Friday, November 11, 2011

Mario Kart 7 (3DS) Leaf Cup, Star Cup, Battle Mode Trailers

Mario Kart 7 is my most anticipated 3DS game, even beating out the upcoming Super Mario 3D Land. This installment looks to be incredibly good with a smart selection of retro tracks, creatively designed new tracks, and online communities and clans. Who could possibly say no to online Battle Mode? Check out this trio of trailers showing off the Leaf Cup, Star Cup, and Battle Mode respectively.

October 2011 NPD Results

It's time once again for the results of North American sales. This time around we're focusing on the four week period of October 2011. What games sold the most during this time period? Let's find out! All info comes from NeoGAF. NPD Coverage: October 2-29 (4 weeks) Overall: Retail sales were up 1% year over year. Software: 1. Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)** Electronic Arts - almost 2 million 2. Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3)** Warner Bros. Interactive - 1.5 million 3. NBA 2K12 (360, PS3, PSP, Wii, PS2, PC) Take Two Interactive 4. Rage (360, PS3, PC) Bethesda Softworks - 550k 5. Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360) Ubisoft 6. Dark Souls (PS3, 360)** Namco Bandai Games 7. Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP)** Electronic Arts 8. Forza Motorsport 4 (360)** Microsoft 9. Gears of War 3 (360)** Microsoft 10. FIFA Soccer 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, 3DS) Electronic Arts 11. Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (not in order 3DS, Wii, 360, PS3, PC) Activision **(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware) Hardware 360 - 393k (+14.9%) 3DS - >250k WII - <250k (< +7.75%) PS3 - 240k~250k (estimated from Microsoft, Nintendo and NPD PR) (-4.0% - 0.0%) NDS - <180k (>-47.4%) The modern military blockbuster Battlefield 3 took top billing this month with over two million units sold across three platforms. Batman: Arkham City impressed with 1.5 million units sold-- far greater than Arkham Asylum's August 2009 debut. NBA 2K12 dominated the sports scene despite an NBA lockout, Rage took fourth place in sales, Just Dance 3 boogied on Wii and Kinect, and Dark Souls managed to defy all odds and chart at sixth place nonetheless. On the console side of the spectrum, the price drop lit a fire under the 3DS, giving it approximately 250,000 in sales, close to the Wii's amount. Despite a fifty dollar price cut, the PlayStation 3 failed to beat the 360 or sell impressively. Meanwhile, speaking of the 360, Microsoft's console once again is on top this month, selling close to 400k.

Sonic Generations (PS3, 360) Review

We end our platforming/Sonic-themed week right. At SuperPhillip Central we have been leading up to this moment for a long time with multiple videos, trailers, and screenshots of the next game to be reviewed in the jam-packed month of November. The following game is a return to form for a down on his luck hero in Sonic the Hedgehog. It is none other than Sonic Generations for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

A Super Sonic Blast From the Past

Poor Sonic has had it rough this past decade. Sure, he still has a sizable community of fans that support him, but critics speculate that the best days of the blue blur are behind him. Last year's Sonic Colors on Wii gave the hedgehog a much needed shot in the arm in quality, and the game sold well to boot. Now to celebrate his 20th anniversary as SEGA's mascot, Sonic Team has come out with Sonic Generations, a love letter to fans of the azure hedgehog who have stayed with him since his Genesis days. Should you RSVP to his birthday party?

Sonic Generations begins with a surprise birthday party featuring all of Sonic's friends, from his best bud Tails to Cream the Rabbit to Charmy the Bee. There is even a scrumptious cake that may or may not cover the bitter taste of his 2006 15th anniversary reboot! After Sonic wolfs down part of a chili dog, a disturbance occurs. The skies turn black as night, and a specter of some sort bursts out of a portal, kidnapping Sonic's friends. This cosmic disturber thrusts Sonic into a world of pure white where time seems to stand still. It is here he meets his Genesis era counterpart, Classic Sonic. By completing acts the zones of the game have their color restored to them, and one of Sonic's many friends is brought back to the living. The story utilizes a lot of self-deprecating humor, oftentimes poking fun at the bizarre plots of previous games. The humor is definitely there, but not all players will find something to love about the plot.

