Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Youíre probably thinking, ďhere we go, yet another rant about Sonic 06.Ē
Itís true, many a gamer before me has given his review of this game, and practically all of them said the same things about it. As such, the reason Iím reviewing it is because well, I really didnít think it was quite that bad.
To set the record straight, Iím not here necessarily to defend Sonic í06óthe game does indeed have its share of flaws. However, I feel that a lot of the issues discussed about this installment are rather over exaggerated.
My views are unbiased; Iím indifferent to the Sonic franchise as a whole. I own both the Mega and Gems collection for GameCube, as well as the ports of Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 and Sonic Heroes. After Heroes though, I didnít really care to follow the series closely (though I was never a huge follower of it to begin with). So I was able to approach this with no real expectations. However, if it makes a difference I played the PlayStation 3 version; when gamers review this game, many of them are referring to the Xbox 360 version. The PS3 version came out a year later, so they may have went back and smoothed over some of the technical bugs that reportedly plague its 360 counterpart.
To start things off we have the story; I can tell they were trying to deviate a little bit and set this on a grander scale than previous installments. This is one of the major issues that gamers had. Personally, while the story isnít exactly Shakespeare, I canít exactly blame them for trying. But of course, I wasnít exactly clamoring for Sonic the Hedgehog to hook up with a human princess. Aside from that angle though, itís Dr. Eggman up to no good again, but there are also new characters and more depth to it. OverallÖ.it works. At the end of the day it is a video game after all, Sonic isnít one of those game franchises you follow just for the story. If we just followed games for the story, we probably would have given up on Mario a long time ago. It does introduce a couple of cool characters (yes I actually like Silver the Hedgehog despite his somewhat obnoxious voice).
The game looks beautiful. Plain and simple. Of course one would expect nothing else from a game on a console with HD capabilities, but this is from a 2006 game. The textures are smooth and itís easy on the eyes.
While Iím on this department though, I might as well get the glitches out of the way. To be honest, I did indeed encounter a few but outside of that, they are really nowhere near as bad as people tend to exaggerate. Most of the time itís something like falling through the ground and being stuck, or if youíre playing as Knuckles or Rouge, occasionally you will be climbing a wall and be unable to get off of it.
Another small complaint is the gameís over world, Delfino Plazaó I mean, Soleanna.
The problem with this tropical island town is that most of it looks the same: a bunch of gray, white, and tan plazas. Often times you will be instructed to go to a particular location such as the town warehouse to meet up with someone. They say this as though you are supposed to know where that is. You do indeed have a GPS, but it does not really make things that clear. I was extremely annoyed by how often I would get lost.
Another problem with this town is that many of its citizens also look the sameÖ.literally. Itís common in open world/free roam games to have ďclonesĒ, but they really did not try to create many designs for the people. It seems to just be the same white guy/black guy/little boy/little girl/police officer roaming the city. I guess this is more of a nitpick than a real issue but thatís not very realistic and it strikes me as a lack of creativity.
Have you ever played a video game with a loading screen for EVERYTHING?
Well if you like this, Sonic 06 is your game! How it works is: Youíre in Soleanna, you see someone with a mission to give you. You press the button to talk to them, and you get a loading screen. They explain the mission. Another loading screen. You fail the mission, loading screen. They talk about your failure, loading screen. You are returned to the overworld, loading screen. The icing on this cake is that each loading screen is long enough for you to take a bathroom break, check your Facebook, do the laundry, and pop some corn. If you pass a mission, thereís still a loading screen before the results screen, followed by another loading screen. I have never played another game with so much loading time needed for every little thing.
The three main characters you can control are Sonic, Shadow, and Silver. Each of the characters have other characters you can play as (i.e. you can also control Knuckles and Tails, with Silver you can also play as Blaze the Cat from Sonic Rush, and with Shadow you can play as Rouge and Omega, the spiritual successor to E-102 Gamma from Sonic Adventure 1). Sonicís levels are speed based, Shadow is more vehicle/combat based, and Silverís levels are all about platforming using his telekinetic abilities to move objects around. As aforementioned there are sections of each hedgehogís levels where you take control of his respective allies as well. This setup sort of makes it feel like it could be Sonic Adventure 3. There is even a multiplayer mode where you simply race the other player to the end of the level.
