Although they have been yesterday’s news for a good 10-15 years now, Sega’s old Master System and Mega Drive consoles have lived on in one way or another. Either through emulators or through grey market and even licensed products in markets like Brazil, they haven’t been forgotten. I was still shocked to see this item on the K-mart Christmas catalogue though and had to get a hold of one.
The short of it is the hardware is sound. It’s all a bit cheap-feeling but it comes with 15 games built in and two controllers. So far so good. Graphics were all perfect, but, as other reviews have noticed, this box must have a cheapo sound chip or something. Sound effects just sound off and music is at a decidedly lower pace. I know this isn’t a PAL issue – as someone who’s played Sonic & Knuckles more times and in more forms than I care to remember, I can vouch that all games are all either NTSC or 60hz modded ROMs – and against gameplay that runs at the same brisk clip you’d be used to, this deficiency just seems strange. A very bizarre oversight and a poor place to cut costs, especially when you go to the effort to have an onboard PAL/NTSC toggle. Although I suppose everything else, from the packaging to the plastic construction, was done as much on the cheap as possible as it stands.
Luckily all cartridges from the old days work, apart from the sound problems, just as you’d remember. I have a selection of slowed-down PAL cartridges ranging from Adventures of Batman & Robin to Jurassic Park and a Japanese NTSC import of Monster World IV and can’t fault the playback of any of them. Can’t vouch for any US games, and can confirm the Master System and 32X adapters – at least the local versions – don’t work. Still, given the unit’s native composite output, it would be the perfect replacement for my verge-of-death Mega Drive II and it’s gigantic power brick if not for its dodgy sound.
Overall I’m still impressed and this experience has made me want to try out this company’s range of other Sega products. In a vain attempt to recreate some of the gaming magic of yore, no doubt.
I saw the leaked vids of Sonic the Hedghehog 4: Episode 1 earlier this year. Every zone and every boss was spoilt for me. Yet when I finally managed to get my XBL copy downloaded yesterday, I was still taken by its charm. Its graphics were sharp, its setting familiar and the giddy thrills of battling Robotnik / Eggman were still there. By all accounts, most critics disagree.
The first argument people make, and the one I wholeheartedly disagree with, concerns the graphics. Apparently the game is ugly. Wait, what? How is this gorgeous 1080p, 60fps smooth as silk platformer ugly? It’s art direction is spot on in homage to classic Sonics and is executed without a hitch technically. A comment to the contrary is always backed up by a reference to Sonic Fan Remix- while I have nothing but praise for that game I have to say a few things about the visuals. It was cluttered, effects were excessive and the mix between too much detail and too little robbed it of any visual cohesion. Sonic 4 doesn’t fall into these traps and I bet if the timing of SFR was even a little different this point wouldn’t have come up at all. Didn’t help that the mainstream blogosphere caught onto the story like a rash.
Other folks like to harp on about how this is nostalgic exploitation without substance. Yet others shoot to pieces the physics and platforming system claiming they’re not authentic enough. That the commenting public is at odds over this suggests its not legitimate criticism but rather a matter of taste. Which is fine. Personally I love how the game plays. The homing attack is a little unnecessary, but you’re free to play without it. In fact, the rebounding from the attack heavily encourages using the normal jump in many situations- the last boss being a good example. I’m not even going to get into whether the game is too fast or too slow- it’s no Chemical Plant Zone, but it aint Spring Yard either.
On the topic of the final boss, this is the only point of contention where I agree with the game’s detractors. Why try and copy perhaps the most terrifying boss of all time and then butcher it so? Firstly, you give the player rings. That makes it infinitely easier. Then, you go and make the final phase so ambiguous that, after such a long an repetitive fight as is, seems overly sadistic.
To close, I feel this was a worthy first foray for the team and a promising effort overall. That said, it wasn’t Sonic’s finest outing but hardly his worst either. Let’s all just cross our fingers and hope Episode 2 doesn’t disappoint.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of those games that a notorious pre-release version floating around. People have probed it ad naseum and wondered where all the zones listed in its Level Select went. Did they become other zones? Did they get cut? As if this hasn’t all been documented across the net enough, this series is a look at content missing from the final version of Sonic 2.
