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SummarySonic Can Jump Sharks Too!
The GoodHaving completely missed this title at the time, (I was busy playing my Super Nintendo), this Genesis (or Megadrive, as it was called in my region) title has a great reputation, and was surely worth investigating for my Wii Virtual Console. I must be in the vast minority, but I've always believed that the original Sonic was and is the best hedgehog-themed game out there, and that each sequel represents a kind of step aside from Sonics initial adventure.
I have a soft-spot for 16-bit platform-games, and so it was fairly inevitable that I would be downloading at least one of these colourful titles by the Sonic Team. Reviews and the like give Sonic 3 nothing but praise, so it seemed logical that this game, full of "various little improvements" was bound to be the height of the blue mascot's quests. But, after playing through this title twice now, I'm still struggling to see these improvements. But more on that later…
The title screen, introduced by a quick 3D animation of Sonic himself (surely consuming half of the cartridges ROM!) is played – this hints at an all new take on the Sonic series, as if some sort of new technology or game-play has been busted out for the third in the series. Sadly, this is not how it turned out. Sonic 3 is (at best) a "lite" edition of Sonic 2, it's a less convincing attempt at continuing the series.
One true improvement that was made for this sequel was the inclusion of a save system. Yes, this means that for those players who like to complete games fully, there is now hope for attaining every Chaos Emerald without having to perform the ungodly task of a flawless play through. And, switching off your Megadrive would have no longer had the heart-breaking implications that it once had.
So, after beginning the game, you notice that the graphics themselves are not dissimilar to either of the previous entries – the landscapes and robots themselves all look pretty familiar. Sure, Angel Island may be the first act, but it's not that different to Green Hills. You could certainly argue that the levels themselves are denser with obstacles, ramps, platforms and loops – if this is what you like about the series then Sonic 3 will surely be impressive to you, (at least initially).
The BadMy problem with this game is in two main areas: the level-design, and the game length. Firstly, the level-design itself is at odds with Sonics abilities. What do I mean? Well, throughout the series, we were constantly encouraged to speed through levels, rolling and jumping at crucial moments either to gather rings or avoid traps. In Sonic 3 however, you can gather rings as in any other Sonic game, but you're constantly booby-trapped and ambushed by the increasingly frustrating and hostile environment. I feel like the level-designer(s) had a mean-streak, and must have felt that the series needed some tweaking with the various level-structures to add a new facet of game play. However, this fails the spirit of the previous games, where a nice mix of beneficial and treacherous roller-coaster-like rides alike were available, and sometimes even selectable!
Add to this problem the shameful length of the game, (since when does a sequel provide less content?), and you have an almost reprehensible mix of qualities. All of this may be forgivable for hard-core Sonic enthusiasts, but for curious Wii Virtual Console shoppers, it's bound to come off as an affront to a modern gamers taste. Also, the inclusion of countless mini-boss battles (that are not and never were the highlight of any Sonic title) and the several long self-scrolling story moments (running under a gunship, watching Knuckles mess around etc.) only decrease the limited enjoyment. And, to my distaste, what I consider a cardinal sin and the pinnacle of laziness in video-game design, this game features sections where the levels repeat indefinitely. Miss that jump? Well, repeat the last ten or so screen-lengths until you get it just right. Ugh. It's the Möbius strip of level-design.
Fans surely regard Knuckles as a worthy inclusion, but I find that the more they include this character, the less personality Sonic himself seems to have. It's almost like it varies inversely: add Knuckles to Sonics detriment. Remember when Poochy visited Itchy & Scratchy? I was hoping for a suitable role in this game for Tails, but he has been downgraded to mere cameo appearances between levels. It's kind of sad.