Sonic 3D Blast
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Traveller's Tales
    • Sonic Team
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    GEN
    • UK 11/05/1996
    • US 11/12/1996
    SAT
    • US 11/20/1996
    • UK 02/13/1997
    • JP 10/14/1998
    PC
    • US 09/25/1997
    • UK 09/30/1997
Score: 75%

This review was published on 07/12/2013.

Sonic 3D Blast is an isometric platform game developed by Sonic Team and Traveller's Tales, originally released for the Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn. It's a Sonic the Hedgehog spinoff that plays drastically different. The "3D" in the game's title is a bit of a misnomer; the game isn't actually in 3-D. It's done in a style with pre-rendered graphics similar to Donkey Kong Country, and it's in an isometric perspective like Super Mario RPG, but it isn't technically 3-D. This was the late '90s, though, so there were a lot of games that claimed to be 3-D if there was the presence of any pre-rendered graphics. Sonic 3D Blast is one of them. This was a fairly late era release for the Genesis and it was later ported to the Saturn. According to legend, Sega was developing a real, 3-D Sonic for the Saturn tentatively named Sonic X-treme. It was to compete with Super Mario 64, but unfortunately, the game was canceled. Sega's decision to do a Saturn port of Sonic 3D Blast was to fill in the gap that Sonic X-treme was to fill. The gap was too big. For the most part, the Genesis and Saturn versions are the same, except for a few minor differences. The Saturn version had a completely redone soundtrack, and the Special Stages were also redone to include actual 3-D graphics, though the rest of the game was still in 2-D. The graphics of the 2-D parts were also touched up a bit. Opinions are split as to which version is the best, but the general consensus seems to lean towards the Genesis version, as it has much better music. As far as the game itself goes, it's pretty disappointing for a Genesis era Sonic, but it's not at all bad.

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The intro scene at the beginning of the game is comically bad if you're playing the Genesis version. It's a video that's all grainy, like a heavily compressed mpeg. The Saturn version replaces the intro video with an entirely different one that actually looks pretty good, though. Anyway, the game's story revolves around birds called Flickies. Apparently, these birds have the ability to slip between different dimensions via large rings. Dr. Robotnik, the fatty scientist that always hatches new schemes, hatches a new scheme. His "new" scheme this time is to capture the Flickies and enslave them into robots for the purposes of finding the seven Chaos Emeralds. What will he do once he finds all the emeralds? Why, take over the world, of course! I never would have guessed. Sonic then visits "Flicky Island," because he wants to, and I quote, "see his friends," only to find that all his friends have been transformed into destructive robots. I'm assuming that there are Flickies on this island, and the Flickies are Sonic's friends. The only way to free the Flickies is by destroying the robots imprisoning them, which Sonic promptly sets out to do. The Flickies lend their mystical inter-dimensional powers to Sonic, allowing him to teleport around using the giant rings. Together, they fight to foil Robotnik's plans for world domination. The plot of the game really is just there to set up the premise for what you do in the game, and it does an okay job at that. You can glean the same information from the instruction booklet, though if you didn't read that, then I doubt you'd bother watching the story scenes that explain everything.

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As mentioned earlier, the game is presented in an isometric perspective. The shift in perspective is due to a shift in game play. This game isn't about fast, linear action, rather, it's about exploration. It still progresses in a linear level-by-level fashion, but the individual levels are sprawling environments with stuff to find. The main items of interest are the enemy robots that you need to destroy. Each robot you destroy will release one of the little Flicky birds, which will then proceed to follow Sonic around. The Flickies will follow behind Sonic in a straight line, but if Sonic is injured, they will scatter. In the event that such a catastrophic event occurs, then you'll have to chase after the little buggers. The more Flickies following you, the easier it is to lose them, so things ramp up in difficulty as you make progress. Once you have the necessary amount of Flickies, you need to find a giant ring and jump into it. This will transport you to the next section of the stage, where you will repeat the process all over again. That's the whole game in a nutshell. It doesn't take long for this formula to get repetitive, especially given how annoying it can be to lose the Flickies you worked so hard to collect at the drop of a hat. Actually locating the robots you need to destroy can also become a problem later in the game, though it's very easy to find everything for the first few levels. The isometric perspective is also terrible for jumping onto platforms. Thankfully, you don't have to do a lot of jumping in this game when compared to other games in the series. Any jumping action you do engage in, however, tends to be infuriating, as the perspective turns the simplest jumps into nightmares. Exploration isn't inherently a bad thing, but this game should have made its exploring less formulaic.

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There are seven levels in the game, or zones as they're called, and they are divided into three acts, with the third act being a boss battle against Robotnik himself. These battles are a lot like the classic fights against Robotnik in the other Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Genesis, in which Robotnik shows up in a dangerous new machine every time. The fights are pretty simple, but they're fun and frantic like in the other games. I particularly like the boss music in the Genesis version of this game. The boss fights can be really tough this time around, as rings are very limited and very easy to lose. As always, Sonic dies if he gets hit with no rings, so you need to make sure you have at least one ring at all times. That's normally not a difficult proposition, but it becomes one during these boss battles. The main thing that stinks about these battles is that they typically center on precision jumping, which goes horribly with the isometric perspective. You have to jump into the cockpit of whatever mechanical contraption Robotnik is piloting, and doing so in the isometric perspective makes it a lot tougher than it should be. The last few boss fights are particularly difficult. Despite that, fighting Robotnik is actually one of the highlights to the game, as it gives you a break from the tedium of collecting Flickies.

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Scattered throughout the levels are Sonic's real friends, Tails and Knuckles. Devastatingly, you can't play as either of them, but they do serve a purpose. Tails and Knuckles will take Sonic to a Special Stage if he has collected the necessary amount of rings. Like I said before, the Special Stages differ drastically depending on whether you're playing the Genesis version or the Saturn version. In the Genesis version, Sonic must run across a bridge that is suspended in mid air as he collects rings. The objective is to collect enough rings before reaching the goal. There are hazards about that can make Sonic lose some of his rings, so part of the challenge is avoiding those. The Saturn version more or less has the same objective, but the stages themselves look entirely different. In the Saturn version, the Special Stages are modeled after Sonic 2's half pipe and are rendered in 3-D. You have a lot more freedom to run around in these stages, and they're a lot easier, too. The Special Stages in the Saturn version have a bit more depth, as there are both harmful hazards and helpful gadgets in them. As for what happens when you collect all the Chaos Emeralds, well, that's the disappointing part. Getting all emeralds will change the outcome of the game by letting you fight the true final boss, resulting in a slightly different ending. The final boss is insanely hard and extremely tedious; by far the worst boss in the game. Fighting this thing takes forever and isn't really worth it. It's disappointing that you don't unlock a prize like Super Sonic, but at least you get something out of it, even if it's not that great.

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Sonic 3D Blast is neither 3D nor a blast, but it's not as bad as some people might have you believe. It does get repetitive rather quickly, and the isometric platform elements are frustrating. However, it's got great music, great graphics, fun bosses, and some cool levels. The Saturn version has the better Special Stages by far, though the music is substantially worse. Both versions of the game aren't that different, though, so you're not missing out on a whole lot by going with one over the other. Sonic 3D Blast doesn't come close to approaching the quality of the other Sonic the Hedgehog classics, but it's still a reasonably good game for reasonably good people.

Word Count: 1,557

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