Tag Archives: shadow the hedgehog

FGC #354 Sonic Mania & Sonic Forces

SONIC!In the year of our Lord 2017, two Sonic the Hedgehog games were released within months of each other. And both of those games were really good.

That has never happened before.

This is an unprecedented event. This is the kind of thing that shakes your belief system. This is akin to discovering that your soul mate is and has always been a 90 year old retired construction worker named Danielle. How does something like this happen? What does it say about you? Does this mean that other “impossible” goals in this reality were actually achievable? Was there some secret way to breed ponies and kittens together to create the mythical/adorable pitten? All things are possible in this post-Sonic the Hedgehog Can Be Good Twice world, and we should all live in constant fear of the next shock to our collective system. Next, Aero the Acro-Bat is going to come soaring in to rave reviews, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it!

But before that happens, we are going to look at the differences between Sonic Mania, an amazing 2-D Sonic title, and Sonic Forces, an amazing 3-D/2-D Sonic title. Maybe we’ll discover the secret to Sonic success? Or does only madness await us? Let’s find out!

Stage Length is Important (or not)

Weeeee!Sonic Mania is, for all intents and purposes, Sonic 4 & Knuckles. Or Sonic & Knuckles 2? Look, what’s important is that it is very much a sequel to the Sega Genesis titles, and it employs a number of tricks and tips from that era. Included in that bag of tricks is the ol’ “giant stages full of secrets” standard that became popular with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and its many hidden giant rings. Sonic has never been about exploring, but Sonic 3 did add the joy of pushing on all “solid” walls at all times. Could there be a secret in this direction? Or maybe over here? Let’s explore every nook and cranny until time runs out. Or… wait… that’s terrible! We don’t want to run out of time! These stages should be smaller! … But we don’t want to lose any content! This is confusing!

Meanwhile, Sonic Forces is all about shorter stages. The average Sonic Forces stage can be completed within all of two minutes. This is something of an accomplishment, as 3-D platforming games have a tendency to take hours just to burn through the “introduction” portion of a level. Traversing 3-D space takes a long time! But, despite the existence of these short stages, there are a myriad of routes available, so, like in Sonic Mania, there are secrets to discover up and down Sonic’s world. You’re unlikely to ever see ten minutes on Sonic Force’s timer, but levels can still be played for hours in an attempt to find new and fascinating routes.

Basically, we’re looking at two completely different approaches to level design and how to discover secrets. One takes the “old school” concepts of 2-D design, but expands them to possibly unwieldy levels, while the other shrinks 3-D sensibilities to bite-sized nuggets that are over before they begin. And they’re both great! Bah! That doesn’t make a lick of sense!

Bosses should be one thing (or the other)

He has somewhere to beYou finished a stage, and now it’s time for a boss. Sonic Mania throws everything at poor Sonic, up to and including a kitchen sink that will eventually be transformed back into a penguin. Some stages end with a simple “jump here” boss. Some levels lead to a high-speed chase. Sometimes the boss is a puzzle that requires careful observation, timing, and bouncing. Sometimes you have to fight Shinobi. And, if you’re particularly unlucky, you might be faced with that one damn boss from Hydrocity wasn’t any fun the first time, so why the hell did some nitwit decide it was time for that jerkass to return!? Er-hem. The bosses of Sonic Mania are an eclectic bunch, and a lot of stress is derived from whether or not you’re going to face Heavy Rider & Jimmy or goddamn Metal Sonic. But, stupid Metal Sonic aside, nearly all of these boss battles can be completed inside of thirty seconds, so there’s not much to complain about.

Sonic Forces, naturally, features bosses that take much longer. By and large, the bosses of Sonic Forces are generally more cinematic affairs, and do their best to utilize the story telling potential of 3-D adventures with epic clashes between Sonic (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and his most dangerous foes (and that one dork from Lost World). Thus, these battles generally contain multiple phases, wildly changing patterns, and the occasional finale that features any number of hedgehogs powering up to supersonic speeds. In general, this leads to more interesting battles, though at the cost of having to hear about Sonic believing in you over and over again should you hit a particularly rough spot. Sonic, dude, I know we can beat this boss, just shut up about it and get your damn homing attack working properly. I’m just as tired of this Virtual Boy dimension as you are.

So, once again, both games take completely separate paths to reach the same generally enjoyable but somehow flawed destination. Huh.

Show Don’t Tell (or Shout Everything)

I like the look of these guysSonic Mania contains the typical Sonic the Hedgehog Sega Genesis plot: Dr. Eggman is up to no good, and it’s time to stop him. Not a single bit of dialogue is spoken, and the new antagonists, The Hard Boiled Heavies, are not given names during actual gameplay. But, in the same way you learned everything you ever needed to know about Knuckles from his ability to jump on switches (he’s kind of a dick), the Heavies are clearly defined by their actions. In the end, Sonic saves the day (of course) and puts down a minor robot uprising while sending Robotnik packing. Oh, and there might have been time travel involved, too? Doesn’t matter, a rollercoaster doesn’t need a story to be fun.

