gems and turds

I think I’d romanticized Sonic in my mind. Sonic was the cool character in the really fast game that my friend had. I guess that made me want to have a copy of Sonic. Well, now I have Sonic. I have so much Sonic, it scares me.

Last night, I unlocked:

  • Sonic 2 as Knuckles

  • Sonic 3 as Knuckles

  • Blue Sphere

  • Flicky

That’s everything secret, except for Ristar, which I should get tonight. Unlocking them involves, basically, playing a lot of the other games. It’s not hard to watch TV while mechanically hitting the right buttons to start and stop sessions of the other games, and that’s what I did. I am not so lame, though, that I didn’t play at least some of all the games. Here are my impressions of those that I played for a non-zero amount of time: [[s Sonic the Hedgehog This is a pretty cool game. The art style and the great sense of speed really do make me feel like I’m in a world designed specifically to make Mario seem like a slow, fat plumber. For the most part, it works. Unfortunately, I have a hard time keeping the map of the stages in my head, so when I’m moving at high speed, I can’t manage to also get secrets.

Still, that’s something on which I can improve. The game itself is pretty good. I wish I could save, though! It’s so frustrating to always start back at Act 1. I really appreciate “saving” now, far more than I had before. My basic skill at Mario made me able to get far enough along that, when I died, I didn’t mind starting from the beginning and seeing some variety. Without any real skill at Sonic, I’ve played a while lot of Acts 1-3, and it’s getting tedious. At least I’m not given the awful solution of level passwords. [[s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Sonic 2 is basically Sonic 1, and you get a sidekick. Your sidekick is Tails. Tails is a fox with two tails. He can fly. Sometimes he takes out an enemy or gets some rings for you. I hate him; I hate him [e so] much.

When I play Sonic 2, I feel like Mom told me to play with my little brother, and I don’t even [e have] a little brother. The game itself isn’t less fun seeming, but having Tails around bugs me. Oh, and his real name is Miles. Gah.

Maybe it works in two-player. [[s Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Finally, a save feature. Unfortunately, the game stinks. The speed is way down, so what’s the point? If I’m not going to be flying across the screen in a blue blur, I’d rather be a fat Italian plumber. Mmmm, overalls.

It’s a lot like Sonic 2, but less fun.

By the time I got to Sonic 3, I started wondering why all the Sonics are the same. After all, not all games in a series need to be the same. In fact, it’s nice to see some weird quirks from one game to the next. I don’t really see much new in Sonic 3. I guess it might be because I’m not playing them all the way through, but I don’t feel I should have to just to find something really novel.

A disturbing trend that began to appear by the time I got to Sonic 3 was the gradual degredation of the graphics quality. The level of detail increased without any increase to the quality, so the screen looks cluttered and messy. Worse, Sega seemed to try and introduce some 3D or FMV, and the artifacting is amazing. It looks so horrible! I could live with the quality if I was on a satellite videophone link in 1984, but not when it’s from a game console. If your system can’t do X well, don’t do it badly. [[s Sonic and Knuckles Sonic and Knuckles is, as far as I can tell, Sonic 3 Part 2. Fortunately Sonic has not returned wearing a halter top and carrying pistols. Unfortunately, S&K isn’t much better than Sonic 3. In fact, there’s one spot in the middle of the first world that seems entirely unpassable. While I can probably find out how to get past it by finding a guide, it’s really confusing and annoying. Once I get there, I need to reset. What’s the point of a [e really] fast game in which I get stuck at a standstill for minutes? I want to [e zoom]! [[s Sonic2 and Sonic3 with Knuckles The really neat thing about Sonic and Knuckles on cartridge was that it had a pass-through. You could plug Sonic 2 into Sonic and Knuckles and plug that dual-cartridge into your Genesis. This would let you play Sonic 2 as Knuckles instead of Sonic.

It’s really cool to play Sonic 2 and 3 as Knuckles, mostly because you’re forced to take a different approach. Knuckles’ powers are different than Sonic’s, mostly, and really familiar bits become difficult.

Unfortunatley, it’s still not that great. [[s Sonic 3D Blast I saw a lot of angry comments here and there, all complaining that “THIS ISNT REALLY 3D!” Well, it isn’t. Sonic 3D gives you an isometric view of Sonic. When viewed in this way, it reminds of nothing so much as Populus. The game is [e much] slower than Sonic 1 and the false-3D is more annoying than anything else. The goal is to collect birds and lead them to freedom, which just makes me want to punch and punch and punch until I have reduced the designers of Sonic 3D Blast to a fine paste. The control sucks, too. [[s Sonic Spinball OMFG. Who let the suck out?

Sonic needs to save the world by climbing into a giant pinball machine and becoming the ball. Pinball has never ported well to video games, and Sonic is among the worst. Even the Microsoft Entertainment Pack Pinball was superior. What’s less interesting than watching Sonic bounce around for a while and occasionally hitting A? Science has yet to find an answer. [[s Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine From the era when every franchise needed a Tetris-like entry comes MBM. Mean Bean Machine is a lot like Dr. Mario or Puzzle Fighter. You’re given pairs of colored beans and you need to stack them. When you have a contiguous group of four, they vanish. Outlast your opponant.

I like these games. Mean Bean Machine is pretty good, but it starts out very, very hard. It took me a few tries to get to the second level. It’s really nothing special, in the end, and it doesn’t make use of the Sonic branding for much more than the title screen. That’s disappointing. I’d rather get Puzzle Fighter. [[s Flicky This is definitely one of the best games in the SMC, and I’m not sure it’s related to Sonic in any way. It’s a lot like Joust. You play a bird. All you can do is flap and change directions. You can also throw items you catch, but that’s almost entirely a function of flapping. You must fly around a platform-filled area and collect smaller birds and lead them to the exit. It’s very very simple and pretty darn fun.

It’s worth noting that the birds in Sonic 3D are called flickies. I almost feel like the coolness of Flicky has been sullied by that reference. [[s Ristar I haven’t played it yet, remember? Later.

Written on March 20, 2003
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