Saturday, December 2, 2017

Game Review: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero


Shantae: 1/2-Genie Hero
  • Publisher: WayForward / Marvelous
  • Developer: WayForward / Inti Creates
  • Release Date: 20 December 2016
  • Systems: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, XBox One, Wii U, Switch
  • Genre: 2D Action (Platformer)
  • Players: 1
  • Cost: US$20
Previously on the SDP, I reviewed Mighty No. 9, a game that rode high atop a mega-bucks-earning KickStarter campaign, only to crash into a pile of manure upon release.  Another game that also went through the crowd-funding motions at the same time was the new sequel to Shantae, sub-titled 1/2-Genie Hero.  I, myself, contributed to that campaign, spending more on it than I did with Mighty No. 9, for the record.  Upon backing, I opted to receive the PlayStation 3 port, since I have seen no need for the newer wave of consoles.  But, that port got cancelled, along with the one for XBox 360.  I'll say one good thing about how Comcept handled Mighty No.9 -- at least they actually released the PS3 and XBox 360 ports!  But whatever, there's still the PC version, so that's what I fell back on.  #PCGamingMasterRace  So, was all that worry worth it?

The game starts with Tinkerbats invading Scuttle Town -- again.
The story starts with Risky Boots and her Tinkerbat pirates invading Scuttle Town.  Second verse, same as the first.  So it should come as no surprise that Shantae's Uncle Mimic has unveiled a new mechanical contraption, and sends Shantae to gather the parts for it so they won't be stolen by Risky Boots, only for the finished product to be stolen by Risky Boots in the end.  It's basically another one of those "Mad Libs" sequels, as I described Risky's Revenge before.  In your quest to find these machine parts, you will unlock a succession of five worlds, accessible through a map screen as opposed to one giant overworld.  In fact, there are no discrete dungeon areas this time around; instead, all the worlds are self-contained action stages.  This does make them seem shorter than in previous games, but there are still plenty of hidden areas strewn about for you to revisit after earning new abilities.  And, on the positive side, that means less faffing about with sidequests than there was in Pirate's Curse.

While the main story failed to engage me, personally, each world comes with their own sub-plots, which have a bit more going for them... okay, still not much.  For example, the bratty genie guardian who takes over Shantae's role as the defender of Scuttle Town is rather unceremoniously brushed off after clearing the desert world.  But they are tied in with some pretty novel settings, like a factory where young maidens are transformed into "counterfeit mermaids" by having big-mouthed fish latch onto their waists, or even a magic-carpet race, which is in essence just a forced-scrolling platforming segment.  It's nice to see that the quirky sense of humour the series has built up over the years is still in full effect.

Shantae's dance transformation ("Danceformation", then?  ...I'll see myself out.) powers make a return after an absence in Pirate's Curse, where... she had a little run-in with the plot.  How they work this time is you hold a button to bring up a menu, and press a direction for the form you want to take.  It's sort of a hybrid of the transformation systems in the first two games, and is one of the more elegant solutions I could think of, since it lets you page through many options at a fast enough rate, while not forcing you to memorise a button sequence like in the first game.  And there are over a dozen transformations for you to unlock, although a little more uniqueness and utility would be appreciated.  Some of them are useless apart from specific situations, especially the mouse, who can go through tiny, maze-like passages and do little else.  And why do we need two separate forms for moving about underwater?

The new method of selecting transformations is both quick and convenient.
The Shantae games seem to go back and forth as to whether its attack items are consumable or meter-limited, and this time around they are once again limited by a magic meter.  As in Risky's Revenge, I like this because it encourages their use, especially since magic pickups are so common.  Then again, you'll be able to deal more damage faster just by upgrading your hair's damage and attack speed.  But late in the game, after completing an arduous collection quest, you can unlock a tiara that gives you infinite magic power, and this combined with the other items, especially the invincibility shield, make 1/2-Genie Hero game-breakingly easy.  I suppose it contrasts with the slightly harder difficulty at the beginning of the game, where you start with fewer heart containers than before, and must rely more heavily on consumable healing items until you start to upgrade yourself.

Freed from the limitations of past 8 and 16-bit platforms, the character art has been completely redone with hand-drawn animations, and it looks gorgeous.  Their animation is extremely fluid, even on huge boss characters like the Giga Mermaid.  On the other hand, the backgrounds are done with 3D models, and they look extremely basic in comparison to the pristine 2D art, their relative lack of detail fits with the cartoonish art style.  This is the same setup that WayForward has used in games like DuckTales Remastered, so you'd think they'd have come up with some way to spice up the backgrounds somehow, but apparently not.  And why is it that when we return to certain worlds, especially the desert world, the backgrounds have so much detail removed from the first time around?  Maybe it's just a bug in the version I played, I don't know.  #PCGamingMasterRace  The soundtrack, once again composed by Jake Kaufman, brings back many melodies from his songs from previous games, but with slight variations. I think its quasi-chiptune sound has a bit of a Sonic influence to it this time around, and coming from me, that is high praise.

Sprite animation is fluid and expressive, especially on bosses like the Giga Mermaid.
1/2-Genie Hero is not the longest game on the market, but none of the other Shantae games are either.  Expect something in the neighbourhood of 6 hours for a 100% clear playthrough, or 3 hours for a speed run, which is shorter than Pirate's Curse was, but less padded.  Alternate modes have been added since the game's initial release, such as the Hero Mode where all your transformations are unlocked from the start, and Hard Core Mode for extra difficulty.  And if you missed the gameplay revolutions brought on by Pirate's Curse, they have been brought back for the alternate campaign, where we play as Risky Boots and unlock her pirate gear for alternate movement techniques.  However, it is sold as separate DLC (US$10), although people who backed the game when it was on KickStarter got it for free.  While I am lucky to count myself as one of those people, this "sectioning off the best parts of the game as DLC" is a troubling habit for WayForward to start picking up, and especially for my beloved Shantae series.

Come to think of it, as a whole, 1/2-Genie Hero puts the Shantae series at a crossroads of concern.  WayForward's approach to sequels is starting to become formulaic.  If WayForward will ever make a sequel to this, they're going to need some cracking good ideas to elevate it above the status quo they've built up, as they did with Pirate's Curse.  That goes doubly if they choose to crowd-fund it, since it's our money on the line.  But don't be too afraid about it just yet, since 1/2-Genie Hero is still quite good.  It's a short, snacky kind of game, but it's incredibly sweet while it lasts.  If nothing else, playing 1/2-Genie Hero, and knowing that there was at least one good game to come out of crowd-funding, allowed me to end 2016 on a much-needed high note.