Sonic Forces has the most bonkers plot to ever grace Sonic’s elongated snout. Sonic the Hedgehog is dead! Forever! And Eggman has conquered the entire planet inside of a couple of months! Our last hope is Original the Character and a resistance of whacky animal pals! And Tails had such a sadgasm over his dead buddy that he summoned another Sonic the Hedgehog from another dimension! And it turns out (regular) Sonic is alive again! And all of this happens before the fourth stage (of thirty)! I’m not even going to get into how Eggman gave a magical rock that controls reality to an anonymous moron that is cataclysmically annoyed by Shadow the Hedgehog. And then somebody summons the freaking sun like gravity ain’t no thang!

Sonic Forces’ plot never shuts up, and that makes it glorious. There is not a single sane person on this planet that ever needed to see Knuckles the Echidna and Vector the Crocodile discus the horrors of war, but here it is. Sonic instantly makes best friends with the player’s haphazardly created deviantart avatar while Tails wanders around with his mentor’s inter-dimensional ghost from another timeline. I’m pretty sure Amy Rose makes a joke about having an all Sonic threeway somewhere in there. The story moves at breakneck speed, it’s completely demented, and it’s magnificent. If you’re going to have a plot where a group of rebel furries un-conquer a planet inside of four days, this is the way to do it.

So completely silent, gameplay-based storytelling versus senseless talky talk that spirals around exclusively for lunatics. Either one works

Knuckles Is

In one adventure, Knuckles is the noble leader of a resistance movement that is humanity’s last hope. … Or what passes for “humanity” in this world.

Who are those guys in the back?

In another world, Knuckles maybe has the pattern recognition of a goldfish.

He's knuckles!

…. Echidnas can be anything?

Tight Controls are Essential/Unnecessary

Weeee?Sonic Mania controls like a dream. It feels like the Sega Genesis titles never ended, and, after years of terrible approximations, “real” Sonic has returned. Sonic’s momentum is untouchable, and, whether you’re navigating between moving platforms or over an ocean of flaming oil, you’re completely in control. Sonic can spin dash up to mach speed at a moment’s notice, but he can also handle shifting blocks like a pro. Give or take a few accidentally deadly “squishing” spots, Sonic Mania provides perfect Sonic movement.

Sonic Forces, unfortunately, carries forward many of 3-D Sonic’s movement problems. During the 2-D areas in particular, it is nearly impossible to get Sonic to 100% follow your inputs, and not instantly break into some uncontrollable, inevitably deadly forward momentum. This Sonic is designed backwards from his constant need to barrel forward, and that leads to a number of terrible, unwanted deaths at the hands of bottomless pits or stationary spikes. Sonic the Hedgehog should never be defeated by an inanimate object!

But, then again, it doesn’t matter.

3-D Sonic is also built for his homing dash, and Orginal the Character has an inexplicable grappling hook. Both abilities allow Sonic/Original to instantly dash forward and onto a specific point, and the stage design is generally built for that essential ability. And, more often than not, it works wonderfully. Sure, you can steer a freight train into a parking space a lot easier than this Hedgehog, but why bother? Sonic is the King of Speed, so keeping your goin’ fast. There might be an accidental death or two, but you don’t have any lives to lose, so don’t worry about it. You want to put brakes on your bumper cars? Don’t be silly.

Just because you’ve got the same hedgehog in two different games doesn’t mean he has to control exactly the same.

Fanservice Can Go Both Ways

Sonic Mania is a love letter to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Not only are stages remastered and remixed, but there are an amazing number of “little touches” that recall Sonic’s decades-long history. There are traps originating from Game Gear titles. There are bosses that crept out of ill-advised arcade fighting games. There are loving homages to the Sonic fan community and its myriad of modders. You could spend a day reading the Wikipedia pages dedicated to each individual zone. Did you know that Sonic’s shake at the start of Chemical Plant Zone was a reference to Sonic Spinball? Of course you didn’t know that! Nobody played Sonic Spinball!

Sonic Forces primarily speeds off in the other direction. Rather than dwell on Sonic’s past, Sonic has made a brand new friend: you! You are Original the Character, an anthropomorphic animal of your own creation, and Sonic totally wants to be your best friend! But don’t worry, it’s not just because he loves your sparkling (and completely silent) personality, it’s also because you’ve got the skillz. In an effort to create the most beloved original character in history, the kindly creators of Sonic Forces combined your chance notebook sketches with the one and only Spider-Man! Grapple around the city like an avenging arachnid! Get ready to employ all sorts of amazing acrobatic techniques to save and stand by your favorite hedgehog. You love Sonic, and now Sonic loves you! You’re the best Sonic Fan ever!

