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3D Sonic the Hedgehog (3DS) artwork

3D Sonic the Hedgehog (3DS) review

"The last version of Sonic 1 you'll ever need."

When it comes to preserving and porting retro games, nobody does it better than M2, and this spiffy new 3D version of the Genesis classic Sonic the Hedgehog is no exception.

As the title implies, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog is a remaster of the original release, but with an added 3D effect. If you've played Nintendo's own 3D Classics Kirby's Adventure or Kid Icarus, you probably have a general idea of what to expect here. The 3D effect is used to separate background layers from foreground layers (as well as separating background layers from each other, thanks to the magic of parallax scrolling, something those original NES games lacked). It looks great, but, as a side-scrolling platformer, it doesn't add much to the gameplay.

Surprisingly, the really impressive additions to 3D Sonic the Hedgehog have little to do with the 3D effect at all.

The most obvious addition, once you jump in, is the inclusion of Sonic's spin dash move. The spin dash was included in certain other ports of the game, like the GBA version or the one included in Sonic Jam, and it's nice to see it here too. Introduced in Sonic 2, the spin dash allows Sonic to charge up energy to speedily blast forward in a ball from a standstill. It immediately became a Sonic staple, but was always missing from the very first game, making Sonic 1 feel a little bit weird to go back to after playing its sequels. Well, not this time! While the game was never designed around the move, and it does make a few parts easier than they originally were (like collecting that one 1up in the Star Light Zone; you know which one I'm talking about), it's far from game breaking. Of course, you can simply turn it off if you're a purist.

The sheer number of options is astounding, actually. M2 has included options for things that you never would have expected. The more superficial additions include the ability to switch between the Japanese and International versions of the game (with the Japanese version having the clouds in the Green Hill Zone on their own layer, so they scroll on their own without being attached to other background elements), or activate the Level Select cheat with a menu option. Hey, everyone knows that cheat by heart by now anyway, right?

The graphics and sound options are especially impressive. You can switch the 3D mode between fall-in or pop-out. Fall-in 3D feels like a window into the game world, while pop-out 3D makes things in the center of the screen appear to jump out more. Which style is better is a matter of personal preference. One especially neat addition is the option to switch between two screen modes. Classic mode is a 1:1 pixel recreation of the original. It's crystal clear and looks pretty much exactly the way you'd expect. The image doesn't completely fill the screen, vertically, thanks to the Genesis' vertical resolution being about 16 pixels lower than that of the 3DS screen, but it's certainly big enough. The really novel graphic mode, though, is the classic mode, which shapes the picture like an old CRT TV. The edges are rounded and the image itself is slightly distorted, as well as blurred with colour bleeding. This isn't the first port of a retro game to have this sort of option, but this time M2 has gone so far as to make the center of the image pop out more than the edges using the 3D effect, making it look even more like a rounded screen. Clever!

Want to recreate your original experience with the game even further? Well, which type of Genesis did you play it on? Did you know that earlier Genesis models had a different PSG chip (sound chip) than later ones featured? They sounded slightly different from one another, with the second version having slightly different audio channel balancing, making one type of noise sound a bit softer than it does on original Genesis hardware. Interesting, right? Well, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog lets you choose which PSG chip you want it to emulate. That's how much detail was put into this port.

So, yes, M2 certainly knows their stuff. Ultimately, whether 3D Sonic the Hedgehog is worth playing depends on the quality of the original version. It is probably no surprise that Sonic the Hedgehog is as fun as ever. The soundtrack is still catchy and upbeat. The controls are still tight. The graphics are still bright and colourful and full of personality. This first game in the series puts more focus on platforming at the expense of momentum and speed than its sequels, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, just a different thing. The spin dash makes this version of Sonic 1 easier to go back to than the Genesis original.

If you ever play Sonic the Hedgehog again, make sure this is the version you play, even if you play it in 2D. The 3D is a nice addition, and the spin dash adds just enough to the gameplay to improve it without breaking the level design. The graphics and sound options are welcome additions, even if they are ultimately novelties. In any case, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog is a fantastic version of a classic game. Let's all cross our fingers and hope that its sequels get the same treatment someday.

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (December 06, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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dementedhut posted December 06, 2013:

Coming into the review, I was expecting to hear one or two "additions" to this version, like the standard 3D option and probably a sound test or something. I'm really surprised by the amount of effort M2 put into this port, as the CRT TV inclusion actually seems like a neat nostalgic touch, and I wasn't expecting their to be different regional versions, too.

As someone who owns a buttload of Sonic 1 titles (those compilations always have it!), your review actually makes me want to play this port and mess around with it. Good reading!
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zigfried posted December 06, 2013:

All of the 3D classics have a tremendous array of options, and I'm glad Rhody highlighted that. These are top-tier conversions* that Sega's releasing. And as a bit of advance notice -- the Galaxy Force 2 and Shinobi 3 ports are especially cool. Even after playing several of the others, I was stunned by how well the 3D works in both games.

* Well maybe not Altered Beast (which I didn't get), since it's apparently based on the Genesis game. Not sure why they did that, since they used arcade for the others when possible.
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Roto13 posted December 07, 2013:

M2 basically built a new version of the Genesis (they call the Giga Drive) which is compatible with 3D, and ported Sonic 1 to it. They decided to keep doing Genesis games to get more use out of it, and because making Giga Drive games is less effort than porting arcade games. (Though apparently it still takes a year.) You guys should check out the interviews about these games on the Sega Blog. They're very interesting.

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