Generations is split up between nine zones of two acts each. There is the Genesis era, Dreamcast era, and Modern era. Each era is divided up between three zones each which might put off some players wanting to explore fully three-dimensional worlds of Sonic's superior Genesis days. The zone choices are essentially pretty good, but some make a person scratch their heads in bewilderment. Did there truly need to be four zones that take place in a city environment? Regardless, game progression consists of completing the first three zones of a given era, completing challenges to earn a trio of boss keys, facing off against that era's big boss battle, and then moving onto the next era of zones. Acts can be played in any order, but the player is forced to control Classic Sonic in Act One and Modern Sonic in Act Two.

While Modern Sonic mostly plays in the 3D plain...

There are ninety challenges in total to sift through-- ten per zone-- five for Classic Sonic and five for Modern Sonic. These range from doppelganger races where a translucent version of Sonic controlled by the computer races against the player to see who can reach the finish line first, one ring challenges where the player only is allowed one ring to finish a given level, character-specific challenges where a character lends their help to Sonic to complete a level, levels where all enemies move and shoot at twice their normal speed, and many more variants. Not only does beating challenges eventually award the player with boss keys (three open the door to that era's encounter), but they also give collectibles in the form of concept art, official art, remixed and original music from past Sonic games. Everything from Sonic Adventure to Knuckles Chaotix to Sonic Advance to Sonic 3D Blast is represented either through art or through music.

...Classic Sonic moves in the 2D and 2 1/2D.

There are approximately seven boss battles to take part in. For each era there are two battles, one rival battle and one enemy encounter. Rival battles have Sonic running along Stardust Speedway fending off the attacks of Metal Sonic, jetting through space knocking meteors and asteroids at Shadow the Hedgehog, or performing a homing attack or three on cars Silver the Hedgehog raises with his telekinetic powers. The other style of boss battle has Sonic avoiding being flattened like a pancake by the attacks of the Death Egg bot from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, speeding along the tides of the flooded streets of Station Square against Sonic Adventure's final boss in Perfect Chaos, or taking out Eggman's Egg Dragoon from Sonic Unleashed. Each boss gives the player one of seven Chaos Emeralds. Perhaps something pleasant happens when all seven are collected...

As stated previously Act One of Generations' zones are controlled by Classic Sonic exclusively. While his acts are a combination of 2D and 2 1/2D gameplay, Modern Sonic's Act Two levels are a mixture of pure 3D with a sprinkle of 2D action. Whereas Classic Sonic can spin dash at any given moment, Modern Sonic does not have this ability. However, he does have a unique stable of moves such as the homing attack, boost (as long as there is some fuel in the boost gauge), light dash, stomp, and wall jump maneuver. Players can purchase skills to equip to either brand of hedgehog to enhance their performance. Some skills automatically restore boost power over time while others give Sonic more time to collect lost rings, give the heroic hedgehog an elemental shield a la Sonic 3 at the beginning of an act, or bestows Sonic with ten rings to work with at the start of a level. There are plenty of skills to buy, and players can mix and match them to their liking. The only rule is that skills take points to equip. Sonic only receives 100 points to experiment with, so he must equip a set of skills that is less or equal to that amount.

Acts in Sonic Generations are brilliantly designed. They are some of Sonic's best whether he's riding a skateboard downhill on city streets in City Escape, performing a homing attack to safely cross over a dangerous bottomless pit using the heads of enemies in Crisis City, or skimming atop the ocean waves of Seaside Hill. Levels have multiple paths-- some go into the background, some the foreground, some high, some low, etc-- and it takes some serious skill to reach the higher ones. Usually it is the higher paths that shave off the most seconds when attempting a speed run. Later levels are filled to the brim with bottomless pits, however, these are clearly marked with a red sign depicting a falling hedgehog. Past Sonic games (apart from Sonic Colors) neglected utilizing such signs which made every fall a hold-your-breath experience and hope you do not die.

I'm having flashbacks from 2001.