Chemical Plant Zone is a Scourge

I HATE THIS LEVELBoth Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces contain remixed versions of Chemical Plant Zone. Sonic Mania adds bouncy chemicals, while Sonic Forces adds the occasional sprinkling of lasers. This proves that, even with a basic theme, you can have riotously different interpretations of the same level. Unfortunately, as good as these zones may be, they still come from the same base of the cruddy Chemical Plant Zone.

So, there, that’s it. All good Sonic games contain a Chemical Plant Zone.

Ugh. This universe is the worst.

FGC #354 Sonic Mania

  • System: Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Only one of these systems is technically portable.
  • Number of players: There’s Sonic & Tails mode for multiple players, and some manner of race mode that I am never touching.
  • Favorite Zone: Oil Ocean becoming combustible thanks to the fire shield is the exact kind of “remix” the world needed.
  • Something special: The special stages are very reminiscent of Sonic & Knuckles as well, as they seem difficult initially, but are second nature in no time at all. This is a tremendous step up from the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 special stages, which are impossible.
  • Thanks, JimmyJust play the gig, man: Everything about this soundtrack is amazing, but the way each stage is remixed for various areas and events is amazing. Flying Battery might not be my favorite zone, but its second act gets the best tunes.
  • Did you know? Sonic Mania was one of the top selling Switch titles, outselling even Minecraft. Like, it didn’t outsell Minecraft on every system, but go ahead and tell your know-it-all nephew that Sonic is more popular than Minecraft.
  • Would I play again: In a heartbeat. Sonic Mania 2 is all I want from this sick and twisted world.

FGC #354 Sonic Forces

  • System: Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Only one of these systems is technically portable.
  • Number of players: You can be all sorts of crazy characters, but only one at a time.
  • Favorite Zone: Null Space is a stage that takes place in “null space” for all of ten seconds before becoming another random city level. You would think this would bother me, but, come on, takes a special kind of game to trump up some alternate dimension and then utilize it for less time than it takes to blow a fart.
  • Head Canon Corner: In Sonic Generations, “old” Sonic is stated to be Sonic’s younger self. In Sonic Forces, “old” Sonic is recognized, but Tails claims he is from another dimension, not the past. My theory? This is not a retcon, and when Old Sonic the Hedgehog saw his 3-D future during Generations, he decided he wanted nothing of it, and caused a split timeline/dimension when he decided to never leave the joys of 2-D exclusives. And that’s where Sonic Mania originates.
  • EggyThe disease is inside me: Okay, full disclosure? I may have been mentally working out my Original the Character’s backstory while I was bored during zones. She’s purple, so I figure she’s the adopted sister of Fang the Sniper, and one day she decided…
  • Did you know? It sounds crazy, but the last time Shadow the Hedgehog was a playable character in a “main” Sonic game, it was 2006. Yes, that 2006. That game really killed the poor hedgehog’s street cred.
  • Would I play again: Not as quickly as Sonic Mania, but I am going to return to 100% this title at one point. It’s just too fun! And how often does that happen?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo, and we’re going to pair it with Pocket Fighter aka Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix! It’s time for a whole pile of chibi street fighters! Please look forward to it!

THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD BE

FGC #286 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

BROSIt’s a common practice among nerds to attempt to uncover the “jump the shark” moment in a particular piece of media. As the theory goes, when a franchise has gone downhill in quality over time, you should be able to look back at previous chapters/episodes/editions, and find the exact moment everything started to decline. This expression originates from the show Happy Days, wherein The Fonz jumped his motorcycle over progressively more frightening sea animals, until it all culminated with a shark. And I guess the shark sued the production company for mental duress, and then the writer’s budget ran out, and the show got worse… or… something like that. Personally, I’ve never cottoned to the idea that there even are “jump the shark” moments, as I have faith that everything is connected, and nothing occurs in a vacuum. For a current example, I completely believe that American Politics 2017 is the direct result not of “but her emails” or anything like that, but a healthy combination of fifty years of politics being treated like a football game and a young Donald Trump getting his head slammed into a locker far too many times in high school. Our world, and our entertainment that reflects our world, is just the latest stop on a never-ending highway, and every shark along the way is just as important as every… not-shark? What’s the opposite of a shark? Bees?