Positives:
+ Streamlines many of the series' more time-wasting mechanics.
+ Astounding character animations.
+ The Risky Boots campaign.

Negatives:
- Some combinations of upgrades break the game's balance.
- The backgrounds seem a little basic in comparison to the character sprites.
- The Risky Boots campaign as separate DLC.

Control: 5 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Design: 4 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Graphics: 4 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Sound: 5 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Value: 3 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
The Call: 85% (B+)

You might also like: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, DuckTales: RemasteredShovel Knight

Friday, December 1, 2017

Game Review: Mighty No. 9

As you may have noticed, I've taken a hiatus from the SDP over the past year.  I've kind of been focused on other projects, especially my other blog, the Sekai Ichi Japan travel blog.  But I've finally reached a point where I can put that on hold and return to this.  To herald my long-awaited comeback, I'll start off by reviewing a couple of games that came out just last year.  I've had these reviews in the oven for quite a while longer, but haven't found the inspiration to finish them until now.  Maybe I should have published these reviews when they were still relevant, but putting enough time behind me gives me the benefit of cooling down any passions that may influence my criticism for better or worse.  ...Sure, let's go with that.  Now with no further ado, I present to you...

Mighty No. 9
  • Publisher: Deep Silver 
  • Developer: Comcept / Inti Creates 
  • Release Date: 21 June 2016
  • Systems: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, XBox 360, XBox One, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: 2D Action (Platformer)
  • Players: 1 
  • Cost: US$20
Yup, almost three years since its debut announcement on Kickstarter, Mighty No. 9, the second coming of Mega Man in-all-but-name is upon us. And seeing as how I wrote an editorial on this game, in addition to funding it when it was on Kickstarter, I feel an obligation to review the finished product. I endorsed said project back then, but in retrospect I'm not sure why. In that very editorial, I even said I had gotten bored of the original Mega Man formula embraced by its spiritual successor. In fact, I'm actually more of a Sonic and Legend of Zelda kind of guy. (Which explains why I took to Mega Man Legends the way I did; it's basically Zelda with guns.) My expectations weren't the highest, but thankfully I managed to stay out of the drama concerning its repeated delays despite the inordinate amount of money thrown at it by its backers ("Beckers", if you will).

Mighty No. 9 is a jump-and-shoot platformer developed by Comcept and Keiji Inafune, the co-creator of Mega Man.  In other words, Mighty No. 9 is a jump-and-shoot platformer developed by Comcept and Keiji Inafune, the co-creator of Mega Man, or at least as close as it can be without the keys to the licence.  In a world where humans and robots live together, a mysterious event causes robots across the country to go haywire, including the Mighty Numbers 1 through 8, created by Dr. Light Dr. White. But some robots were unaffected, like our player character: the titular Mega Man Mighty No. 9, a.k.a. the not-so-titular Rock Beck. And faster than you can say "soy un perdedor", Beck and Dr. White are on the case to, respectively, restore the mad robots and get to the bottom of all this. In case you haven't figured it out now, the plot is exactly like any given Mega Man game, with the names changed around a bit.

Beck needs to dash into enemies to finish them off.
And so is the gameplay: Beck jumps among platforms, shoots enemy robots, and collects special weapons from defeated bosses. But even this formula gets shaken up, ever so slightly, by Beck's new ability: the dash. This move can be used with the press of a button and is unlimited in use, so if nothing else it is deeply incorporated into the game's design. Dashing is used not just for platforming, but also for attacking: shooting enemies enough turns them unstable, at which point you can dash to finish them off, and get a temporary stat buff in the process.  These boosts not all that noticeable however, and something like extra health or ammo would be much more appreciated.

Sometimes, it's not even worth the effort, especially if an enemy you've just stunned is hovering over a bottomless pit or other trap.  Try tp give it the ol' coup-de-grace, and there's a good prospect that you might mis-time your dash back to the starting platform, and fall to your doom.  But the thing is, you're pressured to do this anyway, since dash-killing baddies right after you disable them builds up a combo counter, which leads to extra points, which lead to... nothing in particular.  So much for that, then.  You could say this approach does help the gameplay stand out among the many other Mega Man titles, but when you get right down to it, is it just extra busy work, when we used to be able to just shoot targets into oblivion? Yes, yes it is. But who am I to complain about new mechanics? Lord knows we had enough Mega Man sequels to prove that making so many games without such a unique selling point isn't the way to go either.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Of course, getting through the stages themselves is only half of the battle; the other half is knowing -- I mean, fighting the bosses. Like in Mega Man, Mighty Numbers 1 through 8 yield their weapons when you defeat them, allowing you to exploit the weaknesses of other bosses with them. Once again, this give the player the challenge of figuring out which boss is weak to which weapon... except not, because you can have the game straight-out tell you what their weaknesses are!  But the thing is, every so often, you have to hit them with a dash to finalize the damage you've just dealt, and if you fail that, they heal that chunk of health you worked so hard to chip off! There are even a number of bosses who possess instant-kill attacks!  Speaking of, there is no reason why spikes still need to be an instant kill, as they are in this very game. To quote the Zero Punctuation review of (the admittedly superior) Shovel Knight:
"We've got bottomless pits for a perfectly functional, if slightly ambiguous, instant kill; we don't need spikes muscling in on their turf! Five minutes ago, a bloke the size of a pregnant bus jumped down and hit me with the metal windsurfing sail that he seems to think is a sword, and it didn't even take off a whole health point. Now I'm being splattered across four dimensions because my elbow brushed against the stucco ceiling. I'm a trifle miffed! I think it's only an instant kill because spikes were an instant kill in Mega Man, but it was just as unnecessary then, too."
That may be true of both games, but you know what Shovel Knight has that Mighty No. 9 doesn't? Infinite lives! Let me quiz you readers on this topic:

Q: Where did lives systems in video game come from?
A: From arcade games, to let the next person in line play (and subsequently, pay) as soon as possible.

Q: Why do console games have lives systems?
A: Because they were ported from arcade games.

