Review by Eep386

"Where the franchise first jumped the shark - in glorious "3D""

Hello fellow old-school gamers, this is my first (and hopefully not last ;) review. As you all know, the game I'm reviewing is Sonic 3D Blast, which in Europe goes under the name of 3D Flicky's Island. To jump on the mid-90's 3D bandwagon and kick-start their then-successful blue mascot's (ultimately disastrous) career in the third dimension, Sega hired European developer Traveller's Tales to design the game and give it its "Donkey Kong Country"-esque 3D-prerendered visuals.

Blah blah blah... let's get onto the review already!

Story: 2.5 / 10

I'm sure that by now virtually everyone who's ever owned a Genesis knows what Sonic 3D Blast is about, so I won't bore you with the details regarding the typical retread Sonic story. Suffice to say, it's just another one of Robotnik's half-arsed schemes of world domination, involving roboticizing animals and finding Chaos emeralds.

Gameplay: 5.5 / 10

This is 3D Blast's biggest shortcoming. The game was obviously designed to cash in on the "3D-does-everything" fad that began sometime in the early-mid 90's, and it bears the worst scar of that awful fad: namely, ill-conceived, clunky and all-around frustrating gameplay. Never mind that the Sonic franchise was, at the time, all about speed and streamlined gameplay. In this game, the developers (assumedly in the misguided sense of "trying something new") decided to throw elements from the old arcade game Flicky into the mix, meaning that, in a shocking and jarring anathema to the serie's namesake, you can't just blaze through the game with the trademark Sonic speed - oh no, now you must rescue dopey little Flickies, who are usually less than interested in following and cooperating with you.

Oh, those damned Flickies. They flee and scatter whenever anything deleterious touches them, and when that happens you have to drop everything you're doing just to go and save their worthless feathered [insert profane insult here]. It wouldn't be so bad if they'd at least stay in the same general area - oh no, these little fluorescent-colored hell-spawns just love to scatter like frightened sheep into random and often dangerous areas, which makes for countless cheap hits, lost rings and curses.

Once you manage to collect enough rings (you'll need at least 50), you can stop by Tails or Knuckles, who'll take your rings and teleport you to a Special Stage. They are a little like the special stages featured in Jazz Jackrabbit, only a lot easier (if you can even imagine that). Predictably, collect as many rings as required (you'll easily rack up 2-3x as many as you need) and you'll get a Chaos Emerald. W00t! You know how this goes.

So, in a nutshell: From the occasionally-fidgety controls (more on that in a bit) to the almost total lack of depth perception to the insidiously-annoying task of keeping those damned Flickies from running all over the place, 3D Blast's gameplay can quickly turn into a chore for all but the most patient of gamers and die-hard Sonic fans. Even when it was new, there wasn't much of anything new this game did for the realm of gameplay.

Controls: 6.77 / 10

Most of this game's initial difficulty comes from mastering the controls, particularly trying to keeping Sonic and his (idiotic and all-too-eager-to-bolt-at-the-slightest-disturbance) bird friends staying on course. Sometimes Sonic turns way too quickly, making navigating tricky areas quite annoying and difficult. Forget trying to jump on enemies to kill them, it's generally better to roll or spin-dash into them from afar. It takes a fairly light and deliberate touch on the D-Pad to keep from veering into oblivion - which should NOT be necessary in a Sonic game, I might add.

Graphics: 9.85 / 10

Argh... onto the better parts of this game. 3D Blast's visuals really are helluva impressive given the platform's limitations, being chock full of liquid-smooth animations and lots of bright, vibrant color. The level of detail in some areas is impressive, such as the giant mammoth skeletons buried in deep layers of snow in Diamond Dust Zone. It's stuff like this that makes you wonder what else the Genesis's oft-maligned video chip is capable of. There is some moderate grain when it's played on an emulator (unless the TV filter is active), but on a television it's a bit less noticeable thanks to the Genesis chip's semi-blurry NTSC output blending two adjacent pixels together to provide smoother shading.

Unfortunately, not everything is all hunky-dory, as some of the character models have smooth but still rather uninspired animations. The robots, aside from their now 3D-prerendered look, aren't particularly imaginative in design. The special stages look nice but somehow appear more dated than the rest of the game looks. Also, the isometric gridlines on the floor are a throwback from the 80's.

Sound: 8.85 / 10 (...for those not into chiptune music: 6.85 / 10)

The music is quite nice if you're into upbeat chiptune-style music. If you ask me, it has a *very* slight Lemmings-ish touch to it, which I personally don't mind, though it may not agree with all tastes. Some tracks are drop-down gorgeous, such as Diamond Dust Act 1. However, it can get unexpectedly downbeat and somber at times, such as in Lava Reef Act 2. On the whole, the melodies and instruments used are easy on the ears (and the tracks go on for a fairly long while so it's not too repetitive), so no need to mute the TV at least.

Sound effects are nothing above your average Genesis Sonic fare. In fact, this game uses the exact same sounds that Sonic 3 used for the most part. Lots of twangy blips and bloops to accommodate our hero's travels, I promise you.

The Final Verdict: 6.3 / 10

This game does an amazing job squeezing every last color out of the Genesis' horribly dated 512-color palette as well as it could. If Traveller's Tales' gameplay department had the same level of determination that their graphic artists had, this would have been a much better (note how I don't say 'great') game. Alas, it's poor gameplay condemns it to being just another relic of a long-lost era, doomed to sit for eternity in dust-covered shelves at thrift stores and flea markets.

So What Does that Mean to Me?

If you're a casual gamer I'd play one of the 2D Sonics instead. If you're a Sonic fan, you might be able to cope with this visually-stunning but ultimately frustrating adventure. If you're into chiptune music, just forego the game and download the .VGM pack and enjoy. (Do check out Diamond Dust 1 and 2, Panic Puppet 1 and 2, Lava Reef 2, and Gene Gadget 1. Those are IMO the best in the pack.)


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/08

Game Release: Sonic 3D Blast (US, 12/31/96)


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