Game Corner [Sonic CDay]: Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Xbox One)


Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sonic Team, 1993) released on this day back in 1993. Produced alongside the blockbuster Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), Sonic CD expanded upon the Blue Blur’s original debut title with lush graphics, a time travel mechanic, gorgeous anime cutscenes, and introduced players to Metal Sonic (one of Sonic’s most popular and enduring rivals) and Amy Rose. Considered by many to be one of the best of the classic Sonic titles, Sonic CD might not be one of my favourites but it’s still a classic in it’s own right and it’s worth looking back on today of all days.


Released: 14 December 2011
Originally Released: 23 September 1993
Developer: Christian Whitehead
Original Developer: Sonic Team
Also Available For: GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Mega-CD (Original); Mobile, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Remaster)

The Background:
Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) was specifically created and marketed as SEGA’s Nintendo-beater and, thanks to selling over 15 million copies, succeeded in its goal. Naturally, SEGA were eager to produce a sequel but, rather than create one game, they ended up making two! With Sonic creator Yuji Naka having moved to America to work on Sonic 2, Sonic’s designer, Naoto Oshima, spearheaded an entirely separate title built on the bones of the first game that would be exclusive to SEGA’s ill-fated CD add-on for the Mega Drive.

Sonic CD is largely regarded as one of the best Sonic games and was finally widely available in 2011.

With Sonic 2 more focused on speed, Oshima placed Sonic CD’s focus more on platforming and exploration with its speed-based time travel mechanic (which was cut from Sonic 2) and included gorgeous anime cutscenes from Toei Animation (which would later be the basis for the feature-length original video animation). Artist Kazuyuki Hoshino designed Sonic’s metallic doppelgänger and biggest fan, Amy Rose (though that character actually debuted, in a slightly different form, in a 1992 manga), both of which were as pivotal to the game as the time travel elements. Despite the game’s U.S. release being delayed for an entirely new soundtrack, Sonic CD was met with widespread critical acclaim but, for many such as myself, the game was somewhat elusive since no one I knew had a Mega-CD and it just wasn’t the same playing the PC version. I first played the game properly when it was included in Sonic Gems Collection (Sonic Team, 2005) but jumped at the chance to play the HD remaster when it first dropped on the PlayStation 3. Developed by Christian Whitehead, this new version of the game was widely available, included Achievement support, numerous bug fixes, and a whole host of new elements that make it the definitive version of this cult classic entry in the franchise.

The Plot:
When the mysterious Little Planet has makes its annual appearance, Sonic travels to Never Lake but finds the planet has been overtaken by Doctor Eggman’s Badniks! When Sonic’s number one fan, Amy Rose, is kidnapped by his robotic doppelgänger, Metal Sonic, Sonic must race across time itself to keep Eggman from polluting the past, recover the seven Time Stones, and ensure a good future for Little Planet!

Gameplay:
Sonic CD is a 2D, sidescrolling action platformer that once again sees you guiding the titular blue hedgehog across seven stages (known as “Zones”), each split into three parts (simply called “Zone 1” to “Zone 3” rather than being called “Acts”). At the end of each third Act, Sonic must battle Eggman in one of his contraptions but there’s quite a twist this time around.

Sonic CD‘s biggest gimmick is the speed-based time travel mechanic.

This time, as well as passing Lampposts to create a checkpoint, Sonic will also run past special signposts; once one of these has been triggered, Sonic will begin to sparkle as he runs and, if he builds up enough uninterrupted speed, he will travel to the past or the future depending on which post he activated. While the general layout of the Zone remains the same in the past, present, and future, there are numerous aesthetic and difficulty differences in each one. The past is generally much more lush and vibrant, lacking many of Eggman’s traps and Badniks; the present is a standard-fare Sonic stage; and the future is a pollution and hazard-infested mechanical hell. When in the past, Sonic must search high and low for a Robot Transporter and a holographic projection of Metal Sonic; destroying both in Zone 1 and 2 ensures that Zone 3 earns a good future, which strips it of all Badniks and hazards and even makes the boss battles noticeably easier.

Sonic’s new Super Peel-Out is great for reaching top speeds, but Zones are generally not built to make this easy.

If you’ve played the first Sonic game then you’ll be immediately familiar with Sonic’s controls and physics. Sonic’s speed, jumping power, and abilities all carry over, making him as tight and responsive as ever, but he is afforded two new abilities. One is a variation on the Sonic 2 Spin Dash (it’s not quite as useful or as fast as in that game, though) and the other is Sonic’s Super Peel-Out manoeuvre, which sees Sonic rev up his legs until they become little more than a blurry figure eight and then rocket ahead at full speed, which is perfect for the few instances where you have the room to travel fast enough to time travel. Sadly, there’s not always the opportunity to do this; like in the first game, Sonic has to earn his breakneck speeds and, all too often, you’ll go running or rolling ahead in a blur of spikes only to slam head-first into a wall, a pit, a bumper, or poorly-placed enemies and hazards. This makes the time travel much harder to pull off than it needs to be as you’ll constantly be fighting to find a long enough stretch of ground or the right opportunity to build up your speed only to accidentally screw up the attempt at the last minute. Similarly, there’s a much greater emphasis on exploration and platforming this time around; every Zone feels like a mixture of speed, loops, and obstacles and the level design is questionable at best and haphazard at worst, with Golden Rings floating inside of the environment and your progress to the many alternate paths either blocked or protected by dead-ends and endless loops. As a result, when you travel back to the past, it can be extremely difficult to navigate through the Zones to find the Robot Transporters and projectors even in the more linear Zones; the bigger, more complicated Zones like Wacky Workbench and Metallic Madness make it nearly impossible to do without a guide or copious amounts of trial and error.

There’s still plenty of opportunities to be bounced around despite the many stage hazards.

Still, speed is a prominent factor in the game; thanks to the Super Peel-Out and new gameplay mechanics, Sonic is much faster than he was in the first game and is still bounced all over the place like a pinball in Zones like Collision Chaos. Indeed, there are technically two ways to play; the slow, methodical Sonic CD way which has you hunting down objects in the past or the faster, more Sonic 2 way which has you racing through Zones as fast as possible and completing them holding fifty Rings or more to enter the game’s Special Stages. Once again, Golden Rings act as your protection from damage; they’ll scatter everywhere when you’re hit and, as always, Sonic is in danger of drowning when underwater in the distinctly Labyrinth Zone-like Tidal Tempest but, thankfully, you don’t seem to spend anywhere near as much time underwater in this Zone. As is to be expected, every Zone has different gimmicks (such as moving or crumbling platforms, tubes, conveyor belts, bumpers, and the like) but these actually change when you travel through time, meaning different routes become accessible in each time period. Zones also take on more and more gimmicks (most of them very dangerous) as you progress but even the first Zone, Palmtree Panic, is crammed full of different ways to navigate. As a result, you’ll be bouncing all over the place in Wacky Workbench but fighting against treadmills and cogs in Quartz Quadrant, racing along tunnels and vast stretches of ground in Stardust Speedway, and dodging spikes, buzzsaws, and a bevy of hazards in Metallic Madness (which also features a unique shrinking mechanic). Thankfully, bottomless pits are a rarity in Sonic CD but crushing weights, sudden spikes, electrified coils, and falling boulders and stalactites more than make up for that! Also, Sonic CD is as difficult as you make it be; if you choose not to try and take the higher, easier, and faster routes or purposely visit the bad futures, then you’re going to have a much tougher time of it than if you actively try and create a good future. This places much more emphasis on your actions actually having consequences as, normally, you only restore (or fail) the world when you lose all of your lives or fail to collect all the jewels but, in Sonic CD, you can actively affect and improve each Zone on a case-by-case basis by collecting the Time Stones or destroying Eggman’s machinery in the past.

Graphics and Sound:
Thanks to the graphical enhancements of the Mega-CD, Sonic CD may very well be one of the most visually striking and vibrant games in the franchise, especially amongst the classic titles. Every Zone is awash with colour and life and full of little details and background elements; every time you travel to the past or future, the Zone gets a complete facelift and takes a much more verdant or ominous light depending on how well you play which really adds to the replayability of the game as every Zone has, essentially, four parts to it (past, present, good future, and bad future) that all present a different aesthetic and challenge while still maintaining the basic structure of the Zone.

Zones are packed full of details and vibrant colours but can look a little busy at times.

Zones have a real depth to them, allowing you to see into the distance and take in just how badly Eggman has affected each environment. You might see a vast sea full of ruins in the past of Palmtree Panic but all you’ll see is pollution and machinery in the bad future; similarly, Tidal Tempest is an unblemished cave in the past but has been transformed into a mechanical base in the future. Zones are also full of interesting and unique graphical mechanics, such as the pseudo-3D ramp at the start of Palmtree Panic, the Mode-7-like Special Stages, how a certain tube in Palmtree Panic will send Sonic smashing through the background and leave a Sonic-shaped hole in his wake, and the way graphics change size as you bounce and run all over the place. Unfortunately, though, I often find Sonic CD’s Zones to be a little too busy; there’s a lot going in the background and foreground, a lot of competing, clashing colours (especially in the garish pink of Collision Chaos), and it can be difficult to keep track of where you are and what’s going on sometimes.

The power of the Mega-CD makes for some gorgeous and well-animated sprites.

The sprites have, however, benefitted greatly from the graphical upgrade; Sonic has more animation frames and a more dynamic moveset and seems far more lively and energetic despite the majority of his assets being lifted from the first game. Sonic also speaks a little bit, shouting out “Yes!” when he grabs and extra life and “I’m outta here!” when left idle for a few minutes (which causes an instant game over). Other sounds, however, are not quite as appreciated, such as the sound Sonic makes when he jumps (which is decidedly squeakier and much more annoying and it also bugs me when it is recycled in both fan-made and official Sonic games). The bosses, too, are bigger and more elaborate than in the first game, requiring actual strategy on your part to defeat and even Amy Rose gets a lot of personality as she follows Sonic around like a love-sick puppy, desperately trying to hug him while love hearts adorably fly from her head.

The anime sequences really bolster the game’s appeal and capture Sonic’s essence.

Of course, you can’t talk about Sonic CD without mentioning the anime cutscenes and the soundtrack. The opening and ending of the game features gorgeously animated anime sequences that showcase Sonic at his best, in my opinion; I loved that these were expanded upon in Sonic the Hedgehog (Ikegami, 1999) and I would absolutely be over the moon if they were brought back for future Sonic games. Sonic CD’s soundtrack is also one of the most beloved and contested in the franchise; many prefer the original Japanese soundtrack and, while that is good, it’s much more peppy and vibrant and happy-go-lucky than Spencer Nilsen’s version for the U.S. As a result, while I prefer some tracks from the Japanese soundtrack, overall I prefer the U.S. one; the invincibility music is better, the boss theme is better, and the U.S. soundtrack is much more in the style of rock and metal than anything else, which I prefer.

Enemies and Bosses:
Once again, Sonic must contend with Eggman’s Badniks; unlike in the majority of the classic Sonic titles, Badniks don’t drop cute woodland critters and, instead, blossom flowers upon defeat (again tying into the game’s overall theme of restoring Little Planet to health) and, honestly, they’re far less prominent than in other 2D Sonic titles. Indeed, Sonic CD’s Badniks mainly exist to screw up your run-up to a time travel attempt and cost you your hard-earned Rings right before the goal and they’re probably some of the most unremarkable in the original games. Eggman’s theme this time around is definitely geared more towards bugs than anything else as needle-nosed Mozzietrons try to skewer you from above, Arachnisprings jump out at you, Damsiltron and Buzz Bomber 2s hover overhead and take shots at you, and Poghoppers bounce around the place on their springy bases. Probably the worst enemies are the Snail-Spikers due to their spikes, Motherbombs (which are invulnerable to your attacks and explode into a shower of projectiles), and the Flashers, which must be hit at just the right time to avoid taking damage from their laser beams. Your main opponent, though, will be the abundance of spikes, springs, bumpers, and other obstacles that mess up your momentum and cost you valuable Rings.

The first boss is, quite possibly, the easiest of any of the classic Sonic videogames.

The bosses, though, are a completely different story. Sonic CD features some of the biggest and most unique and interesting boss battles of all the classic games and, while each boss only takes three hits to defeat, they all require different strategies on your part and are affected by whether you battle them in a good or bad future. The first time you battle Eggman, he’s inside of his EGG-HVC-001 mech, which is either a striking pink or an ominous red and sports spikes on the feet. Eggman protects himself from attacks with two bumpers but, after a couple of hits/bounces, these will break off and allow you to land the decisive blow. It’s, quite possibly, the easiest first boss in any Sonic game as even Sonic 2’s Eggmobile took eight hits to defeat.

Bosses require a bit of strategy on your part but are extremely fragile once you get your hits in.

In Collision Chaos, Eggman hides at the top of a giant pinball table and drops weighted balls down at you that can force you to drop down to the lowest level or into some annoyingly-placed spikes. The whole battle is structured very similar to the Star Light and Casino Night Zones and is a clear precursor to Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (SEGA Technical Institute, 1993) in that players must make use of the flippers to bounce Sonic up each level of the arena, ricocheting off of bumpers and such to ram into Eggman’s machine three times. Your enjoyment of this boss may vary as it all depends on how well you get on with the pinball-based Zones and mechanics of Sonic games; for me, this meant it was quite an annoying boss as it can be tricky to get the angle of your trajectory right to go where you need to. At the end of Tidal Tempest Zone 3, you’ll have to chase Eggman around a short maze similar to the end of Labyrinth Zone; unlike in that encounter, though, this time it’s a simple loop that repeats until you land a few hits and you don’t need to worry about spikes or other hazards. Also, after Eggman flees, he floods the area and surrounds his craft with air bubbles and shoots projectiles at you; in order to finish Eggman off, Sonic has to suck up a couple of the bubbles to make a gap in his defences, which is certainly a unique spin on Sonic’s notorious underwater mechanics.

Compared to some of the other bosses, the final battle is a walk in the park!

Probably one of the more frustrating bosses is encountered in Quartz Quadrant; here, Eggman hides behind a giant piston and Sonic is forced to perpetually run on a treadmill lest he be skewered by spikes on the far left of the arena. Unlike the other Eggman bosses in Sonic CD, this boss isn’t about attacking but surviving as Eggman drops bombs onto you, which must be avoided, and you have to wait for the friction of the treadmill to destroy Eggman’s machine and defeat him. Because of how difficult it can be to maintain your speed and footing when avoiding the bombs and their projectiles, this can be a particularly challenging boss for your patience, if nothing else. In comparison, the final boss is a fairly anti-climatic and simple affair; Eggman surrounds his craft with four blades and hovers in a slow pattern around the arena, shooting them at you or occasionally spinning your way. However, it’s ridiculously easy to attack between the blades and, each time you land a hit, he loses one of them so, even though he speeds up and becomes more erratic, he’s made more vulnerable to attack and, honestly, this final boss is easier than the one in the first game!

The race against Metal Sonic might be Sonic CD‘s most iconic, and annoying, boss battle.

Of course, the most iconic boss battle of Sonic CD comes in Stardust Speedway where you’re forced to race against Metal Sonic! This is a thrilling, if frustrating, experience as Eggman flies along behind you firing an instant-death laser and it can be difficult to get up a good run of speed because, again, of spikes, obstacles, and sudden drops or edges in the path. Metal Sonic is completely invulnerable to harm and will charge at you full-speed or electrify its body, which is helpful for breaking spikes and clearing a path for you. Because of the way the screen is locked, though, this isn’t quite the fast-paced experience it’s often thought and interpreted as and is, instead, a strangely-paced, annoying affair that generally comes down more to luck than anything else. The best thing to do is to stay ahead where you can, jump over Metal Sonic, and then blast past it at every opportunity so that you’re on the right side of that wall when it comes crashing down.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As is the standard for most Sonic games, a number of power-up monitors are scattered throughout the game’s Zones. Unfortunately, though, there are no new or exclusive items to be found in Sonic CD; instead, you’ll have to make do with either ten Rings, a shield that protects you from damage for one hit, an extra life, speed-up shoes, or a brief invincibility just like in the first two games.

Additional Features:
Sonic CD has twelve Achievements for you to earn, some of which are pretty simple; you’d be hard-pressed to play through the game without travelling through time, for example, and you’re guaranteed to get a hug from Amy after defeating Metal Sonic. Others, though, are a bit trickier, requiring you to collect two hundred Rings rather than the usual one hundred, or to find the upper goal signpost in Collision Chaos 2 and a hidden angel statue in Wacky Workbench. Probably the most troublesome Achievements, though, involve beating Metal Sonic without being hit and destroying all of the Robot Transporter and holograms in the past.

Conquer the seven psychedelic Special Stages to get the Time Stones and the best ending.

As in the first game, finishing every Zone except the third with fifty Rings or more allows you to enter a Special Stage by jumping through a Giant Ring. These Special Stages are much more elaborate than in the first game, though, and arguably a bit more forgiving than in the second; here, you must race around a flat area against a tight time limit, avoiding water and other obstacles as you hunt down and destroy a number of UFOs. If you land on water, or similar surfaces, your time will drain exponentially so be sure to avoid these at all costs but don’t go too fast on the booster pads as it can be very difficult to make tight turns. As you destroy UFOs, you can earn Rings and even a time bonus, which is helpful, but while fans can be used to float into UFOs, spiked grates will cost you valuable time. Depth perception is a real issue here as you have to be very precise with your jumps but, if you see your time is about to run about (when it hits, say, ten seconds), you can pause and quit to the main menu and then retry the Special Stage from your save slot, meaning you basically have unlimited tries at each Special Stage and can easily grab all seven Time Stones and get the best ending.

The Xbox Live version of the game includes a host of bonus features, including a playable Tails!

I mentioned before that this was the definitive version of the game and it’s true; you can pick from a variety of display options in the menu, choose between the U.S. and Japanese soundtracks (but can’t mix and match, unfortunately), choose which Spin Dash you want (I recommend the superior Sonic 2 one), and have access to four save slots. Unfortunately, these don’t work like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994), meaning you can’t pick and choose a Zone to replay, which is disappointing. You can, however, unlock a stage select, D.A. Garden (basically a sound test which you can also use to enter a variety of cheats, though Achievements can’t be earned this way), and “Visual Mode” (a gallery for viewing the anime scenes) by completing the “Time Attack” mode fast enough. Perhaps the most notable addition to this version of the game is that you unlock Miles “Tails” Prower after beating the game in any way; Tails controls exactly like he did in Sonic 3, meaning he can fly and swim, but Achievements are disabled when playing as Tails as it’d be too easy to get around Sonic CD’s more annoying level layouts.

The Summary:
Sonic CD is an absolutely gorgeous game; it took everything that worked about the first game and expanded upon it wonderfully, bringing a much greater sense of speed and liveliness to the core gameplay and really utilising the power of the Mega-CD to its fullest with its anime sequences, animations, music, and unique time travel mechanic. Yet, as much as I love how visually appealing the game is, I find it lacking in a lot of ways; it’s frustrating at times, the level layouts are massively annoying for a game whose main mechanic is based on speed, and the amount of exploration and trial-and-error needed can get annoying at times. Still, I love how every boss battle is unique and how your actions have actual, visible consequences as you play; it really invites multiple playthroughs to see what each Zone looks like in different situations but, similar to the first game, I find myself less excited to replay Sonic CD and more aggravated as it can be a chore at times. When it shines, it shines brightly and I’d love to see more of this style of 2D Sonic in the future but its more irritating features and mechanics definitely need polishing up first.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you enjoy Sonic CD? Did you own this, and a Mega-CD, back in the day or did you first experience it on PC or through some other port? What did you think to the game’s presentation and which of the two soundtracks is your favourite? Were you a fan of the level layouts and time travel gimmick or, like me, do you think they could have been better implemented? Which of the game’s Zones and bosses is your favourite? Are you a fan of Metal Sonic and Amy Rose? How are you celebrating Sonic CD’s anniversary this year? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic CD, or Sonic in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner: Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Nintendo 3DS)

Released: 9 February 2012
Developer: SEGA Sports R&D/Racjin
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii

The Background:
During the “Console Wars” of the nineties, there were no truer rivals than Nintendo’s Super Mario and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog; both went head to head as their respective company’s mascots, spearheading the release of some of the greatest and most influential videogames of a generation, and both company’s went to great lengths over the years in a bid to prove that their consoles were the superior. In the end, though, thanks to a variety of expensive and poorly-conceived ideas and an ever-changing marketplace, SEGA were forced to withdraw from developing home consoles; now developing videogames for their competitors, SEGA’s supersonic mascot began appearing in games exclusive to Nintendo consoles and discussions of a long-awaited crossover began between Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Sonic creator Yuji Naka.

