Well over the years I have played some great games and many of those great games I have reviewed or am about to review on this very blog but nothing can quite compare to that first experience to lose one’s gaming virginity as it were. That moment for me was many years ago when my dad bought for me a Sega mega drive and into that I placed my very first cartridge gave it a little wiggle to insure that it was secure switched the power switch up and watched in amazement as the logo, that would come to dominate many of earliest memories would come into being, with a whoosh from the left the blue writing and the computerised sound of “segaaaa” would come into being, something that still makes me giddy with glee to this day. Although this logo was to don many of my favourite game even to this day as a good game is still a good game 20 years later only the graphics have aged ever so slightly. it was what came after this logo that would prove so important for me though. Although games like streets of rage would have a greater impact on my young life because of the gratuitous violence and cool bazookas it was to be Sonic the hedgehog that would be the vehicle that would pop my gaming cherry. My family owned many of the earliest gaming console and I have been told that I would toil away for hours and hours on a Atari 2600 but for me it is always Sonic and the megadrive that I remember so fondly from my youth. I loved it high-speed, it well designed levels and most importantly I loved Sonic the badass hedgehog out to save his friends from the evil doctor Robotnic, yes kids he used to be called doctor Robotnic and he was all the better for it. Calling him Eggman makes him sound juvenile and has more in common with the watered down children’s games of more modern console than the quality of the previous games. Which brings me nicely to my review of Sonic Heroes the most recent platform game in the Sonic franchise to actually have Sonic name on it and I’m sad to say I’m disappointed.
The game play is well, for lack of a better word, awful. The game involves you riding some rails which you have very little control of, sure you can switch rails left and right but due to the awful control system you fall off more times than you actually hit the rail you want. I played every game on the megadrive and many games on the gameboy and they all had one thing in common and that was there 2d graphics and I think that unlike some of Sonic’s counterparts from the megadrive days Sonic just doesn’t seem to work in a 3d environment. The speed just doesn’t work as well as it did in the good old days and for much of this game you just left sitting there watching the screen as Sonic grinds and then when you finally stop riding the rails you are placed in an open area with enemy that you must dispatch in order to progress to the next large open area or rail. Trust me when I say that play the first level and that will give you an idea of what the whole game is about. I unfortunately completed this whole game and I would like to point out that I got this game on day one of its release and have only just today completed it due to the monumental boredom that this game swelled in me.
This game tries to reinvent the Sonic universe by bringing its many characters and I do mean many together to form teams of three. Each team consists of a speed character a flying and a strongman and you must use these characters in different ways to transverse the many levels. This sound interesting until you realise that it involves using the speed to grind the rails, the flying to jump over things and the strong man to deal with enemies, there by negating the need to have three enemy in the first place. This coupled with the fact that you can no longer jump on the enemy, hello that’s a core function of the Sonic universe meaning that Sonic is somewhat impotent in this instalment. I can over look most of these defects and believe me I have in other games for the simple fact that they challenged me and this game just didn’t do that on any level. I played all the way through this game and part of me thinks had it not been for the fact that it was Sonic I maybe would not have got to the last level. Another part of thinks that had it not been for project backlog I would not have completed this game, see the things I do for you. Part of me wonders how I never completed it’s previously because I was basically pressing x repeatedly and dodging the occasional rocket, so challenging I’m sure you agree.
As well as the usual easy, intermediate and hard difficulty setting there is also a challenge based game play that has you exploring the levels in search of items. I enjoyed this more slowed down game play style but I found it strange in a Sonic game that is all about speed and precision to slow down and search for things. Although this challenge based game play is somewhat new it is still in the same vain as the other ride some rails beat enemy to be awarded with an item. It does add depth to the game something that is missing from this game and every Sonic game ever. But Sonic never needed a story the fun of Sonic was in it simplicity that’s what made it so much fun, run fast get rings and jump on baddies, easy peasy lemon squeezy.
The graphics are the normal Sonic affair with bright and colourful being the order of the day but after looking at the Sonic games on the Dreamcast, with Sonic two supposedly being the best 3D Sonic game yet can’t help but think that they have dumbed them down ever so slightly. It seems to me that Sega are targeting a much younger audience than they have previously, completely alienating their core demographic of players who buy Sonic because they have fond memories and wish to relive a bit of nostalgia kind of like the modern equivalent to going to your dad going to see a band from his youth. The graphics are overly simplistic and childlike and show the target audience of this game. This is a pity because I know of several hardcore Sonic fans that are well in to their 20’s and some even into their 30’s who just feel abandoned by Sega.
I think there is a lot of Mario envy present in this games graphics, unlike many other games from the megadrive and snes area Mario has successfully transitioned to 3d and has done so without having to change any aspect of it core game play or game style. Mario is as colourful as ever with a simple game play dynamic that appeals to old and young alike. Why is Mario so successful? Why is a fat plumber with an embarrassing moustache more successful than a bad ass hedgehog? Why has Mario survived the 3d transition why so many have not? I personally think the answer is belief, Mario has not changed since its inception, I mean it has changed better graphics 3d etc but the core game play and style has remained unashamedly Mario. Sonic on the other hand has changed with every iteration and has tried to emulate Mario’s success by basically copying Mario, it brought in sidekicks although tails was a great addition it hard to find another addition to the Sonic universe that is not just an annoying whiny child. All these additions have made the game complicated and took away from what made Sonic great, the simplistic game play and the sheer speed. Have no fear though my fateful readers there still hope of a pure Sonic experience and that is on the handheld platform. Weirdly Sega makes some of the greatest games on the Gameboy/DS platform and I’m glad to say that Sonic is there in all his simplistic glory as fun as he ever was but more on that in a later review.
I am aware that this has stopped being a review and started to turn into a more personal portrayal of why Sonic no longer matters to me but let me get back on topic for a second and talk about the voiceovers in Sonic heroes. All the character in this game have really childish voices with Sonic sounding like an American skater but I have been told that this is not a new phenomenon so ill let it go. What I can’t let go is the need of the game characters to constantly comment on just how fast you’re going or on the fact that you’re upside down. It’s bad enough that I have no control over the characters and am merely just watching my characters but to have them comment is like stabbing a man when he’s dead just for the hell of it.
Despite the rubbish 3d game play this is the game play of all Sonic game and always has been. Maybe I have just grown up and Sonic hasn’t, I stopped playing Sonic after the Megadrive and the launch of the genesis which had very little support in the UK so my parent opted instead for a Playstation one and I was introduced to 3d and most importantly new platform heroes such as crash Bandicoot and more adult serious games such as metal gear solid which I maintain to be my second favourite game of all time, the first being Pokémon blue which I still complete at least once a year to this day just to see if I can. These game coupled with many other that I can’t really start to name have had just as much effect on me as Sonic and while I have grown up and discovered new and interesting stories its seems that Sonic has remained very much part of the past and part of the child in me. Like I stated earlier I still get a slight happy sensation when I hear that Sega chime but maybe I should just come to the conclusion that the days of Sonic being a title of quality are over. Maybe it was always targeted at children but because I was a child and had yet to experience more advanced story based games I didn’t notice. It hard to escape the fact that Sonic has gotten steadily worse has time has gone on and part of me wishes they had simply stopped making them after the Megadrive. That way my memories would have stayed intact and I could still look back fondly but sadly games like this are starting to erode them. This game is just more fuel in what was a slow decay and is starting to gain speed of the Sonic franchise. It’s very hard to find a redeeming feature of this game and I am aware that this is a very long and strange review but I feel that in order for you to understand why I don’t like this game you must first understand the things that brought me to this game in the first place.
Avoid this game at all costs.