At the end of every act, players are rated based on their score. S is the best rank while D is the worst. Time, points, and rings collected all factor in to how high a rank the player will achieve. In order to reach an S rank, players must not perish at all during a given act. In later zones full of instant death traps, inconveniently placed foes, and ten minute tries this is easier said than done. Alongside going for high ranks, players can search high and low for red rings which return from Sonic Colors. There are five in each act, and they are hidden and placed in some truly precarious and devious locations. These are not just a goal for achievement/trophy hunters either. Collecting these gives the player even more art and music to gather. Unlocked music can be set to play in any act the player chooses, so if one loves that Super Sonic Racing remix or particularly likes Live and Learn, they can set it to, say, Chemical Plant Act Two.

The representative zone from Sonic Heroes is Seaside Hill.

For those who have never played a Sonic game, it works like this. Classic Sonic's goal is to make it to the ending signpost while Modern Sonic is to hightail it to the goal ring to finish the level. Rings are the duo of hedgehog's lifeblood. If any Sonic is hit without any rings in their possession, they lose a life and must start back at the beginning of the act or at the last reached checkpoint. Unlike past Sonic games, if the player has an exorbitant amount of rings when damaged, they will not lose all of them. They might keep twenty or so. This makes going through the game less of a challenge.

Get hit, lose a chunk of your collected rings.

Presentation-wise, Sonic Team spared no expense. The visuals are bright, colorful, and the zones are full of action whether it be in the background or foreground. There is a lot going on in the game at a given time. The PlayStation 3 version stalls out when the action gets too heated, but this does not happen all the time. Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 version runs at a steady 30 FPS though the colors in Green Hill tend to streak together at some parts. If you do not wish to stick with a console, the PC version is cheaper at thirty dollars, and as a bonus it runs at 60 FPS. The vast collection of music Sonic Generations contains is jaw-dropping to say the least. There is a wealth of remixed, remastered, and original tunes to listen to from nearly every previous Sonic game. The voice acting is pretty entertaining with Eggman stealing the show once again. Overall, almost everything is particularly impressive.

Modern Sonic shows off his grinding
prowess in Rooftop Run Act Two.

Sonic Generations is top shelf material. It might not mirror the feeling of playing the Genesis Sonic games to a "T", but it controls far better than Sonic the Hedgehog 4 which is saying something. The zone selection might be worse than desired, but the acts themselves are so wonderfully designed with numerous paths to explore that this problem is minute. The collection of red rings and the completion of challenges adds nearly twenty hours of content to be satisfied with. While not better than Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations shows that Modern Sonic has some fight left in him and exhibits that 3D gameplay with the speedy chili dog-chomping hedgehog can work. This greatest hits compendium of Sonic's greatest adventures is one to marvel at. Happy 20th birthday, blue blur!

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rayman Origins (PS3, 360, Wii) Demo Impressions

The PlayStation 3 demo of Rayman Origins is up on the PlayStation Store, so I downloaded it, of course, with bated breath. 2D platforming goodness is what I was expecting, and the demo delivered it in spades. Here are my impressions.

There are three levels to play in the demo. The first is a traditional platforming level set in a swamp-like area with many swings to leap off of and catch big air. The second has Rayman or whatever other of the four characters available that the player chooses catching a ride on a mosquito in a rail shooter scenario. The final level is almost entirely underwater, but the demo ends not even halfway through the submerged cavern with the appearance of an underwater dragon. The words "To be continued" pop up as the boss enters into the frame from a cavern from above.

I chose to play as the limbless wonder, Rayman. The controls are basic and simple to learn. Rayman can jump once and then players can press the X button again to have his propeller twirl, giving him extra hang time. He can attack with either the square or triangle buttons. Wall jumps are accomplished by leaping off walls with the X button. This is easy to do, and it feels fast and fluid.

Each of the three levels has multiple lums, the collectibles of the game, to gather. Earning a set number of them awards the player some type of pink goody at the conclusion of a given level. Levels just beg to be explored with lums being located in the most secret of areas. There are also creatures trapped in well-hidden rooms in cages that Rayman or whoever must break with their fists.

