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog titles running natively on the Saturn hardware. In other terms, directly ported into operational Saturn code.

With the experience gained from developing the original titles and armed with a list of improvements to implement, Sonic Team created the definitive versions of all four major classic titles; Sonic the Hedgehog 1-thru-3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Also included are all three lock-on titles: "Blue Sphere", "Knuckles in Sonic 2" and "Sonic 3 & Knuckles".

Using the Saturn's built-in SRAM, the save data for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and the locked-on versions could be saved directly to the console and is no longer limited to one set of saves; save data for both Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and the locked on version can be saved, where originally technical limitations made this impossible. I don't see much point in spending time talking about the singular games themselves (there are separate reviews for those already), but a few interesting things are worth noting. Sonic the Hedgehog has been fixed to remove the infamous "Spike Bug" that caused many a death and smashed controller. Also, the trademark Spin Dash was added to the game.

All of the games (besides the locked-on Blue Spheres) have selectable Easy Mode options that strip the game down and add extra rings. All acts in the game can be played in Time Attack, a race to see how quickly each level can be completed. Time Attack scores are saved to the console SRAM and can be used as bragging rights. The games are all ported very faithfully, and wow, they all run really smoothly. You could be fooled into thinking the games were always this smooth and comfortable, but the truth is, they're not. The Genesis games still feel clunky, which is understandable, but on the Saturn they are just so good to play. The effect is more notable in the PAL version, where the game has been adjusted to run at the full and original NTSC game speed.

Time to play all your favourite classics... like Blue Sphere. We're all clamoring for Blue Sphere.

Because the system doesn't support "chiptune" natively, the game music and soundtracks are all pre-rendered and played as audio files. While the music sounds a bit flat (compressed down quite a fair bit), the sound effects are for the most part a lot more realistic. It will sound weird the first time you play the game, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Some alternative sound effects chosen do seem off a little, but that's just due to my familiarity with the classic games. Included in Sonic Jam is a mode named "Sonic World". This mode is a 3D game where Sonic can run around in eight-directions in a fully 3-D world. He can even interact with his best friend and stalker, Tails the Fox. Sonic World is actually the left-over remnant of Sonic Saturn, the game that eventually moved to the Dreamcast and became Sonic Adventure.

There are missions to complete which include collecting a certain number of rings or finding hidden collectibles in the game world. You can also find cards dotted around Sonic World that contain the cheat codes for the games found in the collection.

This world also has buildings dotted around which allow you to listen to music, read character profiles, read manuals, view artwork and watch videos. Among the videos are trailers, a short animation exclusive to Sonic Jam named "Man of the Year", and footage of a cancelled theme-park ride named "Sonic Ride". The amount of material on this disc proves that Sonic Jam was being developed as the ultimate Sonic the Hedgehog package. If you put the game disc in your personal computer, there are desktop wallpapers for you to use, for like, you know, your desktop wallpaper.

Being an enthusiastic Sonic the Hedgehog fan, perhaps the most satisfying thing about Sonic Jam is the oodles of content included among the various galleries and extras. There is a significant amount of prototype artwork, and many neat illustrations to see. As far as material goes, Sonic Jam is only really outdone by Sonic Mega Collection, which was released on the GameCube and PlayStation 2. But to its credit, Sonic Jam contains the most faithful recreations of the Genesis titles. This collection contains the most accurate transfers and is the most authentic of all Sonic the Hedgehog compilation games; a must-own for all Saturn enthusiasts.

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