When people talk about the ‘Sonic 2 beta’ they are most likely referring to what is called the Simon Wai prototype. It is a cart that was apparently stolen and later redistributed and is a snapshot of the game’s development circa 1992. Four zones are available, with several others listed in the in the cart’s Level Select screen and not present in the final game.
This protoype ROM contains a very small portion of a ‘Wood Zone’ that shares BGM and doodads with Metropolis Zone in the final retail build. These coincidences lent weight to theories that, during development, Sonic 2 was to feature a time-travel mechanic similar to Sonic CD’s. Ostensibly Wood Zone would be the past, while Metropolis the ‘bad’ future where Eggman had industrialised the area. No badniks are present in the beta data for the Zone. While data still remains in the final ROM image referencing Wood Zone, none of the graphics are still there.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I hit the App Store yesterday. Ahead of a full review of the game following the console version’s release, here’s a tour of the 5 zones in Episode 1, with pictures. Except for the last one, each has 3 unique Acts followed by a Boss Stage. They’re all recreations of classic zones from Sonic 1 & 2 and while the nostalgia rises high I’m left hoping for some more original offerings in Episode 2. Which can’t come soon enough, by the way. Also please note that all screenshots are from the iPhone version.
Splash Hill Zone
Splash Hill Zone a faithful reproduction of the classic Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1 even down to the badniks. The orange hue taking over the Zone in the later Acts is reminiscent of Angel Island Zone in Sonic 3. Eggman’s boss stage mirrors GHZ’s for the first part of the fight and adopts a new slamming attack afterward.
Lost Labyrinth Zone
Another straight translation from Sonic 1, Lost Labyrinth Zone was simply called Labyrinth Zone in that game. In Act 1 there is a lot of balancing on large balls. Act 2 is based around a minecart minigame and Act 3 around underwater areas. The boss stage’s first part mirrors that in Labyrinth- you must travel upward while negotiating traps and avoiding the rising water level to pursue Eggman. The second stage is column-dodging fight that crosses Sonic 1’s Final Zone with Knuckles’ Marble Garden Zone boss in Sonic 3.
Casino Street Zone
This time we have an homage to a Sonic 2 Zone. Casino Street replicates the old Casino Night Zone in every detail while adding a few doodad elements from Sonic 3’s Carnival Night most notably the bat badnik. Interestingly, the second Act is based around scoring a quota of points in the slot machines in order to complete the stage. The boss encounter is exactly as Casino Night’s was with the addition of spikes along the bottom of the stage and a new spinning attack.
Mad Gear Zone
Mad Gear Zone may as well have been named Metropolis Zone. It shares the closest resemblance to the Sonic 2 stage out of all the Zones in the game. Teleporting pipes, gears, pistons and those relentlessly annoying mantis badniks are back. The final Act borrows a mechanic – the sliding wall – from Sonic 3’s Hydrocity Zone. Avoiding being crushed by it adds an urgency throughout the Act where this trick was only used very briefly in the 3rd game. Mad Gear’s boss stage starts of as Metropolis’, which I believe was one of the best bosses in Sonic history. Note that the Eggman bubbles hurt this time! – you used to be able to hit them to pop them. The fight’s second phase involves chasing the Eggmobile to the right ala the final chase in the Sonic & Knuckles incarnation of Death Egg Zone.
E.G.G Station Zone
To be fair, you can’t get away with calling something ‘Death Egg’ Zone in this day and age. I’m surprised Sega was able to in the past. Essentially that’s what the single-Act EGG Station is though; Sonic 2’s DEZ with the Metal Sonic fight removed and all previous Sonic 4 bosses recycled in its place. As in the original, the final fight is against Eggman in his Egg Mobile suit. The only change here is that he goes berserk after taking enough hits and then bounds around in a manner Sonic 2’s crawling behemoth count not.