Q: Ah, but what if the console game in question was not an arcade port? Why would it have a lives system then?
A: ...I got nothing.

Dashing and precision platforming don't mix, especially when insta-kill spikes or bottomless pits are involved.
See, if you must include a lives system in your game, don't make it mandatory; just include it as an option, like Arcade Mode in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. (Incidentally, why haven't they ever brought Arcade Mode back to CoD? Was their Special-Ops mission mode from Modern Warfare 2 just so revolutionary that they couldn't look back?) And sure, losing all your lives just forces you to restart the level in question, not the whole game, plus you can set your lives to as many as 10 right off the bat. But that's just putting patches on the problem instead of addressing the root cause.

But even if the game did offer infinite lives, there's one more problem which grinds my gears. Each time you die, the game docks you a penalty of 3,000 points. And by the game's standards, 3,000 is a lot of points. This matters because you get grades for your performance upon completing a level. And if you get killed enough that your score ends up at 0, all you get is a meager finishing bonus and a D rank. I guess the idea is that you get better at the stage so you can do it without dying even once, but getting that D the first time around does not leave a good impression of the game, and could very well discourage players from trying them again.

Let's change the subject to something which doesn't cause frustration. In comparison to the old Mega Man games, which couldn't afford a detailed story due to space constraints, Mighty No. 9 does a great job in building up its setting.  The boss characters all have some sort of utility purpose they could have been used for before turning evil, a concept which hasn't been explored since Mega Man 1.  The levels all take place within appropriately-themed industrial sites throughout the USA, plus a level set in the White House, of all places.  Then again, this same level has you chasing down a sniper in a long, looping corridor without checkpoints -- but with more insta-kill spikes, of course -- so they might as well not have bothered.

The limited character animations make most cutscenes feel unfinished.
World-building is one thing, but the graphics which bring that world to life fail to impress.  Sure, a game like this doesn't need too many visual gimmicks to work, but it's still well behind the times. On the one hand, animations like Beck's walk cycle are expressive and bouncy. On the other hand, the animation in cutscenes is considerably more limited, as characters don't move their mouths when they talk! Like, at all!  Even Mega Man Legends, a game that came out two decades ago, animated the character's mouths, and that was just with 2-D textures!  And yet despite it all, the game is somehow a bit poorly-optimised.  Maybe it's just on the PlayStation 3 version I played, but there are quite a few instances of slowdown and frame-skipping.  One such instance even made me miss a ledge and fall to the death!  It's these sort of thing which gives the impression of a game that's only half-baked, and make us wonder where the heck all that money we backed it with went.

In conclusion, Mighty No. 9 is basically this generation's Daikatana, for there are many coincidental similarities between the two games.  Both were developed by brand-new studios started by game designers with quite a bit of pedigree behind them.  Both were announced three years ahead of their eventual release, during which time their developments were plagued with accusations of mis-management amidst vast budgets, not to mention some insulting advertisements.  And when the actual games came out, their almost-admirable attempts at world-building were overshadowed by game mechanics which work against the player, graphics which seemed a whole generation behind the times, and were general disappointments at best.  Not to mention, they are both tangentially related to actually good games by developers who had their heads screwed on tighter.  For Daikatana, it was Deus Ex, by the "good" half of Ion Storm.  And for Mighty No. 9, that would be Azure Striker Gunvolt by Inti Creates, who coincidentally also did work on this game.  Perhaps I should review Gunvolt myself one day, but in the meantime, I think I've got the perfect tagline to describe this whole affair: "Keiji Inafune is about to make you his b!tch."

Suck it down, ladies and gentlemen.  But until next time, this is IchigoRyu.

You are the resistance.

Positives:
+ Promising world-building.
+ The bonus challenge missions.
+ Expressive characters and animations.

Negatives:
- The dash-to-kill mechanic is an unnecessary addition forced upon us.
- Relentlessly difficult, even without the lives system.
- Extremely basic graphics and sub-par optimisation.

Control: 3 spikes out of 5
Design: 1 spikes out of 5
Audiovisual: 2 spikes out of 5
Value: 3 spikes out of 5
The Call: 50% (D)

You might like instead: Azure Striker Gunvolt, Shovel Knight, Strider

Monday, November 7, 2016

Comic Book Review: Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics 
  • Writer: G. Willow Wilson 
  • Artists: Adrian Alphona, et. al. 
  • Editor: Sana Amanat 
  • Release: 05 February 2014 - 14 October 2015 
Call it crazy, but I'm not that familiar with American superhero comics. Yes, I'm well-acquainted with the sequential art form, and have even dabbled in it myself, but much of that experience comes from webcomics or Japanese manga. And I do have a working knowledge of the characters of that medium, but most of it comes from the other corners of their pop-culture exposure, especially their movies. Still, every so often a bit of news comes out of the comic-book sphere which captures my attention to some degree. For example, when I heard about the new Ms. Marvel series from 2014, I was intrigued, because this new interpretation of the character would represent a heroic role model for a people long marginalized in not just this medium, but society in macrocosm: people from Jersey City! Oh, and Muslims. Ms. Marvel is the first Muslim-American hero to come out of Marvel Comics' lineup. I guess I should have mentioned that first.

So yeah. This series stars a sixteen-year-old, Pakistani-American girl named Kamala Khan. (If you read her name without thinking of Captain Kirk's immortal scream from Star Trek II, you are stronger-willed than I. Even the series itself falls victim to it later on.) Well, on her way home from a bad party, she finds herself enveloped in a strange mist, sees a vision of Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America reciting Urdu poetry, and the next thing she knows, she has shapeshifting powers. First of all, a disclaimer: I am not making any of that up. Second, you may be wondering, as did I, how did this event come about? Surely it was a completely random occurrence, you might think. Well apparently, this mist was the product of something called a Terrigen bomb, which awoke various powers in a select few people. I'm guessing this happened in a different story, so a little extra knowledge on current events in the Marvel universe would not go amiss.

