Sonic the Hedgehog

The 16-bit era was incredible, to say the least. Maybe not the best one in terms of games (though quite close), but certainly the best in terms of rivalry. SEGA vs. Nintendo, Sonic vs. Mario. It was unforgettable. Already back then, despite having played quite a bit of Mario on the NES before I got my hands on a SEGA Mega Drive, I developed a strong preference for the Sonic games, due to their faster pace, better protagonist, and more fun setting. They also just looked so much cooler.

Yet, I hadn’t beaten the original Sonic the Hedgehog until just recently. I’d first played (and beaten) the second one, and I’ve also beaten the third one (though without Sonic & Knuckles attached). My efforts with the first one back in the day ended quite miserably, I don’t think I ever made it past the Marble Zone, maybe I reached Spring Yard once or twice. But it was just too hard for me to beat on a regular console. Thank goodness we’ve got emulators and save states nowadays. 🙂

Sonic the Hedgehog Title Screen

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: Mega Drive/Genesis; Saturn (as part of Sonic Jam),  Dreamcast (as part of SEGA Smash Pack), PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC (Sonic Mega Collection/Plus), PSP (SEGA Mega Drive Collection), DS (Sonic Classic Collection), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (as part of the SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection), PlayStation Network, XBox Live Arcade, Wii Virtual Console, Steam, Mobile
Original release: 1991
Territories: All

Sonic is a great start for the series. If you’ve started with Sonic 2 or 3, some things will be sorely missing (especially the spin dash – you have to roll up yourself when you have enough speed to attack on the ground, you can’t do it from a static position). However, the game has laid a solid foundation that the later entries built upon. It’s just Sonic vs. Robotnik, the whole crew of friends of Sonic only appear later in the series. In a way, that’s not bad. The difficulty is indeed quite high, as I said, but also remarkably fair. Unlike Mega Man, a decent level of knowing the stage will be sufficient, and furthermore, bosses, even the final boss, can be defeated fairly once you understand their pattern. On the other hand, Sonic doesn’t offer infinite continues – actually, you start without any.

This is another review that provides screenshots captured by me.

Read full review

Video Game Music of the Week – 26.11-02.12.2012

SEGA’s last console, the Dreamcast, unfortunately didn’t last very long. But it had several hits that a ton of people like and are considered among the best games ever created even today. This week, I’ve gotta give it to Grandia II, an amazing RPG by Game Arts, and undoubtedly the best in the genre on the system, especially if you don’t count the online pioneer (get it?) Phantasy Star Online.

Many RPGs have boring normal battle themes, not Grandia II, though. Its is quite stellar. And it’s written by none other than Noriyuki Iwadare, who we’ve already had on this series with his Phoenix Wright 3 work.

Composer: Noriyuki Iwadare
Game: Grandia II
Song:  FIGHT!! Version #1

Video Game Music of the Week – 19-25.11.2012

In the Sonic Adventure 2 demo impressions article, I said that vocal Sonic songs are quite unsatisfying in comparison to the wonderful tunes of the 2D games. But every rule has its exception, and here it is – the Pumpkin Hill song from Sonic Adventure 2, also known as Knuckles’ theme. A badass rap song, fitting Knuckles’ character nicely. Some say it’s terrible, but don’t mind them. 🙂

Composer: Tomoya Ohtani
Vocals: Hunnid-P
Game: Sonic Adventure 2
Song:  A Ghost’s Pumpkin Soup

Sonic Adventure 2 – a relic of the past

SEGA like to release their old stuff on PSN/XBLA/Steam lately, making some completely free money off their past work. I was a big fan of SEGA back in the 16-bit era, and, of course, the 2D Sonic games were a major reason for that. Sonic was WAY cooler than Mario in the 2D world, he carried SEGA forward, and that is why the Mega Drive/Genesis was such a success. I never owned a Saturn or a Dreamcast, though, so I had missed on Sonic’s later forays, this time in the 3D world. And while his more recent games have been widely hated (Sonic Generations being a recent exception), the Dreamcast entries Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 have always been beloved by the fanbase. Thus, quite curious to see just how good the first 3D Sonics could be in comparison to less popular stuff like Unleashed, which I’d tried a couple of years ago, I recently downloaded the demo of Sonic Adventure 2 on PSN.

