Spin-dashing into madness

Wow, are Sonic fans crazy or what?

Well, OK, maybe “crazy” isn’t entirely fair. But their reaction to Sonic the Hedgehog 3‘s thumbs-down in this week’s Retro Roundup surprised me with its vehemence.

I know, I know. I should know better by now. Open your mouth about a video game and someone’s going to get their feelings hurt. And probably tell you to die of AIDS in a fiery car crash. But was my evaluation unfair? I’d never really spent any time with the game prior to this past weekend; back in the day I found that the first Sonic and its sequel were all I really needed to see of that particular style of gameplay unless some interesting changes were added to the formula. Sonic 3 didn’t really look to add much. Now that I’ve played a good chunk of it, I stand corrected: it did add some things! All of which, alas, ruined the fun. The level designs are the worst offender, clearly having been crafted to impede any sense of speed or momentum — the series’ most essential fundament. Am I wrong? Please let me know in the comments; extra points for disproportionately bilious hatred!

55 thoughts on “Spin-dashing into madness

  1. Mr. Parish, you have drawn perhaps the most disturbing picture of Sonic on the internet.

    Yes, I know how loaded a statement that is. That Sonic will haunt my nightmares.

  2. Oh yeah, I guess I should Have signed that. I’m Beat. That guy on your forums ect. ect.

    Sonic 3 (Especially in it’s completed form with Sonic & Knuckles) is sort of like a Holy Grail for us kids who didn’t have super nintendos. The levels were huge, the game ran faster, and there were new things added that provided immediate value to us, such as the guy playing tails suddenly becoming very useful, shield types that made new tricks possible, and actual cut-scenes that hinted at some sort of plot. A veritiable revolution from our inferior-system perspective. I can honestly say I don’t know what you’re talking about with the level design, I never saw any problems with it. I played the hell out of that game, and I loved every moment of it.

    That said you were right in not reccomending it. Sonic 3 without it’s essential “Patented Lock On Technology” counterpart? That’s bullcrap and we all know it.

  3. Sonic 3 diluted everything that was good about the first two games into a semi-playable farce.

    To all people who disagree, I say “shut up your stupid fucking mouth!”

  4. People really gave you that much crap over Sonic 3?

    To them I quote the censored verion of Sean of the Dead: “Sort your funkin’ life out, mate.”

  5. “The level designs are the worst offender, clearly having been crafted to impede any sense of speed or momentum — the series’ most essential fundament.”

    Every copy of Sonic 1 I every played must be broken, because that fundament appeared to be largely missing in it.

    I don’t really see it in Sonic 3. In fact, it even had one of the fastest, least-likely-to-drown in water zones in the series in Hydrocity–a healthy chunk of it took place above water depending on the route selected, and had a ton of loops and speed boosts–unlike Labyrinth Zone, and it didn’t drop spiked enemies or vision-impeding background pieces to block your view like Aquatic Ruins. Casino Night stands out with those flaws–featuring really long acts, annoying hazards that slow down more than anything, and was basically the only Sonic zone I’ve Time Overed on. Then it was followed by Ice Cap Zone.

  6. I liked the first Sonic and Sonic CD, I loved Sonic 2, and 3 never struck me right. I used to think it was the music, which was nowhere near as good as the earlier games. But on the few occasions where I’ve tried to go back and play it again my opinion hasn’t really improved, even when -and Knuckles-ed.

    And almost all fans of everything are crazy. I think hacking the last four letters off of the tail end of the word have done the world at large a great disservice. Sounds too innocuous now.

  7. Beat’s last paragraph is basically why I didn’t really see a point to get huffy over the thumbs down, even though I loved the game (when I was 12). Sonic 3 & Knuckles is my favorite Sonic game, but separated and I can’t really care about either. As such, I basically agree with the thumbs down even if it’s not for the reasons you gave.

    My loving it may’ve been helped by the fact I got both for cheap though. I dunno how much, but it couldn’t have cost more than a full retail game at that point in time.

  8. There’s no reason not to buy and love Sonic 3 and Knuckles. That said, you can get that on Sonic Mega Collection for the cube, which is happily Wii Compatible. It also includes the games Parish doesn’t hate for whatever reason, and can probably be gotten used for around 12 bucks these days.

    So yeah. Buy that instead. And let the haters on both sides hate on. They feed on the rage or something.

  9. I’m not exactly qualified to offer a lucid appraisal of Sonic 3 – I was one of those people who got stuck for YEARS in the Carnival area before finding out you need to physically push down on the circular platforms to advance (it seems dumb to not think of that, but in a Sonic game you aren’t really supposed to be thinking on that wavelength). So compared to my opinion of the game, you practically qualify as cheerleader.

