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iambitter21

so, the advance games

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so I finally got my first emulator, the VisualBoy advance. It's an emulator that (you guessed it) let's me play all of the Gameboy games as long as I got the files for them, and that's how I got the advance games. So, let's see how I would rate the Advance games.

for starters here's this one

Sonic Advance 1: I only played a bit since sonic adva-[REDACTED] drained my energy and I needed a break, but so far it's the best of the bunch, the controls feel like an absolutely perfect transition from the genesis games and I love seeing that with games like these. the mechanics are fairly simple yet some of them are unnecessary, like the somersault. it could've been much more innovative to see the level design take more advantage to the modern mechanics as well as tweak them to seem less out of place. Like for instance give tails a multi-spinning tails attacks at high enough speeds as he uses that to hover over a windy canyon, that could be a secret room to find potential collectables. overall though I'd give it a 7.5/10 so far.

alright what's ne-... oh.... oh no

Sonic Advance 2 (literal hell): sigh... you really wanna know what I think of this game? boring, too linear even for sonic standards, unfair as hell, and worse yet... the special stages are too hard to get. so you're telling me I have to go in a specific path to get every single coin, and do that for EVERY. SINGLE. LEVEL? no.., I didn't finish this game either, and it's not because I was too tired and needed sleep like Advance 1, this game just sucks. straight up 4/10 it's still kinda fun in someway shape or form.

now... don't kill me for the next one

Sonic Advance 3: this was the only advance game I finished and, not gonna lie, this game is pretty good I guess. not as good as advance 1 (so far) but dear lord this game is hated way too much. say what you will about "oooh way too many crusher segment," or "ooooh I keep falling into bottomless pits it's too unfair," and you can keep telling me all you want that "oooooh the hub worlds are confusing and pointless," but I do not get it when people say that. does this game falter from occasional cheap enemy placements, and a fair share of "too many" bottomless pits, and some kinda confusing hub world designs?... for the former 2 yes, but for the latter... nah, the hub worlds are fine get over it. the level design, I'll admit, can be a bit confusing at times, but when you understand what you're supposed to do and where you're supposed to go, it feels great. It's like it has a great sense of flow and rythmn to it when you just GIT GUD (I know it sounds cliché but that's just how it is sometimes). it's still not great, it can be a bit boring sometimes admittedly, but it's serviceable enough to pass decent tier. the duo mechanic thing is also really cool, it can lead into some nice set ups that might help you run through a level good enough, I usually use sonic and tails because I love the trick system way to much in this game. anyways, when you put it all together, I'd give this game a 6.5 so It's already better than SA1.

anyways thank you for listening to my ted talk. be sure to tell me what you think below. and if sean is reading this... I regret nothing.

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You know that the Sonic Advance games are some of my favorite games in the franchise, and Advance 2 is my favorite of the trilogy, so I obviously disagree with this review.

4 hours ago, iambitter21 said:

and do that for EVERY. SINGLE. LEVEL?

Actually that's annoying, but you are allowed to do it in only one level for each zone, not every level. Though, you have to do it with every character, sadly, but once you know where the special rings are, it becomes way less frustrating (but still annoying to repeat 5 times).

4 hours ago, iambitter21 said:

It's like it has a great sense of flow and rythmn to it when you just GIT GUD

This also and especially applies to Sonic Advance 2: once you know how to play it it can be pretty fun, especially when you get used to the tricks.

Ok, so I'll write my "short" (not really) review of each game:

-Advance 1:

I played it a lot, countless times. It's a very fun game that feels like the perfect spiritual successor of the classics. Though... it's still somewhat, I don't know... it feels forgettable for some reason. I like it, but it really is super generic and basic. Except for one single thing: Amy's gameplay. At first you will have a lot of problems with Amy, but once you understand how to play as her, she's quite fun and the most powerful character of the cast too (you can cheat a lot with her hammer used on springs, and most bosses become a lot easier with her).

In later levels, level design becomes more clumsy and unfair... people say that Advance 2 is unfair but IMO Advance 1's later levels are worse... you literally fall into a spike pit with reversed gravity and you are supposed to dodge the spikes without seeing them because they are off screen, and when visible it's too late; Physics are also a problem in this game... there is a part in the rocket level where you are supposed to land on a moving platform very far above a bouncer, and the thing is very hard because collisions are unprecise and weird stuff happens all the time (and it's not a matter of skills).

