Review: Sonic Runners (Apple iOS)

It has been some time since I played a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Years of disappointment and lackluster releases kept me away from the series. However, this year SEGA released Sonic Runners on the iOS and Android around Sonic the Hedgehog’s 24th birthday and my recent reading of the book Console Wars made me interested so I went ahead and download the game from the Apple Store (no harm since the game is free-to-play).

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The game actually moves at a fast pace and is a side-scroller. Side-scrolling was a powerful game genre all on its own during the arcade and 16-bit era of video games and prior. The game includes tons of Sonic’s pals, but doesn’t force you to play with them, although the buddies do become necessary in later parts of the story due to their difficulty.

Difficulty is the main problem with Sonic Runners. The game has cheap mechanics that kill you as you advance in the endless side-scrolling game. The only real way around it is to either power-up like crazy or to pay for red coins that will allow you to revive yourself when you die. In the later levels, death is almost guaranteed due to walls and pits being placed exactly after you speed up, leaving you no option but to die. You may find yourself screaming at your cell phone from frustration. Being forced to die also removes that sense of accomplishment a player normally feels at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog whenever they reach the end of a zone.

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Another issue is just how repetitive the stages get. There needs to be more enemy variety and also more differences in the boss battles to make the game interesting enough long-term, otherwise I cannot imagine anyone playing this game past a few weeks at the most. Sonic Runners feels like classic Sonic games, but lacks the depth of those lava, desert, water, and space levels that made those Sonic games truly memorable.

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Boss battles with Eggman get increasingly boring as you progress through the game. Eggman has simple attacks and no real edge, which is surprising considering Eggman is a genius who should have some pretty sick attacks and vehicles to attack Sonic with. Even ripping the Eggman machines from the early Sonic games would be enough to provide players a challenge.

I have clocked plenty of hours with the game and the music is interesting at first and then becomes mind-numbing because of how often you have to replay stages in the later parts of the story to get to the main boss. SEGA could easily solve this problem by releasing extra sound tracks as unlockable features, I know I’d love to put some classic Sonic music on my game or even new Sonic music.

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Perhaps it is just the Sonic fan in me, but the add-ons for Sonic’s birthday are the real draw to Sonic Runners at the moment. The music in the special stage helps break up the monotony. I have spent hours trying to unlock Classic Sonic and players only have until July 10th, 2015 at 8:59AM (UTC) to unlock him as a character.

I enjoy unlimited data with T-Mobile and have a strong Wi-Fi connection pretty much everywhere I go, but I know others have complained about the need of a data connection to use Sonic Runners. I can imagine that being a problem for many people who lack data plans or have crappy internet connections. Some players seem to be having technically difficulties with Sonic Runners at the moment, however I used an Apple iPhone 6 with iOS8 and experienced no issues playing Sonic Runners.

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Overall, Sonic Runners for Apple iOS is not for everyone, but certainly worth checking out…especially since it’s free to download. It certainly has some room to improve though, but is not quite as bad as some other free-to-play games that I have played in the past.

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Download Sonic Runners on Apple iOS: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/sonic-runners/id953019873

Why You Should Still Be Donating To The ‘Shenmue 3’ Kickstarter

Update:

Hope this helps!

E3 2015 came and left us with a bunch of surprises including the announcement by Yu Suzuki of a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter. The online message boards and struggling remains of the video game/mainstream media were quick to yell foul at Sony for not funding the game completely outright instead of hosting a fan-backed Kickstarter (which funded in under 24 hours) and announcing support later.

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However, consider this:

  • Sony has not been announced as an exclusive backer of Shenmue 3 and also has not acquired the IP to Shenmue which Sega still owns. Is it really fair to claim Sony should fund an entire Shenmue 3 game just because they have the money to do so, especially when they do not even hold the rights to the IP?
  • Wouldn’t you agree that Sony would be a little skeptical of investing into a game that is over 14 years old without some sense of support remaining from the fan base (which has spent 14 years bitterly awaiting a continuation of Shenmue)?
  • Neither Shenmue I nor Shenmue II beat Sega’s estimations to be considered commercial successes for the company in their own right – especially considering their production costs. Sony says that basically every production studio had declined to back Shenmue 3 on it’s own. Backing support from Sony should be a blessing, not a curse.
  • Sony says there were 2 routes for Shenmue 3 that Suzuki could take – have the game made with Sony and go through a regular production process or kickstart the game and make it with the fans.  Suzuki chose to use Kickstarter and make the game with the fans because it would allow him to include fan’s input in the game and make it a true ending they would be happy with and maintain full control of the game. The Kickstarter route is allowing fans to have a say in the game that will finally answer some burning questions and even some of the rewards have been changed according to fans petitioning.
  • Yu Suzuki claimed recently in Famitsu magazine that the $2 million funding was essential for Shenmue 3 to exist at all. It seems that the game media may be overplaying Sony’s hand in Shenmue 3’s development and taking advantage of the fact that Suzuki has contracts that are not allowing him to be forthright about funding details.
  • Backing the Kickstarter gets you the game for $29 – which is pretty affordable for a video game nowadays. It is really no difference from making a pre-order at Gamestop – which gamers do all the time. However, this pre-order comes with lots of more perks.

