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The Nintendo Era is Over

SEGA's deal for exclusive Sonic games on Nintendo platforms is over. How well did it all pan out?

I think it's fair to say that being a Sonic fan has been hard over the past 8 years or so. Since Sonic Heroes, the first multiformat Sonic game, was released, the franchise's quality has gone through various highs and lows, with multiple developers having a crack at the Blue Blur.

In my opinion, the best games have been the ones which have been developed with just one console in mind, taking its various strengths into account (By the way, for the record we're talking main Sonic releases, so not games like All Stars Racing). Sonic Generations is probably the exception to this rule, but by and large the multiformat games haven't done as well as, say, Sonic Colours did.

It's with this in mind that I was quite pleased to see the deal that had been laid out by SEGA at the start of last year; Starting with Sonic Lost World, the next three games would be exclusive to Nintendo formats. I felt that this was SEGA's chance to finally "get" what Sonic should be when it comes to a 3D platformer, especially as the first game, Lost World, would be rubbing shoulders with Super Mario 3D World, and they could then transfer that knowledge back across, and continue the good times.

Did they? Well, let's look at each individual title...

Sonic Lost World (Wii U)

Colourful. That was the first thing that sprang to mind once Windy Hill started. The other thing that sprang to mind was Mario Galaxy. It's quite clear that Sonic Team had a sideways glance at the Wii hit and wanted to see if a similar game would result in a similar success, and to be honest they didn't quite get there.

The game itself is fine, but that's all it is: fine. Some pieces of the puzzle are great, with voice acting, music and graphical design all being individual standouts, but it was clear from the off that Sonic Team still can't quite put a coherant story together, with it all rushing desperately towards a conclusion that it didn't really need. Gameplay itself is also an issue, the game's insane difficulty evidenced by the fact that, firstly, Amazon offered a 99 Lives booster as a pre-order incentive, and secondly because SEGA themselves had to patch the game so that 100 rings would, as usual, grant an extra life. Trust me, you needed them.

All in all it felt like a good starting point, but if you're going to try and emulate one of the industry's greatest developers, you need to be on your A-game, and Sonic Team had fallen short.

Sonic Lost World (Nintendo 3DS)

The first 3D Sonic game on a handheld, exclaims the back of the box. Yes, Dimps' last 3DS effort, Sonic Generations, was poor in every sense of the word (except music), but they were back again to try and get back to their Sonic Advance days, when fans the world over thought that they were spiritual successors to the 2D Sonic mantle, albeit with a 3D game.

Does a 3D Sonic game work on the 3DS though? In a word: no. The Circle Pad is only just capable, but it's nowhere near as precise as an analog stick, and when you factor Sonic's speed in, it just becomes unbearable. The game was an improvement on Generations 3DS, but only because it mimicked the Wii U version, with different level layouts the only real difference.

Lost World 3DS also did away with the Red Rings in favour of good ol' fashioned Chaos Emeralds, but with a baffingly inept Special Stage that demanded you had 360 degrees of motion available to you at all times thanks to using the gyroscope. Dimps had fallen flat, and it's probably no surprise that the next Sonic 3DS game went back to 2D.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The fourth game in the Mario & Sonic series, the Sochi 2014 edition seemed like a no-brainer. What's surprising here is that it counted as the second title in this deal, and was also released with no fanfare at all from either SEGA or Nintendo. In fact, I wasn't even aware it was out until I saw a second-hand copy in CeX, and this was a month after it had been released!

Still, we shouldn't be TOO surprised. The last Winter Games edition hadn't sold that well, and this Wii U exclusive edition didn't either. It's not hard to see why - The Winter Olympics just aren't that exciting compared to the main Summer Games, and as such the game's big appeal, the Dream Events, lack the impact they deserve. A recycled soundtrack from the London 2012 edition did SEGA no favours either, although there's a couple of very good Mario remixes that are worth listening to.