The Mario & Sonic series continually pits the two rivals in a series of Olympic Games.

Rather than have their two iconic mascots meet in a merging of their worlds for a traditional platform title, however, the two were brought together in the spirit of friendly competition after SEGA was awarded the 2008 Beijing Olympic licence. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (SEGA Sports R&D, 2007) followed as a result; though little more than a series of mini games featuring Mario and Sonic characters taking part in a number of Olympic events, the game was a commercial success and led to a series of annual titles being released in conjunction with a number of different Olympic events. After many years of putting it off, I finally got around to playing the 2012 edition of the game, which was set in London since we Brits won the right to host the games that year so, since the Tokyo Olympic Games are set to kick off today, I figured this was an ideal time to leech off of that event and share my thoughts about this title.

The Plot:
Sonic, Mario, and all their friends have arrived in London for the 2012 Olympic Games; however, annoyed that they weren’t invited to compete, King Bowser of the Koopas and Doctor Eggman join forces to cover London in the “Phantasmal Fog”, disrupting the games and forcing our heroes to battle against fog-based duplicates of themselves to dispel the fog and allow the Olympic Games to proceed as planned.

Gameplay:
I’ve played games in the Mario & Sonic series before so I knew what to expect heading into Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games; while the games do generally have a story mode these days to make the gameplay a bit more involved than just a simple party game, it is still, nevertheless, a collection of Olympic-themed mini games. Because I’ve never been a fan of the Wii’s motion controls (or the Wii in general, if I’m honest), I always opt for the handheld versions of these sorts of games in the hopes that they will be less frustrating to play.

The game’s events restrict which characters you can use according to their specific classes.

Sadly, for the most part, that isn’t the case with Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, a game which, seemingly, goes out of its way to use every single button, control, and aspect of the 3DS for its numerous events. The game features twenty playable characters, each of which falls into one of five different character classes (Heroes, Challengers, Girls, Wild Ones, and Tricksters) and, as a result, each character takes part in different events (Sonic, for example, can be used in the Marathon event, Yoshi in Shot Put, Blaze the Cat in Beach Volleyball, Bowser in Wrestling, and Metal Sonic in Hockey) and you cannot mix characters or classes.

Each event has medals to go for and different controls to master.

The moment you start a new game, Omochao rears his ugly little head to talk you through some of the game’s basic controls; you can then select from a few different customisation options, single or multiplayer events, or the game’s story mode. If you choose the single or multiplayer modes, you can select from all of the game’s many and varied events, each of which comes with an easy, normal, and hard criteria to get bronze, silver, and gold medals, respectively, with different goals, scores, or times to hit for each, as well as a brief overview of the event’s controls and objectives.

Bowser and Eggman team up in the story mode to disrupt the Olympic Games with their fog.

I skipped this, however, and went straight to the story mode. The story allows you to take control of all of the game’s playable characters and the vast majority of the mini games and events the game has to offer, all while dialogue boxes and some limited voice clips and effects convey the game’s simple story. Generally, the story branches into two separate paths, one that follows primarily Mario characters and one that follows mainly Sonic characters, with the groups mixing up, overlapping, and interacting as they investigate the Phantasmal Fog, battle their shadowy doubles, and go head to head with Bower, Eggman, and their underlings.

Complete Challenges to clear each episode of the story mode.

It’s a pretty simple story, one that is geared more towards teaching younger players a little about London and the Olympic Games more than anything, and it’s extremely linear. You can jump to a map screen to replay events (or just let the story take you from one episode to the next), skip cutscenes if you’re retrying an event, and are given a number of Challenges to complete to advance the plot. In the story’s early going, you’ll probably only be required to complete one or two Challenges but, as the story progresses, you’ll be asked to more, with each Challenge being comprised of harder or more complex events. Only first place will do here; if you don’t come first, you fail the Challenge and must either retry or choose a different Challenge if you want to see the story through to completion.

Though you’re given a brief overview of each event’s controls, the actual gameplay can be tricky.

As you play, you’ll be required to take part in a number of Olympic Games; it’s kind of weird that characters just spontaneously challenge their rivals to these games, and how the stadiums and arenas and locations and crowds and such just “appear” when you need to compete but…what do you expect? This is the best way, though, to experience a variety of the game’s events and get an idea of what is required of you. Sadly, however, many of the game’s events are an exercise in frustration; as I mentioned, you’ll be given a brief overview of what to do before an event but, sometimes, that doesn’t really help prepare you for the actual gameplay of that event.

Some events are made needlessly complicated by the game’s use of the 3DS many controls.

Generally, you’ll be rapidly tapping buttons, inputting specific button combinations, shouting or blowing into the microphone (which I can’t seem to find on my 3DS and which makes me a little lightheaded since I’m so unfit…), moving the 3DS about, or using the stylus to complete these events. Some, like the Pole Vault and 100M Backstroke, aren’t too difficult (you must angle the circle stick in a diagonal direction to charge your vault and release before the hidden meter overfills and your pole breaks or rapidly draw circles with the stylus to swim faster) but others, like Archery (Solo) and BMX are maddeningly frustrating (you don’t just aim and shot in Archery, you need to account for wind currents which can screw up your shot, and BMX requires almost perfect hand co-ordination to tilt the 3DS in the right position to give you a much-needed boost).

Be careful not to damage your touch screen trying to get to grips with the game’s controls…

Almost all of the events have one thing in common and that is that they come down to split second timing as much as skill; if you do not time your inputs exactly right, you’re screwed but, often, the game’s button prompts and directions mislead you and cause you to fail. Take the Triple Jump, for example; it seems pretty easy (tap the touch screen left and right in an alternating pattern and then tap in time with the directions to leap) but if you tap for your first jump when the game/button prompt tells you then you will fail on a foul since you jumped too late! Similarly, Basketball only gives you an aiming reticule in the training mode, which makes landing a shot really difficult with the 3DS’s motion controls, and many games that have you draw on the bottom screen have the directions on the top, which is really confusing as you’d expect to tap targets on the touch screen when playing the Shooting events.

It takes some time to figure out exactly what’s required of you and perfect your timings.

Others seem incredibly random or unfair just for the sake of it; the 20km Racewalk event, for example, has you moving the stylus to a tempo at just the right speed. The game helpfully tells you when to speed up and penalises you if you need to slow down but it’s more annoying than anything to try and get the balance just right. The Canoe Slalom (Pair) event has you balancing with the circle pad and tapping A to pass through gates, which sounds easy but is super tricky as the control stick is overly sensitive, and you’ll be jerking your 3DS around like a moron trying to hit targets in the Double Trap event.

Other events are troublesome because of a dodgy camera angle as well as poor onscreen prompts.

Similarly, in a lot of events are handicapped by poor camera angles; it’s hard to see (or know) what you’re doing in the Sprint event as you’re stuck in a bad position and your opponent just rockets away too fast for you to catch, and it’s very difficult to judge your positioning in the ball-based games like Badminton and Football (to say nothing of the Goddamn Table Tennis (Doubles) event which requires you to switch between two characters but sometimes they swap independently and always right as you think you have the rhythm down). It’s equally difficult to make jumps in the 3000m Steeplechase event as the camera position means you don’t see which sort of button press is required of you until the very last second; the same goes for the Marathon event, where the angle is positioned just annoyingly enough to mean you need split-second accuracy to pick up the water bottle at the right time.

Some events are actually fun to play rather than being needlessly overcomplicated or frustrating.

It’s not all bad, though; some events (like 25m Rapid Fire Pistol, Trampoline, and Wrestling) can be fun but there’s very little room for error here; it may take some practice to understand exactly what is required of you but, generally, once you get the inputs down you can usually scrape by to advance the game’s story to the next episode. Other times, though, you’ll have to take on a number of quick-fire events in a row, with no way to restart if you fail one until you load into the next event (and then you have to restart the whole Challenge so be sure to retry before you fail), and by the end of it all you’ll be too burned out to really want to try out the other events in the game’s single player mode.

Graphics and Sound:
Being that it’s a 3DS game, the graphics are serviceable enough; Mario, Sonic, and all their friends and enemies look pretty good and coexist decently enough thanks to their cartoony aesthetic but it’s a bit weird how some characters (the girls, mostly) are dressed to compete and others are not and how characters like Sonic are suddenly only able to communicate in pantomime.

The game’s presentation is decent enough and mixes cartoony characters with real-world locations.

Otherwise, there’s not much to the in-game graphics; the story mode sees the characters visit a number of iconic British landmarks but they’re mostly lifeless voids or obscured by thick, colourful fog. When you enter the events themselves, there’s a decent amount of detail, with minor Mario and Sonic characters filling out the crowds and the arenas sharing the same bright, cartoony aesthetic of the characters. Musically, though, aside from a few recognisable sound clips and sound effects, there’s nothing really Mario or Sonic about this title as it opts for simple trumpets and fanfares.

Enemies and Bosses:
Outside of the game’s story mode, your choices for opponents are dictated by which character, class, and event you wish to play; you won’t be able to pit Sonic against Eggman in a Triathalon, for example, but you can pit Knuckles against Donkey Kong in a Boxing match.

You’ll have to compete against fog imposters of numerous Mario and Sonic characters.

In the story mode, you’ll mostly compete against evil fog imposters of Mario and Sonic characters; Amy Rose and Princess Daisy, for example, get to take on the imposter versions of Blaze and Princess Peach in Beach Volleyball and Yoshi will have to compete against imposter versions of Shadow the Hedgehog and Silver the Hedgehog in the 1500m and 10km Marathon Swim events. As you progress, the amount of Challenges you have to clear increases, as does the difficulty of your opponents, and you’ll be allowed to choose between different characters to take on different events and imposters.

Dry Bowser and Dry Bones challenge you to a bit of sail boat racing…

In the course of the game’s story, you’ll also compete against a number of boss characters; it is only by clearing these challenges that you’ll bring that episode to an end and progress to the next part of the story. The first boss battle pits you (as Mario and Luigi) against the duo of Dry Bowser and Dry Bones and has you frantically blowing into the microphone and awkwardly steering your ship across boost panels in the 470 (Pair) event. This is a pretty ridiculous game as the controls are way too slippery and it’s ridiculously easy to just wander into the path of a whirlpool…yet it’s also stupidly easy to win even with minimum effort.

Time your stylus swipes perfectly to beat the Boos at Badminton.

Next, you’ll take on King Boo and Boo in Badminton (Doubles) as Sonic and Miles “Tails” Prower; this involves sliding the stylus (or your finger) down the touch screen as the shuttlecock comes towards you. Don’t do this too soon, though, or you’ll miss like an idiot; instead, you should aim to hit it when the shuttlecock flashes red but this gets tricky as the rallies get faster and faster and, one time, the ball went between Sonic and Tails and they just stood there like lemons!

Outperform Rouge and Jet and they will briefly help you in the game’s story mode.

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games sees the welcome return of Jet the Hawk as a boss character who challenges Shadow to a 3000m Steeplechase, and also has you competing against Rouge the Bat as Peach in the 100m Backstroke, neither of which are particularly challenging thanks to these events being two of the more user-friendly games. When you take on Bowser Jr, however, you must do so in a three-stage event that sees Yoshi having to fight with the poor game prompts in the Triple Jump, hold the 3DS like an idiot in the 10km Marathon Swim, and struggle through a 3000m Steeplechase, or Silver desperately try to aim for the centre and time button presses correctly in Trampoline, fumble through Basketball, and press and hold the stylus without messing up in Floor. Your best bet to beat Bowser Jr is to pick Shadow, whose events are much easier to get through.

Some bosses require you to finish first in multiple events.

You’ll also come up against one of the most wasted characters ever introduced into the Sonic franchise, Eggman Nega, and have to compete against him in a 4 x 100 relay that simply asks you to slide the stylus to pass the baton between Luigi, Tails, Mario, and Sonic. Similarly easygoing is Donkey Kong’s encounter with E-123Ω “Omega”, which sees you timing presses of the A and B button and going for a super tackle in the Wrestling – Freestyle event. Unfortunately, when Sonic takes on Magikoopa, it’s in the God-awful BMX event which literally had me tearing my hair out as I just couldn’t figure out how the tilt the 3DS properly to land correctly!

Your first encounters with Eggman and Bowser aren’t too difficult to get through.

You’ll battle against both Bowser and Dr. Eggman a couple of times in the story mode; you’ll first face Eggman with Wario and then alongside Waluigi to take on Eggman and Metal Sonic, but he isn’t really a challenge (the Hockey game you must complete is really just a glorified version of Pong (Atari, 1972)). Similarly, Bowser isn’t too difficult to get past if you choose the right events (the Hammer Throw, in particular, isn’t too taxing as long as you can rotate the 3DS fast enough) but they both get a significant power boost for the game’s final chapter.

Eggman and Bowser get a significant power up from their Phantasmal Fog for the story’s finale.

Here, powered up by the Phantasmal Fog, Bowser and Eggman take on Mario and Sonic in Sprint, 20km Race Walk, Judo, and 100m events. Judo isn’t especially hard (it’s just a question of timing your button presses and being a bit aggressive in your attack) and 100m is fine as long as you charge and release A and can tap the button as fast as possible but both Sprint and 20km Race Walk can crawl into a hole and die. Eventually, after much trial and error, I got Sprint down (ignore the onscreen prompts and don’t move or press anything until you’re sure you can dash past Eggman) but the 20km Race Walk mainly came down to luck.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Being as this is a glorified collection of mini games, there’s not much on offer here; some events have you rapidly tapping A to recover stamina or splashing water on you for the same effect, or touching dash panels for a boost, and many reward a perfect finish with a fancy special flourish but there’s nothing tangible in-game to help increase your chances.

Additional Features:
There are a couple of extra incentives on offer here for repeat and expansive play; first, when you first start the game, you can customise your in-game name, flag, and Badge (which is a nice touch for when you’re playing online, I’m sure). You can also aim to break world records in each event, win bronze, silver, and gold medals, and complete each of the game’s events and story modes to earn tickets and Badges. You can then use these tickets in a ball machine to unlock yet more Badges, all of which can be viewed in the game’s Record Log along with (obviously) your best times and records.

After clearing the game’s story mode, you unlock a few, more challenging bonus episodes.

After you beat the main story campaign, you’ll unlock a series of additional bonus episodes that see you compete as Bowser Jr, Bowser, Metal Sonic, Dr. Eggman, Peach, Blaze, and Amy in some of the toughest challenges yet. Unlike in the Wii version, there are no “Dream Events” to compete in, though you can cobble together custom events to take on both on and offline if you can bring yourself to play a little longer.

The Summary:
When it comes to the Mario & Sonic series, you know what to expect: Olympic-themed mini games involving some of gaming’s most iconic characters. Yet, as inoffensive as these games often are, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games takes things to the next level by needlessly overcomplicating so many of the events and controls. It’s as though the developers were forced to shoe-horn in everything the 3DS was capable of, which would be fine if there were the option to switch to more traditional controls but, nine times out of ten, there isn’t. Instead, you’re left to fumble about the place, shouting at your 3DS and trying to rotate it while alternating between hitting buttons or drawing on the touch screen and it’s just more frustrating than fun. Because I’m a big Sonic fan, I am kind of duty-bound to own these games wherever possible but I’ve never really been fond of them; I’m sure that for groups of players who like motion controls and unfairly-balanced party games, they’re a lot of fun but it can’t help but feel like Nintendo and SEGA left a lot of money on the table by not also producing a more traditional crossover for their iconic mascots.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

How did you find the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games? Perhaps you also owned the Nintendo Wii version; if so, which was better, in your opinion? How did you find the game’s motion controls, assortment of games, and story mode? How do you feel about the Mario & Sonic series overall? Do you agree that the concept is somewhat wasted on the Olympic Games or have you enjoyed the series so far? Which country are you pulling for in this year’s Olympic Games? Either way, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [Sonic’s Anniversary]: Sonic the Hedgehog (2007; Xbox One)


Sonic the Hedgehog was first introduced to gamers worldwide on 23 June 1991 and, since then, has become not only SEGA’s most enduring and popular character but also a beloved videogame icon. This year, the Blue Blur turns thirty and what better way to celebrate than by dedicating an entire month’s worth of content to SEGA’s supersonic mascot.


GameCorner

Released: July 2007
Originally Released: June 1991
Developer: Sonic Team
Original Developer: Sonic Team
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Boy Advance, Gamecube, Game.com, iPod, Mega Drive, Mobile, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, SEGA Saturn, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox Series X

The Background:
You know the story by now: there was a time when videogames and home consoles ran rampant and, for a while, it was good. But, inevitably, the market became swamped with lacklustre releases and poorly conceived movie tie-ins; after the collapse of the videogame industry, Nintendo were there to pick up the pieces, dominating the market with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985). Though they had successfully recaptured the flailing market and seemed unstoppable, one former slot machine developer dared to try and knock Nintendo from their perch. In 1990, SEGA ordered their developers to design a mascot and a title capable of leaving Mario in the dust and showcasing the power of their 16-Bit Mega Drive; after an internal contest produced numerous rejected designs (including a rabbit and an armadillo), SEGA soon settled on Naoto Ohshima’s design of a spiky hedgehog dubbed “Mr. Needlemouse”.

To compete with, and defeat, Mario, SEGA needed more than Alex Kidd.

With up-and-coming developer Yuji Naka, composer Masato Nakamura, and level designer Hirokazu Yasuhara also onboard, the character’s design was refined and defined, renamed to Sonic, and “Sonic Team” was born. Conceived to be as appealing as possibly, Naka wanted Sonic the Hedgehog to focus on speed and user-friendliness; unlike his rival, Mario, Sonic controlled with only the directional pad and one button and his gameplay was based on physics, momentum, and an emphasis on action and speed. Thanks largely to an aggressive marketing campaign and copies of the game being bundled in with SEGA’s brand new console, Sonic the Hedgehog was an immediate success, selling over 15 million copies in this format alone and kick-starting the “Console War” between SEGA and Nintendo that would dominate the nineties. Since then, Sonic has become an enduring icon; he’s had a slew of critical and commercial hits alongside a number of unfortunate and very disappointing hiccups and yet his character and brand remain strong and he is still an iconic character in both videogames and other media to this day.

The Plot:
South Island is under siege! The maniacal Doctor Eggman (widely known as “Robotnik” during the game’s original release) has been capturing the island’s animals and turning them into robotic Badniks! With Eggman’s machinery and pollution threatening the entire island, only one super-fast, super-cool hedgehog can stop him!

Gameplay:
Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer in which you control the titular blue hedgehog. Sonic must journey across six stages (known as “Zones”), each split into three “Acts”; at the end of each Zone’s third Act, Sonic must battle Eggman in one of his contraptions and, upon clearing all six Zones, face the diabolical doctor in the game’s Final Zone. Sonic is a smooth and responsive character to play as; slightly weighty, his speed and agility are dependant upon you building momentum and using the game’s level layout and gimmicks to your advantage. When you move Sonic, he quickly breaks from a trot, to a jog, to a run that is so fast his legs appear as little more than a rubber band of red, white, and blue but, in order to reach Sonic’s top speeds, you’ll need to make use of slopes, curves, the game’s signature loop-de-loops, and Sonic’s rolling mechanics.

It’s not all high-speed Badnik bashing; Sonic will also have to pull off some slower platforming.

Any time you press a button, Sonic jumps into a blazing spinning ball of spikes known as the “Super Sonic Spin Attack”. You can use this to destroy Badniks and bounce off of them, springs, and monitors to increase your height, momentum, and speed. Additionally, pressing down whilst running will see Sonic roll along for a similar effect. In the original release of the game, Sonic couldn’t utilise his patented Spin Dash as this wasn’t introduced until the bigger, better sequel but subsequent re-releases and ports have seen this function added in, which can be extremely helpful in moving Sonic along (unfortunately, though, it’s not available in this version of the game). And that’s a noteworthy point as, unlike in the sequels, Sonic is painfully slow in his debut title; the game’s first stage, the iconic and massively over-used Green Hill Zone, is a perfect playground for getting to grips with Sonic’s speed and abilities. You’ll blast through this Zone in no time at all, feeling the rush of adrenaline and action-packed speed, only to literally run into a brick wall with the next stage, Marble Zone, which slows the game down to a crawl so Sonic can navigate precarious platforms, push blocks, activate switches, and simply wait for the game to allow him to continue.