But, beliefs aside, there are occasions when I need to admit I’m wrong, and maybe there is an exact moment when everything goes to hell. For the Sonic Franchise, it’s right about here:

This guy

Now, I want to be clear about why Shadow the Hedgehog is terrible. First of all, it’s not because he’s a lazy color swap of Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s not a color swap! He clearly has different shoes and he’s got frosted (blazed?) tips on his hair spikes. That makes him a totally original character, so do not steal. And, secondly, I don’t hate Shadow because he theoretically gave rise to the Sonic fandom’s bizarre obsession with slightly recoloring Sonic, calling it something like “Twilight the Hedgehog”, and then filling an entire Deviantart with hastily sketched nonsense depicting Twilight saving Sonic and being the ultimate best hedgehog forever before appearing in some barefoot-based fetish porn. I can’t blame Shadow for all of that, because, let’s face it, that was always going to happen. There are an equal number of ersatz Princess Peaches out there doing… stuff… and you know it. Shadow might be the start of everything wrong with Hedgehog Fandom (what an odd thing to type), but that’s not why he’s the forbearer of bad Sonic times.

No, Shadow’s worst transgressions are the result of his debut game, Sonic Adventure 2.

Hit a homerSonic Adventure 2 has a loose theme about good and evil. This is appropriate, as SA2 is an unholy abomination created by soldering a good game and bad game together. On one hand, we’ve got probably the best Sonic the Hedgehog 3-D gameplay ever seen. It is not by any means perfect, but, once you master the intricacies of some horrible hitboxes, you really do feel like you’re rolling around at the speed of sound. Clearing a level without stopping and just creating a blue blur of spin dashing, homing dashing, and light speed ring collection feels amazing, and that general rollercoaster feeling hasn’t been matched by any later Sonic games. On the other hand, this is the game that introduced Sonic to rail-grinding, and that has never been fun. Those stupid rails effectively turn great swaths of levels (including the final, real Sonic stage) into minecart challenges, and… no, just no. Basically, every moment a hedgehog is on-screen, it’s guaranteed that you’re either really enjoying it or participating in some manner of hell.

Which brings us to the other fun bit: you’re not guaranteed any hedgehog time from level to level. Sometimes you’re Tails, who has eschewed his normal wannabe Sonic gameplay for something more like the shooting bits of Sonic Adventure. And that’s not bad! The “robo sections” of SA were exciting in their chaos, and nothing much has changed between games, save eliminating the time limits that could make those areas stressful. And Nibbles is back in his SA role of finding emerald shards for the flimsiest of reasons, but that’s just SA’s excuse for more exploratory, less dash-y gameplay. It’s not what one signs up for with a Sonic game, but, for its epoch, it was an entertaining distraction. Though, I suppose, that is the issue, as, in order to play the Sonic game you inexorably wanted (there were two hedgehogs on the cover of this game, it should have to go fast!), you have to clear all the Tails/Nurples nonsense, which means slowing down to their levels. Boo slowdown!

But we still have the bad guy side. Dr. Robotnik is clearly the big bad of the Sonic franchise, so he’s obviously the leader of Team Bad. And, yes, he plays exactly like robo-Tails, so that kind of makes sense. But… aside from an army of generic robots, now we’re out of antagonists for the franchise. Sonic doesn’t even have a Tatanga or Wart, so I guess we need to get a Wario and Waluigi in here. Rogue the Bat was introduced as one part Catwoman and one part… No, she’s pretty much just a furry Catwoman, complete with the shifting alliances and a weird inclination toward being attracted to her oblivious rival. And then we’ve got Shadow, the escaped science experiment and preposterous dark hedgehog.

NOBODY LIKES YOUAnd Shadow… kind of works.

So he’s a cryogenically frozen hedgehog from two generations back? Sure, okay. I mean, there were already two games’ worth of echidna murals depicting a hedgehog saving the world, so it’s only natural that Grandpappy Robotnik would make his “ultimate life form” a hedgehog. Grease the wheels of prophecy whenever you get a chance, ya know? And he can pull off some magical teleporting abilities with the aid of a Chaos Emerald. That makes sense, too. I mean, Sonic and Knux are confirmed idiots, and Tails is pretty laser focused on machines, so it stands to reason there was more to those silly gems than going super saiyan. And Shadow has a bad attitude? Is that a problem? I mean, Sonic is the original animal with attitude (as far as videogames go, at least), and he’s only lost his edge over the years thanks to a decade of being merchandized by Urkel. Shadow the Edgelord is just a return to established hedgehog roots.

But the reason Shadow really works on an intrinsic level is that he is the core of the game’s plot. He was built by Grandpa Gerald to be the ultimate life form powered by Chaos Emeralds, and, by the end of the game, we’ll find that Gerald built his own Death Star and mecha-dinosaur, and it was all an insidious plot to destroy the world, and who will save us now!? Don’t worry, citizens, Shadow is here, and he’s equipped with the knowledge of the past and the support of Sad Auntie Eggwoman, and everything is going to be okay! Shadow will, at the final hour, sacrifice himself for the good of humanity, and, see? Team Bad Guy was actually Team Pretty Okay Guy all along.

