This year is Sonic’s 25th anniversary, and for it, Sega announced the completely-2D Sonic Mania. Potentially even better news, Sonic Team is also bringing Generations’ Classic Sonic back into the fold alongside the modern iteration of the character with a new (presumably) 2D/3D hybrid.
2017 is a ways off, though — and if you’re a longtime fan you’ve probably played the classic Genesis games inside and out (with and without Knuckles). So try these titles out instead – while you attempt to pass the time.
Out of Sonic’s long and sordid history of gimmicks, Heroes is actually pretty decent. Rather than playing as a single hero, players run around with a three-critter team, all of whom have different special abilities that can be swapped in and out. Since on-the-fly switch-ups between characters is needed to get through any given Sonic Adventure-style level, it adds more strategy into the platforming — not to mention some of the team up abilities are great. The downside is pretty bad voice acting, but if you can stomach that, you’re golden.
Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
You probably haven’t played this one, since Pocket Adventure was exclusive to the ill-fated Neo Geo Pocket Color that was only sold in the US between 1999 and 2000. Players that want to brave eBay though will discover that considering the restraints of the hardware, Pocket Adventure delivered a solid Sonic outing – with surprisingly good animation, to boot.
Though Sonic’s Dreamcast-styled 2D entries started with the Game Boy Advance, it arguably wasn’t until Sonic Rush for the DS the developers really nailed the proper mix of speed and action that a good traditional Sonic game should have (also, if you didn’t particularly care for the art style in the GBA titles, they fix that too). Rush’s gimmick, if it had one, was that it used both screens of the DS, meaning the level design was actually a bit more interesting. The end result was a great blend of retro and modern. The sequel wasn’t bad either.
It’s been well-established that as far as dumb novelty goes, Sonic Unleashed’s werehog is a dumb idea on the caliber of George Lucas kiddy-ing up the Star Wars prequels. Chip, Sonics utterly obnoxious companion for this outing, is also supremely, saccharinely irritating. That said, if you can get past the stupid premise, the werehog levels offered some surprisingly solid, if not at all speedy, platforming. More important, the daytime levels have some of the best and most fun 3D platforming designs of the entire series. Considering all the other crap that usually gets heaped on Unleashed, that alone makes it worth another look.
Aside from Generations, Colors is hands-down the best thing Sonic Team has done in years. Yes, you had aliens giving Sonic silly powers that you’d have to use to complement the traditional gameplay; but the design was strong, fast, and honestly, for a Wii game, gorgeous enough that it was proof the developers could actually still do great things with Sonic. All they had to do was hit the right balance of forward facing 2D and straight ahead 3D. If Sonic Team can recapture the spirit of this and Generations, 2017’s game will be in good hands.