Sonic the Hedgehog 3

This is the third time I’ve written about Sonic the Hedgehog. I also wrote posts about Sonic CD (Sega/Mega CD) and Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast).

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Something about the Sonic games is really interesting. The series on the Genesis/Megadrive represents to me some kind of golden age of console video games.

The level design in the Sonic games was really fabulous. Instead of containing a lot of short levels, engaged non-linearly on the world map (as Mario started to do with Super Mario Bros. 3) the Sonic games maintained linear gameplay with huge “zones”. Each zone was simply a set of two or three stages. Sonic 3 has some of the craziest level design on any 16-bit console.

Also, the music is often epic but emphatically upbeat. Particularly Hydrocity Zone and the boss battles with Robotnik. Sonic & Knuckles had some pretty sophisticated, mean tracks of its own which sound like an extension of Sonic 3. Understandable, as the games were made at the same time.

Sometimes sequels are improvements…Oh, glory days…Sonic’s European Blast

But terming the stages “zones” was very appropriate. These levels were huge. Not so much as they took too long to complete, but one could go through them a large variety of different ways and still not repeat the same path. This is a really exciting concept for a young child and it would have been crazy if the Sonic games had stayed 2-D and gone in some interesting free-roaming direction. In a way I think that’s what they should have done on the Saturn or Dreamcast. Like…Sonic goes Ecco the Dolphin or Metroid. Can you comprehend?

I know at the beginning Sega was trying to distance the Sonic franchise from Mario as a competing console, platform mascot. I think Sega would have done better to just do their own thing without considering the direction Nintendo was taking Mario. By this I mean, not pushed the 3-D Sonic if they didn’t really feel it. Like I said, a free-roaming 2-D Sonic would’ve been off the hook, especially if you could’ve bought or earned special abilities in bonus stages.

Of course, as some of you may remember, there certainly were some innovative steps Sega took with the Sonic franchise. Remember Sonic Spinball? It’s not a straight-forward Sonic game from the main series, but it was pretty interesting to combine the pinball elements of Sonic with a massive set of pinball levels to play through.

And there was Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, which was a puzzle game. I must confess I didn’t play this one as a kid. I never was that huge into puzzle games, even though a lot of them are decent. The idea of having a puzzle game didn’t interest me as a wee kid for some reason. I think as competitive games, puzzle games rule though. Like Boggle, a competitive puzzle game is far more exciting than a real-life, rough and tumble death match.

Then we had Sonic 3-D Blast, which had some very fine tunes, but rather different gameplay from any other Sonic game. It wasn’t fast and played as a 3/4 Isometric action/puzzle game. It was okay…but I’m not sure how stoked I was about it. As a Genesis release at the end of the Genesis timeline it was good (with decent final-generation titles like Vectorman, Comix Zone, Doom Troopers etc.) but it must’ve been bloomin’ sad for Saturn owners who expected a new, fast, 3-D Sonic game.

Unfortunately, by the time the PSone and Saturn had come out, console video games were headed for widespread consumerist appeal with a vastly larger target demographic, and the masses demanded technical innovation and flashy new hardware tricks. So…it seems the charming qualities of 2-D games were largely dismissed, with a few exceptions. Video games have always been (literally and technically) serious business. I guess we should be glad that Sega didn’t pull an Atari*!

Some of my favorite choice cuts from Sonic the Hedgehog 3:


Find it @ Amazon

Buy it @ Half.com

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*Atari bombed itself into bankruptcy with the Lynx and Jaguar, which were both commercial flops despite being decent systems in their own right. Atari was forced to sell its rights as a game company and the current Atari game development company has little to do with the original, besides owning the rights to the name.

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on February 4, 2008.

3 Responses to “Sonic the Hedgehog 3”

  1. Most people blast the Genesis for its inferior sound chip to the SNES. And while that’s usually true, I don’t know how people can think the Genesis’s sound was horrible. Look no further than the main Sonic games and something like Mega Turrican. It wasn’t SNES standard but they’re still amazing for the 16-bit era.

    And man the level design in Sonic was great. I didn’t really see it when I was a kid. But when the Mega Collection came out I actually started to take my time, exploring the zones and stages of the first Sonic and looking at how they were put together. It’s truly brillent stuff and I think its fantastic level design that they got away from lately — see Sonic and the Secret Rings. You’d also think the team that designed the first Sonic game could design a better racing game than Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity

  2. Right on, bro. I can’t believe I don’t own the Mega Collection!

    I did play a number of the Sonic games that came out on the Gamecube and they just felt like a different animal altogether. Like you, I was kinda intrigued by the Sonic Riders development, but I’ve been so repeatedly disappointed by recent Sonic games, even on the Game Boy Advance!

    Ha, it’s also interesting you mention Mega Turrican, because that’s what I was going to write about next! :)

  3. Sonic Riders, at least the first one, isn’t too bad. It’s at least mildly entertaining. Zero Gravity manages to be worse. So much for sequels going forward. But the courses in Zero Gravity are awful. And I’m trying to be nice.

    Sonic Advance 3 is worth while. Finding the first two though has proven a challenge in this area and I don’t buy games online unless I can’t find it here and it’s imparitive that I get them. Not sure if they fall into that category.

    And Sonic Adventure was good…for the first level. That was desinged well and I really think that was one of maybe four times I’ve ever been speachless about graphics. It’s still strange how they dropped the ball in the rest of the game to produce something just slightly above the medicore level.

    I actually wasn’t much of a Genesis/Mega Drive kid growing up but Mega Turrican was amazing. It’s another one of those that will never see enough credit.

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