61. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Original Platform: 360, PS3
Version Played: Emulated & Patched 360 version
Where to get: Second hand
It’s possible that some of you have noticed that I haven’t always played the original versions (it’s just the original Sonic the Hedgehog where I’m looking at specific versions), and I figured that conversations about Sonic 06 have talked about all its flaws and hidden qualities have said everything that ever needs saying, so I figured that for Sonic 06, I would delve a little bit into fan territory.
Not as far as P-06 from ChaosX (although I did play some levels after completing Sonic 06 and it’s shaping up to be amazing), but more the patches included in the Sonic 06 mod manager, and just those patches – no additional mods. I included various bug fixes, made it so characters can still be controlled while taking certain actions (such as Amy’s hammer attack), some extra visual flair and one cheat, that being infinite lives. I personally hate lives and the system in Sonic 06 is particularly bad, as you don’t simply start at the beginning of a level, but you have to travel to it and complete any required town missions along the way. I avoided the ones which switch up moves, changes the speed of characters and stuff like that, as I aimed for a more playable version without changing it too much.
The first thing to address is the loading screens. Originally they took around 30 seconds each, and there were a lot of loading screens. For a town mission, you’ll speak to them, accept a mission, get a loading screen, they’ll then repeat what the mission is, another loading screen, then go. Then if you fail you get a loading screen, return to the hub and then start the process again. That hasn’t changed at all, but due to simply running emulated on a PC, the loading screens are a few seconds, so you can laugh at the absurdity of the amount instead of having an agonising wait.
Sonic 06 starts you off in the hub world of Soleanna. The actual background and lore surrounding the world is really deeply crafted, with lots of nice touches and background detail you can find, unfortunately, the design itself is rather repetitive and a bit bland, so the town missions just aren’t that fun to play and pad the game unnecessarily. Before you can play a level in Sonic 06, you get to watch a brilliantly animated cutscene where Sonic saves a princess, only for her to be captured (something that will happen many times throughout the game). You then need to get to the first level, but need to buy a light ring so you can perform the light speed dash. Luckily, the man next to the shop will challenge you to “SOLVE MY MAZE” as you run through rings, you can then buy the move and access the first mission, wave ocean.
The levels themselves are actually really well designed, with lots of multiple paths to take to find quicker routes, either going via more enemies or for a faster route. The homing attack does actually feel a lot more precise than previous games as it always seemed to target what I was intending to, unlike previous games.Unfortunately, there are a lot of bugs, and you’ll die a lot due to unfair obstacles, but for the most part, the main levels in Sonic 06 are a lot of fun, there’s some good set pieces and some good level design.
There are a fair few detractors, though. Levels are chopped up into segments, with loading screens between them. Sometimes they look like they could be stitched together to flow nicely, but sometimes it just feels like you’ve warped to a different area, there’s no good transition between the areas at all. Joining Sonic on this adventure are Tails and Knuckles, who you will control at certain points. Tails can fly (for a short time), and has an atrocious attack of throwing item box bombs, which throw fake rings everywhere (making it a pain to find real rings if you get hit). Knuckles’ biggest problem is fixed by a patch (originally, jumping off walls wouldn’t work most of the time), but feels very weak in terms of fighting, which is a bigger part of this as enemies have health bars. You only use them for a few sections, although Tails has his own level, which just feels out of place in the story (Tails suddenly decides to chase after the princess on his own, fails and rejoins Sonic).
Sonic’s story in this is centred around saving princess Elise, complete with a romance plot. There’s no real chemistry and it kind of feels like Sonic doesn’t even care at all. Elise does show a bit more initiative in trying to escape each time she gets captured, but it happens a lot. What is interesting about Sonic 06 is that Sonic himself doesn’t really find out much about what is going on, there’s a far deeper plot to Sonic 06 that Sonic himself is unaware of during his part of the story, with the other parts being the focus of the stories of Shadow and Silver.
Shadow plays similarly to Sonic, but is a bit more aggressive. His homing attack packs a bit more of a whomp with a very satisfying sound, while he can shoot blasts at enemies. His story is the best out of the three, revolving around Mephiles, a devil-like entity of darkness, who escapes from his cage during a fight between him and Eggman, and Shadow travels to the future and past to try and stop him. Mephiles shows Shadow that the world will turn on him to tempt Shadow to join him. Shadow’s levels are the same as Sonics, but with different setups and routes, and Shadow also has another trick up its sleeve: vehicles.
Dotted across some of Shadow’s levels are vehicles you can jump in like a buggy, bike or hovercraft-type vehicle. They are fairly simple to control but fit the gameplay fairly well (that said, it is odd having them appear in the apocalyptic future of Crisis City). There’s also a few glider sections where you get to blow up a load of stuff.
You’ll meet up with Rogue and Omega. Rogue controls like a mixture of Knuckles and Tails. She can glide and climb, but has bombs, which are similar to Tails but seem a bit quicker. Omega has a lot of shooting and a hover which feels like it wants to fail a lot, but luckily you can abuse a bug where you can maintain the hover by repeatedly shooting. Both feel great (partly due to the patches), making Sonic’s story a really great experience with a really good story around it.
