Sunday, 29 May 2022

Virtua Sonic #5: The Sonic Spectrum

To be frank, Sonic has had it pretty rough in the past decade or so. Ever since his massive success on the Sega Genesis in three massively beloved titles, he has been the victim of some very bad luck. Many would attest that it all began with Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 (commonly referred to as Sonic ‘06), it actually started further back than that, Sonic ‘06 is just when it really became noticeable. Going back and forth in quality from the decent success of Sonic Generations to the abysmal failure of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the Sega Mascot has had a dual failure/success rate of gigantic proportions.

One clear example of this is the very recent fanmade super game headed by Christian Whitehead, Sonic Mania. One could say that Sonic Mania is the most success the little blue hedgehog has seen in literally over a decade. That’s not to say there aren’t good recent Sonic games by major developers, but Sonic Mania has seen success that is unparalleled by the likes of Sonic’s most recent game, Sonic Forces. Talk about quality difference of day and night, Sonic Mania has enjoyed the highest ratings even by some of the most skeptical gaming reviews while Sonic Forces has been left in the super speeding dust.

Even with the dream game mechanic of original character creation, Sonic Forces had very little else to offer. With poor level design, questionable controls, and the fact that you play as Sonic through most of the game anyway, onlookers were scratching their heads asking “why create a character in the first place??” Sonic Mania blew all of it out of the water and turned that nostalgia dial to eleven. We were gifted with familiar gameplay and level design with a nice little twist here and there to brighten it up for the new generation of gamers while leaving plenty for older gamers to ogle. Even the seemingly outdated graphics are updated and beautiful in a way that does not impede on the oldstyle 16-bit look. 

Sonic Forces has its fans, but it did have some objectively terrible decisions made for it. Not to mention giving your character a random weapon to work with rather than maybe a general skill it can use would have been far more appeal. As it stands, your character is mostly just an aesthetic to run along obstacles. It's not that Sonic Mania had the best ideas for level design as well, but it was a much more stylistic choice to elongate the game just a bit more. It does make traversing some of the level a bit of a hassle when it comes to the timer. They honestly should have taken that into account.

It’s starting to look pretty clear on what Sonic games should have been doing the entire time. There have been successful titles that go outside the fast-running platforming of his original games, but those have been so few and far in between. Now we have two that are mapped out and marketed very near one another for a comparison that paints a very clear picture. Sonic fans are now hoping and praying that Sega takes some serious notes of this outcome, because it’s clear that even true blue Sonic fans are getting fed up with the treatment that he has been getting as of late. 

In the end, it was a one hit knockout. This contrast really goes to show you that innovation and imagination can do some serious damage against just throwing money at a problem in hopes that it improves. AAA Gaming has been under some serious fire for lack of ideas in the ways of Sonic franchise fatigue, cash grab titles and using nostalgia as a way to lure oldschool gamers into spending their money for games that have little to no effort put into them. This fan game may have been distributed by Sega, but let’s face it, it’s an indie game through and through. Now Sonic fans are hoping that the Sonic Team can learn from this experience, but at the same time, given his very questionable past treatment, there is really no telling what they have in store for our blue radical dude. All we can really do is stay tuned and drink water.

Virtua Sonic #4: The Cube is the Game is the Cube

You do not know how strong your favorite game series is until you've played a collection that you truly fall in love with. Sonic the Hedgehog has survived through the years through imagination and a strong foundation of great games. Even the bad games are fun to play and will be worth the charge of just a few compilations, Sonic the Fighters is proof of that. The Gamecube brought about a quiet dignity to the gamers of the mid-2000's that was unappreciated in its time. Since then, a great community of fans have kept this system among the mainstream gamers for generations. The Sonic Gems and Sonic Mega collections were a Hedgehead's best way to cash in on some of the most legendary titles. 

Of course, this means that they had the first three games in the Mega Collection. In fact, a lot of his best titles. Though if I may be subjective for a moment, I have to say Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D blasts are memories that aged about as well as a banana in the refrigerator that everyone’s seemed to have forgotten about. Sonic Spinball is a little more challenging and unfair than I remember. Maybe I had a better fix on the game as a child, because I remember seeing more levels in my youth. Maybe I just had more time and patience as a child but that doesn’t sound like a child I remember being. 

