Howdy ladies and gentlemen, today I come to you with another review of a video game nature. This time we are heading back to 2005 for a review of one of my favourite Sonic games, Sonic Rush. Now I think you guys might have established that I am a Sonic the Hedgehog fan by all of the posts I have put up about him since November, but it really is one of my favourite things in the world. Sonic’s games are fun, they’re part of my life and I love to talk about it, and so with that in mind let’s move onto the review of the game.
Ah Sonic Rush… What a bloody good game, I’ll never forget that happy feeling I had when I played the game for the first time back in 2006. I never owned the game myself until the year 2008 when I got my DS Lite and when I got it, bled that game to death, I played it all the time and while it was hella fun, it was really difficult and very frustrating. When Sonic Rush came out it was the kind of game that fans and most game reviewers wanted and it was noted as a return to form for Sonic games as it was very similar to the old 2D platforming titles on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis. However, while Sonic Rush was a good game there were problems that seemed to completely invisible to some game reviewers… Now before an army of Sonic fans start dishing out the hate on me let me say that I am a Sonic fan, I’ve played many games in the series and I’ve been a fan of the series since the 90s playing on my old Megadrive. I love Sonic games, however there are games in the series that are truly bad and have caused damage to Sonic’s reputation in the world of gaming. Luckily this game wasn’t one of them and it gave Sonic’s life a boost of energy at that point in 2005 after Shadow the Hedgehog had come out.
So let’s talk about the game. Sonic Rush is a 2D platforming game made in 3D, so with the 3D graphics in place there are elements of a 2.5D look at certain points with the perspective will change to add a different look or an extra dimension to the gameplay. This game also features only 2 characters; Sonic the Hedgehog & Blaze the Cat. Both have different abilities and play styles that change the way you move through the levels. While Sonic’s move set is similar to traditional formula, Blaze on the other had is actually quite different. Sonic is made for speed while Blaze is more about technique. The overall Sonic game formula hasn’t changed much, you still have to run from one side of the level to another collecting rings, destroying enemies and advancing through the levels without being taken out by the environments different hazards. However there was one new game mechanic introduced that separated itself from other Sonic games and probably changed/influenced the way all Sonic games were made from that point onward… Boosting. In Sonic Rush you had a boost meter (known as the Tension Gauge) and you could fill it up by either smashing through enemies, collecting boost monitors or performing tricks in the air. Then all you had to do was press the boost button and then BAM you’re blasting off at the speed of sound crashing through everything. It’s like an explosion of power whenever you set it off. But it could only be sustained if you had enough energy in the boost meter, when you ran out you were back to normal speed. Oh and another important aspect of Sonic Rush that I think added a new innovate aspect to the gameplay is that when going through levels Sonic & Blaze could move through both screens of the DS while running through levels and with that fancy new element put into play it did require some quick thinking and reflexes for some of the levels and boss encounters.
So in terms of content, you have 7 worlds which Sonic & Blaze would advance through, though depending on which character you were you would advance through the levels in a different order from the other. There was also 7 special stages inspired by Sonic 2 which you could tackle as Sonic only to collect Chaos Emeralds (Blaze just collected her Emeralds as the game advanced). At the end of each level there would be a boss fight each different from the last and requiring different strategies to beat each enemy. And as with most Sonic games after Sonic & Knuckles if you collected all 7 Chaos Emeralds you would take on one more additional level in your Super form to complete the game fully. In addition to the main game you also had time attack mode and a two-player mode via wireless where two players could race from one end of a level to another.
So is the game good? Heck yeah, but it isn’t without its problems. For all the good that Sonic Rush did the sonic game series, it also introduced some problems that would follow the series into present day.
Well let’s start with all the good points, firstly from a visual standpoint the game is very pretty as the first 2D Sonic game to be rendered in 3D. The graphics are sharp, colourful, vivid and full of detail and character from the foreground to the backgrounds. The soundtrack composed by Hideki Naganuma was also pretty damn awesome too with such a crazy sound when compared to other songs in the Sonic series, it was zany and very memorable for a portable title. But it’s really the gameplay that makes Sonic Rush just a good joyride of a game, its fast and furious and just old school Sonic fun. Sonic himself is dead fast in this game, once you get to grips with the boosting mechanic it becomes second nature and its extremely fun and addictive, once you learn to navigate levels effectively blazing through at breakneck speeds is essential. It makes speed runs so much more fun. It is also nice to use Blaze with her different style of gameplay from Sonic, her fire-based attacks when she jumps and her different air tricks compared to Sonic’s create some interesting level navigation. The new gameplay elements like being able to do tricks to build your boost bar is wicked and the different environments that provide new forms of interactivity. Also seeing Sonic & Blaze zoom through the two screens is on the DS bloody fun. Couple that with the diverse levels and cool level designs and you have endless levels of entertainment in one handheld console.