Silver is a new character, a hedgehog who grew up in an apocalyptic future. He’s slower than Sonic and Shadow, but has psychic powers, which make up the bulk of his abilities. Unfortunately, an idea that has the potential to be a lot of fun (and when it works, it really is) is the most problematic in Sonic 06. You can pick up multiple items, but they get in the way a lot, so quite often when you’re throwing an item at an enemy, it will bounce off another item you are holding and fly off. This is especially frustrating in some boss battles. Blaze the Cat from Sonic Rush joins him, who controls quite well and is even faster than Sonic. She has a completely different backstory to Sonic Rush, and is sadly underused. Amy also joins Silver, and randomly has an invisibility ability. Her double jump is a pain to use as it doesn’t continue her momentum, so is more for extra height than distance.
The Desert level for Silver also brings an attempt at some physics based puzzles, which is another nice idea. Sadly, it’s not well implemented. The introduction to the puzzle is really nice, you will fight some enemies on what looks like a snooker table, then some numbered balls will roll down. As you hit them the number goes down, and if it gets to zero, it vanishes and respawns. Knock them down the holes and the door opens. It’s a really neat idea, but the next time it appears, it’s full on frustrating, as you have to knock the ball down a very long corridor with corners, holes and a bumpy surface which affects how it moves. The ball sometimes counts down on its own, and can sometimes just go flying and blow up. It’s an absolutely terrible and broken segment, and the best advice is to glitch through the door.
Which ultimately is the biggest problem with Sonic 06. It has a lot of great ideas, but they are often not executed very well. There are issues which spoil the flow of the game, but the core gameplay is really good when it works. Even with the issues in the original version, there is a lot to like in Sonic 06, but a lot of frustrations. In its worst stage, it is an immensely flawed game (with amazing music) and fairly bad, but isn’t even close to being one of the worst games ever like it’s reputation suggests. With a few fan patches, it’s a much better experience and a genuinely fun experience.
62. Sonic the Hedgehog: Battle Racers
Original Platform: Board game
Where to get: Limited availability
Sonic the Hedgehog: Battle Racers is quite a meaty Sonic board game. It can be played against each other, or you can have a card-controlled boss character (if you have a boss expansion – I have Dr Robotnik and Shadow, but Metal Sonic and Infinite were also available. Bosses can also be played as a normal character). The aim of the game isn’t simply to reach the finish first (although that does trigger the end of the game), but to score the most points by collecting rings and defeating badniks.
The track is built from very large card pieces, with rinks, badniks and rocks placed on them accordingly. You place two, followed by a turn (the person who first enters the turn will then place the next two). In total, there will be two turns and six sections of track. Each round, all players will pick an agility card form their hand and place it face down, flipping them over once all players have picked, they’re flipped over and resolved in order of the number on the card.
Each card consists of two sections. The top will have an optional action, this can increase your speed, let you perform a spin (to defeat enemies) or move a couple of spaces. Movement in this section can include moving to the side if you want (which lets you change lane). The second option is the main movement, which will be running, jumping or a choice of either. The distance is based on speed and must be forward (the rulebook is very unclear about this, as it’s quite poorly written), even if it means running into enemies.
There are four badniks which have different rules. Motobugs affect players running through them, but not jumping, Crabmeat will hurt enemies jumping past the spaces above and below them. Buzz bombers will hurt players running in front of them, and spinners will affect jumping enemies moving through them. Landing on them (or spinning through crawling enemies) will destroy them, giving you one point. You get a card explaining how they work, but it is a lot to remember to do while playing the game.
As you collect rings, they go on five piles, with the rings this round going on the smallest stack. When you get hurt, you lose all your rings and place them on the spaces around you. This can be devastating near the end of the game, so you’ll want to defeat badniks as you won’t ever lose their points.
There’s also a bit more regarding terrain types and how they affect speed, and expansions will add even more options. Battle Racers has a lot of maintenance to remember, so it’s very easy to mess up a game by making a mistake because you missed something that should affect your speed. It all feels a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but is a lot of fun nevertheless.
When playing against a boss, the boss will have a stack of cards that determines their actions. The next card is revealed when all players reveal their agility card and their action will take place based on the number on it. Bosses will have different abilities. Dr Robotnik will place new obstacles, while Shadow will defeat enemies and collect rings as he moves through them. Bosses start with 10 rings and hitting them will make them lose two. If they get hit with no rings remaining, then they are removed from the game (this rule only applies to players during a solo game, so nobody is eliminated and forced to wait for the others to finish).
When playing with other players, you are still competing to get the best score, but if the boss passes the finish line first, all players lose. When playing Solo, you still need to finish first and are awarded a rank based on how many points you have. I managed an A rank against Shadow, but got hurt near the end of racing Dr Robitnik and only got a D.
Each character has a special ability, but the retail game only has Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy. The deluxe version I have (which was Kickstarter only) has a lot more, while a few more were at an even higher tier. The models are quite nice, although Sonic does fall down quite easily. It’s a really nice looking game, with fun gameplay (once you get the right rules), but the amount of stuff you have to remember and pausing the game to set up the next sections of track add a lot of maintenance that makes it a pain to play at times.