RETRO REVIEW: SONIC 3-D BLAST (SATURN)

RETRO REVIEW: SONIC 3-D BLAST (SATURN)

Is this game as dull as you remembered? Or did circumstances surrounding it give it a bad rap?

Review by: Jason Berry

I’ve recently been on a bit of a retro gaming kick as of late. I’ve just had the urge to play some of the games I loved in the past that I can’t find on recent collections or on Virtual Console. I’ve recently picked myself up a model 2 Genesis with a Model 2 Sega CD. Also, I managed to pick up a Sega Saturn for $30 American and a few games. One of those being Sonic 3-D Blast. Now, many of you may only know Sonic 3-D Blast through the Genesis version which you either played back in the day or on the Mega Collection. If that’s the case, then sadly, you’ve been playing the far inferior version. Yes, the level design is the same, but Graphics and sound can make a big difference in your enjoyment of a game.

Sonic 3-D Blast was originally intended to be a Genesis only game developed by Traveler’s Tales with some help from Sega of Japan. However, the Saturn was suffering not only in sales, but from a complete lack of any Sonic titles. Sonic Extreme was in development Hell at the time and would not make Christmas release. (Then again, it would not make ANY release as it was cancelled shortly afterwards.) In seven weeks, Sega managed to port the game over to Saturn, polish up the graphics, change the music from Jun Senoue’s tunes to new,  jazzy ones by Richard Jaques and add what is arguably one of the best bonus stages in Sonic history.  That’s quite a feat for a seven week port!

In Sonic 3-D Blast, Sonic goes to Flicky Island to visit his bird buddies. But once again, those Tweety Bird wannabes have been turned into Badniks by Dr. Robotnik. He wants to use their special dimensional warp rings to help him find the Chaos Emeralds. It’s up to Sonic to free the Flickies and stop Dr. Robotnik before it’s too late.  The graphics are made of CG Rendered sprites similar to Donkey Kong Country and other games of that era.  In the game, Sonic roams around seven different lands jumping on Badniks to free the Flickies while dodging lasers, traps and spikes.

Probably the best thing about 3-D Blast that stands out from its Genesis version is the music. Richard Jaques compositions are wonderful and is easily in my top 5 Sonic soundtracks of all time. Of course, Jaques gets a big advantage here, as Jun was stuck composing with the Genesis sound chip. The graphics are much more colorful and clean compared to the Genesis version and on certain levels, have some cool effects like fog. There are some cool power-ups scatted throughout the game. Mostly in the from of shields similar to ones you got in Sonic 3. A standard shield that lets you take one hit, a fire shield that of course, protects you from fire and a gold shield that gives you a homing attack. Yes, even in the first “technically 3-D” Sonic game, he’s got a homing attack. Also, there’s a nice feeling of exploration to it. The levels are laid out as a sort of large, isometric maze. Your constantly wandering around for Flicky’s to free, shields to find and rings to collect. It’s the latter part that’s important. Hidden in the levels, you will find Tails and Knuckles just standing around looking bored. (Tails even yawns.) Give them 50 rings, and they will send you to what is absolutely the best part of the game, the Saturn exclusive Bonus Stage!!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wbcuAKgAHg[/youtube]

For me, these stages alone are worth the price of admission. The music is one of the most funky tunes I’ve heard in a Sonic game and the levels play like a slightly improved version of the Sonic 2 Bonus Stage. No Tails to steal your rings, it’s a bit easier (AKA less frustrating) and the ability to roll or jump higher adds a new twist. It’s because of these bonus stages that I’m more cautious during the game. It sucks to have over 50 rings just to get hit by a Badnik or get knocked into a trap. This also helps bring me to my complaints about the game.

The main problem I have is with the controls. They’re not horrible, but just imprecise enough to be annoying. The game takes place on an isometric field giving the game a “psuedo 3-D” look to it. This allows Sonic to go in any direction, but it also kills any sense of speed. You’re constantly being careful of how fast you go so you don’t run into anything. I’m taking it slow in a Sonic game! With the clunky controls on the D-Pad, it’s too easy to run too fast and go right into an enemy or go bouncing of the walls into a trap. If you have a 3-D pad on your Saturn, I’d highly recommend it. Occasionally, you’ll get an imprecise attack that will knock out all of your rings and send your Flicky’s running from you. You’d think your fine, feathered freinds would come running back to their savior. But no, they go scattering and you gotta go pick their sorry butts back up even when they’re flying around a pool of lava. Also, the animation on Sonic is way off when he runs. Almost as if he’s sliding (which makes sense on the ice level) or he’s pinching a loaf the whole time (Sorry to give you mental image). Besides that, Sonic has lost his sense of speed. Only in the bonus stages does Sonic run  fast. For the rest of the game he’s barely doing a jog. Furthermore, the game just doesn’t feel like a “Sonic” game. With Sonic’s speed gone, you could swap Sonic with anyone from the Mario cast, or even Crash Bandicoot and the game would feel no different. Lastly, they left out the important save feature. Something that was prominent even in the Sega CD era! If you want to go back to where you left off, you have to use a cheat code. There’s no excuse for any game during that time not to have a save state.

Overall, I enjoyed this game much more than I remembered. It’s definitely not the best Sonic game by any stretch, but I think it gets a bit of a bad rap due to it  being a poor replacement for Sonic Extreme and  having a much weaker Genesis version out at the same time. However, I played it for 4 hours during my first play though and found myself enjoying it quite a bit. If the Genesis version is the only one you’ve played, you haven’t played the REAL Sonic 3-D Blast.

