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Sonic's Handheld Adventures


Barry the Nomad

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http://the-nomad-junkyard.blogspot.com/2010/01/sonics-handheld-adventures-part-1.html

I wrote this up at the Nomad Junkyard, you can see it with photos and videos at the link above, or read the text only version below. Enjoy!

Sonic's Handheld Adventures - Part 1

It's safe to assume that any Sega fan and just about any gamer knows of Sonic's 16-bit adventures. Sonic 1, Sonic CD, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles followed Sonic from his early South Island scuffles with Eggman through to his final assault on the Death Egg. All in all it was a solid series featuring speedy gameplay, memorable side characters and a surprisingly deep overarching plot (well, deep compared to Mario's exploits).

As famous as the Genesis/Mega Drive series was, not too many fans know of Sonic's 8-bit adventures. One would assume that they were adaptations of the 16-bit series, especially when one considers that the first two Game Gear Sonic titles were Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Well that "one" couldn't be more wrong! Despite sharing titles, the Game Gear Sonic series was as far from the Genesis series as they could get. Join me, Barry the Nomad, as we walk down a less trodden path of memory lane and take a look back on Sonic's Handheld Adventures!

Sonic the Hedgehog was Sonic's first Game Gear appearance. Developed by Ancient, who also created the Mega Drive classic Beyond Oasis, the 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog was a faithful albeit downgraded adaptation of the original 16-bit classic. I say adaptation rather than port as while many zones from the original are absent, there also exist zones unique to the Game Gear. After running through the requisite Green Hill Zone, Sonic continues through Bridge Zone (???) , makes a diversion through Jungle Zone (?!?) revisits Labyrinth Zone, blasts directly to Scrap Brain Zone and then completes his adventure at Sky Base Zone (what is this? Sonic 2?). If you can't tell, those levels completely disregard the 16-bit order. Despite the differences, 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog is a very enjoyable handheld game with peppy music and great visuals for a Game Gear. Were I to rate it, I'd give it a 4/5 on the Game Gear scale.

Remember Sonic the Hedgehog 2? The game in which Tails is kidnapped by Eggman and Sonic must pay a ransom in Emeralds? Oh, thats not the game you remember? You must be thinking about the GOOD Sonic 2 , y'know, the 16-but one. The 8-bit Sonic 2 is a completely different beast. Might as well called it Tails is Missing. Developed by Japansese developer Aspect (not to be confused with Sonic 1's Ancient), 8-bit Sonic 2 does everything wrong that 16-bit Sonic 2 did right. Despite appearing on the cover and in the zone title screens, Tails is MIA as Sonic goes solo to rescue his pal.

The game commits a cardinal sin in starting with an eerie mine level. What happened to the requisite first lush green zone? Oh, that happens in the second zone, Sky High Zone. Then, after a water level, Sonic revisits the first Sonic 1 level in a retooled Green Hills Zone. I guess they added more hills. All in all, Sonic 2 is alright for what it is but fails at what it promises to be. Outside of the title, it is not the well known Sonic 2 and the fact that Tails is not playable gives this game a 1/5. Okay, I'll give it a 2/5 for the music.

Things turned around for Sonic on the Game Gear with Sonic & Tails aka Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos outside of Japan. While Aspect is still the developer, they seem to have learned some lessons since their last game. Like the Japanese title states, both Sonic and Tails are playable. The plot, while weak, is the classic Eggman attacks South Island, the emeralds scatter and Sonic and Tails must find them before Eggman does. The game is filled with new moves, including a standing peelout known as Sonic's strike dash and Tail's inherent ability to fly. Items, such as a pogo spring (as seen on the game's cover) and rocket shoes give Sonic the temporary ability to bounce and fly about. The items are quite fun to utilize and it's surprising that they didn't see further use outside of the Game Gear series. Levels are nicely designed and take full use of the Game Gear color palette. Overall, Sonic Chaos is a great game that proves "more is better" in the Game Gear world. 4/5