-Advance 2

It's linear, too much linear, I agree. Though, it's the game that has the most innovative gameplay and the strongest personality of the trilogy, and the one that set the basis for the Rush series, so I think it deserves some praise for that. I like it a lot because the gameplay is very fun, though I would have liked some better level design to express the full potential of this gameplay foruma... sadly it never happend.

Sonic Advance 2 has some problems, such as the way to get the chaos emeralds being too much unintuitive, but aside of that, it's a pretty exciting game that focuses a lot on spectacle. Despite what most people say, I think it's not much more unfair than the original classics (I'm pretty sure Sonic 2 is much more unfair than Advance 2, and not just Metropolis). Once you learn how to use the tricks, a lot of bottomless pits become way easier to skip and predict, especially when you realize that most of them have a different tile on the background that works a bit like the ancestor of the death pit sign that you see in most modern games. Actual unfair sections do exist, but that's true for every Sonic game (I remember an almost unavoidable armadillo-like badnik in Sky Canyon for example, and that one-shot move of Sky Canion's boss too). I think that the levels start to get a bit more boring from Techno Base onwards, but that's only 2 zones over 7, I think that most of the game is fun; my favorite zones are (theme-wise) Music Plant and (level design-wise) Ice Paradise.

As I said, this gameplay is full of potential but most of it is unexpressed... this is also true for the movesets of the characters, that are completely unbalanced and very rough. When I replay this game I usually play as Sonic, and occasionally Cream, but almost never Knuckles, Tails or Amy because I feel like their movesets are just boring. Sonic's moveset is my favorite of all Sonic games (except for the bounce move that I wish was more like in the Adventure games); he has an homing attack, but badniks are designed to counter that! Yeah you won't notice it because you are running on a flat terrain most of the time, but if you try to HA some enemies, you notice that some have only one vulnerable spot and you have to angle it right in order to hit them, others have some weapon that they move and you have to wait the right moment, other ones outright AVOID your HA (the monkeys in the first zone). This is the ONLY Sonic game that put some effort in that type of stuff, and sadly it's not even easy to notice because level design does not take advantage of that. The somersault is very useful in this game, and it's the only game in the trilogy where it is, though it requires some experience to understand when to take advantage of it (it's more useful for mobility than for attacking). Sonic's Air Dash is extremely fun and the one move that really makes Sonic by far the most fun charater in the game: it was also present in Adv1 but here it just works better.

Now, about Cream... Cheese is a joke, when I play as Cream I almost never attack with Cheese because it's so unfair... but Cream herself is very fun to play as... not Sonic levels of fun but still fun enough. There are 2 major reasons: the floaty tricks that give you a lot of air mobility, and the ability to cancel the flight with the attack button. When you cancel the flight you can stomp badniks and bosses while falling, and since the bounce is often very low, you can usually send more than one hit at time by doing this (if done right it can be more powerful than Cheese in some situations).

-Advance 3

I'll start by saying that I like this game, don't get me wrong... but at the same time, it's my least favorite of the trilogy and there is a lot of stuff that I find annoying or boring in it. On paper it's very similar to Advance 2, with more content... but in practice, it throws away all the stuff that I liked of Advance 2. All the advanced techniques you can do in Adv2 don't work anymore... physics are more weird... you gain a lot of speed while jumping in an unnatural way, for no reason. Level design is less linear, but more repetitive and unfair (in this game there are a lot of actual unfair spots, there's even a level entirely set on a moving platform where rings give you a fake hint and send you to being crushed by spikes). A lot of sections are copy-pasted from other levels or repeat multiple times in the same level as well, making the levels not just boring, but also confusing, because it gives you the illusion that you already visited a certain place when instead it's just another place that looks identical to the former one (3 acts structure was completely unnecessary when levels are designed like this).

The tag actions are very fun, but also game breaking: just like Knuckles Chaotix, this mechanics IMO ruins the game because in most cases level design becomes pointless, you just skip a lot of obstacles by performing a tag jump and rocketing into the unknown. Some fun moves are stuck into some specific combinations of characters, and there's no way you can get a combination that has more than one fun move at once; the game incentivates playing as different characters, but you get the true ending only when you play as Sonic... you know, I discovered that a true ending existed only one or two years after I finished the game, because I didn't know that only Sonic would have triggered it (the true ending boss is also the worst in the trilogy IMO, with Advance 2 being the most fun).

