Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis
Developer SEGA Publisher SEGA Genre Action Platform Gameboy Advance Release November 2006
- In 1991, SEGA released a landmark title. One which would forever change the perception of side-scrolling video games and spawn a fierce rivalry between Nintendo fans and SEGA fans; that game is, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog for the SEGA Mega Drive (Or SEGA Genesis, as it was known in the United States). Of course, 2006 marked the 15th birthday of the blue speed freak and much like 2001's "10th anniversary" saw the release of specially branded Sonic he Hedgehog titles such as Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic's 15th did as well. Only, well, those titles were the previously reviewed Sonic Riders and... This game.
Sonic Genesis was released sometime
in November 2006. It was a budget title for the Gameboy Advance and was a remake of the original Sonic the Hedgehog game. SEGA quietly announced the title, although that's nothing new for Gameboy Advance titles back when the Gameboy Advance was in it's prime, let alone 2 years into the lifespan of the Nintendo DS. SEGA promised the original game in all it's glory only in portable form and with an automatic save feature and the addition of the "Spindash" move, which didn't make an appearance in the series until Sonic the Hedgehog 2. (Useless knowledge time: In the SEGA Saturn game; Sonic Jam, which comprised of old Mega Drive games, Sonic the Hedgehog could be played with the Spindash added in. No subsequent re-release of Sonic the Hedgehog aside from this remake has had this feature.)
I'm sure Sonic the Hedgehog's story doesn't need bringing up, considering... Well, it's a pretty simple story. You're Sonic the Hedgehog, you're angry at the evil Dr. Robotnik for encapsulating woodland creatures (which bare no anthropomorphic features, unlike Sonic) in his evil robots and you're now out to wreck his stuff, free the helpless animals and for some reason, collect ominous and ultimately useless gemstones called the "Chaos Emeralds", their purpose is ultimately unknown at this point in the franchise and yes, there's no Super Sonic. Nerd rage commencing. Joking aside, in many regards this remake is extremely respectful of the source material it's trying to recreate, right down to the lack of story. Sadly, this respect is only superficial.
The Eggman. That's what he is. He is the Eggman. He's got a master plan.
I'm going to get this out the way right now. The game is just about unplayable. Now, I'm not quite sure how you remake a game using modern technology, 15 years in advance to what the original developers of Sonic the Hedgehog had back in 1991, on a machine which is at least twice as powerful as the SEGA Mega Drive in any aspect (and sometimes a lot more in other aspects) and somehow make a completely inferior title. Probably tight development deadlines and a tiny budget, I'm just guessing. First and foremost, the game's physics are all over the shop. They're not a bad simulation, but there are certain things which are overlooked. For instance, in the original game if you're travelling at speed and you hit a wall when falling, that will kill your momentum. In this new remake, when you hit the ground, you'll continue moving at speed as if nothing happened, somehow breaking the laws of physics.
Now, I know I bang on about "physics" and "momentum" a lot in my Sonic game reviews, but it's just one thing that no 2D Sonic game has been able to get right since Sonic the Hedgehog 3. If I'm more lenient, I would say that Sonic Advance had the best re-creation of the original game's physics. There's times where the game will get confused or not work as expected, these may be glitches in some instances. For instance, if you're walking on a horizontally-moving platform and move against the way the platform is moving and it pushes you into the wall behind you, you'll do this strange walk-stop-walk-stop motion in which you remain completely dead-still, it just looks like Sonic is moving. This is probably caused by the game doing what it should do at speed, but doesn't when you're in the air for some reason; kill momentum. Only the original game was smart enough to know not
to kill your speed when you're moving so slowly... Or when you're not facing that wall
The Lack of Timing.
Other times, you'll jump onto a curved corner and hold down on the D-Pad to roll into a ball and build up momentum... Only to have Sonic just ducking while he slides down the curve, not-at-all rolling. Jumping on a gradient will often just make Sonic jump upwards, rather than off at an angle like it should. You can be pushed under blocks with spikes on them and be completely invulnerable until you move. You can fall through floors, you can often be spinning along the ground and then suddenly find yourself standing and running. Objects within water don't act any differently than they do outside water, while your own actions are slowed and delayed (making jumping from those rising platforms in Labyrinth Zone nearly impossible without the spindash move turned on. It's a complete mess. You can't trust your own jump distance because that seems to vary from jump to jump, so you're always second guessing how far you can jump. Not fantastic in a platforming game.
What doesn't help is the fact that the game will very frequently slow down. There are serious framerate issues with this game. How serious? Extremely serious. This isn't an occasional thing, it happens all the time. And this isn't something testers could miss, either. It happens during bosses, happens multiple times per stage
and compromises the whole game's playability to the point where, as I said, the game becomes unplayable. It's terrible. How could anyone have looked at this game and thought, "well, that's just fine. Now ship it and sell it to the consumer." It's an insult. I don't care how "budget" a title is, things like this shouldn't
happen. Especially not from a huge company such as SEGA, who, may I remind you... Made the original game!
The even more lag.
Other, more minor issues with the game are the fact that the game only seems to load graphical tiles for objects just
off screen and then gets confused and sometimes doesn't
load tiles until they're just in-front of you. One thing that will get anyone who played the original Sonic game, other than the physics, is the fact that objects such as those fireball-shooting things in Marble Zone are all out of sync with one-another, sometimes making the path you need to take completely impassable
without taking damage. Then there's this annoying glitch in Starlight Zone where you can stand on the moving stair platforms and die instantly for no reason. And perhaps the most prevalent and annoying 'feature' about the game is that if you end up off-screen after passing the signpost at the end of the level, you can't walk back. So if there's a Special Stage ring waiting for you, you're best to take it slow past the signpost, else you'll miss the opportunity. The original gave you a few seconds to jump for it.
Visually, the game looks like the original. They preserved the original game's layouts, it's now in a more wide-screen display, however all they did was lop off the top and bottom of the screen to fit and then there's the huge problem of framerate. I can't really say the game is "good" in visual style, since all it's doing is taking assets from a good
game. But if you were to look at still screens, you could think that the game was a faithful remake of the old Mega Drive game. Sadly, that's not the case.
The 'Why aren't I spinning?'
And music. Oh happy days, I get to talk about the game's sound. It blows. Seriously. Sure, it sounds a bit like the old Sonic music, if you hand-made a MIDI version of the song and put it through a 1995 Soundblaster card. Dear lord the music is terrible. None of the instruments used sound anything
like the original game. Okay, granted that it uses a completely different, SNES-like sound chip over the more metallic-sounding Mega Drive sound chip, but everything sounds like it's an old-west remix of the game, with a harmonica-sounding instrument taking up most the slack for a lack of sharp synth chords which Sonic the Hedgehog used quite a bit. Sound effects are awful, only the jump sound effect is anything like it should be. Nothing seems to be anything like the original game.
Ultimately then, Sonic Genesis is a terrible game. It's barely playable, doesn't seem like a finished product -- although what Sonic game has been in the last 10 years? -- and is something which should have been shelved and either not released or only released when proper Quality Assurance (QA) had been conducted. Instead, we got a half-baked remake of a classic game pushed out to make a quick buck trying to capitalise on nostalgia. So, when I see the recent announcement of Sonic Generations
, you can hopefully understand why I am sceptical to say the least. SEGA keep pulling this, making games look more like the older Sonic titles, but then screwing up everything important about the game. Looks aren't everything, SEGA. Sooner you realise this, the better.