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  1. We’ve been celebrating Sonic’s 20th anniversary all year with various online and real-life events, contests and videos. It’s only right that an actual game be a part of the festivities. Sonic Generations is an interactive tribute to the series’ longevity and is one of the most fitting anniversary titles ever to be released. Why? It’s not because classic levels are re-imagined in 3D or that Sonic’s previously portly self is present. No, Sonic Generations is fitting because - in eerie, yet hilariously appropriate fashion - the game starts off incredibly strong, falters hard in the middle and yet shows a glimmer of hope at the end. It sums up the series’ history so perfectly, allowing you to ride the highs and lows of 20 years in one convenient, 4-hour package. Premise I don’t need to go into detail on the story. You’re at The Sonic Stadium. You know what the story is and it simply serves as a device to get both Sonics logically in the same game. That’s all a Sonic story should be. The writing is substantially weaker than Sonic Colors. Tails is your source for exposition, Modern Sonic supplies the most groan-inducing quips in series history and Classic Sonic is as endearing as ever, saying more than anyone with simple body language. All of the other characters never say anything of worth and bombard you with inane “tips” when you battle Time Eater. The highlights are when the game attempts self-deprecation, riffing on bad decisions and rattling off inside jokes. Due to the writing, Roger Craig Smith doesn’t turn in a good performance here, but Kate Higgins does an admirable job doing not one, but two motor-mouth versions of Tails. Mike Pollock is… still untouchable. All of the other voices are garbage. There, I’m done talking about the story and voice acting. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Up FAVORITE SCENE: “That pink water makes me nervous.” Gameplay & Design Follow me here. The game begins and you’re thrown into a reimagining of Classic Green Hill. If you were born in the eighties, you’ll immediately feel that something is off at the first jump. Is it better than how Sonic 4 handles? Clearly, but it’s still not ideal. That amazing feeling of being in total control of a seemingly out-of-control character isn’t entirely there, and it’s an expected let down at this point - yet not game-breaking. Rolling still is abysmal, a disappointing trend that would be rectified with the proper game engine. Spin-dash is back, but it’s ridiculously over-powered, allowing Sonic Team to propel you to a more-than-fast-enough roll where you don’t notice that the walls and loops are scripted and don’t function well (even when you’re near the game’s speed cap). If you were born in the nineties, you probably won’t notice and life goes on. Everything is great. Nothing is bad. If you think it’s super funny that the original Sonic the Hedgehog is included to showcase all of Generations’ faults, you’re not alone. It’s super funny. For all the self-deprecation the game’s cut-scenes lay down on the Sonic franchise, the choice to include Sonic 1 is the crown jewel. It’s Modern Sonic’s turn now. This time, you’re not looking to 1991 for gameplay, you’re looking all the way back to… 2008 to Sonic Unleashed. Yeah, you thought I would say Sonic Colors, right? Well, unfortunately, Generations’ base is the Unleashed engine, as the welcome, minor improvements made to Modern Sonic in Colors are absent. Platforming at low speeds in 3D is, of course, a mess and doesn’t belong. The amount of moves Modern Sonic has to perform at such an insane speed also muddles the experience. Modern Sonic is at his strongest in 2D or when in an area that focuses on the “quick step.” Those two kinds of sequences are when Modern Sonic is at his absolute best. Again, if you grew up with Sonic in his current incarnation, you’re none the wiser. It’s another happy day in the park for you. Now, all of these issues are alleviated with thorough practice. Like, dude, I’m the best Sonic R player around and that game controls like a fresh turd. It’s such a bad game. Why am I so good at it then? The presentation in Sonic R has some strange charm that draws me to replay it and, unlike modern games prior to Colors, Sonic Generations has an appeal that can encourage your perfectionist desires (which I’ll elaborate on later). If you can survive all that frustration and memorization, have at it. You’re the man. You might be asking yourself at this point why I’m focusing so much on the game's flaws. Neither Classic nor Modern Sonic are unplayable. They’re competent, given the series’ history, but I have to highlight the flaws to make the following point: the gameplay of Sonic Generations is not actually a tale of two hedgehogs. It’s a tale of a developer that understands, and then somehow doesn’t understand, its own game. I mentioned earlier that Sonic Generations mirrors the path of the Sonic franchise in terms of quality over time. At the game’s outset, in the Genesis Era of the game, Sonic Team designs its levels in a way that minimizes the amount of times you encounter the game’s shortcomings. If you miss a jump or accidentally fly astray, there are lower paths that catch you - they're usually less fun and possess fewer red rings, but at least you didn’t fall in a pit and die. These stages are wide open and provide enough wiggle-room to accommodate the controls and physics. Green Hill, Chemical Plant and Sky Sanctuary are a blast for both Sonics and feature sprawling paths that require exploration and a bit of screwing around - leaving the player feeling satisfied and wanting to replay them. In the Dreamcast Era, some things appropriately start to slide, but it remains a fun experience. Bottomless pits, scripted sequences and grind rails start to become a bit more prevalent and the overall pacing of the game is definitely on the fast side of things, as one would expect from the Modern Sonic stages. Hitting all of the highlights, from helicopters to street-boarding, haven’t lost their rush after all these years. Those sequences are as great as you remember them. Seaside Hill has its moments, but it’s kind of forgettable. But, wouldn’t you know it… the Modern Era opens with Sonic 2006’s Crisis City and it’s… terrible? That’s the damndest thing! Ham-fisted platforming meets the dated Sonic model of killing the player for making the slightest mistake. Crisis City Classic is surprisingly neat, but the mixture of gale-force winds and sluggish acceleration will test your patience. Rooftop Run is not memorable at all. I just played the level to specifically insert a moment into this review, but I forgot what it was before sitting back at my computer. Planet Wisp, like Colors to the Sonic series at large, starts to win you back, but it’s somewhat tarnished by its monotonous, near 10-minute length. The inherent problem with the Modern Sonic stages is that they are just that: Modern Sonic stages. Instead of continuing to design around the limitations in their engine, the designers felt compelled to try and make Modern Sonic levels authentic to their respective source material, where a player’s curiosity will cause Sonic to go flying off into pits or fall through floors. The source material didn’t work in their respective, flawed engines, so why did they think it would work in Generations’ flawed engine? If they would had stuck to simply using a level’s theme and graphics and adapting well to the Generations design, then we would all have less problems. Even though he’s strictly 2D, Classic Sonic is not immune to issues in the latter half of the game. Modern levels punish the pudgy one for the tiniest misstep, putting crucial platforms just out of horizontal or vertical reach, all above nefarious pits. There are less branching paths and more cheap shots. Again, Sonic Team, your controls aren’t that tight. Design for the engine that you’ve built and not for what you think you have built. Sonic Generations’ gameplay proves itself to be convoluted through the return of the robot Chao, Omochao. If you need constant text, voice and button prompts during gameplay, that’s bad game design. Video games are best when they illustrate what you have to do through gameplay. If you have to constantly prompt the player to press buttons at all these given times with limited warning, then maybe there are too many actions for the player to handle or you didn’t give them enough time in a controlled environment. At the main menu, you can turn Omochao and the control tutorials off because we all know he is obnoxious. However, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage during a majority of the boss fights and the modern era stages. You have no idea what to do unless you read a walkthrough or turn Omochao on. With tutorials/Omochao on, the game is patronizing. Without them, the game doesn’t teach you enough through gameplay. There’s no middle ground. The latter third of the game is one, giant Carnival Night Barrel. Each stage presents its own set of rules and moves, so it’s difficult for a new player to quickly adjust and learn. The biggest offender here is Time Eater. When you approach him, a homing attack reticle appears on his weak spot. Throughout the course of the game, you are taught to press X to attack when you see this reticle. Well, that doesn’t work and the player is left alone in one of the worst boss fights in recent memory. When you need all of that explanation, you’ve made things too complicated and it noticeably impacts the game’s flow and direction. Maybe that’s why you only lose 25 rings at a time… JUDGMENT: Thumbs... Neutral Like Sonic 4, your mileage may vary depending on your Sonic history and experiences. FAVORITE PART: Breaking a bridge with Modern Sonic’s stomp in GHZ and uncovering a cool, new path to explore. Level Selection & Game Navigation Since I’m reviewing a compilation title of sorts, the level selection and hub world deserve their own section and verdict. If you’re like me and in your mid-twenties (or older), you probably feel old knowing that it has been 20 years since the original Sonic the Hedgehog crashed into our living rooms. You know what makes you feel older? The fact that Sonic’s ever-changing, inconsistent modern form has been around longer than the often fawned-over classic design. Taking that fact into consideration, it’s understandable why two-thirds of the game is post-1998. There are more modern games. What doesn’t make sense is repetition of level tropes. The Genesis Era takes you from a lush, green landscape to an intimidating facility to a ruin adrift in the clear, blue skies. The variety opens a vast well of creativity, giving the player something new to see and do as the game progresses. After that amazing rush, it gradually comes to a halt. The modern stage selection is also a comment on the last 12 years: same old, tired shit. You’re treated to a city at night, a city at day, a second green “hill,” a city under attack, a foreign city and a green landscape tarnished by industry. I know modern Sonic games have mostly taken place in the “real world,” but I know there are more tropes than green lands and cities in those games. There’s only so many times you can run on the sides of buildings or on scaffolding. It gets boring and screams, “lazy.” The stage selection seems to be based more on the popularity of the stage’s music more than making Sonic Generations a thematically diverse package. There’s a real missed opportunity here with Sonic Generations. Instead of more levels, you’re left with challenge levels within the set of 9. These challenges are 90% optional and while some of them are fun and clever, most of them are clearly showing the challenge mode’s “filler” nature. In one challenge, you have to stop what you’re doing, call on Rouge and have her shake her tits to distract robots long enough for you to kill them. Some challenges are that absurd. Challenges feature many level gimmicks not seen in the main acts. Why aren’t they? They would only enhance the experience on the part of the game that is mandatory. As mentioned earlier, Crisis City Classic was cool, but it needed something else to really bring it together. Well, the challenge stages had level gimmicks, like spiky seesaws, that could’ve really diversified the main act and made it memorable. The way you get to these challenge levels is a great example of how you not to create a hub world. Navigating the main acts is great, but you have to ascend awkward ramps, platforms and sometimes text in this Sonic purgatory to reach the multiple challenge doorways. Whatever happened to menus? Not only are the challenges filler, but also simply getting to them is a time-sink in itself. Instead of challenges, Sonic Team could’ve supplied more levels or, better yet, more bosses. There are a pitiful amount of bosses on display here and each one takes very few shots to defeat. Outside of Metal Sonic, the rival battles are confusing without Omochao and only seem to exist to tap into your happy memories for a brief moment. Special Stages are also a huge part of the Sonic legacy and they’re nowhere to be found in Sonic Generations. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Down FAVORITE ASPECT: Selecting levels from a list using “Online” mode. Presentation Nobody expects bad presentation from Sonic Team and they continue to deliver with gorgeous graphics and well-produced music. The graphics are solid, but there’s an iffy texture here and there if you happen to be moving slowly. If you’re playing on the consoles, you’re going to be disappointed at the game’s frame rate. Sonic needs to run at 60 FPS to be successful. At 30, it’s too hard to follow the action and Sonic can become lost in the detailed scenery. The true champion here is the music. Solid remixes of classic and modern tunes to suit, uh, classic and modern levels ensure that you’re in for an aural treat from start to finish. Each song evokes a past emotion and guarantees that you remember this second visit by adding some additional flair. The option to select from a wide library of other songs is nice (hell yeah, Toxic Caves), but many of the bonus songs sound like MIDI and thrown in without care. Nostalgia plays a huge role in Generations. The sheer amount of fan-service in this game is ridiculous. It’s so awesome. Clearly, all of the effort went into this aspect of the game. From the many Easter Eggs, musical cues and classic forms of characters, Sonic Generations might have the most fan-service ever included in a video game. All of the familiar sights, winks and nods make for one sick nostalgia trip that, upon contact, almost makes you forget all of the game’s flaws. The sense hits some people stronger than others (I mean, look at all those glowing reviews on Metacritic/our forums) and it’s undeniable that most of the game’s appeal lies here. If you’re a die-hard fan of the series, your devotion to useless knowledge will be rewarded here. I mentioned earlier that I became insanely good at a terrible game like Sonic R because it was presented with such charm. Sonic Generations oozes charm. Despite all the bad things I’ve said about it, the presentational aspect draws me back for brief spurts of play. JUDGMENT: Thumbs WAY Up! FAVORITE PART: Fighting Silver the Hedgehog with Palmtree Panic music. Longevity Sonic Generations is short, clocking in at 4-5 hours to beat the mandatory sections of the game. Even if you suck at the game during your initial play-through, you’ll probably walk away with B, A and S ranks and a handful of red rings. Deaths are limited to frequent trips to the abyss and that’s all. A level obstacle or enemy will never kill you because you only lose 25 rings at a time. It’s really sad. Online leaderboards are present, but the real attraction that I don’t see many people mentioning is the “30-Second Trial” mode, where you try and make it as far as you can in 30 seconds. I’ve never experienced a mode in Sonic so addicting. Whoever created this mode deserves a beer or two for actually extending the mileage of a game that was clearly desperate for it. Absolutely genius idea. But why is there a single save file? Who decided that one save file is a good idea? Fire that person. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Down FAVORITE TIME WASTER: 30-second trials, dude! Conclusion Everybody is saying that this game “shows great promise for the future” and is “a step in the right direction.” I hate to break it to you, but Sonic Generations is a one-off deal that’ll never be happening again anytime soon. Classic Sonic is going back into the vault and Iizuka is already looking to create a new Modern Sonic. This game only services the present and the past; reminding us of the crazy ride we’ve all been on. Sonic Team put all of their eggs into the presentation and fan-service baskets to win back the hardcore-yet-jaded fans and the fans that haven’t paid attention in years. The marketing for Sonic Generations was nothing like we’ve seen before. It certainly worked. They’re paying attention now. However, nostalgia is a temporary fix unique to this game, a crutch that Sonic Team has been leaning on for the past few years. Bringing back Classic Sonic, Genesis stages and strictly 2D gameplay does not a good game make. These changes are simply cosmetic. Sonic Generations’ existence is conspicuously born from years of criticism and complaints, but the real ills with Sonic today still weren’t addressed. The remedy isn’t hermetically sealed in Green Hill Zone and has been apparent for over ten years; Sonic Team has no idea what’s wrong with its games on a fundamental level. Until they realize that tight controls, physics and level design ultimately trump presentation and nostalgia, we’ll continue to be stuck in our own Sonic purgatory. For having a mostly mediocre existence, Sonic gets an average adventure to celebrate with no indication on where he is headed. Sonic Generations is an inoffensive title that has frequent flashes of brilliance, but is once again hog-tied by legacy issues. Its strongest feature isn’t within the game, but rather, your memories. See? I told you Sonic Generations was the most appropriate anniversary release. Second Opinion @Detective Shadzter: Sonic Generations is a perfect celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th Anniversary, and fans of both the classic Sonic titles and the modern titles will be happy with Sonic Team’s Birthday efforts. Classic Sonic’s gameplay handles very close to how it does in the original Mega Drive/Genesis Sonic titles and Modern Sonic has been tweaked with controls even tighter than those in Sonic Colours. All of the game’s nine stages you revisit have been given fresh redesigns with plenty of routes to explore in multiple playthroughs. Add Red Star Rings to collect, 10 missions for each stage (5 per Sonic), rankings and online leaderboards and you’ve got plenty of replay value. Sonic Generations is one of the best Sonic games of all time. JUDGMENT: Thumbs Up! Final Words THE GOOD + Copious amount of fanservice + OMG NOSTALGIA + Amazing graphics + A well-produced soundtrack spanning the series history (even a few of the spin-offs) + Layered level design with many alternate paths + The first half of the game + Classic Sonic’s reactions to anything + Great 2D platforming areas for both Sonics + Getting all S-Ranks + 30-Second Trials THE BAD + Most of the writing + The quality of a few of the alternate music tracks + (Unless you’re a veteran) Convoluted Modern Sonic controls + Drifting + The hub world + Challenges + The latter half of the game’s level design + Lack of multiple save files + The meagre selection of stages and bosses + Omochao and his unfortunate, occasional necessity + The lack of difficulty, artificially created by bottomless pits + The short length Both the main review and second opinion were based on the PS3 version of the game. Special thanks to Ian (bmn) for providing the HD game footage. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  2. Sonic 4, then. Hyped as the true return to 2D form for the blue blur, unleashed at last upon the fanbase after a year-long wait that was riddled with delays and controversy. Does it live up to its promise? Is it worth your hard-earned Sonic wonga? Read on and find out, in TSS’ Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 review. Premise There’s really nothing to say when it comes to the game’s premise – it follows the formula of the classic games to the letter, seeing Sonic race through levels to rescue his animal friends from Dr. Eggman’s capture. As it continues on from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, there’s something of a bare bones plot – the evil doc, still smarting after the chaos that ensued on the Death Egg, is trying once more to bury the planet with his league of robot badniks. Of course, with the recession and everything, he’s on the back foot, forced to recycle only the best of the baddies from past games. Obviously, Sonic’s having none of it. With no cutscenes or any other guff to endure in-between levels, Sonic 4 does a great job of keeping the focus on what really matters – 2D platforming and fast-paced action. There’s a lot to be said about games that just let you get on with the game and just play – and Sonic the Hedgehog is such an accessible game that jumping in is a total cinch. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE SCENE: As it should be – the ending sequence. Presentation Sonic 4 is simply gorgeous. SEGA has brought the 2D games bang-up to present-day, and although the 16-bit sprites had a bit more charm to them, you’ll still be able to appreciate the detailed locales and intricate designs implemented here. With 3D models, special effects such as card-based paths looping in and out of the screen, and traditional items such as pinball bumpers and loop-de-loops covered in foliage, Sonic 4 does what the original Sonic the Hedgehog did in 1991 – create a graphical presentation that can truly wow kids. All that being said, there’s something of an obvious pattern when it comes to the design of Sonic 4 – it’s not entirely original. In fact, it could be argued that it’s not original at all. Each of the four major zones (and the concept of the Special Stages) are re-imaginations of levels already seen in the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The multi-tiered and engaging level design helps break the argument that this is but a mere rehash, but it is fair to say that this initial episode does feel more like an homage rather than a true sequel. Maybe some fresh ideas for the next episode, SEGA? JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE BIT: The all-too familiar looking Splash Hill going from daylight to sunset. Sound When you think of the music behind classic Mega Drive Sonic games, one of the most distinctive elements you would pick out would be Masato Nakamura’s deft use of percussion. Jun Senoue, a veteran who has been involved with the series’ soundtrack ever since Sonic 3, has tried to replicate that to mixed success. Oftentimes the background music sounds like there’s a 16-bit woodpecker knocking against your head. At other times, tunes are barely memorable – try humming a Sonic 4 song two hours after playing it. There are some blinding gems that show Senoue’s skill, like the pumping theme to Mad Gear or the absolutely delightful Act 3 music to Splash Hill Zone. But we all know what the man’s capable of when given a Mega Drive – 1996’s Sonic 3D Flickies’ Island is testament to that. Ultimately, I can see exactly what Senoue was going for here – it’s just a shame that the overall result is a bit hit-and-miss. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down FAVOURITE TRACKS: Splash Hill Zone Act 3, Mad Gear Zone Act 1 Gameplay This really is the heart of the debate – whether you rate Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 as a good or bad game depends entirely on what you perceive the game to be (ignoring SEGA’s constant marketing natter about ‘back to the classics, fo’ real homes’). Do you focus more on what the game should be, or what it really is? Here’s my take – Sonic 4 is a lot of fun. With some caveats. When you start playing the game, a lot of the hangups in the physics department appear glaringly obvious – and if they don’t, then you’ll be blitzing through the first few stages thinking subconsciously that something isn’t right with this picture. As it turns out, Sonic Team (for whatever reason) did not decide to build on the Mega Drive codebase but instead created as close enough a replication as it could. For some, the bits it got wrong are a deal-breaker. Jump to the side and let go of the analogue stick/D-pad, and rather than letting momentum take its course, Sonic stops moving and drops in a vertical line. Closer inspection shows that the same is true for other midair activities, such as being shot out of a cannon. Elsewhere, the game doesn’t seem to encourage the use of the spin attack because every time you use it, you slow to a crawl. Even on the Casino Street half-pipes – where in classic Sonic games, spin-attacking would actually make you go faster than running, the opposite is true in Sonic 4. For those used to the physics of the originals, it’s baffling. But if you stick with the game, you’ll get used to those setbacks and enjoy the game for the short, enjoyable ride it otherwise provides. Running around curves and bouncing off of badniks really takes you back to those halcyon days sitting in front of a Mega Drive as a kid. The level design – multiple tiers and with several routes for time-attacking – is a triumph compared to those found in recent 2D Sonics. And the sole addition to the blue blur’s attack roster, the homing attack, is far from a cheap get-out-of-jail-free card, but instead offers access to alternate paths and feels just as natural as a classic power-up should. Sonic 4 is a game that divides opinion like no other – just as I feel there is a lot of fun and gameplay worth to the game despite its setbacks, others may feel that the physics is enough to fail the game entirely. The strange thing is, both opinions are correct. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up (Your Mileage May Vary) FAVOURITE PART: Running like a madman to escape the chaos in Mad Gear Act 3. Longevity You won’t really get a lot of bang for your buck here – you’re buying entirely into the nostalgia trip that you may (or may not) receive when Sonic 4: Episode 1 first loads up. To compare the number of zones to past Mega Drive games is silly – Sonic the Hedgehog came out in 1991 with six zones for around £40. When you consider you’re only losing two for a tenner that’s not so bad. What can’t be argued is that you can easily beat Sonic 4: Episode 1 in the space of an hour or so (minus chaos emeralds – it will take you an extra couple of hours to grab them). When there are other premium games on downloadable services commanding at least four times that for about £2 less, you start to ask a question or two as to whether the longevity is value for money. It will be interesting to see how that might change if it has the ability to ‘lock on’ with future episodes, however. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down FAVOURITE TIME-WASTER: Time-attacking – the homing attack has some nice uses in speed running. Final Words YOU’LL LOVE + The sublime level design. + All of the beautiful backdrops. + A fresh challenge, wrapped in a familiar setting. + That you can still have fun despite its drawbacks. + The homing attack. Yeah, I said it. YOU’LL HATE – The rather naff jump and spin physics. – A rather forgettable soundtrack. – That it’s over far too quickly for your money. – It’s more of an homage than a fully-blown sequel. – One or two gimmick-specific stages. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  3. Sonic has had his fair share of racing games. Game Gear’s Sonic Drift, Sonic R on the Sega Saturn, and the recent Sonic Riders are some prime examples. These racers each tried something different (with the exception of Drift, really) and while interesting, didn’t really provide a stellar gaming experience. As much as I personally love Sonic R, turning corners and holding down that B button can be a right pain sometimes – and the fun’s over too quickly. Sonic Rivals was… well, that was Sonic Rivals. In 2010 Sumo Digital has decided to take a punt at a Sonic racer, and instead of going for something different (although they did reportedly toy with a Sonic R-style gameplay mechanic) the studio went with something a bit closer to what gamers knew best – a karting game. Why is Sonic, in fact, in a car? The answer is – who cares, really? Comparisons are inevitably going to be drawn with Mario Kart, but is Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing a fun game in its own right? Premise So it’s Sonic the Hedgehog (and friends) in a car, or plane, or bike of some kind. Some may call that an unoriginal and, dare I say it, ‘derivative’ approach, given that many mascot racers have tried – and failed – to match Mario Kart. The way I see it, there’s no way of escaping the Nintendo formula if you’re making a game of this kind. As much as the platformer genre involves jumping on floating blocks, so too does the cartoon kart racer require recognisable characters, crazy power-ups and colourful locations. Sumo Digital has proved its Sega knowledge before with Sega Superstars Tennis (a game that I suppose could have been ‘derivative’ in the face of Mario Tennis, but funnily enough people enjoyed that game and didn’t make that connection), and given its OutRun history a Sonic racer was the next logical step. Sonic suits a car quite well actually – especially given former Sonic Team head Naka-san’s love for Ferraris – but it’s not just a representation of Sega’s mascot I approve of here. It’s the re-introduction of long lost Sega characters such as Alex Kidd, Opa-Opa, B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi and – most impressively – Ryo Hazuki of Shenmue fame. For the Sega fan, this is a real treat. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE SCENE: To be honest, we can only really say the opening scene here, can’t we? Still, it’s ruddy good. Presentation The whole game is presented with that classic Sega sheen, right down to the menus. The attention to detail in each of the courses is stunning – Sonic’s Seaside Hill has never looked so good! Using Sumo’s own Sunshine engine, everything radiates with the warmth of the sunny blue skies that beams on almost every track. With a range of courses covering various Sega franchises (Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Monkey Ball, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, The House of the Dead, Samba de Amigo, Jet Set Radio Future) there’s a lot of nostalgia at play here. At first glance though, it doesn’t seem there’s a lot of variety in the tracks – especially given that we have characters from Shenmue and Virtua Fighter here. But this is made up for with the overall atmosphere and design of each course. Sonic’s tracks range from the sunny Seaside Hill to the dark, gloomy Final Fortress, while different districts of Tokyo-to each have their own feel and surroundings. It’s awesome to be driving full throttle through a psychedelic Samba de Amigo course too – Sumo Digital has not only done its homework with these tracks, it’s put real thought and care into how to best use Sega’s brands. It’s truly a great quality to have. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE BIT: Crashing through the billboard in Shibuya Downtown and flying over the cityscape. Sound A true mish-mash of classics from SEGA’s past. Darting through Seaside Hill while listening to Can You Feel The Sunshine from Sonic R is nothing short of delightful, and each of the games represented in All-Stars Racing have brought with them a substantial amount of tunes to keep the action pacing. Some of the choices are a bit predictable – a lot of Sonic Heroes music is featured, and it was the de-facto soundtrack to the Sonic side of Sega Superstars Tennis – but you barely notice that when you’re going hell-for-leather online. Voices are less keen to get you going, unless your race is blessed with the unintentionally-comedic delights of Ryo Hazuki. Most of the voice work has been pulled from past Sega titles, leaving quotes like Sonic’s zinger “Aren’t You Worried?” to terrorise brain cells with its irrelevance. Big the Cat and Beat, for example, feature fresh recordings though, so it’s not all stuff you’ve heard before. Hazuki’s Shenmue quotes have to be the best thing that’s ever happened to the voice work in this game. And not for any good reason. There’s also an announcer that sounds like a cross between an American surfer dude with constipation and Krusty the Clown. Thankfully, you can turn him off. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hearing Sonic R tracks in my 2010 game – surprise! Gameplay Being based off of the Mario Kart formula means that Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is already quite solid. But one area that makes this unique is the drifting mechanics. Sumo has taken its experience with past driving titles and introduced a modified system from OutRun. The L2 button (or the Left Trigger) is context sensitive, with drifts performed in combination with a turn on the analogue stick. Hold the trigger down to keep sliding, and adjust the angle with stabs on the accelerator. It’s a system that feels natural after a few races. Drifting gives you up to three levels of boost, which is vital to staying ahead of the pack. L2/Left Trigger also acts as a trick button when driving over ramps, and as a brake when no direction is held. With only one other button (besides the accelerator) being used to fire weapons, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing has a control scheme that’s simple to pick up – but the tracks and missions make it hard to master. The great thing is, the action is balanced very well. Even with the ‘catch up’ option set, there’s no real rubber-banding going on – computer controlled opponents are fairly matched against human players. Once you break ahead though, it’s likely that nobody will be able to catch up to you – but it’s a preferable situation to having cheating AI. Once you get knocked back a few places though, you can expect a deluge of revenge tactics from friends and CPU alike. It keeps the action exciting, and the tracks themselves are brilliantly designed – offering shortcuts and opportunities for stunts and chain drifting. You’ll want to replay the courses again and again to discover new ways of taking advantage of the corners and jumps. The power-up items are your standard karting fare – rockets, shields, speed ups. The most noteworthy item to have is the All-Star move, a unique ability for each character that allows them to move up a few positions on the track if you’re falling behind. Each require skill and timing to pull off though, so it’s not a sure-fire way of getting from last to fourth. It all adds to the balance that Sumo has created in the game. You’ve got to work for your meal, which makes the gameplay – and the winning – so much sweeter. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE PART: Drifting around the bends in the Casino Park tracks, boosting out of them and passing opponents. Pro. Longevity The amount of content crammed into this title will ensure you’ll be playing Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for a long time. On top of the expected Grand Prix and Single Race modes, a lengthy missions mode challenges you with increasingly difficult tasks, while Time Attack puts you on worldwide leaderboards and against Sumo Digital’s ghost times. In multiplayer, you can take on up to three other players with Battle, Capture the Chao, Emerald and King of the Hill modes. They provide nice diversions in split-screen, but you’ll be mostly going back to the Races mode to conquer the track. Online, things are a bit more restrictive. There’s no mode to play other than Single Race, which is a little bit disappointing as it would have been cool to play some Capture the Chao games over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. In addition to this, All-Star moves don’t exist online – it’s a total bummer, but understandable given technical limitations. Besides that, playing online is perhaps the most fun experience in the game and will keep you coming back to it long after you’ve unlocked that last Achievement or Trophy. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE TIME-WASTER: Playing Time Attack for a lap, and getting sucked into getting a better time again. And again. Second Opinion @T-Bird: I never got a chance to play this game at SoS and hadn’t downloaded the demo, so release day was my first opportunity to play this game. The controls (for a non-seasoned racer) initially came across as a tad odd, particularly seeing as there is an emphasis on learning to drift early on if you want to really sneak around impossible corners. In this sense the game is frustrating at first, but once you’ve completed a Grand Prix and accomplished a handful of missions, you really start to appreciate the high-end tuning that has gone into each individual character’s handling on track. The courses really do feel like they have been snatched from many SEGA universes, and I think this is a testament to the amount of thought and attention Sumo Digital have invested in the game. Granted there are a few points on a certain Billy Hatcher stage that have me screaming as Amy careens off into the lava, and I think the omission of All-Star attacks in multiplayer (or an option to have it) is a little disappointing, but overall this really is nit-picking at what is a very highly polished, fun game to play. Final Words YOU’LL LOVE + That Sega has an equal to Mario Kart. + Drifting and using the unique power ups. + All the Sega characters lovingly revived. + Earning Sega Miles as you play with friends. + Racing online – it’s great fun. YOU’LL HATE – A lack of online options, and no All-Stars online. We know it was explained, but still. – Few Sega franchises to race through, despite the variety in presentation. – That a lot of the gameplay is a bit too familiar. – The unbalanced bikes against cars. – Loading times. