Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Hardest, Most Noteworthy Achievement I Have Ever Achieved

     Here on Cartridge Gamer, I try to deviate from writing about current-gen games as much as possible. However, this is kind of retro in a sense, but with a modern twist. My purchase of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for my XBOX 360 that I wrote about back in January came with a ROM of Sonic 3D Blast. If you're even a casual fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, you've probably heard of this game, and you've already renewed your restraining order on Sonic Team for this catastrophe.
     Sega had a great idea with Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection in that it incorporates achievements into these old games to add a fresh challenge to the package. I like this, a lot. Even though the achievements are limited to one per game, and are obtainable within the first 5 minutes of playing, it's a welcome addition for an achievement whore such as myself.
     But when there's an achievement worth 15G's, and it's for rescuing 20 Flickies in Sonic 3D Blast, and you know full well what you're about to do, you have a serious problem. If you go to thesaurus.com, and you look at each synonym for masochism, you will find every word that went through my mind while I questioned the sanity and the intentions of Sonic Team when developing this game, and myself playing this game.
     Sonic 3D Blast is not a game I am unfamiliar with. When I was twelve-years-old, I had my dad pick me up a copy of Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube, and I enjoyed everything except for Sonic 3D Blast. Even back then I knew that it played dreadfully, with Sonic drunkenly running around, building up so much momentum that he would dash into an enemy who's hit-box covered half the platform. Not only were the physics thoroughly nonsensical, but the fact that this game was developed with a D-pad as it's directional input was but the frosting for this cake of destruction.
     You see, the 3D in the title is referencing the game's semi-top down, isometric view. While I'm sure this was a technological achievement for Sega, pre-rendered computer graphics don't have to be applied to a 3D platforming title developed for a console that simply wasn't prepared for the genre. A four-way D-pad doesn't make sense for this type of game because it doesn't supply the precision of touch that only a joystick can. With a joystick, you can apply a little pressure to make your character tip-toe, or a lot of pressure to make him run the only way Sonic knows how. Rareware knew this, that's why the Donkey Kong Country series is comprised of 2D platformers.
     Because this was a straight port, it didn't matter that I was using the joystick on my 360 controller, because the only thing Sonic was going to do was run. He ran into enemies, off of ledges, and into spikes, and there was not a damn thing I could do about it, all because he couldn't tip-toe. I had to play through several levels to collect all 20 Flickies, which are little birds that have been cruelly trapped inside of robots by the heinous Dr. Robotnik. Through this jaunt I took several pictures of my television to chronicle my frustration.
      What you see to the left is the obligatory floating, moving platform in every platformer to date. The five little boxes on the bottom right are my collected Flickies and my missing ones. At this point, I was about to rescue my 20th Flickie. I was thrilled. Not too fast, me- aren't you forgetting something? Oh, that's right: even gently touching the joystick will make Sonic fly past the platform, because Sonic Team sent Doc Brown and Marty McFly to the future to make sure I wouldn't run out of material for Cartridge Gamer, and developed the single most irritating, teeth-gnashing-iest portion of any game I've ever played. You can't understand the pain I felt from the half hour it took me to complete this jump, because I kept missing the mark and shooting past the platform and having to run back up this mountain of cruelty because this was a moving platform. It only made matters worse. This tiny, insignificant platform in a seemingly enormous adventure game had me in hysterics. Never again, Sonic Team.
      I think the final hammer-to-the-cranium experience I had, upon finally collecting the 20th godforsaken Flickie, was the end of level scoring. Just like every other Sonic game, it gives you various letter grades on the time it took you, and the rings you got, among other things. Unfortunately, I failed to document this screen with a photo, but it said "Time Taken: Too Long."
      ...Seriously, Sega? I'm sorry I couldn't finish the level as fast as you spat the development of this game out onto wasted disk space, reminding every hardcore Sonic fanatic why they hate themselves. I don't even like Sonic that much, and I still cried myself to sleep. But I got that 15G's, though, so I guess it was worth it.