Review by King Kool

"Not a blast. Not 3D. Not really even Sonic. What the hell is it?"

Nota Bene: This review was written using opinions primarily gathered from playing Sonic 3D Blast on Sonic Mega Collection for the Gamecube. I have played this game for the Genesis, but only replaying it in this generation is what rekindled my previously-held opinions. Since it is a direct conversion, the game should not have changed significantly, but I mention it in case it matters to anyone. Anyway, on to the review.

Sonic 3D Blast was released in the awkward time of console gaming where the Playstation and Sega Saturn were both gaining speed above their older comrades. It was a time where many gamemakers were adjusting to making games with polygons, as the power of the systems ballooned. It was a difficult transition for many game franchises, and some never got it right in 3D.

The concept of 3D became extremely marketable, as “3D” usually meant cutting-edge. This wasn’t a creation of the new console’s power; whenever a game broke the mold of a sprite-based side scroller, it was called 3D, even if it wasn’t. Wolfenstein 3D wasn’t 3D in many respects, but it wasn’t sprites on flat backgrounds. That’s what made it different.

So, when Sonic finally decides to dip his blue quills into the three-dimensional ink, what do we end up with? A mess. Sonic 3D Blast is a real chore, making you wrestle with a lumbering, unusually slow Sonic in an annoying isometric universe.

The story of Sonic 3D Blast is a little unconventional for Sonic games. Instead of rushing through levels, you\'re supposed to rescue the Flickies of Flicky Island, which have been imprisoned--you guessed it--by the maniacal Dr. Robotnick. He plans to use them to capture the Chaos Emeralds. I\'m not sure how making them robots helps, but who the hell cares? It\'s Sonic.

Graphics - 8

The graphics are not bad. The colors are vibrant and the levels all seem very Sonicy. This is the Genesis version, so anyone hoping for some of the tricks the Sega Saturn version has (transparencies and stuff like that) is out of luck. The only difference this makes is that if you walk behind something that’s supposed to be transparent, you won’t be able to see where you are. But this isn’t so bad.

I have not included the awful looking CG intro they’ve somehow forced into the cartridge into my rating, as once you start the game, you can forget it happened. It is a sad introduction to the title, as an incredibly pixelly Sonic staggers down a road with absolutely none of his trademark speed. Whoever made the cinema apparently thought Sonic runs the way a baby with a full diaper walks. I know CG cinemas were new and difficult at this point, but when it looks like ass in two ways, I question why they bothered to compress it to fit the Genesis.

I have a smaller complaint about Traveler’s Tales’ character design on Knuckles and Tails. Sonic looks fine, but Tails and Knuckles look ugly as hell. They look more like the police sketches of them rather than their normal selves. But, that’s a small complaint. A better complaint would be how sometimes the decorations in some of the levels are blocking important things on the map, or how enemies don’t animate well… but I’ll get to that under “Gameplay,” since they’re very closely knit.

Sound - 6

Not much creativity in this department. Just about everything you can do in this game that you could do in a prior title has the same sound effect it did. Sonic jumps, boing. Sonic grabs a ring, bla-ding. Sonic hits a guy, ching-ching-ching. It’s all the stuff you’ve heard before, and while I thought having the same “boing” in Sonic Adventure as they had in Sonic 1 about nine years later was lame, this is fine.

The music is quite a bit worse, unfortunately. The melodies themselves are not too bad, but they sound like they’ve been played on a synthesizer worse than the one they used for Sonic 1. The instruments are weak and tinny, and it’s a great step back. I especially like the music in the first two Sonics, but Sonic 3 and S&K represented a trend of descending quality in music. Traveler’s Tales takes this to a new level.

Gameplay - 2

The game has a basic setup; destroy the enemies that hold the Flickies and bring them to a ring. Do this two or three times a level and you beat the level. There\'s nothing wrong with that format, but it\'s very unlike Sonic to have to wander around and collect stuff. He\'s more of a \'\'look-there-he-went\'\' kinda hedgehog. But, as we\'ll soon learn, the unconventional Sonic formula is not the problem here.

The game’s name is Sonic 3D Blast. My name is King Kool, but that doesn’t mean I rule anything. In other words, this game is NOT in 3D. It’s isometric. It’s made of lots of flat images of stuff sculpted in a 3D manner (like Super Mario RPG). Something makes me think they thought nobody would care. But I have difficulty believing that many people would be deceived.

