Review by SneakTheSnake

"What many consider to be an inferior iteration of the series"

Sonic the Hedgehog's various outings on Sega's Genesis platform made him a very prominent video game mascot back in the 1990s, and his origins led him to be a very big influence even in today's video games. However, as seen, Sonic and company function to the best of their ability within the confines of two-dimensional gameplay. Sonic 3D Blast, produced by Sega and developed by newcomer-at-the-time Traveller's Tales, was Sonic's first foray into a (semi) 3D environment, and its gameplay tweaks and poor pacing do not equal a reputable outing in the Sonic series.

All of the Flickies have been mysteriously captured by the diabolical Dr. Ivo Robotnik, and it is up to Sonic to captured the enslaved animals and set them free. Can Sonic save the enslaved Flickies and destroy the dastardly doctor once again?

The game is played through an isometric perspective; think Q*Bert or Super Mario RPG. Sonic moves in eight directions, and the stages play in a constricting "three-quarters" viewpoint. This in itself is a large adjustment, and may take a little getting used to.

A level is played as such: Sonic enters the Zone, and his task within the level is to free all of the Flickies and bring them to a certain ring-shaped portal. Sonic hops on enemies' heads or tears through them, and the robot enemy transforms into a Flicky. Sonic can then take all of the Flickies ( of which there are around five or six in a level segment ) and take them to the portal. The portal opens when all Flickies are saved, and Sonic can then move into the next level. If Sonic is hit, then not only does he lose all his rings just like tradition, the Flickies all run amok, and Sonic must regroup them. Tales the two-tailed fox and their buddy Knuckles are there for assistance, such as entrance to bonus levels.

When Sonic collects enough rings, he can trade them with Tails or Knuckles for entrance into a bonus level. These play behind-the-back, like those in Sonic 2 or 3, but the mechanics are different. Sonic is running at a fixed pace down rickety bridges, and must avoid spikes along the path. The goal is, like Sonic 2's stages, to collect the required amount of rings for every checkpoint. Beating the bonus stage earns the player an Emerald.

At the end of every Zone is a boss stage. Sonic must defeat Robotnik's latest mechanical monstrosity, and after the boss is defeated, Sonic may pass into the next zone.

Most of the game description is rather typical, and it may even seem that the new level objectives could be a welcome change of pace. While it is relieving to see a Sonic game where the object is something other than run from the left to the right, the pacing in this game is greatly slowed down. Sonic can still run, jump, and spin dash, but the action all occurs in a seeming stand-still. It can be rather disheartening that, like some recent Sonic entries, the speed aspect of the game has been marred.

In lieu of adrenaline-pumping speed comes a rather laid-back exploration atmosphere, which does not entirely fit in with the game structure of the Sonic the Hedgehog series.

Granted, the graphics are actually quite marvellous. Sonic's appearance is a little awkward at first, but he, the others, and the environments can grow on a player. There is a lot to appreciate in the looks of the environments, and the bonus levels feature an impressive Mode 7-like feel. The short FMV sequence during the introduction is also quite impressive, though it may be considered primitive today.

The sound will simply pass through the player. The traditional run and jump sound effects are still there, and the music is very light and typical. Nothing too special.

It is almost always good for a popular franchise to branch off into new genres. Mario and his friends almost single-handedly began the platforming, kart-racing, and party game genres. Mega Man has dabbled in RPGs, sports, and racing. Sonic has also branched from his roots, and this is one of the first attempts at a new type of Sonic gameplay experience. The slow pacing hinders what could have been an atypical and perhaps superior version of Sonic. Additionally, there is no multiplayer mode, and the game is also rather short. It is rather interesting, though, to line this game up along the other iterations and the gradual evolution of the Sonic series.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/01/05, Updated 12/01/05

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