OVERALL: 7/10

DID YOU KNOW?
The warp rings seen in 3-D Blast are used often in current Sonic comic storylines. Especially by Dr. Finitivus.

An unused Dr. Robotnik tune by Jun Senoue on the Genesis version of 3-D Blast is being used for the first time as boss music in Sonic 4.

The music in the first level of Rusty Ruins was remixed and re-used in Sonic Adventure?

By the way, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jason Berry. Some of you may know me as JasontheJackass on the forums. I’m also the writer of the Sonic X parody comic, Sonic Eggs and the newest staff member here at Sonic Stadium.

20 Comments

  1. As far as Sonic games goes, 3D Blast was terrible.
    As far as 3D Isometric platformers go, 3D Blast was pretty great. (Lots of Snake Rattle N Roll Nostalgia for me)

    That said, I really enjoy 3D Blast. Especially the Saturn version, if only for the special stages.

  2. I agree with you on the music, it just sounds awesome and shows again that not only Jun can make good music for modern games.
    Another thing is I don’t think the controls are the problem, but the camera.
    The thing is showing even less than the horrible one in Sonic genesis.
    Good start there Jason, I wish you the best for the future. (:

  3. i have to say i was always a fan of this game although never realized the saturn one was far far better and different ;(

  4. The point I always come back to in games with dual soundtracks is that a change of composer can completely change the vibe of a game. Again I’m an ambassador for the darker soundtracks, and I think this is what draws me to the MD/Genesis incarnation.

    I have to agree however in that the Saturn special stages were at the time absolutely stunning, compared to the “run up a track” version, which seemed more of an afterthought.

    Also, welcome to the team Jason!

  5. I own the PC version of this game, which I understand is similar to this one, and I absolutely love it; I’ve played it countless times. I tried the Genesis version too, and I liked it as well (and regarding soundtracks, I even like both equally). I could never see what was so bad about this game, as the loss of speed didn’t bother me in the least and I found the controls acceptable. In fact, I didn’t know this game was so hated until I ventured into the Internet, and it was quite a shock to me when I found out. Oh well, I guess I’m yet another proof that there’s no accounting for taste…

  6. I have to say that I got my first experience with the game on the PC ages ago, when it was a combo pack port of 3D Blast and Sonic CD. Thankfully, by playing that version, I got to experience the Saturn version when I couldn’t get the system or the game. I remember the music so well, and that special stage kick serious butt. It was sad when I got the Mega Collection, and 3D Blast wasn’t quite like I remembered. Oh well, I still have fun going back and playing once in a while.

    On a funny side note, when the game no longer worked on the later Windows OS, it was made when Windows 95 was still in use I believe, it served the wonderful purpose as an unofficial Soundtrack CD that I could use in my CD Player for years to come. ^.^

  7. I got both versions, and I’d agree the megadrive version wasn’t great, but the saturn version is awesome. The graphics are great, the music beautiful, especially the ice zone, and the special zone was cool.

  8. In your did you know, I don’t think rusty ruins is in Sonic Adventure. The only tunes that I know that got borrowed over are:
    Green Grove = Windy Valley
    Gene Gadget (Or Panic Puppet, I forget) = First part of Twinkle Park

    But yeah, I loved the Saturn version, so pretty and I actually found it fun to get the chaos emeralds!

  9. You forgot to mention the nice computer animated cut scenes. They were really impressive for the time. Definitely my favorite part of this version of the game.

  10. Hey hey now, I rather enjoyed the Genesis version of the game, even if it wasn’t as pretty as the Saturn version. Also, what’s wrong with the Genesis soundtrack? I thought it was great!

  11. @Eggman123, that’s right! I remember now.
    Although wouldn’t it of been cool if the Saturns were reused.

  12. Welcome to the staff, Jason, and great review, though I personally find this the most frustrating sonic game to play.

  13. @ HighCaliburFun
    Nobody said that the music sucked.
    He just said it’s inferior, because the Saturn had a better soundchip.
    Still Jun made a awesome work with the genesis/MD version.

  14. Sonic 3D is definitely one of my favourite Sonic games. Yes, it does deviate from the ‘hold right’ gameplay, but it still retains the great music and classic themed Sonic stages that I love.

  15. I got this version a few days after first getting my Saturn & actually loved it, specially the music and special zone (which I still believe are some of the best in the entire series). I never knew the game was so heavily disliked until Sonic Mega collection was announced, I had never played the Mega Drive version until that point & I can actually see where people were coming from with the complaints for that version. It’s a real shame so many just passed on the Saturn version, as it really was a huge improvement. I wish this version would be released again in some way.

  16. I totally agree, this is a great game. Except for when you lose your Flickies, and you have to chase the little bastards down while manoeuvring past whatever traps/badniks/hazards made you lose them in the first place.

    If the Saturn version’s that much better than the Genesis version, then I gotta get a Saturn and a copy of the game, and play it.

  17. Personally, it was one of the first sonic games I played, as I was born in ’94 and grew up in the heyday of sonic games. So when it came out for computer all my friends and me swarmed it, and I seriously loved it. It had all the depth I loved from sonic games, and great bosses and memorable gameplay. Looking back, its not as great anymore, but those memories are timeless and among those that I cherish and attribute my love of Sonic to.

Comments are closed.