Now, the chao hunt. People hate the special rings in Advance 2, but I hate the chao hunt. Special rings are 7 in each stage, they are designed to be obtained by Sonic in one run, so they are all on one route and don't require flight or any other special skill; they are more or less at equal distance one from each other, and this is an hint because when you go through a long section without finding any special ring, you probably missed one in THAT section. Not just that... Special Rings give you an option to find them in Act 1 OR Act 2. Chao are less in quantity, but.... they are way harder to find, even with Omochao hints, and they don't follow any logic! There can be 2 exactly near each other and then nothing for the rest of the level. They are listed in order, and the game tells you in what level you are missing them, but places look all the same and it often it happens that you find a chao but you don't have the right character combination to get them (unlike Advance 2 where all the special rings are obtainable by all characters), so you have to exit the level and do it again, hoping to find that place again (I imagine that finding them with a guide is a lot easier but I don't like cheating, if I'm required to use a guide in order to find something, I consider it a flaw).

Bosses have more variety than Advance 2 but most of them are annoying and unfair, I had a lot more fun with Adv2 bosses despite all being the same type (running boss). Even level themes are more uninspired than Advance 2's: Toy Kingdom and Cyber Track are just worse Music Plant and Techno Base, then there is generic city level, generic green hill but at sunset, and... ugh I admit that Twinkle Snow and Chaos Angel are cool (except that moving platform level that's trash) but that's it, not a fan of all the other zones.

Last but not least, this game does not have the Tiny Chao Garden :angry:. But you know, at the end I still like this game enough, all the annoying stuff aside.

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I have similar sentiments about the first 2 games.

 

1 has a near perfect translation of the original formula. Plays it safe, but plays it very well. Some really cheap enemy and obstacle placement late game, but nothing that makes me want to tear out my hair. Weird special stage requirement, but simple, just find the spring.

2 has great spectacle, but middling execution (a common issue with many of these games). It's incredibly slow and unbearable when you have few rings and just start moving. That feeling of breaking the sound barrier feels amazing, however. Then to kinda piss that away, they litter badly placed enemies and bottomless pits as early as the 3rd zone. The unlockables are horrible and that person should not be allowed to working on game design features ever again. Best music of the trilogy though. Overall feels like a prototype Sonic Rush...which is feels like a prototype of Unleashed.

 

I loved 3 when it came out. It may be because that's the first time I got a game on release date, and had hype for it. Now that I've played recently, it's hard to come back to. Past the novelty of pairing up any character, the game is a mess. Messy level design that almost reminds me of Sonic CD. I have no idea what Dimps was doing here, because the crush deaths and bad enemy placement starts literally in the first zone! Controls are ass, makes it hard to bother picking any combination that doesn't include Sonic, because boost mode is only enabled for his teams. Other weird restrictions or flat out useless teams moves (Tails' flight is nerfed with everyone except maybe Amy).

 

It also always seemed like a missed opportunity to include Shadow and Rouge, 2 relevant figures in Emerl's arc from Sonic Battle, doubly so since the game wants to open up with a topic like "Chaos Control breaks the world". Unlockables are slightly better than 2, but still cumbersome. If they wanted to do a 2D "find the lost Chao", they should not tie that and that golden key garbage to special stages. That is not fun, that is needless padding. Music has some good remixes from Battle but I think is still overall a step down from Advance 2. I don't hate it, but it's definitely the most disappointing of the 3.

 

Gotta love that ending though, it was a great sendoff to a Sonic era I still overall really enjoyed, and the last time we see Cream, Gemerl, and even Angel Island somewhat relevant. I'd still like to see a new pixel based title similar to Advance, but Sega ain't ready to let that happen anytime soon.

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It’s funny and sad how critics went from calling them the unsung heroes of the franchise to calling them pale imitations riddled with “shitty friends” and “dark plots” around the time Lost World rolled around.

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The only Advance game I definitively remember is Advance 3.

 

I loved playing as Cream. I think I also played an emulator of this game on PC that was very impressive.

 

Toy Kingdom FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I have a soft spot for Advance 3 - it's definitely not amazing, but it improves considerably past the first level. The team-up mechanic is superb and something I'd love to see a Sonic game do again (Encore Mode sort of tried but wasn't as fun sadly). 

Advance 2 on the other hand is one of my more loathed Sonic games, and besides something like Sonic Blast, one of my least favourite 2D Sonic games period. It's a mess of awful design decisions, flair or not. 

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I was the madman who beat all three of these games and got all of the Chaos Emeralds to boot, even in Advance 2. I was a determined little bastard. 

