Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Posts Tagged ‘sonic

Review: Sonic CD (Sega CD)

leave a comment »

soniccd_boxConsole: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $11.99 (used), $23.50 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – PC, PS2/Gamecube (Sonic Gems Collection)
Digital Release? Yes – Steam, Xbox 360, PS3, Android, iOS ($5 on all platforms)

Sonic CD is one of those games that it’s just popular to like.  I don’t want to start on a negative note, the game does have some merit, but it’s not a particularly good Sonic game and doesn’t quite change the universe like many will claim.  Before Sega decided to blitz every console on the market with the digital version, Sonic fans were gnawing at the bit for a decent port (sadly the Sonic Gems Collection ports had emulation issues).  Now that it’s everywhere the gaming community seems to have adjusted to a more realistic view of the CD adventure that throws a few imaginative ideas at relatively lackluster level design.

At one point you're forced to beat Metal Sonic in a race.

At one point you’re forced to beat Metal Sonic in a race.

For those that aren’t up on their Sonic history, the hedgehog was co-created by Naoto Oshima and his more known partner Yuji Naka.  After the release of the first game, Naka and several members of that team moved to the United States and joined with STI (Sega Technical Institute) to create Sonic the Hedgehog 2.  Meanwhile the remaining developers, including Oshima, took the concepts that were in early development for Sonic 2 and expanded upon them into what eventually became Sonic CD.  This is why despite coming out around the same time as Sonic 2, Sonic CD looks graphically more like the original and doesn’t seem to adapt some of the great ideas of the sequel.  Still, it does feature some interesting gameplay mechanics, like the ability to move into the past and future with two full versions of the many levels.  This dual expansion of the campaign does have a casualty: level design.  Many of the levels in Sonic CD feature plenty of wasted real estate in the interest of moving quickly to the right, odd gimmicks that net death if you don’t tolerate the so-so platforming, and several instances where Sonic’s momentum is completely spoiled by a random ramp or springboard.  Despite these layout flaws I still contest that the boss designs are superior over Sonic 2 and prove that not all of the talent in Sega’s Japanese team migrated to America.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

November 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Feature: Mascots

leave a comment »

Mascots, you have to love them.  No, wait, you don’t.  For the most part mascots have been one of the dark spots on a game publisher’s marketing blitz.  At first there was only one iconic mascot, Mario from Super Mario Bros., and frankly he was an accidental mascot that Nintendo had never imagined would become its poster child.  After Mario other companies were consistently trying to establish mascots no matter the negative cost to the consumer.  Mario is an exception not because he’s a particularly good or mistakenly genius mascot, he’s just iconic because his game was the catalyst to the return of video games after the crash of 1983.  During the mid 80s Nintendo established a handful of strong franchises that are beloved by many fans and despite Mario being the “leader” per se, he’s definitely not alone when Nintendo wants to sell a product.  I would argue that Link (from Legend of Zelda), Kirby (from Kirby’s Dream Land), Pikachu (from Pokemon), and to certain extent Donkey Kong (from Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Country) and Samus (from Metroid).  Much like Disney, Nintendo brings with it a cast of characters and franchises that all assist the overall brand in creating long running quality games.  Everyone wanted to have that same wonderful family in the 90s (all of the above named characters had at least one title on the NES by 1992), but they seemed to miss the point that these characters were not created to be mascots, they just happened to get popular enough to become mascots.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

August 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Generation Gap Pt 5: “Last” Gen

leave a comment »

This installment will conclude our Generation Gap coverage.  Please note that upcoming coverage on handhelds, arcades and microcomputers will follow.  A lot happened just over a decade ago – the gaming market changed and one strong competitor bowed out as another took to the plate.

Fifth Generation – 1999 – Present (technically)

Sega Dreamcast – Launch Price: $199.99 – Released: 1999
Launch dates are getting more technical by this time, so from a Japanese standpoint the Dreamcast was a 1998 launch but we didn’t get it here until much later in September 1999.  Although it is a 128-bit system, consoles had stopped toting the strength of “bits” and instead focused on a sleek design – most likely because Sony did it with Playstation and it worked.  Dreamcast was Sega’s final nail before bowing out of hardware manufacturing and has been argued to also be its best offering.  Regardless, the Dreamcast was definitely ahead of its time.  It featured things that no console would dare launch without today and basically had the same features that Microsoft would include in its console just a few years later.  A few years, that’s the difference between success and failure.

Until the Dreamcast most video game consoles were specified hardware that was far behind PCs.  By all accounts the Dreamcast was a simplified PC, even running Windows CE, a modified version of the operating system that would be put to greater use on later pocket PCs.  The Dreamcast had a built-in modem on all consoles, which supported the earliest form of online console gaming and provided a web browser service to those fortunate or rich enough to afford the high cost of long phone calls.  Furthermore a keyboard attachment allowed players to truly use their console as an Internet device and even gave way to early MMOs on the console.  Memory cards included LCD dot matrix screens and were called “visual memory units” or VMUs that not only held data but gave the player on-the-go mini games and Gigapet-style games.  Aside from that Dreamcast boasted higher storage with the proprietary GD-rom format (1.2 GB of storage space), impressive graphics, and a slew of solid titles.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

December 5, 2011 at 9:21 am

Generation Gap Pt. 2: 8-Bit

leave a comment »

Amidst the video game crash of 1983, it seemed pretty unlikely that home consoles would have a future.  Fortunately a Japanese toy maker had figured out how to re-sell video games to the masses despite the world economy turning its back.  That company was Nintendo.

8-bit Generation (1985 – 1995)

Nintendo Entertainment System – Launch Price: $200 – Released: 1985
Depending on your age, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) probably needs the least introduction or background, but there were many things going on behind the scenes that assisted this console in becoming the giant it was.  Initially Nintendo had to figure out how to overcome the world economy’s opinion on video game consoles, which the Famicom/NES clearly was.  In Japan, where personal home computers were all the rage, it was marketed as a computer for your family, hence the name Famicom (for “family computer”).  In America the better way to sell it was as a toy, which everything from the console’s marketing to the simple boxy aesthetic suggests.  It worked and in both regions this little 8-bit system assisted Nintendo in virtually running the 8-bit era.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

October 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Strength in Numbers

with one comment

Anniversaries.  As time progresses everything ages at the same pace and with each passing year a ton of video games hit new milestones.  Popular titles from the past can be revisited in short periods of time for the sake of nostalgia or the chance to finally complete a difficult game for the first time¹.  Since no one day can go by without something in the video game industry reaching a notable age, it’s no surprise that retro articles are riddled with regular anniversary celebrations.  This site will be no exception.

Sonic 20thGaming companies have now begun to celebrate series anniversaries themselves on a more consistent basis.  In some cases I feel these creations are warranted, but I find myself frowning a bit when it’s a last-ditch effort to revitalize an intellectual property that should have died off long ago.  I think the better anniversary is the for titles that stand on their own and you rarely think about until they are brought up.  A perfect example of this is Chrono Trigger.  Despite a few remakes and Square’s occasional interest in bringing attention to the title, it’s mostly one for the nostalgia vault.  Thankfully, unlike so many other titles, Chrono Trigger holds up today and stands as an individual game even though it technically has two other entries in the series².  Oddly enough, even though the game celebrated 15 years in 2010, it received a GBA port on its 13th birthday and didn’t come to virtual console and PSN until this year (its 16th anniversary).  This only further proves that incremental numbers aren’t always on a publisher’s top priority list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

October 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm