Gaming Flashback: Sonic 3D Blast
There was once a time when the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise could do no wrong, after four great titles on the Sega Genesis. a series of mediocre outings on the Game Gear, two television series, a Christmas special, and more merchandise that you can shake a stick at, the Blue Blur could do no wrong. Despite all of this momentum Sega managed to drop the ball on Sonic the Hedgehog following the long and troubled history of Saturn, but that's a story for another day. Sonic 3D Blast was developed to be the final title for the Sega Genesis and was release in late 1996 in North America, a full eight years after the release of the Genesis.
The plot of Sonic 3D Blast is pretty basic, and is actually detailed in an in-game cutscene unlike the previous Sonic titles. The game begins with Robotnik finding a set of Chaos Emeralds on the remote Flicky Island. After exploring the island and turning up nothing, Robotnik discovers that the Flickies are actually beings from another dimensions and are the key to locating the Chaos Emeralds. Sonic soon arrives on Flicky Island and discovers that Robotnik has captured the Flickies within his robots, which prompts Sonic to rescue the Flickies and keep Robotnik from obtaining the seven Emeralds. As I said, it's pretty basic, but at least the game acknowledges it has a plot.
Sonic 3D Blast's biggest change from the previous four Sonic titles on the Genesis is the shift from a 2D platformer to a 3D isometric style view. While the makes controlling Sonic a little bit trickier than normal, especially when using a directional pad, however the biggest issues brought about by this the lack of speed. Sonic's most defining characteristics in every appearance prior to 3D Blast was his speed, he was the "Blue Blur", "The Fastest Thing Alive", etc. Coming into 3D Blast expecting a traditional Sonic game will likely disappoint any Sonic fan, especially since Sonic is as slow as molasses in this outing, even with you collect a Power Shoe from an Item Box, your top speed is lackluster when compared to other titles in the franchise. This switch in perspective also causes Sonic's control to suffer, he's very slippery and it can be tough to deal with enemies and platforming sections due to the angle of the camera. All in all, this game everything you know and love about the first four Sonic titles and tosses it out the window in an effort to try something different, and the game truly suffers because of it.
When it comes to the Sonic games on the Genesis, you would expect the game to have better visuals and audio, especially after Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, which both really knocked it out of the park in those regards. Booting up Sonic 3D Blast for the first time, you are greeted by a poorly compressed FMV sequence that struggles to manage a double digit frame rate, which leads into the game itself. Comparing it to previous games in the Sonic franchise, it's drab, to say the least, gone are the lush green worlds, snowy mountains, and industrial city scapes, and in their place we get a lot of brown and grey, with a few other colors thrown in for good measure. Which is really disappointing, especially after vibrant levels like the Sonic 3's Angel Island Zone. The audio presentation doesn't do much for the game either, and I'm not taking anything away from series composer Jun Senoue on this one, it's just the most notable songs in this titles were reused in later games in the series, the music fits the game well enough, but it isn't anything that you're going to bother listening to outside of the game.
Sonic 3D Blast left a bad taste in my mouth that, sadly, wouldn't be cleansed from my palette until Sonic Adventure almost three years later. While I can understand a franchise wanting to try something new, it's unfortunate that 3D Blast turned out so poorly. The slow gameplay, slippery controls, and overall forgettable presentation made Sonic the Hedgehog end his run on the Genesis on a sour note, which is an unfortunate black mark on an otherwise untarnished record. If you're a die hard Sonic fan, then you should at least give the game a try, just to say you've played it, but then I'd recommend doing what I do and putting it back on the shelf while you go back to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or Sonic 3 & Knuckles.