Review by Mister_Rabbit

"Great game; terrible port"

The original Sonic games were some of the first video-games I ever played in my whole life. While most people grew up on Super Mario, I grew up on Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic 3 was one of my favourite of the originals right along with Sonic and Knuckles, and believe you me I've gone back to replay those games more times than I can count. The last time I played Sonic 3 before picking up the XBLA version was when the Sonic Mega Collection came out for the Gamecube. When I saw one of my all-time favourite child-hood games available (for ACHIEVEMENTS, no less), I had to download the XBLA version of this (and Sonic & Knuckles) immediately.

The same basic game is still there:

You are Sonic: a blue hedgehog who, apparently, is the fastest thing alive. You spend the game running and jumping through one level to the next, avoiding traps and stomping on enemies while tracking down your mortal enemy. Sounds familiar? This game actually managed to really set itself apart from Super Mario by being much more fast-paced. Sonic moves a lot faster than Super Mario ever could, and he can even charge up a spin-dash for an offensive burst of speed. Each level is all about running and spinning through loops and hoops, across pits and platforms, over spikes and lava, and through enemies and projectiles. These days it really is pretty standard-fare platforming, but with a small shot of adrenaline tossed into the mix. Sonic collects rings and power-ups to keep himself alive: getting wacked by most enemies and traps cause Sonic to lose any rings he's carrying. If Sonic isn't carrying any rings, he dies. If you lose your rings they go flying everywhere and you have a brief moment of invincibilty to try and pick up a couple before they fade away. Collecting 100 rings gets you a 1-up. There are also various power-ups you can get by smashing what seem to be PC monitors scattered throughout the level liberally. The power-ups are fun and useful to use, and come in the form of protective elemental shields that serve their own function:

The bubble shield allows Sonic to breathe underwater (Sonic has tiny freaking lungs and is apparently totally immune to buoyancy since he can't swim; he runs and jumps at the bottom of any body of water) and also allows him to bounce off the ground repeatedly.

The electro-shield attracts nearby rings to Sonic, making 1-ups a whole lot easier to get. They also allow him to do a vertical double-jump for an extra boost. It also protects him against certain projectiles (though very few).

The flame shield also protects Sonic from different types of projectiles and fire-based obstacles/attacks, and also allows him to perform an offensive air-dash to get a speed boost and smite his foes.

Each level is made up of 2 acts. Each act ends in a boss fight. Every second act ends in a boss battle against Sonic's mortal enemy: Doctor Robotnik (or "Eggman" as the kids call him these days), while every mid-level boss fight is against one of his more impressive crazy robotic contraptions. In case you didn't know: Eggman's an evil genius who turns cute fluffy animals into murderous killer robots.

The levels are also littered with check-points and special stages. If you hit a check-point with enough rings, you can enter a bonus stage to get extra rings and power-ups in one of the various "mini-games". Special stages are usually hidden out of sight (although not very well since they're ridiculously easy to find). You enter them by jumping into giant floating rotating rings. Special stages are in glorious 3D (shut up... I know it looks like total crap now, but back then it was GLORIOUS), and the point of them is rather simple: collect all the blue spheres while avoiding all the red spheres. Touching a red sphere immediately kicks you out of the bonus stage. It's not as easy as it sounds: Sonic constantly moves forward automatically and keeps moving faster the more time you spend in the level. The stages are practically mazes of spheres. Red spheres are EVERYWHERE and blue spheres are usually dangerously close to them. However, collecting all the blue spheres nets you a chaos emerald. If you can beat all 7 special stages and get all the emeralds, you are rewarded with the ability to go Super Sonic: with the power of the emeralds, Sonic pretty much goes all Super Sayain in this game by sprouting yellow spikey hair and gaining the abilities of super-speed (as in: even speedier than usual) and near-invincibility. I say "near-invincibility" because falling into a bottomless pit or getting crushed by a wall or ceiling will still kill you. Other than that though, you can run straight through enemies, ignore projectiles, and even walk on spikes. It's actually quite satisfying if the looping music doesn't drive you nuts.

I think I may have just about covered the basics.

Anyhoo, you're probably wondering why I gave a "fair" score to a game I consider to be great. Simply put: whoever was in charge of this port did a crappy job.

One of the main things about the original game was that it had a file select feature. You could choose from one of MULTIPLE slots in order to save your progress. Then, once you finished the game, you could pick any previously-played levels with all your 1-ups, stats, and even chaos emeralds. That meant you could play through the whole game as Super Sonic if you wanted to. Hell, it meant you could re-visit ANY of your favourite level. Unfortunately though, they totally botched it up in the XBLA version. Apparently they thought the original title and menu system would be too dated or something, so they totally replaced it with a more "modern" menu system that actually manages to be inferior to that of the original game. Rather than having however many save slots the original game had (I can't remember, but it was well over five), we get 3, which you have to manually save yourself. Furthermore, beating the game does NOT get you a level select feature at all. If you want to replay any levels you have to start the game all over again without any of your 1-ups or emeralds. This takes a huge chunk out of the game's replay value, honestly. I don't want to have to collect all 7 emeralds EVERY TIME I want to start a new game just to get the most out of it.

Another issue I have is in regards to the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on. Indeed, you can play the "complete" Sonic 3 experience (both games are basically two parts of an overall package). However, 1) the save system, as I previously mentioned, is too botched to get the most of of this. And 2) You can't get any achievements this way.... which is total crap.

Okay, maybe that last point is more of a minor gripe, but come on. The two games are meant to be played as one. Unfortunately if you're an achievement junky like me, the game is practically forcing you to play the two games separately. It's not game-breaking, but you miss out on a lot of stuff like Hyper Sonic, Super Tails, or being able to play through Sonic 3 as knuckles. Of course you can still do all that, but it won't count towards your achievements. That really is crap because it seems like it would've been a really easy move to make the exact same achievement points for the separate games available in this version. Even if they just had ONE achievement for beating the combined games I'd be happier. It's not that achievement points are the most important things in the world, but it would've been SO EASY, and that's just annoying.

Unfortunately, the botched save system causes me to remove a whole point for this port. I mean... they took a game that's over fifteen years old and managed to actually make it inferior on a console that makes the Genesis look like a God-damn plastic box.

I also have to take a whole point off for the fact that this is an absolutely lazy, mal-treated port. The people porting this game must've spent like ten minutes bringing it to XBLA: five minutes to make it playable on the x-box 360 and about five more minutes to come up with that horrendous new menu and save system.

Finally, I deduct another point for the fact that just about any other version of this game you can find will be superior. It really sucks how the most recent iteration of a classic game also manages to be the sloppiest. With all the technological power of the x-box 360 you'd think we'd actually start seeing improvements rather than deprecations.

The game itself is great, but the treatment it received during the port to XBLA makes it an ugly reflection of its true former glory.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 03/12/10

Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (US, 06/10/09)

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