Sonic the Hedgehog: The Age of Adventure

Sonic’s earliest forays into 3D are, today, popularly regarded as where things started going “wrong” for the blue blur.

But this is one of those viewpoints that has become so ingrained in popular gaming culture that many people simply take it for granted without actually checking the games out for themselves to determine whether those claims have any veracity to them.

That, as you know, is not what we’re all about here on MoeGamer, so let us make that jump into the third dimension and see exactly what’s up.

Sonic Adventure DX (PC)

Development for what would become Sonic Adventure, Sonic’s first full-length 3D game that would actually see the light of day, began in 1997 after the chaos of the X-treme project had fallen through. Sonic Team — once again with Yuji Naka in residence, as he had, by this point, returned from his stint working with Sega Technical Institute in the United States — had begun working on a full 3D Sonic game for the Sega Saturn, but by this point it was considered too late for the ailing console. As such, development switched to the Saturn’s upcoming successor, the 128-bit Dreamcast.

Remnants of Sonic Team’s work on the Saturn aren’t lost, however; in fact, they saw a commercial release of sorts. Sonic Jam, which was mostly a compilation of the Mega Drive Sonic games, incorporated a component called “Sonic World” that acted as a means of exploring the disc’s supplementary content such as artwork, music tracks and movie files. This was implemented as a small 3D level that Sonic could explore, and even incorporated missions and challenges for him to complete along the way. It was a tantalising glimpse of what could have been in the 32-bit era — and of what was to come late the following year.

Once development switched to the Dreamcast, Naka and Sonic Team had an important role to play. Speaking with the UK’s Edge Magazine in October of 1998, Naka noted that he was “almost like a team member of the Dreamcast project” thanks to the importance of Sonic Adventure to the new console’s success. He claimed that the new game represented his “best efforts to get the maximum performance out of the hardware” but also admitted “in any game platform there must be a learning curve in game development; when I get used to it, you will see more performance, but at the moment I feel it is the best product getting the best performance out of the hardware.”

Sonic Adventure DX (PC)

Speaking in a 2003 “director’s commentary” video, director Takashi Iizuka says that he approached Naka with the suggestion to create an “RPG-style” Sonic game. He wanted to incorporate lightweight RPG elements in to the mechanics, but more importantly he wanted the game to feel like it had a bigger scale to the previous games, coupled with a heavier emphasis on story. Iizuka noted that the whole team felt the narrative aspect had been lacking in earlier games, so this was their opportunity to really move the franchise on.

Iizuka also said that the biggest challenge the team faced was determining how Sonic would move in 3D. “There was no game like this at the time,” he recalls. “What was the best way to show Sonic in 3D? When we built our first test level, we knew we had to test it out, just to make sure our ideas worked. It ended up only lasting about ten seconds, and we knew we couldn’t build a game around this structure. We had to rebuild levels over and over again until we finally had a level length we were happy with.”

Another difficulty the team faced was what to do with the virtual camera — something which all developers at the time were still struggling a bit with. Dual analogue stick controller layouts were still relatively rare, with only Sony’s PlayStation platform adopting them as a default later in its life, so alternative approaches needed to be considered.

Sonic Adventure DX (PC)

“Normally in 3D games, the camera follows behind the character,” said Iizuka. “This is the most basic style of camera work, but no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get the same sensation of speed as the 2D games by doing this. We needed to figure out a different way to convey the sensation of speed, so after extensive research on the matter, we discovered that the key really was in the camera system. We decided to develop a more dynamic camera system, one that showed Sonic from many angles, rather than just behind him, to emphasise the speed at which he moved.”

That dynamic camera system resulted in some of Sonic Adventure’s most iconic moments, including the well-known “whale attack” sequence in the first stage. Sonic, viewed from the front rather than behind, is pursued by a whale who is leaping out of the ocean and smashing the parts of a pier our hero was standing on just fractions of a second beforehand.

Another question that presented itself during development was exactly how Sonic would be able to attack in 3D. In the 2D games, this was pretty simple — so long as Sonic was in his “spinning” animation and did not land on part of an enemy sprite specifically marked as “damaging”, he would defeat or damage the enemy. In 3D, however, there was the small matter of how the player could ensure they were appropriately lined up with the enemy in order to accomplish this. Without some sort of aiming mechanic, it would be frustratingly difficult for the player to attack enemies. Thus, the homing attack was born.

