It’s Sonic month mother f*ckers! The Sonic-opalypse. Sonic-geddon. The Second Sanic-ing. I’ve been/will be bombarding you with all things Sonic all month, going above and beyond to pay tribute in a month that has absolutely nothing to do with the creature I’m praising. Praising may be a bit strong. Especially in this Micro Reviews….
Since I’ve played a crapload of Sonic over the years, I thought it best to make this a bed of games that I just can’t muster up the fire to turn into full reviews. There are also some I never beat because my fingers just refused to function through the carpal tunnel any longer, or the games were trash-cicles. Let’s find out which is which!
Sonic 1 – Well, harsh reality time: the first Sonic the Hedgehog is the worst of the originals. By a fairly wide margin, actually and I never bothered to push through the final boss as a result. The emerald special stages are path-finding nightmares that feel like there was zero refinement to an original idea. Stages are basic and fine but there is no communicative speed to speak of when compared to the sequels. Had I played this first, I’m sure my views would be different but for the moment, it stands near the middle of my Unbeatens list. (Maybe)
Sonic Spinball – I’ve got this game down to a science. A boring science if you’re trying to play me in two-player, but an impressive one if I do say so myself (#selfbrag). This is, shockingly, not the weirdest idea Sega conjured to throw Sonic into and it’s my favorite console pinball destination still as a result of the creative approach. Sonic still moves freely, he just so happens to be stuck in a weird series of Robotnik plots that he can only foil as a pinball ball. Simple…?
The sound effects and music really make the experience an everlasting joy since the pinball mechanics were simple to begin with and don’t exactly level-up with age. I’m not sure how my mutant power works, but I seem to be able to summon this game at will, and that will is pretty constant. (Definitely)
Mean Bean Machine – Now this is weirdness. In an age where everyone and their tetromino families were trying to copy and improve Tetris, this was Sonic’s foray to a…well-enough done result. You’ll climb against robots only fans of both Saturday morning shows will know (this game’s technically based off the sillier version of Sonic – yes, you read correctly) and you match little jelly beans with like colors. Setting up huge avalanches of rocks against your opponent is the best this game gets, so a few rounds of practice plus implementation, an hour at most. Anyone that thinks themselves gud at Tetris beware as I’ll take you to the front of my classroom of pain in no time. (Maybe)
Sonic 3D Blast – Sonic’s first dive into three-dimensional awkwardness was on the Sega Genesis, and it turned out about as well as you’d expect. Isometric, grotesque, and strangely designed in multiple ways, there was no other game in Sonic’s history to this point so very skippable. The Flicky collection mechanic put exploration first instead of level design, which showed quickly how little Sega knew what to do with 3D so early. Sonic’s a lot of things but not an explorer. (Definitely not)
Sonic Heroes – Another one I’ve actually beaten to the secret ending, but it was purely to keep my Sonic dream alive at the time. While the early levels do well enough at showcasing the trio mechanic for whichever team you chose, later levels are 30 minute affairs with constant guessing and terrible pacing that makes you feel constantly short on lives. You’ll get to know every pit you pass intimately with any of the teams. Even the secret ending just isn’t worth the journey. Bleh. (Definitely not)
Shadow the Hedgehog – Remember when Sonic wasn’t edgy enough? I’m not sure what exactly Sega was aiming for as far as edge sharpness, but seeing as how this gem serves best at your local recycling plant, I’d say they missed. I’ve beaten this “bad boy” but the branching endings – I think 25 or so – make getting the super secret ending a question about how long you can hold your breath in boiling water. The guns and motoring of the cycle make everything feel more plodding and staged than any Sonic game, which is saying something. While a fun Youtube search, there’s nothing else to mine from this shallow pit. (Definitely not)
Sonic 4 Episode 1 – This was the brightest spark of hope that burned the fastest in human history. I saw the name, felt hope, then saw a trailer and lost it. Dat art style just doesn’t do for Sonic because, again as nearly every 3D game has determined, he doesn’t look or move well when he’s not shaded as a 2D sprite. The level design ended up the most nauseating because it felt like the most coldly calculated way of making you feel bursts of speed between platforms to and from nowhere. I didn’t emerge from this experience a happy camper in the slightest. (Definitely not)
Sonic R – Visual garbage is real and it spits at you. Hot, liquidy, viscous black sludge that crawls across your face and smothers you in an impenetrable film. Sonic R is such a being that…actually doesn’t control the worst. It’s still a bouncing betty of polygons and crippled design, but I’ve played worse racing games with Sonic’s face on the cover. (Definitely not)
Sonic Racers – Anddd here we have it: a helmetless bash of your skull against unforgiving concrete at 60 miles per hour. Sonic has never felt more stiff, unresponsive, or unnecessary in his own franchise than here. Seriously, Sonic is a creature built upon speed – literally built to be a racer – and Sega seems intensely set on slowing him down to a ridiculous, crippling degree. The tracks, new characters, and sense of momentum all feel janky, poorly designed, and absolutely grating to experience. Skip all of these until Sonic started aping Mario Kart. (Definitely not)
Sonic Fighters – Another low point, I have not played a worse fighting game with Sonic’s face on the front. Again, with the polygons just flying around like a drunken knife juggler, you have to really try to win. Like, cheat-levels of try. You do get to knock the nose off of Knack the Bounty Hunter (no relation) for comic and Game Gear game fans. But otherwise, this is maybe half a tick above Yu Yu Hakusho Dark Tournament so nope x 1000. (Definitely not)
Sonic Unleashed – Of all the hair-brained ideas that Sonic has found himself in, none tickled me quite as much as the werewolf that fights like Kratos. The best part is the day/night cycle that paints the werewolf version as the hero that keeps watch in the night, defending the helpless hedgehogs and humans alike. That just leads me down a path of imagining a super hairy Batman, to which I owe the discovery to Sega and the drugs in their air vents.
The game itself is a mess with the traditional 3D speed tubes in full effect. Combat with Mr Blue Hyde is way slower than God of War and is just arena after arena. I didn’t like it when Santa Monica did that in 3, and I can’t imagine a world in the multiverse where I’d enjoy it with Sonic. (Definitely not)