    I’m much more bewildered by your positive appraisal of SoR3’s music, anyway. But whatever.

  10. FYI, that picture shows up as a thin line for me. I can see it I browse to the file directly, though.

  11. Now that I think about it, the level designs didn’t really fit “Sonic” all that well, but I dunno, I still find it fun.

    The only thing I take issue with was your assessment of the soundtrack, but that is because I really like Hydrocity and Ice Cap. The rest isn’t that great. So, uh, flame on.

  12. What about Sonic & Knuckles? The Death Egg zone is some pretty epic shizzle. Even though half the fun is admittedly watching those crazy teleporters in action, which I guess technically has nothing to do with the gameplay.

    Am I missing something about the Mega Collection? I’d sure love to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Full Horror, but my understanding is that you need to play each individual game 20 TIMES to unlock it. Is there a way around this? I can’t imagine the game being anywhere close to fun by that point.

  13. I rather enjoy Sonic 3…

    …when I use Knuckles…

    …which you can’t do without Sonic & Knuckles.

    Anywho, didn’t think Sonic 3 was all that bad. Sonic 3 & Knuckles was pretty much the pinaccle of the whole shebang, though.

    –LBD “Nytetrayn”

  14. “Am I missing something about the Mega Collection? I’d sure love to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Full Horror, but my understanding is that you need to play each individual game 20 TIMES to unlock it. Is there a way around this? I can’t imagine the game being anywhere close to fun by that point.”

    There isn’t, but it’s not like you have to play THROUGH each game that many times. Really, all you need to do is just load up and quit each game a crapton of times.

  15. Oh, okay. That’s still a really arbitrary move on the designers’ part, considering that was the intended form of the game.

  16. Actually, I agree wholeheartedly with you. In comparison to Sonic 2’s levels, which were for the most part one constant speedfest, Sonic 3’s levels introduced a philosophy of level design where being fast was practically useless. And when you’re making a Sonic game that’s not about going fast, I think you may have missed the point, really.

  17. The most annoying things I see nowdays is how Sonic is “all about speed”, when if you go back and play most of the games you’ll find that there was PLENTY of exploration, hidden paths and heaps of junk to keep you coming back. You had to search for those damn posts, or the Secret Rings in every level so you could get Super Sonic mode.

    Hell whenever I see reviews about Sonic 3D Blast they always say it’s “Not fast enough”, but if you actually look and play at the game.. it’s freaking fast for a 3/4 perspective game. Just look at some videos – if it were any faster you’d class the game “uncontrollable”

    Back to Sonic 3.. it has some great music, and fantastic FAST moments [ie; Snowboarding], brand new abilities which work very well – Electricity for collecting rings and double jumping, Fire for being invunerable to fire and the boost.. and the Water bubble for breathing and bouncing around. It all adds up to a fantastic game.

  18. Sonic 3 is inexcusable, but I think you’d have to give a thumbs up to S3&K or whatever we’re supposed to call it. I felt like the levels had a lot of cool ideas, the bosses by and large weren’t bad, the different shields added a LOT of possibilities to Sonic’s gameplay, and playing as Knuckles made the whole Sonic 3 experience come together really well.

    I also think S3&K was faster-paced overall, which I see as a problem. In S3&K you’re just supposed to run all over the place and have faith you’ll reach your destination, whereas the previous games’ slower paces meant you were actually playing a platformer. But yeah, to release Sonic 3 standalone is just completely pointless.

  19. I got your back here. I liked Sonic 1 a lot back then despite its flaws, and I bought Sonic 2 on Sonic 2sday and loved it even more. When Sonic 3 came out, I rented it first (thank god), and was amazed at just how bad it was. The music was terrible, the level design licked nuts, and oh GOD those special stages. I only bought it years later after it got cheap, and because I thought it would somehow get better if you attached it to Sonic & Knuckles.

  20. I never cared for Sonic 3 as much as Sonic 2 back in the day so i’ll take your word for it. (As long as you don’t insult Shenmue you’re alright with me ;))

  21. I think my favorite reactions were: “Sonic 3 was awesome. That’s a fact,” and the guy who said he’d stop reading this roundup and start finding another one on the internet because “don’t let personal opinion get in the way of reviewing.” But the best reply was the guy who implied that you should be fired because you had a clear vendetta against Sonic 3. That reply was so moronic, I couldn’t figure out whether he was just satirically parodying the Ghouls and Ghosts thing.