 

First one is the most faithful to the older games, and its fine for the most part at translating the modern designs into a 2D setting. To this date, all of the Advance sprites are filled with tons of personality and great animations. But the game is kind of...forgettable. None of the levels are really distinct aside from Neo Green Hill and Egg Rocket/Cosmic Angel and really lack an identity of their own; from level design to music. Its fine for what it was, but doesn't really touch the classics, each of which all have their own distinct identity.  I do commend it for giving Amy a unique moveset that translates well. 

Second game is pretty much the prototype for what would become the Boost style in Rush and Unleashed, and deviates heavily from what the first game attempted. Its all about gotta go fast, fast, faster, faster, faster. Its certainly the most spectacle based of the games, and probably the hardest given how you're encouraged to keep moving any way you can. As a result, the level design is far more linear and less explorative which kind of gives less of a reason to use Tails or Knuckles given their abilities rely on exploration. The only time I ever played with them is when I needed to get the Chaos Emeralds. Cream exists I guess, but she's here to alleviate how frankly bullshit this game can be at times.  yea, every single issue with the Modern boost gameplay exists here; reactionary gameplay, bottomless pits galore, and automation out the ass. And what's damning is that getting the True ending requires you to explore to get the rings...and do that with all four initial characters. This was the worst game to 100% and probably my least favorite in the trilogy because of it. 

Third game is definitely the most unique, having the tag gimmick and whatnot...and it's really good. Its fun just to mix and match characters and just play around with their abilities. No game before or after has actually managed that with Knuckles Chaotix or Sonic Mania's Encore mode. And the little details are great too, like how Amy's entire sprite set changes when she's partnered with Sonic; that's a level of detail they didn't have to do, and I love it. Additionally, it actually follows up and concludes on the plot of Sonic Battle with Emerl, and does so without feeling bloated or intrusive. Its only time the modern games have achieved that subtle yet effective storytelling. And of course, its the swan song for the OG voice cast. But this is Dimps level design at its most apparent; crusher deaths and horrible enemy placement everywhere, plus a frankly pointless hub world to travel through, as there's almost nothing to interact with aside from a few bonus levels. Also for a game about using Tag team action, the game almost feels railroaded to using just Sonic; you have to play as him to unlock the other characters, and some characters come so late; you unlock Cream in the penultimate level , and Sonic is the only character who can get the True Ending. Its kind of middle of the road in the trilogy; its not as linear as Adv. 2 but not as faithful to the classics like the first. 

 

 

Overall, they were fine games for what they were and showed that the 2D style wasn't as dead in the water as people thought. And yea, they're criminally underrated probably due to the lack of advertisement they had at the time of their release, add to the fact that they have never had a rerelease outside of that, and its very possible that many younger fans don't even know that these games exist, which is a shame because I do feel they deserve way more attention.  Mania has everyone's attention right now for 2D gameplay, but these games should get some recognition too. 

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Sonic Advance 1 is a little bit simple, but conceptually I love all that it tries. The Adventure aesthetics and moves married into classic level tropes and gameplay, it’s good stuff. I love the jazzy soundtrack too, it’s a unique entry for it. Also Amy’s gameplay is great for a hard mode. It’s the best of the bunch, easily, and very very nostalgic for me.

Now Advance 2 would be one of my all-time favorites if not for the level design and bosses getting pretty shitty a little over halfway in. The music and art is top notch though, just superb, ESPECIALLY the music for the first two or three stages (looking the most at Hot Crater here). Also while getting to the special stages is the worst in series, I never play special stages in anything besides CD, Mania and 3DB Saturn, so it’s whatevs. Also shoutouts to the tricks, they’re cool (until it’s do-or-die to use them, at least).

Advance 3 is trash. Legit think if you made me pick between it, Heroes or Chaotix for the less frustrating team-based Sonic game, I’d take either of the other two over it. Labyrinthine levels just as unfairly designed as Adv2’s later half, messy hubs, and inconsistent move sets and handling with different character pairings (Sonic is purposefully made to be worse to control when paired with Tails, ie). Bad. 

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The aspect I love most about the advance games its the sprite animations, super expressive stuff.

 

I only played 1 growing up, it’s a perfectly fine supplement of fun 2D Sonic on the go, but it's still got dimps' infamous level design problems.

 

2 seems to be a real divisive one, what with it leaning towards a particular flow, but with a much higher skill floor. I think I'd enjoy what it was trying to do more if it wasnt so zoomed in.

