The Retronomicon 12.06.13: Sonic The Hedgehog and Pokemon Snap!
Posted by Stewart Lange on 12.06.2013
The Retronomicon heads all the way back to the face of Sega through the 1990s! Join 411's Stewart Lange as he takes a look at Sonic The Hedgehog! Plus Cara Alex Brown looks at Pokemon Snap!
Hello everyone and welcome to last week's Retronomicon! Sorry I missed last Friday but I had a bit of bad news and unfortunately had to call off fairly late notice. All is back to normal this week, so it's pretty good to be back. Sorry you missed Cara too, my call off came early enough we decided we'd both take a week off and make this weeks even better. I've decided until the end of the year I'm going to take a look at the remaining "mascot" character games, having covered Crash Bandicoot in my last column. Hopefully, this will give me much bigger games to cover, some titles that everyone has played and it'll be much more fun for you guys to read! See? I'm totally selfless.
I've been pretty much unable to play anything other than Assassin's Creed IV. It's not been out of my Xbox for about a month now. I've got lots more to play, Marvel Super Heroes, I downloaded Dark Souls and Witcher 2 on a one day sale, I still have Battlefield 4 to get through, so yeah. I'll be busy. That's without the usual December sale that Xbox throw, the games I've started and not finished with (Injustice, Pokemon X) or games that I'm looking forward to, like Walking Dead Season 2. It's going to be a busy gaming month, providing I don't need to spend lots of time with my family. What? It's also Christmas? Great. I'll delay getting that Xbox One for a few months then, I guess. Maybe even quit my job so I can play some of these bloody games. I can't quit on you guys though, one week without me must have been hard enough. Let's get on with it!
As I said already, last time, we spoke about Crash Bandicoot while Cara's Overlooked game was Dead or Alive 2. First up, we have G-Walla.
I cannot remember why I didn't like Crash Bandicoot. It probably had something to do with the controls scheme versus viewing angle, which affected my views on a lot of PSX games.
I know what you mean, but I thought Crash's fixed position helped it out a little. Some games mad your life extremely difficult, though. Michael L skipped to the end of the column and only wanted to talk Dead or Alive. (I'm kidding).
I never plaid DOA until I caught the latest version for Xbox 360, and it is quite superior to the fairly weak Tekken 6. The graphics are great, and the gameplay is awesome. Plus, unlike Tekken, there is a decent story mode.
I much prefer DOA to Tekken as well. I feel that outside of Tekken Tag games, they generally suffer against other fighters. Mr Tek loved Crash, though.
Crash Bandicoot came at the right time for in terms of age. It was funny and easy to play and the characters were just brilliant. The Indiana Jones style 'running away from giant boulder' races were just great fun and frustrating in different measures. The boss fights were varied enough to be a lot of fun. It was just a great platformer and did something different enough to make it stand out on its own.
Spare a thought for Aprince66, though. He's starting to feel a little left out.
I'm feeling old because a lot of the recent "retro" game here are sort of after my main gaming faze where my friends and I played darn near everything (thank you First Run Videos $20 monthly unlimited game rental deal). Still enjoy the column though.
First up, thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoy the column. I'm keen for everyone to get something they enjoy in this, so as always, feel free to suggest games for me to cover. Lately, I've been gunning some 90's hits as they've proven to be more successful for me, but that's all. A lot of my favourite games were from the late 80's so start looking for some more of my personal favourites in the new year. Last up, my man GVIL is here.
Crash team racing I have but like you I thought it was a cheap Mario Kart rip off so never played it. I really need to start playing the games that I have.
Dead or Alive 2 I have for the Dreamcast. It was is still a sweet game.
Yeah man, CTR is a Mario Kart knock off- but it's pretty good. Give it a chance and I bet you'll have fun with it!
This week, we're going with my own favourite mascot. Forget your Italian plumbers, big-breasted explorers, or Master Chief. This week is all about Sonic the Hedgehog!
In 1991, Nintendo along with their now world famous mascot, Mario, were the console leaders. Since 1985, the NES had been the go to for console gamers, with the Sega Master System being seen as nothing more than a distraction from the plumbers domination. Thankfully for Sega, Dr. Robotnik (not Dr. Eggman, that's blasphemy) decided to take over the world, kidnapping thosands of innocent animals and turning them into an evil army of robots. If it hadn't been for one blue hedgehogs quest to free the animals and defeat him, then there would be no way for Sega to bundle Sonic The Hedgehog with the newly released Sega Genesis (I'll be calling it Mega Drive from now on, because I'm foreign. Unless you're reading this from Britain, in which case the Mega Drive was called Genesis in America because of George Bush. Probably.) and it taking a majority share of the market over Nintendo and their newly released Super Nintendo over the Christmas of '91.
