While the retro gold rush that began the last gaming generation has since been reduced to the odd monthly (if we're lucky) release, some developers are still fighting the good fight for classic games.
Last week, the fine people at M2 graced us with a wonderful port of Space Harrier, and this week brings us their just-as-reverent version of what could be Sega's most-played game. True, Sonic's keepers haven't been shy about letting you play his debut on just about any device with a screen, but M2's 3D port stands above the rest with its collection of special features that make this so much more than your standard Virtual Console release.
If you burned yourself out on Sonic the Hedgehog over the past 22 years, 3D isn't likely to change your mind. M2 adds the (optional) spin-dash to this version -- which wouldn't be seen until the sequel -- but since the game isn't built around this ability, you won't find yourself using it all too often. And while it's aged extremely well for the most part, Sonic's pacing hits a major speed bump around the halfway point, when the Labyrinth Zone's tedious, underwater platforming pumps the brakes on a game built around its main character's speediness. But if you're okay with Sonic's few issues, 3D offers up a host of extras you didn't know you even wanted.
M2 somehow knows how to make the 3DS's titular feature more than a frivolity, and 3D Sonic the Hedgehog is no different in this respect with its two different 3D modes: "fall-in" and "pop-out." The former offers a much more subtle and convincing effect than what's usually seen on the 3DS, especially for people like me who can barely nudge the 3D slider without needing a serious trepanning afterwards. If you're interested in seeing the scant differences between the Japanese and International versions of the game, 3DS Sonic the Hedgehog lets you choose between them, as well as whether or not you'd like to emulate the game based on the Genesis or Genesis 2 hardware. And if you're one of those retro purists, M2 has included a feature that approximates the fuzzy, convex image of an ancient CRT-TV through which to view Sonic's platforming antics.
Like M2's port of Space Harrier, the only issue with 3D Sonic the Hedgehog lies in how unclear some of the options are. I don't, for instance, know the immediate difference between Genesis and Genesis 2 hardware (gasp!), and the digital manual certainly doesn't offer any information. And when I made a note to complain about the lack of a level select feature outside of the standard save/load options, I stumbled into it by checking the option box marked "Special," which drops you into Sonic's debug menu from the title screen.
Outside of these minor issues, though, M2 has done another amazing job, and one that makes most other retro releases pale in comparison. Here's hoping Nintendo will wise up and contract them to give their beloved back catalog the respect it deserves.
The Nitty Gritty
- Visuals: It's Sonic as you always remembered him, and this time with a 3D option that won't make your eyes bleed or brain throb.
- Music and Sound: M2 perfectly replicates Sonic's bouncy, jazzy soundtrack, and even unlocks the in-game sound test from the outset.
- Interface: Well-presented, with the attractive art from Sonic's Japanese release gracing the bottom screen during play. M2 could have worked a little harder to explain a few of the more specialized options, though.
- Lasting Appeal: Even though he's seen better days, the original Sonic remains a classic worth visiting over and over again -- and this time you can skip the levels you don't like.
Sonic the Hedgehog has suffered from various forms of mistreatment over the past few decades, but this 3D rerelease provides one of the purest ways to experience his debut outside of digging your old Genesis out from the closet.