    On another note, when you say “Get it while you can!” for Sin and Punishment, does that mean it’s going away? Didn’t Europe do this with Mario 2?

  22. Yeah, Sonic 3 as a stand-alone game really isn’t worth it on the VC, especially when it’s available in several other forms along with S3&K. I’ll still defend Hydrocity and Ice Cap to the end, however.

    Those red-and-white barrels have become the stuff of gaming legend.

  23. You know, if you want to embody the Sonic fan base, you should have colored him green with red highlights and renamed him Psychotik the Hedgehog, the shameful secret offspring of Eggman and a former Mobian princess. Though he enjoys relaxing with his band (he of course is legendary with any instrument and has a voice that inspires panty-throwing from his female fans and ensures that he totally gets all of the near-genderless anthropomorphic tail), he is deeply ANGSTed by his secret past and longs for revenge.


    Oh, I have fun.

  24. The problem with Sonic games is that they suck unless they’re (primarily) about running as fast as possible from the left side of the screen to the right, with some light platforming elements. Sonic games always fell flat on their face when you had to slow down for anything–gathering rings, items, and (I would argue) fighting bosses.

    I grew up with a Genesis and only got a SNES around ’95 or ’96, but even though Genesis was all I had to play for about 5 years, I don’t look back that fondly on Sonic games. I played them a lot, I enjoyed them, but in retrospect they aren’t that good. I never beat any of them past the first one because of all the stupid mini-games you had to beat to get the Chaos emeralds in order to get the right ending or whatever.

    Anyhow, Sonic 3 was definitely the tipping point for the series, much like Mega Man 4. People violently defend both games and say that they’re the true pinnacle of each series, but even when I played them all those years ago, I remember thinking they were more of the same, with a few new ideas, and just weren’t as…INSPIRED as the games up to that point.

  25. Sonic fans ARE insane, though, considering they’re STILL fans of Sonic after the franchise has been run well into the ground.

  26. Alex- I think that’s exactly the problem. Happy memories of Sonic have been completely tarnished by the present, at least for the average cynical nerd.

    For me personally, Sonic 3 was amazing. I didn’t have a Genesis, but I played it at friend’s houses frequently. Although Sonic 2 has better music (hello Chemical Plant) and played better than basically any other Sonic game, Sonic 3 was the first Sonic to completely wow me. I loved the graphics, I loved the balance between speedy sections and exploratory sections, I loved the true choice of characters… hell, it even had the only snow level that I’ve ever, ever liked.

    And while it did have more exploration than Sonic 2, that game really wasn’t the speed-fest that so many make it out to be. After Chemical Plant, anyway.

    Perhaps number three is the SMB2 of Sonic games. Although it has many similar elements of play, the feel was different to the point that it seemed almost unrecognizable at times. Plus, you get two (or three) completely different characters to choose from.

    I will agree though, that the game did become way better with Knuckles. I could say the same about Sonic 2, though, honestly. As a Mario fan, I always played Sonic games wanting to explore way more than was typically possible. The speed never particularly thrilled me, and even as a kid it seemed pretty gimmicky. Sonic 3 allowed me that, doubly so with Knuckles.

    In short, I’m a pretty shitty Sonic fan.

  27. “And while it did have more exploration than Sonic 2, that game really wasn’t the speed-fest that so many make it out to be. After Chemical Plant, anyway.”

    Neither was Sonic 1, aside from Green Hill and Star Light.

    However, at least all 3 didn’t have the nasty habit of throwing you into long speed sequences, then into a bottomless pit, like the Advance games and Rush.

  28. Sonic Rush is indeed pretty brutal, and kind of crappy. It’ll wow you with the novelty of the dual screen and then throw you into a chasm just for good measure.

  29. Who the hell cares about Sonic 3..?

    What really grinds my gears is that Perish gave a THUMBS DOWN to the BEST platformer on the N64: Yoshi’s Story.

    It was way ahead of its time: unlinear storyline & level progression… Amazing 2.5D graphics… Fantastic music and stunningly awesome gameplay. It was innovative in all the right ways. Maybe that’s why the doucheb*g game reviewers panned it; they just wanted the same trite mario shit over and over.

    You’d think that as years go by people in the gamer industry would wise up to Yoshi’s Story’s brilliance, but judging by your Retro Roundup that’s not the case at all. I hope you die in hell.

    Give Yoshi Story a better score in youre article or fire yourself. Have some dignity as a human being.