The game’s slower sections betray its marketing as a non-stop action platformer.

That’s not to say that speed doesn’t become a recurring factor in Sonic’s gameplay; both Spring Yard Zone and Starlight Zone give you a chance to stretch your legs again but the pinball mechanics of the former and the obstacle-course-like layout of the latter were definitely refined in the sequel. As a result, most of your time is spent using more traditional platforming skills to progress forward rather than simply blazing through as the game’s marketing would have you believe. This means jumping from platform to platform, navigating maze-like areas, activating switches, and hopping to disappearing, crumbling, or spinning platforms. In Starlight Zone, you’ll also have to use some see-saws to bounce up to higher areas and navigate a bottomless void while Scrap Brain Zone includes teleportation tubes and speed-sapping conveyor belts to screw up your momentum and sense of direction. You’ll also have to watch the in-game timer as well; if you take too long to finish an Act, you’ll lose a life, so it pays to keep moving but, fortunately, none of the game’s Zones or Acts are that long or difficult to get through within the required time limit.

There are many ways to keep Sonic alive and kicking.

Luckily, Sonic is a relatively sturdy videogame character, especially compared to Mario; collecting the many Golden Rings scattered throughout the game’s Zones allows you to survive a single hit. You’ll lose all of your Rings but you won’t lose a life unless you get squashed, fall into one of the game’s many bottomless pits, get hit without a Ring or a shield, or drown. Sonic’s momentum becomes sluggish and awkward when underwater and, unlike his rival, he cannot survive for long in the murky depths of the Labyrinth Zone; linger too long and an ominous, heart-pounding countdown will begin and, if it reaches zero, you’ll drown and lose a life. Fortunately, just as you can collect dropped Rings, you can save yourself from this fate by finding air bubbles. Sonic can also earn an extra life if he collects one hundred Rings or earns a high enough score and you’ll also be given a chance to continue should you lose all of your lives. You can earn extra continues in the game’s Special Stages but you’ll also lose your current accumulated high score if you have to use a continue. Sonic gains points for destroying Badniks, defeating Eggman, and clearing Acts; once you reach the end of Act signpost or break open the prison capsule, you’ll be awarded bonus points for your current score, the time you took to clear the Act, and the amount of Rings you were holding when you did so. As a result, you are actively encouraged to blast through Acts as quickly as possible as this will net you a higher score and more lives and continues.

Labyrinth Zone more than lives up to its name thanks to being far more vertical and maze-like.

Sonic the Hedgehog’s Zones are thus laid out in such a way to allow you to experiment to find the fastest routes; typically, the higher path is the most dangerous but also the fastest compared to the middle and lower paths. This isn’t always the case, however, and this mechanic is not as refined as in later games; some Zones, such as the aforementioned Labyrinth and Spring Yard, are more vertically constructed, meaning that your completion speed will be directly tied to your level of skill and precision with controlling Sonic. For the most part, this isn’t a problem but, unfortunately, Sonic the Hedgehog does suffer from a few noticeable issues that can unfairly impede your progress; early copies of the game featured an infamous glitch whereby, upon landing on a bed of spikes, Sonic would lose his shield, Rings, and then a life all without the usual few seconds of invincibility frames to save him. Other times, especially in Spring Yard Zone, you may find yourself crushed by blocks even though you’re not actually beneath them; Sonic also has a curious animation glitch where he will jump while running in the air if you try to jump to close to obstacles or items, though these issues are, admittedly, rare and minor. Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t an especially difficult game; there are no difficulty settings to choose from so the game’s difficulty is supposed to gradually increase as you progress from Zone to Zone. As you race through Zones, you’ll automatically activate Lampposts as you run past them, which acts as a checkpoint should you die in the Zone, however your skill is tested by the way the game requires you to finish every Act that doesn’t feature a boss battle holding fifty Rings or more in order to try for the game’s six Chaos Emeralds.

Graphics and Sound:
Sonic the Hedgehog is still one of the most impressive and visually appealing games of its kind. Everything from the sprites to the background art pops out in gorgeous colours and the game’s Zones are full of life and character, despite being largely cliché in hindsight. You’ll race through verdant fields, explore lava-filled ruins, slog through the sunken remnants of an ancient civilisation, careen around a bonkers pinball-inspired obstacle course, and face a myriad of deadly hazards in Scrap Brain Zone, the heart of Eggman’s operation on South Island.

As much as I like Starlight Zone, it’s quite empty compared to other Zones in the game.

Just about the only Zone that isn’t interesting or fun is Starlight Zone and I say this with a heavy heart as it’s actually one of my favourite Zones in the game and a welcome return to the more speed-orientated gameplay after the annoyance of Labyrinth Zone. However, Starlight Zone is largely empty and lifeless; the wind-based mechanic is clunky, the bottomless pits are insufferable, and the Badniks are far harder to destroy than in other Zones.

Leave Sonic idle and he’ll grow impatient, something videogame avatars have aped ever since.

What saves Starlight Zone, however, is its music; in fact, Sonic the Hedgehog has some of the best and most memorable music in videogame history. From the catchy title theme to the iconic sounds of Green Hill Zone, every Zone has an excellent, jaunty, and fitting theme to go with it. This is also true of the game’s boss battles, which all feature the same ominous-yet-lively tune that let you know Eggman is inbound. The game doesn’t feature any cutscenes or story-telling elements; this isn’t entirely unexpected as a lot of games released around this time didn’t and, to be fair, the game’s story is pretty simple to pick up either through association (the Zones change from lush and vibrant to polluted and desolate and woodland critters bounce around the Zones after being freed from captivity) or from the game’s manual. One thing that the game does excel at, though, is giving Sonic a distinct personality; if you leave him idle, he’ll turn to the screen and impatiently tap his foot, a quirk that has been aped and emulated but almost every videogame avatar since.

Enemies and Bosses:
In each Zone of the game, Sonic will face opposition from Eggman’s Badniks; these mechanical monsters may look cute and quirky but they can be extremely deadly. Mostly themed after animals, Badniks will fly across the screen shooting fireballs at Sonic, slink along the floor and break into spiked balls upon defeat, toss bombs at his head, and even explode in his face, among other things. Generally, Badniks are exclusive to each Zone but there is some crossover in later stages. While most of these Badniks aren’t too much bother, their placement in the Zones can be frustrating; others, like Roller and Burrobot, can be a pain due to the speed and surprise of their attacks while Badniks like Spike and Orbinaut cause issues due to their spiked defences.

Eggman may have a lot of different attachments for his craft but he’s not much of a challenge.

At the end of each Zone’s third Act, you’ll battle Doctor Eggman in his Egg-O-Matic hovercraft; each time you face him, he has a new, deadly appendage attached to his craft but his attack pattern remains generally the same. He’ll come puttering in, flying from right to left, and trying to attack with his appendage all while remaining a large, open target for Sonic’s Spin Attack. Unfortunately, while Eggman’s wrecking ball is simple to get around, his later appendages become more dangerous thanks to the presence of other hazards; in Marble Zone, he’ll drop fireballs that briefly render the ground too dangerous to stand on but there’s also a pit of lava to watch out for, for example. Attack too fast in Spring Yard Zone and you might drop to your death as Eggman uses his spike to remove parts of the platform you’re standing on. Labyrinth Zone’s boss battle is more of a race than a fight as, no matter how often you hit Eggman, he won’t be defeated; instead, you need to jump up the flooded vertical shaft dodging spikes and fireballs and desperately hoping to reach the top before you drown.

The final boss battle is pretty disappointing and stupidly easy.

Once you’ve cleared all six Zones, you’ll reach the Final Zone; in this final showdown with Eggman, you’re stuck in a room with no escape and no Rings as Eggman tries to crush you with four weights and fry you alive with electrical balls. Fortunately, however, there is always a gap between these sparkling orbs for you to safely jump through and, by simply waiting at the far right of the screen, you can just take your time and ram Eggman whenever he pops up. Compared to the final boss battles of later Sonic games, this one is a bit of a joke, to be honest, and ends the game not with a bang but with a kind of shrug.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
To help tip the odds in your favour, you’ll find a number of computer monitors scattered throughout the game’s Zones. Breaking these open will award you with such gifts as an instant hit of ten Rings, a shield that protects you from losing Rings or a life for one hit, or even an extra life. You can also find monitors containing Power Sneakers, which immediately increase Sonic’s running speed for a short time, or an invincibility, which coats Sonic in a sparkling protective aura. Combine these two together and you’re basically unstoppable unless you run head-first into a bottomless pit.

Additional Features:
Playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox One allows you to earn some pretty simple and easy Achievements; if you’ve played Sonic before, it should be no challenge at all to reach the game’s later Zones, collect one hundred Rings, or complete the game. As I mentioned above, finishing every Act except Act 3 with fifty Rings or more allows you to enter a Special Stage (why they’re not called “Special Zones” I don’t know…); these are accessed by Giant Rings that appear when you pass the end of Act signpost, so jump in quickly before you miss your chance!

Collect all six Chaos Emeralds to earn the game’s best ending.

The Special Stages are a psychedelic maze-like area filled with bright colours and weird effects; here, you’ll have to bounce and roll Sonic (who is in a constant spin) around the arena trying to avoid the flashing “Goal” lights. Touch these and you’re instantly ejected from the Special Stage with nothing to show for it but, if you manage to avoid them, you’ll find a Chaos Emerald hidden within each Special Stage. Collect all six of these and you’ll be awarded with the game’s true ending; without them, Eggman will mock you for failing to collect them all but, aside from seeing flowers blooming in Green Hill Zone and an Achievement, there’s little incentive to collect all six as you don’t unlock anything else. Sadly, thanks to the way Sonic the Hedgehog works on the Xbox One, there’s no way to enter the iconic cheat codes from the original game and, while a save state system is included, it only allows you to save to three separate slots. You can, however, access online leaderboards to compare your score, time, and progress with other players, if that’s your thing.

The Summary:
Sonic the Hedgehog will forever be an iconic, classic platformer; its place in the echelon of videogame history was cemented upon its bombastic release and, even to this day, it remains as a solid action/platformer. Unfortunately, years of enjoying the bigger, better, much improved sequels somewhat dampens the appeal of Sonic the Hedgehog. Playing the game in hindsight, you can see how the developers took the very best aspects and elements of this game and improved upon them in the sequel, removing the slower, clunkier elements and focusing more on action and speed. The game’s marketing made Sonic out to be this superfast character with a radical attitude but the actual game is quite slow, for the most part, and elevated above its peers thanks to its eye-catching graphics, distinct personality, and catchy music. It’s still a great game and obviously laid the foundations for even better things to come but is far less impressive than its sequels.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about Sonic the Hedgehog? Where do you rate it against the other games in the franchise? Did you purchase a Mega Drive simply to play Sonic? Which port or re-release of the game is your favourite? Are you as annoyed as I am that the excellent mobile version of the game isn’t available to play on the Xbox One? How are you celebrating Sonic’s thirtieth anniversary? Whatever you think, feel free to share your thoughts and memories regarding Sonic below.

Game Corner [Sonic 3’s Day]: Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Xbox One)


Following a highly anticipated release, bolstered by an extravagant marketing and release schedule, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992) not only improved on every aspect of its influential predecessor but also went on to become the second best-selling SEGA Mega Drive game of all time. Expectations were high for the equally-anticipated third entry, a game that ended up being so big that SEGA made the decision to split it into two, birthing perhaps the greatest 2D Sonic adventure in the process.


GameCorner

Released: 10 June 2009/9 September 2009
Originally Released: 2 February 1994/18 October 1994
Developer: Sonic Team
Original Developer: SEGA Technical Institute
Also Available For: Gamecube, Mega Drive, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, SEGA Saturn, Xbox, Xbox 360

The Background:
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a blockbuster hit for SEGA; thanks to the title selling over 400,000 units in its first week alone (and over six million during the Mega Drive’s lifespan), SEGA was able to catch up to Nintendo in the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties, raising their stake in the home console market by 40%. Anticipation was high for the release of the third Sonic game, which saw development split between two teams: a Japanese team and an American team, with Yuji Naka, Hirokazu Yasuhara, and Roger Hector at the heart of the game’s development. Sonic 3 introduced a new antagonist character for our heroes; numerous designs were submitted before the team settled on Takashi Yuda’s concept of a super strong red echidna eventually dubbed “Knuckles”.

Sonic 3 introduced Knuckles and was so big it had to be split into two games!

However, thanks to a combination of a strict deadline to release in time for a major McDonald’s marketing campaign, and Naka’s wish for the game to vastly expand upon the gameplay, mechanics, and lore of the previous two games, Sonic 3 proved to be too big for a single 34-megabite cartridge so the decision was made to split the game in two to hit their projected release date. While this proved to be an expensive decision for us gamers, both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles became two of the Mega Drive’s best-selling titles, with both games selling over one million copies in the United States. Both games received critical acclaim praising both the graphics and Sonic & Knuckles’ innovative “Lock-On” technology. Sadly though, the game (particularly Sonic 3) has run into some legal troubles over the years, mainly regarding Sonic 3’s soundtrack, which meant not only was a combination cartridge of the two games cancelled but a remaster for mobile devices was shot down and Sonic 3 (and, consequently, Sonic 3 & Knuckles) is frequently missing from modern-day compilations.

The Plot:
Doctor Eggman’s Death Egg space station has crash-landed on the mythical floating Angel Island, home to the Master Emerald and Knuckles, the sole surviving member of the legendary echidna race. Eggman has tricked the gullible and hot-tempered Knuckles into thinking Sonic and Miles “Tails” Prower wish to steal the Master Emerald, making recovering the seven Chaos Emeralds and putting a stop to Eggman’s diabolical schemes twice as hard for our dynamic duo!

Gameplay:
As you might expect, both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are 2D, sidescrolling action/platformers in which you travel across a total of twelve stages (known as “Zones”): six in Sonic 3 and six more in Sonic & Knuckles. Just like in Sonic 2, the majority of the game’s Zones are split into two “Acts” but, in a twist, you’ll now have to battle a boss at the end of each Act (with the second Act typically featuring a showdown against Eggman in one of his deadly contraptions). Just as Sonic 2 took everything about its predecessor and improved upon it considerably, so too does Sonic 3 & Knuckles expand upon the options available to you; Zones are now bigger than ever, featuring numerous different paths and mechanics all geared towards having you blast through faster than ever before. Even better, the games are designed with each character’s specific abilities in mind; each character can run, jump, roll into a ball, and blast away in a Spin Dash but they all have different unique abilities as well, meaning that some paths are only available to Knuckles, for example, or some areas can only be reached using Tails’ unique (if limited) flying and swimming mechanics.

Each character has their own abilities to help them take different paths in Zones.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles still keeps its controls simple, though, and each of these different abilities is easily activated simply by pressing a button twice; press A twice as Sonic and you’ll be surrounded by his “Insta-Shield” (a brief flash of lightning that can protect Sonic from projectiles and extend the reach of his spin attack to cause damage). Press A twice as Tails and you’ll be able to fly or swim by then rapidly tapping the same button; Tails can even carry Sonic up to new areas but he does get tired rather quickly so, while this is useful for skipping large portions of the game’s Zones, it does have its drawbacks. Knuckles, meanwhile, is probably the most versatile character; he can glide, climb up walls, and bash through certain walls to reach entirely new areas (and bosses) that are unique to him. He is, however, the game’s “hard mode” as he is noticably slower than his two counterparts and his jump is much shorter. As in Sonic 2, the game gives you the option of selecting how to play, this time from its innovative and unique save state menu; while you’re limited to choosing between either Sonic or Knuckles in Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3 (and Sonic 3 & Knuckles) allows you to pick between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Sonic and Tails (who, thankfully, is far more useful this time around thanks to his expanded moveset and the game’s new Special Stages). As always, though, you can collect Golden Rings to protect you from harm, earning extra lives for every one hundred and activating Starposts to create a checkpoint and enter the new Bonus Stages if you’re holding a certain number of Rings.

Every Zone is packed with gimmicks but none were more infamous than Carnival Night’s barrel!

Speed is a far greater aspect of Sonic 3 & Knuckles; while the first game heavily promoted how fast and powerful it was, it really wasn’t until Sonic 3 & Knuckles that Sonic Team actually delivered on that promise. Zones are massive, filled with slopes, loops, springs, and all kinds of nifty, unique new mechanics to rocket you forwards. You’ll jump from crumbling (or disappearing) platforms, swing from vines, rush down waterways, bash through walls, teleport across the Zone, and be transported through the air through a number of fast-paced and exciting new mechanics. Each Zone has a unique gimmick to it that is implemented in a far more impressive and engaging manner: Angel Island Zone catches fire halfway through, Marble Garden Zone sees you using pulleys and spinning tops to navigate vertically and desperately trying to outrun the collapsing environment, Sandopolis Zone features a variety of new sand-based mechanics before having you frantically search out for light switches to scare off ghosts, and Sky Sanctuary Zone has you teleporting around, jumping from crumbling platforms, and bouncing from fluffy clouds. Every Zone is densely packed with features and innovative gimmicks, far more than any previous Sonic title, and perhaps none so infamous as Carnival Night Zone’s notorious barrel. I won’t be arrogant enough to say that this barrel wasn’t an obstacle for me back in the day but I don’t have nearly as many bad memories of it as some do; through trial and error, I think I slipped past it easily enough but the solution is simplicity in itself: simply stand still and press up and down alternatively until it lowers enough for you to continue on.

Zones are huge, with multiple paths and areas exclusive to certain characters.

Although the games do have a far greater emphasis on speed, there are still a few slower sections and small puzzles for you figure out; generally, these are as simple as pressing a switch to lower water, reverse gravity, or open doors but, other times, you’ll be blocked off by unbreakable walls or tossed to new areas by Knuckles. There’s always another way around in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, though, no matter who you’re playing as or what you’re up against; balloons allow you to bounce yourself to higher areas in Carnival Night Zone, for example, and you can cause sand to fill the pyramid tomb of Sandopolis Zone Act 2 to progress further (though be careful as you’re just as likely to get crushed if you dawdle). Additionally, you have some returning concerns to be aware of, such as spikes, bottomless pits, and drowning if you linger underwater too long without a shield or grabbing an air bubble. Gameplay is fast and full of variety thanks to the dense nature of the Zones and their many gimmicks but there are a few aspects from Sonic 2 that don’t make the cut, unfortunately; Sonic’s biplane, the Tornado, only shows up in cutscenes, for example. However, things do get mixed up considerably when you reach Lava Reef Zone; not only is this Zone a mixture of lava-based hazards and a crystal-infested cave, it also wildly differs depending on which character you play as. Sonic and Tails will have to play through two Acts, culminating in the reactivation of the Death Egg and a tense battle against Eggman, before proceeding on to the long-awaited Hidden Palace Zone to go head-to-dread against Knuckles. Play as Knuckles, though, and you’ll face no boss in Lava Reef and Hidden Palace is little more of a transitional Zone to take you to Sky Sanctuary Zone, where Knuckles’ game culminates in a final showdown with Mecha Sonic.

There are some bugs and glitches that can see characters reach areas they shouldn’t.