Of course, the problem lies in it being isometric. There are lots of isometric games out there that are very good (Diablo, Super Mario RPG, Mystic Towers, Age of Empires, Sim City) but every game on that list follows the cardinal rule of isometric gaming: You either don’t deal with altitude at all, or you deal with it seldom. Sonic is a jumping machine, and since isometric is never good at displaying altitude, it’s often difficult to judge where you should be or where you’ll end up.

That wouldn’t be enough to make the game unfun, of course. It could still be fun. But the control in this game is absolutely ungodly. Let’s use Super Mario RPG as an example. When you push the control pad for Mario, what happens? He begins to move. And what happens when you let go of it? He STOPS. That’s how it works.

I know Sonic allegedly may be too fast for this simple immediate stop idea, but in Sonic 3D Blast, you never have any real sensation of speed. Aside from the fact that the isometric levels aren’t long or thin enough to ever move anywhere quickly without hitting an obstacle, Sonic is slow as hell. Sonic races through Flicky Island with all the velocity of a geriatric jogger. Maybe they paid Sonic enough to be in the game, but not enough to race.

And even this MIGHT be excusable if the slower Sonic has the control a slower Sonic should. But, no. Trying to control Sonic, even at fairly low speeds, is a chore. He slides around like a greased pinball. He slowly starts to run, chugs along at a fairly dull jog, and slowly brakes. Now, it’s never been uncommon for Sonic to not be so good at stopping, but Sonic’s running at about ten miles an hour, and he can’t stop in time to avoid most obstacles. It’s just atrocious and it messes up any reaction time you believe you have.

While we’re on this topic, I wanna mention that when you’re hit by a bad guy, you still lose all your rings. That’s Sonic, and that’s cool. However, getting ANY of them back is more based on luck than anything else. If you had any more than thirty rings, you sure as hell won’t be getting any more than three or four back. Sonic only drops about three dozen rings at most, even when you had over 100. Even worse, most of them disappear before you can collect them. An important part of most battles in Sonic is that, even at one ring, you lose it, but then grab it again and you\'re golden. But the slick controls and fast disappearing of the rings greatly hinder this.

Then, we have the AI. I’m not expecting anything advanced, but in the first Sonic the Hedgehog, if you were near an enemy, he’d shoot at you, or throw a coconut at you, or somehow acknowledge you being there. The vast majority of enemies in this game are absolutely mindless. Robotic crocodiles march forward, then moonwalk backwards. Bees seizure in place. Turrets fire in all directions, whether you are there or not. This means there’s no real strategy to take when facing these guys; all you can do is either kill them or hope they just happen to not shoot something at you.

When you face Dr. Robotnick, you DO get to face a fairly intelligent opponent... sometimes. But something really bugs me how he doesn’t have any real animation; he’s always facing the bottom-left corner of the screen. Come ON, man! He’s the boss you see at the end of EVERY LEVEL!! Can’t you give him at LEAST four different viewpoints?? And yeah, this is a graphical complaint, but it makes more sense to put it here.

It also bugs me that you have to pay Knuckles or Tails rings to go to the bonus games, rather than gaining passage when you have a number of rings and being allowed to keep them. Once you leave the Jazz-Jackrabbitian bonus game (which I won’t even get into here) , you’re stranded with no rings. “Ooh! I didn’t get the chaos emerald, and now I’m dead because the moonwalking crocodile wandered into me while I was staggering around at 9 miles and hour...”

I could continue to say how the Boot is utterly worthless in this game (ooh, even less control! Thanks, game), or how big dopey opaque background pieces block objects and items, or how the loops and other fancy maneuvers on tracks are not completely non-interactive, or how spikes that raise from the ground are about as tall and noticeable as upturned safety pins... but I think I’ve done enough hating for one review.

So... is this game worth playing? That all depends. Do you like Sonic? If you don’t like Sonic, there is absolutely NO reason for you to subject yourself to this. Sonic has a charm that can allow me to continue to play this enough to formulate an opinion, but I don’t know if any of you can tolerate it for longer than I did. If you do like Sonic, remember this was NOT made by Sonic Team; it was made by Traveler’s Tales. This game probably had little involvement with anything in the Sonic franchise.

Whatever you do feel about this game, just remember that this is NOT a true member of the Sonic series. It’s just a gimmicky game released at an awkward time in gaming, when 3D was not commonplace, but a novelty of accelerating technology. This game is a frustrating isometric exercise posing as a 3D adventure. It’s not 3D, it’s not a blast, and it’s certainly not Sonic. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some Sonic 1 and try to forget this game exists.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 12/01/02, Updated 08/06/03

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