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  4. It’s always hard to judge games like SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection in a review, because the only thing you can really gauge is the offering itself and whether the presentation offers value for money. With the Wii’s Virtual Console providing a lot of classic entertainment at varying prices each, and the Xbox Live Arcade doing the same for certain cult favourites, it seems fitting that SEGA would jump in and provide an outlet for gamers to experience all of their past titles as well. Of course, a Mega Drive Collection is nothing new; the publisher has been supporting the console on Nintendo’s hardware for the longest time, and as recent as 2006 we all saw a Mega Drive Collection released for the PlayStation 2 and PSP. There’s also the idea that, well, the Mega Drive certainly wasn’t the only console that SEGA developed, so why all the hardcore love for it, when a Saturn or Dreamcast compilation would have proved a bit more refreshing? The answer is quite simple; given the PlayStation 3′s dubious backwards compatibility, the fact that the Xbox never saw the original 2006 release, and that out of all of SEGA's past efforts the Mega Drive is the one that everyone fondly remembers most, it only makes sense that gamers are given the chance to see once more just why the company was known as an industry powerhouse in the 1990s. Now, sing it with me… “Seeeeeee-gaaaaaaaaaaa”… Presentation The collection is being handled by Backbone Entertainment, a studio that is no stranger to console emulation, with their track record including numerous Xbox Live Arcade titles and the original Sega Mega Drive Collection on PS2. This release has the same classy interface that we have come to expect from the team, with games being presented in a menu that represents a Mega Drive console. With around 40 games to play, there's an option to filter the list so that it’s easier to get to the games you like better. A personal scoring system allows you to rate games out of five - of which the highest scorers will emerge at the top of the list when the collection boots up. It's little touches like that which help make a collection like this helpful, rather than a hindrance. Game presentation is as you would expect from a PC emulator – as this is what Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection really is, at its core. While it might sound reasonable at first to expect Backbone to have offered a little more than this, it's really hard to complain when you're playing each of the ‘ROMs’ on a big screen. There’s an option to add a 2xSAI style filter on the graphics, but it really fudges things up with blurry, smudgy sprites so it’s best you turn it off. Seeing Phantasy Star IV or Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in upscaled digital glory really does give you a blast to the past. On top of this, the games used are 60Hz without borders – which is a godsend for games like Streets of Rage 3, which really suffered in its original PAL cartridge release for being way too slow and border-heavy. In terms of extras, we get a gallery of box art and cartridge scans for every game, although sadly we only get US NTSC artwork in our PAL release. Would have been nice to have seen European boxes, along with US and Japanese to complete the set. There are bonus interviews, but they’re lifted straight from the 2006 PS2 release and don’t provide any extra insight to those who have seen them before (although it’s always nice to see the Ristar creator wax lyrical, we could listen to him all day). With some additional information and ‘Did You Know’s for each title on the collection, there’s not an awful lot Backbone could have added to have made this perfect. It’s an expertly packaged compilation. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up Game Offering While there are many curious omissions – there’s no lock-on capability with Sonic & Knuckles, and games that have been released before on Virtual Console (including Gunstar Heroes and ToeJam & Earl) are no-shows – Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection still impresses with its game lineup. No amount of games would have made every Sega fan truly happy, but in this Backbone has compiled a list that spans the history of the console perfectly, from the original pack-in Altered Beast to the entire Sonic the Hedgehog series and even cult hits like Dynamite Headdy and Ristar. Even the fabulously bad Alien Storm makes an appearance - worthy of playing simply to see the robot’s head explode. The games that will most likely have you hugging your HDTV as it drowns you in 16-bit gameplay goodness include: Comix Zone, a platform-beat-em-up set in a comic book; Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, a despicably addictive puzzle game where you match coloured beans to beat your opponent; Dynamite Headdy, a truly insane platformer from Treasure; the Golden Axe series, which needs no introduction; the entire Phantasy Star collection of RPGs, with the unforgettable fourth instalment providing the ultimate blend of speed-based battle and compelling manga premise; Ristar, quite possibly one of the greatest platforming games Sega has created, starring a shooting star that uses elasticated arms to swing and grapple himself around the game world; Shining Force II, a fantastic tactical RPG that is as engaging as it is cerebral; Shinobi III, with fast-paced shuriken-chucking action featuring Joe Musashi; the complete Sonic the Hedgehog series, which today still provide some of the best gaming experiences you can find; the Streets of Rage trilogy, which has you fighting countless armies of street thugs as ex-cop Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding; and Vectorman, a groovy 2.3D shooting platformer that features a hip-hopping green robot… thing. Although one could be disappointed about the lack of their favourite Mega Drive game in this collection, what is included is a really big deal for the older gamer - and there’s more than enough essential 90s material for younger players to find out just what all the fuss was about in Phantasy Star IV, or take on Zeon for the very first time in Shining Force II. It really is hard to complain about the offering here when it all translates to about 50p per game, and for that you’re getting real essential gameplay. There are even arcade games that can be unlocked, including Alien Syndrome, Shinobi and Fantasy Zone. It’s a real treat for the thumbs. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up Longevity Make no mistake, you will be playing these games long after you first put the disc in your PS3 or Xbox 360. The games are old enough to be considered casual material, wherein you and a mate can get a few rounds of Streets of Rage 2 in before you head to the pub for a drink. Each game allows you to have three save states, so you can pick up on the action right where you left off. In most other cases, RPGs such as Shining Force and Phantasy Star provide absolute hours of fun entertainment, and for someone like me who’s never played the Phantasy Star series, going through IV is proving to be an enriching experience. The only gripe I could possibly bring up is the potential short-sightedness of the collection – we hear of Backbone being pressured to finish this collection on time, and as a result the lock-on connectivity of Sonic & Knuckles and the inclusion of other games suffered. It would have been a good plan to have allowed for either future patching or set up a small Sega Store, where additional games could be purchased one by one to add to the collection over time. With something like the Wii Virtual Console already offering this capability out of the box, it would have made Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection truly future-proof. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up Final Words YOU’LL LOVE + Many of these classic games. + Finding that the games are as fun as they were back in the 90s. + Discovering Mega Drive titles that you may have missed as a kid, like Shining Force. + The slick presentation of the collection. YOU’LL HATE - The graphics filter. Don’t use it. - The lack of new bonus material in the interviews. - The omission of a few choice Mega Drive titles. - The potential the game could have had to add more games over time. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  5. I found it hard to write this review. Not because I didn’t know what to say, but because I wasn’t sure how I was going to say it. Hashimoto-san and company have worked very hard on this latest Sonic adventure. It’s clear to see when you take a peek at the screenshots, or learn about the Hedgehog Engine, or hear about how they spent countless months designing Sonic stages that cover hundreds of virtual miles. Sonic Team haven’t scrimped here, they had something to prove after Sonic 06 that they could create a well-produced, non-glitchy game. And they have. Based on the effort put in, I’d give them as many Thumbs Up as humanely possible. As well produced as Sonic Unleashed is, however, it can’t escape the fact that its concept, ideas and design are flawed. I’ll get this out of the way quickly - Sonic Unleashed is not an awesome game. However, neither is it a crap game. It’s a greatly made game, built on poor ideas, lingering annoyingly between good and bad in the ‘average’ department. Now, when you consider the pile of munk that Sonic 06 was, this is nothing but a good thing. But it’s still disheartening for a Sonic fan to see their favourite franchise - that was once the greatest platformer ever - settle for ‘average’. This is why it was hard to write this review - because it’s difficult to point out this game’s flaws without sounding like I really hate the game. That’s not the case at all, there’s a lot to love about Sonic Unleashed. But to see a franchise fall so far and then settle for second best after all this effort is depressing stuff. So treat the following as a positive critique rather than an almighty pasting. Sort of like DeviantArt, without the teenage bitching. Or something. Premise You’ve got to give credit to someone who can perform illusions to the masses. Despite the overall perception that Sonic Unleashed is a brave new direction, it is in actual fact the exact same thing we’ve seen over the last ten