Review by Psycho Penguin
"This is where the Sonic series took a wrong turn."
The Sonic series never really reached the legendary status many expected, at least it didn't in my mind. Surely, no one was ready for the series to fall apart like it did, at least not after its blazing start, but some would question whether or not the Sonic series was ever great. While the series has had its share of fans, there has also been its detractors, which has compared the series to a lackluster attempt at a new Mario series under the Sega name.
Regardless of whether or not you love the Sonic series, you cannot question or ignore the insane amount of praise it has received over the years, despite the fact the series has been on a decline ever since the pinnacle of the series, Sonic 2, was released. I guess Sega decided that Sonic 2 just wasn't good enough, so they set out to make Sonic 3, but they forgot exactly what made Sonic 2 so great, so instead of getting a superb upgrade of the classic Sonic 2, Sega treated fans to a long awaited.. bad Sonic game.
To be fair, Sonic 3 is really not that horrible of a game. It just combines a bunch of innovative ideas that really went nowhere, with a toned down gameplay experience that never really kicked into top gear. It just felt like a toned down Sonic 2 with a bunch of stupid elements added on in an attempt to make the game seem innovative and fun. Yes, it is innovative, but that doesn't mean it is fun. I don't think the Sonic series ever recovered from this dud.
I love it when a sequel to a game starts off from where the last game left off, except for that rare case when the storyline is so retarded that it makes the previous storyline seem retarded by default. That's the case here. Remember how the final stage in Sonic 2 is on a plane? Well, this time you are on the plane, when Tails becomes an idiot and crashes the plane into Angel Zone Island, where the Chaos Emeralds are scattered all over the place, recovered by, yep, you guessed it. So, now you have to get all the Emeralds back. Like I said, it's so bad it makes the storyline in Sonic 2 look stupid.
Graphically, Sonic 3 is the best looking game in the series on Genesis, I will give it that. (Don't even get me started on Sonic 3D Blast, we'd be here all night.) The backgrounds are superbly designed and very colorful and lifelike, and I loved how there was a tremendous variety of backgrounds, ranging from the lush tropical Angel Island Zone to the icy tundras of one of the later stages. I really enjoyed that the game had various locales, and each stage had its own unique background that fit the stage perfectly. The character designs are solid, although they all appear to be much smaller now. There is some slowdown this time, which is about the only major flaw I could find in the graphics.
What's most amazing is the fact that I enjoyed the music even more than I enjoyed the graphics. Each stage has its own unique theme to it which really fit the feeling of the stage perfectly. I do feel that the music got off to a bit of a slow start, as the title theme was disappointing, and the opening few stages had music that just didn't live up to the hype, but once I got into the meat of the game I heard some of the best music I have ever heard in a video game, and I finally discovered what all the hype was about. The sound effects, while not living up to the laudy qualities of the music, are still top notch, which is a Sonic series staple.
Ultimately, a game can not be judged by the quality of the music and sound effects, or the graphics, or the storyline, but it has to be the controls and gameplay that carries it into the next level. Sadly, Sonic 3 falls flat on its face in the gameplay category, but the controls are solid enough. You can use the A button to jump, then pushing down and pressing A several times allows Sonic to get into a ball and shoot across the screen, breaking anything in his path, while pushing up and pressing A allows Sonic to put up one of his trusty new shields.
The shield system is just one of the new elements added to Sonic 3, but just like the rest of the innovations, it falls flat on its face. The problem with the shields is not the fact that the system was such a bad idea, because it wasn't, it was just the fact that they weren't needed at all. One shield enabled Sonic to go underwater without fear of dying, but you never get the water shield when you need it. Then there is a shield that protects against fire, but they're so out of place that chances are you won't ever need one of those, either. The first two could be beaten without shields, and so could this one, so the shields are just a nice bonus rather than a needed ingredient.
Another new element to the game is the sudden addition of truly massive levels, which span huge amounts of space. If you thought the levels in Sonic 2 were huge, you haven't seen anything yet. There are so many secrets packed in the levels, that it will take you a long time to find everything. Again, however, just like with the shield system, most of the secrets are just extra coins and shields, so you don't need to find many of the secrets, so most of the time the huge level designs will just frustrate you rather then helping you enjoy the game by enabling you to get secret items. I know Sonic Team certainly tried, but sometimes innovative ideas just don't work out as well as expected, and I think that is the case here.
About the only new element that actually clicked on all cylinders was the save system, which was much needed for a game like this. You can save your game after every stage completed, and then start from the last stage you didn't complete. It's definitely a needed idea that worked out quite well, as game saves barely ever erased.
With all the new elements, you would think the game was totally new, but this is still just a Sonic game at heart. A wise man once said ''you can put seeds on it, add toppings, and toast it, but in the end, it's still just bread'' That's what it's like here. If you have played the first two Sonic games, you know what to expect here. The Sonic games have always been based on speed, and this one is no different, as Sonic goes quicker than any other character ever has, and he has a real attitude, to boot. However, even with the fact that his speed has increased, they toned down the need for speed, as the stages are so huge you'll easily get lost if you go too quickly, so it was a wasted idea yet again. The cool thing is there is a mini boss after every act of every stage, and after you beat the boss, you move onto the next act without a pause. No more ''Sonic has completed Act 1-1, now onto Act 1-2'', as soon as you touch the sign you are onto the next act. It's pretty cool.
However, despite the fact the game remained the same, the innovative ideas just didn't add up, so chances are you won't find a reason to play this much, especially with the other quality games out there, like Sonic 2. The save system is probably the only thing that will help you want to beat it, since the first two required you to start over from the beginning each time you turned the game on. But even if you do decide that you want to complete the game, there is nothoing here to make you want to play it again, since all the secrets mainly revolve around hidden shields and coins, so you won't feel like you are missing anything.
With all the huge levels, you would think Sonic 3 would be a challenging game based on that aspect alone, and you would be correct in that thinking. However, Sonic 3 does not rest on that one challenging aspect alone. The placement of key obstacles, like spikes that make you lose your coins, plus the tough as nail bosses, means this game is challenging on more than one aspects. The fact that it especially gets challenging in the later stages makes this a breath of fresh air, because despite the fact the games were terrific, the original games in the series were not exactly the most challenging games out there. I stand by my feeling that this would be the most challenging game ever if it didn't have a save system. ^.^
With all the mixed feelings I have conveyed about the game throughout this review, I think it's no shock that I am giving it a 5/10, which is my ''mixed feelings score''. While the game has retained the classic Sonic feel that made the Sonic series one of my favorite series (for all of 2 games!), the innovative ideas came up flat, and therefore the game became less fun for me. I know the developers really tried to make a quality game, and I salute them for at least trying to upgrade a series before it got stale, but their attempt just came up a little short in my book.
-The game has a lot of innovative elements to it.
-I really loved the music.
-The graphics were really superb.
-Sound effects were classic Sonic fare.
Not So Good Points
-The storyline is so stupid, I feel stupider for remembering it.
-The game just comes up as flat in my book.
-The innovative ideas and elements didn't really make any sense.
I Run Down The Game, Psycho Penguin Style!
Storyline - 0.2/10
Graphics - 9.8/10
Music - 9.3/10
Sound Effects - 9.2/10
Controls - 9.3/10
Gameplay - 4.7/10
Replay Value - Below Average
Challenge - Above Average
Game Length - 3 Hours
Is This Game Worth a Purchase? - Only if you're a diehard Sonic fan who liked 3D Blast.
Overall - 4.8/10
The Bottom Line
It falls short of being a classic game, but overall it's still a solid game in its own right.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 01/03/02, Updated 01/03/02
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