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Sonic 3D Blast – Sega Saturn

Sonic 3D Blast – Sega Saturn

Sonic_3D_BlastPlatform: Sega Saturn

Developer: Traveller’s Tales

Publisher: Sega

Release Date (NA): November 30th, 1996

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed by NerdBerry

Released on the Sega Genesis and the Sega Saturn on the same day in 1996, most gamers out there didn’t know exactly what to do. Sonic 3D Blast, while technically the 2nd 3D Sonic game (behind Sonic the Fighters in the arcades), would be Sonic’s true 3D platforming debut. Not making Sonic 3D Blast a Sega Saturn exclusive was one of many missteps by Sega. This move infuriated fans of both Sega and of the Sonic series.

Developed by Traveller’s Tales, who would later help in the development of Sonic R, and released by Sega, Sonic 3D Blast was originally supposed to be released exclusively for the Sega Genesis and was intended to close out the system altogether as Sega made way for their Saturn future. Sonic’s future was going to be Sonic X-Treme, a 3D platforming game for the Saturn. When Sonic X-Treme was canceled, Sega ported Sonic 3D Blast to the Saturn. While the level layouts, bosses, enemy sprites, and so forth are all exactly the same between the Genesis and Saturn versions, the Saturn port was significantly more polished and detailed. It also featured an abundance of additions, including an entirely different soundtrack with CD-quality audio, level detail, a longer 3D introduction video, alternate bonus stages, and an overall better appearance. For the purpose of this review and keeping the two games separate, we will be reviewing the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast.

sonic 3d Garden

Dr. Robotnik has, yet, another evil plan. He has discovered an island known as Flickie’s Island, which is inhabited by the Flickies, little birds. Dr. Robotnik learns that these Flickies have the ability to travel anywhere using their special large rings. Robotnik exploits their special abilities and turns the Flickies into robots so that he can use their powers to help him discover all of the Chaos Emeralds. Sonic learns of this and, being the do-gooder that he is, takes it upon himself to stop Dr. Robotnik and save the Flickies and their island!

Sonic 3D Blast is a top-down isometric 3D platforming game that features everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog, Sonic. Unlike times past where Sonic would have to survive a stage – usually booby-trapped by Dr. Robotnik – and free the hostage animals at the end, Sonic is now tasked with saving all of the Flickies! Yes, the same little birds from the Genesis game Flicky. Just like in previous games, each stage (or zone) is divided into three acts, the first two containing the same objective and the third stage being the boss stage. The Flickies you must rescue will be scattered randomly throughout each stage in the form of robotic animals/insects, and Sonic must destroy the robots to free the Flicky. After destroying the robot, he then must lead them to safety by slam-dunking them into the dimension rings. The Flickies will latch onto Sonic and follow him, but they must be attached to him in order to advance. There are 5 Flickies in each stage, all of which must be put in the dimension ring to complete the level. Sonic can either pick up one at a time or he can collect all 5 of them at the same time, the latter of which is generally preferred.

The Nerd Bacon Take

Sonic 3D Blast tends to get mixed reviews and always has since its release 17+ years ago. Other reviews are based on the game itself and seem to have little to do with the Saturn, which I suppose is the best way to view it. But isn’t this game a little below the expectations for the “future of gaming?” This is the game they used to launch their first Christmas season! It’s a little disappointing, but for those of you out there with endless patience and endless time (as this title has no save feature), you might STILL be able to have a great time playing this game. My personal opinion of Sonic 3D Blast is… I love it… but I hate it… (insert Tony Horton p90x joke here).

sonic-3d-blast-5

What’s to Love and What’s to Hate?