Sonic & Tails 2 aka Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble is a "more of the same" sequel to Sonic Chaos, but that's not a bad thing. The plot is similar to the previous game: an explosion sends the emeralds flying across the globe. This time, however, Eggman isn't the only one Sonic must compete with. Knuckles makes his Game Gear debut as an NPC and fan favorite Fang (aka Nack) the Weasel is also after the emeralds. Interestingly, according to the Japanese manual Knuckles is unknown to Sonic, insinuating that the game's events precede Sonic 3 or occur in an alternate handheld timeline. Skills such as Sonic's peelout and Tail's flight return, as do the fun items. New items include screw shoes (they sound dirty, I know) and Sonic's snowboard. Sonic Triple Trouble really does have it all; a slew of enemies, every sort of zone, a variety of power-ups, great music and even a decent comic book adaptation! 5/5

Despite having the option of ending on a high note or attempting to outdo Sonic Triple Trouble, Aspect chose to release the "big blue booger" (theghz.com's words, not mine) that is G Sonic aka Sonic Blast. The less said about Sonic Blast the better. Bearing no resemblance to the Genesis and Saturn's Sonic 3D Blast outside of pre-rendered "3D" sprites, the 8-bit Sonic Blast follows Sonic and Knuckles (in his first playable Game Gear appearance) going after Eggman after Eggman blasts an emerald into five smaller emeralds. It is unknown if these five shards are of the Master Emerald or if they are five pieces of one of the seven Chaos Emeralds. Whatever the answer is, it's stupid. Rather than write any more about Sonic Blast, let's put it where it belongs.

The Sonic Game Gear series was, for the most part, good fun. Sure they couldn't rival the 16-bit originals, but after the fun Sonic 1 and the abysmil Sonic 2, Sonic appeared in two excellent and unique handheld offerings. Other Game Gear adventures include the kart racing spin-offs Sonic Drift 1 & 2, the pinball spin-off Sonic Spinball and Tails' spin-offs Tails' Sky Patrol and Tails Adventure.

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Remember Sonic the Hedgehog 2? The game in which Tails is kidnapped by Eggman and Sonic must pay a ransom in Emeralds? Oh, thats not the game you remember? You must be thinking about the GOOD Sonic 2 , y'know, the 16-but one. The 8-bit Sonic 2 is a completely different beast. Might as well called it Tails is Missing. Developed by Japansese developer Aspect (not to be confused with Sonic 1's Ancient), 8-bit Sonic 2 does everything wrong that 16-bit Sonic 2 did right. Despite appearing on the cover and in the zone title screens, Tails is MIA as Sonic goes solo to rescue his pal.

The game commits a cardinal sin in starting with an eerie mine level. What happened to the requisite first lush green zone? Oh, that happens in the second zone, Sky High Zone. Then, after a water level, Sonic revisits the first Sonic 1 level in a retooled Green Hills Zone. I guess they added more hills. All in all, Sonic 2 is alright for what it is but fails at what it promises to be. Outside of the title, it is not the well known Sonic 2 and the fact that Tails is not playable gives this game a 1/5. Okay, I'll give it a 2/5 for the music.

Underground Zone is eiree? It's bad that this game didn't start the way every other Sonic game started in terms of level genre? And when did it ever promise to be anything? I'm glad it was a totally seperate entry rather than a shoddy port, but then I personally find Sonic 2 to be the weakest of all the mega drive games.

Sorry, 8-bit Sonic 2 is my favourite Sonic game ever so this made me rage a bit. D8 At least you gave it a whole extra mark for the music though.

Having said that, in all cases the Master System versions are generally better... I don't blame people for hating on Sonic 2 8-bit if they played the Game Gear version.

EDIT: Now that rage is over, I read the rest, and personally I disagree on Sonic Chaos too. It's a good game, but the shortness and easiness of the levels are frankly ridiculous. I can beat Sonic 2's levels in under 30 seconds each mostly thanks to playing it TONS since I was a kid. Sonic Chaos, I beat in under 30 seconds every time on my very first attempt. The only challenge is getting the emeralds, but that teeters back and forth between "fun" hard and "cheap" hard at times.

Edited by JezMM
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I liked Sonic 1 for the Game Gear, had great music and some cool level concepts, such as Sky Base. Imo, it has as much with Mario as it does Sonic 1 for the Mega Drive, a lot of the platforming has a fair few abyss sections and bosses fought with you as a one hit point wonder, and was much faster paced than parts of Sonic 1. I liked the levels in this game a lot as well, Sky Base already mentioned, but Labyrinth and Scrap Brain are mentioned for their amazing music. I want to see official remixes of these. A truly underrated game, for me.