WeeeeeAnd everyone knew that plot would work, because it’s the exact same plot as the last Sonic Adventure game. Shadow is basically SA’s Tikal, the ancient model swap of Noodles the Echidna that wound up wrapped up in an ancient weapon that threatens to destroy humanity and only focused caring will save us all. Except Tikal was not a hedgehog, so she was a lot more mopey than radical, and she never made it past her debut game (save a cameo or two). Shadow, meanwhile… well… Are there any games post SA2 that haven’t involved Shadow? Was he in Sonic 4? I want to say he at least got a cameo…

And that’s Shadow’s biggest problem: he just won’t go away. Shadow had a perfect little plot in Sonic Adventure 2, and, by the finale, it’s time for him to heroically perish, the end, thanks for coming by, Shadow. But, no, Shadow came back in the very next Sonic game, and he kept coming back after that. He even got his own game! It was confusing! And why did this keep happening? Was it because he was just that popular? The fans demanded it? Is it because it’s so simple to implement the Luigi to Sonic’s Mario? Does Sonic Team just want more gosh darn cussin’? Who can really provide the actual answer? I sure don’t know, but it is clear that Shadow the Hedgehog is here to stay.

The best characterAnd it’s that damn hedgehog that flushed the series. It’s not about him having too much attitude or using a gun or whatever other sins Shadow has committed; it’s about the keepers of Sonic looking at this singular, silly, dead character, and deciding to revive him because he should somehow be essential to the Hedgehog Universe. That makes Shadow the representative of the exact moment this franchise stopped being about blast processing, and more about the greater Chaos Emerald Mythology…. And Sonic got left by the wayside. It took over a decade after Shadow’s debut for Sonic and Sonic Gameplay to take center stage again, but, by that time, the damage was already done. We were cursed to live in a world where the word “werehedgehog” exists, and it all started with Shadow.

Shadow the Hedgehog, you were born the exact moment your species jumped the shark.

FGC #286 Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

  • System: Well, “Battle” technically appeared on the Gamecube (and was the first time Sonic starred in a game on a Nintendo home console… I think), but the original Sonic Adventure 2 first appeared on the Dreamcast. It was also then rereleased on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Hedgehogs get around.
  • Number of players: There’s a two player “battle mode”, and it’s theoretically more robust on all post-Dreamcast releases. Except… there isn’t much of a difference. You can play as additional characters!… that were all in the original, but had to be unlocked first. And there are new costumes? Who cares.
  • PUMPKIN HILL, YOJust play the gig, man: This is the best music in the Sonic in the franchise. I’m not kidding. At all. The original games have fun music, but I find myself humming other Genesis tunes a lot more often. And the latter games have ridiculous lyric/guitar songs, but they’ve gotten progressively more… I think “trendy” is the right word. But for Sonic Adventure 2? Oh man, they totally got the sweet spot on something that will be in your head all day and is completely incomprehensible. That’s exactly what I look for in a Dreamcast soundtrack.
  • I am an addict: Let me tell you about how I was glued to a Dreamcast VMU for a solid two months thanks to the damn Chao Garden minigame. Actually, no, I’m not going to tell you about that, because I’m pretty sure it ends with my friends flattening that VMU for my own safety.
  • Favorite Character: I mentioned it briefly in the article proper, but I really do enjoy the Tails/Eggman sections of the game. And, of the two, I kind of enjoy playing as Eggman more. He’s just so happy about winning for once!
  • Did you know? There is also a lame racing game hiding in Sonic Adventure. It is… so terrible.
  • Would I play again: Every once in a while, I get a hankering to play City Escape or… whatever stage it is where Shadow is on the bridge. City… Hazard? Something like that. But other than that, I rarely revisit this game, as I generally prefer the good ol’ days of 2-D.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pac-Man for the Gameboy! Yellow Man becomes Gray Man! Please look forward to it!

Master Emerald?  Get it?
Should we be seeing this?

FGC #125 Sonic Rivals

WoooSonic Rivals is the worst Sonic the Hedgehog game ever made.

Yes, it is also the worst Sonic the Hedgehog game made in 2006.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is a bad game. Heck, just using the word “bad” seems like a disservice to other bad games. Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is right up there with the likes of Primal Rage for “how did someone think this was okay?” Was it poor coding? A complete misinterpretation of the appeal of Sonic the Hedgehog? A burning desire to shoehorn a balrog (not that kind of balrog) into a fuzzy animal universe? Designers who had never heard of the concept of momentum? Whatever the case, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 was ridiculously bad, and was a failure in nearly every way. It seems to have literally been wiped from the Sonic canon at this point, and that’s probably for the best.

And yet, I will still say Sonic Rivals was worse. Why? It’s simple. It’s because Sonic Rivals does so much right, and then throws it all in a dumpster fire, presumably just to watch it burn.

