(Sega, GameCube, Everyone, $49.99) There was a time when a Sega-and- Nintendo pairing would have been as unlikely as a Coke-and Pepsi-employee mixer, but this is the New Order of Gaming, one in which Sega’s Dreamcast console is extinct and the now-software-only company is banging out games for everyone else’s machines. Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s mascot, arrives on the GameCube in style, reuniting the prickly protagonist with Knuckles, Tails, and the rest of his pals. The series’ calling cards-e.g., collecting gold rings, zipping through loops — make a smooth transition to the new hardware, even if the game’s plot (Sonic battles an evil look-alike named Shadow) takes itself too seriously. Still, if you’re playing with a buddy, you have the option of engaging in more carefree, one-on-one duels. THE ASSIST In your first battle with Shadow, pounce only when he is at rest. And stay in the middle of the arena lest you get knocked into the water. THE LAST SHOT Sonic 2 offers glimpses of brilliance — a sprint through a lush jungle will leave you gasping for air — but lacks the magic that made the original Genesis classic a Mario-worthy masterpiece. THE GRADE