It’s been weeks in the making, but it’s finally come to be: a Not-So Classic Games article on perhaps the most notorious Sega game of our generation – Sonic The Hedgehog (2006). This game came out 15 years after Sonic’s first game Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), so in that way it really represents the beginning of Sonic’s rebellious teenage years. This is metaphorical, of course, but if Sonic went on Maury and it was proved that Good Gameplay was his father it would explain a lot about the directions his rebellion goes in this game. Basically Sonic rejects everything his Maury-proven father stands for and relies on his friends to make the game work. Let this game be a lesson to you, kids: your parent’s know what is best for you.
Before playing it specifically for the purposes of this article I have never played this game. Basically I came into this game fully aware of the popular opinion about it and I was expecting to play one of the worst games I have ever played. I guess this makes me the only person who wasn’t let down by Sonic 2006. In fact, this game exceeded my expectations! I can’t imagine the pain of being excited for this game, expecting it to be as good as any other Sonic game, and then actually playing it. What’s worse is this game was released around Christmas time, which means that Christmas 2006 was probably terrible for most of you reading this. I originally intended to have this article done by Christmas 2010, but, as you can see, that didn’t happen. And thus, 2 Christmases are ruined by Sonic 2006.
The totality of the badness of the game is actually somewhat troubling for me. There is no way I could possibly do a typical article on it. So instead I’ve compiled my thoughts on several aspects of the game under headings. That makes it easy to read what you care most about, and it also demonstrates how completely this game has been ruined. So hit the jump and read about Sonic 2006.
Let’s start with the start screen. The graphics are actually very nice, especially the in the cut-scene that plays if you don’t press Start fast enough. I’ll save my complaints on them for later. But first, is it just me or is Dr. Robotnik the worst kidnapper in history? He doesn’t physically restrain Elise, which you would think would be important since you’re fucking abducting her. He’s actually quite courteous, he even introduces himself. Although, he says his name is Dr. Eggman, which is a damn lie. This scene seems to resolve the main conflict though, since Robotnik doesn’t abduct her and Sonic is alright. Silver shows up for some reason, I’m sure I’ll figure that out later. The music and sound effects are actually not bad either.
The Story – Part 1
I’d love to have some gameplay impressions, but the damn story got in my way. Typically games give you a reason to play them, but the second cinematic that you’re treated to in this game gives you two damn reasons why not to play it. That’s right, two damn reasons. First off, Elise asks Sonic why he’s saving her and he replies “no special reason.” Those are his exact words. Let us assume, like every other Sonic game, his goal was to keep the chaos emeralds out of the hands of Dr. Robotnik. Well shit goes down and Robotnik steals her, but she manages to throw Sonic the Chaos Emerald to Sonic. That is the second reason. So Sonic just happened to be in the neighbourhood when Robotnik decided he was going to raise a little hell, and then everything works out. So why am I playing?
Oh, to find information out about Robotnik… This leaves so many questions unanswered. Why was Sonic there in the first place? If Robotnik doesn’t have the Chaos Emerald why does he still take Elise? If Sonic has the Chaos Emerald why doesn’t he fight a war of attrition instead of confronting Robotnik? Whatever, I’ll talk about gameplay for now.
“Go talk to people…” oh, joy. And look, it’s Miles “Tails” Prower. MILES, not Miley, yet he still sounds like a girl. He also has the most lines in the game, great. I talked to a shoemaker and he made me run some timed course going through big red rings. I completed the course in about half the time it took to load. Something about this game gives off a very Super Mario Sunshine vibe, probably the tropical setting and the fact no one else is like you. Things aren’t looking too good for this game. I did get an “A” though, which is kind of nice.
I guess the real level one begins after you jump into a mirror. Weird, but the mirrors remind me of the dimension gate things from Bayonetta where you go between Paradisio, Purgatorio and Inferno. The gameplay doesn’t remind me of Bayonetta though. There were several sections where I died because I pressed a button. If I had left the controller alone everything would have been fine, but my intuitive gamer impulses to press buttons while playing lead me astray.
I kind of feel left out when I play this game, like the kid in school who is bad at sports so he/she always gets picked last. Actually that was me as a kid so in a way this game is bringing back some haunting memories. What I mean is everyone else is having a lot of fun, but they don’t seem to want to allow you to join in on it. Sonic is running and bouncing and collecting rings, but if you try to actually do something it kills you. That is until they throw a QTE at you and expect you to be ready. Naturally, you’re to blame if you fail, even though you likely weren’t ready for it because up until that point you weren’t actually in control of the action.
So I lost all of my lives in the first level, so what? I blame the fact that you’re not supposed to press buttons until the game wants you to. Except it doesn’t tell you when that is, you just have to know. So Naturally I died a few times getting into the swing of things. Where does that send me? To the start of the fucking level. I have to go find Tails again, go get the shoes, go in the mirror, navigate that stupid level, and screw around with Tails more all so I can get another chance to not fuck up a jump. I can forgive the games I usually play for crap like this because I usually play games that had the arcade scene in mind, but this game was made in 2006. There is no reason to have a lives system, there is no reason to have continues, and there is no reason to send me back to the start of the level when the whole thing sucked and I hated it in the first place.
This problem only gets worse the more you play. What I don’t understand is why the game doesn’t save nearly as frequently as it loads. I have lost incredible amounts of gameplay because some cheap crap in the later part of the level killed me. The third level is a particular pain in the ass for this, but more on that later.
Take a Load Off, Man
What the hell is up with all the loading screens in this game? Between the Desert stage and the Shadow boss fight there are 3 of them. If you skip the cut scenes it’s basically just 3 loading screens in a row, 2 of which are pointless because they’re loading the cut scenes you’re skipping. By the way, the Shadow fight is a huge pain in the ass, so I spent a lot of time waiting to die, essentially. Also the game does this thing where it loads something, a scene plays where the boss taunts you, and then it goes back to loading stuff. Why can’t it just load both the taunt and the fight all at once, or better yet, not load the damn taunt?