And Sonic 3D Blast is still just as slow as I remember it. There are a decent about of tiny speed ramps here and there but the game overall is far too slow to be a Sonic game. And let’s face it, chasing animals and collecting them for a pile is just boring. 

That being said, Sonic’s original three titles including the Knuckles editions of two and three bring this collection to new heights of replayability. Whoever skips out on these titles for any system cannot consider themselves Sonic fans. Your opinion is duly noted but Sega would not be in the place it was were it not for these exclusive titles in the first place. How wonderful it is that Nintendo grinned, kidnapping our dear Hedgehog and laughing maniacally as they start piledriving titles to rub it in Sega’s face. This is so apparent that there was even a port of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. They sure didn’t wait long to start attacking those Dreamcast titles. 

However, even the Saturn graced it with its presence. Yes, the Gems collection had Sonic 3D Blast, but I will not stop being subjective in this review, just because I’ve always loved to see that more and more people are coming out to praise Sonic R. This version is even updated with some polished graphics here and there and it’s great to see so many people come out and show love to this title. There have been a few famous reviews that called it out on its ineptitudes but really it only needed a bit of practice. Even if you call it nostalgia goggles, those are things I will wear until my dying days. Unlocking Super Sonic is well worth it for those who can appreciate the effort to bring him about. Yes, some of those levels can get a little overbearing but they are not impossible. 

There is also a serious look back at the other collection from a much more obscure console. The Sega Gamegear gets a closer look in the Sonic Gems collection. Even Tails gets two titles, acting as a single main character in his own platformer game. Is it as good as the original three? No, not even close. In fact, they would be strained to go under the title of “good” but then again, they were born on the Sega Gamegear, so we do need to give them a little bit of credit. That’s like making fun of water for being wet. These games can’t help but be awful!

Tails Skypatrol is a game that couldn’t handle any real movement from the bad guys, nor could it afford any control of any kind. Even when you’re flying, the controls are so bad, the game has to compensate by making you hook onto random moving objects to see that you control just a little better. Don’t hit those little moving things, then expect to run into some random wall that will kill you immediately! One wrong move and you’re toast. These walls and platforms come out of seemingly nowhere because they look so generic that they’re in the background. They don’t seem to pop out as an obstacle or a threat. Was it really so much to ask for for just a simple moving ladybug robot or maybe a ball with spikes? Something that looked the least bit like a danger of any kind would be really nice.

Sonic Drifts 2 is just awful. You drive at high speeds down a road which you have no view on. Your control is sluggish to say the least. This is an asinine design for a racing game. You could make a case for some of these other platformers, but you can’t render a racing game on something that couldn’t produce a proper framerate to save its life! It’s bad enough to control the Gamegear Sonic 2 or Sonic The Hedgehog Triple Trouble. Those two games are made easier for the sake of making up for its lack of “BLAST PROCESSING” or any semblance of the proper graphics to handle any speed. The problem is you run to the other end of the screen and it has to catch up. Hopefully, there’s nothing in front of you to knock some rings out of you. 

This title had tons of samey Sonic slamfests (I ran out of nouns, bite me) but if I keep getting into them, this article will go way too long. Just trust that you can assume their gameplay and control pretty much blows tremendous amounts of chunks. It also has Vectorman games, but this isn’t called Virtua Vectorman! Moving on!

Sonic Advneture DX and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle were both ported to the Gamecube as upgraded and cleaned up Sega Dreamcast games! In fact, as nostalgia goggles go, this was probably the best they’ve looked in a while. They also had extra levels and extra modes to play! Everyone loves raising chao babies and now everyone can shoot their least favorite Sonic characters in the FACE! Not only were they made better, but Sonic Adventure 2 deleted almost ALL of the Big the Cat cameos! That’s a part of Sonic Adventure we’d prefer to forget, of course.

The Gamecube brought about quite the library for our favorite blue speedrunner, in fact, I’ve barely scraped the surface of this collection. Sonic was actually treated better on the Gamecube than he was his own systems from before. Even Sonic R was treated with respect. Though, it would have been amazing if we got a port of Sonix X-treme, but that may have been expecting a bit too much. Not only did the Gamecube polish up old games, but it released titles such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Heroes. Even counting Sonic Riders, at least they were trying new things. 