Let’s review this game, and I’ll let you know exactly where it goes wrong.

First of all, this game only features the prime runners of the Sonic franchise. Your choices are Sonic the Hedgehog (he’s gotta go fast), Knuckles the Echidna (do you even run, bro?), Shadow the Hedgehog (the coolest character in the franchise), Silver the Hedgehog (at least he’s a hedgehog!), and Metal Sonic (literally built for speed). Completely absent from gameplay are Tails, Amy, Cream, Big, Charmy, Mighty, Fang, and every other one of Sonic’s hangers-on. This means that the gameplay is 100% Sonic the Hedgehog, and there isn’t a random shooting stage, “find the emeralds”, Gotta go somethingDDR flying, or fishing stage to be found. This is great! It’s a Sonic game with Sonic the Hedgehog! Hooray!

Speaking of which, it’s a pretty straightforward Sonic plot, too. Yes, for like the billionth time in the franchise, it turns out it wasn’t Dr. Robotnik behind the caper, but his nefarious and generally calm descendant, Eggman Nega. It’s stupid, but it’s a Sonic kind of stupid, and no one stands around for hours contemplating paradoxes or worrying about the space time continuum, they just move on to the next level, and recycle any and all egg-puns. As a result of this forthright plot, Sonic never has an occasion to makeout with a human, and the world is better for it.

Oh, and the whole thing is “classic” 2-D, too. That’s always a plus.

So, by all accounts, we should have a good Sonic the Hedgehog Game on our hands. It might not be Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but we’re looking at a portable game that features the things that the Sonic Franchise is actually good at. 2-D run ‘n jump gameplay is what made that blue hedgehog a star, so anything that retraces those steps with any kind of attention to detail should be a good game.

It really, really should.

Down to the wireSonic Rivals has one new twist on the Sonic formula: every level is a “race”. This isn’t a completely new concept for the Sonic Franchise: even if you ignore the myriad of Sonic racing games, you’ve still got 2-D “Sonic Gameplay” racing going back as far as Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Sure, a lot of people ignored it, but there was a competitive 2-player mode, and I will admit that I had a lot of fun with friends racing Tails against Sonic back in the day (how many competitive 2-player games were on the Sega Genesis, anyway? Ignoring Sports titles..). This game is that optional mode writ large, with every single level a competition in one way or another. The first two stages of each Zone are a race, and then the third stage is a boss battle wherein you have to score more hits on the Egg Device than your opponent. It’s an easy to grasp concept, and it makes the “Rivals” portion of the title more relevant. Everyone is working toward the same goal, but they’re rivals, so let’s see who can save the world the fastest.

Except there’s one giant fly in the ointment: You must not lose. And, again, this does make a certain kind of sense. It’s your chosen mammal against the other three, and, yes, of course the game wants you to “win”, that’s how video games work. But… it’s a one-on-one race. There’s first place, and then there’s the loser, and that’s all that’s allowed. If you lose, there’s no “best two out of three” for the zone, you simply lose, and have to play the level again. From the start. And, of course, it’s a Sonic Game, so there’s no kind of EXP or other helpful prizes rewarded to the loser, you’re right back at square one. A loss is, effectively, death, and there are no checkpoints.

What does this all mean? Welp, looks like Sonic Rivals is the game where you could spend an hour attempting to get past the first stage, and not have anything to show for it.

Stupid bearNow, this could be true of any game. Heck, on my first introduction to Super Mario Bros., I probably scored a Game Over before seeing my first flagpole. However, it’s possible to make progress, even if it’s slight, within Super Mario Bros 1-1, even if you’re terrible at the game. There are checkpoints, 1-ups, and even a shortcut that will aid a neophyte’s journey. In Sonic Rivals? Nope. It’s a racing game with a brutal AI, so your only hope is memorizing the “track” from start to finish, and utilizing every powerup along the way. Lose, even by a quarter of a second, and it’s back to the beginning all over again.

Even Sonic the Hedgehog 1 had checkpoints…

It gets worse: the AI cheats. Okay, maybe it doesn’t cheat per se, but it certainly seems to have stacked the deck against the player. This is actually a problem you see a lot in modern Mario Karts: you’re flying over a random lake, gleefully enjoying being in first place, and then, whoops, someone used a lightning bolt, and something that would mildly inconvenience you in any other situation causes your racer to drop like a rock, and, whoops, you’re in fifth now because Lakitu took his sweet time fishing you out of the bog. This happens a lot in Sonic Rivals. Get anywhere near a bottomless pit, and your opponent will use a fireball, iceball, or similar ball of death, and your digital avatar will plummet to an entirely too slow death. Yes, you respawn quickly, but not quick enough to ever catch up again. OwieTechnically, you could use this same technique against your opponent, but it’s incredibly rare for both racers to be on the same screen simultaneously, so good luck knowing exactly when that ‘hole is over a hole.