Indeed, the narrative of Sonic 3 & Knuckles differs depending on which game you play; if you play the combined game, the story is far more cohesive, tracking Sonic and Tails across Angel Island, battling Eggman, dealing with (and eventually allying with) Knuckles, and finally returning Angel Island to the sky. Knuckles’ story, though, takes place after the end of the game no matter which version you play; this means his Zones are presented slightly differently, with the background changing to show the island is in the sky, and he faces a vengeful Eggrobo and the aforementioned Mecha Sonic rather than Dr. Eggman. This, in addition to the myriad of different paths Knuckles’ abilities afford him, means that playing as Knuckles offers a slightly different experience in a variety of ways since you won’t face the same obstacles as Sonic and Tails (or you will, but in different ways). Obviously, no game is perfect and Sonic 3 & Knuckles is no exception; occasionally, you’ll go so fast that you’ll out-run the camera, potentially falling victim to one of Eggman’s “secret traps” (or, more accurately, running into a kill zone or causing the game to soft-lock). You can also use glitches and manipulate the game to have characters enter areas they normally can’t but, personally, I never really ran into anything like this in a normal playthrough. Thanks to Sonic 3 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles’ unique save feature, you were able to have multiple save states back in the day, which made completing the game and collecting the Chaos Emeralds easier than ever as you could just jump into any Zone whenever you liked. This feature was, unfortunately, missing in Sonic & Knuckles, which did make that game a bit more difficult back in the day as you would have to complete it in one sitting, but, while the Xbox Live version of the game doesn’t recreate the expansive save state features of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, you do get three save slots for each game to, at least, reduce Sonic & Knuckles’ difficulty a bit.

Graphics and Sound:
For my money, Sonic 3 & Knuckles is not only the best 2D Sonic game of its time but also the best looking and sounding; Zones are absolutely huge and full of life and little elements to really make them stand out. No two Acts of any Zone are the same as the environment will change (sometimes subtly, sometimes explicitly) between Acts: Angel Island Zone bursts into flame, Mushroom Hill Zone changes seasons, Ice Cap Zone switches from a mountain top to a frozen sea, the Death Egg looms in the background of Launch Base Zone Act 1, takes off in Act 2, and sits ominously in Lava Reef Zone Act 2 (notably it is missing when playing as Knuckles since his story takes place after Sonic and Tails’s), and Death Egg Zone has been ungraded from a mere elaborate corridor to a twisting, mechanical nightmare of futuristic paths and technology and gravity-shifting mechanics.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles‘ level variety is second to none!

No doubt about it, Sonic 3 & Knuckles features some of my favourite Zones ever; from the aforementioned Marble Garden Zone to Ice Cap Zone, with its unique and breathtaking snowboarding sequence, to the bouncy goodness of Mushroom Hill and the exciting dread of Lava Reef Zone. Even Zones that are more annoying, like Hydrocity Zone, are fun to play through since they look great, are fast-paced, and are filled with interesting gimmicks to keep you moving forward. The game expands and improves upon numerous mechanics from its predecessors, too; while Wing Fortress Zone was decent enough in Sonic 2, Flying Battery Zone takes everything that worked in that Zone and expands upon it, making it feel much more alive and engaging. While Carnival Night Zone isn’t quite as iconic as Casino Night Zone, I actually prefer it for its music, presentation, changing landscape, and better implementation of gimmicks. It’s not like the “casino” theme was completely abandoned either as it shows up, merged expertly with the rotating Special Stage mechanic of the first game, in one of the game’s two all-new Bonus Stages.

Cutscenes and Act/Zone transitions tell the game’s story and help connect its world.

Additionally, Sonic 3 & Knuckles has, hands down, my favourite Special Stage design ever. Gone are the annoying, rotating mazes and cumbersome half-pipes of its predecessors, replaced with an eye-catching spherical design that has you collecting Blue Spheres, avoiding Red Spheres, and, despite some noticeable slowdown and the Stages increasing in speed and difficulty the more you play, these Stages are, by far, the easiest of the classic 2D Sonic titles, which only increases their appeal to me. Probably the best thing about Sonic 3 & Knuckles is its heavy inclusion of cutscenes, all of which perfectly convey the game’s simple (but far more detailed) story through the simple use of pantomime and music. The game opens immediately after the ending of Sonic 2, with Super Sonic flying alongside the Tornado and crashing head-first into Knuckles, who swipes the Chaos Emeralds and runs off with a chuckle. Knuckles reappears at numerous points throughout Sonic and Tails’ story to cause them havoc, activating switches and traps to cause them to fall or be blasted into the next Zone. Even when he’s not present, there is usually a means for the characters to progress to the next Zone, which really makes it feel as though the games (and the island) are linked together in a cohesive way. Not only that but, when you clear Act 1, the next Act immediately loads from that spot without cutting away, giving a sense of the scale of the game’s Zones.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles has probably the best soundtrack of the classic 2D titles.

Characters and sprites are more detailed than ever; Sonic is easily the most noticeably different, now far pudgier and sporting adorably oversized hands and feet, but each has their own idle animation to encourage you to get back to the game and the game’s Badniks and bosses are some of the most impressive and detailed yet, with each taking full advantage of their unique environment. And then there’s the soundtrack; originally composed by famed pop star Michael Jackson, the soundtrack was hastily reworked after SEGA cut their ties to Jackson but similarities between the games tracks and Jackson songs can still be identified. Regardless, both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles have fantastic soundtracks, full of energy and unique themes not only for the Zones and bosses but also for Knuckles. Sadly, Sonic 3 & Knuckles utilises Sonic & Knuckles’ soundtrack rather than Sonic 3’s (which is superior, in my opinion), and the game’s music is often altered when it is ported for other systems, but that doesn’t stop it from being easily the best and most memorable of all the classic 2D Sonic games.

Enemies and Bosses:
As always, you’ll have to contend with Eggman’s Badniks; although still quite cute to look at, these Badniks look more dangerous than ever but are, in actual fact, no more aggressive or dangerous than in previous games. Their placement is much improved over Sonic 2 and their level of difficulty both escalates and drops as you progress due to the nature of Sonic 3 & Knuckles being two games spliced together.

Badniks and hazards are more deadly than ever, often using the environment against you.

This means that you’ll be merrily bouncing off of Rhinobots in Angel Island Zone, dodging Turbo Spiker’s rocket-powered spike in Hydrocity Zone, and timing your attacks to bust open Pointdexter when playing through Sonic 3 and then back to smashing open relatively harmless enemies like Butterdroid and Madmole once you land in Mushroom Hill Zone before you frantically try to smash apart Toxomister before its Ring-draining cloud chokes you to death. As if that isn’t enough, many Badniks and hazards use your enivonment against you; Cluckoid blows a wind to keep you back (often trapping you in a nearby sticky vine in the process), hazards can freeze you into a block of ice, Rock’n can only be damage with a Spin Dash attack, and Chainspikes will try to impale you on their razor sharp chains. Additionally, you’ll also encounter ghosts in Sandopolis Zone that grow increasingly aggressive as the lights dim darker and can only be dissipated by turning the lights up full. Helpfully, though, the game’s many shields (and Sonic’s Insta-Shield) can not only repel enemy projectiles but you’ll also be able to use Spiker’s spikes as a spring to bounce away from danger.

To mix things up a bit, you’ll have to face a mini boss at the end of every first Act.

In a change of pace from the previous two games, you’ll also have to battle a mini boss at the end of every first Act before you can reach the goal post and clear the Act. These range from a hovering, flame-spewing tank to a tree-chopping robot and a sentient animal capsule. Perhaps having learned something from the unique bosses of Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), these mini bosses (and the game’s main bosses) require a little more thought that just ramming head-first into them; Hydrocity Zone’s mini boss, for example, rockets around the arena and sucks you up in a whirlpool and can only be damaged when its rockets stop spinning, and Launch Base Zone has you take on two mini bosses at once, each one attacking you (and protecting itself) with a mace-like chain that only speeds up with its partner is destroyed.

Mini bosses generally require a bit more strategy than just “jump and attack”.

Similarly, if you try to blindly attack Sandopolis Zone’s golem, you’ll just get hurt, so you need to attack its head and force it into quicksand to dispose of it, and you’ll find the only way to destroy Flying Battery Zone’s mini boss is to trick it into attacking itself. Probably the game’s most troublesome mini boss (at least, for me) is the mechanical Cyclops you battle in Death Egg Zone; essentially an upgraded version of the Wing Fortress Zone boss, this mini boss has you ramming a giant eye, watching out for explosive spikes, and avoiding spinning spiked platforms while it tries to fry you with is deadly laser.

After he eludes you in Launch Base Zone, you finally confront Knuckles in Hidden Palace Zone.

When playing as Sonic and Tails, you’ll also have to contend with Knuckles; however, Knuckles only appears in cutscenes to cause you grief and you won’t actually get to go blow-for-blow against him until you reach Hidden Palace Zone. Here, Knuckles with glide, Spin Dash, and jump at you much like the battle against Mecha Sonic from Sonic 2. Simply jump on Knuckles’ head or smack him out of the air a few times and he’ll soon be beaten; afterwards, he is enraged to find Eggman has stolen his coveted Master Emerald and, though, wounded, assists you in reaching Sky Sanctuary Zone. Finally, you have the prerequisite showdowns with Dr. Eggman himself; again, though, Knuckles never actually battles Dr. Eggman; barring glitches, Knuckles will, instead, battle against an Eggrobo but, with a couple of exceptions, battles the same bosses as Sonic and Tails. Eggman isn’t messing around this time; rather than try to smack you with a wrecking ball or run you over in the first battle, Eggman will hide behind a waterfall in Angel Island Zone, blasting at you with flame cannons and generally hovering over a bottomless pit.

The direct approach rarely works in this game as Eggman isn’t playing around this time.

After that, you’ll have to mix up your attack strategies a bit, using whirlpools and explosions in the water to ram into Eggman’s craft in Hydrocity, flying around the screen (or dodging spiked chains) to ram into Eggman’s drill machine in Marble Garden Zone, trying not to get sucked into an electrical field in Carnival Night Zone, watching out for blasts of chilled air in Ice Cap Zone, and dodging massive weighted balls in Launch Base Zone. Eggman’s flame machine returns in Mushroom Hill Zone, this time in a chase boss battle that sees you avoiding spiked hazards and jet blasts in what was, probably, the inspiration for the boss battles of Sonic Advance 2 (Dimps/Sonic Team, 2002). Dr. Eggman’s contraptions are even more formidable as you play through Sonic & Knuckles: he swings around at you in Flying Battery Zone, trying to fry and skewer you at the same time; hides behind a massive laser-spouting golem in Sandopolis Zone; and is completely protected from your standard attacks in my favourite regular boss battle of the base game, the Lava Reef Zone boss. Here, you have to jump from platform to platform, avoiding spiked bombs and trying not to fall into lava as Eggman tries to tip you towards him. The Flame Shield really helps in this battle as it allows you to stand on the lava and just hop over the bombs until they send Eggman packing.

Eggman hops into his deadliest Death Egg Robot yet for the penultimate battle!

When playing Sonic 3, you’ll face something of a gauntlet in Act 2 as you’ll have to battle Eggman in Launch Base Zone, knock the smirk of Knuckles’ face in a cutscene, before facing Eggman in two separate contraptions on the outskirts of the Death Egg. The first machine is pretty simple (dodge his lasers and ram him when the little electric ball isn’t blocking your attack) but the second is one of my favourite boss battles of 2D Sonic (with a kick-ass, ominous track to boot). This sees Eggman jump into his “Big Arm” Egg-O-Matic and fly across the screen trying to land on you, grab you, and pound the Rings (or life) out of you. He also flies along the bottom of the screen trying to skewer you with his spikes and the only way to damage him is with a well-timed jump to his cockpit but, once you do, the Death Egg will crash again (this time in the Lava Reef Zone’s volcano) and you can move on to the Sonic & Knuckles portion of the game. Note that when Knuckles faces this boss, it’s in the actual Launch Base Zone as, in his story, the Death Egg is completely absent from the Zone since it’s already been destroyed. When playing as Sonic and Tails, you’ll travel to the Death Egg Zone and battle Eggman in a far bigger, more intimidating and dangerous version of his Death Egg Robot mech. This is, essentially, a three-stage boss battle; first, you have to avoid being squashed by its fingers, destroying them one (or two, if you time your jumps right) at a time. Once its fingers are destroyed, it chases you from the left side of the screen, destroying the platform you’re on and trying to fry you with flames from its nostrils. You’ll have to jump over these flames and smack it in the nose to expose its Master Emerald power core (and weak spot); however, Eggman also charges a screen-filling laser blast from the Master Emerald that you’ll have to watch out for and you’re constantly at risk of falling or slipping to your death.

Although Sonic and Tails battle him three times, it’s up to Knuckles to put down Mecha Sonic.

Once you’ve landed the final hit, be sure to angle your jump back to the platform; now, you have to chase after Eggman as he flees with the Master Emerald, ramming him as you go until he is defeated while desperately trying to not bounce or fall as the platform crumbles behind you. If you’re playing as Knuckles, though, you won’t get to experience this battle or the game’s final Zone; instead, you face Mecha Sonic in Sky Sanctuary Zone. Mecha Sonic acts as Sonic and Tails’s mini boss in Sky Sanctuary Zone, appearing three times; in the first, he’s in Eggman’s wrecking ball machine from the first game, then he jumps into the Metropolis Zone bubble machine from Sonic 2, before essentially recreating the battle against his namesake from Sonic 2. Knuckles, though, has to face a powered-up Mecha Sonic, who absorbs power from the Master Emerald to turn into Super Metal Sonic; faster, invulnerable, and blasting both large energy bolts and weird ring-things at you, Super Mecha Sonic can only be damaged when he reverts to his base form, which gives you a small (very small) window to ram him once (maybe twice) before he powers back up.

Grab all of the game’s Emeralds to pursue Eggman through the atmosphere as Super/Hyper Sonic!

Collect all seven Chaos Emeralds in Sonic & Knuckles (or all seven plus the seven Super Emeralds in Sonic 3 & Knuckles), and you’ll get access to the game’s true final Zone, the Doomsday Zone. Here, Super/Hyper Sonic must fly through the asteroid-littered atmosphere in pursuit of Eggman, who fires missiles and bullets at you, all while racing against the clock as your Rings are continuously drained in these forms. Luckily, Rings are scattered throughout the atmosphere and you can dash ahead by pressing A but it can be very tricky to manoeuvre as not only are asteroids blocking your path, Eggman’s bullets and missiles can send you flying back a ways and Eggman can only initially be damaged by causing his homing missiles to crash into his cockpit. Once you’ve done this enough times, he’ll escape in his Death Egg Robo mech and be finally vulnerable to your head-on attacks but, again, you have to be careful to not let asteroids and projectiles slow you down and be sure to grab any Rings you see or else you’ll fall to your death in seconds.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As is the tradition in Sonic titles, numerous computer monitors are scattered throughout the game’s Zones. Smashing these monitors will award you with such rewards as ten extra Rings, an extra life, a speed up, or an invincibility but don’t go blindly rushing in to break every monitor you see as there are special new Eggman monitors which, when broken, will damage you.

While all the characters can grab the elemental shields, only Sonic can utilise their full potential.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles mixes things up with the inclusion of three elemental shields; the Water Shield (which keep you from drowning), the Flame Shield (which protects you from flames and lava), and the Lightning Shield (which attracts Rings to you and protects you from electrical hazards). In an interesting piece of realism, the latter two shields will be lost if you jump into water and, while all three characters can acquire these shields, only Sonic can get the most out of them. Grabbing each one as Sonic replaces his Insta-Shield with a new ability (the bounce, flame burst, and double-jump, respectively) which more than makes up for his inability to fly, climb, or swim.

Additional Features:
While both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles come with a handful of Achievements to earn, you sadly don’t get to earn any additional Achievements for playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Still, these Achievements are pretty standard fare for the Xbox Sonic ports, featuring such requirements as finishing the game, reaching certain Zones, collecting one (and all) of the Chaos Emeralds, or collecting a certain number of Rings. Thankfully, there are no timed Achievements this time so you don’t have to worry about finishing the game in under an hour or beating certain Zones in a certain time, but this does make getting all of each game’s Achievements incredibly easy As is the tradition, each character can access the game’s Special Stages to try and earn one of the Chaos Emeralds.

Every character gets a flashy Chaos power-up this time around.

You may be tempted to leap into the sparkling halo found when you pass a Starpost with certain Rings but this simply brings you to one of three Bonus stages (where you can earn extra Rings, lives, shields, continues, and bump up your score); instead, hidden throughout the game’s Zones are a number of Giant Rings. Once you find one of these Rings and jump into it, you’ll have to collect every single Blue Sphere to earn a Chaos Emerald. These Blue Sphere Special Stages speed up the longer you’re inside them to make things more difficult and increase in difficulty as you progress, throwing more maze-like constructions in your way and peppering your path with instant-fail Red Spheres. Still, there’s no time limit to worry about and Tails doesn’t cause you any trouble like he did in Sonic 2; plus, there’s only a few Special Stages where a wrong move can cause you hassle and, thanks to the game’s save state feature (in all versions of the games), you can easily return to one of the earlier Zones and retry for a Chaos Emerald as often as you need. Because of this, Special Stages are only really difficult when playing the base Sonic & Knuckles as Sonic since there was no save feature in the original version and, even now, it’s harder to find the elusive Giant Rings with Sonic’s more grounded moveset. Once you collect all seven Chaos Emeralds, both Sonic and Knuckles can transform into Super Sonic or Super Knuckles after collecting fifty Rings and jumping. This will make them invincible and super fast but will drain their Rings over time (and, of course, they can still drown, be crushed, or fall to their deaths). Once you clear Launch Base Zone, you’ll be stripped of your Chaos Emeralds and will have to power them up into Super Emeralds by clearing seven more Special Stages. This allows Sonic and Knuckles to become Hyper Sonic and Hyper Knuckles and allows Tails to become Super Tails. In these forms, characters are even faster and have additional abilities (Hyper Sonic also glows like a rainbow and can dash ahead, Hyper Knuckles can shake the screen to destroy Badniks by gliding into walls, and Super Tails is surrounded by similarly-powered-up Flickies that home in on enemies and bosses to deal additional damage).

Compete in the game’s somewhat-improved multiplayer mode or access addition features with the”Lock-On” feature.

Sonic 3 also comes with a multiplayer component that allows a second player to play as Tails alongside Sonic, as in Sonic 2, or two players to go head-to-head as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles in the game’s split screen mode. While this is nowhere near as awful as Sonic 2’s thanks to the screen not being stretched to ugly proportions, it is very zoomed out and Knuckles is missing his moveset, though you are able to play through five unique Zones in three different match types (Grand Prix, Match Race, and Time Attack). Sadly, though, this mode (and a playable Tails) is absent from Sonic & Knuckles. As mentioned before, the Xbox Live version of these games doesn’t allow for the original save feature but it does come with three save states for each game and access to online leaderboards. Owning both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles not only allows you to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles but also gives you access to the “Blue Sphere” mini game to take on a near-infinite number of the game’s Special Stages and, best of all, if you also purchase Sonic 2, you’ll be able to play as Knuckles in that game too.

The Summary:
I love Sonic 2, don’t get me wrong, but Sonic 3 is worlds better in every single way and Sonic 3 & Knuckles is just about as perfect a 2D Sonic game as you can get. Certainly, for me, this combined title is the quintessential 2D Sonic title, with only Sonic Mania Plus (PagodaWest Games/Headcannon, 2018) coming close to matching the scope and entertainment offered by Sonic 3 & Knuckles. With massive Zones, loads of gimmicks and tweaks that pretty much perfected Sonic’s gameplay, a fantastic soundtrack, some of the most detailed and animated graphics of the 16-bit era, and a simple but wonderfully well told story, Sonic 3 & Knuckles is the complete package for any self-respecting Sonic fan. Blisteringly fast, with loads of replay value and additional features to keep you coming back for more, the only thing keeping Sonic 3 & Knuckles from being infallible is SEGA’s inability to release a proper remaster of the title for a new generation of players.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

How do you feel about Sonic 3 & Knuckles? Which of the two games did you prefer? What did you think about Sonic & Knuckles’ “Lock-On” technology? Where do you rank the games against Sonic’s other 2D titles? Perhaps you prefer a different 2D Sonic game; if so, which is it and why? How did you feel about Knuckles upon his debut, the new Super forms introduced in this game, and would you have liked to have played as Sonic and Knuckles or Tails and Knuckles? Would you like to see a remaster of the title? How are you celebrating the anniversary of Sonic 3’s release today? Whatever your thoughts, please feel free to share them and your memories of Sonic 3 & Knuckles below.

New Sonic Adventures

NSALogo

New Sonic Adventures was a series of sprite comics I made between 2002 and 2006 and published online using Tripod and Angelfire sites. As a life-long fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, I had always yearned to tell my own Sonic stories and to present my own version of events surrounding Sonic and his ever-growing cast of characters. As a child, this was realised through numerous crude-to-mediocre drawings and comics but, after seeing the wide variety of sprite comics out there, I eventually turned to using sprites to realise my vision. Making a sprite comic isn’t easy, and I learned more tricks and became better at it with each comic I made. My earliest attempts were hampered by my limited knowledge of picture software and limited tools. As a result, I would type up scripts in Word and then use Paint to put everything together.

