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By 2005 everyone who was a fan of the ‘90s games had given up on the new stuff entirely. Oh the modern games sold well and a rather large audience swore that they were as fun as ever, but it seemed like anyone over the age of 16 was ready to not just move on and ignore Sonic, but also openly deride each new game as inferior to the 16-bit classics. That’s when Sonic Rush blasted onto the scene, kicked all the naysayers in the nuts and proved this formula still worked, and that a wayward franchise could still squeeze out a quality sequel.
Rush was little more than a throwback to the series’ glory days, but in a time when most of us assumed the franchise had dug itself a hole too deep to recover from, playing another screaming-fast platformer with dizzying level design and a thumping, high-energy soundtrack was like traveling back in time to 1991. Even with all the dumbass characters in tow plus cheap deaths due to perfectly placed, unavoidable enemies, it was precisely what Sonic needed at the exact right time. Stay of execution, little guy.
Above: Standout music from Hideki Naganuma of Jet Set Radio fame
Rush was a return to form in the best possible way, but it wasn’t exactly the first time we’d seen a solid 2D entry since the Genesis days. That honor lies with the number one entry.
Stupidness that managed to find its way in:
I couldn’t find any images or useful YouTube clips for this, but in general, once again the dialog between the characters is some of the dumbest shit you’ll ever read. Tails takes forever to get to the damn point and there’s more technobabble than you’ll find in a typical episode of Star Trek. Simplify!
Probably not too surprising. After all, if everyone agrees the series was at its best when Sonic was on a 2D path with a bit of exploration, then the best modern game has to be the one that closely adheres to the formula that made Sonic enticing from the start.
Sonic Rush is the flashier game by far, but it’s riddled with bottomless pits and levels that demand pure memorization. Advance is a bit more like Sonic 2 – that is, there are still plenty of cheap shots, but the levels are far more forgiving and feel just like the classic stuff, just with a bit better animation and more playable characters. And, even though it contains Amy Rose, Chaos and the updated arty style of the Adventure series, the guts are 100% old-school, making this the perfect balance of old and new.
Above: Naturally this led to MORE Sonic Advance
Sonic took off in the ‘90s for a simple reason – he was heavily marketed as the anti-Mario, a charismatic, no-nonsense speedster that was just plain cool. Once that effect wore off, Sega slipped through the Saturn years with nothing, then failed to regain momentum with the Dreamcast. Sonic Advance was the first surefire sign that our childhood faith was not misplaced, that our nostalgia wasn’t responsible for our continued affection for a series that’d struggled to remain relevant. In short, it let us breathe a generational sigh of relief and look forward to the day when Sega would finally figure out this whole 3D thing and bring Sonic up to date properly.
For now, we just have to hope that Sonic the Hedgehog 4 lives up to the standards that both Advance and Rush have set. Fingers crossed…
May 3, 2010
The rise, fall and deafening crash of Sonic
A teary-eyed examination of gaming’s greatest casualty
Game music of the day: Sonic the Hedgehog
Scrap Brain Zone by Masato Nakamura