There are many reasons I personally consider the Gamecube a spiritual sequel to the Sega Dreamcast. It's funny how things turn out, isn't it? No one back then would think Nintendo could make such a good Sega System. Underappreciated in its time but still a timeless none the less. Give it a try and play some rockin' Sonic titles! Remember to get that Robotnik jerk and drink plenty of water!

Virtua Sonic #3: Into Dreamcast

 Hello, Hedgeheads, today we are going to be discussing Sonic and his venture into the final system that Sega has created to date. I’m Virtua Neptune and this is my take on the Blue Blur on the Sega Saturn 2-- I mean the Dreamcast. Please keep in mind that this is all my silly opinion and if you have different views on these titles and their legacy, by all means, share them in the comments. Just remember to keep it civil and respectful.

The Dreamcast was a follow-up system that any Sega Saturn fan could ever want. Not only did it possess Star Wars games (which are strangely absent from the Saturn), Marvel games and Capcom fighters, but the Sonic games it possessed were far better received and have even garnered acclaim from both gamers and critics. Many Sonic fans will tell you that despite their clench factor, the Sonic Adventure games brought about a whole new genre that the Blue Streak could explore.

That’s not to say these games were perfect. It was, after all, the introduction of the infamous Big the Cat and his stupid frog named Froggy (I’m sure that took all night). These were the worst parts of the game. The biggest complaint is that the platforming in a 3D environment was sometimes atrocious. Some of the tasks made you perform especially awkward feats with your characters (namely Knuckles’ emerald missions) and sometimes this alone would cause players to rage quit. 

Still, the gameplay itself had some amazing moments of fast paced, amazing action. The moment of glory that comes to mind is when Sonic commits cold blooded murder, flying away from an exploding helicopter and surfing down a declining street being chased by a semi-truck. Yes, perhaps the devs were compensating for the more frustrating aspects of the Adventure games, but we came out on top with a gaming moment of greatness.

Then we need to consider the fact that this is definitely two of the best outings we’ve ever seen Sonic in the third dimension. This includes his outings into the 360/PS3/Wii era. It’s honestly sad to think that they got it more right here than they would when 3D graphics were edging more toward the more modern cleanliness. It really goes to show you that, once again, the love put into a game is worth far more than the money. 

With the addition of the Chao pets, Sega spawned an entire game within a mini-game within the game! People were playing these games for eons just so they could raise a better Chao in their Chao daycare. The mere fact that you could transport these chaos onto a Tamagachi were enough to keep fans breeding them to be winners! (Article now rated R)

Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 can be considered deeply flawed, but no more so than many games that are considered masterpieces by the mass populace. The gameplay is gripping, and the graphics show off the 6th Gen graphics as they move away from that blocky, pixel-heavy look more and more. Our hero has definitely looked worse. 

Such as a game where you play as popular Sonic characters in a boardgame-like environment where you compete against computers or other players. This was a totally original concept and was not at all worse in every way. It rose to the top of the charts and did not bomb as an abysmal failure at all. Yes, I am doing this whole paragraph sarcastically, isn’t it sooooooo great?

Sega has had some bad ideas, but this one is a real head scratcher. Kart racers are one thing to get wrong, but a concept so simple as a competitive boardgame? Take my word for it, this is not worth your time. However, if you find it cheap enough and you’re a true blue fan? Why not? Some bad games are good times. You may even like it.

As for me, nope! This game was a solid waste of precious time in Sonic wrapping paper with a bow on top. The gameplay is not only terrible, but it is also boring. The cut scenes are the very beginning tell you the inconsequential storyline that goes along with the game. They drone on and on and try as you might, the story makes no sense and means nothing. The English voice acting is among some of the worst you’ll ever hear in the Sonic franchise. 

Once you get to the game, the entire system seems like it does nothing but screws over the player while giving them no opportunities to recover from the losses. One minute, you’re on the side of the board with all of the hidden gems, the next minute you’ve been shot all the way across where all of your opponents are so they can screw you over more. There are also boss battles across the board. They are one hit kills, go figure.

