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Thread: Sonic Game Gear Games: A Retrospective

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    The Gentleman Thief Baloo's Avatar
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    Default Sonic Game Gear Games: A Retrospective

    I was feeling nostalgic so I decided to play a couple of the Sonic Game Gear games on Retroarch with my phone the other night. Does anyone else think these games have for the most part aged horribly in comparison to their 16-bit counterparts? Let's do a rundown:

    Sonic the Hedgehog

    Developed by Yuzo Koshiro's Ancient as their first game development job, this platformer is a mixed bag in 2020. Serious slowdown on the bridges, odd-sized enemies ranging from quite tiny to overly large causes you to get hit while trying to hit them, no ability to gain rings back after being hit once (ALL are lost), and a resolution that is totally gimped from the Master System version, resulting in it being very difficult to see oncoming obstacles, like the gigantic spikes and pits. Hard to go fast when the resolution is too small for you to see what is coming next. The special stage is the same each time, with the Chaos Emeralds instead being hidden at one act in each Zone. This is a neat feature. But it's The music is a higher point with some catchy tunes. While the level design is actually fairly good, this one hasn't aged well enough in comparison to its 16-bit counterparts to warrant a full playthrough. The Master System version is better, but still not great.

    Sonic The Hedgehog 2

    Sonic 2 suffers from many of the same problems as Sonic 1. Another port from the Master System, the inability to recollect rings and gimped resolution make a reappearance here. It is particularly noticeable in the Level 1 boss missing a platform that makes him nearly impossible to beat with no rings, while in the Master System version he is unreasonably easy.

    The level design in Sonic 2 is much worse than Sonic 1, with outrageously difficult Act 3s that require pinpoint precision and generally feature next to no rings. Level design gimmicks like moving mine carts, and a difficult to control hang glider seem to detract from the gameplay more than it adds to it. While there's not nearly as much slowdown, the resolution and level design hampers this game to the point of unplayability to its modern counterparts.

    Sonic Chaos/Sonic & Tails

    Improving on the flaws of past games, Sonic Chaos managed to make the landscapes a bit less barren, and the level design feel a bit more like its 16-bit counterparts. Enemies are sized a bit more to scale with Sonic, and the music is memorable. Level design seems much more conducive to the screen resolution. Special Stages are actually varied and different. The issue with the rings has been fixed, where now you only lose some of your rings instead of all of them. But the biggest flaw of this game is the difficulty. You can breeze through this game no problem if you're just looking to get to the end. It seems to be a response to the immense difficulty of Sonic 2 for Game Gear. I will say that speedwise though, this game plays considerably slower than 1 and 2, but not as slow as Triple Trouble. It's the most playable Sonic game, but there's zero challenge to this game. It seems the fangame crowd has recognized the good elements of this game, as it is being remade in Sonic Mania style. And I think this game deserves that with some more challenges, you're looking at a very solid Sonic game.

    Sonic Triple Trouble

    The only Game Gear exclusive 2D Platforming Game, it used to get a lot of hype on these forums as the hidden best 2D Sonic platformer. But playing it now, I don't see the appeal. Sonic Triple Trouble builds upon what Sonic Chaos did well. But the game is too ambitious for its own good. The entire game is plagued with what feels like slowdown throughout, and tons of input lag. Sonic runs as if he is moving through molasses, and some of the sprite placement and level design is so poor that rings are placed in areas where Sonic's sprite can't collect them, and you're bouncing all around a level on various springs trying to get to where you need to go. For once the resolution is not an issue, because this game was designed for the Game Gear in mind and not the Master System. But the level design destroys any pacing or fun factor that this game otherwise might have had. The overall art design and sprites look better than they ever have on Game Gear in this release, but a lack of speed in this one cases me to say that there is a lack of fun.

    Sonic Drift 2

    A straightforward cartoonish racing game in the vein of Mario Kart that plays like Outrun or Hang-On. Tech wise, it's impressive for the Game Gear, but the core gameplay is just too boring because the system can't handle enough graphical distinction to differentiate the maps and when someone gets hit with an item. There are so many better games to play that work well in this genre and are portable, that I don't see the appeal. It's aged worse than Super Mario Kart.