So the developers learned how to copy and paste and then decided to show off their skill by copying and pasting all the bosses between Sonic, Shadow and Silver. Somehow after you destroy a boss as one it comes back again to get fucked up by one of the other hedgehogs. Any explanation why? Of course not, it just happens. And none of them are straight forward. Remember the original Sonic games when the boss comes out and you jump into it to destroy it. That doesn’t happen in this game. The first one you fight as Sonic is some stupid looking dog thing that you have to grind on until you reach its antenna, then guide into a wall. Boy is that fun, and like I said, you get to do this several times. Believe it or not Silver’s boss fights are the most enjoyable, in fact they are the closest thing to enjoyable in the game. That’s even stranger when you consider how terrible everything else about Silver is, but more on that later.
Rankings/The Victory Screen
I guess the developers were really going for Final Fantasy Sonic because at the end of every level there is a victory screen with victory music telling you how well you did on the level. It’s obviously not a blatant rip off, but if you’re one of the unfortunate souls who has played either Final Fantasy III or IV on the DS you’ll see the resemblance. Why do we even need rankings? Aside from a few achievements the rankings have no real point. It would be nice if maybe they could hide some loading screens with them, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, unless the loading times in this game are even longer than they appear to be. But I’m willing to wager this is just another poorly implemented, useless feature in a terrible game.
Crisis City/Anything in the Future
Fuck this shit. No. This shouldn’t exist. Very little about this game should exist, but this whole level in itself epitomizes everything wrong with the game. A lot of the Sonic and Shadow levels basically play themselves, while the Silver level makes you play all of it. The platforming is terrible, and so is the design, and there is a lot of rail sliding, unless you’re Silver, in which case there’s a lot of pointless psychokenesis. Shadow has a ton of vehicle sections including a hand-gliding section where you’re bombarded with walls of flying concrete and no good way to tell where anything is relative to you. Surprisingly this isn’t as bad as Sonic’s version of this part of the level where you have to platform this mess. These levels are almost unplayable, and it’s how Silver’s sections begin. Guess which character I could stand the least.
Talking to People
This should not be a part of the game. You don’t even really have to do it, it’s just kind of recommended, I guess. In one of Silver’s levels your “task” is to find information on Sonic, but no one you can talk to can actually tell you anything, and only about 2 or 3 even mention the topic at hand. There are only a few occasions when you actually need to talk to people, but even then it’s never something relevant. There’s a Sonic level where you have to talk to guards to get them to open a door for you. Just have an open door. Better yet give me a cut scene, scrap the town entirely and give me some levels to play.
Maps, They Don’t Hate You Like I Hate Them
Fuck the map system in this game. The only resource you have is a little circle of the entire city map that doesn’t reorient itself based on your direction. It’s unintuitive as hell and given the map technology that existed at the time there is no excuse for it. The arrows in Crazy Taxi are a better help that this. Furthermore the only things on it are shapes in different shades of grey and a bunch of little coloured dots. It gives you no clues as to what that stuff is, you just have to guess. The red dots are obviously enemies, the blue dots are missions you can do, but I have no idea what the difference between the orange and yellow ones is supposed to be. It makes no sense for this to be the only resource at your disposal, especially since sometimes the loading screens display a map of the full level. There is no reason to not have an option in the pause menu that brings that up.
The piece of shit map system wouldn’t be as much of a pain if the levels themselves were decently laid out. Everything is way too far apart and there is a ton of wasted space. The long load times could probably be significantly reduced if the levels were streamlined. It takes forever to get anywhere, and the problem is only more apparent when you play as Shadow or Silver as they both move at a much slower pace than Sonic.
Parabolas are a relatively simple mathematical concept, but for some reason the developers had a really tough time with them. For some reason they decided to include a level with vines in it though. And then they thought it was a good idea to make you use a homing attack to get from vine to vine. That is around the time I stopped playing Sonic’s levels.
Shadow the Hedgehog
Shadow in this game is basically just Sonic, but not as useful or fast. His homing attack is much less effective, and the seizure he does that is supposed to be an attack is almost always useless, and since mashing X is what brings it about you have to be careful with your button presses. Also, he’s accompanied by Rouge the Bat. Rouge’s sections are some of the most boring I’ve ever played, which is saying a lot since she wields bombs, can glide indefinitely and can climb walls. There is one stage where you have to use her to find keys for Shadow, but I kept getting too distracted watching dust accumulate on my shelves to give a fuck. That is around the time I stopped playing Shadow’s levels.
Silver the Hedgehog
Silver’s levels are almost unplayable. He is way worse than Shadow, who is way worse than Sonic, who, as I hope to have shown by now, is in no way good too begin with. Silver uses “psychokenesis” to pick stuff up and throw them at enemies. Hey, guess what, that rarely works properly. A lot of times the camera gets all messed up somehow when you try to do this and you end up hoping the things you’re throwing are actually hitting enemies. Shadow is accompanied by Blaze the Cat who sucks harder than a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Her attack is easily the worst in the game – she basically spins in a circle while jumping upwards while somehow being on fire. Now take away all the awesomeness about those things together and you have Blaze. The terrible tag-team of Silver and Blaze makes playing as them some of the most excruciating experiences in the game. It took me just over 12 minutes to beat his first level, and all 12 were painful. His power actually makes boss fights somewhat more bearable though, in fact I actually had quite a bit of fun with his first boss. Unfortunately his levels were so unplayable that I couldn’t get past the maze-like, poorly designed second level. That is around the time I stopped playing Silver’s levels.