Okay so now onto the bad points, so as I said before the boost meter is one of the best aspects of Sonic Rush because it allows you to move stupidly fast, however that can be your undoing. Sometimes you’ll be blazing along so fast to the point where you’ll accidentally set yourself up for death or put yourself in danger’s way. Since the game is designed around speed and moving fairly quickly you simply just forget about the platforming elements and just hold the boost button wherever there is a clear strip of land to blast through. And to be honest that is hardly fair on the player, it encourages fast gameplay but sets you up for unexpected danger. But it’s not only down to the boosting mechanic that makes this game a bit unfair, but it’s also thanks to the level design too. As good as Sonic Rush is, it features some of the most awkward, hard and questionable level design choices in all of the Sonic games. A good number of times you’ll find yourself continuously dying due to the unforgiving level designs, especially if its you’re a first time. Some times you’ll be moving along at top speed and run into an environmental hazard like spikes or an enemy placed in a horrible spot or most commonly you’ll fall and die via the various pitfalls placed all over the levels. Sonic Rush seems to be obsessed with pitfalls as they are the most common form of death whether you’re running at top speed and then fall into one or if you’re covering a small bit of land in the air only to miss the platform and then plummet to your death. It is incredibly hard on an unforgiving level when it comes to the final few levels. The level design in Sonic Rush is designed as more of a memory game than something you can try out and survive the first time around, it does require a lot of prior knowledge beforehand but if you don’t have that then prepare to die many times until you figure it out. One last thing I want to add is the fact that trying to obtain Chaos Emeralds is so damn hard! Trying to get to them is hard enough once the later levels come into play but then trying to complete them is proper difficult, now I know that its meant to be challenging and all that, but there is a difference between challenge and cruelty and that’s what those special stages felt like especially after the 5th Chaos Emerald comes into play, pain and suffering.
It’s interesting to note that Sonic Rush was crafted by Sonic Team and Dimps, these two games developers collaborated on not the Sonic Rush games, but also the Sonic Advance trilogy and they also went on to develop parts of Sonic Unleashed (Wii version), Sonic 4: Episode 1 & Sonic Generations. And while the two developers haven’t always created solid titles all the time, I think after Sonic Rush came out, that started the continuation and future style of Sonic gaming for the good and bad times of Sonic’s future titles. Though this game is noted as one of the first proper 2D Sonic games for a while in that timeframe between 1994 to 2005 there was clearly a series of 2D Sonic games on the Gameboy Advance that people tend to forget about and that is the Sonic Advance series. The Sonic Advance series on the GBA was pretty darn good and with each entry in the series came new gameplay mechanics, new characters and interesting environments. And the impact of those games can be seen in Sonic Rush as the air trick system in this game was originally started in Sonic Advance 2 and then carried over and upgraded in Sonic Rush.
Sonic Rush at the time was the 2D adventure that Sonic fans have been waiting for, it had been years series there was a Sonic game on such a big scale that wasn’t such disappointment in the eyes of the fan base. This game managed to capture the magic of the Sonic games on the Megadrive/Genesis, but it also was a game of its own and Rush seemed to have the right balance between nostalgia and inventive new gameplay. The game was well received, sold pretty well on the DS and was featured on many lists of good Nintendo DS games too. Most critics found this game to be a return to form, though some were not too keen on the quickness of the game and also found the inconsistencies in the level design in some cases noting on the high level of death due to the pitfalls. Despite these problems Sonic Rush was a success and spawned a sequel in the shape of Sonic Rush Adventure and has created a small legacy too, because of the introduction boosting mechanic that has found its way into nearly every new Sonic game including Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours and more recently Sonic Generations.
Overall Sonic Rush though hard as heck and questionable in terms of later level design is still a damn good game. I’ve had many days wasted playing this game and it was hella fun as well as being hella difficult. If you haven’t had a chance to play this game please do yourself a favour and break it in and enjoy the speed and beauty that is Sonic Rush.