Sonic Adventure 2

Game: Sonic Adventure 2
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: Dreamcast, GameCube (Sonic Adventure 2: Battle version), PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC
Original release: 2001
Territories: All
Price: $9.99

Read full impressions

Video Game Music of the Week – 12-18.11.2012

I have to finish the theme of the original 16-bit Sonic trilogy with song from the first game, in which Sonic didn’t have most of his flashy abilities (nor his sidekicks) from the sequels. But, even so, the game was still a pretty solid platformer in itself. I have chosen the Spring Yard Zone music.

Composer: Masato Nakamura
Game: Sonic the Hedgehog
Song:  Spring Yard Zone

Video Game Music of the Week – 05-11.11.2012

Speaking of Sonic soundtracks, a rumour has been floating around the internet for a very long time regarding the involvement of Michael Jackson in the composition of the Sonic 3 OST. He was never credited, but multiple sources including Brad Buxer and Cirocco Jones, two of the (other) composers for the game, claim that he did some work, the latter even lists levels 2 and 3 as being done by Michael (it’s a rather unorganised page, just do a word search for “Michael Jackson”). And here, I’ve got one of my favourite songs in Sonic 3, which also happens to be in the second level of the game, Hydrocity Zone. Perhaps the work of Michael Jackson himself.

Composer: Michael Jackson (?)
Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Song:  Hydrocity Zone Act 2

Video Game Music of the Week – 29.10-04.11.2012

Earthworm Jim sure was a hit on the Mega Drive/Genesis, but sadly couldn’t get anywhere near the popularity of the system mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. And one of the major reasons why the Sonic games in the 16-bit era were so awesome (and why they trounced the Mario counterparts) was the really cool music. From the original Sonic game to Phantasy Star Online, Sonic Team has always been known for great music in their games. The Sonic song I picked for this week is Aquatic Ruin Zone from Sonic 2, it was my favourite song in the game when I played it on my trusty SEGA Mega Drive II back in the day.

Composer: Masato Nakamura
Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Song:  Aquatic Ruin Zone

Video Game Music of the Week – 06-12.08.2012

Still in a PSO mood, this week I’ve decided to share PSO2’s take on “A Whole New World” with you. PSO fans will instantly recognise it. It’s enjoyable and shows promise for the PSO2 soundtrack as a whole. Of course, I do not hope for a soundtrack as amazing as Phantasy Star Online’s, that would be too much to ask. But I’ll be happy enough if PSO2’s comes close to its quality. Yes, the game is already out in Japan and I could listen to the music even now, but I prefer to wait until I get to play it myself in 2013. 🙂

Composer:  Hideaki Kobayashi
Game: Phantasy Star Online 2
Song:  A Whole New World – PSO2 Arrangement

Video Game Music of the Week – 30.07-05.08.2012

This week continues the SEGA theme, even if we’re leaving the 16-bit nostalgia behind for now. With Phantasy Star Online 2 having already come out in Japan and being mere months away from being playable in English, I cannot help recalling one of the things that made the original Phantasy Star Online so amazing – its soundtrack. It’s one of my favourite game soundtracks, and the song I’ve chosen from it is actually from Episode IV, exclusive for the PC version Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst. It’s called “Nostalgia in Solitude: Part 1”.

Composer:  Hideaki Kobayashi
Game: Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst
Song:  Nostalgia in Solitude: Part 1

Phantasy Star Online 2 gets a Western release in 2013

Phantasy Star Online 2 Start Screen

SEGA have announced that the release of the highly anticipated Phantasy Star Online 2 in Europe and North America will happen in 2013.

The game is already out in Japan and is accessible to everyone, including people living in the rest of the world, but those of us who do not want to bother with translation guides will have to wait a while for the English release Nevertheless, I am happy that the game was confirmed for the West at all, as there were some rumours floating around that it would remain Japanese-only.

As discussed earlier on “Between Life and Games”, unlike Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, the second installment of the PSO series will be free-to-play!

Some of the Phantasy Star Online 2 features:

  • Deep sci-fi fantasy universe filled with lush landscapes, extraordinary creatures, and epic adventures
  • Revolutionary real-time combat and third-person action with devastating combos and counters to master
  • Flexible, class-based leveling system that lets players define their own play-style with distinctive melee, ranged, and magic weapon types
  • Randomized maps and unexpected mid-quest encounters that ensure each quest is different for each player
  • Deep character creation system with a nearly limitless number of potential appearances
  • Three degrees of humanity to experience across three unique races: the versatile Humans, spiritually-powered Newmen, and artificial CAST

Source: http://www.sega.com/news/?n=5722

I am happy with this news and cannot wait to recreate my FOnewearl and start her new adventure in PSO2!