Sonic Blast
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Aspect
  • Publishers:
    • Sega (GG)
    • Tec Toy (SMS)
  • Released:
    GG
    • US UK November 1996
    • JP 12/13/1996
    SMS
    • Brazil December 1997
Score: 65%

This review was published on 03/24/2018.

Sonic Blast, known in Japan as G Sonic, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Aspect for the Game Gear and Sega Master System. The Game Gear version was originally published by Sega in North America and Europe in November 1996, and Japan on December 13, 1996. Tec Toy published the Master System version in Brazil in December 1997. This is the final Sonic the Hedgehog platformer released for the Game Gear, as the portable was already on its last legs by this point in time. As its Western title implies, Sonic Blast shares some similarities with Sonic 3D Blast. Both came out around the same time and both have pre-rendered graphics. However, that's where the similarities end, as both games have little in common outside of their titles and graphical style. Whereas Sonic 3D Blast had an isometric perspective and revolved around rescuing little birdies, Sonic Blast plays more like a traditional Sonic game with its side-scrolling action. Unfortunately, it sucks.

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The name of our hero is Sonic the Hedgehog, a blue hedgehog who runs at the speed of sound. During his previous adventures, he got into a couple of fights with Knuckles the Echidna due to some misunderstandings, but the two are now pals. The source of these misunderstandings was Dr. Eggman, also known as Dr. Robotnik, a mad scientist with a robot army who's been antagonizing Sonic since the start of the franchise. After sorting out the various misunderstandings and obliterating most of Eggman's forces, Sonic and Knuckles had some time to chill. However, that chill time came to an end when, one day, a mysterious island surfaced near Sonic's home. The island had a revoltingly familiar shape; it looked just like Eggman! From this fearsome floating fortress, Eggman intends to carry on with his plan to rule the world. Sonic and Knuckles are determined to not let that happen.

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In the mid 1990s, Nintendo released a game for its Super Nintendo Entertainment System called Donkey Kong Country, which was one of the first video games to have pre-rendered graphics. For the uninitiated, pre-rendering is the process of rendering graphics in 3-D and then converting them into 2-D sprites to be inserted into a game. Before the advent of actual 3-D, many developers sought to recreate the success of Donkey Kong Country by adopting the pre-rendered style, and Sega was one of them. Sega attempted to do this with Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic Blast, but neither game was successful. In the case of Sonic Blast, the pre-rendered style came at a significant cost: to ensure that the detail is visible, the sprites for Sonic and Knuckles are bigger than their counterparts in earlier titles. That resulted in a more "zoomed in" appearance, making less of the environment visible during play. The Game Gear's small screen made this particularly problematic, because you couldn't see where you were going and therefore were more prone to cheap hits and deaths.

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The last few 8-bit Sonic platformers allowed you to play as either Sonic or his trusty sidekick, Tails. However, Sonic Blast lets you play as either Sonic or Knuckles. Knuckles plays much like he did in Sonic and Knuckles on the Genesis, being capable of performing most of Sonic's basic actions like the Spin Dash, but also being able to glide through the air and climb walls. As for Sonic, he loses the Super Peel-Out move from Sonic Chaos and Sonic Triple Trouble, but gains a double jump. It's similar to how he could double jump with the Thunder Shield from Sonic 3 and Knuckles, except Sonic can do it here without a power-up. Unlike most traditional Sonic titles, you only drop ten rings at a time when hit. This was apparently due to limitations with the hardware, as the pre-rendered graphics prevented the Game Gear and Master System from drawing too many sprites on the screen at a time. That makes the game rather easy, because as with most Sonic games, rings are your life.

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The stages are all painfully uninspired, which you can tell by just looking at their names; Green Hill Zone, Yellow Desert Zone, Red Volcano Zone, Blue Marine Zone, and Silver Castle Zone. They didn't even bother coming up with a unique title for the first stage, instead opting to use the same name as the first level from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Most of the stages are too flat and lack personality, plus the underwater maze stage is the stuff of nightmares. The low frame rate also gives the game a very sluggish feel, so there's no sense of speed to anything. Almost all of the fun features from the previous 8-bit titles are absent here, too, like the Rocket Shoes, Pogo Springs, Jet Boards, and Sea Fox. Unlike most of the 8-bit titles, but like most of the 16-bit ones, all the boss fights are against Eggman himself. Sadly, the boss battles are as bland as the levels that precede them. The game is also too short at only five stages long, but that's honestly more of a good thing given its mediocrity.

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Like Sonic the Hedgehog 3, there are big rings hidden all throughout the game that take you to Special Stages when touched. These Special Stages play like highly simplified versions of the ones from Sonic the Hedgehog 2; you control either Sonic or Knuckles in a behind-the-back perspective and must collect fifty rings before reaching the end. Special Stages in the first Act of each Zone award you with stuff like extra lives, whereas the ones in the second Act give you Chaos Emeralds. As is often the case with the 8-bit Sonic games, getting all five Chaos Emeralds by the end of the game allows you to see the good ending. That's not really worth it, though, because while they're easy, the Special Stages in Sonic Blast are too plain to be interesting.

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While most 8-bit Sonic games began development on the Master System and then got ported to the Game Gear, the opposite is true for Sonic Blast. Even though the Game Gear and Master System share very similar hardware, there are some differences between them. Namely, the Game Gear was capable of outputting more colors. Because of that, the Master System port of Sonic Blast has a worse color palette than its portable counterpart, though it does have a larger resolution that lets you see more of the action. However, the menus, title cards, and Special Stages weren't optimized for the Master System's bigger resolution, so they look identical to how they did on the Game Gear, just with added borders. Unusual artifacts can also be seen in areas normally hidden from view in the Game Gear version. All of this shows that the Master System version of Sonic Blast is one of the laziest port jobs out there. Sonic Blast's grotesque visual style makes it borderline unplayable on an actual Game Gear, but the Master System version isn't much better.

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From the shoddy Master System port to the bland level design, everything in this game comes off as low effort. It's strange that Sonic Blast turned out this way, because Aspect developed many of the previous 8-bit Sonic titles, and most of those turned out great. Don't feel bad if you've never played this game, because you aren't missing much. Sonic 3D Blast wasn't amazing, but Sonic Blast is magnitudes worse.

Word Count: 1,251

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