This week’s trip to Los Angeles was the first time I’ve been to the area for at least a decade, so I had quite a bit on my dream itinerary. Go to Sonic Boom? Of course. See Chimpo wear an obscene amount of hats? Duh. Play Samba de Amigo, Initial D and Lupin III: The Shooting while wandering around in the early morning? Admittedly not something I planned on, but still fun. However, there were still things I never got around to: going to a Trader Joe’s, seeing Krunk Fu Battle Battle, visiting MOCA. However…
I did go to E3, so I guess that pretty much evens things out. While I was there, I stopped by Sega’s booth to check out their entire Sonic lineup: Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Sonic Generations and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing for the iPad. Details on each are under the cut.
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Wii)
If you’ve played Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games or Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games, you shouldn’t be too surprised with this third installment of athletic minigames for the Wii. This time around, the main Olympic events are notably different—whereas the Beijing 2008 installment had a greater emphasis on track & field events such as the 100-meter dash and triple jump, 2012’s selections of events are much more diverse: canoeing, badminton and equestrian events were all available for play. The minigames themselves control well, though I can imagine canoeing, which involves making large sweeps with the Wii remote, could get dangerous (read: far more fun) if played with really competitive friends. The surreality of Sonic characters riding horses does not diminish in-person.
The Dream Events from the first two games are back: on display this time around are Long Jump and Discus. However, these events are notably different from their Olympic events from the Beijing 2008 version. Here, Long Jump has all players on a platforming course racing to reach the end, offering a creative twist. Discus has players on-rails floating through the sky collecting rings and dodging enemies and obstacles. Dream Events have been in my opinion the best part of the Mario & Sonic series thus far, and this installment seems like no exception to that rule. Where Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games differs from its previous two entries in the series is the addition of “London Party Mode,” which plays like a mashup between Mario Party and Warioware. Microgames and boss battles are mixed in with Olympic and Dream events as players go around a minified version of London.
Bottom Line: If you don’t own any of the prior installments of the Mario & Sonic series, this would probably be the version you’d want to pick up. Already own them? This probably isn’t a priority purchase—you already know what to expect. The game should be released this November.
Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (3DS)
London 2012 marks the first appearance of Mario & Sonic for the Nintendo 3DS, although there have been portable versions of the other two Mario & Sonic games available for its predecessor, the Nintendo DS. The demo at E3 featured five minigames: judo, badminton, kayaking, balance beam, and race walking. The minigame aspect of Mario & Sonic‘s events have always suited themselves well to portable systems, and London 2012 is no exception: from tilting the 3DS to maintain balance across the beam as Daisy to the QTE actions of judo, the game feels like a natural fit. The 3D effects placed on the game feel natural and lack the forced weirdness that some other titles have had in the past, though it doesn’t necessarily add anything to the game, either. My only real complaint came from the race walk portion, which requires the player to draw the stylus back and forth in time to progress through the race. The ambient noise of the expo made hearing the beat near-impossible, and I imagine this could be a drawback for players who are hearing-impaired. I tried to just “guess” the beat and didn’t do too well. Whether the games would stand up well to multiple replays is probably another story, but the game’s multiplayer aspects should help.
Bottom Line: A decent collection of minigames that should be effective time-wasters for anyone. A middle-of-the-road purchase. The game should be out by February 2012.
Sonic Generations (3DS)
There were questions at Sonic Boom on why the 3DS version of Sonic Generations was not available for play. Picking up and playing the E3 demo easily answers the question: the game is a buggy mess. In light of the obvious effort being put into the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Generations, it is incredibly frustrating to see that the 3DS title is a phoned-in continuation of the Sonic Rush/Sonic 4 engine family. This demo shows off both classic and modern Sonic gameplay, and to get a basic view of what’s going on in each of those levels, take a look at Nintendo World Report’s footage. However, what happens if you aren’t playing simply to speed through and are trying out every little physics quirk?