    Sonic Blast

    Woof. The graphics in this one are atrocious. Since SEGA treated its games more as tech demos than focused on the actual gameplay at this point in the 90s, it's clear they wanted to keep up with Donkey Kong Country in an attempt to get pre-rendered 3D sprites onto the Game Gear. But Sonic's resulting sprite is so large, and the level design so atrocious, that this game is also borderline unplayable. Sure, the game looks impressive from a technical perspective, but the art is just not pleasing to the eye, and the gameplay once again, is unbelievably slow. The resulting resolution and aspect ratio issues once again plague any resemblence to an actually good Sonic game. Hard pass.

    Tails Adventure

    This game is a bit more intriguing. While a little rough around the edges with how slow Tails walks around, this game is actually quite interesting. There's a lot of unique items to use and puzzle elements to this game that make it worthwhile for anyone who likes a more traditional platformer. The game reminds me a bit of Ronald McDonald's Magical Treasureland Adventure for the Genesis. It's not a Sonic game, so don't expect it to be one. But as a platformer, it's actually pretty good. Pacing is a little slow and the screen resolution is still way too small, but I'll take this as the best of the bunch.

    What do you guys think? I know I missed Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic Spinball, and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. Maybe I'll do a quick recap on those later. Do you agree that Sonic Chaos is the only playable Game Gear sonic game?
    Last edited by Baloo; 06-07-2020 at 12:38 PM.
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    Japanese Sonic CD FTW!!! Master of Shinobi Ecco's Avatar
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    Well I donít want to write a lengthy post right now, but I donít feel the same at all, re: the 8-bit titles.

    Iím a big fan of the first game, which features extra bright colors on GG, more than MS original 8-bit game, etc. Yuzo Koshiroís soundtrack is great, in the first few stages. Signposts and smaller sprite make the gameplay work on the cropped screen.

    Also special stages are fun pinball style stages which are probably all more fun than Sonic Spinball.

    GG Sonic 2 however is the black sheep of the series, with sprite unchanged from MS so he seems too big for the cropped screen. Colors are unchanged so it looks much less colorful than the first portable game. Also tons of blind jumps and blind obstacles/ deaths everywhere.

    Sonic Chaos is easy but also itís very playable and fun.

    Triple Trouble is a GG exclusive (not released or developed for MS, but made for GG specifically). So things like screen size are designed well in the first place. Gameplay is diverse and resembles a new 8-bit version of Sonic 3.

    Sonic Drift is fun albeit a fast, simple game. It would be fun to link up two GGís to race your friends which is what I assume they were doing in Japan, when this game was popular. Nice classic artwork.

    Those are the games Iíve played but I have good opinion of all of them, except for Sonic 2.
    Last edited by Ecco; 06-26-2020 at 04:20 PM.

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    Japanese Sonic CD FTW!!! Master of Shinobi Ecco's Avatar
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    Also there are cool references to Sonic CD in many of the 8-bit games, with the cool run-dash which appears in at least a couple of the 8-bit games, but otherwise is only found in Sonic CD. Likewise the CD theme song appears in at least two of the 8-bit games, iirc. Sonic 2 and something else I think. (Or maybe itís just 8-bit Sonic 2 which has that theme song from sonic cd. Not sure.)

    Sonic drift has Amy Rose from Sonic CD, and I think Sonic 2 has the very first appearance of both Tails and Metal Sonic, since it came out slightly before 16-bit Sonic 2, iirc.
    Last edited by Ecco; 06-26-2020 at 04:23 PM.

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    AKA Mister Xiado Master of Shinobi Raijin Z's Avatar
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    I never really liked any of them, but not so much to hate them. I'd rather see what people in 2020 can do in the way of a Sonic homebrew game for the GG, that feels more like the Genesis version. I don't care if the graphical fidelity is lacking to some degree, as I'm well versed in 4-bit color pixel art myself, but there's little to no excuse for not matching the play control. Maneuvering Sonic always felt like a mess in the GG versions, and I couldn't think of a good reason why this wasn't sorted out before release.
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    Japanese Sonic CD FTW!!! Master of Shinobi Ecco's Avatar
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    Oh and sonic cd ending includes a big picture of Tails with a car behind him, apparently referring to Sonic Drift, though Iím not sure which game actually released first...

