Title: Sonic the Hedgehog
Studio: Sonic Team
Published By: SEGA
System: PS3, Xbox 360
Released: November 2006
Sonic The Hedgehog brings the popular character back to his high-velocity roots, for a new dimension of entertainment. In his first adventure set in the human world, Sonic meets a beautiful princess named Elise — queen of Soleanna, the beautiful city of water. When she’s kidnapped by Dr. Eggman, Sonic enters the world of humans to fight the menacing doctor to thwart his malicious plans. As he stops Eggman’s plans to destroy this special kingdom of hers, Sonic will encounter and interact with new allies and enemies, like the mysterious, supernatural Silver. As Sonic speeds through the huge kingdom, the mysteries unravel.
So, I’ve written about Sonic the Hedgehog, aka Sonic 06, a couple of times before. It appears in my posts about my favourite cut scenes, and in my post about Blaze the Cat’s timeline. I also discussed how a small change could have made the infamous kiss scene easier to swallow for many. It was in this post that I mentioned how broken the game is at times. At the time I wrote that piece, it was also the only modern Sonic game that I’d played but not finished.
I made the decision to change that around Christmas. It’s cheap enough to buy for PS3 now, and honestly, it kinda bugged me that I hadn’t experienced the full game myself. Now that I have, it kinda made sense to review the title because… well… it turns out, it’s not as bad as its reputation would have you believe.
Now, I’m not going to say the game is actually perfect. To that end, I do want to start by addressing some issues I had with the title. The load times are, frankly, atrocious. The game took an age to load pretty much everything. Three cut scenes before entering a level? Expect load screens between each one, and another before the level itself. Even a short 5-second scene of an NPC making a grunting noise takes a while to load in. And if you lose all your lives, you can also expect to have to skip each one, in turn, meaning the load screens are still your constant companions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a PS3 game that suffered this much, and I can only imagine this is caused by the well-documented problems Sonic Team had when developing the title.
In much the same way, the game suffers from moments of severe slowdown. If too many enemies – or in some cases a handful of large enemies – come on screen at once, the game starts to run in slow motion with moments of visible jumping. The slow down itself makes it seem like the game was designed with a more powerful system in mind. In that respect, it’s almost a shame, because I could see it running far better on the PS4/Xbox One. The thing that makes this a real problem though is that it really throws you off when it comes to attempting things like lock-on attacks. That in itself is Sonic’s most common form of attack in the game, and it’s a move that is already a little ‘off’.
In later titles, like Unleashed, Generations, and Forces, the lock-on attack is accompanied by a target to show you where you’re going to hit. Here though, we don’t get that, and that makes it difficult to know which enemy you’re going to hit, or sometimes if you’re even locked on at all. Then, there were also other little glitches with Sonic that led to the unnecessary loss of lives. Sometimes, he’d randomly stop in the middle of zipping along lines of rings. Other times, he’d freeze and start sliding backwards, with no way to stop him other than to let him get smacked by enemies or slide off the edge of the level. These glitches meant that Sonic’s story took a fair bit longer than it should have.
The Blue Blur wasn’t alone in having issues either. Tails’ flying felt very sensitive to me. To the point that I almost dreaded playing as him for the short spells you have to. Given that he’s my favourite character, that was a real disappointment to me. Meanwhile, both Knuckles and Rouge suffer from the issue that, when wall climbing, the camera movement causes the screen to judder, which in turn affects the controls.
So, it would be fair to say that the game has some issues. However, these are not as game-breaking as you may think. With Sonic, you need to get used to how he doesn’t work, rather than how he does. The further you get in the game too, the less the glitches seem to appear, which mostly leaves you dealing just the lock-on flaws and his almost unwieldy speed. Tails’ levels are relatively short too, meaning the flight isn’t a huge issue. When it comes to both Knuckles and Rouge, they both handle really well other than the aforementioned wall climb issues.
Of the other characters you play as Shadow is the only one I found minor issues with. Occasionally, he’d get stuck on a wall, but a quick tap of square always freed him. His vehicle levels needed a little tightening of the controls, but otherwise, he was perfectly fine to play as. None of Amy Rose, E-Omega 123, or Blaze the Cat had any major issues. And personally, I found Silver to be an absolute delight to play as. His psychokinetic abilities felt really different to what we’ve had before, and his slower speed made him a lot easier to play as than the titular hero. Best of all, each character is different enough that there’s plenty of variety. Even characters with similar roles feel different enough to be worthwhile.
I actually really liked the level designs too. There were plenty of opportunities to explore different routes, and the layouts generally made sense. The only thing that made them tough to handle was the camera which was an unfortunately mixed bag of quality if left to its own devices. In particular, I thought the boss fights were really well designed. The only real exception to this was fighting Silver and Sonic, as the camera essentially left you fighting blind. Even that is workable though once you get used to the sound cues. The giant monster/robot fights though? They’re plenty of fun.
In terms of story, I’ve said before that I enjoyed this more than most. The dialogue felt fine to me, and I enjoyed how the story dealt with its core themes. Sure, you could argue that some things are a little rushed – Elise making her choice in the final cut scene featured a very quick change of heart, for example – but generally, this was a fun mix of silliness, peril, and sacrifice. Not to mention that the more epic moments, like Shadow and Silver’s endings, were all really well handled.
Visually, the game also deserves some praise. The cut scenes are very well done, with even the one using the player character models looking fairly decent for the era. Level textures were decent, visual effects like fire were nice, and the animations were all pretty good. I thought the voice cast did okay here too, with very little coming across as vocally jarring to me. I do understand that I’m in the minority there, but I don’t think many would deny that the OST is very good. The mix of great themes and a wonderful score is a real highlight for the game.
So, how do I sum this up? When it comes down to it, there’s no getting around some of the issues the game has. It’s a real shame Sonic Team had to deal with having their numbers reduced and the shortened time limit on finishing the game at the same time. If it had been just one problem, I suspect this would have been far more polished. The fact is though, what we got isn’t unplayable. You have to get used to the way it handles – and boy does it make it clear how much better we have it now with titles like Forces in that regard – but you can get through it.
Honestly, people have been crying out for Sonic Adventure 3 for a long time now, but when you look at it, I think we already got it. Between the story style and the multiple playable characters, it should be clear to everyone that Sonic 06 was intended to be SA3. For me, it succeeds in being that, if not in matching the quality. There’s fun to be had here if you persevere. For that, I score this as 3 out of 5.