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Shenmue 3 has been anticipated by fans for a long time and for some time there it seemed like they were going to lose their chance to ever receive an end to the series. The stalling of Shenmue 3 has been an unfortunate casualty of Sega’s exit from the hardware gaming business and falling overall sales. It would be stupid to shoot it down now because the game finally received some outside support.

Everyone who calls themselves a real gamer owes it to support these dedicated fans who have spent years non-stop tweeting, writing, petitioning, and promoting Shenmue. You don’t have to donate money, but don’t stand in the way of something people have waited over a decade for.

In addition, Yu Suzuki has been a great contribution to the video game industry since the arcade days and everyone also owes it to him to help get him get back on his feet and back into making games we love that move the industry forward.

For the record it would be better if supposedly unbiased and cynical journalists used facts instead of simply stating Sony has a ton of money and is pumping Shenmue 3 with cash when no actual proof of how much money is being supplied has been provided. Ironically, it is the same media that created hundreds of click bait articles for years that Shenmue 3 was being developed that is now creating a backlash against it. Enough said about that.

Something a little less serious 😀

Support Shenmue 3!

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What I’m playing 3/22

First off, I think everyone should read these two interviews on Hardcore Gaming 101 on two Metal Gear Solid translators: Jeremy Blaustein and Agness Kaku. Both shed some light on the translation roles in the gaming industry and how sometimes they are unappreciated. I was really surprised to read that Kaku was paid less than $5,000 for the translation of Metal Gear Solid 2 and never had any access to the staff or development team considering how much a huge blockbuster game MGS2 was after the success of the original. Personally, I am a huge fan of the translation done by Blaustein and his translation is far superior to that of the Twin Snakes in my opinion.

I have been plowing through some video games lately. I beat Super Mario 64 DS the other day. Although I enjoyed the addition of new characters, it was frustrating to have Mario stripped of all his powers and the controls of the game were quite frustrating. Many of the levels that I died in would have been easily avoided if I had a Nintendo 64 controller during the sequence and it really makes you realize how Super Mario 64 was perfectly tied to the Nintendo 64 controller and just is not the same on any other system. Nintendo really took lots of thought on how to make the game fully utilize the N64 and it just does not work the same when ported to the DS.

Now I have started playing Sonic Colors lately on the DS. The game certainly gives you the feeling of speed you want from a Sonic game, although sometimes I find myself completely losing track of where Sonic is on the screen because he is moving so fast. I think it is certainly one of the better Sonic games that I have played in recent years. I want to pickup Sonic Generations and Sonic 4: Episode 1 in the near future to compare how those games add up. They looked promising to me.

Another Sonic game I have been messing around with lately is Sonic Adventure 2. I realized the other day that I never beat it on the Dreamcast. I decided to go back and boot up the old Dreamcast and give the rest of the game another run. I came back to the point where I left off and realized why I quit. There is this part in level 15 where Sonic has to kill some enemies over a pool of poison and then  light speed dash to collect some rings. For some reason it always malfunctioned and I miserably fell to my death hundreds of times before finally making it past the pool.

Any old Sonic player can attest to the series unforgiving difficulty in past games, which was missing in Sonic Adventure (many people apparently complained about this). Sega came back around and made the sequel unbelievably unforgiving. Especially in the space levels (pictured above) where one wrong landing  can send you falling to your doom – and eventually lead to you restarting the level completely. My palms were pouring sweat during these space and various other grinding stages. The camera angles are also quite awful and often turns at the wrong time and leaves you dead. I have heard this is worse in the new Sonic the Hedgehog games…but have yet to touch them.

One thing I would have really liked in Sonic Adventure 2 was the areas like Station Square and the Mystic Ruins. I thought those locations added more to the story of the predecessor and the sequels story doesn’t captivate the way I wish it would.

Other than Sonic games I have started off my adventure in Dragon Quest VI. It is the last Dragon Quest games I have left to play until I can say I have played every game in the main series! =]

Lots to discuss in gaming. What are you playing these days?

