I have said before that I own quite a lot of games. In terms of physical titles, I have several hundred, most of which are arrayed on various shelves around my room. It’s quickly becoming apparent to me that I will need to invest in further shelf space or other storage solutions in the near future, because shit is getting crazy up in here. For the most part, I only own games that are excellent or that I enjoy playing. The two are not mutually exclusive, but due to varying tastes, I may have a few titles that some consider “bad”. Dotted among the myriad rows and stacks are games that I would class as truly amazing; games that I have enjoyed to such a degree that I would name them my favourites.
My problem – if you can call it that – is that the vast majority of them are from two or three generations ago. Read more …
We all know that games can make people happy. Sometimes it’s just from the act of playing, other times it’s due to the excellent story. It might even be down to emergent gameplay – something that the developers perhaps never intended – or something even more esoteric. Still, I found it difficult to pick the title of this article. Read more …
For anyone who grew up during the 1990’s Sonic, along with everyone’s favourite plumber, stood as a visual representation of the gaming world. Where Mario was plodding along in the Mushroom Kingdom, Sonic was whizzing through Green Hill Zone. He was cool, hip, wise cracking and boy oh boy was he fast, it seemed like nothing could stop this speedy little guy, but something went wrong along the way.
Why has Mario gone from strength to strength while Sonic has fallen on hard times? Why have other characters overtaken the little blue blur? What went wrong with Sonic The Hedgehog?
Sonic’s first outing was in 1991 on the Sega Genesis (Megadrive for UK readers!). He was Sega’s third attempt at creating a brand mascot after Opa-Opa and Alex Kidd. Sonic was created to challenge the might of Mario and for nearly 10 years he did.
Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2 were massive successes. The thrill of blasting through levels at break neck speed was breathtaking; the games made Mario’s adventures look practically sedentary. I remember watching Gamesmaster when I was growing up and seeing competitions between people to see who could get through a level or finish the game quickest. Speed Running with Sonic 2 is still a considered a worthy challenge; the current completion record is 18 minutes and 12 seconds.
But, by the time Sonic the Hedgehog 3 rolled around in 1994 gamers were starting to notice a familiar pattern. Sega, in a rush to keep the momentum going, was turning out Sonic games on an annual basis so after the first two games people started noticing the same kind of level design. Sega didn’t seem to be putting in that much effort and in some cases appeared to be making things particularly difficult. I’m sure most Sonic gamers can name a few incidents where they have collided with an unavoidable set of spikes or baddie.
The increasingly frustrating level design seemed to become a staple of Sonic games and some would argue that it continues even today, in fact some would argue (myself included) that since Sonic jumped to 3D the levels have only gotten worse.
The gaming shift from 2D to 3D was a difficult time for a lot of developers and gamers. How do you keep that familiar gameplay whilst opening up a new world to explore? New players like Sony & Microsoft were able to design from the bottom up and embrace 3D as they didn’t have the same 2D legacy that Nintentdo & Sega had but while The Big N showed the world how it could be done with Super Mario 64, Sega floundered.
Sonic Adventure was a launch title for the Dreamcast and while it was hailed as the best 3D Sonic game at the time, it also had many flaws. Sonic games were designed for speed. In 2D environments this is an easy thing to process as the path you can take is laid out for you and never changes, in 3D however the need to create an open world means that you have multiple paths to choose from and not all of them will be the right ones. Controlling Sonic also became more of an issue. How do you make sure that he is going the right way and not veering to the side when you have a full 360 range of motion? Sega appeared to have acknowledged these issues when they announced a return to classic Sonic with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 & Episode 2.
Another thing Sega wanted to make sure everyone was aware of with Sonic 4 was that the game featured Sonic and only Sonic. Over the first 3 games and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic was joined by his best friend Miles ‘Tails” Prower in Sonic 2 and Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic & Knuckles. The reaction to these added cast members was quite warm so Sega thought they would add more, and more and more.
Apart from Sonic, Tails & Knuckles, Sega have added a further 17 ‘friends’ over the years. On my recent play through of Sonic Generations after I rescued Tails & Knuckles I increasingly became more and more bewildered at who the hell these characters were, Cream the Rabbit?? Mighty the Armadillo, Who?? Blaze the Cat, Huh??? And Rouge the Bat, WTF!!??. Christmas must be an expensive time of year! Thankfully I’m not alone, over the years players have tired of games tending to focus more on this seemingly never ending roster of friends than on Sonic, especially when some of them are lumbering brutes and can barely speed up to a swift jog let alone blaze a trail through Emerald Hill!
When you look at the cast members of a Mario game you see that Nintendo have stuck with the same 5 main characters. Mario, Luigi, Toad, Princess & Bowser. Occasionally they will add different characters such as the Koopa Kids or Baby Mario/Luigi but for the most part the core characters in the main games are the same. This has allowed Nintendo to evolve them and allow you to ‘bond’ with them, the same cannot be said for Sonic & Co – in fact I would personally say that my dislike for Sonic started when they gave him a voice!
So, what was the reason for Sonic’s fall from grace? Was it the predictable and frustrating level design? The inability to transition from 2D to 3D? The endless hangers on that Sega felt we needed to be made aware of? Or was it something else? Many would argue that Sonic is a representation of Sega and when things went bad for Sega they went bad for Sonic. Others say that the character has become so watered down that he is just a name now rather than an idea and the only reason he is still around is due to a misplaced sense of nostalgia.
