Review: 3D Sonic The Hedgehog

After reading this interview with the developers of the 3D remake of the original Sonic on Nintendo’s 3DS, 3D Sonic The Hedgehog, I was impressed enough with their dedication to doing the project right that I just had to try it out immediately when it launched on the eShop today.

I purchased the game for the entirely reasonable price of $5.99 US, cooked up a couple of chili dogs in order to make a proper event of the proceedings, and sat down to play all the way the through Sonic 1 again (for approximately the billionth time). Here are my thoughts.

There are two burning questions anyone who hears about a 3D remake of Sonic The Hedgehog is going to have at the outset: What is the 3D like, and is this going to be a repeat of the disaster that was Sonic The Hedgehog Genesis (GBA, 2006)?

I’ll get the second question out of the way first: No. This is a fantastic version of the game. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the recent port for iOS and Android – there’s no widescreen support or a 7th Chaos Emerald here – but for my money it’s nearly as good as having the original Genesis / Mega Drive version in your hands. The framerate is solid, the controls (which are also customisable) don’t lag, and the 3DS’s larger screen fits the original graphics without the egregious scaling that plagued the Sonic Classic Collection (NDS, 2010) version.

I say “nearly as good” because there are still some – very minor – differences and issues. The sound effect when running past the sign post at Act’s end has the same issue from Sonic Mega Collection (GCN, 2002), which is jarring when you are used to the correct sound. And I did encounter a minor collision issue in Star Light Zone when pressed into a curve by a fan. All and all though, the game delivers an experience that is highly accurate and satisfying.

So what about that 3D? Far from being a lazy effect applied to the multiple scrolling planes from the original game, M2 went the extra mile to apply the 3D to all of the lines of parallax, and even the foreground elements like road cones, lamp posts, and those famous spinning sunflowers, giving them all a sense of depth. It is quite the experience to look across the sparkling lake of Green Hill Zone or the starry sky of Star Light Zone after over 20 years of playing these Zones on a perfectly flat plane.

In the game settings, it is possible to choose a “Classic” Screen Mode, which is basically a glorified TV filter, giving the game the blurred colours and bulging look of a CRT you may have played the original game on in the 1990s. I was slightly disappointed to find that this effect, while 3D in and of itself (it really looks like it is bulging right out of the 3Ds), removes the other 3D effects from the game. Which I suppose makes sense considering it is called “Classic” mode. I am happy with the overall look of the filter though – sometimes attempts to recreate the RGB smearing of a CRT go overboard and give me eye strain, but I didn’t find that here. At first I felt the bulge was too much, almost like a Sonic X-Treme style fisheye lens, but of course it can be adjusted with the 3D slider until it is as subtle as you’d like it to be.

And of course, it is always possible to just slide the 3D all the way down and play the game in good old 2D, at which point it is basically indistinguishable from the original, making this a solid port if you just want to play Sonic 1 on a Nintendo handheld.

The only negative part of the experience for me was the eShop’s trailer for the game wasn’t in 3D. For shame! Without seeing the raison d’être of the game in action, how are people going to get excited enough to press that all important “purchase” button? Fifty-eight seconds of someone of moderate skill playing Green Hill Zone isn’t a proper trailer, people.

3D Sonic The Hedgehog, at the end of the day, is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s Sonic, and it’s in 3D, and neither aspect is a letdown. So if the price of admission for yet another version of Sonic 1 doesn’t get your hackles up, I’d recommend giving it a go.

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