The mini-games are, by far, the worst part. They are so brainless and are just another way for you to fail, unless you get very, very lucky. Any time the games are free roaming, they are ridiculously hard to control to avoid the traps, like in the beach segment with the crabs. There’s also a shape building mini-game like Tetris, where you throw shapes into a shape outline and it’s nearly impossible to get it right while the score makes no sense. You get the idea, the mini-games are garbo and one of the many features that were half assed throughout the entire game. 

Then comes the Sega Smash Pack! Yes, this one is a collection that only has one Sonic game in it, the original for the Genesis. That’s right! Sonic came full circle when it came to his roots. He started out in the beginning of the life of the Sega Mega Drive and with that same game, he appeared in his roots in the very last console Sega ever made. How poetic. So, along with a whole bunch of other games, if you wanted, you have another port of the original. Merry Christmas. 

Problem is, it’s not so much a port as it is an emulation, meaning it was an afterthought. Nothing was done to improve it, however, it was downgraded in overall quality to make room for the rest of the Sega Smash Pack! Well, it was a cool thought while it lasted, right? It’s okay, Sega. We still love you! 

So, yes, the Dreamcast era for Sonic was not without its pitfalls. Whether you love raising Chao to compete or couldn’t look past some of the flaws, Dreamcast certainly left its milestones in the Hedgehog’s lore. The mere fact that they were able to give us a few more unique additions to the Sonic Franchise is something to be grateful for. Sometimes, it’s nice to keep things in house. 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Final Fight Revenge - There is no Revenge


This is a fighting game. More accurately, a 3D fighting game. This particular game was developed by Capcom as a Saturn exclusive (aside from the arcade port) and released only in Japan. It is the only fighting game in the Final Fight series, which normally features beat'em up games. Final Fight has come out with a great number of beat'em up games that have received a great deal of acclaim in both arcades and console versions. 

This game, again their only fighting game, is a bland experience. It is so by the numbers and so mediocre that there's really not a whole lot to talk about here. The stages are beyond bland and the fights are about as unimaginative as you can imagine. Imagine that! It's not that it's terrible, there is just nothing to write home about. The graphics are decent for 32-bits and the character designs made a good conversion over to 3D from their 16-bit counterparts. That's about all the good that can be said about it. 

The fighting is boring. You fight the opponent, they block a whole lot, and you spend the entire time trying to get around their blocking. In hard mode, that is accentuated to a glaring degree! It's not hard, it's tedious! Some of the characters control terribly, because they lack the drive to move forward as they attack, making their controls sluggish! 

One thing that other fighting games have going for them is that they either have cool special moves, fancy footwork and interesting martial arts styles to keep the gameplay fresh. This game does not have any of that stuff. There are punches, kicks and grapples. The best you have to mix things up is Poison with her whip and a few other characters with weapons. Oh, and Guy has shuriken that he throws en mass in hard modes. Woot...

That's the real problem with this game. It looks and plays as bland as white bread and the AI for your opponents does nothing but spam block and throwing attacks while also shooting off their ultimate attacks. The ultimate attacks are about as good as it gets when it comes to the aesthetics, but they are teeth-grindingly cringeworthy when you've seen them for the seventh time. 

The most noteworthy aspect of this game is that your final boss is a zombie. It's a zombie version of Horace Belger. That's it. There's nothing interesting about this other than he falls into pieces and throws those pieces at you while they explode. Yeah, that's pretty cool but when it's your only trump card, it's pretty sad. Yeah, he does the Michael Jackson Thriller dance in the credits but by this time, you've already gone through six lackluster fights against people who spam block and grapple moves. It's cute, but too little, too late.

If you're looking for a 3D fighting game, there are obviously worse out there. This was made by Capcom, though and you would expect a lot more out of them. Obviously, there were problems with the production. This game screams "Under Developed" and it was obvious that they either did not have their prime talent on this game or they were not given nearly enough time to polish it and make it any good. It's boring, predictable and not worth going out of your way to pay the scalping price. This game became one of those rare, expensive relics that people ask way too much for. Just skip it and try something else. Try some water, it's more exciting.