The third game in the series, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was released in 1994 for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis. Sonic 3 has been re-released and featured in Sega/Sonic compilations across most modern systems since and despite the dip in quality of 3D Sonic games in the late 2000s the 2D retro aesthetic is combing back through Sonic Project 2017 and Sonic Mania due later this year.
Visually Sonic 3 is stunning; the sprites are detailed and humorous, the background and foreground art is vibrant with a lot of variety between levels. The soundtrack is full of catchy tunes that I found myself happily whistling or humming along as I ran and jumped through levels.
Sonic 3 plays how you expect a Sonic game to be: fast, frantic and a hell of a lot of fun without the cheap and random pits of death all over the place as seen in later iterations. The game has variety beyond just going fast. The game takes its time with some more methodical platforming which makes the speedy sections feel faster. It’s a shame Sonic Team have taken to starting from scratch with each Sonic game instead of building on what came before it as they did with the first 3 Sonic Mega Drive games. For me Sonic 3 isn’t just one of the best Sonic games, it’s also one of the best games on the Mega Drive, even more so when connected to the Sonic and Knuckles cartridge in an early example of expanding gameplay beyond the physical hardware. I’m looking forward to Sonic Mania and hope it can live up to the legacy of the Sonic the Hedgehog brand’s earlier years.
Released by Capcom in 1992 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and re-released on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, The Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse was one of many Disney games released throughout the early 1990s along with classics like Aladdin and The Lion King.
The Magical Quest is a typical platformer; the player takes on the role of Mickey Mouse trying to save Pluto from King Pete. Mickey has a number of unlockable costumes, each with its own unique abilities. For example the turban outfit gives Mickey the power to shoot magical projectiles at enemies. Without one of these costumes Mickey is able to grab enemies and items and throw them as projectiles, a system which makes them more than a straight upgrade.
The game has a clean visual style and the soundtrack is full of some lovely happy chiptunes, however despite all of this the game wasn’t that fun to play. I may have been having an off day but I was pretty bored throughout. The platforming is fine, and the costumes are interesting however it just didn’t click; a sentiment shared by one of the stream viewers at the time. Its a shame as watching a speed run of it made it look more fun than it was.
Released in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive, Streets of Rage is a classic and fondly-remembered retro franchise which spawned two direct sequels and retained its staying power through a steady series of compilations/re-releases over the years, the most recent being for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013.
Streets of Rage is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up in the same vein as Golden Axe or Double Dragon. Players fight their way through waves of bad guys and end-of-level bosses until the end or they run out of lives. Players choose one (or in co-op, two) stereotypical tough guy ex-cop characters from a selection of 3 to take down the crime syndicate of the unimaginatively-named ‘Mister X’. Axel is the all-rounder, Adam is strong but slow and Blaze is fast but the weakest of the group. The simple fighting mechanics are solid and fun and its arcade heritage is clear through mechanics like weapon pick-ups and the powerful police support abilities replacing the screen-clearing magic spells of Golden Axe.
Streets of Rage lays the foundation of the series’ great visual style which would be later refined in Streets of Rage 2. The sprites and backgrounds really convey the game’s sleazy urban atmosphere, both in their quality and in additional touches such as the wind blowing posters in the background. The game’s soundtrack is equally brilliant; a mixture of dance and R’n’B chip tunes that fit with the mood and aesthetic and, like the graphics, would be developed even further in Streets of Rage 2.
Streets of Rage’s art and style became an inspiration for other games at the time and have become pop-culture tropes in their own right. Streets of Rage came out at a time when console hardware was becoming sufficiently powerful to offer arcade-quality games and experiences in the home, overcoming the limitations of the Master System and NES. It’s a shame Sega aren’t willing to develop a new Streets of Rage, their only interaction with the brand being to file a cease and desist action on a fan-made game that was near to release.
Maybe Sega’s current approach to letting external developers work on Sonic Mania means this attitude is changing, however the poorly-received Double Dragon 4 shows that making a new instalment of a retro beat ‘em up is not as straightforward as it seems. Along with Daytona USA, Sega’s output in this period through games like Streets of Rage helped defined the cultural memory of gaming, and even if it is a short experience when removed from its coin-guzzling arcade origins, it is still well worth experiencing today.