Monday, November 7, 2011

Rank Up! - Sonic the Hedgehog (2D Console Games)

With the release of Sonic Generations last week, the blue blur sped onto PlayStation 3s, Xbox 360s, and PCs around the world. Now is as good of a time as any to perform a Rank Up! segment. This is where we take a series of games and list them from weakest to strongest. Today's subject is Sonic the Hedgehog. We'll be examining his mainline 2D console efforts. What games will we be eying?

Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN)
Sonic & Knuckles (GEN)
Sonic 3D Blast (GEN, SAT)
Sonic CD (SCD)
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (PSN, XBLA, WiiWare)

Sonic the Hedgehog is an interesting case with some incredibly weird fans. Even with a ten year stretch of less-than-stellar games his fans have stuck with him. Regardless, the golden age of Sonic was definitely in the 16-bit era. It was then where the mantra of blast processing and "SEGA does what Nintendon't" were common. This era was when Sonic had the proper balance of speed and platforming, something the designers of later games completely forgot about. Nonetheless, Sonic the Hedgehog remains one of my favorite franchises even with these caveats.

7) Sonic 3D Blast (GEN, SAT)

Utilizing an isometric camera angle, Sonic 3D Blast is unlike any other game on this list. It's not a 2D side-scrolling game. In fact, I had hesitation in even putting this game on the list. Sonic 3D Blast played differently, too. It was all about going through levels, slaying five enemies, and heading to the goal ring. I vastly prefer the SEGA Saturn version as it features a sensational score by Richard Jacques. It made slogging through this otherwise stale game all the more bearable.

6) Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (PSN, XBLA, WiiWare)

What can you say about Sonic Team's attempt at creating a new mainline Sonic game? Perhaps if the title didn't have the number 4 in it it wouldn't be so frowned upon. As is the game is assembled of levels resembling past zones such as Green Hill, Casino Night, Labyrinth, and Metropolis. Any game where Sonic can moonwalk upside down at a snail's pace is decidedly glitchy. Momentum is a joke in Sonic 4, too. It's like the developer didn't even play the previous Genesis Sonic games to know how the heralded hedgehog is supposed to control. For shame.

5) Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)

Now we're getting into something good. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was six zones with three acts each, and it was a terrific blend of speed and platforming. You had fast-paced zones like Green Hill and Spring Yard, but you also had more methodical zones such as Marble and Labyrinth. The music is iconic to this day, and the level design is full of multiple pathways to take, secrets to find, and Robotnik badniks to bash and beat down.

4) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 introduced a new character into the Sonic franchise, Miles "Tails" Prower. With two controllers, a second player could take the role of Tails and carry Sonic to otherwise unreachable areas. This title has the most zones of any game on this list, though unlike the original Sonic, there are only two acts per zone (save for Metropolis, Sky Chase, and Wing Fortress). The zones presented in this game are numerous and highly varied. One zone you're trying not to drown in pink water while another you're wading through an ocean of oil.

3) Sonic CD (SCD)

Developed for the ill-fated SEGA CD and then later ported to the PC, Sonic CD is an intriguing title. It is the only game in the series that features time travel. Players could either reach a good future or bad future by going into the past and destroying a mechanical prison housing various animals waiting to be turned into robots. The game sported a Mode 7-like special stage where Sonic leaped into floating carriers. Going into the water meant Sonic's precious time in the special stage would be cut shorter and shorter the longer he stood in it. The soundtrack differs depending on your region. I personally prefer the U.S. soundtrack. What about you?

2) Sonic & Knuckles (GEN)

I didn't feel it would be fair to count games combined such as Sonic 3 & Knuckles; I split them up instead. Sonic & Knuckles was the first time players could control Knuckles the Echidna, the protector of Angel Island's Master Emerald. He could float through the air, use his knuckles to smash through to otherwise inaccessible sections of levels, and scale walls. Depending on the character players chose, the game either ended at Death Egg or Doomsday as Sonic or with a battle with Metal Sonic on Sky Sanctuary as Knuckles. There's only one stinker in the bunch of zones in this game and that would be the Sandopolis Zone.

1) Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN)

This is it-- the ultimate 2D Sonic console game, Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Sporting a new locale in Angel Island, a new antagonist in the confused echidna, Knuckles, and new power-ups such as the lightning shield, bubble shield, and fire shield, Sonic 3 is a fun ride while it lasts. The zones are well-designed, the bosses are memorable, and the 3D special stages are entertaining to say the least. Who could forget not knowing how to proceed in Carnival Night Act 2 on that blasted red barrel of doom? Many lives were lost due to time expiring figuring out just how to proceed. It's said that even the late Michael Jackson had a hand in the music in this outstanding Sonic game. From Angel Island to Hydrocity to Ice Cap, there really isn't a bad zone in the bunch.


Rank Up! may be over for now, but it's your chance to shine. What would your order of 2D mainline console Sonic games be? Let everyone know in the comments section. Stay tuned for a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog Rank Up!

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