I actually liked Sonic 2 for similar reasons, except more about the difficulty than anything else. It's a mean, brutal challenge, but you get shitloads of rings and lives to do it in. Cheap as hell, but awesome concepts. Zones I liked were Aqua Lake and Crystal Egg. Gimmick Mt was also not bad tbh.

I disliked Sonic Chaos. Way too easy and boring for my liking except for the special stages, which were asinine, and some really cheap abyss parts. The only zone I liked was Aqua Planet. Triple Trouble was much better overall, but it was very clunky like Chaos was. Again, some pretty cool zones though, I liked Sunset Park, Meta Junglira (most bizarre zone in the game), and Tidal Plant. I liked how these 2 games differentiated themselves further from the Mega Drive games though, with their gimmicky powerups which would almost be home in again, a Mario game.

Sonic Blast was ass. The music was quite nice, but the controls were terrible (Knuckles's were WORSE than Sonic's) but the Double Jump was nice. The levels are arduous and irritating though, Blue Marine is a bit of a bitch (but a cool idea =/).

On a side note, a modern rendition of Sky Base zone would be EPIC. Can you imagine, the sad but very tense music, loads of bullets shooting at you, stormy skies, conduits going off? It's almost like the Mario Bros 3 airships, but potentially more epic. Overall though, not a bad series, though they have their flaws.

I didn't get Tails Adventure at all. Apparently it's Metroidvania style, so I imagine in old 2D style it is frustrating. I may give it another whirl someday, when I've finished playing the many games I need/want to play including old games I need to download (did I just say that OOPS).

Edited by Semi-colon e
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@ JezMM:

Well, it promises to be something that it's not by using the Sonic 2 logo and displaying a non-playable Tails so prominently. I'd blame Sega's marketing department more than the dev.

I totally get where you're coming from though! It's good for what it is, and as a game I grew up on I do have happy nostalgic memories, but compared to the other release, GG Sonic 2 isn't the best. The truncated field of vision compared to the Master System version doesn't help in the first boss.

I'm sure we can both agree that Sonic Blast is a blue booger. ;)

Edited by Doctor Eggman
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I found most of the Game Gear games to be nigh impossible to play. The platformers felt like fangame demos made in the late 90s with their awkward game engines and somewhat jerky movements, and it made me wish they were easier to control so I could at least have the tolerance of passing one zone.

Every so often I try playing them, but they lack the depth that draws me into the game for long.

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Yeah, I was never a huge fan of them myself. I didn't get to play any of them until recently, so it's probably years of being used to the 16-bit versions talking, but I just found them insubstantial, somehow. The physics are weird, frankly, and many of the levels look fairly bland (not all, though; Electric Egg is quite cool). The music is often nice, of course, but I don't feel like it makes up for the flaws.

Tails' Adventure is awesome, though. It's not perfect, but the fact that it doesn't try to be like the 16-bit games helps it a lot. It's totally unique in the series and it very much fits its title character's style. If only Knuckles' Chaotix had been as distinct...

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I totally get not enjoying the Game Gear Sonic games when playing them in one of the console collections (like SADX or Sonic Mega Collection Plus), but if you kick back with a Game Gear and pop on some headphones it can be a fun experience. I think you have to get into that retro mindset remembering the limitations of the Game Gear.

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Ouch, a bit harsh on Sonic 2 I think. This is by far by favorite 8-bit Sonic, and not just by nostalgia. It's got nice physics on par with the first one (I'd say the best out of the Game Gear series), nice sprites, best use of level gimmick in the 8-bit series (mine cart, hang-glider, air bubble, water skimming, gravity-wheels, zoom tubes), nice winding level design, very nice boss encounters... This game is made of win for me. The criticism aimed at it is usually because of the high difficulty level, but none of the difficulty is artificial, which makes it so much greater for me. I've never heard anyone put it down for technical limitations though. Comparing it to Mario is Missing is rough, man. It's like the first with more polish. And I can't help but feel bad for Tails. Total 5/5 for me. Not too into the Chaos-Trouble series though. They're good, but there's something choppy about character movements that really gets in the way of me enjoying them.