years. The adventure hubs. Humans. Silly nether-realm creatures from another galaxy/dimension/physical space that Dr. Eggman tries to abuse the power of. The fact that Sonic has once again taken a back seat to a different kind of gameplay mechanic that nobody really asked for in the first place. Sonic (and consequently Super Sonic), upon attacking the Eggman fleet in a snazzy cutscene, gets lured into a trap that uses the Chaos Emeralds’ power to split the planet into fragments. This was meant to awaken today’s ‘eeeeevil’ beast of the month, Dark Gaia, but the ploy was enacted prematurely, leaving the creature to leave its essence scattered around the globe instead. A convenient side-effect for Eggman is that Sonic’s turned into a Werehog with all this Dark Gaia energy fused within him. When the new look Sonic crash lands on the planet’s surface, he befriends a flying animal with an infatuation for chocolate, and the latest episode in the Sonic Adventure series begins. This would be interesting, but we’ve been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt. It’s a well-thought out premise, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not a very good one. Playing this game is like experiencing a B-Movie to Sonic Adventure’s Hollywood production - or for a more appropriate example, a modern day Crash Bandicoot game like Crash of the Titans (ugh) compared to one of the Naughty Dog classics. It just doesn’t feel right. Most annoyingly, our Sonic 06 review clearly said that the hedgehog needed a change, so this isn’t exactly a great start to a supposedly fresh new approach. We’ve had enough of humans and monsters now, can we get back to what works - animals, badniks and a more ‘Mobius’-y planet - please? JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down FAVOURITE SCENE: Anything involving Eggman - particularly the ‘Sandwich’ and ‘Eggmanland’ scene. Presentation That said, you can’t get a more gorgeous game than Sonic Unleashed. It’s a real treat for the eyes. The stages are incredibly detailed, with so much background in the Sonic stages as you whizz past that it’s hard not to go ‘wow’ at least once during play. The Sonic stages in particular are done with a lot of flair and showboating, as the dynamic camera pans round to a 2D view and back to behind the blue blur seamlessly. Seeing Sonic shoot back and forth from one depth level of the screen to another is breathtaking. The cutscenes are also very well done, although to be honest you could have gotten rid of all of them save for the ones featuring Chip (heavily) and Eggman. The story is very meh, don’t-care, but seeing Chip’s random humour and Eggman’s traditional gloating is something that gets you every time. Sonic Unleashed very wisely ditched the über-hardcore, ’serious’ stuff of Sonic 06 and went for a more lighter theme here. The result is an atmosphere not seen since Sonic Adventure: a game that can appeal to all ages and audiences. Continents are cartoony versions of their real-life counterparts - Apotos being Greece, Spagonia being Italy, etc. It’s closer to a representation of Earth than any Sonic game before it, but the surroundings suit the style of the game very well, and Sonic doesn’t appear out of place too much in a human world such as this. I can’t say that seeing humans again is much of an exciting prospect, but at least they take on a light-hearted, Pixar-esque appearance. It’s worth exploring the whole game just to see how close to real life these places are, and how well they’re created - but I have to say, Eggmanland is clearly the best stage in the entire game in terms of iconic Sonic design. I would have liked to have seen more imaginative badniks though - one of the biggest crimes of the last few years is Eggman using generic ‘serious’ robots instead of animal-based robots that reside in their relative zone. The best looking enemy I saw were little beetle creatures that explode or stick to you, losing you rings. Despite that, the animation on both enemies and characters are awesome - throwing Egg Flames as Werehog only to see them get up and do pirouettes is amazing stuff. More imagination though please, Sonic Team. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE BIT: Seeing Sonic zip in and out of the screen at high speed during stages. Sound We’re not left with a rock soundtrack this time! As much of a metalhead as I am, Jun Senoue and Runblebee’s overly fret-happy fingers were starting to get a little bit same-y. Instead, we’re treated to a more varied offering, with a nice orchestral piece as the title’s main theme. The Sonic stages are pretty pumping and happy-inducing, while Werehog’s sombre but upbeat night music gets you going for the next fight ahead. There are some gems in here too, adding to the light-hearted, happy-go-lucky atmosphere that Sonic is best known for. If you get an ‘E’ Rank, the 'level complete' jingle turns into an out-of-tune band playing you out, while Sonic slumps off saying “Can I start over?”. There are also a number of throwbacks to older games - Mazuri’s Daytime theme is a remix of the Sonic 1 8-bit Credits screen, while Adabat’s Daytime stage includes a sample that you can also hear in ‘Back In Time’ in Sonic R. The Werehog battle theme is jazzed up nicely, with each encounter prompting a change in soundtrack to a more funky beat. It’s a good thing, as it really extinguishes any serious undertones battling Dark Gaia creatures may have, and you may find yourself even going ‘aw, that’s cute’ to some of the smaller luminous beasts. Good work, guys. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE TRACKS: Chun-Nan Daytime Stage, Spagonia Daytime Stage. Gameplay Sonic Unleashed has some of the worst level progression I’ve seen, thanks to some skilful confusion in the ‘Adventure’ gameplay. Just like Sonic Adventure when it was new and bearable, or Sonic 06 when it was a plain drag, the blue blur has to navigate world hubs in-between levels in order to progress. The towns aren’t actually that bad - they're nice to have a potter about in and they’re well designed areas - but constantly hopping from one to another, frustratingly trying to figure out where to go next, is never fun. The game gives you vague hints by way of Tails or Professor Pickle on which continent to go next, and it will take you ages to access the world map screen, let alone figure it out. Instead of a classic Act 1/Act 2/Boss situation, you’re sporadically going from Apotos’ Sonic Stage to Apotos’ Werehog stage, to Mazuri Werehog to Spagonia Werehog back to Mazuri as Sonic to Chun-Nan as Sonic… it’s completely uncoordinated and messy. Not to mention that half the time you have to talk to a particular person to advance the story, but you seldom know who that person is, so you’ve got to walk around talking to everyone. Not exactly a good use of my time when I could be speeding around loops. Factor in that you have to collect enough Sun and Moon medals in each stage, hub or city to even access the next level means that on occasion you’ll find yourself going over past stages when you simply want to move on. Replaying the stages is great fun, mind you, but nobody likes being denied level progression in favour of medal grinding. By the way, because I know you’ll have a problem with it (it bothered me for about an hour and a half), the Wall Jump accessory you need is in Spagonia’s daytime Level Select arena. It’s to the right as you enter. For the Sonic stages, Sonic Team seem to have mixed Sonic Rush and Sonic and the Secret Rings' gameplay styles together, which seems like a bit of dubious idea. The result, though? Playable. Certainly enjoyable once you get used to it. Smashing the X button to ram yourself through a pile of enemies is a real rush, and being able to drift properly (when you’re actually able to do it without dying) is a great accomplishment. There are a few awesome platforming gimmicks to break up the action too - Chun-Nan being my favourite with the rotating platforms and the firecrackers going off makes for a feast for the eyes and a real treat for the gaming hand. But the stages aren’t a patch on Sonic Adventure, which are shorter and more free-roaming than Sonic Unleashed. The problem comes down to peripheral vision and inertia. Sonic Unleashed has none of the former, due to an excessive focus on the latter. As a result, you’re not able to see obstacles and bottomless pits in time to react - unless of course, you know it’s there in the first place, which goes against the point of having a completely accessible game from the outset. The game is meant for you to go fast, so even when you’re walking slow it’s like you’re lightly jogging, making you eager to just spam the boost button and ignore exploration altogether. The levels don’t offer much in the way of exploration regardless, besides hunting for the odd Sun and Moon medal, but that’s inconsequential to the stage design really. It does the Sonic Heroes trick of creating the illusion that there are multiple paths, when in reality these paths amount to a grind rail slightly above/going back into the screen and doing a loop before coming back to the main path again. There’s no real deviation from the single path, and because of the Sonic and the Secret Rings/2D nature of the game, the stages feel incredibly narrow. Each level contains a couple of platforming sections to keep your brain busy, but it’s not enough to truly make it a memorable playing experience - you’ll find yourself mostly holding down X while trying to remember when to press B to slide, or watching inanely for the next QTE to appear. This is fun once you’ve played it a few times as it makes you feel like a pro, but it’s such a drop in what Sonic fans should expect. Sonic the Hedgehog was never a memory