The Look

The graphics for this game are beyond superb and truly shine on the powerful Sega Saturn. Featuring fully-rendered graphics with 256 color textures in a 3D playing environment really takes Sonic from the old to the new. Unfortunately for gaming developers in the early to late 90s, the technology for making rendered 3D graphics in a playable fashion was still in its infancy. The result was typically very blocky, ugly, pixelated graphics, with often indiscernible objects throughout the entire game. Sonic 3D Blast, fortunately, takes a simpler approach at a 3D game by actually using a 2D environment with pre-rendered 3D sprites to create a 3D look. You will be amazed at the level detail, color usage, and overall appearance.

sonic 3d blast dimensions ring

Dimension ring used to save the Flickies

Summary: The graphics are amazing for a cartoony and pseudo-3D look. The colors are vibrant and really set the tone and feel. Overall, both the graphics and the color are marvelous.

The Sound

The soundtrack and sound effects are simply stunning. The developers were kind enough to make a new soundtrack for the Saturn version, and they really utilized the CD-based technology very well. Each zone has its own tune and each zone has a particular look to it. The music is perfectly orchestrated to match the overall feel of each zone. For example, while in the Diamond Dust Zone – which is covered in ice and snow – the score sounds very much like Christmas music. It gives off this warming and comforting feeling.

In addition to the solid soundtrack are the sound effects of the game. Most of the sound effects seem recycled from the previous 16-bit Sonic games, but that’s not a bad thing at all. These are the sounds we became familiar with and associate with anything Sonic, just like people associate the Mario-jump sound with Mario games. While not too varied or complicated, they did a fine job with the sound effects.

Summary: Soundtrack = inspired and first-rate. Sound effects = familiar and appropriate.

The Feel

Sonic 3D Blast is not going to feel like your average Sonic game, and this might even be the reason you hate this game. The controls are spot on, timely, simple, and straight-forward. But that doesn’t make them easy to master. Learning how to control Sonic is far-and-away the most challenging part of this game. The isometric view makes controlling Sonic exceptionally tricky. sonic 3d blast rusty ruinYou will often find yourself struggling to judge distances when jumping gaps or determining which direction Sonic is actually facing when you decide to do something. The overall control scheme is difficult and is hardly ever “mastered”… You will ultimately just learn how to handle it a little better, but it will test your patience.

Other than a taxing control scheme, Sonic 3D Blast feels alright. Nothing revolutionary going on here. Just some simple jumping and spin-dash attacks. But making its debut is the Sonic Blast Attack, whose name would later be changed to Homing Attack, starting with Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. The Sonic Blast Attack is a double-button attack feature in which Sonic presses any of the jump buttons and while in the air presses any jump button again and he will hone in on a nearby enemy. In order to use this attack, Sonic will need to have the Gold Shield first, however. This new attack feature helps considerably with the questionable control issues I spoke of previously.

Summary: Controlling Sonic is a true challenge, and one of the weakest features of the game.

The Levels

Sonic 3D Blast features 7 main zones. Each zone will have some familiar elements from previous Sonic installments. There is a map of Flicky Island that shows your progression. Each level is unique, which really helps keep the game interesting and prevent monotony.

sonic 3d blast 2

  • Green Grove Zone: The hills are alive with the sound of camshafts, engines, and other various machinery. Green Grove Zone is your typical starter-level for a Sonic game, loaded with plenty of greenery and some light colors to set the mood.
  • Rusty Ruin Zone: The ruins of the fabled continent of Atlantis were brought up from the depths when Flicky Island was created. Rusty Ruin Zone features some magnificent weather effects, such as rain and fog.
  • Spring Stadium Zone: This area is a crazy funhouse of pinball cushions and bumpers, springs and not-so-friendly spike traps. “Hone your jumping and bouncing skills here” is what the manual says, yet this entire zone is extremely confusing, with TOO MANY colors that could get the best of your vision from time to time.
  • Diamond Dust Zone: “Did you bring your Sonic snowboard? The snowy mountains of Flicky Island are filled with icy snowblowers, frozen paths, and rivers of slush.” This zone features some beautiful snowy weather effects scattered throughout. One of the most challenging things about this level is the frozen ground. If you get going too fast and try to turn or stop you will slide along the ice and possibly kill yourself. If you start sliding, jump and land in place to stop.
  • Volcano Valley Zone:Quite a change from the cool slopes of Diamond Dust! Leap the lava beds and go with the flow! Use the Sonic Spin Dash to activate the elevators, and keep an eye out for Fire shields to save Sonic from suffering a hot foot!” The boss in this level isn’t particularly challenging, but the surrounding lava and Dr. Robotnik’s fireballs can be tough to avoid.
  • Gene Gadget Zone: “This mixed up mechazone is chock full of pipes, tubes, and wiring. Not to mention electrified floors, shocking beam weapons, and industrial fans that will blow Sonic away!” This level is pretty different, but sort of reminds me of Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Don’t stand on the electrical floors too long!
  • Panic Puppet Zone: “Looks like Robotnik hasn’t even had time to place the Flickies into the robots here. Sonic must be catching up to that evil genius! Bounce on the containers to free the Flickies inside, and make sure to avoid the bubble guns infesting the area.