My first comic was restricted by the fact that I was new to the process, young, and stupid (I didn’t even know about the transparency function in Paint, meaning that I had to fill in the blank white spaces around every sprite!) However, as I progressed, the process became faster and easier and I ended up using Word tools and Jasc Paint Shop Pro to create more complex effects and flourishes to subsequent entries. I also started to piece together my own backgrounds and sprite art; as new Sonic characters were being introduced faster than the sprite community was willing to create new sheets of sprites, I would be forced to create sprite characters from very limited work available in order to progress my narrative. What began as quite a simple concept that sought to mash together all aspects of Sonic’s complex different interpretations soon spiralled out of control into an entirely different interpretation of the character, one that became far removed from the source material despite my initial aims to be more true to it than other adaptations. My comics became influenced by anime (particularly Dragonball Z and the first Pokémon movie), movies (the Matrix trilogy and Star Wars saga, for instance), and other sources to eventually take on a life all of its own.

Eventually, as time wore on and my priorities turned elsewhere, I drew my series to a close with one final comic. However, I had ideas mapped out for a whole series of spin-offs and continuations and even completed two whole parts and a sizeable third of a whole new entry in the series, including a website and commentary, but never finished the project or made it available online as I focused on my academic achievements. Still, I was able to finish the series with a conclusion and even revisited my first two entries and applied some of my more advanced techniques to make them more professional and presentable and to address some continuity issues in those early entries. Although I don’t promote the series at all any more, I’d still like to use this page to showcase what was once a big project in my life.

BFTCE

The first entry in the series, Battle for the Chaos Emeralds, provides a unique origin for Doctor Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik and, drawing from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, tells the first adventure of Sonic and Tails as they meet Knuckles for the first time and team up to stop Robotnik from turning his Death Egg against their home. Some time later, I produced a revamp of this comic with the Remastered Emerald Edition, in which I applied my now-well-crafted sprite comic techniques and made the comic far more presentable.

TTSS

This was followed by the four-part Time Stone Saga, which was inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog CD, Knuckles’ Chaotix, Sonic 3D: Flickie’s Island, Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble, Sonic Advance, and Sonic Advance 2. This comic saw me switch to using the Advance sprites for the main characters, which were much easier to edit and allowed for far more emotions and actions, and utilise a sequential narrative format that saw Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and their friends split up into four separate quests to retrieve the legendary Time Stones before Robotnik can use their power for evil. Again, I later revamped all four parts with the Remastered Time Stone Edition, which, again, corrected many of my earlier errors and also provided additional material.

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The third entry, Perfect Chaos, was where my series really started evolving into its own entity as I mashed together the narratives of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 to introduce Shadow to the series. Faced with the team-up between Robotnik, Metal Sonic, and Shadow, Sonic and his friends must attempt to stop them from resurrecting an ancient evil, Chaos, and destroying the world.

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I then returned to the sequential format with the four-part Chaos Ring Saga, which is where the Dragonball Z influences really start taking prominence. After learning of the ancient Chaos Rings, Robotnik seeks to gather them and regain control over the planet with their power. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles race to find them first and awaken their latent Chaos Emerald powers before running a deadly gauntlet of Robotnik’s most fearsome creations.

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The five-part Sonic Heroes saga sought to return the series to a more simplistic, less-convoluted narrative that was closer to the videogame source material. In this loose adaptation of the titular videogame, Team Sonic, Team Rose, Team Chaotix, and Team dark are each lured into a trap by Robotnik that sees them come face-to-face with the deranged robotic menace, Metal Sonic.

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Sonic Battle: Metal Ragnorak continues and ultimately concludes this narrative; inspired by Sonic Battle and Sonic Advance 3, with strong influences of the Matrix trilogy, Sonic is forced into a final confrontation with his metallic doppelgänger that sees an army of Metal Sonics lay siege to his home and the fate of the planet placed in an intense confrontation between Super Metal Sonic and Super Sonic.

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Finally, the series draws to a close with Sonic: Liberty where, in true Return of the Jedi fashion, Eggman has rebuilt his Death Egg satellite and is preparing to transform the entire planet into a mechanical monstrosity. Faced with this world-ending threat, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles must align with some unlikely allies to realise their destiny and end Robotnik’s threat once and for all.

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But it doesn’t end there! A series of spin-offs expand the series beyond the main entries and bring life to this unique Sonic continuity:

After being introduced in Perfect Chaos, the backstory and continued adventures of Shadow are explored in the Tales of Shadow series: Chaos Control explores how Shadow first came to be in ancient times and his first confrontation with the unstoppable Chaos; Marooned details how Shadow has been operating between the events of Battle for the Chaos Emeralds and the Time Stone Saga to orchestrate some key events in the series; The Return of Chaos details the discovery and devastating first appearance of the mysterious Gizoid, Emerl, and sees the immortal Shadow team up with his biomechanical clone to tackle the renewed threat of Chaos and its disastrous confrontation with Emerl; finally, Residual Chaos sees Shadow battle the merciless Wechidna and tells the final tragic story in Shadow’s life.

Probably the comic I’m least proud of, Chaotix: Roots explores the origins and first meetings of the Chaotix Detective Agency as Vector, Espio, Mighty, and Charmy team-up with Ray to escape the clutches of a renegade bounty hunter.

Finally, Sonic Battle: I, Metal tells the story of the series up to the point of Sonic Battle: Metal Ragnorak entirely from the perspective of Metal Sonic, allowing for not only a unique take on the events that have transpired but also an in-depth look into exactly how Metal Sonic gained sentience and formulated a complex plan to finally gain the power needed to face his biological counterpart equally.

If you’d like to learn more about sprite comics, or even create your own, try visiting websites like the Spriter’s Resource or the Shyguy Kingdom. I’m not sure how active the community is any more; back when I first started, it was really vocal, busy, and rampant but progress on new sprites and sprite projects seemed to die out over time. However, the resources are out there if you look hard enough.

Game Corner: Sonic Adventure 2 (Xbox 360)

GameCorner
SA2Logo

Released: October 2012
Originally Released: June 2001
Developer: Sonic Team USA
Also Available For: Dreamcast, GameCube, PC, PlayStation 3

The Background:
After Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998) finally brought Sonic into the third dimension and proved to be a rousing success, despite a few flaws, Sonic Team passed development of the sequel over to their US branch. Drawing inspiration from their surroundings, the team infused the sequel with a much greater focus on action, speed, and realism than before, making the game feel decidedly more “Western” than its predecessor. Ironically, Sonic Adventure 2 actually dialled down on the “adventure” aspects of its predecessor but featured, perhaps, the darkest and most science-fiction-orientated story in the series thus far, a decision that would impact the franchise, for better or for worse, for years to come. I’ve talked about Sonic Adventure more than once in the past but, despite it being one of my favourites in the Sonic the Hedgehog (1991 to present) franchise, I actually played its sequel first. I never owned a Dreamcast as a kid as I hedged my bets on the Nintendo 64 so, when I decided to get a GameCube, one of the first two games I got was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (Sonic Team USA, 2002) and it actually took me a while to acclimatise to Sonic Adventure’s radically different gameplay and presentation when I bought Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut (Sonic Team, 2003). However, while Sonic fans (notoriously one of the worst fanbases in all of fandom) have recently turned on this game in favour of, of all things, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (ibid, 2006), it’s always been a favourite of mine, to the point where I’ve bought it on GameCube, PlayStation 3, and, now, the Xbox 360 version for Xbox One.

The Plot:
Sonic the Hedgehog finds himself a fugitive on the run from the Guardian Units of Nations (G.U.N.) after security footage appears to show him stealing a Chaos Emerald from a G.U.N. facility. In actuality, the culprit is the mysterious Shadow the Hedgehog, the self-proclaimed “ultimate lifeform” who has been released by Sonic’s long-term nemesis, Doctor Eggman, to help the mad scientist harness the power of the long-defunct Space Colony ARK and hold the world the ransom.

Gameplay:
Sonic Adventure 2 is a 3D action platformer first and foremost that, like its predecessor, divides its core gameplay into a series of distinct gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, while Sonic Adventure offered six unique playable characters, each with their own distinct style of play, Sonic Adventure 2 features six playable characters who share gameplay styles with their counterparts.

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Each story has three characters that play almost exactly like their counterparts.

As soon as you begin the game, you’re given the option not to select a character but to select a story; if you pick the “Hero” story, you’ll play through the game’s story from the perspective of Sonic, Miles “Tails” Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and Amy Rose but, when you pick the “Dark” story, you’ll witness the events from the perspective of newcomers Shadow and Rouge the Bat and, for the first time in the series, Dr. Eggman! Whichever story you pick, you’ll play through the narrative, switching back and forth between the hero- and dark-side characters as the narrative directs.

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The game’s three playstyles are spread between the six characters.

If you’ve played Sonic Adventure, you’ll be immediately familiar with the three playstyles of this sequel: Sonic and Shadow play at high speeds, racing through stages that are designed like fast-paced rollercoasters, Knuckles and Rouge glide, climb, and dig as they explore for shards of the Master Emerald, and Tails and Eggman stomp around in massive mechs, blasting robots with their weaponry. The developers lost the slower pace of Amy and Big’s gameplay and the races that Tails had to complete in the original and focused on these three distinct playstyles, which was good for those who disliked the slower, less exciting gameplay of the last game, but not so good when it comes to character variety.

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The Hero and Dark characters are functionally identical to control.

Essentially, there’s very little difference between Sonic and Shadow, Knuckles and Rouge, or Tails and Eggman; they get to explore different stages (or, at least, different versions of stages) and obviously look and sound different, with different objectives, but they share the same basic move set. Both Sonic and Shadow can fly along rows of Golden Rings using the Light Speed Dash (which, thankfully, no longer needs to be charged) and use the Homing Attack to smash robots, Knuckles and Rouge explore their stages in the same way and attack enemies with either punches or kicks, and Tails and Eggman can both hover and lock on to multiple enemies at once. It’s fun experiencing the story from the bad guys’ perspective for a change but it’s a bit of a shame that the characters don’t have more to distinguish them from their counterparts.

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Shadow was a dark, edgy character in a dark, edgy story.

The game’s narrative is perhaps the most elaborate yet; after releasing Shadow, Eggman teams up with him and Rouge to gather the Chaos Emeralds and power up the long-abandoned Space Colony ARK. Eggman’s grandfather, Professor Gerald Robotnik, created the ARK fifty years ago and designed Shadow to be the ultimate lifeform; using a Chaos Emerald, Shadow can instantly teleport great distances at high speeds, making him more than a match for Sonic, and Eggman uses his abilities to threaten the entire world with the ARK’s Eclipse Cannon. Shadow, in his debut appearance, would go on to become one of the series’ most recognisable characters, for better or for worse, and has, arguably, never been characterised better than he was here: haunted by fractured memories of his time on the ARK, Shadow has his own agenda for revenge against the world but ultimately his story becomes one of redemption.

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How anyone mistakes Shadow for Sonic I’ll never know…

At the same time, the story is as ridiculous as ever; to stop Eggman from stealing the Master Emerald, Knuckles willingly smashes it into pieces, which is probably the most arbitrary reason to recreate his gameplay from the last game that I could think of. I would have much preferred Knuckles and Rouge’s stages to involve searching for different items or treasures each time rather than search for the pieces of the Master Emerald yet again. Similarly, for some reason I’ll never understand, everyone in the game mistakes Shadow for Sonic and vice versa; even characters like Amy Rose and Eggman think Shadow is Sonic despite the fact that they couldn’t look more different if they tried.

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Rather than using hub worlds, you navigate a map screen outside of the story mode.

Rather than expanding and refining the hub world concept of Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2’s story plays out one scene and stage after another. If you lose all your lives or choose to quit, you can access a stage from a simple map screen; from here, you can replay stages under different criteria in an extension of Sonic Adventure’s “Mission” mode. Completing each mission and successfully obtaining an A-rank on each nets you both an Achievements and a pretty cool unlockable stage…but considering how hard it is to even get an A-rank in the game, it’s going to take a lot of your skill and patience to achieve this goal.

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It takes a lot to get an A-rank in this game!

Unlike other Sonic videogames, rankings in Sonic Adventure 2 aren’t just based on how fast you clear a stage; you also need to be holding a certain number of Golden Rings and have accumulated a high enough score to earn the best rank. You can build your score by destroying enemies, jumping through hoops, racking up combination bonuses in the shooter stages, not using hints in the treasure hunting stages, and pulling off tricks in the running stages using the game’s new grinding mechanic.

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Sonic Adventure 2 introducing grinding to the series and it’s stuck around ever since.

For the first time in Sonic’s long history, SEGA actually incorporated some prominent product placement into Sonic Adventure 2; billboards for Soap shoes were everywhere in the original and Sonic’s iconic shoes were redesigned in conjunction with this brand to allow him to grind on rails. Shadow can also grind and, while this mechanic is more prevalent in some stages than others, it’s not as obtrusive as you might think. It’s pretty simple to pull off, to; you leap onto a rail, ideally with some momentum behind you, and hold down B to crouch and gain speed; in later stages, you’ll have to pull off jumps to other rails but it’s a very fun, fast-paced experience.

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Stage gimmicks can be frustrating at times.

Each stage is filled with multiple paths, some of them only accessible using some of the game’s hidden power-ups. If you want to get the best time, score, and rank when playing, you’ll have to take advantage of these alternate routes, which can be difficult. While the game’s controls are decent and improved for the better over its predecessor, the camera can still be jerky at the worst of times, characters have a tendency to slip off platforms and ledges to their deaths down the game’s many (many!) bottomless pits, annoying stage hazards (floors that fall or crumble beneath you, weights that squash you, and even airlocks that flush you out into space!) crop up in every stage, and enemies just love leaping out in your face at a moment’s notice. While Knuckles and Rouge are limited to finding one Emerald shard at a time (unless you’ve played enough to take an educated guess about where to look) and their later space stages can be frustrating, Eggman and Tails don’t have to worry about racing against a time limit like E-102γ “Gamma” did (though it is odd to see Tails stuck inside a mech). Also, when playing as Sonic and Shadow, you’ll often perform a somersault, usually to your death, when you mean to perform the Light Dash since they’re both mapped to the same button, which can be frustrating at times.

Graphics and Sound:
While it looks, feels, and sounds very similar to Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2 is quite a step up in terms of graphics. While Sonic and Shadow’s stages aren’t as large or as varied as before, they’re tight, focused, and full of impressive set pieces. In City Escape, for example, you end up being chased by a huge truck that is determined to run you down which is a thrill later surpassed by the excitement of grinding at high speeds through space as you make your way down and through the Space Colony ARK.

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Each stage has its own gimmicks and is packed with little details and cameos.

You’ll also swing, race, and grind through high-speed jungles, explored flooded mines, haunted mountain tops, and even traverse what is basically a 3D recreation of the Death Egg Zone when racing through Crazy Gadget. Each stage is like a short burst of action-orientated fun, featuring different gameplay gimmicks and little details that make them fun to playthrough regardless of which story you’re playing. While Sonic and Shadow’s stages are all about high-octane speed, Knuckles and Rouge’s emphasise exploration and Tails and Eggman’s are also far slower , allowing you to really take in the little details of your surroundings and encouraging exploration.

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The game’s soundtrack is top notch.

Sonic Adventure 2 also has one of the best soundtracks in the entire franchise; while Sonic Adventure remixed, borrowed, or leaned heavily into traditional Sonic themes alongside incorporating punk rock, rap, and other genres for character’s themes, Sonic Adventure 2 doubles down on the rocking tunes and is all the better for it. Featuring three of Crush 40’s best tracks (“Live and Learn”, “Escape from the City”, and a remix of Sonic’s theme song, “It Doesn’t Matter”), each character’s stages is accompanied by a theme befitting that character (Sonic is mostly rock, Rouge is jazz-inspired, Knuckles is rap, Shadow’s is techno-inspired, for example) and helps infuse the stages and the otherwise-similar-playing characters with a real life, energy, and distinctive personality.

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Lip synching has been vastly improved, though the script and delivery is still a bit janky at times.

Once again, the game features an abundance of voice acting; luckily, the lip synching is vastly improved here, meaning that the cutscenes are far less ridiculous to sit through. Unfortunately, the script and delivery still flounders somewhat and the game’s music tends to drown out the character’s words or the characters often talk over each other due to the translated dialogue taking longer to say than the original Japanese. Despite that, though, many of the voice actors from the last game return here and put in some of their best performances; Ryan Drummond will always be my favourite voice for Sonic and both the late, great Deem Bristow and David Humphrey set the standard for Dr. Eggman and Shadow, respectively, that have continued to be emulated to this day.

Enemies and Bosses:
Sonic Adventure featured some of the most unique designs, and redesigns, of the entire series. Eggman’s Badniks were recreated in all their 3D glory and full of character and quirky personality and Chaos was a breath of fresh air in a series that mostly relied on robotic creatures. Sonic Adventure 2, however, drops the ball quite significantly in this arena; every character battles the same, generic G.U.N. robots throughout every stage.

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Words cannot express how much I hate these damn things!

Some stages do feature a few of Eggman’s Badniks but they don’t crop up often enough. Instead, you’re faced with these dull, lifeless cookie-cutter robots that aren’t really much to write home about. That is, of course, until you make it into outer space and on to the Space Colony ARK. Here, you’ll encounter the most annoying enemies in the game: the Artificial Chaos. These watery monstrosities resemble Chaos and have robotic enhancements and, while they’re easily dispatched with a solid shot to their metallic “head”, they can deal serious damage with their elongated limbs and laser blasts, making them extremely irritating enemies to come up against regardless of which character you’re playing as.

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Bosses that aren’t generic G.U.N. mechs are few and far between.

For the most part, Sonic Adventure 2’s boss battles are as lacklustre as the enemies you’ll fight thanks, largely, to them being comprised of G.U.N. mechs. Yet, while none of G.U.N.s creations can match up to the quirkiness of Eggman’s mechs from he previous games or the likes of the gigantic golem that defends his pyramid base, they’re just different enough to show that G.U.N. is capable of putting some effort into their creations.

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You’ll have to face your rival in a couple of battles as well.

The rest of the time, you’ll be battling against your rival in fights somewhat similar to the battle between Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles in the last game; the mechanics have been expanded upon somewhat here, though, in that your enemy puts up a bit more of a fight, taking (and dishing out) decidedly more damage as you battle but the real threat in most of these battles will come from the size of the stage you battle on (or in) and how easy it is for you to fall to your death.

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The Biolizard is easily the game’s most frustrating boss.

Once you defeat Sonic and Shadow for good at the end of both stories, you’ll play through the “Last Story” and battle the game’s most frustrating and annoying boss, the Biolizard. This Shadow-exclusive battle pits you against a massive lizard-like creature that chases you with its gaping mouth or tries to smack you with its tail. When it stops its attack, you can grind up a rail to attack its sole weak point (the life support system on its back) and, as you deal damage, it starts to spit energy blasts at you that you must either try to jump over or somersault under to avoid losing Rings. To make matters worse, you can instantly be sucked to your death if you land in the water between the stage platform and it spawns these really infuriating homing orbs that you must try to avoiding while using the Homing Attack to hit the life support system. Its final attack is easily the worst; this sees you flung helplessly into the air and all you can do is encircle the creature, hope and try to avoid the projectiles, and slowly edge your way closer to deliver the final blow.

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You’ll battle the final boss as both Super Sonic and Super Shadow.