Sonic Adventure DX (PC)

“In previous 2D Sonic games,” Iizuka explained, “players could easily and comfortably bounce off the heads of their enemies, and that really was part of the fun. The question was, ‘how do you do this in 3D?’ That’s when we thought of targeting enemies while in the air. By doing this, players can bounce off one enemy, and then target the next, and then the next, and then the next. This really allows players to enjoy the same speedy attacks they had in the 2D Sonic games in a whole new 3D world.”

Iizuka and the team quickly determined that the homing attack could not only be used for simply attacking enemies, but also as a means of world traversal. As such, Sonic Adventure introduced something of a mainstay for the 3D games: bottomless pits with enemies suspended over them, necessitating the use of the homing attack to turn them into impromptu “platforms”. This meant enemies became more than simple hazards for Sonic to avoid or defeat — they were an integral part of negotiating the level in many cases.

As part of the design process, the team decided that Sonic and his friends needed something of a redesign, since their rather “dumpy” form factor from the Mega Drive games didn’t suit the 3D look all that well — their large heads in particular didn’t look right at all. As such, Yuji Uekawa was tasked with giving Sonic and friends an “edgy, more Western” design, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Walt Disney, Looney Tunes and graffiti art. The ultimate aim was to make the characters appear somewhat more mature while maintaining their original personality; the “graffiti” aspect was considerably emphasised and exaggerated in the game’s marketing material, but in the game itself the redesigns mainly amounted to the characters being taller, slimmer and somewhat more “realistically” (for want of a better term) proportioned.

Sonic Adventure DX (PC)

Part of Iizuka’s proposal for a more “RPG-style” Sonic game involved the adoption of a more natural, realistic feel to the game’s environments. Part of the game’s narrative would involve the history of the Chaos Emeralds and how Knuckles had come to be the guardian of them, so a Central/South American aesthetic was decided on to emphasise these traditional aspects. The core members of Sonic Team travelled to a variety of locations to get suitable first-hand experience they could feed back into their level designs, taking in Chichen Itza, Cancun, Tulum and Tikal in the Yucatán Peninsula of south-eastern Mexico before moving on to Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Ica in Peru.

Clear influences from all of these locales can be seen in the final game. The shrine of the echidnas is almost identical to real-world Tikal, for example, and indeed a major character in the plot is flat-out named Tikal. Cancun and Tulum formed the basis for the Emerald Coast level, Cuzco was used as inspiration for the Chaos Emerald Altar and the floating Angel Island, Machu Picchu informed the look and feel of the Windy Valley region, and the desert surroundings of Ica were adapted into Tails’ sandboarding stage partway through his story.

Naka’s stated aim for Sonic Adventure was to create levels that would take the player at least five minutes to complete. This was something of a difference from the Mega Drive games, which had a hard ten-minute time limit and encouraged swift completion to score maximum points. The team didn’t completely abandon this aspect of the game, mind; Sonic Adventure still incorporated a timer and scoring mechanics, allowing players to test and improve their skills over time, and this would form an integral part of many of the 3D games’ inherent replay value.

Sonic Adventure DX (PC)

After the levels had been created for Sonic to run through, Naka pondered what it would be like to have other characters be able to explore and do things in them. This also proved to be an ideal opportunity to experiment with mechanics and even incorporate some fan feedback from surveys the team had put out. The addition of Big the Cat (voiced, hilariously, by Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem) came about as a result of the team experimenting with incorporating fishing mechanics into the game, while Gamma was a response to players who wanted to see some shoot ’em up mechanics in the game, against Sega’s better judgement. Ultimately both Big and Gamma’s aspects of the game were kept relatively short in comparison to the rest, but nonetheless integrated into the narrative as a whole. Tails, Knuckles and Amy each had more substantial adventures to play through, though Sonic had by far the longest story to enjoy and had the honour of finishing the whole thing off in the “Super Sonic” story that unlocked when all previous routes had been completed.

The final aspect of Sonic Adventure’s core development was Iizuka’s desire to incorporate a villain, separate from Robotnik/Eggman, that would have been “impossible” to create on older hardware. Thus, the transparent liquid concept of Chaos was born, with much of the game’s narrative involving this creature’s gradual evolution from small humanoid into city-devouring monstrosity.

