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The Sonic Games You Never Played

Christmas is nearly here and that means nostalgia. In gaming terms, that means endless pictures of 90s kids and their latest consoles – the Mega Drive or SNES. Probably while wearing Sonic the Hedgehog pyjamas.

But it can also mean revisiting your old faves, and that’s exactly what me and Mrs G are up to. Along with our never ending battle with Crash 2, we’ve also decided to do a sweep of the Sonic franchise – from humble beginnings in 1991 to Sonic Forces.

And we’ve come across a few surprises on the way…

Playing on Game Gear

When I was a kid, I don’t think I knew anyone who had a Game Gear. I don’t know if they just didn’t take off in England or what, but it just wasn’t a think. Gameboy? Absolutely. Game Gear? Nope.

So playing the Game Gear games have been something of an experience. We’ve only done the first two so far, but it’s been eye opening.

Sonic the Hedgehog was a really nice chance at boiling down the 16-bit title for the handheld. It had its moments of difficulty, but we made it to the end relatively unscathed. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is dreadful.

Genuinely. It is unbelievable bad. The levels are designed to force you to replay. It feels cheap. Imagine my surprise when I saw it had gotten 90+ scores at the time, and 7 and 8s in the years since.

Did these people just not get to the flying section or what? Did they not struggle through the God awful first boss? Those endless – ENDLESS – tube tunnels?

As a huge Sonic fan back in the day, that name meant tightly designed levels, multiple options and speed. Not much of that transitions.

The biggest surprise is just how many of these Game Gear games there are. Again, I didn’t know anybody with this device, but there are no less than 13 handheld titles. Compare that to Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic 3/Knuckles, Sonic 3D and Sonic Spinball on the Mega Drive. You can include Sonic CD if you feel fancy.

I can’t speak for the quality of them – I’ll be writing more over the coming month – but I’m amazed by what has come before. I half knew – I guess endless re-releases on Nintendo consoles probably leaked into my subconscious. But the prospect of playing them feels very different.

We’re in the Sonic Dark Ages

This was the second big surprise. Do you know that if you don’t include games made for a television spin-off, there’s only been two mainline Sonic entries in the last ten years. Lost World came out in 2013, followed by Forces in 2017.

Naturally, Mania is the shining star of this franchise, and not counting it is a little unfair. But it was a spin-off and it’s not something SEGA seem overly bothered revisiting, and so take it as the one-off it probably was.

That’s despite a major motion picture starring the character. That’s despite him still appearing in the Olympic Games titles and Smash.

Again, this is something I must have known. But in the deep recesses of my mind, we’re still in the midst of the Sonic Cycle. With all the talk, the guest appearances and films it somehow hasn’t sunk in that we’ve only had two not very good titles in the last decade. How can that be?

Frontiers has a lot riding on it. And it’ll probably fail, let’s face it. But hopefully – hopefully – we have another Adventure on our hands, and we are treated with something really special.

Conclusion

Because Sonic is really special. I have been grinning non-stop through every minute of revisiting these classic titles. Everything Mario could be, but so much cooler, so much more with it (for 1991 – which to be fair is the last time I was cool).

I never thought graphics would get better than Sonic Adventure. I felt Sonic Generations was a fitting celebration of everything that I loved about that franchise.

And in a way it ended up being a finale. It has struggled to find its place again. New generations haven’t taken to it like we did.

And that really sucks. Because there’s real magic in these characters. And when I see all those smiling faces from 90s pictures of Christmas mornings, I’ll feel a little bit of that magic again.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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