    Anyway thereís a lot of cool things about the 8-bit games.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Raijin Z View Post
    I never really liked any of them, but not so much to hate them. I'd rather see what people in 2020 can do in the way of a Sonic homebrew game for the GG, that feels more like the Genesis version. I don't care if the graphical fidelity is lacking to some degree, as I'm well versed in 4-bit color pixel art myself, but there's little to no excuse for not matching the play control. Maneuvering Sonic always felt like a mess in the GG versions, and I couldn't think of a good reason why this wasn't sorted out before release.
    I think the controls got progressively better, in each game, and Triple Trouble really nails the feeling of gameplay from sonic 3, iirc. Though I have not played this game for a while, thatís what I remember my impression being.

    Also Iím not sure which title(s) has sonic being able to skim over the water surface but thatís a cool ability that definitely started in 8-bit.

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    Also sorry for the multiple posts; i wasnít going to write a lot, but I keep keep thinking of more things to point out. Here I just wanted to say that sonic 2 is still worth playing for people who are big fans of the Sonic series. The difficulty comes with a strangely sad feeling of the entire game, which is not found anywhere else in the series.

    Here Tails is kidnapped and he will be killed unless you collect all the chaos emeralds, itís hilariously dark. Bad ending has Tailsí ghost in the sky lol. And I do think that itís intentional, to be interpreted this way. Tailsí ghost seems to have a star shaped mark that resembles a wound on his head, especially a gunshot to his head

    Also the special final zone, that u unlock, has quite a strange sad, but peaceful feeling.

    Itís definitely unique in the series.

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    What about Tail's Sky Patrol and Sonic Drift 1 ?
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    The Gentleman Thief Baloo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chilled View Post
    What about Tail's Sky Patrol and Sonic Drift 1 ?
    Both only released in Japan, and I've never played Sonic Drift 1, which doesn't look any different from Sonic Drift 2. Tails Skypatrol I played barely once and I didn't see the appeal. It played almost like a Shockwave game from back in the day.

    As far as some of your posts go Ecco, I think my main issue with these Game Gear games still stand. The screen resolution and level design is so lacking in almost all of these Sonic games that it doesn't make them fun to play. They're just not large enough. Who designed the stages in Sonic Triple Trouble? All springs, all of the time. Sonic 2 is hard as nails. Sonic 1 you lose all of your rings, and that's it.

    Sonic Chaos I maintain is the only playable game. The rest have just a lot of design flaws.

    Also, in all my years of trying, I have only managed to have Sonic show on the signpost at the end of Sonic 1 GG/MS once. Anyone know what actually triggers showing his face over Robotnik's?
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    Mega Driven Raging in the Streets cleeg's Avatar
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    I really like the first outing, and consider it a good game even now, but I'm not sure if that's just nostalgia. I still play it a fair bit now; I love the graphics and sound for one, and the game feels nice to play. Even nicer now we have new screens for our Game Gears, this is one game that really benefits from the clarity whereas other titles' visual shortcomings are amplified.

    The rest of the Sonic games were good, I enjoyed 2 most, but always felt that they were their own thing, rather than how the first one tried to be more like its 16 bit sibling.

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    Japanese Sonic CD FTW!!! Master of Shinobi Ecco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baloo View Post
    Both only released in Japan, and I've never played Sonic Drift 1, which doesn't look any different from Sonic Drift 2. Tails Skypatrol I played barely once and I didn't see the appeal. It played almost like a Shockwave game from back in the day.

    As far as some of your posts go Ecco, I think my main issue with these Game Gear games still stand. The screen resolution and level design is so lacking in almost all of these Sonic games that it doesn't make them fun to play. They're just not large enough. Who designed the stages in Sonic Triple Trouble? All springs, all of the time. Sonic 2 is hard as nails. Sonic 1 you lose all of your rings, and that's it.

    Sonic Chaos I maintain is the only playable game. The rest have just a lot of design flaws.

    Also, in all my years of trying, I have only managed to have Sonic show on the signpost at the end of Sonic 1 GG/MS once. Anyone know what actually triggers showing his face over Robotnik's?
    Well itís fine for people not to be fans of the 8-bit games, all we can do is describe our own impressions of these games.

    Though I think itís most objectively true that GG Sonic 2 is the only one that stands out as a genuinely broken game. Itís clearly a lazy, quick-and-dirty port of the MS game. Thereís no denying that. The screen crop and lack of adjustments to compensate for it, means blind jumps everywhere, and sonic always seems too big. Colors unchanged from MS means that it looks very washed out in its color, on a real GG especially.