sonic 3d blast diamond dust

Special/bonus Stages: Just like in previous Sonic games, there are bonus stages that are secretly hidden in each zone. Sonic will come across Knuckles or Tails, and they will help fly him into a half pipe loaded with rings and bombs. If Sonic can collect enough rings, he can win the Chaos Emeralds. Some might find this to be really fun and cool, but I’m going with the opposite here. There are three major reasons to NOT do a special bonus stage!

sonic 3d blast saturn bonus

1.)    You basically have to cash in all of your rings to play a bonus stage, leaving you with ZERO when you complete it. This means any efforts you made at getting an extra life are gone.

2.)    The controls are stupid difficult with the analog stick if you are using the Sega Saturn 3D Control PadThe slightest touch causes Sonic to go almost full circle in this half-pipe! Instead, you would be wise to switch over to the d-pad.

3.)    There’s no point! You can collect all of the Chaos Emeralds but nothing will happen. There is no Super Sonic, from what I can tell. In Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles you would have the power to turn into Super Sonic and fly around the screen killing everything with extreme power and full invincibility! That was cool enough to warrant an attempt at getting all of the Chaos Emeralds.

Conclusion

Sonic 3D Blast is an exceptionally developed game, even if it is lacking that “next generation” feel for a 1996 release. The beautiful environments created by the detailed levels (and top that off with weather effects), the masterfully composed soundtrack, and the at-home introduction of a 3D Sonic game all lend a strong hand at making Sonic 3D Blast a unique and fun platformer! Considering there are not many colorful or cartoony games on the Sega Saturn, one might have a really good time playing this, if that’s something they tend to enjoy.

sonic 3d blast map

It’s not all solid gold [rings] for Sonic 3D Blast, though. The difficulty in controlling Sonic is by far the biggest downfall. The largest chunk of points lost in my Nerd Rating is from the awful controls. Controls can make or break a game, and in the case of Sonic 3D Blast, they damn near break it. But after a good while, you will eventually feel a little more comfortable with it. In addition to shoddy controls, there are some acts that are outright confusing, and you will find yourself running in circles because you don’t know where else to go. One of the benefits of the 2D platformers of old is that it was a little simpler to know where to go. Sonic 3D Blast suffers from a confusing layout. If you pause the game you can get a map of the stage, but it doesn’t say AT ALL where anything is. Instead, it just shows paths and openings.

Despite Sonic 3D Blast’s shortcomings, it redeems itself with a fun blend of good platforming. Technically, the premise behind Sonic 3D Blast is taken entirely from the game Flicky (Read the review. But to summarize, it’s a game in which you collect the Flickies and drop them off to safety), but originality is not all gone. Generally, Sonic 3D Blast can be found on Amazon from $10 to $20 if it’s just the disc you’re looking for. Complete copies don’t cost too much more. Positive results here!

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

 

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Written by Nerdberry

Nerdberry

What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.

 
 

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