December 21, 2011 49 Comments
It’s been about a month since I blatantly trolled Sega fanboys and classic gaming enthusiasts by announcing my dislike for most things Sega. While I admit that this was as about as transparent as attention whoring gets, I want it to be clear that I stand by and truly believe all that bullshit I said. Every last line of it. Classic games are not as good as you remember and Sega games suck balls in general.
But what really pissed people off was going after Sonic The Hedgehog. By the way people reacted to me asserting that it was never a good series to begin with, you would have thought I had Mother Teresa’s corpse exhumed just so I could defecate on it. I just can’t comprehend why this series is so treasured. It kind of sucks. I can’t even believe this would qualify as being good “back in the day.” Put this up against stuff like Super Mario Bros. 3 or even the Alex Kidd games from Sega and it seems like such a step backwards.
Which is actually what they had in mind when they designed it. It was supposed to be Mario For Dummies, where the directional pad and only one button were needed and you wouldn’t be able to die if you had at least one ring. It kind of shows that Sega held its own customers in contempt. So basically, Sonic only exists because Sega wanted a Mario like character but thought its own users were too stupid to play a Mario game, and that just makes the crusader-like attitude of its fanboys all the more hilarious.
So the fanboys didn’t like my hate piece too much. Most of the comments were completely asinine statements like “name one game from that era that was better than Sonic The Hedgehog.” I could have been a total wise ass and said “anything!” but once you’ve got the monkeys throwing out “best game ever” statements, you’ve pretty much already won the battle. Like I said in my VolChaos review, I find the entire situation to be sad. Here are guys who are now in their thirties and they’re declaring the best game they have ever played and will ever play is one that Santa Claus gave them when they were ten years old. I’m only 22, and I sure as hell hope I haven’t already played the best game I will ever play. That would be tragic.
Granted, my only experience with the Genesis era Sonic games comes from when I got Sonic Mega Collection as a Christmas gift. I might have even been the same age as those fanboys when I first played those titles. Of course, by this point it’s 2002 and I’ve already played much better games, including some really spectacular 2D Mario games that Nintendo had ported to the Game Boy Advance. Hell, I played Sonic Advance, an original 2D Sonic game on the Game Boy Advance that I had a better time with than anything on Mega Collection.
“Oh, but there’s another Sonic 16-bit era game. One that destroys all those that came before it” cried the fanboys. Indeed. It’s called Sonic CD, and it’s the best of all the Sonics. It’s so good that Sega seemed to go out of its way to not include it anywhere. I mean, listen to how a guy I respect, Xbox Live Indie Game guru and Armless Octopus founder Dave Voyles described it.
Sonic CD is another fine example. It took a lot of the elements which made Sonic 1 so good, and vastly grew them. The future / past scenario for example, still hasn’t been done in other games to my knowledge. Sure, the 3D parts sucked and controlled like garbage, but the rest of the game provided a lot of innovation for the industry.
Well, what do you know, Sonic CD came out on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network this last week. Since it was only $5, I figured what the hoo haw and gave it a whirl. It makes me wonder what exactly Dave was even talking about. What exactly was innovative about it? It had an anime cut scene at the start? Nah, that can’t be it. What about the time travel gimmick? Nah, games were already doing that too.
I got it! It’s insanely easy. Yes, I get it now. Sonic CD was innovative because it introduced us to the era of the half-assed sequel. Before Sonic CD came around, developers actually gave a shit when developing follow-ups to games. And then this arrived, with its totally phoned in level design, boss fights that would embarrass the viewing audience of Yo Gabba Gabba, and levels where over half the game play is done automatically. Developers took notice and said “wow, look at how amazingly shallow and empty this sequel is. We didn’t know you could do that!”