The physics and control of Act 1 (Classic Sonic) are pretty reminiscent of Sonic 4, though there are a couple of improvements—most notably, momentum stays in place when one stops pressing the directional pad and slowly winds down. Given as this was a major complaint of mine for S4E1, it’s good to see this fixed. Running also works closer to the way a classic-styled engine should, with build-up towards max speed instead of 0 to 60-esque jumps.
Beyond this, there are some major unaddressed problems. The uncurling that happens after a jump or rolling is still very much present, and still very much loathed.
(Note to self: Bring camcorder next year, as illustrating flaws via text and pause screens is a less-than-optimal process)
Even this would not be such an unforgivable sin if not for the fact that the level is in fact designed for Sonic to interact with various elements once airborne, including enemies. Without the ability to curl or homing attack (given that this is Classic Sonic), it just makes gameplay frustrating. Another major problem, as also witnessed in the 360 and PS3 versions of Generations, is the speed cap placed on rolling, which is meant to be faster than top-speed running. At the same time, taking a few steps and trying to roll results in Sonic rolling about a third longer than he should be able to. GHZ Act 1 itself is designed to be strongly reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog‘s Green Hill Zone, though it receives a major vertical compression in the process. As such, I was able to test a few other things of interest: unsurprisingly, spike damage behavior is post-Sonic 1. The loop-de-loops of GHZ also make a return, but they are scripted event paths for approaching the top of the loop and descending from the top of the loop. Once again, this would not be a major problem if not for the fact that if you dare to return backwards or jump back through such a loop, you wind up falling through the floor to your death (and yes, I was able to recreate this bug several times—it was not a one-off situation.)
Compared to Act 1, Act 2 (Modern Sonic) is much more visibly impressive, using clever switches of camera perspective as well as using 3D features better: classic Sonic, while having some nice 3D features (like the animation of the Chopper badnik), also feels much more visually cluttered in 3D. However, the use of rails, boost and wide open spaces makes it feel reminiscent of Sonic Rush. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s more or less an updated version of that. The Launch Base Zone boss included with the demo plays well; it is my own personal opinion that one of the few things Dimps executes consistently well are boss battles, and this proves no exception. If you are familiar with the third stage’s boss patterns, there’s nothing terribly new here and you should be able to defeat it handily.
Bottom Line: If this demo is meant to be a representative of the work done on Generations 3DS, I can’t really recommend it in good faith. We’ve since heard murmurs from Sega that they are aware of these issues and plan to address them, so we’ll have to see how the game looks closer to a final build.
Sonic Generations (PS3)
Odds are you’ve probably heard a lot about Generations by now, with everyone giving their post-Boom impressions, so I’ll save you most of the rehash. The E3 version on display was a PS3 build, in contrast with Boom’s 360 build, and I’m happy to report there isn’t any real discernible difference in framerates between the two. Given that this has been an issue with other titles (hi, Bayonetta!), it’s an encouraging sign. At the same time, the lag seen in the 3D version for 360 is also present on PS3. Let’s hope this gets addressed between now and the game going gold.
The game was really popular amongst E3 goers, with people ducking in and out of the booth the entire time I was there—it was actually pretty difficult to secure an open spot! It was also rather interesting to watch game journalists and industry figures, rather than Sonic fans, play the game, as their “cold read” of how Sonic should work clearly is advantageous to them (despite watching a journalist play and desperately try to jump under a platform that had nothing underneath it.)
Bottom Line: Like most of Retro, I’m going to buy it, going to have fun with it, and then critique it to death in hopes of getting an even greater game next time. That’s kind of our modus opperandi.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (iPad)
Whoever this “E3” person is, they clearly suck at All Stars Racing. That does not mean, however, that the game itself sucks—in fact, it’s pretty solid port for Apple’s tablet system. By now, I’m sure you’ve had time to debate the merits of ASR, and if you like the game, it’s probably worth picking up for your iDevice. However, I couldn’t find a price point announcement for the title: I imagine it’ll be in the $10 to $15 range, which would be a pretty nice bang for the buck.
Bottom Line: If you don’t already own a copy of ASR or just looking for something to take with you on-the-go, this is worth considering.