So enough about Kamala as a superhero, how is she as a Muslim character? See, here's the thing: if I told you, without any other context whatsoever, that someone at Marvel was creating a Muslim hero, odds are your impression of her would be that her appearance, or even her powers, would be an obvious, overly basic representation of her religious heritage.
For example. [1]  And that would not be farther from the truth. In fact, one of the things that struck me the most about Kamala, both in her civilian and hero personae, is that apart from when attending her local mosque, she never wears a headscarf. Now, as an outsider, I have my own preconceptions about Muslims. Not that they are all terrorists out to destroy the Western world, perish the thought. Heck, I'd go so far as to say that over 99% of Muslims are law-abiding citizens. But I still tend to instinctively identify them as, for lack of a better term, some kind of "Stop Having Fun" guys; I mean, they strictly adhere to certain rules which I may or may not view as reasonable. Speaking as an outsider, I'm not a fan of the hijab in principle. I wouldn't go yanking off the hijabs of women I pass walking by or anything, but I'd prefer them to stop and think about why they wear it. For what it's worth, both the writer (G. Willow Wilson) and editor (Sana Amanat) are Muslim women (either by birth or conversion), and also grew up in Jersey City to boot, so I have faith that they know what they're doing.

The situations Kamala deals with in her civilian life are actually quite universal.
Even so, the restrictions Kamala's parents try (and fail) to put on her have less to do with their religion, and are more so the concerns of parents trying to keep their child safe and out of trouble. The most important thing about building a character like this, is that they shouldn't be defined by only one trait (Islam, in this case). It's a complex issue, and there's no golden ratio to follow every time, but if I could personally give you a piece of advice: nobody likes a one-trick pony. [2]  Indeed, Kamala is no one-trick pony. She's a self-professed geek who enjoys playing not-World Of Warcraft, singing along with old Bollywood movies, and writing Avengers fan-fiction (Mind you, the Avengers are real people in her universe). She even has fangirl freak-outs when she meets other heroes like Wolverine, Spider-Man, Loki, and the original Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, in the flesh, as it were. She bristles against her strict parents, and sometimes endures bullying from her peers, but they all manage to see the good in each other in the end. She barely even wears a hijab; only when going to services at her local mosque, or on other special occasions. And the one moment I connected with her the most with had nothing to do with her religion.

Without spoiling too much (outside of spoiler tags, that is), the villain of the first arc has convinced a number of teens to submit themselves to his evil plan, namely to use their bodies as a clean energy source. Kamala manages to talk them out of it by convincing them that, despite the older generations branding them as useless, their talents can still be used to build a better world with them in it. What struck me about this passage is that the villain's logic parallels the way ISIL and other terror groups attempt to recruit young members, by making them think they're standing up for their brethren, when in fact they're just throwing their lives away, in some cases literally, all for killing their fellow man. And do you want to know the funny thing about all this? Not once is Islam even referred to in this case. It just goes to show the power comic books have, to use these more fantastical stories as allegories to real-life affairs, without coming across as forced. And then the villain, a reincarnation of Thomas Edison with a bird's head, barges in on a robot wearing a bowler hat, because comics are weird like that.

DISCLAIMER: I was not making up that robot-bowler-hat thing.
So, enough of the heavy stuff; let's get technical. Ms. Marvel has had numerous artists throughout its run, but most issues were drawn by Adrian Alphona. His style is... an acquired taste, shall I say, because it's kind of sketchy.  Literally, anyway.  That may bug some people and not others, so if I may make a more objective observation, I do like the numerous background jokes he throws in here and there. For example, Kamala can be seen in a few panels eating her preferred breakfast cereal called "GMO's" (a play on Cheerios and Genetically Modified Organisms, if you didn't get it). My personal favourite artist to have worked on Ms. Marvel is Takeshi Miyazawa from issues #13-15, whose style is far cleaner and more closely resemble true manga, but again, that's just my opinion.

I came in to Ms. Marvel expecting a different, more positive, portrayal of Muslims in America, and I got that all right, but so much more on top of it. I got somebody trying to find her own place in an unforgiving world, but rising up at the end of it all to stand up for my generation, as a Millenial. And while the ending of this 19-issue series wasn't quite satisfying, there is thankfully a second Ms. Marvel series, continuing to this day, picking up where the first one left off (as part of the franchise-wide "All-New, All-Different Marvel" quasi-reboot). This year I've started getting into western superhero comics, and I couldn't ask for a better jumping-on point than Ms. Marvel. Thank you, Kamala Khan, for teaching me how to love again.

Positives:
+ Kamala Khan is a positive role model for... just about everyone.
+ Well-written characters, whether they represent minorities or not.
+ Plenty of humourous background details.

Negatives:
- The first series sort of ends on a whimper.
- Adrian Alphona's art style is a bit sketchy.

Dialogue: 5 robot bowler hats out of 5
Plot: 4 robot bowler hats out of 5
Characters: 5 robot bowler hats out of 5
Artwork: 4 robot bowler hats out of 5
The Call: 90% (A-)


Furthermore, if I may be allowed to editorialise for a bit: Ms. Marvel, both the series and the character herself, are perfect reasons why Donald Trump should not be elected President of the United States. Although Kamala herself was born in Jersey City, her parents emigrated from Pakistan before she was born. If a president like Trump were calling the shots at the time, Kamala's parents would never have made it to America, and her story would not even have the chance to have happened. So that's two strikes against his racist isolation doctrine. Whereas the world according to Trump collectively sorts people into preordained and assumed roles, I, on the other hand, personally believe that everybody in this world has the potential to contribute to their society. This also ties into what was the most emotionally engaging moment I read in the series thus far: the bit where Ms. Marvel encouraged all those teenagers not to throw their lives away, and contribute to a better society in their own ways. As the great philosopher Bobby Nunn once said, "Don't knock it until you try it".

I'm IchigoRyu, and I approve this message.

You are the resistance.
[1] Wilstein, Matt. "Twitter Goes After Conan O'Brien for 'Racist' Muslim Female Superhero Joke". Mediaite, 9 November 2013. http://www.mediaite.com/online/twitter-goes-after-conan-obrien-for-racist-muslim-female-superhero-joke/

[2] MrEnter. "Avoiding Unfortunate Implications: The Characters". deviantART, 10 April 2016. http://mrenter.deviantart.com/art/Avoiding-Unfortunate-Implications-The-Characters-602166339

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Top Ten: Best Sonic the Hedgehog Games (Revisited)


Previously on the SDP, I updated my list of the worst Sonic the Hedgehog games. Despite declaring my love for the Sonic franchise, I did the list anyway because a good fan should not only celebrate the good parts of their fandom, but accept the bad that comes with it. But I wouldn't have been a fan in the first place if it didn't include something providing actual entertainment value, and I'm proud to say that there are enough good Sonic titles to fill yet another top-eleven list. Why top eleven? Because when you’re as big a fan as I am, you’ve got to go one step beyond. So, let’s not waste any time -- Sonic would’ve wanted it that way -- and count down the top eleven best Sonic the Hedgehog games!


11) Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II
Platforms: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Developer: Sonic Team / Dimps
Release: 2012

Look, how many times do I have to tell you people? I. Liked. Sonic. 4. I don't care what you think about the physics. After all the feature cruft that previous games were stuffed with, I appreciate the back-to-basics approach that Sonic Team and Dimps took with these downloadable-only titles. Sonic 4 goes back to square one, featuring only the abilities from the first and second games. (And the Homing Attack, but that doesn't count. I actually like using it.)  Even so, of the two episodes, I'm putting the second one on this list. In addition to the Chaos Emeralds, each act packs three Red Rings for you to find, and the inclusion of Tails means the addition of two-player support, both local and online. And regardless of whether you thought the physics changes brought on by Episode II made it better, it's comforting to know that Sega at least listens to the opinions of its fans. Capcom, when will you ever be this cool?


10) Sonic the Hedgehog
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 1991

Of course I’ve got to represent the one that started it all. The first Sonic the Hedgehog game on the Sega Genesis was a unique and well-executed platformer that still holds up to this day. Creativity is omnipresent in the level designs, with trappings like loops and springs which, by my knowledge, would've been impossible to program on anything that came before the Genesis. Still, I'd be lying if I said this isn’t an acquired taste for modern gamers, what with familiar trappings like Spin Dash from Sonic 2 not having been included yet. And say what you want about the role speed should play in the newer games, but some of the levels here, such as the Marble and Labyrinth Zones, don’t feel like they belong in a Sonic game. But may that still not detract from the fact that it laid down the groundwork for even better things to come.


9) Sonic Triple Trouble
Platform: Sega Game Gear
Developer: Aspect
Release: 1994

I'll admit, I didn't have a Sega Genesis growing up, but I did have a Game Gear, and it was the handheld Sonic games for that platform which gave me the bulk of my experience with it. And while my personal favourite was 1993's Sonic Chaos, I'll give credit to its follow-up, Sonic Triple Trouble, for being better technically. The graphics are the most detailed I’ve seen on any 8-bit console, and the gameplay of both Sonic and Tails has been fleshed out, with many abilities and power-ups for both. This portable Sonic game can still stand up to its bigger brothers on the Genesis. Previously reviewed here.


8) Sonic CD
Platform: Sega CD
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 1993

If there's any reason to own a Sega CD, this might be it. Sonic CD finds ways to wow us in ways the Genesis could only dream of, like the set of visually-stunning levels. But with Sonic's new time-travel abilities, past and future versions of each act are also available for you to explore! Even without those alternate level versions, this is a well-built action game, the likes of which were hard to come by on the Sega CD. So why isn't it higher on this list? The execution of the time-travel system leaves a bit to be desired, as the shifting of platforms and such between time periods creates some awkward level layouts, and the method of time-travel itself is inconvenient. Plus, in order to get the good ending, you have to hunt down the Badnik generators in each of the Past levels. Or, you could just do the Special Stages and collect the Chaos Emeralds -- I mean, Time Stones. As such, perhaps its relative obscurity may have magnified its standing in fans' eyes, but don't get me wrong, it's an incredibly solid adventure. With its recent ports on Steam, PSN, XBox Live, and iOS, you have even fewer reasons to pass it by. And one less reason to waste your money on a Sega CD.


7) Sonic & Knuckles
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Sonic Team / Sega Technical Institute
Release: 1994

The character Knuckles the Echidna was introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, which I will get to eventually, but later that year he was also given his own game: Sonic & Knuckles, where you can play as, well, Sonic or Knuckles. Sonic plays just as you’d expect, whereas Knuckles has his own unique abilities, namely gliding, wall-climbing, and breaking walls to discover areas unreachable by Sonic. Knuckles is pretty cool to play as, and if you want more of him, the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge can open up and lock-on to Sonic 2 or 3, so you can play as him in those games. Now, this game is a little bit short on its own, and some of the levels can drag on a bit too long -- especially Sandopolis Act 2 -- but it’s worth it to give Knuckles a try.


6) Sonic Rush
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Sonic Team / Dimps
Release: 2005

While Sonic had little luck on the console front during the 2000s, the handheld scene was much kinder to the blue blur. Hot on the heels of the Sonic Advance trilogy, Sonic Team and Dimps teamed up once again to bring us Sonic Rush for the DS. The playable characters this time around are Sonic and newcomer Blaze the Cat, the bad@$$ defender of an alternate universe. As both have their own sets of levels for each of the Zones, there are essentially two games in one here. Sonic and Blaze play the same as each other, and in fact both have bestowed upon them a new boost ability. Fast, damaging to enemies, and limited by a refillable meter, this is a natural addition to the series' formula on par with the Spin Dash from Sonic 2.


5) Sonic Advance 3
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Sonic Team / Dimps
Release: 2004

Marking Sonic's debut on a non-Sega platform, the Sonic Advance trilogy was consistently solid, but I'm picking the third game as the best of the bunch. Perhaps to tie-in with Sonic Heroes -- which I almost put on this list, if you can believe it -- Sonic Advance 3 not only lets you play as one of five characters, but you also get to select a partner character who tags along behind your first choice. And don't worry, they're not tethered to you like in Knuckles Chaotix. The team you choose determines the special abilities at your disposal; for example, Sonic will let you do a speed boost, and Tails will toss you up to higher platforms. This addition makes for an optional yet welcome bit of depth that doesn’t interfere with the already solid platforming, but improves upon it.


4) Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Sonic Team / Sega Technical Institute
Release: 1994

Sonic 3 was so big, it couldn’t even fit in one game! Literally, the production costs got to the point where Sega had to put the other half of their content in  Sonic & Knuckles. But even on its own, Sonic 3 is a meaty chunk of an adventure. First of all, it builds off the already stellar Sonic 2 with new abilities like Tails’s flight powers, and three flavours of elemental shields. The sprite artwork and effects are even more detailed, and the Special Stages, while tricky, are sure to wow. And it also has a save feature, but on its own, you might not see why.Sonic 3 only contains 12 levels, versus 18 for the first game, although they do take longer to complete. But when you plug Sonic 3 into the lock-in bay on Sonic & Knuckles, you get to play both games back-to-back for an epic quest.