Sega’s most recent attempt at reviving the Sonic brand was with it’s “Greatest Hits” game, Sonic Generations, but for me, all it did was highlight how good Sonic was compared to where he is now. The thrill I had blasting through the remade 2D Chemical Plant zone and then battling a HD Death Egg Robot with the same music playing was immense!
My suggestion to Sega? Remake Sonic 2, keep it 2D and for the love of god, shut the Hedgehog up!
As a contributing writer to Zero1Gaming.com – it’s obvious that I would have an interest in games so I’m here to talk about how I first got into them and my first experiences of gaming.
I vaguely remember sitting in my living room and playing my next door neighbours Sega Megadrive that I had borrowed for the weekend. I would be playing as everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog – Sonic, a very old version of FIFA ( this was back when I did actually bother playing football games, nowadays – I don’t see the big hype) and a game called James Pond. James Pond always amused me to be honest – I think it was the title mostly due to the many spin-offs of James Bond in the game through mission titles etc. This was my first ever interaction with games and I must of only been perhaps 4 or 5. I hated every time my parents told me they wanted to watch something on the television resulting in the MegaDrive having to be turned off as I loved sitting on the floor for hours playing on it.
There was one week I was coming home from being at my Grans during the Summer holidays in which I was glad to be going home because I could play the Sega Megadrive again for hours – yippee! Instead, my Dad took me to my room and showed me that they had bought me my own television for my bedroom. Instantly my mind wandered to “Yes, I can play the Megadrive up here and not have to worry about the parents wanting to watch some stupid documentary!” however, there was a bottom attachment on this new TV. To be honest I just thought it was part of the stand, no big deal, so when my Dad started laughing at me as I turned it on to watch The Simpsons (had a bit of an obsession with them as did any kid growing up in the 90’s), I was rather confused. Turned out the ‘attachment’ was actually a storage drawer with a lovely new gaming console for me by the name of Playstation One. This became my new obsession. I loved playing so many games on that including Spyro, Theme Park World where I would cause countless hours of chaos on the little visitors entering my park, V Rally 2 that my Dad officially was rubbish at and the game also featured a heartbeat sound that was at the start of every race when it was loading up that I got really scared of . Throw in a couple of the odd WWF wrestling game (where I could never learn all of the moves which is where I soon learnt the wonder of ‘button bashing’ ) and I was on my way to becoming addicted to gaming.
I vividly remember playing a game called Croc 2 and this soon started my rage at games when I found them difficult. I would spend hours playing a cheap copy of it (I got my Playstation chipped for around a tenner which meant I could play copies of games for around a fiver each – perfect for my Dad who was buying me all my games at the time to feed my new found gaming addiction) It was always a game that even though I was getting annoyed because I couldn’t get past certain points, I would forever go back to it in the hope that some miracle had happened so that I would manage to get past that frustrating point. This only lead to me chucking the controller onto the floor twenty minutes later and shutting the Playstation off and never speaking to it again for several hours.
Apart from this, with a games console that was actually mine instead of having to borrow my next door neighbours – I really couldn’t be happier. I could honestly loose days being in my disgusting looking room (sickly looking yellow with posters of 90’s pop bands… yeah, you can imagine *cringe* ) just merely sitting playing video games and completing them. The first ever game I completed was the tie in game for the Harry Potter and the Philosphers Stone movie. I was honestly so happy that day that I had managed to fully complete the game as me and my friend had a small competition going to see who would complete it first. Instantly I was on the phone to her bragging about it. Even to this day, I get a warm feeling in my stomach whenever I complete a game, which grows depending on whether I’ve obtained 100% in the game, or got all the achievements for a game. To me, the game doesn’t stop after the campaign, there’s so much more to do in games these days.
Soon after this introduction to gaming, I became aware of more and more consoles and was highly impressed by Nintendo’s GameBoy. It was portable. You didn’t have to hook it up to a TV but just go through countless amounts of batteries just to play a black and white pixelated game on the tiniest of screens. This solved the problem of being bored at my Grans during the summer holidays – no more watching four channels for a whole week. One of my favourite games for the GameBoy was indeed the Pokemon series. The music was always a thrill to listen to and I am still purchasing the latest instalments of the games even today when I’m twenty years old. Over the years I’ve gone through so many different games consoles including the Nintendo 64 spending hours on 007 Goldeneye multiplayer with friends, Playstation 2 and seeing the Guitar Hero series taking shape (The third instalment will forever be the best one for me) and playing the amazing GTA series. Finally, after months of saving up, my beloved Xbox 360 called Charlie got bought and put through its paces. This was when I first got introduced to the Assassins Creed series and I’ve never regretted playing them.
I think one of the things that always made me love games is the fact you could be controlling a purple dragon one minute and with the change of the disc be driving around in snowy Monte Carlo with a lovely Subaru Impreza and this feeling had never gone away. I’m always being surprised on how much gaming has changed and expanded especially in recent years bringing more and more people into it and enjoying gaming as well whether it’s by themselves or over Xbox Live or Playstation Network. I only hope in 15 years’ time I can look back and talk about the Xbox 360 as I’ve spoken about all of the older generation consoles that I’ve mentioned in this retro years post.