Sonic was very different from his Italian counterpart in that the levels were built for speed, rather than exploration and collecting. Yes, there was plenty to do, rings to collect and many routes to get there, arguably more so than in the original Super Mario Bros., but once you know you can clear Green Hill Zone part 1 in 20 seconds, using speed, not warp tunnels, it was a good feeling. Each different world was split into 3 levels, with the 3rd being a boss level. These varied in difficulty throughout the game, with the last boss needing a bit more work to defeat. After each boss, Sonic gets to rescue a load of animals that had been imprisoned, which he keeps doing until he's able to get to Robotnik's final zone and defeat him........ Until next time, of course.
Like I said already, Sonic being paired with the Mega Drive helped Sega get a foot up in the console wars and finally gave Sega a marketable mascot to rival Mario. Sonic was very quickly featuring in cartoons, magazines and the inevitable sequel as well. Sonic 2 was released in 1992 and added not only new levels, but a new character, Tails, to the mix. Tails was a two-tailed fox that was able to fly and while he shared a lot of Sonic's abilities, he was nowhere near quick enough to always keep up. The two player option generally wound up with player 2 being left behind as Sonic sped off into the distance. Sonic 3 introduced another new character into the universe, with Knuckles the Echidna starting life as a nemesis, but eventually he'd become an ally to Sonic and Tails. Over more releases and ports to different Sega systems, the Sonic universe grew, especially through the Saturn and Dreamcast eras, with numerous new characters, good and bad, being added into the pot. Some of them would be great additions, such as Shadow the Hedgehog (Sonic Adventure 2) but some weren't quite so good, like Big The Cat (Sonic Adventure). Over time, Sega's consoles started to wane in popularity against the likes of the Playstation 2 and the unthinkable happened. Sonic Adventure 2 was ported onto the Nintendo Gamecube, as were earlier Sonic titles onto the Gameboy Advance. This marked the victory for Nintendo over Sega in the overall war and suddenly, Sonic was appearing in games with Mario, on Sony consoles, in Sega compendiums across all platforms. As Sega were no longer making consoles by this point, it made sense to protect their biggest character and new release Sonic games are still coming out today, with his own kart racer, Sonic Colors for the Wii and the multi-platform Sonic Generations. Not to mention, Sonic 4 was finally released on Xbox Live giving the classic series a new instalment for the fans that grew up on those games.
I grew up on Sonic the Hedgehog, so naturally, I'm totally biased to him over Mario. I first played Sonic on the Master System, getting one for my Christmas the year the game was released. As a result, I know the Master System releases a lot better than the Mega Drive version. I preferred having to rescue Tails rather than dealing with him in Sonic 2 and Sonic Chaos is arguably my favourite game in the entire series. The only point I got really jealous of my friends and their Mega Drives was for Sonic and Knuckles, but it was only because I wanted to be able to plug two carts together, nothing to do with the game itself. By the time Sonic Adventure had come out, I had moved onto the Playstation and "outgrown" Sonic, being far more interested in more violent games, or the bigger releases like Tomb Raider and so on. This may not have happened had Sega released a decent Sonic game onto the Saturn when I had mine, but it wasn't to be. By the time I had a Dreamcast with Sonic Adventure, Shenmue and Crazy Taxi took my attention and then when I hit 18, my interests lay even further from games unless it was the week before payday.
My interest in Sonic was rekindled when the classic Mega Drive titles were released onto Xbox Live. This arguably kickstarted my retro collecting as I realised the only way to play the Master System versions I had grown up with would be to seek one out and buy the console from eBay. To this day, my Master System collection remains among my most treasured and I'm not too old to play Sonic, with Generations currently sitting in my 3DS and all of the available titles on XBL sitting on my hard drive- even the skipped over Sonic Adventure, which I actually quite enjoy now.
You shouldn't have any trouble picking up the Sonic games for the Mega Drive/Genesis, with the Master System ones being slightly harder to find. As far as I can tell, the only titles you may struggle with will be Sonic 3 for the MD, Sonic Chaos for the MS and Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast. As far as my own collection goes, I've not been able to get out collecting this week so I'm now about 3 weeks since any decent games came to my hand. The Retro Collective community on Instagram have arranged a Secret Santa though, so I can't wait to get that!
