Ah, Sonic, I used to count myself one of your fans. You were the Dylan of video-games, the influential, freewheeling maverick who rewrote the rules and added spiky attitude to the groundwork laid by Mario. It was your early capers that pulled me away from my Amiga and back into the world of console gaming, dipping my toes back into the water with a Master System and Sonic 1, before the sight of Sonic on the Megadrive forced a rapid upgrade. The speed, the springs, the chutes, the loops and lava seemed incredible; the whole experience was practically an overload of fun. Like all fans, I followed you through Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic and Knuckles, and were it not for the prohibitive expense of the Mega CD, I would have had Sonic CD too.
And just as Dylan had to go electric, so I understood that you had to go 3D. But the results weren’t great. After, Sonic R and Flickie’s Island we should have been prepared for some disappointment, but where Mario 64 was a revelation, Sonic Adventure never really gelled. The action stages were short and stupidly linear, the adventure sections plain dishwater dull. And from there things only got worse. Sonic Adventure 2 was fine while you hogged the limelight, but why did you have to share it with losers like Tails, Knuckles or – for Pete’s sake – Robotnik. And from then on you seemed happy to withdraw into the shadows. Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog…., what were you thinking?
So thank goodness for the portable formats, where you’ve returned to your 2D roots. Sonic Advance 1 and 2 seemed to appease some of your fans, but your new DS release is a triumph. To follow the Dylan analogy one more time, it’s your Blood on the Tracks – the mid-career classic that nobody had any real reason to expect.
The impact is immediate. With Sonic Rush, you haven’t just brought us good 2D visuals; you’ve brought us great 2D visuals. Finally, you’ve found environments worthy of your distinctive dash and flare, full of the familiar archetypes – green hills, water-filled temples, desert ruins, neon-lit cityscapes – but with wonderful new twists. All the springs, chutes, tunnels, rails, slides, springboard and loops are in place, and the level designs are fantastic. I can’t help but love the rocket cars and corkscrew transporters. Why have you been holding out on us with this stuff for so long?