It's review time again! This time, for the recent release of Sonic 3D: Director's Cut, we're taking a look at Sonic 3D Blast for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It's definitely not your typical Sonic game, but does that make it bad? Let's find out.
The year was 1996. Newcomer Sony and their PlayStation console was dominating, and Nintendo was about to revolutionize the industry with the Nintendo 64 and its killer app, Super Mario 64. Sega, in the American market, was in trouble. Trouble that was exasperated by the numerous amounts of poor decisions internally that led the Saturn down the path to commercial failure. The last hope for the Saturn's future was a brand-new 3D Sonic game in the works--no, not 3D Blast, but Sonic X-treme
, a game that was developed while Sonic Team worked on other projects, such as NiGHTS
, and heavily promoted, hyped-up and anticipated for a Christmas 1996 release. However, Sega was unimpressed with the team's demos and efforts to port the engine from PC to Saturn, so the project fell under development hell until the head programmer of the project, Chris Coffin, was left to work on the project, spending entire days in his office. Eventually, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and had to stop working on the game for his life.
And thus, Sonic X-treme went unreleased. To compensate, Sega commissioned Traveller's Tales, a third-party publisher that, while their game's qualities varied, had made pioneering effects and achievements on both the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo that were used in their games. From the Mode 7-esque rotating floors and towers in Mickey Mania to the hardware-defining 4-channel music in Toy Story, Traveller's Tales could make magic happen on even the most rudimentary of hardware.
In fact, some of these effects are seen in Sonic 3D Blast, like the silky-smooth Sega logo and Game Over screens, unique crash handler, and the FMV intro somehow squeezed onto a cartridge. The founder of Traveller's Tales, Jon Burton, has a YouTube channel named GameHut
that explains how these tricks and more work in great detail. Anyways, let's get to the plot already.Plot
It's really nothing special. Somewhere in the vast oceans of Earth lies a small isolated island shrouded in mystery, only known as Flicky Island. The island inhabits the Flickies, peaceful birds that have a connection to the Chaos Emeralds. Robotnik finds this out, and sets off to Flicky Island to solve the mystery, and in the meantime, capture and harness the power of the Flickies for his own misdeeds. Sonic and friends also decide to visit Flicky Island, expecting the sight of birds roaming freely, but instead robots built by Robotnik, waiting for Sonic's entrance. Sonic pops open a Badnik, and sees a Flicky emerge from the machinery. He knew instantly that the mad doctor was behind this, and sets on an adventure to gnab the Chaos Emeralds, save the Flickies and stop Robotnik for good!
So in other words, Sonic saves birds and stops Robotnik, the end. You would have gotten that already if you played the game for any amount of time. Speaking of playing the game...Gameplay
This is not your typical Sonic game, first and foremost. To start, the level maps are isometric, as if you rotated a 2D level 90 degrees. To make up for the somewhat baron parts of the level, Sonic destroys 5 badniks and collects the Flicky contained inside each one. Gather the 5 Flickies and take them to the goal ring to move on to the next part of the stage. While the Flicky mechanic adds some difficulty to the game, and a bit of exploration, it has a few annoyances. First, hitting enemies in the first place can be a chore in itself due to the strange angle and slightly sloppy controls. Second, holding on to the Flickies is also difficult, especially in the later stages. When Sonic gets hit without a shield, all of the Flickies are freed, so Sonic has to collect them again. This wouldn't be so bad if the green Flickies weren't so disobedient that they sometimes appear to move away
from you, or the Flickies are flying directly over lava or other hazards. Also, when Sonic is running at full speed, the Flickies form a long line behind him, leaving them wide open for enemy attack.
Thankfully, Sonic at least doesn't control too badly, if a bit slippery. TT was smart enough to give Sonic the ability to move normally in eight different directions, unlike some arcade isometric games, where the up button would move the player up-left, and so on. After a bit of time to get a feel for the controls, I didn't have much of an issue taking out baddies either.
