Has Backbone got it right for Sega this time?
Here we have Sonic Rivals, Sonic's latest outing, for the PSP. It's common knowledge that truly great Sonic games are few and far between these days - not since the heady days of 2D Sonic on the Mega Drive has there been a title that truly defines the series. There have been notable exceptions of course, such as Sonic Adventure - one of Sonic's earliest and greatest forays into 3D - as well as a handful of Sonic games on the Game Boy and DS, all in 2D one might add.
It would appear that the things that helped make Sonic great do not make the translation to 3D too well. The sense of speed, the loops, the boosts, the speed jumping to find new areas - it's platforming at breakneck speed. Great with two axes, but difficult to replicate in three.
Maybe it's a shortcoming of the designers - or maybe it's gamers' expectations that need to change - but take a 2D game that was built around fast-paced platforming, apply it to today's super-powerful consoles and most will expect the latest in ultra-realistic graphics and 3D technology. And whilst that might be fine for the racing genre, it doesn't quite work for a platformer yet.
"Despite the gloom, true Sonic fans still await each new title with a sense of anticipation, tinged with trepidation."
But despite all the gloom, true Sonic fans still await each new title with a sense of anticipation, tinged with trepidation. It's unfortunate then that despite their loyalty they are more often than not left disappointed and frustrated.
And so along come Backbone Entertainment with Sonic Rivals, the latest interpretation of the Sonic franchise. Perhaps realising the problems that true 3D brings to the series they have wisely gone for a slightly different approach - fully modelled 3D environments and characters played out on a 2D plane, thus isolating the key aspects from Sonic of old, and distilling them into a modern adaptation. "2.5D", as some might say.
The plot once again revolves around Sonic's nemesis, Dr. Eggman and his new found toy - a camera that converts objects into cards. Joined in the fray by some other familiar characters - namely Knuckles, Shadow and the newcomer Silver the Hedgehog - these initially start out as the eponymous rivalry, with the objective being to race from left to right through the level beating them to the finish line.