Saturday, 1 June 2019

Virtua Sonic #2: Rough Virtua Life


Whenever we talk about Sonic, here on the Saturn Junkyard, I get the feeling that, perhaps, we have become a bit disconnected with the public. This shouldn’t be such a big thing, but at the same time, there are some very good reasons why Saturn and Sonic have a very shaky relationship at best. The mere fact that it is our favorite system goes to show a lot, because anyone who loves Sega normally loves the Blue Blur. However, with 2 stink bomb ports that make the bottom 20 lists on a regular basis, it’s understandable.



Note that I am not counting Sonic Jam as a Saturn port. Yes, Jam had its place on the system because it brought a wonderful bunch of Sega games you guys will remember to the greatest system ever! Not only that, but it did it very well! That port of Sonic the Hedgehog from the Dreamcast was so over stuffed with other games that it couldn't possibly be anything short of awful. This is the Sonic Quartet of great games. Should I count Sonic and Knuckles as an actual game? Probably not, but I'm going to anyway. To tell an old secret, my favorite Sonic game has always been the game packaged with my first Sega Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog 2. With the first three games and the expansion pack included in this one disc, it is most certainly worth adding to your collection. It beats the alternative by far...

Sonic R sported mediocre graphics, terrible controls, questionable map decisions, game-breaking glitches, floundering frame rates and just all around subpar gameplay, especially when it comes to some of the difficulty spikes. Sounds terrible, right? Well, truth is, it kind of was. However, there was a fanbase behind this game that fully admitted its flaws but still would not give it up. 


Apart from its flaws, one part that it excels in is the music. Pay attention to whom you mention that music to, because they will break down DDR style and start singing to a beat in their heads. The gameplay is awful, but it’s very addictive once you find your own way around the bad controls. The frame rates get back here and there, but after you’ve numbed your brain to the point of not caring, you come to expect it.

The only real hardship of Sonic Racing is collecting all of the chaos emeralds and the unlockable characters. These unlockables are a staple of the Sonic franchise for many reasons, as they not only feature Metal Sonic, Metal Knuckles and Super Sonic, but also a very strange doll of tails. It looks like nothing more than a floating plush toy with an antenna on top. It’s so creepy, it’s amazing. Even when it floats above water, though, it’s not fast enough to really win any races unless you really cut some serious, glitchy corners.



Anyway! With five courses to go through and some very fun extra gameplay, this Sonic rendition is actually one to at least give a try. That’s much more than I can say for the other Sonic game in the library though…

Sonic 3D Blast is well known throughout fans of the old Sega Library (makes me think we play games on tomes and scrolls while we light the screen with torches) as one of the worst ideas for Sonic at the time. While there have been several other, much worse ideas, this one stood out because of the route they took with it.

This was in a period where 3D was glowing in all of its glory, and the same year it was released was the same year the Sega Saturn was released in America. The term 2.5D has been thrown around in the gaming community, and even that sounds generous. The isometric angle with which the game was made slows the pace down to an absolute crawl. The game is a boring, miserable experience, and worst of all, it was slow. 



The Gamegear version was obviously riddled with problems (but, then again, so was the Gamegear), the Genesis version was only slightly better and the Saturn port fixed some of the problems they had, but there’s always the depth perception problem! If you don’t know what depth perception is, pretty much how your two eyes perceive the space in front of you and measure it out for you so that you can know where to move. It’s simple physio/anatomy sciencey mumbo jumbo crap! Sonic 3D Blast does not care what kind of depth perception you have in your arsenal. They have their platforms laid out the way they want, at the angle they want, and how you jump on top of them is your problem, not theirs!

That one problem with the depth perception screws up your running, your jumping on platforms, and jumping on enemies. So now you’re missing targets, falling off high tops and getting run over by little critters. If you hadn’t gathered, it more or less screws up a lot of the game.



This is a real shame, because otherwise, the colors are bright and cheery, the graphics look crisp and clean in the Saturn port and it’s obvious the devs put a lot more into this version. However, you can’t patch together a game with such an enormous flaw as to screw up every part of the gameplay in some way. The mere fact that this was the first representation of Sonic for the Saturn in the US is an abysmal thought.

It was not all bad, but let’s face it, Sonic was severely shafted on this deal. Now, for the want of a happy ending, there is a nice big silver lining all over it! You see, the Sega Saturn did not maintain its greatness all its own. A hero is only a good as his buddy sometimes, and where the Saturn fell short, the Dreamcast picked up the slack. So Sonic still got a pretty decent send off, all things considered, from the Sega consoles. We can be grateful for that. Drink Virtua Water!

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