Edited by Cupcake Hedgehog
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I personally found Sonic Chaos to be the weakest of the handheld games (ignoring Blast, which I refuse to play to this very day). Sonic 1 was a bit too straightforward but was a relatively good reimagining of the original game. Sonic 2 had most of the correct elements in place but had a very spotty difficulty curve (in either version). Triple Trouble was probably the best objectively and certainly the most ambitious, but I've never had any love for it. But Chaos is just... there. It doesn't really stand out in any way.

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Mmm, this thread has me hankering some 8-bit Sonic goodness.

I really enjoyed the GG and MS versions of Sonic 1, though not as much as the Genesis original. Sonic 2 was also a fun game, but very difficult; I don't play it often.

Sonic Chaos was just terrible, though. The levels were so straight forward that it was painful to slog through. I don't think I ever bothered getting past the fourth zone. Sonic Triple Trouble, though, is a great game. How good? It's the only one of the 8-bit games that I beat. Only problem is the slow-down, which runs rampant. Can someone fix that in a rom hack, please?

Tails Sky Patrol is a kick too, but has a steep learning curve. I never was able to get past the final level. Tails Adventure is the best of all the Sonic handheld titles (not counting Sonic Advance 1), though. I love all the stuff you can do in this game. I would have beat it by now, but I ended up having to erase the save on my gamecube because it took too much room. And I've lost the password by now.

As for Sonic Blast... why the hate? It's not a spectacular game, but why does no one like it? It controls well enough, and there are two playable characters. What about it makes everyone complain so much? I just don't get it.

Oh yeah, there are more. Sonic Drift sucks, Sonic Drift 2 sucks, Sonic Labyrinth sucks, Mean Bean Machine sucks, Spinball sucks.

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I find that the 8-bit Sonics were good only if you consider what system there on. I mean like most forms of art if you come in with high standards you'll usualy leave with high dissapointment, which means if you play the 8-bits expecting the same goodness as the 16-bits your gunna find them a bit stupid. Yes, the 16-bits probobly do stack up better in comparison, but the 8-bits had a play style and flare all to them selves. And for that I will defend them against anyone who disses them for "Not being like the original".

My curent standings on the 8-bits.

Sonic 1-an great mix of staying true to the original while still standing out as its own game. 5/5

Sonic 2-a rather interesting twist to the story and levels, but the fact that Tails wasn't even in it just made it feel to me like a simple expansion to Sonic 1. 4/5

Triple Trouble-a rather good game with an original story that made it stand out perfectly, also it introduced one of my favorite characters Fang the Sniper. 5/5

Chaos-a good game but with verry little chalenge to it. 3/5

Blast-N-O. Fail/5 After looking back on it I have come to the conclusion that I was too harsh on Blast. It was an intriuging concept for such a low power system, but it still had horrible graphics and the gameplay was just too slow for my liking. 1/5

Note-any games I havn't mentioned were ones I never played or learned the story of.

Edited by metal madness
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The GHZ echos my thoughts on Sonic Blast:

Sonic and Knuckles control like blocks of wood through pixellated, low-color fever dreams of banal 8-bit doom. You've probably scraped nicer looking stuff off your windshield (and had more fun doing it).

Good descriptors of Sonic Blast would be chunky and clunky. The characters are far too big and move as though they are plastic models of Sonic & Knuckles. It felt more like a beta version than a final release. it's like they were trying to create a Donkey Kong Country version of Sonic. Very bizarre.

I will concede that Sonic 2 is more of a 3/5 in comparison to Blast and if it were to not have the name Sonic 2, it might be a 3.5/5 ;)

Edited by Doctor Eggman
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Oh boy, the handhelds... I'm not a fan.

I guess part of the reason why I dislike most (practically all) of them is because I never got to play them until I bought Gems Collection. So, to me they're just so primitive. Sonic 1 bores me and Sonic 2 has the most ridiculously hard first boss ever in a Sonic game. I'm not an real "gamer" by any means (aka I SUCK at games) and extra hard levels simply frustrate me. The only one I can really enjoy on this list is Triple Trouble. That's it. I can't even say anything good about the music because 8-bit music is simply NOT music in my eyes.