The first level is an introductory area. There aren't too many hazards that can get you, but stay in the water too long and a hand will grab you. Rayman can only take one hit before he must start at the beginning of the level or at a checkpoint. Collecting a heart will give the player two hits to work with. Nonetheless, there were many points to swing from to reach higher areas, waterfalls to slide down, and baddies to bounce off of to reach new heights.

The hand-drawn art style is mightily impressive to say the least.

The second level took place in a red hot molten area of some sort. With the mosquito, players can either suck up enemies or shoot at them. Either way, clearing a squadron of foes awarded the player with a bubble full of lums. Further on in the level there were enemies shooting out streams of fire, lasers that when crossed shot out a sharp utensil meant to slice the player, and hot-to-the-touch iron that attempted to crush Rayman and friends. The final obstacle took place along the cool ocean waves, an eel boss. The object of this boss was to shoot the translucent weak points and then its susceptible backside that flashed purple. Each time the player destroyed a segment of the eel, the boss would grow more and more desperate.

The third and final level introduced underwater acrobatics to the game. This underwater cavern was infested with dangerous jellyfish. After making their way through the terrifying passageways and channels, suddenly the player was chased by a menacing monstrosity. The creature feverishly pursued the player as players swam through enemy-filled waters, got shot out of the sea onto land, and leaped atop rocky platforms. Soon the player made their way through a narrow sliver of water, too small for the creature to fit through. A sigh of relief could be uttered. What followed is a room where an underwater dragon emerged, and that aforementioned "To be continued" appeared.

Levels end with the gang taking a photo op.

Graphically, everything in Rayman Origins is hand-drawn and looks sensational. I do not possess an HD-capable television, but even in SD the game was spectacular-looking. The colors are bright and vibrant, the characters animate tremendously, and the backgrounds are full of unique doodads. The gibberish that comes from the numerous characters in the game is exceptionally charming, too.

Be sure to stick with SuperPhillip Central for when Rayman Origins leaps its way onto the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii. A full review will be forthcoming, so please look forward to that. Rayman Origins releases November 15th.

Rayman Origins (PS3, 360, Wii) Launch Trailer

Platforming nirvana hits November with more great run and jump games than you shake a limb at. In Rayman's case he's limbless, so I guess he'd have to shake his entire body. Regardless, scope this launch trailer for Rayman Origins, a title destined to be lost in the shuffle of big, blockbuster releases. It's a shame as 2D platformers are one of my favorite genres in gaming.

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) Launch Trailer

Super Mario 3D Land runs and leaps onto store shelves in North America this Sunday, and here is Nintendo of America's launch trailer for the game. It shows off some of the unique moves of the Tanooki Suit, Propeller Block, and Boomerang Suit. Expect a full review of Mario's latest 3D adventure come next week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rank Up! - Modern Sonic the Hedgehog

On Monday we took a peek at Classic Sonic in his natural 2D form. Now we get a little bit more complicated as we scope out Sonic the Hedgehog's 3D escapades. Here are the games we'll be ranking up:

Sonic Adventure (DC)
Sonic Adventure 2 (DC)
Sonic Heroes (PS2, GCN, XBX)
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (PS3, 360)
Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii)
Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii)
Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360, Wii, PS2)
Sonic Colors (Wii)
Sonic Generations (PS3, 360)

Sonic the Hedgehog has had a decent amount of success sticking with 2D gameplay. 3D gameplay? Not so much. Many people proclaim that the best days of Sonic the Hedgehog are behind him. If Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations are any indication, these people are dead wrong.

9) Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (PS3, 360)

One of the worst games I have had the displeasure of playing, 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog reboot was a festering pile of feces featuring broken gameplay, glitch-filled levels, annoying and unwieldy mach speed sections, and the introduction of the obnoxious Silver the Hedgehog. After about the fiftieth time falling through the floor of one of the game's zones, I had to call it quits. True story, but I actually know someone who got all 1,000 achievement points in this game. Now that's dedication and torture all at the same time. The only decent quality about this game is the sensational score that accompanies the awful game.

8) Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii)

Sonic and a sword, what could possibly go wrong? In this Storybook Series game for Wii, players wielded a talking sword as they hacked and slashed their way through castles, keeps, and caverns. Several of Sonic's friends served as characters in the King Arthur-themed story. While the game is not terrible per se, it is quite uninspired. There are much better Wii games to play besides Sonic and the Black Knight. Much better.

7) Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii)

The first of two Storybook Series Sonic games, Sonic and the Secret Rings tells an Arabian tale where the blue blur meets up with a genie. Any game where you have to purchase and equip skills for the game to actually play better is fundamentally flawed. Add in the inability to properly backtrack, and you have a recipe for disaster. Tilting the Wii remote to dash left and right was pretty intuitive at the time, but it comes off as merely a gimmick. I'd prefer traditional controls any day of the week. And don't even get me started on the sappy story and awful dub.

6) Sonic Adventure (DC)

Sonic's first foray into 3D was with Sonic Adventure. Who doesn't remember their first time cruising along Emerald Coast, hopping inside a tornado in Windy Valley, and leaping into a blistery volcano in Red Mountain? The game featured hubs like Station Square which tied all of the zones together. There were six characters to choose from: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, E-102, and Big the Cat. Each character had their own set objective in each zone. For Amy she had to escape a pursuing robot. For Sonic all he had to accomplish was reaching the goal. Half of the characters you were forced to play as were pretty lackluster. However, Sonic's levels were the true highlight of the title.

5) Sonic Heroes (PS2, GCN, XBX)

Sonic Heroes was a game where four teams of three: Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, Shadow, Rouge, and Omega, Amy, Cream, and Big, and Vector, Charmy, and Espio traversed through multiple themed zones. The game had numerous paths to explore, bosses to beat down, and Chaos Emeralds to collect. Some might find playing through the same zones with different characters with only minimal changes to the level design boring after a while, and I tend to agree. Regardless, I find the colorful zones of Sonic Heroes to be enjoyable to play for the most part.

4) Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360, Wii, PS2)

Sonic Unleashed was a game divided up between two parts: day stages and night stages. During the day it was normal Sonic rushing through levels at supersonic speeds. During the night Sonic transformed into a Werehog where slow, methodical platforming and climbing were the calls for action. The sluggish pace of these night sections and the time it took to complete them seemed merely like padding for the game. They were tedious to slog through, and they were frustrating especially when the camera did not cooperate with the player. The day sections, however, were a blast. Sure, there was some trial and error to be found, but for the most part, these levels were a step in the right direction for Modern Sonic.

3) Sonic Adventure 2 (DC)

Six characters to play as, two stories to dive in to, and one rockin' theme song in Live and Learn made up the majority of players' time in Sonic Adventure 2. Whether players were speeding through zones as Sonic or Shadow, destroying robots from the comfort of a machine with Tails or Eggman, or treasure hunting as Knuckles or Rouge, the gameplay variety in this game was immense. I really enjoyed the time I spent with Sonic Adventure 2, and while not the perfect game (far from it), it was challenging, entertaining, and rewarding all at the same time. Some levels were better than others, but you take the good with the bad. And who doesn't love the collectible aspect of the Chao Garden? I loved raising Chao, putting them to compete in races, and winning enough emblems to unlock the 3D recreation of the Green Hill Zone.

2) Sonic Generations (PS3, 360)

Mixing the worlds of Classic Sonic with Modern Sonic, Sonic Generations is essentially a love letter to fans both jaded and those who have stuck with Sonic through thick and thin. Classic Sonic gameplay consisted of strict 2D levels with an occasional 2 1/2D camera angle. Modern Sonic was all about 3D levels with the occasional 2D section thrown in for good measure. While Classic Sonic can spin dash, Modern Sonic can wall jump, slide, homing attack, light dash, and drift. There were nine zones in total with two acts apiece: three Genesis era, three Dreamcast era, and three Modern era. My only gripe with the game is that it forces the player to complete a certain amount of challenges like beating a level with only one ring or racing against someone in order to advance the story.

