Review: Sonic The Hedgehog (PS3, XB360)

Sonic The Hedgehog
Publisher: Sega
Genre: 3D Platformer
Release Date: 11/14/2006

The original Sonic The Hedgehog came out in 1991, so to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the series, Sega is going back to basics with a restart of the series, simply named Sonic The Hedgehog for Xbox 360 and Playstation3. Unfortunately the PS3 version was bumped a few weeks from the system launch, leaving the 360 version to appear first.

Sega claims to have redone the series from the ground up, and generated some excitement this year for the next generation Sonic experience.

However, once the game begins and the first town adventure is completed and first level is finally finished, the game’s true nature is already apparent. Without getting too ahead of myself, it’s safe to say this is the worst Sonic ever and quite possibly ruins the series retroactively.

1. Story
The Sonic series has never been well known for its storyline, and the next generation Sonic doesn’t do much to buck that trend. Eggman has kidnapped the Princess of Soleanna because of her chaos emerald, and Sonic dashes over to stop the whole plan. The story unfolds with various cinema cut scenes, which are badly written and voice acted and convey almost no emotion at all. It would be nice if Sega did something in these scenes to add more depth to the characters, but they remain as one dimensional as they have been for over a decade.

Story Rating: 2/10

September 9, 1999 was a great day for video games, as the Dreamcast launched alongside tons of top quality games, including Sonic Adventure, the first true 3D sonic. It seems like every subsequent Sonic game (Heroes, Shadow, etc) used the same engine, without any notion of fixing the issues. One of the main problems is how the characters move. Although the animation shows the characters running, it feels more like gliding or ice skating, and is not precise. A gentle tap of the analog stick has the character going at full speed too quickly, as the analog sensitivity is not tuned well for various speeds of motion.

The environments are blocky and have seems showing at times. The textures on the landscape are dull, repeat often, and are hit or miss in terms of being low or medium resolution. The camera, which I’ll get into in full detail below, is broken more than you’d think and results in weird graphical glitches and broken models.

In the first level alone I ran into a wall and got stuck, and had to restart the level. In addition, at another time, the camera lost Sonic entirely during the chase at the end of the level, and it didn’t even seem like I was controlling Sonic anymore.

Each level is vast and has a far sightline of areas in the level later. There are some side parts to the levels that have various powerups or bonuses, but these also have the effect of slowing down the action, and its not always clear by the graphics or the gameplay where to go to get back on path.

Graphics Rating: 2/10

3. Sound
Sometime recently, I believe with Shadow the Hedgehog, Sega changed over to use the voice actors from the Sonic X series. The voices come through fine, but the copy they have to read is as bad as ever.

The music retains the guitar-based sound of the Sonic series, which sounds fine in the 360 version. Nothing entirely new is broken ground in the aural area, but it’s the least offensive part of an otherwise offensive game.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay
And here’s where it all falls apart. Since Sonic Adventure 1 on Dreamcast 7 years ago, Sega has been trying to get the feeling of a 3D sonic right. Unfortunately it seemed like they went backwards for this latest generation, as the game seems more broken than ever.

Sonic is primarily a 3D platformer, and the levels are laid out to foster speed and excitement. There are zippers and speed boosters that send Sonic and the others blazing through the locales at breakneck speeds, and at certain times in the game, this is exciting and fun. However, there are tons of places that the game grinds to a halt, with a large wall or enemy that sends rings flying. There is a trial and error element to all the levels, as it’s impossible to anticipate these blockages unless you know they are coming. And even then, with perfectly executed ways of passing obstacles or defeating enemies, the game still is slow in parts, which tend to outnumber the exciting fast portions by a large number.

The key issue with 3D Sonic has been the lack of consistency with the camera. It is difficult to manually control, and gets stuck behind objects or peering through objects all too often. During especially fast sequences, the game seems to lose the character at times, just showing random parts of the level until it locates the main character again. This would be bad ordinarily, but it becomes clear throughout the game that this is basically the exact same gameplay engine used in every single 3D sonic since Adventure. It is just inexcusable to use such an old broken gameplay engine to fuel what’s supposed to be a fresh start for the franchise.

As if the camera wasn’t bad enough, for some reason Sega has decided to once again add adventure scenes in between action levels to further the storyline. This has Sonic and his buddies wandering around various villages and locales to complete lame tasks and find the next levels. Why this was re-included is a mystery. The movement in these areas is odd as well, as it features the same slippery sliding type of movement that is often hard to control in slower walking situations.

Like in most Sonic games since the first few, the player plays as Sonic a very small percentage of the time. There are three primary playable characters — Sonic, Shadow and Silver, a new white hedgehog. Silver has even less character development than Shadow, who still remains a black version of Sonic that uses guns.