game, if I… er, remember correctly. There are also a few minor niggles too, such as the fact that when you die, the timer doesn’t reset itself to the time marked when you passed the last checkpoint (meaning you're guaranteed a crappy time when you do finish), having the mid-air boost that’s more trouble than it’s worth (I have never found a use for it and when I try to use the homing attack Sonic decides to mid-air boost off the level) and that, while having a different button for the homing attack is pretty handy, a fourth one for the light speed dash is a bit excessive. Then you have the Werehog. Which, as a matter of fact, isn’t too bad to play! You get to have a sort of love-hate relationship with Sonic’s alter-ego - at first you wonder why the hell this thing is in the game at all. Then you play a bit more and you start to warm to him. Shortly after, the appeal wears off and fifteen minutes into a stage you’re still pummelling bad guys, only this time you don’t really care and just want to get to the end of the stage. An hour of Sonic-playing later and the process repeats itself. It’s not a bad concept by any means, it’s just an average one, executed in a way that would only really capture your attention for longer than ten minutes if you’re a hardcore fan of Dynamite Cop (anyone?). When you reach that point, you don’t even recognise you’re playing a Sonic game anymore, or even as a Werehog. Just a furry thing that runs around hitting things, spamming the Y button as you go because it destroys enemies the quickest. Might as well be Crash Bandicoot. And that would make a great new franchise altogether, but just like Silver’s mind-box-lifting thing, it just doesn’t resonate with what makes a great Sonic game. Of course you’ve also got the countless cheap deaths by waves and waves and waves (etc) of baddies, bottomless pits, camera angles and repetitive attack grinds to consider here, but I’ll let you enjoy that side of things for yourself. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down (For what it’s worth, the Sonic stages would have - only just - gotten a Thumbs Up) FAVOURITE PART: Playing as Sonic. Please let us play as Sonic. Don’t want to collect Sun Medals anymore… Longevity There’s a good wealth of things to do once you’ve whizzed through the story in Sonic Unleashed. Among the hidden treasures in each stage are records, art books and videos that get added to your little Library in Spagonia. Multiple shops in each world allow you to purchase souvenirs and food with your rings, either to max your level or have Chip eat. There’s even a little travelling merchant called Wentos, who has a Chao puppet that gives off a significantly Italian accent. ‘Chao-Chao!’ Wentos is awesome. Get rid of all the humans, keep Eggman and Wentos and you’ve got yourselves a deal, Sonic Team. When you’re bored of giving the Professor trinkets from around the world, you can replay levels to work on your experience gauges. And the levels are very replayable, particularly the Sonic stages, despite their flaws. I spent the best part of two hours practicing Apotos and loving every second of it. You can also find hot dog stalls that offer you special challenges, which range from ring-collecting to time-attacking to enemy-destruction. You can find a lot of replay value in this game, and the gameplay does actually gets better as you learn the levels. It’s a game that grows on you, and if you have the time to overcome the problems in the design and ideas executed here, you’ll find a Sonic game with plenty of value. Just be sure to slog through the World Map in the story mode and then you’ll really appreciate the good bits. JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up FAVOURITE TIME-WASTER: Taking on those Chili Dog challenges. Damn you, Level 3 Time Trial, I will SMASH YOU! Final Words YOU’LL LOVE + The lush and awesome graphics. + Watching Sonic from all sorts of different angles as he goes in and out of the screen. + Replaying the stages once you learn their layout. + Playing the Werehog for a few minutes for a brief change of pace. + Wentos. YOU’LL HATE - The confusing story mode, and ploughing through meaningless tasks just to get to a Sonic stage. - The Werehog stages; either too long, too repetitive, too many cheap deaths or just plain boring. - Holding X to win most Sonic stages. Until you fall down a pit. - QTE’s. I mean, really? - That you seem to be fighting the game until you learn the level design. NOTE: A score was not given at time of original publication. To align with our 5-star rating system (introduced in 2022), we have given it a posthumous grade that best represents the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  6. It has arrived. After changing the formula with Sonic Heroes and getting mixed responses, the 'Team have gone back to basics and stuck with what works. The result is a mixture of Sonic Adventure's town stages and level structure and Sonic Adventure 2's involving plot lines. Now we've hit the next generation of consoles, does the tried and tested work in Sonic the Hedgehog? Well, you would think so, but it's all a bit of a mixed bag. From the moment you turn on the game you're introduced to a series of wonderful cutscenes. As ever, the CG team behind these stunning pieces deserve awards or something. Impressively, sequences using in-game graphics look amazing too. The differences between CG and in-game cutscene is very slight, you really couldn't tell the difference. The story is involved and very entertaining, and if you can forgive the plotholes here and there (and the irritating "Lose-Princess-Save-Princess-Lose-Princess" structure of Sonic's Episode), it can easily rival Sonic Adventure 2 for its mature premise and ultimate foreboding in the Last Episode. Voice acting is your typical Sonic fare - they should probably all button it. Jason doesn't put a foot wrong as Shadow though, and Mike Pollock does Eggman further justice. Lacey Chabert's role is really rather token but she makes the most of it. The levels are varied and have many decent challenges within them. One thing this game has nailed perfectly is the personality and animation of the characters. The graphics are pretty basic for a next generation console, but for a Sonic game they are more than adequate. The one thing the series has lacked until now is a decent representation of the characters' personalities. The moment Sonic bounces into view in Sonic 2006, you know our cocky hedgehog is back. Hell, we even like Shadow again now, as his new role is pretty badass. Seeing Omega do hilarious standby animations by rotating and scratching his robotic belly is a joy to behold when passing the time. While looking superb, the characters control pretty well too. For those new to the game, it can be a bit of an adjustment as even Sonic is considerably slower than in past games. This is not a bad thing; in fact it’s perfect. Unlike Sonic Heroes or Shadow, where moving forward a little bit would result in you speeding off with little traction, the inertia here from walking to running speed suits Sonic just right. Sonic’s attacks have been stripped so that only his bounce attack and homing dash will actually destroy enemies. Just jumping does nothing, which is just a little bit irritating. There will be times when the bounce attack is executed when trying to do a Light Dash, and the Spin Dash can only be used from standstill. Otherwise, Sonic plays pretty well. Just not with as much accessibility as we’d have liked. Shadow plays much better without guns. He has a homing attack melee move, which can knock down an enemy’s health bar considerably. This is a great move because we really, really hate enemies with health bars in Sonic games. They shouldn’t exist. Far from being cheap, it makes your level flow a bit better. The vehicles work much better too, although you will hate the town missions involving jeeps and motorcycles. It’s not without its moments of tedium but simply put, the Shadow the Hedgehog game should have played like this. Silver adds a new dimension to the game that is enjoyable to play. Silver’s the new kid on the block, and his levels are very enjoyable. You can pick up items and lob them at enemies, use your PK to cross-large areas and hover across gaps. It’s a welcome gameplay addition, and it’s just a shame many of his levels are marred with slowdown. Each character has a special meter for powers - Silver can use his PK energy to lift items, Shadow can use Chaos Boost to perform major attacks, and Sonic can customise his abilities with shoe gems purchased from the shops. Obtaining new abilities via shop is novel, but very simple as you always collect more rings than you need. Aside from Silver, you won't be using your special abilities most of the time, as Sonic's gems usually just get in the way and Shadow is more than adequate without Chaos Boost. Amigo characters are annoying at the worst of times, with jumps not harming enemies, leaving them to defend themselves using crummy close range moves. Knuckles’ attacks you can get the hang of, but it’s no great shakes, while Tails’ item box bomb instead of his tail whip is just plain lazy. The amigos serve to be more frustrating than enjoyable; especially considering Knuckles/Rouge can’t even jump off a climbed wall 90% of the time. Town stages have always been a matter of taste. In Sonic Adventure, they added a good break from the stages and were small enough to easily explore. Having said that, some people hated the adventure fields. If you were one of those people, you’ll really hate the town stages in Sonic the Hedgehog. They are much larger this time, and some inexplicably so – the Forest is almost deserted and to get from an urgent story mark to another will cost you