1) Sonic Colors (Wii)

Sonic Colors greatly surprised and impressed me simultaneously. The game was mostly 2D with a sprinkle of 3D sections. The introduction of alien creatures known as wisps brought new gameplay styles to the azure hedgehog's world. Some allowed him to drill underground, some granted him the ability to scale walls and ceilings, while others acted like a rocket, sending Sonic high up into the air. The game immediately thrust players into the action with no exposition whatsoever, a nod to early days. Each zone from Tropical Resort to Asteroid Coaster was filled with secrets to discover, red rings to collect, and bosses to battle. Zones were made up of six acts each. I believe that Sonic Colors is the closest Sonic Team has gotten to the Genesis days when Sonic was at his best.


Well, that's my order. What about you? How would you rank Sonic the Hedgehog's adventures in 3D? Let the SuperPhillip Central community know in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Five Innovations of This Generation

This generation has gone on for quite a while. With it, we've seen plenty of innovations both good and bad. The following is a list of those good innovations that we've witnessed in this generation of consoles.

5) Personalized avatars

Whether they are the Wii's Miis, the Rare-designed Xbox 360 avatars, or the PlayStation 3's Home characters, personalized avatars make the games they are in all the more lively. While this is more of an aesthetic choice on the list, there's nothing like inserting yourself into the game you're playing. Mii artists not only create near-identical virtual versions of themselves, but they also design lookalike celebrities, historical figures, and cartoon characters. With avatars you can change your threads from wearing a denim jacket and cargo pants to suiting up completely in Master Chief's armor. The sky's the limit with these puppies.

4) Glasses-less 3D

Handheld generations are not the same as console generations, so it is difficult to ascertain if the Nintendo 3DS's glasses-less 3D counts or not. I argue that it does. Not everyone can view the stereoscopic 3D the 3DS possesses, but the great majority of people are able to. One needs the proper angle to see it. The 3D presented showcases terrific depth, eye-popping gorgeousness, and in some games it helps to judge distances like enemy locations in the upcoming Super Mario 3D Land. Here's hoping more gamers get to know and love glasses-less 3D like I have.

3) Achievements and trophies

The Xbox 360, for better or worse depending on who you are, introduced achievements in video games. These gave players incentives to play games and perform tasks they wouldn't ordinary do. Some argue that achievements and trophies are detrimental to the multi-player experience-- players neglect to help out their teams and instead go after essentially meaningless points or trophies. I surmise that it's cool to be able to compare and contrast the accomplishments of one's fellow friends and gamers by seeing which achievements and/or trophies a given friend has attained. It encourages a sort of competition between friends.

2) Motion control

The Nintendo Wii's success is mostly geared upon its intuitive and innovative control scheme. It brought new games into the mix while keeping a steady stream of titles for traditional gamers. While the promise of 1:1 controls did not surface until the MotionPlus peripheral, that didn't stop people from enjoying tennis, baseball, boxing, golf, and more in Wii Sports, wielding a sword and shield in The Legend of Zelda, or using the pointer for a myriad of shooters. With the Wii's tremendous sales came imitations from competitors. Sony came out with a blatant clone which has a lukewarm amount of success, and Microsoft's Kinect (which I've tried to give a fair chance but it hardly tracks one's body well without lag) has done a fair bit better, revitalizing the Xbox 360 brand.

1) Improved online services

Without Xbox Live the online services of consoles would still be like Nintendo's online-- pretty substandard. Xbox Live allowed for cross-chat play, friend invites, and a profusion of putrid prepubescent children shouting racial profanities into one's ear (thankfully one can mute these little bigoted bastards). Xbox Live is so wonderful that Sony felt forced to come up with a free alternative in the PlayStation Network. Their service only looks to be getting even better with the upcoming release of the PlayStation Vita. If we did not have proper online services that are advanced as they are, we would still be utilizing bare bones online systems. Thank you, Microsoft, for innovating in the online sector.


With that this top five is ova'. List your favorite five innovations of this generation in the comments section. They're always appreciated as you should know well by now.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) North American Advertisement

The commercial for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the hotly anticipated new installment in the illustrious franchise, has been revealed. It shows a profusion of swords and shields falling from the sky, crashing down on cars and through ceilings and floors. Overall, I'd say it is a pretty fascinating commercial.

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!