And then there’s the boss stages. While the main stages are 100% races, the battles against Eggman Nega are in arenas that are much more like “classic” Sonic stages, with floating platforms and barrages to avoid. This would be good, except these stages highlight how the race stages modified Sonic’s physics, and forgot to turn ‘em off for slower stages. Sonic Rivals Sonic is no longer so great at precision platforming, as the slightest momentum will send the hedgehog blasting into the next county. Now try using that kind of control to hop up small platforms to nail an Egg Jet. It’s not so great.

This all adds up to an incredibly frustrating experience. While there are no real “lives” or “continues” to manage, repeating every stage over and over again is nowhere near fun. These are Sonic Zones, they’re not meant to be memorized and overanalyzed, they’re meant for hurtling past and never seeing again. In my memory, even my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog Zones are blurs, because that’s exactly the feeling you’d experience if you were zooming around at the speed of sound. Sonic Rivals practically wants Sonic to be Super Meat Boy or some other “precision” experience… except the controls aren’t built for that. At all.

The good news is that the franchise got better. Sonic Rivals 2 introduced “free mode”, and now a neophyte player could actually play the damn game, as opposed to the first level over and over again. Though that just raises more questions: did no one that playtested Sonic Rivals 1 acknowledge that maybe being forced to play the same level over and over again was a bad idea? Were all the playtesters Sonic savants, or did they all meekly believe their own skills to be inadequate, so it was their own failing? Or did no one play this game before release? Who knows? What’s important is that the people behind Sonic Rivals realized that there was something wrong with Sonic Rivals, they just didn’t do it before they released Sonic Rivals.

And, ultimately, that’s why Sonic Rivals is the worst. It’s so close to being a good (even great!) Sonic the Hedgehog game, but it zigged when it should have zagged, and we were stuck with a game that is practically impossible.

I’ll take a ridiculous failure over a damaged masterpiece any day.

FGC #125 Sonic Rivals

  • System: PSP, though also available for download on the Vita.
  • Number of players: Two, and it’s probably the reason this game exists. There was this big push on the PSP for multiplayer games practically from the system’s inception (let’s all play Darkstalkers together!), so I’m going to guess the game blossomed out of that desire (and Sonic is always eager to please).
  • Favorite Hedgehog: In this situation, it’s Sonic. I usually prefer whichever character is available with the most cool moves, but everyone is practically exactly the same in this. Metal Sonic might be the winner if I could tolerate this game long enough to unlock him (it?).
  • Ouch againFavorite Power: Shadow has a special move that screws up the rival player’s screen. Again, it’s hard have eyes on the AI at any given moment, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that this does absolutely nothing against the computer. Silver can also fubar your controls, and I’m guessing that falls into the same category, but without a cool visual effect.
  • Ring is the Thing: There’s a special attack that transforms rings from, ya know, rings into electrified death traps. Anyone that makes rings “bad” in a Sonic Game should be shot. Looking at you, romhackers.
  • Did you know? Eggman Nega has a very confusing backstory involving either being an alternate dimension version of Eggman or his descendant from 200 years in the future. I want to say the alternate dimension explanation fits best, as I don’t see Eggman hitting up Match.com anytime soon.
  • Would I play again: Noooooooope.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Adventure Island 2 for the SNES! Wow, we’re really on a 2-D kick all of a sudden. At least we’ll be seeing the game where Master Higgins finally scores a shirt. Please look forward to it!

FGC #013 Sonic the Hedgehog

Waterslides are fun!She and I used to date.

It was back in school, and we just hit it off. First time I laid eyes on her, let me tell you, love at first sight. She had her problems, granted, everyone was talking about how fast she was, and I always preferred to play it loud than process this blasting, but I could change. I wasn’t going to give up my… old fashioned ways for her, but I still ended up buying everything she claimed I needed. Suppose she was just that good.

The relationship went on, and I thought she might be a one trick pony. Running, jumping, rolling, it was great, don’t get me wrong, but I could only do the same thing so many times. She invited her foxy friend over, but that was just… well, the same, but with a blonde. I felt a bit dirty, but maybe that’s a part of any relationship. She… well, we tried some… interesting hardware, but that was the same, again, with a few gimmicks thrown in for good measure. There was something about… time travel? It all seems like a blur now, but I still remember the doubts: Had our relationship grown stale? Was it her? She did have a way of trying certain things that, while they might have been great for her, made me sick. She was like a pinball, bounding from emotion to emotion, but, like pinball, how long could it hold my interest? Wait… my interest? Could it be me? I just didn’t know what to think anymore. It was still fun, but could I do it forever?