at least five minutes walking for what seems like an eternity. It’s bad enough coping with massive empty areas with Sonic or Shadow, but it’s less kind to Silver, as he doesn’t even have the fortunate bonus of speed on his side. The sooner you unlock the levels and town missions in the main menu for easy access the more bearable it all gets. The bosses are superb, but the gameplay can sometimes leave you frustrated. The levels are more impressive visually, which is just as well really. When playing though, they can prove to be super frustrating due to a massive difficulty curve – whether it’s because of cheap deaths or actual honest challenge, we can’t even ascertain, as both are pretty big culprits in that field. Playing the stages through the story mode just becomes a relentless endurance test to see how many lives you can survive on. Zippers don’t always catch Sonic on scripted areas, for instance, and mach speed areas – while fun at first – are barely controllable, particularly when jumping. It can make play frustrating at times, but it’s not all bad news. They are all nicely designed, with level gimmicks and good presentation to overcome different obstacles in the game, and when it works, it works really well. White Acropolis has you sneaking past searchlights to reach Eggman’s base, and Crisis City is an awesome apocalyptic future stage. And the bosses are truly great, although reused far too often - Mephiles is an awesome enemy to battle against as Shadow. The graphics and presentation is unfortunately not flawless – there is noticeable popup in both stages and town levels. This can frustrate in stages such as Aquatic Base, where on sections walking around on a big metallic ball, you cannot determine whether laser grids are on until you’re too close to them. Even in town missions such as Shadow’s Buggy Training suffer chronic popup, whereby goal rings don’t even appear until you’re really close to them. Makes getting an ‘S’ rank a bit of a hopeless endeavour. Tragically, the problems don’t end there. Even in parts of the game where nothing is happening, you will experience slowdown the likes you’ll have never seen before in a Sonic game. For some bizarre reason, a few robots shooting rockets at you will make the game grind down to a crawl. This is most noticeable in Silver’s stages, as he’s already pretty slow anyway. Sonic Team didn't even fix what was messed up in games since Sonic Adventure. Yes, we have to talk about that camera again. Admittedly it's not so bad in places, but it can be really horrible in others. The L Trigger can cure most problems, but there will be moments where you will want to look behind you as you're running another way - say, a Boss battle, where the L Trigger isn't relevant. Manual control of the camera is poor and slow in this instance, and the auto-snaps it makes can be a pain, especially when using Tails or Rouge's sniper mode if you happen to miss an enemy. There are some more amazing glitches that should never have left Sonic Team's sight, such as jumping constantly using Sonic's purple shoe gem whilst in a shrunken state, which will allow you to climb vertically forever and ever. Add to this horrendous loading times that put even Sonic Shuffle to shame – the game has to load four times in total when engaging in a town mission – and the problems with control and you get possibly Sonic Team’s most rushed game yet. It feels so unfinished, that it can almost put you off playing the game entirely just in protest to the developers daring to release it like this. Not even Shadow the Hedgehog felt so bad at times – you could shoot off like a rocket on ice, but at least that game was complete. The engaging story and exciting features are marred by lazy programming and rushed code. Once you get stuck in though and decide to ignore the massive faults in this game (and trust me, for even a Sonic fan this will take a lot of ignoring) you’ll find a decent enough adventure. When it works, it works well, and being able to access missions and stages from the Trial menu will make the game a lot more bearable than traipsing through the massive town stages. And the music is just about faultless. Instead of constant rock-influenced themes, we’re getting a little more variation with the stage soundtracks. Wave Ocean’s music brilliantly captures a tropical vibe to the beach stage, while 'The Inlet' is about the best mach speed stage music ever. Crush 40 (minus Johnny) remake 'All Hail Shadow', Zebrahead’s 'His World' is finicky but grows on you, and Remix Factory does an awesome track for Silver with 'Dreams of an Absolution'. Bouncy music and techno rock is pretty much the definitive Sonic soundtrack, and playing music from stages like White Acropolis reminds us not only of Mega Drive compositions, but also of Richard Jacques’ work in Sonic 3D. There are plenty of things to keep those wanting to truck on with the game entertained though – the levels are quite difficult all-round. The challenge is a welcome one, and once you’ve mapped the stages in your head you can really enjoy speeding through in an attempt to grab ‘S’ Ranks. The Gold Medals will keep Sonic fans glued for ages because of the difficulty curve and length of the stages, and the two-player mode is pretty good too. The idea of co-operative play is one that is crafted well enough to enjoy the game with a mate. In Closing The major problem with Sonic the Hedgehog is that it is terribly average. Placing faith in a seven year old gameplay structure is one thing, but Sonic Team haven't even fixed the issues that fans and critics have raised with the format since Sonic Adventure. In fact, they seem to have created a whole host of new problems that weren't even present in any past 3D Sonic before it. Sonic the Hedgehog contains a few sparkling moments of brilliance, many moments of mediocrity and the rest is just plain average. A Sonic fan can find lots of fun here, but if the laziness of the production is too much for you then you can still find joy in the story and levels themselves. It's by no means a terrible game, but it's certainly not a great Sonic game. 'Sonic Adventure' was good in 1999, but it won't cut the mustard anymore. It's time the Hedgehog evolved. NOTE: This was given a score of 6/10 at time of original publication. We have converted its score to the below 5-star rating based on this score, and adjusted to best represent the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog's debut on the next line of consoles promises a 'return to form' for the blue blur, according to SONICTEAM and SEGA. With an emphasis on the team looking at basic gameplay functions and how the original Mega Drive titles played, it would be wise to assume that SONICTEAM are either trying to mimick the simplicity of the original, or simply revamp the series in such a way so that it once again has the edge of the original series yet fully utlises the 3D space. Either of which would be fine with us. Assuming it's done right. Sonic's landmark title to co-incide with his 15th Anniversary.
  8. Unsure if this was a mistake or intentional, but it has returned: SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (xbox.com) $4.99, however currently only playable on 360. Since the backwards-compatibility program has supposedly ended for Xbox One/Series, it is unlikely that it will become playable on those platforms (unless the work had already been done prior and Sega were dragging their heels on giving it the go-ahead for a re-release). If this was indeed a mistake though, it likely won't be available for long. Still, an interesting development nevertheless.
  9. http://www.totalxbox.com/77282/forza-horizon-2-will-release-in-2014-for-xbox-one-and-xbox-360/ Another Forza game on the way and another game going cross-gen. Not much info available at the moment, but we'll no doubt see a big presentation during Microsoft's E3 press conference next week.
  10. http://www.totalxbox.com/76032/game-on-microsoft-dates-xbox-e3-2014-conference/ Can't wait to see what Microsoft has in store and I look forward to seeing more of already announced games like Halo and Sunset Overdrive. 9:30am Pacific would make it 5:30pm here in the UK if I know my time zones, and with it being on the day before my wife's Birthday, then I can watch it live with you guys EDIT: Official stream link: http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/e3#fbid=MMrBECYrVmc
  11. If you didn't know, in 2013 Battleblock Theater released for the Xbox 360 exclusively from Behemoth, creator of Castle Crashers. For some reason no one else seemed to make a topic about it, so here we are. Those who don't have an Xbox can experience it very soon on Steam: So discuss about your opinions of the game, whatever it's about your experience on Xbox 360, or your excitement for the upcoming Steam version!
  12. I was wondering if anyone that imported Sonic Generations Collector's Edition for PAL areas only to the states and has tried to play the xbox 360 version on a american 360 and was sucessful due to possible region locking? thanks!
  13. So I was bouncing around IGN when I came across this. "World record holder Stallion83 explains how he aims to be the first person to hit the million milestone." So I opened the link at wow was I surprised. I did not know anyone has already gotten over 9,000 600,000 AC's (Achievement points). I'm barely over 36,000. And the only person I've met that passed 100,00 was a guy that was on my friend's list since the beginning. (Ah most wanted. Oh do I miss you so) THIS RIGHT HERE IS A TRUE HARDCORE GAMER IN MY EYES. No one can say otherwise, my opinion. Anyways here is the link. Check it out. http://xbox360.ign.c.../1191410p1.html
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