Naka and the team wanted to ensure the game had plenty of replay value, and thus besides the addition of Big and Gamma’s core mechanics, decided to incorporate a number of minigames. One of the most substantial of these was the Chao-raising system, where players could take responsibility for “virtual pets”. These could be cared for in-game or loaded into the Dreamcast’s unusual “Visual Memory Unit” memory cards, which included their own LCD display and controls and thus allowed players to take their Chao with them even when they were away from their main console.

In terms of its overall gameplay, Sonic Adventure still feels remarkably true to the series’ roots, with the 3D aspect of the game meaning it draws as much influence from racing games as it does from traditional platform games and the pinball mechanics Sonic has typically incorporated. The more high-speed segments of the levels demand that players memorise them if they want to obtain the best times and scores for their efforts, while the use of new mechanics such as the homing attack makes for some interesting traversal challenges.

In many ways, Sonic Adventure feels like an early example of something Sega has become a bit more known for in recent years — a phenomenon that I like to call “spectacle games”, perhaps best exemplified by titles such as PlatinumGames’ Bayonetta. These are games that, besides having hands-off cutscenes to advance the plot, also incorporate exciting interactive setpieces as part of the levels themselves. These force players to react in new and inventive ways to the challenges that present themselves, sometimes with new temporary mechanics to deal with. Sonic Adventure makes its intentions clear right from the get-go with the aforementioned “whale attack” segment, and continues with levels and sequences that pay homage to past Sega titles. The Ice Cap level was a direct reference to Sonic 3, for example, while the sequences in which Tails flew the Tornado and shot down enemies were designed to evoke memories of Panzer Dragoon.

Sonic Adventure has aged pretty gracefully over time, so long as you consider the original design intentions. This is not a game that was designed to be exploration-centric or “open world” — despite its “adventure fields” between action stages. Instead, it was clearly intended to be an evolution of the linear progression of the Mega Drive games, and in that aspect it succeeds pretty admirably. Sure, Big the Cat’s levels are just sort of there and Gamma’s shooting action lacks a bit of “punch” to it, but there are certainly no aspects of the game that are unplayable from a modern perspective.

It’s a significant game from a historical perspective for a number of reasons, though — perhaps most notably for Sonic fans with it being the moment that the Sonic series as a whole started paying real attention to narrative and characterisation within the games. Prior to this, the only times we’d heard Sonic and friends talk were in the two cartoon series, and these had a number of inconsistencies both between themselves and events depicted in the games.

Sonic Adventure clearly aimed to make a real effort to provide some continuity to the series with its “origin story” of Knuckles and the Chaos Emeralds, but it also incorporated some more subtle, easily missed aspects that can raise a smile. During a later sequence where you’re exploring Eggman’s flying fortress, the Egg Carrier, for example, you can visit his private quarters — in there you’ll discover that he has a distinctly “child-like” bedroom, complete with playground toys, colourful patterned wallpaper and mobiles hanging from the ceiling. This is never explicitly referenced in any of the games, but given what we discover about Eggman’s family over the course of subsequent games — most notably Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog — we can certainly infer a few things about why the good doctor became the person he is today.

Sonic Adventure’s original Japanese release shipped with a few issues that Sonic Team decided to fix for the later worldwide release of the game. Iizuka brought a number of Sonic Team members to the United States to apply these patches and fixes and, immediately following the North American release of Sonic Adventure, this US-based team began work on Sonic Adventure 2.

The intention for Sonic Adventure 2 was to make the game as a whole more action-oriented; despite incorporating a number of speedy elements, the original Sonic Adventure was regarded as relatively slow-paced thanks to aspects such as the adventure fields and minigames slowing the overall tempo of things down somewhat. As such, despite maintaining the Sonic Adventure moniker, Sonic Adventure 2 actually ditched the “adventure” aspects altogether — including the ability to select characters and play through their stories independently of one another — in favour of a linear progression through a series of stages with predefined characters in each.

Rather than the Mesoamerican influence of Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2 looked a little closer to home for inspiration — specifically, the Southern California location of the American arm of Sonic Team. As such, some very clear influences from locales such as San Francisco (and the Bay Area in general) and Yosemite National Park can be seen throughout the game.

The original intention for Sonic Adventure 2 was for just Sonic, Knuckles and Eggman to be playable, but Tails, Rouge and Shadow were later revealed to also have their own levels after a certain degree of concern was expressed by fans. Popular opinion is that these characters were added to the game a little late, however, meaning their stages often recycled content seen elsewhere in the game, and each team of three characters in the game had the exact same mechanics as their counterparts on the “other side” rather than playing in a completely unique way.