All in all, Mario & Sonic 2014 sits at the bottom of the pile, series wise, and whilst I'd put money on there being another game pumped out for the Rio 2016 Games, I think we're done with the Winter Games.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

With SEGA having a new cartoon series to promote (in the US and France, at least), they needed a game or two to come out alongside it, and with Sonic Team beavering away at the next title, they needed two developers to help out.

For this Wii U game, they recruited Big Red Button, a team of former Naughty Dog developers for whom this is the first title. BRB took the bold step of licensing the CryEngine for the title as well, making Rise of Lyric the first Wii U game to use it. And...well. By now you will have seen the stories of the glitches, the alleged four year development cycle, and the studio walkouts etc etc.

Rise of Lyric just isn't a good game. It's not a bad one, but it sits on the medriocrity fence quite happy, swinging its legs and not wanting to budge one way or the other. As a third person brawler it's perfunctory, voice acting is again top notch and the music, by our British friend Richard Jacques, is good but not exactly Sonic sounding (then again, nor was his Sonic 3D soundtrack...) The plot's fine, certainly in line with the tone that the cartoon itself is going for, with some humour in there for good measure. Graphics are OK, and I can only imagine that BRB bit off more than it could chew with the CryEngine, and probably should have stuck to something tried and tested like SEGA's own Hedgehog Engine.

It's just, as with Lost World before it, it's a game where the individual parts don't stick to make a good package. Unlike Lost World, however, Rise of Lyric limps over the line with an almost "that'll do" approach, which is not only nowhere near good enough, but ultimately disappointing from a team whose members arrived from the studio that crafted Uncharted.

Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal

The 3DS version of the Sonic Boom tie-in, developed by Sanzaru Games, is an odd beast, mainly as I'm not sure where it's meant to fit, but we'll look at that in a bit.

Sanzaru Games, adept at creating character platformers (they handled Sly Racoon on PS3), went for a 2D platformer with this game, crafting massive levels designed to be explored multiple times with all four available characters, and by and large it actually works quite well. Graphically it's not the best game on the 3DS, but colours are bold enough for enemies to stand out. The plot, again, is in line with the cartoon but with the lack of any voice acting. I imagine some of the lines written would be quite funny if the actors themselves had a chance to put some emotion to them. Instead, we're left with slow scrolling text. Musically, again created by Mr. Jacques, the game is better placed than Rise of Lyric but still doesn't quite feel like a Sonic soundtrack. I imagine these two are games SEGA won't be rushing to put a soundtrack out for any time soon. Worm Tunnel, though, is a good track, and well worth a listen.

My main problem with this game is that I'm not sure where it's meant to fit. SEGA promoted both games as being an introduction to Sonic Boom the cartoon, but the two don't link. Both games introduce Lyric as a secondary villain, whereas Shattered Crystal gives the impression that Sticks isn't that well known to the rest of the group. It's all just odd, and unless you're the kind of Sonic fan who has to own all the games (like me), then you're better off picking one up and sticking with it. Spoiler alert: It's this one.


So now the Nintendo Era is over, and it's fair to say that SEGA not only dropped the ball, but kicked it over a fence and into a greenhouse in frustration. An opportunity to really define Sonic hasn't worked out at all well, with a decent start squandered by a half-arsed sports tie-in and two cartoon spin-offs, one of which almost threatens to derail the entire line before they've got out of the gate.

By now Sonic Team are at work on their next title, rumoured to be called Sonic Runners, and I can only imagine that we'll be seeing the game release on the PlayStations and Xboxes, possibly even the Wii U and 3DS as well. Sonic is still the same character that he's been since Heroes all those many years ago: A character with promise, who has a truly great game somewhere in him. However, with each game that passes, the chance for us to see that game gets smaller and smaller.

NOTE: My opinions in this piece are my own, and do not reflect the opinions of RadioSEGA as a whole.

26th November, 2014 - 14:34 GMT Gavvie Article viewed 3607 times 0 Comments


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