You should have did Tails Adventure. Even though Sonic isn't in it, I find it to be the most enjoyable of all of the Game Gear titles.

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Good descriptors of Sonic Blast would be chunky and clunky. The characters are far too big and move as though they are plastic models of Sonic & Knuckles. It felt more like a beta version than a final release. it's like they were trying to create a Donkey Kong Country version of Sonic. Very bizarre.

Yeah, the controls are SHIT and the levels are generally not well designed. Sonic and Knuckles are both far too slow and feel crippled.

First off, the characters are too big? I don't know, maybe on a Game Gear screen. I'm used to playing the Master System version, though. Animation on the characters has nothing to do with the gameplay, same as the rest of the graphics. The characters do NOT control like shit; they are just slower than we are used to them being. Remember, the 2D Sonic games were not about speed, but platforming. The only time control was an issue for me was when bouncing off the spring enemies in the volcano level. Plus, Sonic was given an extra degree of control thanks to the double jump; did you forget that?

As for the beta comment... well, it is a bit odd that certain screens in the Master System version don't actually fit the entire screen. That seems a bit half-assed. But that's about the only thing I can see to back of that position. It's a fun classic Sonic experience, and I still believe people dislike it for juvenile reasons such as the graphic style.

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I have to say I never liked Triple Trouble much myself. It all felt a bit "been there, done that". I think it tried too hard to be a mega drive game, rather than keeping things simple and fun like the other three titles did. The slowdown is horrific.

I think I'd like it more if I could just play it with a bigger screen though. I didn't think much of Chaos first time I tried it on SA:DX either, but it's a good time-killer now I can finally play it full size on Wii.

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Yeah, I'd love Triple Trouble with a more zoomed-out perspective. I like the game a lot, because it does actually feel more like a main Sonic game than most of the other 8-bits. The game style is closer to the Mega Drive games, as JezMM said.

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First off, the characters are too big? I don't know, maybe on a Game Gear screen. I'm used to playing the Master System version, though. Animation on the characters has nothing to do with the gameplay, same as the rest of the graphics. The characters do NOT control like shit; they are just slower than we are used to them being.

Yeah, the characters are too big, it seems the whole game is zoomed in on them, much worse in the Game Gear version. Additionally, the characters have little to no mid air mobility, and Sonic's double jump sometimes decides to NOT hit the platform you're going on. Knuckles's controls seem really, really awkward.

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Animation on the characters has nothing to do with the gameplay, same as the rest of the graphics.

Actually, that isn't necessarily true. While I have never played Blast, I have played the GBC port of Donkey King Country. Because of the limited color palette of the GBC and the way the rendered models were scaled down to work, everything was given a washed out look, and it was very easy to accidentally run into things or miss platforms because you couldn't really tell where anything was at speed (and in some cases, even when stopped). I'm not entirely sure as to whether it is a problem in Blast as much as it was in that version of DKC, but from what I've seen of the game I would be surprised if it wasn't (and I'd imagine the SMS version would be even worse).

Edited by Tornado
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I skipped the games that were included with Sonic Adventure DX directors cut, and rarely played the gamegear titles included with Sonic Gems Collection...

But I did get the Master System Sonic 1 & 2 on my Wii VC. They are largely the same as the gamegear versions, right?

I loved Sonic 1 to death! It was the Sonic I knew and loved, with the familiar gameplay of 16-bit Sonic 1, but with the difficulty of an NES game. The only really bad part was the water level. Water levels in video games arenever good ever, but this was worse than any water level before it.

Sonic 2 was much less enjoyable than Sonic 1 for me though... way too many unreasonable spike related deaths, especially in that last zone, and the boss zone in green hill.

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If anyone only familiar with the GG version wants to see the differences in action, I did a short runthrough of the game just the other day on youtube.

Skip to 1:30 and you can see just how much easier the first boss is. It's not just the arena size but the falling rocks too.
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Yeah, the Master System Sonic 2 corrected the glaring problem that the GG had with the first boss fight.

Game Gear

gg_03.gif

Master System

son2_04.gif

I've also heard that the bounce patterns were randomized in the GG version, but I've honestly never paid attention enough (and I'm too lazy to watch JezMM's video that probably proves it either way) to confirm or deny it.

Edited by Tornado
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