 

3 I still havent played nor do I know anything about it, somehow.....

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4 hours ago, azoo said:

Sonic Advance 1 is a little bit simple, but conceptually I love all that it tries. The Adventure aesthetics and moves married into classic level tropes and gameplay, it’s good stuff. I love the jazzy soundtrack too, it’s a unique entry for it. Also Amy’s gameplay is great for a hard mode. It’s the best of the bunch, easily, and very very nostalgic for me.

Now Advance 2 would be one of my all-time favorites if not for the level design and bosses getting pretty shitty a little over halfway in. The music and art is top notch though, just superb, ESPECIALLY the music for the first two or three stages (looking the most at Hot Crater here). Also while getting to the special stages is the worst in series, I never play special stages in anything besides CD, Mania and 3DB Saturn, so it’s whatevs. Also shoutouts to the tricks, they’re cool (until it’s do-or-die to use them, at least).

Advance 3 is trash. Legit think if you made me pick between it, Heroes or Chaotix for the less frustrating team-based Sonic game, I’d take either of the other two over it. Labyrinthine levels just as unfairly designed as Adv2’s later half, messy hubs, and inconsistent move sets and handling with different character pairings (Sonic is purposefully made to be worse to control when paired with Tails, ie). Bad. 

Really? this is probably one of the better pairings given its the default option and gives Sonic most of the moveset he had in the first two games. It was probably the one I used the most along with Knuckles.

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The most surprising thing about advance 3 was that Route 99 wasn't terrible, like at all. In fact I'd say it's one of the better zones of that game, along with Sunset Hill, Ocean Base and so on so forth up until Twinkle Snow's boss and Cyber Track Act 2 & 3 (the first zone was okay). those stages were terrible, the boss was unfair most of the time, but when I beat it, it wasn't THAT terrible. I mean it's still bad but I can tolerate it at times. Cyber Track act 2 & 3 are unbearably unfair, with the former having this odd level layouts that confused me to death and the latter having this godawful choose the right path mechanic that bored me to death.

I-... don't really know how to feel about Chaos Angel. It's conflicting, All three acts have a lot of major problems and they kind of overweigh most of the genuinely good parts about them, I have a soft-spot for the first act so most of the problems don't appear much but they're definitely there, like those weird boulders that fall on you when you're not careful (I'd use Tail & Amy for this one). The second one has this weird vertical pillar thing where you have to platform up the falling platforms to reach them. It's also the act with the most bottomless pits. The third act is horrible, unless you have Cream & Knuckles, then the stage is alright.

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2 hours ago, Kuzu said:

Really? this is probably one of the better pairings given its the default option and gives Sonic most of the moveset he had in the first two games. It was probably the one I used the most along with Knuckles.

Yeah. His traction and deceleration is notably lower with Tails than with every other character, and is particularly slipperier than he was in Advance 2. I'm pretty sure other characters have similar issues.

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Quick update on the Advance games since my opinions of the games have changed a lot:

Advance 1: this game is still pretty good, in fact I'd say it's great, but It's no longer my favorite. the level design still has a great classic feel to it, and I kinda revisit it every now and then just to play as sonic. thing is that I'm stuck on Egg Rocket and it's not very good, a lot of pitfalls, spikes and enemy placement that is more frustrating than I imagined it being. 7/10 still

Advance 2: still not a big fan of it. but I... well uh... I think I gave it a bit too muc-... sigh okay no, it's still boring and bad. Ice Paradise freaking sucks and the boss is way worse. I'm very scared of how bad Sky Canyon is gonna be, but for now it's still a 4/10.

Advance 3: I didn't give this game enough praise before. I said before that the level design can be boring at times, but I get that feeling way less now. It's still there I guess but hey it's less of a problem than I though. the level design in the first 5 worlds are phenomenal to me now, with that great sense of flow and rhythm becoming much more prominent in the way I play these levels. sonic and tails are still the best combo for this game but the other combos are (most of the  time) great as well. for example Knuckles and Sonic, Amy and Sonic, Tails and Amy, Sonic and Cream, Cream and Knuckles, Amy and Knuckles and so on. there are some bad combos though, most of the character x amy combos aren't great and the Tails and Cream combo is pure ass. but other than that, I think I found a 2D sonic game that can rival 3&K, this game is a pure 8/10. GREAT! now I'm in even more trouble with you-know-who, such joy!