Early preview material for Sonic Adventure 2 suggested that the game would incorporate branching narrative pathways, with the game progressing down different routes according to the player’s actions. Ultimately this angle was ditched and would not be explored further until 2005’s Shadow the Hedgehog, a direct follow-up to Sonic Adventure 2’s narrative; the game was instead simply split into two discrete narrative paths — a “hero” path following Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, and a “dark” path following Shadow, Rouge and Eggman — followed by a short “Final” story that unlocked after both had been completed.

Sonic’s stages in Sonic Adventure 2 unfolded much as they had done in Sonic Adventure, involving a combination of precise platforming and spectacular high-speed segments, and Shadow’s levels in the dark path followed suit.

Tails and Eggman, meanwhile, were rough equivalents, each exploring their stages in a heavily armed mech suit and making use of the same “lock on and fire” mechanics Gamma had used in the first Sonic Adventure. Both Tails and Eggman also made use of a health bar rather than the traditional rings system; collecting rings would simply gradually restore their health rather than outright protecting them from a single hit.

Finally, both Knuckles and Rouge’s levels unfolded similarly to Knuckles’ stages from Sonic Adventure, requiring each of them to play a game of “hot and cold” around a large, open level in order to locate three hidden objects. Both Knuckles and Rouge are probably the most mobile characters in the game — a necessity for their exploration-centric stages. Both are able to glide (not fly — despite Rouge’s wings) and climb walls as well as dig into the ground or weak areas of wall, and their levels often involve their items being hidden in some pretty fiendish — and semi-randomised — locations.

Interestingly, despite the overall linear progression of Sonic Adventure 2’s main story, the game actually has a substantial amount of replay value. Once completed, each action stage can be replayed as many times as you wish in an attempt to attain better times or score more points, and also has several “missions” to complete, each of which is independently graded on your performance. The ultimate aim for complete mastery of Sonic Adventure 2 is to attain A-ranks on all the available missions — much harder than it sounds, since just a single loss of life during a mission resets your score to zero, meaning you need to clear every level without dying, as quickly as possible and with as many rings in your possession as possible while also completing any mission objectives the game happens to set for you.

Narratively, Sonic Adventure 2 explores some interesting aspects of overall Sonic lore, with perhaps the most noteworthy being the acknowledgement of Eggman’s family, including his grandfather Ivo Robotnik and his cousin Maria. Both of these are presented as tragic figures; Maria’s death in particular is inevitable. Had she not been killed in the military’s attempts to destroy Ivo’s dangerous research, she would have eventually succumbed to her terminal case of neuro-immune deficiency syndrome anyway. And Ivo’s research was, at least in part, an attempt to cure Maria’s condition — the fact it developed a nigh-immortal bioweapon in the process was something of an unfortunate side-effect that led to a bit of a no-win situation for anyone involved. Particularly Shadow, who was seemingly left for dead at the conclusion of the game’s narrative.

Suffice to say that Sonic Adventure 2’s narrative ended up fairly dark in its latter hours in particular, which made 2003’s indirect follow-up Sonic Heroes rather refreshing — it was, in many ways, a return to the series’ roots in terms of aesthetics and tone while maintaining many of the new additions the jump to 3D had brought to the overall formula.

Iizuka decided from the outset that he didn’t want to name the game Sonic Adventure 3, as he felt that this would cause only hardcore fans to buy the title. It’s for this reason that Sonic games after Sonic Adventure 2 have tended to simply have a subtitle rather than a number — while there is some continuity in narrative between a number of the installments, they are also each designed to stand by themselves and be accessible to more casual fans or those curious to get into the series for the first time.

The concept of Sonic Heroes built on Sonic Adventure 2’s concept of “teams” of characters. Rather than the game alternating between the different team members with each subsequent level, however, the concept of Sonic Heroes was that the player would control all three members of the team, switching between leaders as necessary according to the situation.

According to game planner Shiro Maekawa, the original intention was there for to be six teams of characters in the game, encompassing a total of 18 playable characters. This was regarded as too daunting a prospect for new players, however, so the game was ultimately reduced to four teams, with three of them providing rough equivalents to a conventional “difficulty” setting while a fourth provided unique mission-based gameplay.