Once defeated, the creature uses Chaos Control to attach itself to the ARK and force it towards the Earth, becoming the game’s final boss, the “Finalhazard”. Sonic and Shadow power-up to their Super forms and battle the creature in space in a fight that, fundamentally, resembles that finale against Perfect Chaos. Super Sonic and Super Shadow have to dash into the pulsating boils that act as the creature’s sole weak point but are constantly swatted away by projectiles and erratic laser blasts. Also, like Perfect Chaos, this final boss is more annoying than challenging as you not only have to try and weave through its defences and hope your attack does damage, you’ll also be fighting against two time limits: linger too long and the Finalhazard will successfully drag the ARK to Earth and you also have to land your attack before you run out of Rings. Your allies often shout at you to “switch characters” when your Rings are running low but, even after all these years, the only way I could switch characters was to hit the creature’s weak spot so that advice is basically useless. As before, you don’t get to play as the Super forms in the main game but this finale does culminate in Shadow giving his life to save the planet, completing his character arc of redemption. Of course, Shadow was too popular to stay dead and SEGA brought him back in the very next game and have bungled fleshing out his character and backstory ever since. But, in this one defining moment, this angst-ridden, haunted little black hedgehog won over a significant portion of the fanbase and still remains a popular character to this day.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
While Sonic Adventure 2 doesn’t feature as many “adventure” elements as its predecessor, you can still acquire power-ups and additional bonuses in each stage: Sonic and Shadow can grab shoes that allow them to Light Speed Dash, rings that let them perform a flaming somersault, bounce, and/or turn enemies into toys that you can throw at other enemies. Knuckles and Rouge grab upgrades that let them dig to find goodies or breathe underwater without fear of drowning, and Tails and Eggman can upgrade their mechs to dish out more damage to enemies and hover across gaps and hazards.

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Find power-ups to obtain new moves, beat stages faster, and earn more Emblems!

As is standard for Sonic titles, you can also acquire additional Golden Rings, health packs (for Tails and Eggman), extra lives, invincibility, and two types of shields (a regular shield and a Ring-attracting electric variant) by breaking or running into item capsules or passing checkpoints in a fast enough time. Additionally, like in Sonic Adventure, every time you beat a stage, boss, or mini game earns you a Sonic Emblem and collecting all of these and will earn you an Achievement and unlock a bonus stage.

Additional Features:
From the game’s “Options” menu, you can choose different character-based themes and backgrounds for the game’s menu screens and even change the spoken dialogue to Japanese if you’re one “those” fans that simply must have the original Japanese dialogue playing during a game. As you might expect, you can also earn a few Achievements when playing the game; unfortunately, there’s not very many on offer here and they’re disappointingly simple to get…for the most part.

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Raise, breed, and care for Chao to unlock new Chao Gardens and Chao items.

As you destroy robots and explore the stages, you’ll find “Chaos Drives” and small animals; when you find a Chao box and smash it open, you’ll obtain a key and, after clearing the stage, will be warped to the Chao World where you can use the Chaos Drives and animals to raise and breed Chao to use in other mini games. The Chao Garden has been expanded somewhat; when you visit from the stage select screen, you can take your Chao to the Chao Kindergarten to purchase new items from the Black Market, leave them in the school to learn songs and tricks, rename them, or get review stats and health. Feeding them Chaos Drives, animals, and different fruits will raise their stats and, eventually, allow them to evolve into a stronger, more adult form. If you primarily used Hero characters when caring for your Chao, you’ll get an Angel Chao, while Dark characters birth a Devil Chao; both unlock an additional Chao Garden themed after Heaven or Hell, respectively.

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Cheer your Chao on as they race or battle each other!

As your Chao’s stats increase, you can have them take part in the Chao Games, a series of races, fights, and mini games to earn you more Sonic Emblems and Achievements. However, as these mini games can be largely luck-based and involve you putting a lot of time and energy into grinding and search for more Chaos Drives, animals, and collecting Golden Rings to buy new items, it can be a very time-consuming process but it’s a nice break from the game’s fast-paced action. Just don’t expect a lot of depth from this mode.

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Complete the story mode’s racing section to unlock a subpar kart racer mini game.

Unlike Sonic Adventure, which featured numerous mini games to break up each character’s story and provide a distraction from the main game, Sonic Adventure 2 only features two other playstyles: a boss rush and a janky little kart racer. In the Hero story, you (as Tails) have to race towards the President’s limo to track Eggman’s broadcast and, in the Dark story, you (as Rouge) chase after Tails to intercept him instead. Once you beat one of these stages, you’ll unlock the Kart Race mini game, where you can play as any of the six main characters in short races made incredibly difficult by the game’s stiff, unresponsive controls. After clearing both stories, you’ll unlock the “Last Story” mode when you play as each of the six playable characters and race to stop the ARK from destroying the world. This culminates in a space battle where you switch between Super Sonic and Super Shadow and take it in turns to ram head-first into the gigantic lizard-like creature known as the Biohazard. Defeating it earns you the game’s true earning, and an Achievement, but not much else; however, if you manage to complete each of the game’s stages with an A-rank, you’ll unlock one of the coolest rewards in the series: a fully 3D recreation of Green Hill Zone!

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Collect every Emblem to unlock Green Hill Zone!

Unfortunately, you can only play this stage as Sonic and I’ve never actually experienced this as it is way too hard to earn those A-ranks and I just couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried. Also new to the game is the multiplayer mode where you and one friend can pick between the game’s playable characters and race or battle against them in a series of stages from the main story. If you purchase the game’s downloadable content, you’ll unlock extra stages and characters for use in this mode; these were all available by default in the GameCube port but it’s still fun to play as Metal Sonic, Tikal, and Chaos in the game’s multiplayer. It’s just a shame that, like in the Sonic Adventure ports, Sonic Team decided to leave out certain playable characters and features from the original Dreamcast version (meaning Big the Cat is relegated to mere blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos in each stage and certain cutscenes, which is a real shame and a massive downgrade from his last appearance).

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The Summary:
Sonic Adventure 2 takes everything that worked in Sonic Adventure and improves upon it; it trims out a lot of the fat and extraneous elements and focuses on the three, distinct, most enjoyable playstyles of the last game, expanding upon them and improving them to make for a much tighter, more responsive and action-orientated experience. While I do miss some of the things this game dropped (the hub worlds and the diverse characters), I do enjoy the many improvements and innovations that debuted in this game. Making the Light Speed Dash a one-button action was a must, expanding Sonic’s world and lore to include more sci-fi elements helped take the series in a different direction and allowed SEGA to actually tell pretty complex and mature stories in their videogames.

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Sonic Adventure 2 refined, and introduced, many mechanics still seen in modern Sonic titles.

While I like the simplicity of the early Sonic titles, I expect a bit more bang for my buck with Sonic’s 3D adventures and Sonic Adventure 2 definitely delivers in that regard, introducing one of the more multifaceted and edgy characters to the series and allowing us to experience events from the bad guys’ perspective for the first time. For many years, Sonic Adventure 2 was the gold standard for the series for many; as SEGA experimenting with different genres and tossed more and more characters and roadblocks into their most popular franchise, fans were clamouring for a return to the Adventure-style formula and the type of gameplay and story of Sonic Adventure 2. While Sonic fans may have lost their mind and turned against this game in recent years, it still holds a special place in my heart; it’s not perfect, obviously, but it’s still fast-paced, high-octane fun and I never fail to have a good time every time I fire it up.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think about Sonic Adventure 2? Which of the two Adventure games is your favourite? Which console did you first play Sonic Adventure 2 on? What did you think about the game’s Light and Dark story options, and playing as the villains for the first time? What are your thoughts on Shadow the Hedgehog, his debut, characterisation, and legacy? Does Sonic Adventure 2 still hold up in your view or do you prefer a different Sonic title? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic Adventure 2, and the Sonic series and characters in general, drop your thoughts below and share them with me.

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: SEGASonic the Hedgehog (Arcade)

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SEGASonicLogo

Released: 1993
Developer: SEGA AM3

A Brief Background:
I may have mentioned this before but, back in the early-nineties, SEGA’s super-speedy blue hedgehog of a mascot was on something of a roll; Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) had finally swayed videogame fans away from the Nintendo Entertainment System then, after the unforgettable and highly marketed release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), Sonic’s status as a cultural icon was cemented.

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I briefly played SEGASonic at SEGA World.

It was amidst the wave of Sonic’s incredible popularity that SEGA decided to develop a Sonic title for the arcades, most likely as the arcade scene was still a popular way of enjoying videogames even with the Console War right on the horizon. Although it wasn’t the first time SEGA tried to get a Sonic arcade game off the ground, SEGASonic the Hedgehog is, perhaps, the most infamous. Featuring the debut of Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel (two characters that were long-forgotten by SEGA until very recently) and forgoing Sonic’s trademark speed, SEGASonic used a trackball to control its three playable characters and was pretty much exclusively released in Japan. I actually got to play the game at SEGA World in London years and years ago, back when that was a thing, but the game has never been officially released or ported to other consoles since quietly disappearing from the arcade scene.

First Impressions:
SEGASonic makes an immediate impression simply through its bright, colourful graphics; the game features a charming cartoon-like aesthetic, featuring some extremely expressive and amusing animations and facial expressions from Sonic and his two friends.

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Sonic, Mighty, and Ray must escape Eggman’s island.

Captured by Doctor Eggman and forced to escape from his hazardous island, players are tasked with battling the game’s awkward trackball controls and navigating seven isometric levels. Generally, players are chased by some kind of hazard (a wall of fire or a drilling machine, for example), must dodge past some kind of blockage (a cage, crumbling paths, or spiked walls and the like), and clamber across monkey bars to escape danger.

SEGASonicVariety
There’s not much difference between Sonic, Mighty, or Ray.

Sonic, Mighty, and Ray all pretty much control exactly the same; no one character is faster than the other, they all have a Spin Attack, and the only real difference between them is the way they animate when performing certain actions (Ray uses his prehensile tail to climb, for example). Each character has a health bar, in a change for the series, which can be refilled by collecting the familiar Golden Rings generously scattered across the game’s maps, all while being chased by Doctor Eggman.

My Progression:
Unfortunately, as SEGASonic hasn’t been re-released or ported to home consoles, the only way to play the game now is using a ROM and an emulator. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the ROM I have for this game is very finicky and prone to crashing; as a result, I didn’t manage to get too far in the game before the emulator crashed and kicked me out of the game.

SEGASonicBoss
My ROM crashed shortly after this boss.

I’m pretty certain that I managed to clear at least one level when I played the game at SEGA World but, on this playthrough, my ROM conked out on me shortly after clearing Trap Tower. I probably will reload my save state and go back to the game at some point to try and get a bit more playtime out of it but, as much as I love the obscurity and visual presentation of the game, the controls make it quite difficult to play (or, at least, play well).

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I love SEGASonic the Hedgehog; I would be so happy is SEGA got off their asses and made a real effort to put together a real, HD-quality port of the title that integrates modern analogue controls in place of the trackball. It, like Knuckles’ Chaotix (SEGA, 1995), is criminally under-rated, under-looked, and under-valued for its appeal and, considering SEGA loves to port and re-release their classic titles, it literally boggles my mind that we haven’t seen anything from this game in decades. The only thing holding it back from a full-blown replay is the dodgy controls (well, that and that unreliability of the ROM I have…); even when using a trackball, the game is difficult to control but, with analogue controls better and more sensitive than ever, I could see this game being a nice distracting for an hour or so if SEGA were to spruce it up and re-release it.

What do you think of SEGASonic the Hedgehog? What was your favourite of Sonic’s short-lived arcade games? Did you ever go to SEGA World in London? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Game Corner: Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble (Nintendo 3DS)

GameCorner
SonicTripleTroubleLogo

Released: March 2012
Originally Released: November 1994
Developer: M2
Original Developer: Aspect
Also Available For: Game Gear, Gamecube, and PlayStation 2

The Background:
A lot of people forget that, alongside Sonic the Hedgehog’s iconic and much-lauded Mega Drive titles, SEGA also released a fair few Sonic videogames for their 8-bit consoles. The 8-bit versions of Sonic the Hedgehog (Ancient, 1991) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Aspect, 1992) differed considerably from the 16-bit counterparts, featuring entirely different Zones, gameplay gimmicks, and features. While Sonic 2 had almost nothing in common with it’s bigger, better brother, Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos (ibid, 1993) represented Aspect’s first real attempt at a completely original Sonic title. Released in Japan as Sonic & Tails, Sonic Chaos was a major step up from the first 8-bit Sonic, featuring a playable version of Miles “Tails” Prower, bigger and better graphics, and many other upgrades that left its 8-bit predecessors in the dust. After SEGA switched their focus entirely to the Mega Drive, the Master System was abandoned entirely and all subsequent 8-bit Sonic titles were released exclusively on the Game Gear, SEGA’s underrated handheld console. This was also where Sonic & Tails 2, launched outside of Japan as Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble, found its home; while clearly inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994), Sonic & Knuckles (SEGA, 1994), and Sonic the Hedgehog CD (ibid, 1993), Triple Trouble again told a largely original story and represented the pinnacle of Sonic’s foray into 8-bit platforming.

The Plot:
The diabolical Doctor Eggman has accidentally scattered the Chaos Emeralds across the world; he manages to secure one for himself and then trick Sonic’s friendly rival, Knuckles the Echidna, into tracking the remaining Emeralds down. However, Nack the Weasel (known as Fang the Sniper in Japan) is hording the Emeralds inside the Special Stages, resulting in Sonic and Tails having to butt heads with all three in their quest to recover the Chaos Emeralds.

Gameplay:
Like its predecessors, Triple Trouble is a sidescrolling, 2D platformer based on speed. Of all the 8-bit Sonic titles, this is easily the biggest and the fastest; players can choose to play as either Sonic or Tails and journey through the game’s six Zones and each plays a little differently.

Run or fly through Zones as Sonic or Tails and tackle a variety of Special Stages.

Both characters can run, jump, and spin as normal and enter a Spindash by pressing down and A; pressing up and A as Sonic allows him to perform the Strike Dash, a version of the Peel-Out, to blast ahead at full speed. Tails, however, flies instead of performing a Strike Dash and, unlike in Sonic Chaos, Tails can actually access the Special Stages and collect the Chaos Emeralds. Speaking of which, like all 8-bit Sonic titles, Triple Trouble features a unique way of accessing the Special Stages; players must first collect fifty Golden Rings, locate and smash open a Chaos Emerald monitor, then enter the sparkling warp to challenge Nack for a Chaos Emerald. Like Sonic Chaos, each Special Stage offers a different challenge, including bouncing around collecting Rings, piloting the Tornado bi-plane, or navigating a maze.

SonicTripleTroubleNack
Nack acts like a tough guy but is really a pushover.

At the end of each Special Stage, they then battle against Nack, who shows up sporadically throughout Triple Trouble to cause Sonic or Tails headaches, similar to Knuckles in Sonic 3. Despite his cool and unique character design, Nack is more a buffoon and an annoyance than an actual challenge, however. Triple Trouble’s Zones borrow heavily from other Sonic titles and yet still manage to stay relatively unique; Tidal Plant Zone has more than a passing resemblance to Sonic CD’s Tidal Tempest, for example, and Atomic Destroyer Zone is like a combination of Sonic & Knuckles’ Death Egg Zone and 8-bit Sonic 2’s Scrambled Egg Zone thanks to its abundance of maze-like tubes. Oddly, Triple Trouble features a large number, and dependence upon, springs; the first Zone, Great Turquoise Zone, is chock full of them (they’re on the trees, the ground, and even the Badniks!) and one of the main things you’ll find yourself doing when playing Triple Trouble is bouncing around on springs and other bouncy hazards, fighting with the stiff controls to get Sonic or Tails back on track. Being that it’s an 8-bit title, Triple Trouble lacks some of the polish of its 16-bit counterparts but, saying that, its 8-bit predecessors felt a bit easier to handle. Here, Sonic jutters along, refusing to change direction mid-air, and feels sluggish and weighed down, making precise platforming difficult. This is a bit of an issue when trying to explore Zones for those elusive Chaos Emerald monitors and when tackling the Special Stages but, for a simple pick-up-and-play title, isn’t a major handicap, especially as there’s not much in the way of bottomless pits or cheap deaths.

Graphics and Sound:
As mentioned before, Triple Trouble is probably the best looking 8-bit Sonic title. The sprites are large and full of character and the Zones and environments are bright and lively. Of all the 8-bit Sonic titles, this comes the closest to matching its 16-bit counterparts, particularly by evoking the same sense of fun and adventure found in Sonic 3.

SonicTripleTroubleZones
You may recognise Triple Trouble‘s aesthetic.

What lets the game down, however, is the sound. As it was originally developed for the Game Gear, sounds are muddy and distorted, as though they’re playing underwater. The game’s music is catchy enough and fits perfectly but collecting Rings or smashing Badniks lacks the usual oomph I expect from a Sonic title.

Enemies and Bosses:
Triple Trouble features the usual mechanised enemies we’ve all come to expect from a Sonic title, especially one from his heyday; Badniks range from robotic snails with springs on their shells to exploding penguins. Most are easily destroyed by simply spinning into them but there’s a fair few Badniks here that cannot be destroyed, which prove especially annoying when you run face-first into them and then stutter down to a lower level thanks to the game’s janky knock-back feature.

Bosses aren’t lacking in variety, although Dr. Eggman ends up being a bit of a pushover.

Like in the 8-bit Sonic 2 and Sonic Chaos, bosses consist, for the most part, of giant Badniks (such as a giant flying turtles and a bomb-spewing, rocket-powered penguin). However, Sonic and Tails also have to battle Knuckles, who fires bombs and rockets from a cute little vehicle, Nack (who bounces around in a funky spring-loaded contraption), Metal Sonic (in a variation of the iconic battle from Sonic CD), and, of course, Doctor Eggman. Sonic or Tails won’t battle Eggman until the game’s finale, however. This boss battle has three stages but there isn’t much to it; you simply ram his machine until it explodes and transitions to the next phase and, in the final stage (which is eerily reminiscent of the final bosses from the first two 8-bit Sonic titles), you dodge some lightning and smash him as he cycles around a tube.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like all Sonic titles, Sonic and Tails can smash monitors to aid their progress; they can get an extra ten Rings, a speed boost from the Power Sneakers, an invincibility, hit a checkpoint, or gain extra lives as standard but can also access some additional items.

Triple Trouble has some fun, unique power-ups, including Tails’s cute little submarine!

There’s a snowboard that lets Sonic cut through the Robotnik Winter Zone with ease, Propeller Shoes that allow him to navigate underwater, Rocket Shoes to allow him to burn through the sky, and a Pogo Spring because…there aren’t enough springs in the game already. These last two popped up in Sonic Chaos as well but it’s nice to see them return here and it’s a welcome change to the usual shield power-ups. Sonic doesn’t get all the toys, though, as Tails can jump into the Sea Fox to navigate through Tidal Plant Zone without the need for air bubbles. Since he doesn’t need to Rocket Shoes, he can also grab the Hyper Heli-Tails to increase the duration of his flying ability. Additionally, players won’t lose all of their Rings when hit; instead, they’ll only lose thirty Rings, which makes playing through Triple Trouble much easier compared to the first to 8-bit Sonic titles where Sonic couldn’t even collect the Rings he lost.

Additional Features:
There isn’t much else in Triple Trouble; obviously, as with the majority of Sonic titles, the ultimate goal is to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds to receive the game’s best ending but this doesn’t offer any reward other than not being told to “Try again”. There’s no Super Sonic here, no two player mode, and you cannot unlock Knuckles or anything like that. It’s a very simple, one-player experience with the minimum of effort being asked of you. The Virtual Console version, however, offers a few extra features; you can create a save point (which is quite handy if you need to stop playing but you only get one save), change the aspect ratio of the display, and fiddle about with a few other minor settings but that’s about it. For such an ambitious 8-bit Sonic title, it remains as bare bones as all 8-bit Sonic videogames were back in the day.

SonicTripleTroubleSummary

The Summary:
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble is decent enough, for the most part; Zones are bright, vibrant, and easy to blast through, Sonic has never looked better in 8-bit, and there’s a decent amount of variety and challenge on offer. However, for as much as Triple Trouble outpaces its 8-bit predecessors, it’s still an 8-bit title; the controls are clunky and unresponsive, the knock-back from damage is a pain in the ass, and sound effects are distorted. Similar to the Game Gear version of Sonic 2, the screen is zoomed in quite a bit as well, which means you’re never quite sure what you’re running into. Overall, I enjoyed the game; it was probably the best 8-bit Sonic game of the bunch, but it’s still far from perfect. I loved Nack and how he was worked into the game, even if he was, technically, just a rip off of Knuckles, and it’s a shame that he hasn’t been brought back in a similarly high profile role. Honestly, I’d love to see this game get a proper, Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games/Headcannon, 2017) style remake (alongside, or as part of, it’s other 8-bit brothers) but it seems like SEGA and Sonic Team and happy to let their 8-bit/handheld Sonic titles fade into obscurity, which is a shame really.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What were your experiences with Triple Trouble? Do you also long for Nack’s return to the franchise? What did you think of Sonic’s other 8-bit outings? Drop a line in the comments to let me know.