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For me, none of the Advance games really impressed me all that much, even tho I've beaten all 3 of them. Usually the new additions felt pointless to me.

Advance 1: The new 'attacks' for the characters I rarely found a use for. If you tried using Sonic's or Knuckles' attack on a boss, you usually take damage because the character goes 'inside' the boss, thus taking damage. They started the bad habbit of reusing bosses and music from the old games as part of the game, instead of keeping it as a bonus/unlockable.

Advance 2: Character max speed was way too fast, the game pretty much demanded knowing the stage layout, otherwise you constantly got screwed. All of the damn bosses were running bosses, which Jesus Christ were annoying, especially if an upward slope was coming and the boss dropped a bomb you were supposed to jump over.

Advance 3: A lot of the character pairs were outright useless, with useless moves, while others were outright overpowered (basically anything with Cream could just spam the Chao attack on enemies and bosses). The hub-worlds always felt like a waste of your time. If you wanted to play Act 3, but change your characters, you had to go back to the beginning, change characters, then go back to the end of the hub-world to the Act 3 ring..

And in all 3 games, they made Special Stages, but went with the 'modern' approach of that only unlocking the Final-For-Real-This-Time Boss, but not Super Sonic as a playable character on the stages, let alone anything for the other characters. Grinding never made much sense to me either in a 2D game...sometimes the character always landed on it even if you wanted to fall past it, then sometimes the character just fell past it.

For me, the best aspects of the games were some cool songs and decent sprites, tho even that was a very mixed bag.

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Advance 1 I agree with the general consensus that it's probably the best of the games objectively speaking, though it isn't my favourite of the three.  I have a distinct, potent nostalgia for it though due to playing it a LOT on a particular summer holiday to France as a kid.  Despite the ice level it feels like a relaxing, summer afternoon sort of game, I really enjoy how chilled out the soundtrack is for most of the game.  The special stages are way too well hidden with awful depth perception though, and considering how nicely made the rest of the game is, the true final boss is boring (the heck was up with that music, it sounds like pre-boss cut-scene stuff rather than an exciting finale - at the very least, the regular and true final boss themes probably should've been swapped).

 

Advance 2 is my favourite, but due to entirely subjective reasons. I had no idea it was coming out and my Dad was kind enough to buy it for me after I saw it at the supermarket one day.  I felt like I had discovered an entire Sonic game that no-one knew about that had just appeared out of thin air (the fact that a new character I'd never seen before and looked really interesting was on the box helped enhance this a lot too), and it was really cool to take it home and dive into this game I knew absolutely nothing about. Again, the fact that this was during a holiday off school helped to boost the nostalgia value as the game became my life for the next week or so.  I was really blown away by the speed - after recently being blown away by Green Forest on Sonic Adventure 2, it was exceptional seeing that kind of pace of gameplay on a handheld console for the first time in my life.  The gameplay is definitely too simple, I don't really go back to it much these days, but I'll always have a personal fondness for it.  Everything related to the Special Stages is crap, including how basic features from Advance 1 got made into unlockables through them.  Oh, amazing soundtrack though, and while I never got to hear it in person, the true final boss didn't disappoint this time.  It's definitely a game that's style over substance but... nowadays, looking back, one game that does that is fine in the grand scheme of the series. I'm happy to settle for "it's a mediocre game objectively speaking but it sure blew my mind as a young teenager" because that experience was still valuable to me.

 

Advance 3 I don't care for. Feels like it tried to find a middleground between the first two and they didn't gel.  I haven't played it in maybe a decade now because the last time I gave it a second chance, it let me down, so I can't really talk much detail about it other than recalling that apathy.  Despite the improvements, the special stage system still asked far too much of the player and I never managed to beat the whole game.  Great soundtrack as usual, with Chaos Angel being one of my favourite final stage themes in the series (with the progression between Act 1 to Act 2 to Act 3 being *chef's kiss* perfect - shame Act 3's gameplay was so shite, that should've been Act 2).  Unlike the other two games though, there is a dip in quality in the middle - I find Toy Kingdom and Twinkle Snow to be fairly forgettable songs, and I don't like the remixes of Techno Base from Advance 2 as much as the original - so getting three variants of it got tedious.  Actually, on that note three acts per zone felt very much like quantity over quality.  With the exception of Chaos Angel Act 3 (again, shite) there's nothing of interest between different acts, it just makes the visuals and the novelty of each zone's unique gimmicks wear out interest before you're done with each zone.  The only benefit to the three act system is that, for the zones I do like the music of, Act 2 tends to do a good job of bridging the neutral Act 1 and intense Act 3 themes (again, especially in Chaos Angel's case).  The hub world was also pointless filler and to be honest, I never really cared for the character system.  I'd always rather have one character that is always fun to play as than a bunch of choices with weird quirks, where you end up either finding out that character choice doesn't really matter because every level must be beatable by every combo, or matters too much, where you find a certain chao can only be reached by certain character abilities when scouring levels for them is already a chore (I don't think this is the case though... which just goes back to the first issue).