3) Sonic Generations
Platforms: PlayStation 3 and XBox 360
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2011

After the unqualified disaster was Sonic the Hedgehog's 15th anniversary, I am pleased to report that his 20th birthday was far more fulfilling, thanks to Sonic Generations. This game serves more or less as a greatest-hits version of the franchise, as it features original levels set in zones taken from across the Genesis, Dreamcast, and modern eras. Whilst some fans would potentially balk at the mere inclusion of settings from the likes of Sonic '06, it's not like they copied everything about those games. And quite frankly, their choice of Crisis City makes for an awesome level. Each has one act each for Classic Sonic, a completely 2D affair with all the abilities from Sonic 2, and one for Modern Sonic, alternating between 2D and 3D segments, much as in Sonic Unleashed and Colors. It seems short at first, but each zone also boasts a set of shorter challenges really boosting the replay value for those who stick around for it. Sonic Generations proves you can have both fanservice and a well-made product.



2) Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Sonic Team / Sega Technical Institute
Release: 1992

This is it - the video game which defined the Sega Genesis for me in the few opportunities I could play one when I was a lad. And judging by its status as one of the best-selling Genesis titles of all time, selling around 6 million units worldwide (second only to the first Sonic, with 15 million copies), I'm not alone. The level layouts are more inventive than in the first game, and are better-suited to Sonic’s abilities, yet they’re not overly long like in Sonic 3 or Sonic & Knuckles. Too bad things start dulling out by the time you hit Metropolis Zone. But barring that sludgy dreck of a world, the settings are memorable and fun, Masato Nakamura's music is even better, and Sonic's new standing Spin Dash makes getting up those pesky slopes a breeze. Plus, didn't you ever think that the pseudo-3D Special Stages, where you collected rings in a twisting half-pipe, were the coolest thing ever? Well, at least until Tails keeps hitting those bombs and losing your rings. Still, six million people can’t be wrong.

Before I wrap up this list, here are some honourable mentions.

Sonic Chaos for Game Gear. Among the Game Gear titles, I gave Triple Trouble the nod for its attention to detail, but its predecessor, Sonic Chaos, exhibits much of the good stuff that its sequel would build upon. You can play as Sonic or Tails, who have their own abilities and differences in difficulties. Sonic Chaos marked the point where the Game Gear Sonics became more than just ports of the Genesis games and evolved into their own thing. Previously reviewed here.

Sonic Heroes for Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, and XBox. Unlike the Adventure games, Heroes sticks to linear 3-D platforming, but with a twist. You control a team of three characters at once, and you can switch between them on the fly, to take advantage of their specific abilities. This approach allows Sonic Team to leverage the vast cast of characters their franchise has built up over the years, without having them interfere with the Sonic gameplay model.

Sonic Mega Collection Plus for PlayStation 2 and XBox. I kept compilations off of this list because, by virtue of including so many games already on the list, they’d win by default. But my favourite of the Sonic compilation games produced thus far has to be this one. Seven Genesis games, plus six from the Game Gear, plus unlockable non-Sonic games, plus a digital issue of the Sonic comic. If you can find a copy, Mega Collection Plus is a perfect entry point to the Sonic franchise.

Sonic Unleashed for PlayStation 3, XBox 360, and Wii. This was the series' first major change in gameplay mechanics since Sonic Adventure, and it made a world of a difference. The 3D sections have much better control and design, the 2D segments keep things fresh, and even the Werehog stages are fun in a "like God of War but" kind of way.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I for PlayStation 3, XBox 360, and Wii. Because [verb] you, that’s why. Previously reviewed here. And here.

And now...


1) Sonic Colors
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2010

As if I haven't made it clear by now, Sonic has gone about most of the 2000s as if in some sort of drugged-up stupor, the likes of which would shame Lindsay Lohan. But late in the decade, I like to think he got some rehab from an unlikely source -- his old rival, Nintendo's Mario. It took a little while after they showed up together in games like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but the Jumpman's influence finally showed through in 2010's Sonic Colors. First and foremost is the game's new key mechanic. Rather a gimmick that creates an entirely separate gameplay experience, like what Adventure and Unleashed thrust upon us, this game's use of power-ups called Wisps is well-integrated into one gameplay format. These colour-coded aliens can be used to transform Sonic into a laser beam, a drill, a sticky buzz-saw, a rocket, and more. While there are occasions where the use of Wisps is mandatory to continue, most of the time they're just tools to reach bonus collectibles with, so at least they're not shoving this new concept in our faces.

In lieu of relying on HD visuals, something the Wii is incapable of, Colors's worlds amaze through all the colourful and original sights they packed in -- this is set in a space-bourne amusement park, after all. You thought you've seen enough underwater and Asian-themed levels to last you a lifetime? Well, imagine both themes smashed into one. By Sonic standards, Sonic Colors is a massive game, with seven zones and six acts in each. Apart from trying to achieve high grades, diligent players can collect the five Red Rings in each zone and unlock Special Stages. Yeah, you could say the physics engine is still a little too tight, if you happened to not like Sonic 4: Episode I so much. But when counting all its good parts, I would compare Sonic Colors to the likes of Super Mario World on the SNES, which -- for the record -- is one of the best video games I've ever played. That I can once again make that kind of comparison proves once and for all that Sonic the Hedgehog is back and better than ever. Mind you, I made that statement before Sonic Boom came out, but still: Sonic Team, thank you for teaching me how to love again.

That’s it for my countdowns, so I’d like to end by saying: Happy anniversary, Sonic the Hedgehog! If you can keep giving is good games for another 25 years, I’ll be a happy camper. And if we get more bad games instead, hey, at least I’ll have enough material for another countdown!


This is IchigoRyu.

You are the resistance.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Top Ten: Worst Sonic the Hedgehog Games (Revisited)


With the recent anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, whose first game was delivered unto us in June of 1991, I've decided to finally relaunch my video series by adapting my list of the franchise's top ten worst games, previously written and posted in 2012. But in re-writing the script for that episode, I made so many changes and additions that I decided to post a new article for the new edition of my list, whilst keeping the older version intact for posterity. In fact, I even managed to add an extra slot to this list, making it a top-eleven. Why top eleven? Because when you're as big a fan as I am, you’ve got to go one step beyond. So, let's not waste any time! Sonic would've wanted it this way. Here are the new top eleven worst Sonic the Hedgehog games!

