Back at E3 ’04, Sega showed a demo for their upcoming Sonic DS title. It confused the hell out of most fans, because it consisted entirely of stroking a ball on the touch screen to make Sonic run. It’s become evident that recently, Sega’s legendary Sonic Team is better at being weird than good, but common sense must have intervened because they scrapped that early concept. Sonic DS, in its final form, is one of the best things to come out of Sega in years.
It is painfully clear that Sonic Team, while legends of the 16-bit era, can’t make a 3D Sonic game to save their lives. Sonic Adventure
was passable on the Dreamcast, but today it doesn’t hold up so well. The big problem is that Sonic Team hasn’t gotten their 3D legs yet (the abysmal Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Riders
are strong, recent evidence of this). But while their current-gen skills falter, their old-school talent still shines. Sonic Rush
proves that Sega’s speedy blue mascot still has a lot of life in him.
First of all, imagine everything you loved about Sonic on the Genesis. All the great moments from Sonic 1, 2, 3
, Sonic and Knuckles
, and Sonic CD.
Then roll them into one game, and you have Sonic Rush
. Sonic Team has taken the best-loved elements of those classics and given them a serious adrenaline injection, thanks to the innovative DS hardware. The action is traditional 2D side-scrolling, but now it spans both screens for an even more dizzying experience. Sonic will blast across a straightaway and plummet to the bottom screen in a split-second, and training your eyes to keep up with him is more important than ever.
With this new dual-screen format comes an upgrade to many other parts of the Sonic formula. First and foremost is the sense of speed. I can safely say that Sonic Rush
is far and away the fastest game in the series. Seriously, none of the other games come close to the sheer blistering, heart stopping velocity of Rush
. I fired up Sonic 1 the other day for comparison’s sake, and I felt slower than a frozen Metroid. To accommodate Sonic’s new warp-factor-9 capacity, the levels have been scaled to nearly six times the size of Sonic CD’s stages. There’s still platforming to do, but loops, bungee cords, drops and ramps dominate the incredibly expansive levels. There are only two real levels per act and a level boss stage, but the size of the maps themselves make up for this.
Many old-school Sonic players will recall an oft-used developer strategy—place a bad guy in a deviously evil spot, namely right at the end of a super-speedy loop or straightaway. The collision with the enemy not only broke the euphoric sense of speed but also scattered collected rings in all directions, evoking a stream of colorful metaphors from the player’s mouth as he/she scrambled to collect the bouncing rings and dispatch the enemy. This problem has finally been remedied, in the form of the boost meter. By doing grind tricks Tony Hawk style, collecting powerups or killing enemies, Sonic builds up a trick gage that lets him blast forward in decimating burst, destroying all baddies lurking just off-screen.
There’s a limited amount of boost, keeping players from cheaply jamming the thing all the time, but it’s a helpful addition that removes most of the frustration from the experience.
The boss fights differ quite a bit from the traditional levels, as they are played in full 3D. The 2D mechanics are retained to avoid control confusion (Sonic can only move right, left and jump) but Dr. Eggman’s nefarious machines lunge toward the screen and fire depth-sensitive attacks, making Sonic Rush
’s boss fights some of the more memorable and challenging of the series.
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