For any SEGA fan, a little blue hedgehog will sit firmly and lovingly in your heart. Sonic ever since its first foray on the SEGA Megadrive has somehow survived the test of time, the move from 2D to 3D graphics and even a new audience but alas it has faltered terribly as we enter the next generation.
Sonic has always been a story of cute and cuddly animals, vibrant colours and memorable music however forget your original perceptions and lets together venture down a new avenue of despair, horror and damn right stupidity. No I am not talking about the story line as dull as it is, but of the feeling tormenting you from level one.
On the SEGA Dreamcast we had Sonic Adventure and although many missed the classic 2D approach, there were still plenty of people including myself who really enjoyed the action and exploring. The city was alive with people and traffic and the all important speed factor of running around insane areas with things chasing you survived. Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 is nothing short of a travesty to the Sonic series as it seemingly ignores the rule book by including frustrating controls, slow action, annoying enemies and ridiculous loading times.
As with Sonic Adventure there are the exploring sections, but this time in a place called Soleanna, which has about as much personality as that wall with the paint drying on it. This vast city, which is extremely easy to get lost in, oozes nothing at all in the way of interest or diversity. Everyone must have been queing for the Nintendo Wii in Soleanna because I will be buggered if I can find many people to interact with. Then when you do find a task, it goes from bad to worse.
Welcome to the floor, Mr Loading. Now Mr Loading is an annoying chap who constantly interrupts gameplay by popping up every 2 seconds. OK let me clarify that there is no person really called Mr Loading, but by giving this problem a personality I am in fact feeling less irritated when I explain this to you all. So you find yourself someone to talk to and you accept the challenge. *loading screen.* the challenge is then explained to you taking roughly 10 seconds . *loading screen.* you complete the challenge (if you are lucky otherwise return to the start of your loading screen problems). *loading screen.* you are congratulated for your efforts in about 3 seconds. *loading screen.* you finally return to Soleanna bemused and totally uninterested in playing any further. Yes Mr Loading will not be your friend and with his efforts alone makes for a very unfinished feeling game from start to finish.
The frustration of falling off the edge of the 3D world is still here, but with gusto! The controls are extremely tricky due to the oversensitive nature they have been set to resulting in many lives lost to a what normally would be a simple edge.
The premise of the game is to save Princess Elise, who seems to have a disturbing romantic interest with our blue hero. Also welcome another new character to the series and when you thought there wouldn’t be anymore colours a hedgehog could be in, I present to you the mysterious Silver the Hedgehog. With his psychokinetic powers, he can lift objects such as boulders and vehicles to chuck at his enemies. He also has the ability to float for a short period of time to get over large gaping holes. Returning is also Shadow the Hedgehog (wonder if they are all related?). Sonic, Shadow and Silver all have their own adventures to go through, but all come down to the same problems of very poor action.
There is a lot of talk about the Iblis Trigger, which Sonic is accused of being. I won’t spoil too much of the story so it won’t spoil the excitement *sarcasm*, but Silver believes this is true and decides to pursue Sonic.
There are 25 stages all with unique flaws and lack luster gameplay and the speed the Sonic games have always been remembered for is gone. You end up spending most of your time turning the camera, which rotates incredibly slowly resulting in perfection for getting killed by the smallest and easiest of enemies.
When viewing the early videos I had quite high hopes, however after now experiencing the full living nightmare that is Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 it is easy to conclude that although some of the details are pleasing to the eyes, the extreme desperation to have vast landscapes has left the whole game bland and uninteresting.
Many of the games outside areas wouldn’t be far off what you would expect from the SEGA Saturn in terms of plainness. The framerate can be a little choppy and this is very helpful when you are teetering on the edge of a huge drop.
The best parts of the game are the video cut scenes (ignoring the princess love affair with Sonic), which are of very high quality. In game cut scenes again require a fair bit of loading for the smallest bits of dialogue to be presented and it just gets to the point where you wish it would just end.
I still know all of the tunes from Sonic on the Megadrive and although Sonic on the Xbox 360 retains some of that charm, it falls well short of Sonic Adventure.
The character acting is absolutely awful and the person who voices Sonic has been replaced. Tails is still his irritating squeaky self, possibly even more so and the entire range of characters sound ridiculous.
You will be considered a desperate person to even have the desire to complete this game first time round nevermind go through the whole process again! You can go back and complete certain sections to gain a higher rank, but the will just isn’t there to do so.
Sonic the Hedgehog is an absolute disaster for any reasonable fan of the series. The game is unfinished, annoying, disappointing, soulless, frustrating and to top it off includes my favourite gaming character only to ruin it!
Maybe with more time, the developers could have smoothed over all the rough edges, loading times and other fatal flaws but the rush to get it out has utterly destroyed Sonic’s rebirth into the Next Generation.
If you are desperate for some Sonic excitement on your Xbox 360, purchase the gamerpics and theme (which are very nice and colourful!) or simply wait for the original Sonic games to appear on Xbox Live Arcade. You have been warned!