11) Sonic 3D Blast
Platforms: Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Release: 1996

Looking back, it's amazing how little it takes to impress you as a kid. Playing this game in toy stores was a wow-inducing experience for me, since this was the first Sonic the Hedgehog game presented in 3D! ...Sort of. Really, it was just 3D models pre-rendered as 2D sprites a la Donkey Kong Country, which is a look that hasn’t aged all that well if I say so myself. But the gameplay’s still good, right? ...Not exactly. This isn’t one of those games where you can just rush to the level exit. No, you have to find and kill five enemy robots in each section, free the Flickies within, and bring them to the goal. But the controls are still good, right? Eh, no. Sonic in this game has a floaty feel to his movements which throws all attempts at precision out the window. But at least the soundtrack’s still good, right? ...Actually, yes. In fact, this happens to be among my favourite Sonic soundtracks, because I’m weird like that.

...Aww yeah. I wish I could stick around jamming to this, but I really should go on.

10) Sonic and the Black Knight
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2009

Before Sonic Team got their act together (pun?) with the one-two punch of Sonic 4: Episode I and Sonic Colors, they were still in the business of tacking lame ideas onto their products. As evidence to that statement, enter Sonic and the Black Knight, the second entry in the Sonic Storybook spin-off series.  (I love alliteration.)  The Storybook series was a duology of Wii titles, the other being Sonic and the Secret Rings, which transplanted the Sonic universe into different pieces of world mythology. In the case of Black Knight, that would be the mythos of King Arthur and Camelot. Secret Rings was kind of okay, but Black Knight... not so much. See, Sonic uses a sword -- a talking sword -- no less. I wouldn't mind so much, but the combat is stop-and-go, with every swing of your sword killing Sonic’s momentum, and detection of your Wii Remote waggles to swing the darn thing are iffy at best. And some of the missions are completely dumb, too. There are some moments where you have to give rings to townspeople... by way of quick-time events. Why can’t I just give them the danged rings? What were they thinking? Now, I honestly think the concept of this universe was an interesting one with lots of potential, but it's the sluggish controls and short campaign that do this game in -- not its other crazy ideas.

9) Sonic Adventure 2
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2001

Oh, I’m not gonna make any friends for this one. But that’s not why I’m here. This entry has some polarizing opinions, from people who either strongly love it, or strongly hate it. And I... don’t like Sonic Adventure 2. For a time, every new Sonic game seemed to take one step forward, and two steps back. Take Sonic Adventure for example.  It featured six gameplay types, some of which had nothing to do with our concept of a Sonic game and/or just weren't very fun.  Adventure 2, meanwhile, pares them down to three types, and you don’t have to waste time in a hub world to get from level to level. But that just means you have to get through those different modes in order to get to the next chapter. And somehow they’re implemented even worse! Also, the voice-acting is lame, cutscene animation is wonky, and the story is... kind of dumb, too. There are some good bits, namely the Sonic and Shadow levels, but seriously, don’t let them blind you to the rest of the game’s problems.


8) Shadow the Hedgehog
Platforms: Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, and XBox
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2005

A Sonic spinoff that has the use of guns, mild profanities, and vehicles, all based on the broken Sonic Adventure engine. This isn't going to end well. If there were any good concepts to be taken from this clusterfail, it would be the different missions you can undertake to influence your path throughout the story. But they had to ruin that, too: you also build up separate Hero and Dark scores based on which enemies you take out, and if you clear a mission for one side, your score for the other side gets subtracted from your total. Kinda hard to focus on that when everyone's gunning for you. The game has ten possible endings, but if you want to go for a different one, you’ll have to start a whole new game. Sure, there are only six possible levels in each play-through, but that means you’ll have to do the first stage ten times to get them all. What were they thinking? Supposedly the GameCube version is less awful in how well it runs, but it’s not much help against such a poorly-designed, poorly-conceived mess.

7) Sonic Labyrinth
Platform: Sega Game Gear.
Developer: Minato Giken
Release: 1995

Does everybody have a mental picture of Sonic 3D Blast? Good, now imagine that on the Game Gear... only Sonic can't run or jump. I just broke you, eh? Because of a contrivance -- I mean, because of the game’s story, Sonic went and had his shoes replaced with a pair of shoes that slow him down. Sonic still gets to use his spin dash, but that just means if you want any decent mobility to scoot around the stages, you'll have to deal with an unintuitive mechanic and all the infuriating sound effects that go along with it. Even without those limitations, navigating the game’s labyrinths, shall I say, is still a chore. Not only do parts of each map look the same, but later levels rely so heavily on warp doors and one-way moving platforms that they’ll make your head spin! As bad as you thought 3D Blast was, Labyrinth proves things could always be worse. And case in point, this isn’t the only Game Gear port on this list. Previously reviewed here.

6) Knuckles Chaotix
Platform: Sega 32X
Developer: Sega
Release: 1995

Well, no wonder the 32X bombed! I mean, apart from its poor timing of going on sale when consumers were already holding out for the Saturn, PlayStation, or Nintendo 64. The problem with this expansion console was that it never got a Sonic title! Well, it did, kind of, but it was still a torrent of poor ideas. Knuckles Chaotix stars not Sonic, but Knuckles the Echidna from Sonic 3, joined by the Chaotix, a cast of generally uninteresting supporting characters. Except maybe Espio the ninja chameleon. Because... ninja. But you'll have to deal with them, as during gameplay, both characters you choose are linked by an elastic "ring tether" at all times. Having this thrust upon you, combined with the uncooperative AI of your partner, leads to some unpredictable physics, and at worst case renders precision platforming nigh impossible. And I’m talking about in commonplace tasks, as in... running up a short quarterpipe. As an intended showcase for the 32X's abilities, Knuckles Chaotix is visually all up-in-your-face with fluorescent bright colours and zooming effects, but without fun gameplay backing it up, it falls flat on its face.