  30. As a mainly Nintendo console owner, I didn’t get too much exposure to the Sonic games, aside from visiting friends who owned Sega consoles. When Sega turned third party, I bought most of the Cube Sonic titles to catch up on what I was missing. The main thing I’ve discovered is that any Sonic game is good… at least as long as you play the first half.
    Take Sonic Adventure 2. I actually enjoyed the game, despite it’s bugs, until the space levels, which constitute the latter half of the game. Then the level design goes to crap and the lousy control issue become magnified. Playing one of Sonic’s last levels (where you can flip on the ceiling), the controls honestly seemed broken.
    Also, Sonic Rush. Great game, at least until Level 6: Altitude Limit (or, as I refer to it, “That F***ING hang-glider level”). It’s absolutely no fun to play and I’ve yet to pass the first act. It seems like the designers give up halfway in on making fun level designs, and instead throw a bunch of sh*t together and shove it out to retail.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like Sonic. His games are fun to play (to a point) and I’m stoked to play him in Brawl, but as a smartass answer to Mario, he just hasn’t aged nearly as well as our favorite Italian stereotype (see: Mario Galaxy).
    Actually, I’d love to see a Miyamoto designed Sonic game. It will never happen, but I think that devine intervention is the only thing that would pull the hedgehog out of the bargain bin.
    Sorry if I’ve rambled on… I just came out of a turkey induced coma…

  31. The other posters have all made the points I agree with: Sonic 3 is OK, but releasing it without S&K is a huge failure and deserves a automatic thumbs down.

    The review worried me since it looked like Mr Parish was playing this retarded Sonic Was Never Good revisionist history game that’s been going around recently, where people claim to know when the series ‘went bad’ and try to drag this point as far back in time as possible to make themselves look informed, as far back as Sonic 2 at the most.

    I will say, though, that playing the original Sonic games with the mindest of “always run as fast as possible, that’s how you play Sonic” is definitely a conceptual flaw. The original trilogy had a good balance of high-speed sections, precision platforming and searching for hidden bonuses/alternate routes. Always going full throttle and then complaining when pure speed fails to overcome everything smacks of willful discontent.

  32. I can only tolerate Sonic 3 when it’s the first half of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, because after the Launch Base zone you get to do all the GOOD stages.

    Except Sandopolis.

  33. That AAAAA guy lost me “Perish”.

    I remember when you made a comparison chart between Yoshi’s Story and a urinal cake*. That was beautiful.

    *For those who don’t remember it, the cake won.

  34. Yoshi’s Island is one of those games that will never be “cool” or “funny” to try to defend. It’s just a mess, and (maybe) the game that singlehandedly assured that Nintendo consoles would be seen as a breeding ground for kiddie, idiotic games for at least two more generations.

  35. “I was one of those people who got stuck for YEARS in the Carnival area before finding out you need to physically push down on the circular platforms to advance…”

    This one is me right here. Point in fact I only found out how to get past it a couple of years ago.

    Anyway, I like Sonic 3 just fine. And for the music, all I’m going to mention is Hydrocity Zone Act 2.

  36. You’re 100% right about Sonic 3, Parish. I’ve been saying it for years.

    as such, I feel bad for not warning you that expressing such an opinion about Sonic 3 will get you lynched in 45 of our 50 states.

    Didn’t Michael Jackson compose one of the game’s songs? ugh.

  37. Sonic 3 & Knuckles is my favorite Sonic, for most of the reasons other people have mentioned. I wasn’t fazed in the least by your thumbs down, even if I disagreed for entirely subjective reasons. Heck, I would have thumbs downed every Sonic game already available in Mega Collection.

  38. Sonic 3’s music was terrible. Compare the tinny first level to the awesome music at the start of the original Sonic. That was the song that converted a million fanboys to the Genesis.

    The same fanboys who are crying over Sonic 3’s thumbs down, I guess.

  39. Well, looks like the other guys have covered most of the salient points, buuuut, just to chime in…

    Sonic 3 IS best played with Sonic and Knuckles attached.

    That said, things that are good about Sonic 3 by itself:

    I like the big levels. I like the exploration. I really don’t think it cramps the speed that much at all, especially near the end.

    There are tradeoffs to stage design, but many times a stage in 3 is more “fair” than in its predecessors — Hydro City is better balanced than Labyrinth or Ancient Ruins (and I’m naming these from memory, so forgive me if I get any wrong), and Hilltop isn’t really any more of a bastard than Marble was. Carnival Night, on the other hand, is a huge disappointment compared to Spring Yard and Casino Night, not to mention a buggy mess that occasionally traps you inside a wall.

    Sonic and Tails no longer play identically, but play closely enough that it’s not a huge annoyance to play as Tails (except for Hilltop).