In all, the Zones of Sonic 4 are well-crafted and of suitable length; 3-acts up from the standard 2 and all of which are slightly longer than the series average. Completing the game offers a hint as to a new character in Episode II but, really, we have Sonic. He’s good enough. Bring on news of the new Zones! And if they’re not going for original concepts this time at least resurrect some ideas from Sonic 3- Icecap Zone, anyone? Sandopolis? Lava Reef?
Sonic 4: Episode One is coming out this week for iPhone and next week for everything else. I’m reserving my judgement on that one but this video just raised the bar pretty high.
Pelikan13x has put together a remixed, 3D, HD version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s Emerald Hill Zone. I’m lost for words so let the video do the talking.
Oh and that thing flying around in the background? It’s the ‘Egg Mobile’, Dr. Robotnik’s mech suit that appears in Sonic 2’s Death Egg Zone as that game’s final boss. Pretty classy throwing it in here. Incidentally, this boss reappears as the final one in Sonic 4 as well… that’s not a big spoiler is it?
Am I the only who thinks now is the perfect time for the long overdue home port of The House of the Dead 4? Could Move be the platform for it?
The series has had an unstable history when it comes to console ports. Where Time Crisis by Namco came consistently to the PlayStation console of the day, THoTD, by Sega suffered from its publisher’s vested interest in their own consoles. The first game went to the Sega Saturn in 1997 and the second to the Dreamcast in ‘99. After that Sega’s console business fell apart and THoTD hasn’t had a real home ever since. 2 & 3 found their way the original Xbox with a custom controller and more recently the Wii.
The House of the Dead 4, however, wasn’t so lucky. It came out about 5 years ago at roughly the time of the Xbox 360 launch. At the time its extremely impressive graphics and 720P LCD (one of the first in arcades as far as I know), immediately had me hooked. It also had swathes of zombies deep in number, and for the first time automatic weapons to cut them down with. Good times. Between THoTD4 and 3rd Strike, Timezone at Castle Towers bled a lot of money out of me during my student years. The’ve long since closed up shop and my time at arcades is dedicated to Street Fighter IV now, so… yeh. I miss this one. Anyway after a successful arcade run, and a ‘Special’ Edition upgrade one would have expected the game to get a port of some kind to one of the consoles. Sadly none was forthcoming.
It was commonly thought that the 360 would get a port, but, possibly due to a lack of a decent light gun peripheral for the system (and Sega’s reluctance to make one themselves) one never came out. The Wii, which saw some minor successes with the release of The House of the Dead 2 & 3 and The House of the Dead: Overkill, was another obvious candidate. Raw horsepower appears to have been the limiting factor; even if you dropped the resolution down to 480P and cut the polygon counts the staggering number of zombies on screen at a given time might just have been more than the 2 Gamecubes taped together could handle. I’m of the opinion that light gun shooting on the Wii isn’t that great anyway, but that’s the subject of another rant. Personally there would have been too many compromises for this version and so I’m in a way glad it was never made. Eventually the catastrophic PlayStation 3 launch came and went; Namco in turn released their latest Time Crisis 4 alongside their latest home light gun, the Guncon3 / G-Con 3. I don’t know if there have been any less utilised peripherals manufactured on such a sale but the Guncon3 staggeringly never got another game. It was a potential opportunity for THoTD4 to head home, but this wasn’t to be either.
Which brings me to the point of all this; the PlayStation Move is out now and people seem to like it. Doesn’t this present the perfect opportunity for this most desired of arcade shooters to make its way onto a disc and into my PS3? That actually would depend on whether the Move controller is any more usable than the Wiimote. I still don’t own the thing and until Time Crisis: Razing Storm comes out I don’t expect anyone will pay much attention to that detail either. Anyway, if it does deliver the goods, you can bet I’ll be first in line to send those annoying petitioning emails to Sega. No guarantee my message won’t fall on deaf ears like the hundreds before me though.