Interplay: Sonic Adventure

Interplay

One of the great things about adaptations, and adaptation studies, is that they both:

“[continue] to expand and become more inclusive […] it is increasingly difficult to determine a cohesive theory that accounts for the division between adaptation and other intertextual modes: allusions, plagiarisms, remakes, sequels, homages, mash-ups, appropriations, and the list goes on” (Dicecco, 2015: 161)

This quote sums up perfectly what makes adaptation studies so interesting; adaptations can be anything and are restricted only by the scope of your imagination and your commitment to researching the links between media.

While researching the theories of Nico Dicecco (and his contemporaries) during my PhD, I chose to focus on the adaptation of videogames into movies, television shows, cartoons, and comic books. This was primarily because it’s a lot easier to talk about media that is adapted into film and there hadn’t really been any serious research into videogame adaptations at that time.

InterplaySAMerch
Sonic has always been a merchandise whore.

I’ve previously talked about how my studies into the Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) franchise revealed that Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Polygames/SEGA Technical Institute, 1993) heavily influenced multiple Sonic adaptations over the years but there has been another Sonic videogame that has made multiple jumps to other media.

SonicAdventureLogo

Today, I’m once again returning to one of my favourite Sonic videogames, Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998), Sonic’s first real foray into 3D gameplay and a title that focused on multiple characters and gameplay mechanics, a far deeper narrative than the franchise had experienced in a videogame before, and functioned as both a consolidation of Sonic’s competing iterations and a “soft reboot” for the franchise, due its use of  “slight changes to be made without having to completely scrap the franchise and start over” (Bancroft, 2015).

SonicAdventureVariety
I can’t praise this game’s variety enough!

Coming after a long absence from a main series Sonic title (and at a time when SEGA were almost haemorrhaging money thanks to failures like the Mega-CD and SEGA 32X), Sonic Adventure became “the best-selling Dreamcast game of all time, with almost two and a half million copies sold”. (Pétronille and Audureau, 2012: 70). It reinvigorated the Sonic franchise in a way that I think has been forgotten over time; while the game may have had its flaws, it successfully revitalised Sonic and led to a string of successful sequels and follow-ups.

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Sonic Adventure‘s speed-orientated gameplay definitely influenced later Sonic titles.

While these weren’t enough to curb SEGA’s financial woes, the success and impact of Sonic Adventure led to a shift in Sonic’s gameplay, narrative, and aesthetic direction; rather than racing along a 2D plane, players now ran along at break-neck speeds in fully 3D environments that were designed more like rollercoasters. Sonic was now “Taller, slimmer and somehow spikier”, his friendliness replaced with “an anime-style cool” (Jones, et al, 2011: 31), and his narrative was far darker and more mature than his bright, psychedelic 2D titles. Perhaps the most significant impact of Sonic Adventure came through Sonic Team eventually stripping away all other playstyles to focus purely on Sonic’s speed, an aspect that largely led to the development of the Boost-orientated gameplay of modern Sonic titles.

InterplaySAOVAAdv
Surely this can’t be a coincidence?

One thing to note before I delve into the main focus of this article is how the adaptation process appears to have worked both ways with Sonic Adventure. Many elements from Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (Ikegami, 1996) are recognisable in Sonic Adventure, such as Tails’ workshop on South Island, the appearance of cities and structures that mirror those of our world, and a lot of Doctor Robotnik’s (Edwin Neal) personality and technology. For me, the Sonic OVA is clearly a precursor to Sonic Adventure’s attempt to leave behind Mobius and show him as an adventure-seeking teenager in a world not too dissimilar to our own (though I still pray for the day when his characterisation matches the snarky attitude of his OVA counterpart).

InterplaySAArchieComics
Archie Comics had included game adaptations for a while now.

Sonic Adventure didn’t just impact Sonic’s videogames, however; by 1999, Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog comic books had developed into a continuation of the fan favourite Sonic the Hedgehog (1993 to 1995, more commonly referred to as “SatAM”) cartoon, infusing characters and events from the videogames into its narrative. With this in mind (and, possibly, in keeping with SEGA’s desire to create a homogeneous version of Sonic), it was inevitable that Sonic Adventure would feature in these comics before long.

InterplaySASonicDesign
Emerald energy alters Sonic’s look…and gives his shoes buckles…

Sonic Adventures’ influence began slowly but, in keeping with the increasingly-convoluted narrative of the comics at the time, was complex to the nth degree. First, the Archie team crafted an elaborate story to explain why Sonic now looked like his Sonic Adventure counterpart: ‘Retro Activity’ (Bollers, et al, 1999) not only showed how Sonic transformed from his pudgy, classic look to this edgier aesthetic by racing against a destructive energy beam so fast that he cycled through his various Super forms, but it told this story backwards! If you thought that was bad, though, the lengths they went to to explain Robotnik’s transformation into his Sonic Adventure counterpart, Doctor Eggman, were even worse! So, in ‘Endgame, Part 4: For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (ibid, 1998), Sonic finally destroyed Robotnik forever in a fight to the death involving his latest doomsday weapon, the Ultimate Annihilator.

InterplaySARoboEggman
Robo-Robotnik soon replaced his organic counterpart as “the Eggman”.

However, it is dramatically revealed in ‘I Am the Eggman!’ (ibid, 1999) that Robotnik has returned…in the form of his fully-robotic, alternate-universe counterpart, Robo-Robotnik. Though seemingly destroyed in that story, the issue ends with Robo-Robotnik downloading his consciousness into a body that is identical to his Sonic Adventure design; “Eggman” (for a long time “The Eggman”) would quickly become a derogatory nickname used to describe Robotnik until the madness was smoothed over by massive continuity changes much later down the line. The Sonic Adventure tie-in officially began with ‘The Discovery: A Sonic Adventure Tie-In’ (ibid), in which Sonic and the Knothole Freedom Fighters first learn about the “hidden city of the ancients”. Robotnik also learns of an ancient beast known as “Perfect Chaos” hidden within not the Master Emerald (…as that was where Mammoth Mogul was imprisoned) but the “Black Emerald”. Unearthing the Black Emerald in the Mysterious Cat Country, Robotnik discovers that it is severely depowered and promptly leads and assault on Floating Island to smash the Master Emerald in order to repower the Black Emerald.

InterplaySAAdventureBegins
Two issues in and I’ve already lost the plot!

After being denied the chance to accompany the Freedom Fighters, Amy Rose uses the magical “Ring of Acorns” wish herself into a more mature body in the follow-up story, ‘If Wishes Were Acorns’ (ibid), one that (you guessed it) is identical to her Sonic Adventure appearance. The Freedom Fighters then travel to the hidden city, which is located beneath an island (that is an almost exact replica of the OVA’s South Island) and accessed via a Mystic Ruins mine cart. A back-up story, ‘Swallowing Trouble’ (Penders, et al, 1999), introduces Archie’s readers to Big the Cat; his peaceful existence is disrupted when Froggy (who articulates through thought bubbles) swallows a piece of Chaos, grows a tail, and is promptly kidnapped by E-102γ (also known simply as “Gamma”). In the next issue, ‘City of Dreams’ (Bollers, et al, 1999) shows Sonic and friends exploring the hidden city, which is Station Square from the videogame and populated entirely by humans (who are different from “Overlanders”, the mostly-extinct human-like species that once waged war on Mobius), and sustained by an “artificial environment” (…that includes a sky, apparently).

InterplaySAVsChaos0
Things pick up with this Sonic’s battle against Chaos 0.

While they end the story making good progress in establishing diplomatic relations with the humans, the two back-up stories show Robotnik sending his E-series robots out to find more Master Emerald fragments to empower Chaos and Amy rescuing an injured bird from ZERO. Interestingly, while Archie bent over backwards to explain the characters new look, they simply have Amy’s Piko-Piko Hammer appear out of thin air with no explanation; even she is shocked to see it! Things finally pick up in the next issue’s ‘Night of Chaos!’ (ibid), which recreates (with amazing fidelity) the first encounter and battle between Sonic and Chaos 0. The back-up stories introduce Tikal to the story, as she relates to Knuckles her history (meeting and befriending Chaos and the destruction of her tribe when her father, Pachamac, tried to forcibly take the seven Chaos Emeralds from its shrine), how Robotnik finalised Chaos’ 0 form by infusing it with Froggy, and recreates the beginning of Gamma’s story by showing it pass a training drill and release Amy and her bird friend (here clearly identified as a Flicky) after overcoming its programming and gaining a modicum of sentience.

InterplaySASuperSpecial
The Sonic Super Special flew through the bulk of the game’s story.

Archie followed this up with a 48-page ‘Super Sonic Special’ that rapidly told Sonic Adventure’s familiar story beats: Sonic, Miles “Tails” Prower, and Knuckles battle Chaos 2 and 4 after Robotnik feeds it shards of the Master Emerald; Big, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles end up on the Egg Carrier; there’s a tussle with Gamma (where Amy spares it from destruction) and they fight Chaos 6, destroying the Egg Carrier in the process.

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Archie recreated Perfect Chaos’ birth in stunning detail.

The adaptation continues in the next regular issue; in here, Knuckles discovers “the Eggman” unconscious in the Mystic Ruins and Chaos, still alive, blasts through the land as a tornado, absorbing the six Super Emeralds, and transforms into Perfect Chaos, flooding Station Square (and attaching itself to the Power Siphon that control’s the city’s environment) exactly as it does in the opening and Super Sonic story of Sonic Adventure.

InterplaySADialogue
Archie just pulled lines directly from the game, for better or worse.

Perfect Chaos destroys the Egg Carrier then, after learning a bit more from Tikal, Sonic uses the Emerald’s to transform into Super Sonic and engage Perfect Chaos. It’s around about at this point that the story stops creating its own dialogue and starts lifting lines directly from Sonic Adventure but, considering the quality of Archie’s writing back then, I would necessarily say that this is a bad thing. The story finally comes to a conclusion in issue 84’s ‘Perfect Chaos’ (Penders, et al, 1999), in which Super Sonic struggles to subdue Perfect Chaos while Knuckles overcomes his fear of water and uses his immense strength to restart the city’s power generator (tapping into his latent Emerald powers for the first time, which would later significantly change his appearance and powers). This, coupled with Super Sonic’s attack, is enough to revert Perfect Chaos back to Chaos 0. At peace once more, Chaos and Tikal return “to the Zone [where they] belong” and the threat is finally ended (…once again glossing over the untold death and destruction in Station Square).

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Archie lore was dense enough before they wedged in Sonic Adventure.

Archie’s Sonic Adventure adaptation is one of the few times they actually crafted a long-running narrative out of a videogame story; normally, they just produced one-shots or sort stories that briefly (and very loosely and awkwardly) spliced the game’s story into their own convoluted narrative. The incorporation of Sonic Adventure’s narrative was especially difficult given that several key elements had to be changed due to them clashing with Archie’s lore; Chaos’ origin and imprisonment, for one, and the weird way they introduced Station Square for another, to say nothing of how the entire Echidna backstory struggled to fit in with the messed up narrative crafted by the notorious Ken Penders. Nevertheless, this was, perhaps, the closest Archie Comics got to a straight-up, beat-by-beat adaptation of a videogame; they made it easier on themselves in the future by generally just adapting the opening portions of a game and leaving a dialogue box that said something like “Play the game to find out the rest” and then vaguely referring to the game’s events in subsequent stories. Here, though, we got lines from the game, locations, notable boss battles, and hit almost every story beat from the game no matter how at odds it was with the world Archie had created for their version of Sonic.

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Sonic was a bit of a jerk in StC.

Over here in the United Kingdom, Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic (1993 to 2002, referred to as “StC”) was a little late to the party with their Sonic Adventure adaptation; like Archie, Fleetway had established their own, separate lore for Sonic and his friends, one that “felt” closer to the videogames but was still distinctly separate from it. Previously, their adaptations of Sonic videogames had tended to be multi-part stories that took the game’s characters and the vague outline of its plot and applied them to their unique narrative and Sonic Adventure was no different.

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Chaos cripples with its fear aura and alters Sonic’s look.

The arc began in issue 175’s ‘The Coming of Chaos!’ (Kitching , et al, 2000), in which Sonic and his friends race out to confront StC’s version of Chaos 0 in Metropolis City Zone. This battle, which is a truncated version of the first boss fight with Chaos 0, showcases that StC’s Chaos exudes an aura that cripples its foes with feelings of utter dread. Headstrong and arrogant as always, Sonic attacks Chaos head-on regardless and manages to fend it off but is left with glowing green eyes and jagged spikes. In the following issue, it is revealed that Robotnik’s assistant, Grimer, unleashed Chaos in the hopes of destroying Sonic and his friends and shaking Robotnik out of the slump he had found himself in after multiple defeats. However, Robotnik reveals that Chaos is truly uncontrollable and that, by setting it free, Grimer has “doomed the entire planet”.

InterplaySASTCJohnny
Defeating Chaos extracts a heavy price.

Meanwhile, Sonic’s tech buddy Porker Lewis arrives; he’s (somehow) discovered that it’s made up of Chaos energy and has whipped up a device to defeat it but Sonic, already weakened from his earlier tussle with the creature, is unable to fight through its fear-inducing aura to complete the process. Luckily, Johnny Lightfoot steps in to lend a hand but, while he succeeds and Chaos is seemingly defeated, he dies in the process! Yep, a kids comic actually killed off a beloved, long-time character and not just any kids comic, a Sonic comic! Up until this point, death had largely been a stranger to StC’s stories; characters were used as batteries for Robotnik’s Badniks or turned to stone, or trapped for all eternity (…for a while), but they had never died before!

InterplaySASTCChaos
Chaos was an intelligent creature in StC.

StC hammered home that Johnny was actually, really, 100% dead in the following issue, where the guilt and shame of having recklessly led his friends into danger causes Sonic to quit the entire thing. However, Chaos reappears the Floating Island’s Emerald Chamber, now able to talk and state its intentions: it claims ownership of the Chaos Emeralds and desires to absorb their power. Knuckles is left with no choice but the jettison the Emeralds in the following story, ‘Splash-Down!’ (ibid), which causes the Floating Island to crash and sink into the sea. There’s an interesting wrinkle here where Knuckles, despondent at his actions, resigns himself to facing the same fate as his ancestral home and has to be coerced by Amy (and a good knock on the head) to avoid killing himself.

InterplaySASTCNewEgg
Robotnik’s new look is a much simpler affair this time around…

Also in this story, rather than going through a whole complicated mess involving robotic counterparts and body swapping, Robotnik simply…puts on a jacket so he resembles his Sonic Adventure design. I find this doubly amusing and ironic considering the lengths StC went to to show Robotnik transforming from his classic design to his Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993) look.

Oh, and Sonic just…comes back at the end of the story, ready to jump into the fray once more.

In the next issue’s story, ‘Out of Time!’ (Kitching, et al, 2000), Porker continues to obsess over Sonic’s green eyes and the Chaos energy he apparently absorbed from battling Chaos. This turns out to be a pretty big deal as Sonic is the only one who can see Tikal when she suddenly appears and promptly zaps him 8,000 years into the past.

InterplaySASTCTikal
Tikal raised new questions about StC-Knuckles…

This (and the subsequent issue) is also where StC loops Sonic Adventure’s lore into their own narrative regarding Knuckles’ past; we learn not only that Knuckles existed in the distant past (a plot thread that wouldn’t be resolved until StC was continued online) but also that the extra-dimensional Drakon Empire (who had previously attempted to invade Mobius) were involved in Chaos’ origin. After defeating a Drakon Prosecutor, revealing the heavily-armoured warriors to be mutated fish in armoured shells, Sonic chats with Tikal’s father, “Pochacamac”, who reveals that the Echidnas stole the seven Chaos Emeralds (and the Master Emerald) from the Drakon Empire after they invaded the Echidna’s sacred Emerald Mines and infused the gems with their patented Chaos energy.

InterplaySASTCChaosOrigin
StC gave Chaos a completely new origin.

During a battle with Drakon Prosecutors in which a stray energy blasts hits the Emeralds and causes their powers to surge out of control, the Drakon Sonic had previously defeated is released from its prison and fuses with the Emeralds to transform into Chaos. Sonic attempts to get revenge for Johnny in the following issue but is transported back to the future in order to weaken Chaos enough for past Knuckles to do…something to imprison Chaos. Sonic returns to the present just as Chaos arrives at Robotnik’s mountaintop fortress, where Robotnik gathered the Chaos Emeralds in order to lure it in…though he does this merely to have a front row seat to the end of not only Sonic and his friends, but the entire world. All hope seems lost in ‘Perfect Chaos!’ (ibid) when Chaos absorbs the power of the Chaos Emeralds and transforms into Perfect Chaos (which actually more closely resembles Chaos 6) until a severely weakened and dying Super Sonic arrives.

InterplaySASTCSuperSonic
StC‘s Super Sonic was a demonic entity that lived to destroy.

How, I gave Archie flack for how complicated some of their stories were so I guess it’s only fair to deviate here to explain this a bit. In StC, Sonic absorbed a huge amount of Chaos energy a long time ago; this lay dormant in him for years and, whenever under extreme stress or driven to severe rage, he would transform into Super Sonic. StC Super Sonic was an uncontrollable, rage-filled, super-powered demon with maniacal eyes who could shoot energy blasts, fly at incredible speeds, and was all-but-invulnerable. However, Sonic’s friends eventually found a way to separate Super Sonic from him and imprisoned the demon within a time dilation of sorts. Super Sonic did eventually escape but the effort drained his power so much that he eventually lost his memory and became a confused, but harmless, individual.

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Chaos, and Super Sonic, are both defeated, ending both the story and StC.

Sonic’s fears regarding his demonic counterpart are realised in the finale of the Sonic Adventure arc, ‘Point of no Return!’ (ibid), in which Super successfully drains Perfect Chaos of all its energy and regresses it back to a harmless Drakon fish. The Chaos energy returns Super’s memories and powers and he attacks everyone, intending to kill them all, and begins to drain the life energy out of Sonic. However, Super’s friend, Ebony, uses her magical powers to fuse Super and Sonic back into one being again. Grimer quits Robotnik’s employ, disgusted at his lackadaisical attitude to what looked to be the end of the world, and the story ends with Sonic and his friends triumphant. Sadly, the Sonic Adventure arc would be the last time StC ran original Sonic stories in their comics; for a while, the comics had consistently largely of reprints of old stories, even though the writers could have done what Archie did and used the extra pages to tell back-up tales to expand the story rather than rushing through everything in the main Sonic strips.

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StC didn’t really give these guys anything to do in this arc…

Compared to the Archie adaptation, StC’s interpretation of Sonic Adventure is not only rushed but has some pretty weak connections to its source material. The characters never visit any of the locations from the game, Chaos is significantly different (though, in some ways, better; its “fear aura” was a nice inclusion with a lot of potential), Big is reduced to a throwaway, one panel cameo, Gamma doesn’t appear at all, and neither Tails or Amy have anything near the significance of the roles they played in the game. While Knuckles plays a vital part, he’s far more hands-off than in Archie (and the videogame), and Robotnik barely features at all (though this does make sense considering where the character was, mentally, at the time). If Fleetway had been able to use every page of their issues to tell this story, it probably would have landed much better; while I don’t doubt that they still would have sought to slot Sonic Adventure’s canon into their own as best as they could, at least e could have seen a five page back-up story featuring Knuckles, or Big, or anyone. Instead, it’s a very poor effort; StC did a pretty good job of telling stories heavily influenced by the videogames in the past but, by the point, the comic was on its last legs so I guess we were lucky to get anything.

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A similar storyline featured in Sonic Underground.

