Like many SEGA fans, I started out as a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog more so then SEGA itself. As I became more invested in SEGA hardware, though, I was encouraged to begin trying out some of SEGA’s other franchises. I’ve since grown to love a variety of SEGA franchises and as part of the #Sonic23on23 celebration, I’d like to share some of my favorites with other Sonic fans on behalf of SEGAbits! All of the titles I’ll be talking about in this series tickle my fancy in the same way Sonic games have for years, that any Sonic fan ought to experience. These titles are not necessarily platformers, or involve cute and furry animals, but they do share at least one key element with Sonic games.
This series will divide the different games into categories and let you know which title you ought to try fist. I hope you’ll try some of these games!
Before Sonic, SEGA had another adrenaline inducing game called “After Burner”. Here, players take control of the iconic F-14 Tomcat and blast through stages at sonic speed…literally. The After Burner games are all about memorization and twitch game play. Players have to be fast and at least somewhat familiar with enemy formations in order to succeed. All of the After Burner games produce a great sense of speed that is impressive even these days.
The original After Burner is not the most easy game to pay these days, and the best versions of the game available were made for the SEGA 32X and Saturn. SEGA has released a version of the game for the 3DS, which I do recommend picking up if it ever comes over. More accessible is After Burner Climax, which is currently available on Xbox Live and PSN.
If you want to know more about the game franchise, I recommend heading over to SEGAbits and checking out our content from After Burner Week.
In Panzer Dragoon, players take flight on top of a big laser breathing dragon. This franchise is slower and more methodical then the After Burner games, but makes up for that slower pace with deeper game play and longer levels. Just like any great rail shooter, Panzer Dragoon is all about twitch game play, as players get constantly attacked on all sides by waves upon waves of enemies as they blast through beautiful, creative levels. Panzer’s world and music also possess an exotic charm that sets the series apart from other rail shooters.
Panzer Dragoon Orta is easily the most accessible game in the series, as it is the most affordable and is playable on both the Xbox and Xbox 360. It is also my personal favorite game in the series and has probably aged the best out of all of them thanks to the Xbox’s capabilities. The original trilogy is currently only available on SEGA’s Saturn. Of those, Panzer Dragoon Zwei is easily the best rail shooter of the bunch, though the original Panzer Dragoon is also pretty good. The franchise’s magnum opus, Panzer Dragoon Saga, is unique and excellent RPG, though is quite expensive and doesn’t really possess the qualities that would lead me to recommend it to Sonic fans.
Sonic Team Games
NiGHTS into Dreams
Kind of obvious, but NiGHTS needs to be included all the same. NiGHTS once had a tendency to pop up often in Sonic games, and with good reason: outside of the Sonic series NiGHTS probably stands as the best thing Sonic Team has ever made. It shares some of Sonic’s qualities: it is simple, yet inventive. Each stage has its own theme and gimmicks that make them stand out and memorable. Many of the stages have unique topography that really do look like they came out of a dream.
NiGHTS isn’t exactly adrenaline inducing, but it’s still a fast game. Many of the game’s best moments come when your quickly zooming through loops and collecting blue chips, racking up huge links and points in the process. NiGHTS is all precision and memorization, perfecting your runs through the game’s stages so that you can improve your scores and A rank all the stages. NiGHTS into Dreams in many ways invokes many of the best elements of Sonic’s best games.
NiGHTS into Dreams HD is available on Xbox Live, PSN and Steam. If you’re feeling up for playing it old school, it’s also available on the Saturn. There was also a sequel released for the Wii version called Journey of Dreams, but that isn’t really as good and shares flaws with many of Sonic Team’s modern Sonic games.
Though it doesn’t bear the Sonic Team name, many Sonic Team alumni apparently worked on the game. In fact, this was character designer Yuji Uekawa’s first game. He would soon go on to become the character designer for the Sonic games starting with Sonic R in 1997.
Ristar itself is considerably slower than your standard Sonic game, but features the kind of cute character design, creative level design and unique character abilities Sonic Team was once known for. Ristar is all about swinging and bouncing around stages and adapting to the unique gimmicks each stage throws at you. One musical stage has you carrying around metronomes and bringing them to song birds that, when activated, add their voice to the stage’s background music, which slowly becomes more elaborate over the course of the stage. Another has you springing traps meant for you by throwing miniature Ristar models. Even the boss fights are varied, and can range from a cute little snow ball fight with a small child to an epic confrontation with a giant robotic mole during a freefall.
If you want to know more, you can check out the content I wrote for Ristar Week, which I ran for SEGAbits earlier this year. Ristar itself can be played on the Wii and Wii U through the Wii’s Virtual Console service. It can also be found on numerous compilations including the SEGA Genesis Collection, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and Sonic Mega Collection (as an unlockable). The original game can be played on the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive.
I’ll be back later with more recommendations, so stay tuned!