 

So yeah, Advance 1 is the best, Advance 2 is my favourite, Advance 3 is Advance 3.

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While I understand that the difficulty curve is not for everyone, my favourite is hands down the second one. It's probably the only game where I participated in time attack. Bosses in Sonic games tend to be fairly boring and frankly not giving any sense of danger, but the running ones managed resonate well with what I seeked. The special stage and entry method made you explore the map thoroughly and try to master it, which is a plus on my book.

The first game was fairly simple and probably too basic. There is sadly not much I remember about it.

The third game, while I remember probably enjoying it more than the first, was overall disappointing. I can't quite explain it. Maybe it's because the bar was set pretty high from the previous one, or because the tag system didn't quite work out as well as I expected.

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The first game to me is still the most balanced and fun. It is a bit TOO play it safe, the level design isn't fully innovated and polished (the grinding sections are completely pointless compared to Advance 2's) and I think the character roster is kind of uneven. Sonic gets his own shield powers nerfed horribly, basically making him the 'base' character, and while Amy is a very cool idea and I love playing as her, I think some of her abilities needed to be juiced up just a little. Knuckles and Tails come off as a hilariously overpowered compared to them and lack the drawbacks in both mechanics and layout to balance it from previous titles. These are kinda just nitpicks however and the game still flows nicely and is probably the most fun to complete.

The second and third games get a bit too gimmicky. Some of the new ideas do take interest but make the game imbalanced and at times less fun. I'd argue Sonic Advance 2 would be quite fun if a bit undercooked if they didn't try to mix high speed platforming with item searching. The game just isn't built for that and it just isn't fun aiming for the special stages. I feel like they maybe should have balanced Cream a bit better as well, the Chao mechanic makes her a fun easy mode in bosses, but having her steal the abilities from the already easy mode himself Tails alongside that makes her feel like a cakewalk to the point of being unintuitive at times. No wonder her Chao is called CHEESE. :P

Third game's team mechanic was interesting but....I think it was conceived to be more fun on paper than it turned out. The team play is sometimes a bit tedious and the level design sometimes tries to enforce it in an unappealing way. After a while I just wanna go back to playing with one character, even if all the combinations were a cool idea. I think it tried to fix Advance 2's sometimes bare bones 'hold right to win' gameplay style in a bit too excessive a way, making you stop and fiddle around with the other character in a finicky way. Advance 1 was still the happy balance in that regard.

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I've never actually finished any of the games in the Advance trilogy but I've enjoyed 1 and 3 the most from what I've played. However I hate how difficult it is to even obtain one chaos emerald in any of the games. Maybe it's because I'm used to the Genesis games, where you just needed 50 rings and to either make it to the end of the stage, hit a star post, or find hidden rings to enter the special stages. The requirements to even enter special stages was bad in Advance 1, and just seemed to get worse as the Advanced trilogy went on. This is one of the reasons why I just haven't bothered beating the games. Even the 8-bit titles that had special stages made it pretty straightforward on how to enter the special stages.

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I remember getting Sonic Advance 2 around the time it came out- I also didn't know of its release until seeing it in stores. It's almost as if it was shadow-dropped somehow lol. Anyway, my brother summed up the first 3 zones best: "Hold right to win.". Seriously. Very forgettable. I barely remember the 2nd zone at all, for Leaf Forest I remember the music, and Music Plant was fun but gimmicky. Then the game hits you with zones like Sky Canyon and that logic suddenly no longer applies. Crazy jump there- in more ways than one.

I never got to the special stages at all. I didn't know anyone who did.

Advance 1 was my favorite at the time, because it was like my favorite 16-bit era games, but on the go! With new music and mechanics, even if useless. And Chao! Although now that "Classic Sonic" has been so overused, I'm not sure I'd still feel that way. But I did feel it was the most fun, if, as others mentioned, too "safe".