Sonic has the same moves he’s had for years, including the jumping homing attack and a rev up. Additional moves can be bought using gems, and these are added throughout the game.

Shadow has many of the same abilities he had in his own game a couple years ago, with some firepower and large vehicles to control. The vehicles include a bike and a hovercraft, and break up the character platforming a bit.

Silver, the newest hedgehog, has telekinetic abilities including the power to move giant obstacles and turn projectiles back against the enemy. These scenes represent some of the only new gameplay seen in the game, and it’s not as fun or on topic as it should be. How is moving things using The Force consistent with the Sonic universe based in speed? During every Silver part of the game I found myself wishing they had just included more Sonic time.

In addition to those three hedgehogs, there are six other supporting characters that take the helm during the levels of the main three character. These include Tails and Knuckles, making the total of playable characters as 9. Not as many as the 12 in Sonic Heroes, but this game also isn’t promoted as a team-based game — it’s called simply Sonic The Hedgehog and features only the blue guy on the game’s cover. Sega has shifted the focus of the series away from Sonic and onto a large cast of characters that don’t have the appeal or character depth of Sonic himself.

Plus, the other characters are mostly unfun to use. Playing as Tails is totally painful. Tails moves very slow, and can glide/fly with the use of his tails. However, his method of attack is a bizarre fake blast of 10 rings that act as a bomb. It makes the same exact sound as when Tails is hit and loses rings, and is confusing every time where it hits and how. Playing as Tails is a great example of how unfun Sonic is — it’s just slipping and sliding around doing random things that seem forced.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 1.5/10

5. Replayability
There are separate paths and experiences for all three playable characters, but that doesn’t seem like enough motivation for most to play through these levels over and over. The gameplay just is too repetitive and broken to warrant repeated use after the game is beaten, if you even get that far.

Replayability rating: 1/10

6. Balance
The first few levels are surprisingly hard in Sonic, and all are very long. There are many parts to each level, and usually there are switches between various characters to perform tasks throughout the levels. Although there are only 10 levels in total, each can be replayed over and over with different characters, which open up new paths and gameplay.

Balance Rating: 6/10

7. Originality.
The major new innovation in Sonic the Hedgehog is the addition of Silver, the latest pallete swap sonic that Sega has unleashed as an all new character. Silver has the super cool ability to move things with his mind, and can open up new areas or move obstacles that Sonic and Shadow cannot. The main thing that is wrong with Silver is that he is not fast, and brings a slow, tedious new style of gameplay to 1/3 of the game.

Besides that, there is not much new. Many of the levels seem to have retreaded ideas from former 3D Sonic games, and there are parts that become frustrating because of the lack of fun and lack of ability to effectively control the character.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness
There are games that aren’t good, and then there are games featuring one of the most beloved characters in video game history that fail to live up to any semblance of expectations. The gameplay is frustrating and unrewarding, and does a good job of making the player not want to play anymore, essentially the opposite of addictive.

Addictiveness Rating: .5/10

9. Appeal Factor
Sonic has a long pedigree of games dating back 15 years, and still sells millions of copies of every game worldwide. There was a mix of buzz for this game over the last 6 months, between those who believed Sega was remaking the series for the next generation and those who were skeptical.

The demo released on Xbox Live did more to further the latter cause, as it poured cold water on those who thought something new and revolutionary was on its way. Some still argued that it was only a demo, but those people were in denial.

There is a huge market for a next generation Sonic that captures the spirit of the series and presents a new, exciting gameplay experience.

Appeal Factor: 3/10

10. Miscellaneous
This review has come across very negative, but it’s been such a disappointment looking forward to this game and seeing what they actually produced.

The box art is of a racing Sonic on a fairly generic background, and it uses a limited color palette. It could have been much better. And of course Sega did not make the manual in color.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores
Story: 2/10
Graphics: 2/10
Sound: 5/10
Control & Gameplay: 1.5/10
Replayability: 1/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: .5/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
Total Score 27/100
Final Score: 2.5

Short Attention Span Summary
Never before has a game so totally blown me away with how poor it is. It seemed like every new character was less fun to control, and the entire game seemed glitchy and rushed. The floaty, too-fast character control was worse than ever, and it’s mind boggling that the camera issues from this game in 1999 are still around today. With a trend in gaming to redo older games with new graphics, it is possible that Sega decided to redo Sonic Adventure 1, complete with inane adventure parts and gigantic levels where the only fun parts are where you barely have control over your character.

I cannot recommend against this game enough. Whether you’re new to the series (and thus set up to hate it forever if this is you first exposure) or a longtime fan (like me), you will be offended and disgusted by the game masquerading as a Grade A mascot game. It’s that bad.



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