Love retro collecting? Me too! Share your best finds with me in the comments section or on Instagram! My user name is outafterdark216 and I always post my newest pickups!
That's it from me this week guys. I'll hand over to Cara for The Overlooked as she takes a look at a forgotten Pokemon classic.
Howdy again folks and welcome to the second test run of my column, Overlooked! Now that I've given the initial concept a go and it seems to have been well received, I've decided to come up with a more thorough structure to work with each week. And, on that note, let's move on to
The Look Back
So, before I begin to speak about what's been "Overlooked" each week, I felt it appropriate to take a look back at the comments from the previous week. Let's see:
sdelfin - Welcome, Cara. We've already "met" in the comments for your Pokemon review. I never played any of the DoA games. I wanted to try out part one on the Saturn as it seemed interesting and well reviewed. Never got around to it as there were always too many games to play. I missed some big games over the years that way. Anyway, I look forward to seeing more of your column.
Nice to meet you, sdelfin. I remember you from my first post on this site - my Pokémon X review. Ironic as it is, it's nice to be able to give you a proper greeting on yet another Pokémon piece. The DoA games were missed by many, largely due to more "mainstream" titles as Tekken gaining mass popularity instead. You should definitely try it out if you get the chance. Many of the new ones are somewhat less appealing but overall, I still find it brilliant, with one of the best storylines of any bash-em-up's I've ever played. I've missed many big games as well, much to my dismay, but you have to start catching up somewhere right? Pick up a copy and give DoA a shot and just pretend there isn't a movie. Trust me.
Michael L - I never plaid DOA until I caught the latest version for Xbox 360, and it is quite superior to the fairly weak Tekken 6. The graphics are great, and the gameplay is awesome. Plus, unlike Tekken, there is a decent story mode.
As I said above, I completely agree. One thing DoA really does stand to contribute is a good story mode for a style of game that is often hard to incorporate one into. I can only think of a mere handful of bad plot moves within the DoA series, and even then a bad plot point is better than a lack of any real plot like most.
G-Walla - I've never played any of the Dead or Alive games. Probably due to my slow adaption to the Sony platforms, and then the games going exclusively to Xbox for a while (and I never had any Xboxes). I see 5 was on PS3, but Virtua Fighter was good enough for me.
Mr Tek - I never played DOA when it was released we already had Tekken, Street Fighter, Bloody Roar, Toshiden (cant remember full name), Soul Calibur... So by the time DOA was even released I was burned out by fighters so much so I havnt owned a fighter since Tekken 2
I think things like these were possibly the case for a large amount of people. If family hadn't introduced it to me, I doubt I would have played it, but I'm glad I did. Admittedly, I've played shockingly few other games with this style (Virtua Fighter being one) due to the fact that after played DoA, when I read into others they never seemed to live up to what I hoped for. However if anyone can change my opinion on that, I'm open to giving any game a shot.
AG Awesome - When I had my dreamcast I liked to play Soul Calibur as my main fighting game but eventually needed a change of scenery. Thats where DOA 2 came in. I liked how it controlled very similar to SC, with the more grapple/move based system being preferable to me over the endless combo system of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.
Soul Calibur is one of those massive titles I missed over the years that I previously mentioned. Gutted, to say the least. However, similar to you, DoA 2 was my change of scenery from watching and attempting to help play Counter Strike with my Dad. Given that DoA 2 was released when I was only a toddler, my gaming abilities were still largely limited!
Right, now onto this week's priorities.
This week the game I'm going to give a little bit on insight to is Pokémon Snap. Released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64, Pokémon Snap is a first person shooter with a twist. Although the game uses the basic first person shooter controls, your weapon of choice is a camera, not a gun sorry to disappoint. You play as Todd Snap, a character who actually exists in the Pokémon series, unlike many of the various games' protagonists. Despite this, you still get to pick your own name and can pick ridiculous and inappropriate personas for your own amusement. You're then summoned to a mysterious Island by good old Professor Oak to help him with a report. Essentially, Professor Oak needs a photographer to take pictures of Pokémon in an environment where Pokémon live almost completely apart from humans. Yet, somehow, a full railway and portal system has been built through their "undisturbed" land and you manage to hop into a weird yellow hover cart and begin your journey.
What makes it Overlooked?
