Archive for March 2012

Sonic – Part 1   Leave a comment

Roughly six years ago, Sonic the Hedgehog may well have been better-off dead. Each game seemed more broken, more rushed and more stifled than the last.
For those not in the know, it’s generally thought that the Sonic games started getting worse following the release of 2001’s “Sonic Adventure 2” on the Dreamcast.
That game in itself is very love-it or hate-it, with many younger Sonic fans having just as much nostalgia for it as I do for the Sega Genesis classics, and many older fans finding it disappointing and disjointed.
While I enjoyed “Sonic Adventure 2,” it’s definitely not aging well. It was followed up by 2004’s “Sonic Heroes,” which eschewed the speed-based modern gameplay for an overly-complicated system wherein a player controlled three characters simultaneously.
As long-time fan Ryan Bloom said, “Sonic 2 was simple. Sonic Heroes is not.
Holding down and pressing jump to spin-dash is simple. Hitting jump a second time while in mid-air to execute a special move is simple. Assigning eight separate special moves to two buttons is not simple.
Standing in front of a wall I cannot cross because I have not pressed a button to cycle through a list of characters just so I can press another button, break the wall, and then cycle through the list again to get back to the character I was playing as is not simple.
Removing useful functionality is not simple — well, it is, but for the wrong reasons. All of what I have described is more frustrating and cumbersome than it is simple or intuitive.”
While “Heroes” was decently-received by the mainstream press, it didn’t truly become cool — and even appropriate — to hop on the anti-Sonic bandwagon until 2005’s release of “Shadow the Hedgehog.”
Dropping the heroic blue hedgehog for the brooding Shadow character was a very ill-advised attempt to appeal to the early-teenage crowd (who, as I’ve covered before, often think that anything with color is, “omg so gay”) and the disconnect to see your anthropomorphic cartoon hedgehog wielding a gun and “capping haters” did the game no favors.
But the true zenith of this barrage of terrible games would come with Sonic’s 15th anniversary. 2006’s attempted reboot of the franchise, simply titled “Sonic the Hedgehog,” was the epitome of an obvious beta.
The game was rushed out for the holiday season, featured numerous developmental problems (Yuji Naka, considered the father of Sonic and the leader of Sonic Team, left in the middle of development), and was an absolute failure in nearly every sense.
Even the aspects of the game that were firmly in place had extremely questionable … no, that’s not harsh enough.
The game had horrible, desecrating … no, that’s not accurate either.
As a writer, I can not elicit the words necessary to elegantly describe this game.
It sucked.
It sucked so brutally that the shockwaves of its collapse of the franchise can still be felt to this day.
The most infamous part of Sonic 2k6 is undoubtedly its story, which has more dramatics, plot holes and unconvincing romance than a modern “Final Fantasy” game.
Near the end of the game, the very human female lead, Princess Elise, KISSES THE CARTOON HEDGEHOG ON THE LIPS TO BRING HIM BACK TO LIFE.
People ripped on this game like few others of this generation, and very deservedly so.
Yet even at this time, even amid all these problems, and especially now, six years later … is it, or was it ever fair to say that the Sonic series would be better off dead?
Next week, I’ll answer that question and chronicle what’s happened in the series since 2006.

Posted March 22, 2012 by positivejosh in Uncategorized

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Thoughts on Taxman’s Sonic CD Remake   Leave a comment

My GOD, I really hate some of Sonic CD’s level design.

Gaaah. It’s not all bad. It’s just… too reminiscent of Sonic 1 with the volume turned up. Levels are like labyrinths sometimes, with elements that fling you out of control and some really, REALLY cheap traps that knock your rings right out of you (I’m looking at you, Stardust Speedway.) Levels are designs for exploration first, and don’t lend themselves nearly as well to a flowing, skill-based gameplay style as Sonic 2 and onward tend to. And it’s just incredibly frustrating and, to me, downright BORING to wander through these massive, sprawling levels looking for the badnik generators and struggling to hold onto my rings.

Wacky Workbench might be my least-favorite 2D level in the series. Seriously.

All of these level designs add up to make what could’ve been a real masterpiece into just a pretty good video game that only occasionally feels like what a Sonic game should.

Which is a shame, because everything else about the game is top-notch. Both soundtracks are epic, the art design is amazing, the controls and physics are perfect, the bosses are unique, and the special stages are some of my favorites in the series, in spite of their insane difficulty.

And I know there are plenty here would disagree vehemently with all this. And I’d actually be interested in how many of them like “modern” Sonic games. Because Sonic CD is just about as far in the opposite direction as you can go, and in my opinion, it’s way too far. Modern Sonic, when it’s done right, is all about skill and timing and reaction, while Sonic CD lends itself much better to exploration.

Like I said, it’s still a good game. And Taxman did an AWESOME job with this. I’ll still buy more copies, I’m sure. I just always wished Sonic CD’s level design let me play the way I prefer to.

Posted March 7, 2012 by positivejosh in Uncategorized

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Friends’ Reactions to Generations   Leave a comment

I have a couple of friends who are playing this game. Aside from the absolute ridiculous idea one dude had to get it on 360 when he has a perfectly-capable gaming laptop, I’ve noticed something interesting…

These guys, straight across the board, do two things that are really, really odd to me:

1) They never TOUCH classic Sonic. They begrudgingly played through his levels to beat the game.

I mean, yeah, they REALLY knocked modern Sonic out of the park on this one, and both gameplay styles are equally fun, at least for me. I don’t really know what it is, either. Classic Sonic is slower and less-flashy, but the Act 1s also tend to be a lot more densely-packed… and a lot more can go wrong. Maybe that’s it? Act 1s aren’t as pretty and frustrate them?

2) They change the music on EVERY stage, most often to something like Live & Learn or Open Your Heart.

Changing the music all the bloody time annoys me, especially since when they play on my copy they never change it back. The Adventure-era had some great music, but it’s not the ONLY music, and most of the default remixes are already awesomely-suited to the level they’re in.

Posted March 1, 2012 by positivejosh in Uncategorized

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