If Sonic games were created for people too stupid to play Mario, Sonic CD must have been created for the recently lobotomized. Everything in it feels stripped down. There’s fewer enemies, shorter levels, easier bosses, and almost no way to game over. It took me all of one hour to finish it. At which point, it gave me TWO achievements instead of one. How sweet of it. I guess the innovation is supposed to be how there are multiple versions of each level, because you can hit a sign post that says “past” or “future” and if you build up enough speed, you time travel to an altered version of the same stage. I don’t know if this has any other effect on gameplay, and the game doesn’t tell you. It was beneficial to me because I nearly had to quit in the middle of one stage due to the strobey effects. I swear, as I was putting down the control, I bumped into one of those time travel sign posts, hit a bumper, and suddenly I was in the past, sans flashy lights.
Here’s the thing about that though: the fucking game did all that by itself. I had already put the controller down. That’s one of my biggest gripes with the Sonic games, that they do all the hard work for you. The first Sonic game I ever played was in fact Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast. Everyone who played it remembers the iconic scene in the first level of that game where you’re on a dock running from a killer whale. When I was ten years old, that was, up to that point, the single coolest moment I had seen in a video game. And it was cool, until you realized that the game had all kinds of moments where it takes the controller away from you and does all the fancy stuff automatically.
But isn’t that how Sonic games always have been? In Sonic CD, you spend most of the levels doing nothing while the game has all the fun for you. Half the time in the game is spent watching Sonic automatically coast off bumpers and through tubes at warp speed. Granted, that’s enough to give the Sonic fanboys their jollies, but I thought this was supposed to be the Crème de la Crème of series. Instead, it’s probably the worst. Unless you count the Game Gear titles, which were pretty bad.
Here’s my theory: most people who had this fascination with Sonic CD never actually played it. Probably because you needed a Sega CD to play it and their parents weren’t willing to spring the extra $300 for the attachment. So Sonic CD became the unobtainable entry in the series. The one that was so good it had to be put on the most expensive system on the market at the time. It got some good press coverage, but the Sega CD was pretty much dead on arrival and by time you could afford it, the next wave of consoles were coming and all the copies of Sonic CD had already been long snatched up as soon as they hit the clearance rack. It’s status as the lost Sonic game made it the stuff of legends.
Well, legends do tend to disappoint. Sonic CD is bad even by the low standards of the series. It’s everything that every other 2D Sonic has been: horrible play control, no actual platforming skills required, cheap deaths, and lots of watching the game do all the work for you. Only this time, it’s insanely easy, to the point that it’s a little insulting. Thankfully, it would seem even the Sonic fanboys are somewhat on my side with this one. Within 24 hours of Sonic CD hitting the PS3 and Xbox 360 marketplaces, I saw plenty of Sonic aficionados sulkily tweet “not as good as I remember it” or “that was disappointing.” Others are pissing and moaning because some stupid song got cut out of the game. Which is funny to me because I always thought gaming was supposed to be about the gameplay, not the title song during the opening cut scene that most people were likely anxious to skip anyway.
It goes to show you that the older you get, the less kind reality is to your childhood memories. Guys, Sonic CD didn’t get bad. It was always bad. They all were. You’ve just played better games since it came out. Every time I go back and play something I liked as a kid, the memories just don’t hold up. It happened to me with Sonic Adventure, Tony Hawk, and Crash Bandicoot. That’s why it’s best to live in the now. Don’t go back looking for moldy oldies. The best game you will ever play hopefully hasn’t come out yet, but you won’t know that unless you look to the future for it, and not the past.
Oh, and as a spoiler, it’s not Knuckles Chaotix either. I realize now that Sonic CD finally has a wide release, everyone is going to say “okay, it sucked, but I totally remember Knuckles Chaotix on the 32X being the most awesome Sonic game ever!” Wrong! If Sega had any faith in that game they would have re-released it by now. They haven’t for the same reason they dragged their feet with Sonic CD: it sucks, and they know it. Deep down, you know it too. I haven’t even played it and I know it. Helen Keller knows it. She might be blind and deaf, but when shit gets piled this thick for so long you can smell it coming a mile away.
400 Microsoft Points said “honestly, if Sega had released Bubsy the Bobcat and Sonic had been the generic lifeless mascot of some nameless game company, would you even have known the difference?” in the making of this review.