Sonic Marathon: Sonic Heroes is a bad video game
I started playing Sonic Heroes in March 2015. As speed bumps in the road go, this was a 489 day one for the Sonic Marathon. The problem with Heroes is I disliked it so immensely that I simply didn’t want to play it. I previously said I hated every minute of Sonic 3D, but at least that nightmare was over in a day. Sonic Heroes clocked in at 27 hours of game time, and that’s excluding the many, many hours lost to game overs that don’t count towards the clock.
On the outset Heroes even tricks you into thinking it know what is good about Sonic (it’s the part where you go fast if that wasn’t clear), only for you to realise that as soon as you need precision the game feels like you’re controlling it with chopsticks. The camera is always facing the wrong way, it’s incredibly buggy, switching character can cause you to die and that staple of the Sonic series, speed, more often than not causes you to overshoot into one of the game's many bottomless pits. Eventually I worked out that the best way to not immediately die was to go much slower, which takes away a lot of what I want from Sonic.
What you’re left with is a mediocre 3D platformer with a bad camera. Heroes signature feature is the ability to switch between the three playable characters. Sonic goes fast, Knuckles breaks things and Tails can fly. Sonic is awful at fighting almost all enemies and his speed was only a hindrance to the platforming, so I ended up playing the majority of the game as the other two characters. If the game doesn’t already sound monotonous, you’ll be glad to hear there are four campaigns that offer slight alterations on the formula, but are otherwise completely identical. The campaigns are actually supposed to function as varying levels difficulty, but no where in the game does it explain this and to see the entire story you have to play them all.
As a palate cleanser I completed Mirror's Edge Catalyst.
Everything Heroes gets wrong, Mirror’s Edge gets right. It’s the Sonic game you should all play. The feeling of speed and momentum in this game is absolutely spot on and most importantly, you feel in complete control the entire time. The art style is also absolutely beautiful. They even fixed everyone's major gripe with the first game by removing the gun combat and replacing it with a serviceable combat system.
My only disappointment with Catalyst is it doesn’t really move the needle forward from the original. While they fixed the combat, the addition of an open world doesn’t really add to the game and all the side missions are dull and completely skippable. By the end of the game the open world is just a nuisance that needs to be navigated.
One step forward, one step back.
You should still check it out though, because Sega certainly aren’t going to make a game this good anytime soon.
Part 1: Sonic Marathon: The story so far
Part 2: Sonic Marathon: Shuffle Party
The Sonic Marathon might have peaked early because Sonic Shuffle is the best Sonic game ever made. Essentially a clone of Mario Party, Shuffle is a turn based board game where players move towards a goal while being punished or rewarded for the squares they land on. You also play the occasional mini-game that is always won by the person who has played the game before…
In Mario Party the number of spaces you can move on the board is dictated by a random dice roll. Shuffle is a much superior game because it replaces this random component with a deck of cards. Each player has a hand of cards that only they can see thanks to the Dreamcast VMU and in each turn they either pick from their hand or blindly from another player.
The number printed on the cards dictates how many spaces you can move. There are also bad Robotnik cards and special cards, which makes picking the best card quite strategic. You can often watch other players behaviour to determine if they have a card you might need, and when you run out of cards you have no choice but to start picking from your opponents hand. When someone is picking from your hand you even have the ability to shuffle your deck in a desperate attempt to stop them taking a card you want to keep.
It all boils down to a lot of shouting and rage as someone surprises you with a card or you take the card they needed. I played through the entire single player campaign as well as many drink fuelled nights playing multiplayer with friends, and would continue to go back to it.
Considering we’re now at the tenth iteration of Mario Party, it’s a shame Sega hasn’t returned to Shuffle even once.
Part 1: Sonic Marathon: The story so far
Like most kids I’ve played the original two Sonic games many times, but I never got close to completing them outside of playing Tails in Sonic 2 with my older brother (which doesn’t really count as you’re hardly playing the game). After that I dropped off the series in favour of the likes of Crash Bandicoot and didn’t actually play another Sonic title until Generations.
Which why I was probably not in the position to make the blanket statement “Sonic sucks” at University in regards to Sonic Adventure, based purely off other people's opinions. My friend Dave reacted so poorly to this remark that seven years later when he became my housemate the first thing he did was make me play through the entire series.
Talk about holding a grudge.
Right now I’m about half way through this marathon of Sonic games, so I thought I would record my thoughts on them so far.
I have the most familiarity with Sonic 1 and Sonic 2. Both are punishingly difficult by the end, which probably explains why I never beat them as a kid. In fact, I’ll admit I still had to resort to level selects after dying in the final levels of both multiple times, purely for the sake of time. Sonic 2 is certainly the superior of the two, mostly because it doesn’t feature labyrinth zone. Fuck that shit.
Sonic 3 and Knuckles is another kettle of fish altogether. It’s much longer than the previous games, and incredibly difficult. The graphics in 3 are clearly pushing the Mega Drive as far as it could go, which result in what I felt was a much messier look overall. It might be my nostalgia, but I prefer the cleaner style of Sonic 2.
Sonic CD is a weird entry in the series. It’s much easier than 3 and although the time travel mechanics and boss fights are interesting, the level design and physics all feel a little off. It’s as if it was made by a team told to make a Sonic game rather than a team who had made Sonic before. Sonic CD isn’t a bad game, it’s just unremarkable.
I’m not a big fighting game fan, but I’m certain Sonic The Fighters is the worst fighting game ever made.
It’s not the worst Sonic game however, because that award (right now) goes to Sonic 3D: Flicky’s Island. This game controls teeeeeeeerribly. It’s so clear this was their first attempt at 3D gameplay, because everything about it is awful. It’s difficult to move Sonic around and it’s hard to tell if you are level with enemies in the 3D plane. Worst of all the entire game is about finding and collecting little birds, and not getting hit or they run away and you have to collect them again. It completely misses what was good about the original games (going fast). I hated every minute of this game.
Considering the ignorant remarks I made seven years ago, it’s pretty amusing that I really enjoyed Adventure and Adventure 2. Unlike Sonic 3D, they really nailed how Sonic should play in three dimensions. Additions such as the homing attack allow you to target enemies with ease while maintaining the sense of speed. The interlinking stories of the different characters is also very clever, although I much preferred how it was presented in the first Adventure (the Gamma campaign alone makes it better). The camera controls occasionally let them down, and they both have unenjoyable parts (Big’s fishing, Rouge and Knuckles collection levels, underwater swimming at the end of Adventure 2), but overall they are really good games. Both have excellent soundtracks too.
Up next is Sonic Shuffle…