Most of us know of the colossal failure that was Sega’s handling of the Sega Saturn when it first came out. A rushed launch, high price, next to no games available – it was a complete mess. Worst of all, it’s largest franchise and mascot, namely Sonic, was nowhere to be found! So in an scramble for holiday sales, Sega decides to take its planned Sonic release for the Genesis and touch it up with some new features for the Sega Saturn, releasing them together on November 30th. In fact, in Japan Sonic 3D Blast never even made it to the Genesis, rather it stayed a Sega Saturn exclusive. But release details aside, we all know how ill-received Sonic 3D Blast was on the Genesis. How much better does the game fare on the much more powerful Saturn?
Presentation: Both the Genesis and Saturn versions of the game start up with a cool FMV clip, the trendy thing of the time (how they fit it on the Genesis cart I’ll never know). However, both clips are different and the Saturn’s video is of better quality and overall much more interesting. The endings of Sonic 3D Blast are also in FMV compared to the Genesis’ simple “text and screenshot” endings. The title screen between the games is also a little bit different, the Saturn version gives us a picture of the sky as a backdrop compared to the black backdrop of the Genesis version. There’s also an in-game map on the pause screen in the Saturn version, but it’s not really all that useful. That’s pretty much it as far as presentation goes, aside from a few minor menu differences.
Graphics: The Saturn is known for being a 2D Powerhouse, and it can display 3D graphics, so you would expect the graphics in Sonic 3D Blast on the Saturn to be considerably better. Unfortunately, Sega took the easy way out and made only small improvements from the Genesis version graphics. While the Saturn does offer some transparency effects in a sort of mist through Rusty Ruin Zone, as well as an improved color palette, the aforementioned special stage, and a couple of extra effects (Such as the first bridge you cross in Green Grove Zone bending as you run across it), the game doesn’t look very different at all. Overall though, the Saturn version does look a bit better than the Genesis version regardless, if ever so slightly.
Sound/Music: The music is a big turning point between the two games, as the soundtracks are entirely different. Sonic 3D Blast on Genesis features a pretty well-composed soundtrack by Jue Senoue. The tunes are decent, not the best of the series but they sound pretty similar to what Sonic tunes would sound like on the Genesis. I wouldn’t say it’s anything revolutionary, but I particularly like the Special Stage theme. One of the songs from the Jue Senoue composition ended up in Sonic Adventure, and an unused boss battle song later was used in Sonic 4. The Genesis soundtrack gets the job done.
The Saturn soundtrack I must say though, blows the Genesis soundtrack out of the water. Not only is it CD Quality music (Who would think you’d be hearing that term in 2011?), it’s composed by the famous Richard Jacques, who did the music for Sonic R, Metropolis Street Racer, and Jet Set Radio, amongst other things. This guy has done some excellent stuff, and the Sonic 3D Blast soundtrack is no different. It’s full of lovely piano, trumpets, and cool synths that are always pleasing to the ear, and best of all listenable on its own. While I like the Sonic 3D Blast Genesis soundtrack, I don’t like it enough to listen to it outside of the game.
The Saturn soundtrack also features an end theme with Debbie Morris on vocals called “You’re My Hero,” that’s probably the pinnacle of the Richard Jacques soundtrack. When it comes to music, Saturn wins hands-down!
Gameplay: If you’re expecting some overhaul of the repetitive and tedious gameplay featured in Sonic 3D Blast on Genesis, think again. The gameplay is virtually the same, aside from the one major difference of the Special stages between the two games. The special stage in the Genesis version of the game is a pseudo-3D bridge where you collect rings and dodge spikes. The Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast features a fully 3D special stage that is very similar to the one found in Sonic 2, the half-pipe where you collect coins and avoid mines.
In the Genesis port of Sonic 3D Blast, it’s so easy to collect the the Chaos Emeralds that by Rusty Ruin Zone Act 2 you can have all seven in your possession. The Saturn version of the game fixes this so that you can obtain only one emerald per stage, and the special stages are much harder to boot, being in the style of the half-pipe of Sonic 2. I must say it’s one of the high points of Sonic 3D Blast on Saturn, and one of my favorite parts of the game to play.
Overall, while the Sega Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast offers few improvements over it’s Genesis brethren, I must say that had this game been only released on Saturn, chances are it would’ve been received better by the general public. It wouldn’t have looked like a rushed re-released, and Sonic would’ve had his own outing on the Saturn technically, even if it is derivative of the normal gameplay of the series. But if you’re deciding between which version to buy, definitely go with the Saturn version. Better music, a better special stage, and minor improvements to make the game just a bit better, even if it is slight graphical improvements and corny ’90s FMV. But that’s what adds to the charm of it all I think.