Chaos would go on to sporadically appear in Archie Comics as it continued on, even when the license switched over to IDW Publishing, but it also notably appeared in Sonic X (2003 to 2006) when the anime did its own six-part adaptation of Sonic Adventure. Before I get into that, though, I just want to briefly mention Sonic Underground (1999), the oft-lambasted follow-up to SatAM that, for all its faults, at least featured Knuckles (Brian Drummond). There’s a couple of points in the series where characters refer to “Chaos” as being the destructor of Mobius and, in ‘New Echidna in Town’ (Boreal, et al, 1999) Chaos Energy transforms Dingo (Peter Wilds) into a mindless beast, Chaos Dingo, who takes on a malleable form. While this link to Sonic Adventure is tenuous at best (made all the more so by Sonic Underground’s dramatic departure from all Sonic lore), it’s still an interesting connection to make.

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Sonic X weaved the game’s story into its lore and mixed it up a bit.

Despite looking fantastic due to its anime aesthetic, Sonic X was a bit of a disappointment when it first started for a variety of reasons: Sonic (Jason Griffith) is largely lethargic, preferring to spend his days taking naps or smelling flowers, and all of his iconic friends are pushed to the side to make way for Chris Thorndyke (Michael Sinterniklaas) and a host of other human characters forced into the show when Sonic and the others are transported from their world to Earth. However, for me at least, things started to pick up near the end of the first season and with the episode ‘Pure Chaos’ (Kamegaki, 2004), which kick-started the Sonic Adventure saga with Froggy swallowing a Chaos Emerald, Dr. Eggman (Mike Pollock) launching the Egg Carrier, and Sonic and Knuckles (Dan Green) battling Chaos 1 and 2. Straight away, Sonic X is ahead of the curve simply by including Big in a role more suited to his videogame story and, like Archie, the series sticks quite close to the source material.

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Sonic X featured almost all of Sonic Adventure‘s bosses.

The adaptation continued in the following episode, ‘A Chaotic Day’ (Kamegaki, 2004), which focuses a bit more on Knuckles’ side of the story, detailing how Chaos broke out of the Master Emerald and his search for its shards, which also brings him into contact with Tikal (Rebecca Honig). Sonic and Tails (Amy Palant) then battle both Chaos 4 at Eggman (in the Egg Hornet) at the Mystic Ruins (in what is a pretty faithful adaptation of the same boss battles from Sonic Adventure) before pursing Eggman to his Egg Carrier. They crash, as in the game, and Amy (Lisa Ortiz) and Cheese the Rabbit (Rebecca Honig) are attacked by ZERO, who kidnaps Amy and the birdie, Lily (Sayaka Aoki). Amy and Gamma’s (Andrew Rannells) stories are the primary focus for the next episode, ‘A Robot Rebels’ (Kamegaki, 2004), in which Gamma kidnaps Froggy right after Chris helps Big to rescue him and he subsequently frees Amy after suffering a bit of a short circuit at the sight of Lily just like in the videogame. Similarly, Amy convinces Sonic to spare Gamma and Knuckles recovers the last piece of the Master Emerald in the following episode, and, though Eggman successfully uses Froggy’s tail and Chaos Emerald to transform Chaos into Chaos 6, Sonic and Knuckles (randomly sporting his Shovel Claws) defeat it. The episode ends with the finale of Tails’ story, in which Eggman launches a missile at Station Square and he must gather his courage and self-sufficiency in order to disarm it (though he doesn’t battle the Egg Walker).

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Gamma’s tear-jerking story is told from start to finish.

‘Revenge of the Robot’ (ibid) primarily wraps up Sonic and Gamma’s stories from the game: Gamma travels through the locations of Sonic Adventure deactivating its robotic brethren and freeing the Flicky’s trapped within (which is considerably easier than in the videogame) and eventually destroys  itself and its older “brother”, E-101β “Kai” (Andrew Rannells) to reunite with its Flicky family.

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Sonic actually battles Dr. Eggman before Perfect Chaos wrecks Station Square.

While Sonic does go on to defeat Eggman and his Egg Viper, Chaos obtains all seven Chaos Emeralds, transforms into Perfect Chaos, and floods Station Square in the final episode of the saga, ‘Flood Fight’ (Kamegaki, 2004). Up until this point, Chris’s involvement (and the involvement of his extended family and friends) was largely painless and unobtrusive. The changes this, however, as the destruction brought upon Station Square has a significant impact on the lives of Sonic’s new human friends and, wouldn’t you know it, it is Chris who supplies with the last Chaos Emerald he needs to transform into Super Sonic. Unlike in the videogame and the Archie Comics adaptation, Super Sonic defeats Perfect Chaos with hardly any issue at all in Sonic X; while Perfect Chaos had never looked bigger or badder, resembling more a water-based version of Biollante, and packs some serious firepower, it is defeated and reverted back in Chaos 0 with very little effort. To be fair, though, Sonic X’s Super Sonic was always far more powerful than his other incarnations, being more of a God-mode than a power-up. Still, Chaos is defeated and returns to the Master Emerald with Tikal, at peace once more. Station Square is left in ruins and, while the anime also glosses over the death and destruction the flood must have caused, subsequent episodes dealt with (or, at least, referenced) the restoration process.

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Sonic X told the entire game’s story, giving everyone their due.

Like the other adaptations of Sonic Adventure discussed here, Sonic X incorporates the game’s narrative into its own unique lore but, in a twist, includes characters like Cream and Rouge the Bat (Kathleen Delaney) who debuted after Sonic Adventure. However, even these videogame characters have smaller roles than Chris and his cohorts; given that Chris was obsessed with following Sonic everywhere and putting himself in danger, this isn’t too surprising but, honestly, their inclusion and involvement is no more or less, better or worse, than those of the Archie and StC extended cast. However, Sonic X’s Sonic Adventure saga is easily the closest, most faithful adaptation of the source material of these three; Archie Comics came close bit their impenetrable lore meant that too many compromises had to be made. Both comic adaptations focused more on Chaos than other bosses and events, but Sonic X includes almost everything from the videogame, giving plenty of time to each of the game’s six characters and adapting their stories with a high degree of fidelity. It even streamlined and improved the story in many ways, such as having characters team up against Chaos’s various forms and improving the appearance of Perfect Chaos.

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Sonic Adventure told a complex, interweaving Sonic story for the first time.

Sonic Adventure has been a rich source of adaptation, second only to Sonic Spinball; aside from the more direct adaptations I’ve talked about here, stages, bosses, and narrative themes from the game cropped up in many subsequent Sonic titles. Unlike Sonic Spinball, I feel like this is probably because of the game’s story; this was the first time Sonic and his friends and enemies had a real voice in the videogames and the first time Sonic Team tried to tell a deep, overarching story. Add to that the influence that Sonic Adventure’s gameplay and aesthetic choices had on Sonic’s canon and future release and it’s not hard to see why. The only thing that hampered each of these adaptations was their attempts to shoe-horn the videogame narrative into their existing lore, rather than using the general story and themes of the game and threading it through in a more natural way. While Archie Comics and StC had good reasons for this, Sonic X had every opportunity right from the beginning of its run to properly prepare and lay the groundwork for its eventual videogame adaptations and, instead, it was happy to waste time focusing on Chris, his idiotic behaviour, and having Sonic be this bland, lethargic goody-too-shoes rather than a snarky, hyperactive adventurer.

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Which of these three Sonic Adventure adaptations was your favourite? How did you find Archie’s writing at the time? Do you remember Sonic the Comic? What were your thoughts on Sonic X and Chris? Drop a line below and stick around for more articles in the future.

Game Corner: Sonic Generations (Xbox 360)

GameCorner
SonicGenerationsLogo

Released: November 2011
Developer: Sonic Team
Also Available For: PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, PC, and Xbox One

The Background:
It was 2011 and SEGA were eager to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their iconic videogame mascot; after years of disconnect and complex additions to what had begun as a simple, one-button videogame, it’s fair to say that there was some…confusion regarding Sonic’s past, canon, and timeline. SEGA initially opted for a soft reboot, of sorts, with Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998), which clearly depicted Sonic and his cast of characters redesigned into a slightly older, more anime-inspired aesthetics in a world similar to ours, inhabited by both humans and anthropomorphic characters, and with a tenuous connection to the previous videogames. However, very quickly, this fell apart a bit as Sonic videogames became both incredibly dense and complex or laughably simple, especially in their narratives. After years of fans wanting a return to the traditional, 2D gameplay of the past, Sonic Team opted for a title that would combine not only the tried-and-true 2D gameplay of the past with the fast-paced 3D gameplay of what was, at the time, the present but also bring together two different generations of Sonic for the first time.

The Plot:
While celebrating Sonic’s birthday, Sonic and his friends are suddenly attacked by Dr. Eggman’s ferocious, mysterious beast, the Time Eater, which leaves time and space torn asunder in its wake. Teaming up with a past version of himself, Sonic must race through nine stages from his past to rescue his friends, retrieve the Chaos Emeralds, and put a stop to the Time Eater’s rampage.

Gameplay:
Sonic Generations features two distinct styles of play: Act One of every stage sees players take control of “Classic” Sonic, who runs along a 2.5D plane that will be more than familiar to anyone who’s ever played a classic Sonic videogame. Act Two sees players control “Modern” Sonic, who blasts along with his Boost technique through both 3D and 2.5D environments pretty much exactly as he did in Sonic Unleashed (ibid, 2008) and Sonic Colours (ibid, 2010).

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Both Sonics have distinct play styles.

Both Sonics can run at high speeds collecting Golden Rings, jump to attack Badniks and enemies with Sonic’s patented Super Sonic Spin Attack, and even utilise the power of Wisps later in the game, but each has distinct attributes that affect their gameplay. Classic Sonic can utilise the Spindash at the press of the X button but Modern Sonic can Boost at supersonic high speeds to smash through enemies and obstacles by holding Z, perform a stomp, utilise the Homing Attack to quickly dash at enemies, springs, and the like, and can slide through narrow openings. While it might seem like Modern Sonic has more tricks under his sleeve, each Sonic can be assigned Skills, unlocked by collecting Red Star Rings and completing additional Challenges. Each Skill has a point value and you can assign as many as you like to each Sonic until you hit the point cap of 100 but, with these Skills, you can give Classic Sonic some additional skills, like one of the elemental shields or the “Twin Spin Attack” (which you may know as the Insta-Shield) introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994), or even a cool skateboard.

SonicGenerationsSkills
Use Skills to equip a shield or extend your Boost gauge.

Modern Sonic can also be assigned Skills to allow him to blast off at the start of a stage, performing faster Homing Attacks and wall jumps, and increase the length of his Boost gauge. You can also use Skills to gain an Extra Life, grant yourself temporary invincibility, breathe underwater for longer, and even transform into Super Sonic (though your Rings will deplete unusually quickly). Sonic Generations takes place in a simple hub world known as the White Space, a white, seemingly endless void where stages from Sonic’s past have been dumped by the Time Eater. These are arranged in three areas, each corresponding to an era of Sonic’s history (the classic Mega Drive days, the Dreamcast titles, and the more modern titles) and guarded by a Boss Battle. To progress through the game’s brief and simple story, you must complete each stage with each Sonic to partially restore colour and life to the White Space. Each of the game’s stages is rendered beautifully and expanded upon with gameplay gimmicks from other games and even little extra things, like a celebration taking place in Rooftop Run and getting to visit Hidden Palace in Sky Sanctuary. While there are some obvious choices (Green Hill and Chemical Plant have since been overused to death), there are some odd inclusions, like Speed Highway from Sonic Adventure (I would have picked maybe Ice Cap or Red Mountain), and some disappointments, like Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes (Sonic Team USA, 2003)

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Every stage is lively and full of fan service.

I’m honestly surprised that Sonic Team didn’t include Casino Park instead, though I would’ve liked to see them mix it up with Egg Fleet or Frog Forest. Stages aren’t particularly challenging; there’s some unfair bottomless spits and each Sonic seems to be weighed down by something, which can make precision platforming slippery and frustratingly difficult. Their difficulty comes in the length and haphazard variety of gameplay mechanics seen in the later, modern levels; unsurprisingly, Sonic the Hedgehog’s (Sonic Team, 2006) Crisis City stands out as one of the game’s more frustrating stages thanks to the fire traps, lava pits, bottomless pits, and that Goddamn flaming tornado! Once free one of Sonic’s friends, though, you’ll unlock five additional Challenges for each stage; you’re required to clear at least one of these for each stage to gain a Boss Key, battle the boss, and progress to the next area. These Challenges are considerably varied; they can be anything from racing against a ghostly doppelgänger, to finding Chao, to completing a stage with only one Ring. Sometimes, you’ll also race against, or team up with, one of Sonic’s friends; you’ll use Mile “Tails” Prower to hover over obstacles and gaps, knock musical notes back to Vector the Crocodile, and clear walls of flame with Blaze the Cat, for example. While you may call upon Sonic’s friends with the Y button in these Challenges, you won’t ever control any other character other than the two Sonics, which is quite the disappointment. These Challenges can be a frustrating experience but clearing them is the only way to completely restore each stage and also unlock additional Skills, artwork, music, and character profiles in the Collection Room. As you race through each stage, you’ll also be tasked with finding elusive Red Star Rings but you’ll need to blast through stages and Challenges not only quickly but also without losing a life if you want to gain an S rank. While this isn’t necessarily that difficult, stages can be large and sprawling and filled with bottomless spits, poorly placed obstacles (if you fall from an upper level or jump to a platform, you can bet you’ll land right on a bed of spikes), and an oddly zoomed-in camera perspective, especially for Classic Sonic, which means you’ll often dash headfirst into some kind of obstruction.

Graphics and Sound:
Graphically, Sonic Generations is still one of the brightest, most vibrant Sonic titles created; Classic Sonic, especially, looks and animates really well and every stage is packed full of life, colour, and little details that will be recognisable to any Sonic fan. Perhaps the pinnacle of Sonic Generations’ graphically achievement, though, is in the fantastically updated battle against Perfect Chaos, who has turned from a choppy, flappy-mouthed monstrosity into a genuinely terrifying, bio-organic creature. However, playing the Xbox 360 version on an Xbox One, I did notice some blurriness to the images, some frame rate issues, and the game crashed on me three or four times, which was odd.

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There’s no denying Sonic Generations‘ graphical presentation.

Sonic Generations features some really well done computer generated cutscenes; it’s just a shame that the game’s story is so criminally short that we don’t see more of these. When you free Sonic’s friends, they’ll make a comment while Sonic just stands there like a tool; this would have been a perfect time for a brief cutscene where they properly interact but, instead, you just watch them come back to life and then they’ll give you hints…through speech bubbles. As for sound, Sonic Generations has you covered! Every stage features a unique, remixed version of its original track and each Act has a different version to differentiate the two. You can also unlock additional music tracks, including some great remixes by the likes of Cash Cash and Crush 40, and play these on any Stage, allowing for a lot of variety in the music you hear as you play.

Enemies and Bosses:
Given that it features stages from three eras of Sonic’s history, Sonic Generations also includes many recognisable Badniks and enemies from each time period it is representing. You’ll smash apart the likes of Crabmeat, Spiny, and Egg Robos from the classic games but also Eggpawns, Cop Speeders, and Iblis creatures from Sonic’s more modern titles. While most slow and easy to attack, they can still surprise you with bolts of energy or other attacks, but they’re all gloriously rendered here.

Sonic’s old bosses have never looked better, and even have new attack patterns to keep things interesting.

While Sonic Generations only features four actual boss battles, it opts for quality and scope rather than quantity; you’ll battle the Death Egg Robot as Classic Sonic, then face Perfect Chaos and the Egg Dragoon as Modern Sonic, before teaming up as superpowered versions of both to take on Dr. Eggman and the Time Eater. Each boss is not only lovingly recreated from its original but also amplified and expanded upon in new ways; the Death Egg Robot not attacks you from the background and you must stun it with bombs before you can attack it and the fight with Perfect Chaos is now a whole stage in itself as you dodge its tentacles and jump on crumbling platforms to reach it.

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Two of Sonic’s greatest rivals…and Silver…

You’ll also have to compete against three of Sonic’s rivals to obtain a Chaos Emerald; you’ll once again race across Stardust Speedway against Metal Sonic, smash meteors at Shadow the Hedgehog down pathways in space, and jump across floating cars to attack Silver the Hedgehog. Each Rival Battle can be replayed at a higher difficulty level, but you’ll only face them as one of the two Sonics.

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Good luck navigating through this mess of a boss!

What lets the game, and its bosses, down though is the final battle with the Time Eater. Despite an impressive, ominous score, the unique design of both the creature and the messed up vortex you battle it in, and the joy of seeing Classic and Modern Sonic both turn Super Sonic to battle two versions of Dr. Eggman, this fight is a confusing mess. You charge head-first through a time/space distortion, dodging pieces of the stages and the Time Eater’s arms and lasers, to hit its core all while Sonic’s friends constantly shot the same “advice” over and over. You can barely see Golden Rings until they’ve flown right past you, you have no idea if you’re holding X or mashing it, and defeating this monstrosity is more down to luck than any kind of skill.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As he’s already pretty well-equipped, Modern Sonic doesn’t get many chances to improve his chances during gameplay outside of the extra Skills you can assign; Classic Sonic, thought, can break open monitors to get more Rings, gain a brief invincibility, speed up, or jump on a skateboard. Both can grab Wisps in the Planet Wisp stage (Classic gets Spikes and Modern gets Rocket) to manoeuvre through the game’s complex level structure.

Classic Sonic’s shields really come in handy, but Super Sonic drains your Rings way too fast.

Clearly, Sonic Generations intends you to make full use of the Skills function, which makes stages like Seaside Palace and Crisis City much easier when you have the Aqua and Flame Shield, respectively. You’ll need some of these Skills just to help you with simple things like not taking forever to get back up after being hurt or coming to a dead stop, but they can be a bit limited in some respects (you can only have one shield at a time, for example). After you complete the game’s story, you can assign the “Super Sonic Skill”, which lets you transform either Sonic into Super Sonic once you collect fifty Rings at the cost of all 100 Skill points. While it’s great to burst through stages as Super Sonic, your Rings will drain unusually fast, especially if you hold down the Boost button, meaning you’ll burn out the power up in half the time you normally would, making it effectively useless in a lot of the longer stages.

Additional Features:
As you complete stages, Challenges, and collect Red Star Rings, you’ll unlock additional music tracks, cutscenes, artwork, and little character trophies that can all be viewed in a little gallery/museum at the far left of White Space. There are also a number of Achievements to earn here; in addition to normal, gameplay-orientated ones, every stage as at least one Achievement tied to it (normally something involving going a specific route and collecting a specific Red Star Ring before completing the stage). If you explore the Green Hill hub, you’ll find a SEGA Mega Drive; for 7777 points, you can purchase a Mega Drive controller and, with the two, play a full port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991)! If you’re lucky enough to have pre-ordered the game (as I did for PlayStation 3), or download it from the Xbox Game Store, you can also play a pinball table themed on Casino Night Zone to kill a little more time.

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The Summary:
When I first played Sonic Generations on PlayStation 3, I remember it being a fantastic experience; it was fun, fast-paced, and chock full of nostalgia and little bits of fan service. Aside from the final boss, I had a blast breezing through everything the game had to offer and lamented the lack of follow-up downloadable content from Sonic Team. I was therefore super exited to see Sonic Generations pop up on Xbox Game Pass but, as soon as it started up, I was put off by how zoomed in the camera was. I don’t remember it being like that before. Nevertheless, I ploughed ahead, happy to be revisiting this slice of nostalgia and, very quickly, found myself quite frustrated by a lot of little things. The few crashes I had, for one thing, the sheer uselessness of the regular jump both Sonics have (it’s as though they have stones in their sneakers!), the frustrating nature of a lot of the Challenges and, of course, the massive letdown of the final boss. All these years later and I’m still disappointed that the story wasn’t a bit more grandiose given that this was a celebration of Sonic’s 20th anniversary; the lack of other playable characters and extra stages was also disappointing, especially considering how modders have integrated both into the game since its release. Yet, by and large, Sonic Generations is still an enjoyable experience. I fear this playthrough may have been soured by me rushed through it as quickly as possible rather than taking my time and losing myself to the nostalgia. If you can do that, there’s a lot to like here from a visual and aural perspective, as well the game being a fun, if all too brief, break-neck action romp through some of Sonic’s most iconic areas.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of Sonic Generations? Do you think it still holds up or, like me, do think that it was lacking in content and features? What was your favourite Classic and/or Modern Sonic videogame? Drop a comment below and share your Sonic thoughts.