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Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos (Sega Master System) artwork

Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos (Sega Master System) review


"Why another Sonic release on the antiquated Master System? The 16-bit Sonic series was selling the Mega Drive faster than you can say ďNintendonítĒ, and the SMS barely tapped the dominating NES. However its strong user base in Europe and Brazil still flourished, and with games being made on the technically equivalent Game Gear handheld, thereís no reason not to release another Sonic on the SMS. "



Why another Sonic release on the antiquated Master System? The 16-bit Sonic series was selling the Mega Drive faster than you can say ďNintendonítĒ, and the SMS barely tapped the dominating NES. However its strong user base in Europe and Brazil still flourished, and with games being made on the technically equivalent Game Gear handheld, thereís no reason not to release another Sonic on the SMS.

This time the evil megalomaniac Dr. Robotnik is not just trying to kidnap characters, but has also nabbed the Red Chaos Emerald, triggering the disappearance of the other five emeralds into a parallel universe. The South Island consequently begins to lose stability causing catastrophic effects to the islands landscape. Dr. Robotnikís quest will be complete if he finds the other five Chaos Emeralds. But itís up to Sonic and Tales to find them before the Doc does and save the South Island from plummeting into the sea.

As far as the 8-bit Sonic series goes, Sonic Chaos is very much more of the same (although considering the current state of the series that canít always be a bad thing). The action involves whizzing through levels, smashing badniks and item boxes alongside collecting rings to keep Sonic afloat and more importantly, the other five Chaos Emeralds. However, Sonic Chaos has quite a few nifty tweaks in its inventory. Tails is now a playable character, complete with the ability to fly (dubiously) for the first time in the Sonic series. Except he canít be played alongside Sonic. The spin-dash ability has now been slotted in, and Chaos Emeralds have to be found in special stages by collecting 100 rings instead of scouting for them in the main levels. Last and definitely least, Sonicís sprite has been redone. It looks neither better nor worse.

Despite the additions to make the 8-bit Sonic experience parallel its 16-bit siblings, Sonic Chaos is the weakest of the Master System series. Itís certainly not a poor game, but its main problem arises from revamping the special stage system. The zones are now unbelievably short and can be reliably finished in thirty seconds if you donít attempt to collect the chaos emeralds. Should you decide to attempt the special stages the game can be far too punishing. To enter the special stage you must collect 100 rings without a hitch, and that includes not running into an enemy, falling into a spike pit or bailing a leap of faith. Coupled with having to run back and forth in every corner of a confined level, dodging everything is far easier said than done. Iíll spare you the thought of how awkward the special stages can be as an abundance of obstacles makes them impossible to navigate through.

Though short, the level designs are still spot-on with a cool variety of bright and breezy levels. The show opens in Turquoise Hill, then some zipping through the illuminated urban skyline of Gigalopolis, later a Green Hill zone ruined by Robotniks antics a la Mecha Green Hill plus thereís a couple more Egg zones, Sleeping and Electric Egg. Just for show, the fabled corkscrew from the Mega Drive version of Sonic 2 makes an appearance to demonstrate how many sprites can be crammed into a 256KB cartridge. But unfortunately the music has taken a downward turn. The somewhat memorable beats from Sonic 2 have been superseded by scores of mediocrity. Especially the Gigalopolis music. It sounds like something played from a Fisher-Price keyboard.

Sonic Chaos does a grand job from a technical standpoint. Tails makes his aerial debut, Sonic can gather a large burst on speed by an on-the-spot run only later seen in the overlooked Sonic CD, and quite a bit of slowdown highlights how this pushes the SMS. But this plays worse than the first two. The addition of Tails contributes little to the experience, he can only fly for a very short period plus he canít access special stages, if youíre actually up for the daunting task of collecting 100 rings in every level. Otherwise levels are over ridiculously quickly in half a minute at the most. Enemies are something of a rare breed and the boss fights, although providing the most challenge, are pretty trivial. At best, this is another Sonic game. At worst, its essentially a compendium of potentially good ideas carelessly thrown in without innovation. Although Sonic Chaos isnít a poor game, I canít recommend it over its 8-bit predecessors which this pales in caparison to.

Rating: 6/10

bigcj34's avatar
Community review by bigcj34 (June 08, 2009)

Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.

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