In Sonic Heroes, each team has one of each “type” of character. Speed characters are able to run fast and perform various agile moves, often with a “wind” element attached to them. Power characters also run quite fast, have the ability to glide and float and are able to unleash physical attacks both up close and at range. Fly characters, meanwhile, move noticeably slower than the other two, but have the ability to hover indefinitely, fly for short distances and perform an attack that temporarily brings flying foes down to ground level. The four teams each have their own individual quirks, but at the most basic level, their mechanics are the same.

Each team’s story proceeds through a series of fourteen levels, punctuated by boss fights at various intervals. In order to unlock the true final boss and ending to the game, not only must all the stories be completed as in the two Sonic Adventure games, but for the first time in the mainline series since the Mega Drive games, all of the Chaos Emeralds must be gathered from Special Stages. While both Sonic Adventure games had completely lacked Special Stages — though Sonic Adventure 2’s Chao-raising minigame was implemented somewhat like a Special Stage of sorts — Sonic Heroes incorporated something of a reimagining of Sonic 2’s Special Stages, tasking the player with running down a twisting, turning tunnel, avoiding bombs and attempting to catch up with a fleeing target.

The four teams each proceed through the exact same environments, but their implementation is slightly different. Team Rose, consisting of Amy, Cream the Rabbit and Big the Cat, has the shortest levels, which can generally be completed in five minutes or less, even on your first runthrough. This makes for the rough equivalent of an “easy” mode. Team Sonic, consisting of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, acts as a “normal” mode, with longer versions of the levels, and Team Dark, featuring Shadow (who, spoiler, wasn’t dead after the conclusion of Sonic Adventure 2), Rouge and E-123 Omega, is the game’s “hard” mode, featuring even longer, more challenging versions of the levels.

Team Chaotix, meanwhile, consists of Charmy the Bee, Espio the Chameleon and Vector the Crocodile, all of whom are characters from the ill-fated 32X spinoff game Knuckles’ Chaotix. This motley crew has a specific mission to complete in each stage — usually involving collecting a certain number of items, destroying a certain number of objects or defeating a particular number of enemies — rather than simply reaching the end point. Team Chaotix also incorporates the ability to teleport back and forth between different parts of the level, allowing you to effectively do “laps” if you missed an objective on your first pass.

The free-roaming Knuckles and Rouge levels from the Sonic Adventure games have been abandoned in favour of linear levels, sometimes with branching pathways and alternative routes to the same destination. This, when combined with the reintroduction of the Special Stages and the necessity to manually collect the Chaos Emeralds, gives Sonic Heroes as a whole a strong feeling of being a 3D adaptation of the original Mega Drive Sonic format, a feeling helped somewhat by the game de-emphasising the narrative component and even making use of a pre-stage splash screen almost identical to that seen in Sonic 2.

Sonic Heroes also incorporates a level-up system whereby each character is able to collect power orbs and gain up to three levels, each of which increases their attack power. Enemies in Sonic Heroes all have a hit point gauge rather than simply being defeated in a single hit as in previous games, so levelling up each character means you are able to dispatch enemies more quickly and efficiently. Each team also has a special move called a “Team Blast” that triggers an amusing animation before defeating all on-screen enemies or severely damaging bosses; making effective use of this is essential to obtaining good times in both regular stages and boss confrontations.

Sonic Heroes is one of the more substantial 3D Sonic games out there, with total completion likely taking upwards of 30 hours if you want to see everything (and then complete all the stages again on a harder difficulty if you’re feeling truly masochistic). What’s especially interesting to me is that much like a visual novel rewards you with a full understanding of its narrative by playing all its possible routes, Sonic Heroes rewards you with a full understanding of its mechanics by playing all of its possible routes. The variety of gameplay the different teams offer makes for a highly replayable, accessible experience, and while the narrative component isn’t nearly as strong as in the two Adventure games, it is nonetheless a very enjoyable — and challenging — experience for new and old fans alike.

Finally for today’s exploration, we come to 2005’s Shadow the Hedgehog, once again developed by the company now known as Sega Studios USA (formerly the American division of Sonic Team). In this game, players take on the role of Sonic’s titular dark counterpart as he attempts to regain the memories he lost following the events of Sonic Adventure 2.

Shadow the Hedgehog was not a game that was received particularly positively on its original release for its apparent difference in tone from traditional Sonic games. It had an overall darker, more “edgy” theme to it, it incorporated guns and other weaponry, and… well, it didn’t have Sonic in the leading role. Taken on its own merits, though, it’s actually a very solid game with a ton of replay value thanks to its interesting structure and mechanics.