The only gripe about the setup of the game is just the overworld. Wandering around an overworld completing side missions and running errands is not what Sonic games are about. To me, it hinders a Sonic game, but I suppose thatís a personal problem (itís for the same reason why I like Sonic Adventure 2 better than the first). I just think Sonic games are better when you simply complete a level, and then continue right to the next with no overworld in between. Sonic Adventure 2 did it perfectly in my opinion. I mean, I understand wanting to experiment with something new, but they did this in SA1 and it was okay, but it was better in SA2 with no overworld in between. All that does is make the pace of the game slower (especially with those excessively long loading screens between the level and returning to the overworld). It might have even worked if the city of Soleanna wasÖ.interesting.
Despite its beautiful appearance though, itís a very dull town to explore and most of the citizens do not have anything meaningful or interesting to say. The side missions that you embark on in this overworld are also reallyÖ.uncreative. They range from helping some kids play hide and seek to just going and talking to specific people as instructed. Even Station Square in SA1 at least had some fun little secrets and easter eggs to discover, but Soleanna is justÖa waste.
As far as the actual levels, I found most of them to be fun! Sonicís levels, Silverís levels, the actual stages were fun to run through and explore. Itís just a shame that Soleanna has to take up a bigger chunk of time that could be otherwise spent on these levels. Sonic Unleashed even has hub worlds to explore, but it doesnít work. Sega, take the hint: nobody wants to explore the overworld in a Sonic game! Games like Mario and Zelda often have overworlds, but in my opinion they work better because youíre not particularly stuck in them, they do just what theyíre purpose is and serve as a lobby. And in those games, locales like Peachís Castle and the towns of Hyrule are much more fun to explore because you donít have to complete moronic side missions like the ones in Soleanna. They tend to have mini games and other attractions in them, unlike this gameís main city. But even so, in my opinion, it just feels very time consuming to have in a Sonic game.
In terms of actually playing through the levels, I like Sonicís gameplay the best. Naturally, they are about ripping through the stage quick as possible to reach the goal, what Sonic games are all about. The only thing is that a lot of it is just button tapping and cinematics blended together. It doesnít really feel like you do very much actual playing, more like supervising. It doesnít really take much to just hold the control stick up and jump once in a while. Then you have some quick time events, the usual routine. Knucklesí gameplay is about exploring and finding things using his ability to glide and scale walls, just like in the Adventure games. Tailsí levels are like Sonicís but at a slower pace. Shadowís levels are more about exploring the level to find the way out, usually by way of a vehicle that you find conveniently placed somewhere. Rouge is the same as Knuckles. Silver has you using his telekinesis to move objects to certain places to platform levels. Itís pretty fun but frustrating at times because you can get lost. Same goes for Blaze. There are some boss fights in between and the usual. Most of the time theyíre terribly easy to read and find their weakness.
So at the end of the day, what can one really say about Sonic the Hedgehog? Well, judging by the title, I suppose they were going for a reboot. I canít quite say they accomplished this, because the negative feedback this game has garnered from critics and gamers alike proves that Sonic 06 did the exact opposite and helped put the blue blurís career further into the grave. But looking at it with open eyes and unbiased expectations, one can say that it is a decent game that could have been incredible had they just smoothed over many of the bugs. It isnít like there is a plethora of major issues that destroy the game. It is just a bunch of small annoyances that take away from the amount of enjoyment achieved.
The glitches arenít even as plentiful or horrible as people often say, itís just the over the top story, bugs, occasional control issues, and seeming lack of creativity overall that make the game just feel as though it was extremely rushed. Had Sega simply taken a little more time, smoothed over some flaws, and put more effort into it, it very well could have been the amazing reboot/Sonic Adventure 3 that they were most likely aiming for. Again, my review is based off of my experience with the PS3 version. I understand this version came out a year after its 360 counterpart and they may have smoothed over a few things before releasing it to the PS3, but even so they should have taken their time in the first place.
In the following years, Sega is giving many attempts to properly revive the series. Though some of them were laughable (Werehog? Seriously?), some of them were honest attempts (the day levels of Unleashed!) Again Iím not a hardcore follower of the games, but recently they seem to be getting closer and closer to achieving the success and fun factor of the pre-Sonic Heroes era games. The secret? I believe Sega is slowly realizing that in order to do this, they need to ditch the gimmicks. People loved the Sonic games before they began trying all these gimmicks, and after they start adding all these crazy twists/angles, people no longer care for the games. Coincidence?
Overall Grade: C
It's worth a rental or two, or even a purchase if about 15 dollars or under.