    Otherwise I think the other games have redeeming qualities. GG Sonic 1 has lovely music and colors imo, which go a long way for myself to enjoy the game. I donít mind the lack of loops and damage-rings to collect because it would seem obvious that devs couldnít swing it on the 8-bit hardware, at that point. Also the gameplay works because they made adjustments for the screen crop.

    Sonic Chaos resembles 16-bit Sonic 2 and itís a fun, solid game, in my book. Not sure if colors are enhanced from MS but I remember it looking decent enough, especially as a loose equivalent of 16-bit Sonic 2.

    Triple Trouble probably has extra bright colors, as a GG exclusive, though itís really only Sonic 1 that stands out for its colors and music, imo. Triple Trouble looks good though, as roughly in the style of Sonic 3, and I thought it nails that gameplay. Sometimes I even like it more than Sonic 3, which I used to dislike forever lol, for different reasons. (Until finally in 2010 a very sad romantic break-up... was the right context for me to appreciate Sonic 3, as a huge collectathon, basically.)


    Sonic Drift 1 is quite fun once u get the hang of it. Backgrounds are decent representations of the zones of 16-bit Sonic 1. Also cool endings with the classic art style.

    Havenít played drift 2 but it has the stages from 16-bit Sonic 2, so that premise seems cool enough.

    I havenít played the others but I agree that they do look bad lol. The pre-rendered game looks awful and so does that overhead view game where he canít run fast. Spinball is a pretty bad 16-bit game so I expect the 8-bit port to be bad as well. I always wished that Spinball was simply based on all the good pinball style stages before it, like Springyard Zone, Casino Night etc.

    Itís really amazing what an inconsistent series Sonic has always been lol.
    Last edited by Ecco; 06-30-2020 at 11:50 PM.

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    I have a workaround for a couple of the issues, I play GG games on the New 3DS XL and enable the GG extended area and LCD ghosting. So on the small screen it still feels close enough to a Game Gear (for me anyway) but I can actually see the platforms and enemies around me. Also, save states -- I'd never get anywhere in these games without them.

    Sonic 1 on the GG had so much potential. Excellent graphics, catchy music, some good level designs. Unfortunately it's just not quite there. The collision detection is too sensitive, plus some areas like Jungle Zone 2 seem very unfair where you die as soon as you touch the bottom of the screen, why can't it just scroll back down? At moments like those I feel like I'm playing a game made by Hong Kong pirates rather than an official release.

    Have the GG games ever been remade/remastered by fans? I feel like I saw that once but now I can't remember where.

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    Japanese Sonic CD FTW!!! Master of Shinobi Ecco's Avatar
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    some areas like Jungle Zone 2 seem very unfair where you die as soon as you touch the bottom of the screen, why can't it just scroll back down?
    ^IIRC, isn't the MS version the one that does that? And didn't they fix that for the GG version?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecco View Post
    ^IIRC, isn't the MS version the one that does that? And didn't they fix that for the GG version?
    Oops -- you're right! Need to play that one again.

    Since I was reading this thread I went back to try a couple of the GG games, Sonic 2 was OK until I got to Aqua Lake, I forgot how much I hate that stage. I then played through a few levels of Sonic Chaos, much better, almost looks like a 16-bit game. I just wish it had the same music from Sonic 1.

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    The Gentleman Thief Baloo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    I have a workaround for a couple of the issues, I play GG games on the New 3DS XL and enable the GG extended area and LCD ghosting. So on the small screen it still feels close enough to a Game Gear (for me anyway) but I can actually see the platforms and enemies around me. Also, save states -- I'd never get anywhere in these games without them.

    Sonic 1 on the GG had so much potential. Excellent graphics, catchy music, some good level designs. Unfortunately it's just not quite there. The collision detection is too sensitive, plus some areas like Jungle Zone 2 seem very unfair where you die as soon as you touch the bottom of the screen, why can't it just scroll back down? At moments like those I feel like I'm playing a game made by Hong Kong pirates rather than an official release.

    Have the GG games ever been remade/remastered by fans? I feel like I saw that once but now I can't remember where.
    Someone was working on a Sonic Mania version of Sonic Chaos, but that seems to have gone from the wayside. What is the resolution like on the 3DS ports? I've been too cheap to buy Sonic Chaos for my 3DS.
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