Damn Valve. Damn them to hell. I made a nice little chip in my backlog over the weekend, but with the Steam sale going on until the 4th, it seems to be growing faster than I can shrink it. I'm going to have to take a lonnnnng break from buying video games after this, but I am powerless against heavy discounts. As usual, Valve is delivering that in spades.
I completed my run-through of Sonic 2 using Knuckles. It may just be that I've beaten that game far too many times - more than all but a handful of games in my library - but I found it incredibly easy with Knuckles. His ability to fly and climb walls made it possible to skip sizeable chunks of entire zones. Still, it was nice to get it done. Standards certainly have changed for multiple characters in a game; I remember thinking Knuckles was sooooo cool because of how different he was from Sonic. These days, though, they feel a lot alike.
This weekend also saw my first-ever playthrough of Sonic 3. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and thought it held several moments of brilliant design. However (and this may be nostalgic bias), I am definitely in the camp that believes Sonic 2 remains the pinnacle of the series. Criticisms:
-Is it necessary for EVERY Sonic game to feature some variant on Star Light zone? It seems as though every game in the series I’ve played has a
casino zone, or a carnival zone, or a circus zone or…whatever. I understand why these levels are popular among designers; it’s easy to put in plenty of stuff for Sonic to bounce off of or otherwise interact with, and to make them colorful and attractive. There have to be other ways to do that, though! It didn’t help that the zones were peppered with these spinning barrels which weren’t intuitive in the least. I’m not ashamed to admit I had to look that one up.
-The bosses. Sonic bosses are often on the easy side, and that was definitely the case throughout this game. That’s not too big of a deal, but I was disappointed to find that many of them were nothing but variations on past bosses. Worst of all was the uninspired chain of final bosses at the end of the game, which completely paled in comparison to Robo-Sonic and Mecha-Eggman. Not only were they on the easy side, but I just didn’t find any of them intimidating at all. Finally, the tedium involved in getting back to the final stage for another attempt got to me, souring the experience in the end.
-…& Friends. Why was Knuckles in this game? Why oh why wasn’t he utilized during the final boss sequence? I realize he plays more of a role in this game's "second half," Sonic & Knuckles, but here he just felt crammed into the game for no particular reason…a problem which continues to plague the franchise. I wish they’d kept Tails in his passive role from Sonic 2, as well; it was nice to have him pick up a ring for me here and there, as he did the first time around, sure. During my playthrough, however, there were two instances where he got stuck on a boss and finished it off before I even had time to learn the pattern.
I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like it…I did. I only point all this out to express why I feel Sonic 2 is the better game. Indeed, some of the level design is phenomenal, and I imagine it’s this that has stuck with people over the years more than the bosses have. Ice Cap zone immediately made its way into my list of favorite Sonic zones, and the Launch Base managed to be challenging without feeling unfair (well…most of the time). Both of these zones did a great job balancing speed against tricky jump sessions; something the portable and 3D Sonics have struggled to capture. Hydrocity was shockingly enjoyable compared to past water zones, and the Marble Garden brought back memories of Sonic 1’s Marble zone without feeling like a retread. The more I think about it, the more I believe Sonic 3’s levels are superior to Sonic 2’s, but the latter game’s overall package remains my favorite.
I’m looking forward to another run with Knuckles (and without Tails)!
Other than Sonic, I’ve been working my way through the campaign in Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers on Steam, and getting a little multiplayer practice in for a tournament I’ll be participating in over the next few weeks. I wasn’t planning to spend much more time with it so early in the backlog, but hey…I’ve gotta get those cards unlocked so I stand a chance!
Now that I’ve shelved Sonic 3 – I’ll be returning to it for a Knuckles run eventually, along with Sonic & Knuckles (a game I've already played through a few times) – I need to polish off my latest attempt to complete Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. When I last left it, I was midway through the desert temple. It’s one I’ve completed before, and I’m REALLY looking forward to fighting the boss in here again.
Back, back to the murky depths…