Core to Shadow the Hedgehog is the dark hedgehog’s conflicting sense of morality thanks to his amnesia. Each level early in the game has three possible conclusions based on the objectives you choose to pursue: simply reaching the Goal Ring completes the Normal mission, fulfilling the request of one of the many Sonic characters who make cameo appearances in this game completes the Hero mission, and accomplishing the tasks set by the game’s seeming antagonists, the Black Arms, completes the Dark mission.

This means the game branches out into five distinct routes by its conclusion — oddly similar to how classic Sega racing game OutRun did things, and building on Sonic Heroes’ “play all the routes to get a full understanding” structure — and has ten different endings depending on whether Shadow accomplishes a Hero or Dark mission in the sixth and final stage of that route. Once all ten endings have been seen, a final, canonical “true” ending is attainable, bringing the entire experience to a full conclusion.

While technically a spin-off game in the overall Sonic franchise, Shadow the Hedgehog is noteworthy in terms of overall series lore for expanding considerably on events introduced in Sonic Adventure 2. Most notably, it delves further into the relationship between Shadow and Maria as well as the connections between the main cast of the Sonic series as a whole and the “human” world.

The “six stages for a playthrough” structure means that you can technically “beat” Shadow the Hedgehog in an afternoon, but the variety of objectives on offer coupled with the fact that each branch point leads to a completely unique stage (rather than simply twists on the same levels) makes for a great deal of replay value. Once again, the game incorporates a ranking system, challenging players to complete stages quickly, efficiently and without dying in order to attain the maximum possible score.

The morality mechanics actually feed into this ranking system, too. Shadow scores points independently for “dark”, “hero” and “normal” actions over the course of a stage, and according to the mission he ultimately completes to finish that level, these affect his final score. When completing a Hero mission, for example, all your Dark score is subtracted from your final total, meaning it’s in your interest to try and act as morally consistent as possible over the course of the level.

An interesting twist is added to this by the fact that, as well as the two morality scores, there are also morality meters, and filling either one of these makes Shadow temporarily invincible as well as giving him access to a special ability. His Dark ability acts like a Team Blast from Sonic Heroes, destroying or damaging all foes in the vicinity, while his Hero ability allows him to “teleport” through a significant chunk of the level, allowing him to potentially skip difficult sections.

The addition of weapons, while regarded by some as tonally inconsistent with the Sonic series as a whole, makes for some interesting gameplay. While Shadow is able to both make use of a Sonic-style homing attack and melee attack foes like Knuckles, he is much more effective with a gun in his hand. While the game lacks a lock-on system of sorts, a rather generous auto-aim means you only really have to point vaguely in the direction of an enemy in order to hit them.

As you progress further in the game, you get access to more and more interesting weapons, including a fun “vacuum gun” in the later stages that can suck up enemies and items as well as being able to manipulate the environment in various ways. Reaching one of the game’s endings also unlocks a new weapon for subsequent playthroughs, which will then be scattered throughout the various stages.

And the addition of those weapons isn’t as tonally inconsistent as you might initially think; Sonic as a whole has had a dark edge ever since its original Mega Drive incarnations thanks to its core conflict of nature versus technology. Shadow, as someone who is technically amoral at the outset of the game (despite being historically described as “dark”), is more than willing to take advantage of any means necessary to accomplish his goals — and if that means making use of technology, then so be it. The reasons for this are clear if you follow the narrative; as an artificially created lifeform, Shadow is the product of both nature and technology.

While all these games have been on the receiving end of somewhat mixed opinions over the years — and are typically the games people are thinking of when they come out with the old “Sonic hasn’t been good for a long time” line — they remain worth playing today, noteworthy from a historical perspective and an important part of overall Sonic series lore.

Unsurprisingly, they’re also nowhere near as “bad” as popular opinion would have you believe, either — so if you like Sonic and friends as characters but have never checked out these particular installments, it’s well worth your time to do so. I’d go so far as to highlight Shadow the Hedgehog as a particular highlight for me personally; while I don’t care for the character as much as I do for many other members of the core Sonic cast, as a game this title is especially enjoyable to me thanks to its interesting structure and solid mechanics.

Some still regard Sonic’s jump to 3D as a mistake. But take these early attempts on their own merits and you’ll find some great games that will keep you busy for quite some time!


More about the Sonic the Hedgehog series

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