    Acquiring Chaos Emeralds isn’t as arbitrary as it was in the previous installments; in the first two games, if you get whacked right before the exit/lamppost, you lose your opportunity to enter the Special Stage, whereas in this one they’re in set locations.

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on the soundtrack, too.

  40. Well after recently playing Sonic 3 I have to say that I agree with Mr. Parish. The level design is not really suited for a Sonic game; too many platforming bits. And, the music really is uninteresting.

    So there you have it, my opinion.

  41. It’s interesting how many people seem to be implying that S&K was much better than S3. I’ve never thought of them being that different.

  42. “That’s probably part of why people are so pissed- Sonic 3 is really just the first half of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, which most fans consider the peak of the series in the venue of 2D. But despite the fact that he seems to detest the level design, Parish doesn’t actually have the perspective of looking at the game in the context of its complete form. If you don’t, it’s not that hard to be disappointed with Sonic 3!


    I disagree with Parish on pretty much every count here.

    The music, while not as charmingly simple or as catchy as the tunes of Sonic 1 and 2, is much richer and deeper- which might be why it doesn’t hold up so well for people that didn’t grow up with it. It sounds like they were going for a sound that wasn’t really suited for the simpler hardware of the Genesis. I’d be curious to hear what they could have done with the SNES’s sound chip, though!

    Still, I can’t quite see how Parish copuld muster the venom he did for the game’s soundtrack- especially since he apparently didn’t play through much of it before writing about how tepid it was.

    In fact, the credits music for the game is some of my favourite game music ever. Ice Cap and Hydrocity are also way up there. However, the main theme of the game is definitely underwhelming- especially when you play as Super Sonic and hear it ad nauseum in an endless, awful loop. The horror!

    As for special stages, it sounds like Parish never got very deep into any of the series’ emerald hunts. While Sonic 2’s straight run bonus stages required rote memorization to conquer, Sonic 3’s special stages actually depended largely on skill. While they weren’t for everyone, they were definitely popular with fans of the series- so much so that they received their own game: when you locked on Sonic 1 with Sonic & Knuckles you got a game composed entirely of unique renditions of the Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles bonus stages!

    While I never had the amount of trouble Parish did with the level design (which is absolutely baffling to me), I was pretty disappointed with Sonic 3 after I beat it for the first time. “Hm,” I thought, “that was a lot like half of Sonic 2.” And I was right!

    I did, though, enjoy what the game did add- the elemental shields. The fire and lightning shields did a great job of changing up how Sonic played in any given situation, and helped those who found themselves drowning too often with the introduction of the water shield.

    As for actual level design, I really liked it! But I can really, really see where Parish is coming from- the early levels of the game just aren’t as good as the later ones, and an initial impression gleaned off of the first stage for someone who isn’t used to jumping at a moment’s notice to preserve the speed and momentum of the game would undoubtedly be frustrating!

    This then might be the problem, and where the disconnect for a lot of people starts- Sonic 3 was made for Sonic fans, for people who had played through and loved both Sonic 1 and Sonic 2.

    I would be very curious to hear what Parish would think of playing through Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 and Knuckles as Knuckles, whose playstyle, though ultimately similar to Sonic’s, placed a greater emphasis on exploration thanks to his ability to glide and climb the vast majority of vertical surfaces.

    I’m not sure where the complaints about enemy design came from, though. That was pretty much straight out of left field!”

  43. “Sonic 3 is really just the first half of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, which most fans consider the peak of the series in the venue of 2D.”

    Thus the thumbs-down. I certainly don’t hate Sonic 3, but the fact is that it’s half a game which on its own is less enjoyable than its two immediate predecessors. It would be one thing if Sega had included the lock-on content… but they didn’t, and I rated what they’re selling, not what they should have sold. Also, I’ve played more of the game than you apparently seem to think.

  44. Hey get this – playing as Knuckles sucks.

    Sonic CD was the last good Sonic game. Tell your friends.

  45. That’s all that needed to be said, Mr Parish. It just seemed like the review went out of it’s way to criticise things that were perfectly adequate. Especially that bit about the special stages, because they are leagues better than Sonic 2’s.

  46. @ ScrambledGregs

    The above poster was not talking about Yoshi’s “Island” for SNES. He was talking about Yoshi’s “Story” for N64.

  47. Yeah, no, that was basically the context that was needed to clarify your reasoning, though the actual review didn’t sound quite like what you’ve said here. And I’m sorry to have assumed you played less than you did!

  48. Aaaand with the random furry-bashing this intelligent discussion draws to a close. Goodnight everybody.

  49. It was random because it was an uncalled-for derailment in an intelligent thread of discussion.

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