Advance 3 was something. I'll be another one who hated Route 99- they took a potentially awesome city themed level and made it not only visually bland and ugly, but the design was awful to get through. But it got way better after that. I really enjoyed trying out all the move sets of each character duo, but it wasn't always so practical. And then there was the useless Chao area, and useless hub worlds that had nothing of interest. I think 2D hub worlds can be done, just not... like that.

And we have the Advance games to thank for introducing the most overpowered 6 year old bunny girl character ever. As if one overly squeaky voice girl character wasn't annoying enough. (Seriously, when I hear her voice for the first time in Sonic Heroes, I wanted to just mute the TV the entire time playing it.)

Overall though, I did enjoy the series a lot at a time when handheld games still had limited options, and 2D Sonic had fallen to the wayside, and this was our only way to get it. But now? The series wouldn't stand a chance.

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final update because my opinions have changed even more.

Sonic Advance 1 is still a great ass game, I got to play as knuckles and tails and they're all wonderful in there own ways. Tails & Knuckles feel like a good way to explore the levels and share the same physics as their classic counterpart, now Egg Rocket wasn't a pain anymore. Amy is also wonderful, her playstyle is different enough that it doesn't feel like the same character but a different ability, instead she feels like her own character but with the same philosophy. her hammer ability is really fun to use and can even be used to get to place sonic (or even tails and knuckles at time) can get to on their own. it's a 7.5/10 game.

Sonic Advance 2... in all honesty as much as I still dislike it... the first half is fine. it's still real shallow but hey sometimes shallowness can be fun in it's own right. Leaf Forest and Red Volcano (correct me on this if this is wrong) are good first impressions and I'd almost say they're good levels. ALMOST. Music Plant, I'd say is the only "good" level in the game, yet even then it's still pretty shallow. surprise, surprise, Ice Paradise isn't as bad as it used to be, maybe because it "gotten good" or something but eh. the other half is still unfair and unamusing level design that bores me to tears so the first half can't even save it. still a 4/10, the moveset was wasted on this game's boring level design and I'll never forgive the devs for that. and I'm still not getting those crappy special stages for the life of me, can't make me.

Sonic Advance 3, we meet again, and I have a lot on my mind to say about you. I finally got to enter the special stages with the help of a guide, most of the chao could've been easy to find but I was too focused on beating the level to do so, oh well. I can say with confidence that the special stages are really fun and challenging, especially in the later stages. the only stages that were super tough though were 6 & 7, which I guess makes sense due to the fact they are, of course, the last 2 stages but damn I really had a rough time beating them. but once I got the mechanics down to a T I had no problem, even in special stages mode (which I beaten without dying once I feel weird).

regarding the special stages, my opinion on the actual stages have changed more as well. I like Cyber Track now, I know I said I hated it before but once I gotten the level design down it wasn't much of an issue, even for Act 3 which I still wouldn't call a "great" stage, but hey it's not horrible... imo at least. I also have more opinions on most of the other partner combos, maybe even things I would add to improve them. imma give an example of a few. Tails and Knuckles give tails a hover-glide that's faster and stronger than knuckles' glide, but the issue I have with it is that when you enter and exit the flight tails loses his forward momentum, it's a common issue for his flight too (when it isn't the Tails & Amy combo). I'd give tails the ability to save his forward momentum into the hover-glide, just to make it more fun. Cream and Tails while lacking the ability to fly still has some great utility with it's A command. if you hold the A button while Cream is in mid-air she'll pull out a dainty-looking umbrella. the original intent is cream using it as a slow hover, but come on now, we don't follow the original intent of sonic game designs do we? as I was saying, if you tap the A button you could use it as a make-shift double jump. time it correctly and you can save yourself from falling off a ledge or reaching a higher ledge you wouldn't get if you only pressed jump. it's small, sure, and Cream losing her flight does suck, but it's a hell of a lot better than what they did with the Tails & Cream combo, wtf happened there? I'll never know.

oh and I finally got to beat the extra final boss, the lesser final boss is pretty unfair at times, but getting the pattern down is pretty easy if you know what you're doing (which I didn't half of the time but that beyond the point). the Gemerl final boss was pretty tough, I almost lost my rings and the way you defeat Gemerl is pretty clever. I really love the ending of this game it's simple but it gets the job done really well and seeing Gemerl return from Sonic Battle is a really neat way to branch Battle and Advance 3. anyways this game is a solid 9/10, and I will play again soon, as always.

(when I get done I'll review Sonic Battle, I think it deserves a good review)

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