Then she showed how much she loved me. Suddenly, our world was so huge, so massive I never wanted to leave. Things she’d considered “bonuses” in the past, horrible asides that just ended with her obtaining more jewelry, were gone, and in their place, a wonderful pile of spheres. Sorry, we were a little strange. Our hearts were locked on as one, and nothing could tear us apart. Then, just a little while later, she, always the more experimental of the two of us, invited this red head to join our fun. Old things seemed new again! Stages of our relationship I once swore to never experience again were now something I looked forward to reliving with a seething passion. There wasn’t a cloud in our sky.

This is not fun!Of course… I guess the signs were all there. I remember the night before graduation, everyone excited about one stage ending and a new one beginning, and, while I was paying attention to some old friends I figured I’d never see again, I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I took a more focused look, and saw her doing something we had both said, on many occasions, was stupid. Others… others we insulted on many occasions, they’d tried it, and, well, we both agreed, we both agreed, it was horrible. But there she was, going all “three dimensional”. It didn’t really seem to do anything for her notoriety, no one really noticed at the time, I tried not to bring it up again, and we went on like nothing happened. I thought, you know, it was a party, she’d always been kind of “wild” and “cutting edge”, figured it was a one time thing. I still wish I was right.
Well, school ended, and I guess so did we. We were going in two totally different directions, and we both figured it would be too difficult to try to maintain something that was just going to hurt both of us. We had a relationship based on happiness, and if we weren’t happy, why continue? I admitted that, no matter what, odds are I’d still love her, and, if memory serves, she kinda shrugged. Should’ve taken that as a sign.

I didn’t try to look her up immediately after that, heard she was just running around a lot with no real direction. Some sort of doomed racing thing? I don’t know, I had no interest in hearing about her failures, so I just laid off for a while. Eventually, she called me. I guess that’s always the way it is, me too much of a coward to seek the truth. She was, after a long dry spell, finally with another guy. One of those guys into the three dimensional stuff. I really didn’t want to believe it. She kept telling me how deep he was, how much fun she had with all her old friends while he was around, that the 3-D wasn’t a problem with him, because he’d always be there. Get with the times, she told me. Sorry, babe, that’s just not my way.

Special Thanks to Faith HillThose two, they just kept it up. I’d talk to her sometimes, she said he was always finding fresh things to do. I told her his shtick wasn’t anything original, that it was a step backwards to please others if anything, but she wouldn’t hear me. I tried to be happy for her, I really did, but… it was all just too different for me. I had this idea of how things should be in my head, how things were, some sort of mega collection of memories, but even the memories couldn’t bring me the same kind of joy, knowing how it all ends.

And it is over. She’s getting married in the fall, and now that I know even more about Big Mr. 3-D, I’m even more disappointed. I sat down, tried, really hard to like him, but it just isn’t happening. He’s repetitive, he can’t seem to focus on any one thing for longer than ten seconds (don’t even think he can pay attention to her for that long, for that matter, he’s always talking about the blonde and the redhead and, geez, some brunette that seems pissed off all the time), and possibly worst of all, I’m beginning to wonder whether or not my ex-love even knows he’s this… broken. He seems to sully the past with his mere presence.

And, look, I know I’m kind of a prude, but if her feed is any indication, they seem to be into some kind of different kink every week, some of which I genuinely do not understand. I can sorta (sorta!) understand things like Arabian or Medieval cosplay, but they were into something called “wolfplay” for a hot minute, and I have no idea what that was all about. I should really delete her feed, but, ugh, sometimes she posts a pic from an amusement park and… I mean, she looks happy, right?

Sure, we still talk. We’re still friends, we’ll always be. Sometimes we sit down and talk about all the good times we had, maybe even throw out a few ideas of what it might have been had we stuck it out, a generation’s worth of memories that never were. But, there’s always something bittersweet there, that there’s just… I don’t know…

I’m sorry, I must have something in my eye.

FGC #13 Sonic the Hedgehog

  • System: Sega Genesis. Also available for practically every system released since the Dreamcast, including your phone and maybe your toaster. No, that isn’t fair. I will not slut shame.
  • Number of Players: One, the loneliest number.
  • Bonus for Collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds: Pissing off a fat, mustachioed man. He looks so hurt.
  • Favorite Zone: Star Light Zone, which is odd, because there is rarely a good Sonic level past the starting stages. Sonic peaking early is a constant to a fault.
  • Does this make you physically ill?
    He just keeps bouncing
    Yes.
  • Did You Know? According to The History of Sonic the Hedgehog, the soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog was composed involving a process passing cassette tapes back and forth. I made her a mixtape once, and made a copy for myself, too. Sometimes I still listen to it. Sometimes.
  • Would I play again? Yes, though, given the option, I’d go for the one with the redhead.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Persona 4 Golden. It’s relationship week here at Gogglebob.com, apparently! Please look forward to it!