Thing is, the controls do need to be tighter for easier jumps, and Sonic needs to move faster at full speed. I sometimes find myself running through empty parts in the levels, feeling like it would never end because Sonic moved a bit slower than I'd like him to. Overall, the gameplay is decent enough, but it needs improvements in some areas.Graphics
With its unique look and design, Sonic 3D definitely stands out compared to the 2D titles. Each zone has a unique look and feel, as well as new gimmicks and setpieces, and some of the zones look absolutely gorgeous in their own ways. Diamond Dust is a wonderful winter-themed level, and Volcano Valley succeeds as a subtly creepy lava zone.No fire shield, huh? Guess Robuttnik's learned his lesson since his defeat in Lava Reef.
3D Blast also takes advantage of pre-rendered graphics to give it a style akin to the Donkey Kong Country games on SNES. Most of the sprites look fine, but Sonic's animation doesn't give off much of a sense of speed, never changing his legs into a figure 8 or something to signify top speed. Also, the looks of the maps themselves are pretty static, especially around the edges.
Nonetheless, 3D Blast is a pretty impressive-looking game for Genesis hardware, and a good effort on TT's part.Zones
3D Blast's zone selection is in traditional Sonic style:Green Grove
Your typical beginning zone--lush palm trees and checkered floors abound. Sets up the game pretty nicely, and that's about it.Rusty Ruin
Abandoned ruins that are cursed with ancient flamethrowers and slightly annoying platforming sections.Spring Stadium
Casino/pinball-themed zone. Can be very frustrating if you're not careful; definitely proceed with caution.Diamond Dust
Very fun winter-themed stage with ice physics and avalanches that you climb up to proceed.Gene Gadget
Obligatory antagonist factory zone with lots of tubes and electrical hazards.Panic Puppet
Obligatory antagonist factory zone with lo--hey, this is Gene Gadget again! To be fair, there are a few differences; in Act 1, Sonic breaks capsules with Flickies in them instead of collecting them from enemies, and you don't collect any Flickies in Act 2 at all. Knuckles and Tails are also nowhere to be seen.SPOILERS!!!The Final Fight
Only accessible if all of the Chaos Emeralds have been collected. As far as final boss standards go, this isn't too hard, but can make you mess up if you crack under pressure.END OF SPOILERSSpecial Stages
Hidden in the levels of 3D Blast are Sonic's fellow companions, Tails and Knuckles. If you happen to find either of them with 50 rings, they will transport you to one of the "3D" special stages.
These special stages are based on the Sonic 2 half-pipe stages, where you have to collect a certain amount of rings at a fixed speed to proceed and get the Chaos Emerald. And...yeah, they're not very good. In fact, the only good thing about them is that they're easy. You could probably complete every one of these stages, even the last one, on first try. Not much to say here. Next!Sound
Sonic 3D Blast's soundtrack is memorable and Sonic-like. Composed by the legendary Jun Senoue, who would later compose music for the Adventure games, the instrumentals in Sonic 3D take great advantage of the Genesis' YM2612 sound chip with consistent feelings of "layers" in the music. Not to mention that the songs are just so damn catchy; Green Grove's upbeat first-zone melody, Rusty Ruin's sense of wonderment while keeping the beat, Spring Stadium's slower pace and casino themes, Diamond Dust's amazingly catchy and awe-inspiring sections, and Volcano Valley's transition from flowing lava caverns to a baron wasteland. A pretty great soundtrack that is easily accessible and memorable, especially for the Genesis' sound chip.
So, Sonic 3D Blast seems to be solid enough. Do the review scores mirror that?Gameplay: 14
Rough around the edges, but pretty fun once you get used to it.Presentation: 17
The Sega logo, opening animation and Game Over screens have very impressive fluidity and really show the capabilities of the Genesis with clever programming.Graphics: 16
Also impressive for the Genesis; every stage is vibrant with its own feel, but the checkered floor makes it a bit headache-inducing over extended periods of time.Sound: 18
Sonic 3D has one great soundtrack, as part of Jun Senoue's early work. It's so good that some of the stage music from this game was reused in Senoue's other soundtracks, like in "The Air ...for Windy Valley" in Sonic Adventure.Replay Value: 12
Sonic 3D, while fun, is a bit hard to go back to; the overall mixed reception in the public eye does not help.
Final Score: 77
"WHY IS THIS RANKED HIGHER THAN ADVENTURE 2 DOIGHNDSJOKMDLKAPASODJ"