Sonic Chaos / Sonic & TailsThe year was 1993, and as the world waited to see how Yuji Naka's Sonic Team could trump the phenomenal success that was Sonic 2, the gaming community was "treated" to some rather lacklustre "sonic" games in the form of Spinball and Mean Bean Machine (thank you Sega of America). Of course, 1993 was also the year that a little gem known as Sonic CD was released, arguably one of, if not the greatest Sonic game ever. This little preamble brings me to the game in question - Sonic Chaos (also known as Sonic and Tails to our Japanese friends), the other Sonic title released in '93, and despite doing many things right, this title unfortunately slinks into the company of the former games, rather than the later.
To the joy of die hard PAL Master System fans and sweaty palmed Game Gear owners everywhere, Sonic Chaos was the first title to finally bring the 8-bit series up to speed with its 16-bit bretheren. Tails was finally introduced as a playable character and, for the first time ever, was able to fly on command. (It's also interesting to note that Tails' tails refuse to defy logic in this title - they do not remain stationary when he jumps). The "Super Dash Attack" gave us a new found reason to torture our 1 and 2 Buttons to the point of destruction, and the popular (but rarely used since) "peel-out" manouvre also made an appearance. The graphics engine was given a complete overhaul, allowing for larger sprites and more detailed animations, as well as 16-bit style level design, with corkscrews, interactive loops (you can now travel through them from right to left) and even quater-circle ramps. The special stage was also reintroduced since its noticable absence from Sonic 2, and the chaos emeralds were now found in these instead of hidden inside the regular levels. However, unlike the amazing 3D-esque tunnels from Sonic 2, these special stages dissapointingly used the standard 2D engine.
In addition to these 16-bit inspired improvements, original ideas also came into play. The rocket shoes and the hop springs added a new element to gameplay and level design, allowing Sonic the freedom to explore the zones to a much larger degree. The rocket shoes in particular were a sweet addition; 8-bit newbies may find the game kind of slow and clunky after being brought up with the super slick flashiness of the 16-bit era (and above) but they'll eat their words when they strap on a pair of these babies, oh-yeah!
So despite all of these amazing accomplishments on antiquated hardware, backed up by some unique and original zone concepts (Mecha Green Hill Zone owns) and catchy tunes, why is this game not so highly regarded? You'll rarely see it rank amongst a Sonic junkies top five, or even top ten. So what went wrong? Well, after all you losers out there complained about the 8-bit Sonic 2 being too hard (bunch of wimps) they decided to tone down the difficulty. And when I say "tone down", I mean remove, completely. If you can't finish this game with all the emeralds in one afternoon, you're not trying hard enough. You might then play it through once more with Tails, but after that there is no reason to play it again. You'll then soon forget about it as it collects dust in your collection, until someone asks you to write a brief overview of the game for some 2-bit website...
So there you have it, that's Sonic Chaos, in all it's piece-of-piss-ass glory. However, despite the distinct lack of longevity, all is not lost. Chaos proved to be the practice run for the infinetely better and much more satisfying Sonic in Triple Trouble, the pinnacle of the 8-bit Sonic saga. Unfortunately for some, Chaos' sour note ended the Master System's love affair with the speedy blue one, as all future 8-bit sonic titles now rest solely in the domain of the Game Gear. Which is a real shame, because Triple Trouble could've been something else with the Master System's larger screen size.
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