Before I go into any further detail, it's time to explain why I feel this game is overlooked. For one, many people ignored its release despite the massive popularity of Pokémon because it wasn't an action feature to the series. Unlike most of the titles that had been released, such as the classic Gameboy games that we all know and love and the Pokémon Stadium games which did feature mini-games and most light-hearted material, but whose focus was on battling Pokémon Snap is completely combat free. Furthermore, many people were so wrapped up with the PlayStation 1 that the N64 was completely irrelevant to them. Lastly, although it had a strong initial release, it received many poor reviews due to an apparent lack of replay ability thanks to limited Pokémon and routes.
Do I agree?
While I will admit that there is a limit to what you can do within the game, I do not think that it deserves to be shunted for it. It's funny, quirky, addictive and a great time-passer. I'm not claiming that you'll sit down for 100+ hours and replay it 50 times, however for a good time, some light-hearted enjoyment and an aesthetically pleasing game, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
Looking at the Overlooked.
Right, time to give you all more detail. Continuing from before, you set yourself up in this strange yellow blob and set off. You get the choice of which route to follow, and each route features a different environment that different Pokémon inhabit. As you progress through the storyline you are able to unlock more routes, which opens up more opportunities. All together it seems like a fairly simplistic concept, but there's a catch. Professor Oak rates your photos, so you have to get the best ones possible. To make this even more difficult, you have a limit to how many photos you can take before you run out of film, and the Pokémon will not always be behaving in a way that is ideal. This means that not only do you have to be clever about what photos you take, but you also have to try and manipulate the situations around you. To do this you have several options. One of these is the ability to tempt Pokémon with apples. Many Pokémon will react to the treat and allow you to gain much more interesting photographs, one notable example being that you can lead Pikachu onto a beached surf board and watch him ride the shore. However if tempting the Pokémon doesn't work you also have the option to just annoy the hell out of them instead by throwing blue gaseous orbs called "Pester Balls" at them. These are intended to irritate or drive out the Pokémon, meaning that you can gain their attention and often draw Pokémon out of hiding to gain better pictures. Lastly, the player can use the Pokéflute, often used in normal games to wake Snorlax, to perform many actions. These include hatching eggs, making Pokémon dance, irritating them with loud music and more. Of course, the Pokéflute still works on Snorlax, waking him up and allowing you to gain some adorable photos (although sadly, his eyes do not open like they do in Pokémon Stadium one of the most terrifying scenes ever).
So, as you progress not only do you keep replaying routes to gain the best photos of each Pokémon you can, but you also have to try and get enough points to unlock new routes, find ways to unlock hidden routes, and furthermore there are hidden "signs" around the routes that need to be found. This incorporates a sort-of side story, in which various natural occurrences have created landmarks which create images that appear as Pokémon. These interest Professor Oak greatly and he'll appreciate any photos of them you can capture if you can find them.
Later in the game you gain the ability of the "Dash Engine", allowing you to speed your little cart up past areas of no interest. This becomes a godsend as you progress, given that having to tirelessly replay through paths until you get to the exact point you need or pass through areas with no Pokemon can become irritating, fast. Luckily, once you gain the Dash Engine that all melts away and you can progress with a happy-go-lucky attitude about your future adventures.
One of the last areas you can progress to is a mystical dimension in which you are given the opportunity to capture the legendary Pokemon Mew, sadly, only on film. Of course, you can only do that if you can work out how to get around the various obstacles that have been constructed to make it difficult, such as having to get him (or her? It?) out of their energy shield or else end up with a bunch of photos of nothing more than a weird energy blob.
As you can see, the game has much more to it than a simple point-and-click photography game that many made it out to be. Although it may not be an action-packed, heart racing, thrilling adventure game, it's fun, it's different, it's entertaining and it's accessible for all ages. This is what helps it to still hold its worth today, even having been made as a download for the Wii allowing new-age gamers to enjoy it as well. So, if you're looking for a casual game to relax with, if you happen to be a Pokemon fan who's never had the opportunity to play it, or if you simply like the sound of it, I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up a copy and try it out. And hey, if you get any hilarious photos (which often happens to me), please send them my way so we can revel in the hilarity that is 1999 graphics together.
That's it for this week's instalment of Overlooked. Currently, this piece is being featured as an instalment on my good friend Stewart's "Retronomicon" column. He's been incredibly gracious and let me use the latter of his piece to try out my own ideas, and I'd love to have some feedback about my column from you guys. So if you enjoy it, hate it, think something should change, please let me know below so I can take it into account and hopefully manage to turn this into its own column sometime soon! See you again next week!