5) Sonic R
Platform: Sega Saturn
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Release: 1997

Speaking of failed Sega consoles, the Saturn was another infamous Sega flop which was also under-represented by the Blue Blur. The only original* Sonic game on the Saturn was Sonic R, which was not a traditional platformer but a racing game. Actually, since most of the characters run on foot, Sonic R is more of a cross between a platformer and a racer, so once again, there are some good ideas to be had. But, once again, all hopes of entertainment are dashed by the touchy controls which, I have to say, may be the worst controls I’ve ever had to deal with in any video game ever. I ended up discovering shortcuts completely by accident! Not even the 3D Pad, with its analog stick, makes any big difference in improving those controls. And the soundtrack, with its high-energy house music and inane, bubble-gummy lyrics, is all kinds of cheese. But little did we know, Sonic R served as a warning for the problems that would plague this series for a decade to come.

*NB: The only other Sonic titles for the Saturn were Sonic Jam, a compilation of the original Genesis trilogy, and a port of Sonic 3D Blast. You see what I mean when I called the Saturn a flop?

4) Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
Platform: Wii U
Developer: Big Red Button
Release: 2014

Okay, I honestly haven’t played this one, because I don’t own a Wii U. And depending on how Nintendo’s next console turns out, I might not ever. But seriously, do I need to? Sonic Boom's failings have been well-documented all over the Internet! The game is riddled with frame rate drops and collision glitches, the platforming and combat are dull and boast few innovations, and the hub worlds are so barren, they make the ones in Sonic '06 look teeming with life. I will say that I, for one, like the character redesigns. Although if that’s the case, why not just stick to the Sonic Boom cartoon? I might as well… I’m just happy to watch any show whose sense of humour isn't just butts.

Meh, good enough.


3) Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2006

As if it wasn't enough that Sega had to ruin Sonic's 15th anniversary with that other infamous reboot, and believe me, I’ll get to that one in short order, they also dumped upon us Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis, a remake of the original 1991 title for the Game Boy Advance. The low frame-rate does an incredible disservice to the GBA's potential, the chintzy sound quality does an incredible disservice to Masato Nakamura's incredible compositions, and the physics glitches do an incredible disservice to everyone else. I mean, yeah, you can play with the Spin Dash from Sonic 2, but that’s like tying a fancy ribbon on a bag of dog doo.  Of course, we don't have to worry about that anymore because there are much, much better ports of the game available, including the one for iPhone and Android which not only run perfectly, but you can also play with the Spin Dash, plus you can unlock Tails and Knuckles, plus you can save your game, plus it's got acheivements, PLUS IT'S ONLY 99 CENTS -- seriously, go out to your favourite app store, buy that game, and leave the GBA one in the dust!!

2) Sonic Spinball
Platform: Game Gear
Developer: Polygames / Sega interActive
Release: 1994

Have you ever played a pinball video game and stressed out about trying to hit specific targets, even though you're using a control mechanism based partly on luck? Either that or I need to practise harder... This was the case for Sonic Spinball, a Sonic spin-off made in 1993 for the Genesis. And while it fell victim to this inherent design pitfall, it was otherwise playable. The same cannot be said about its Game Gear port, which suffers from muddled, unresponsive controls, and a broken physics engine. Sometimes Sonic will stick along walls when it seems he should just bounce off them, and sometimes he phases right through objects. And that's just the pinball segments! On the rare occasions where you must traverse on foot, such as the mandatory bonus stages, these problems are exacerbated to the umpteenth degree. If you absolutely have to satisfy your pinball fix, just stick to the real thing. And I’m not talking about the Genesis port, I mean a real pinball machine. Previously reviewed here.

Before number one, I’d like to shout out a few honourable mentions. ..."Honourable" in the sense that they didn’t suck enough to make the list proper. So let’s have at it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for Game Gear. It’s not within striking distance of its big brother on the Genesis, but it’s alright… except for the bosses, which are all kinds of unfair. Especially the first one. Oh, and if you don’t find all the Chaos Emeralds, you can’t even play the last zone. Because [verb] you, that’s why. Previously reviewed here.

Sonic Blast for Game Gear. You get to play as Sonic or Knuckles in this one, which is cool, but ugly art style, poor sense of speed, and overly precise hit detection make this the worst Sonic platformer on the Game Gear. Previously reviewed here.

Sonic Adventure for Dreamcast. This game introduced so many problems that plagued the franchise for years to come -- new characters with play styles that have nothing to do with the idea of Sonic, annoying voice-acting, awkward animation, and a control engine ill-suited to 3D platforming -- but for this game, they were just minor enough that I gave it a pass.  (Plus, I ran out of room on this list.)

Sonic Free Riders for XBox 360. This is another one I haven’t played because I don’t own an XBox 360, let alone a Kinect. But because of the technology of the Kinect, I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt. Although, if my experience with the PlayStation 2’s EyeToy is anything to go by, I’m not expecting much.

Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for Nintendo 3DS. Like its companion game on the Wii U, the 3DS Sonic Boom doesn't have a great sense of speed, plus all the backtracking and collecting you have to do to unlock new levels makes this even worse. But unlike Rise of Lyric, it’s still kind of, what’s the word I’m looking for... oh yeah, competent.

And now... You might already know what’s coming up, and let me tell you, I didn't want to put this at number one. You see, going after easy targets isn't my style. I would have loved to surprise you with something like Spinball on the Game Gear, or that Sonic GBA remake. But no, this one offended my sensibilities like nothing else on this list could. Let’s address the elephant in the room and find out why.


1) SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Platforms: XBox 360, PlayStation 3
Developer: Sonic Team
Release: 2006

Enough has been said about this title already, is it not so? But no, I have decided that this attempted reboot deserves its place as the best of the worst Sonic has to offer. It’s not the innumerable glitches and uncooperative camera. It’s not the unendearing character models and animations, like Dr. Eggman with full human proportions. Scream and run. It’s not the unforgivably inefficient loading times. It’s the way all those problems come together that prove Sonic Team have learned nothing from the mistakes made since Sonic Adventure. And all those underlying problems, combined with Sonic Team’s insistence on slapping new unwanted mechanics on top, is very North Korean of Sonic Team. And knowing what I do about North Korea, that is a very, very strong insult. Previously reviewed here.

So after witnessing the worst Sonic has to offer, I feel I should restore the balance. To that effect, join me next time when I count down the top eleven best Sonic the Hedgehog games. But until then, this is Kevin, and you are the resistance.