I don’t agree with review score numbers

I write restaurant reviews for some local publications in my town and one of the things I hate to do is to assign a numerical score to a review. I feel the same way when reading about video games. Why? First of all, when you give something a number such as a 9/10 – the reader knows nothing except that you think this is a good game. Most people will glance at a score and then ignore everything else you had to say.  That is only the roof of the surface though…

The real issue I have with review scores is that it forces two things that are not the same to be compared. A 7.0 Resident Evil game is not the same as a 9.0 Final Fantasy game. They come from different genres, different companies, different budgets, etc. However, the numerical scores will cause people to compare the two at face value…when they actually have nothing in common.

I was reading this great review on Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City by Jim Sterling on Destructoid earlier tonight. The review is insightful and Sterling explains what he felt the issues with the game were and that he found himself still enjoying the game, despite its flaws. He scores the game a 7.5 and then people in the comments lash out against him for not scoring “better games” higher. Yet they are comparing games that do not fall into the same genre, console, etc. People need to realize that reviews are subjective. There is no truly wrong or right review score and as long as the reviewer shares his opinion, he has done nothing wrong.

Some people even claimed that he was bought off by Capcom to give a high score. These are probably the same people who claimed that Mass Effect 3 review numbers were purchased by Electronic Arts. First they are unhappy that the numbers are the same, then when someone is different they claim the same logic. Honestly, gamers need to grow up and form their own opinions. Read the review and make the decision for yourselves. Stop blaming someone for sharing their opinion and doing their job.

There might be some crooked journalists out there, but trust me – many journalists value integrity. They know they have a duty to their publication and to their website to be honest. There is nothing worse than spending time on a project and then having people trash all over it in the comments.

That’s my 2-cents on this issue.

Happy 15th Birthday NiGHTS!

I have many fond memories with NiGHTS into Dreams. Many of them involve spending the entire day playing and begging for just ten more minutes each time my parents harassed me about it. My Sega Saturn collection was short-lived, but one game I am happy I had the opportunity to enjoy was NiGHTS. The excellent soundtrack composed by Naofumi Hataya, Tomoko Sasaki, and Fumie Kumatani would go on to be one of my favorite soundtracks I would later add to my iTunes collection.

The thing that made NiGHTs so much fun was that it was a carefree game. You could dive right in and play. You didn’t need detailed instructions or have to worry too much about the storyline. It could all be inferred and that is one of the beautiful things about older games. Sega games, mostly arcade ports, never relied on a heavy storyline to be enjoyable and rewarding.

The controls were different than any game I played before. You could more or less fly around on a designated path. It invoked the feeling of a dream world where you can do things you wouldn’t expect to do in a game during that era. You could pick from two characters: Claris or Elliot and explore their dreams. They combine forces with Nights to save the dream world, Nightopia, from monsters.

NiGHTS was one of Sonic Team’s best games and it’s hard to believe that this game is now 15 years old! To celebrate the occasion, there is a new OverClocked Remix released for free today. Grab it at: http://lucid.ocremix.org/ In addition, fans of NiGHTS are campaigning for Sega to port NiGHTS. You can help their campaign by giving a free pledge at http://www.nid15.com/

I just dusted off my Sega Saturn. Time to play some NiGHTs.

Checkout the NiGHTS birthday buzz on Twitter: #NiGHTS15 and NiGHTS into Dreams

Follow me on Twitter: @CarlosPlays

Famicom Detective Club Part II: The Girl who Stands Behind

I played the fan translation of Famicom Tantei Club Part II: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shōjo (ファミコン探偵倶楽部PartII うしろに立つ少女), or Famicom Detective Club Part II: The Girl who Stands Behind in English last night and I was hooked. The game was originally released for the Super Famicom in 1998 (a remake of the 1989 sequel) via Nintendo Power and ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2004 as part of the Famicom Mini-series. I spent the whole night playing and then finished the game sometime today. I love mystery games and murder mysteries are always interesting to me as well. Some games that got me interested in these kind of text adventures are Snatcher, Policenauts, Deja Vu, and The Portopia Serial Murder Case. The original version of this game was on the Famicom Disk System and later ported to the Super Famicom and Gameboy Advance.

Two fan translation groups: “Neo Demiforce” and “Tomato” translated the Japanese game and released the patch on October 10, 2004. They did a great job translating the text. I’m no stranger to horror games on retro games and know that some can really spook you. Super Famicom Detective II did a good job of making my nervous about someone possibly standing behind me.

The story begins when you are adopted by an investigator, Shunsuke Utsugi, and trained as a detective…a position you accept because you are searching for your lost parents and Utsugi takes you in. You are assigned a case by Utsugi that becomes an interesting first case. Someone at Ushimitsu High School has been murdered. Ushimitsu is a school that has been plagued with ghost rumors for years. However, something lies within these creepy grounds and it’s your job to find out what that is. It’s difficult to know who to trust as everyone is looking to play an angle.

You question everyone from bartenders and students to teachers and policemen. The story is filled with twists and just when you think you have the story solved, you find new evidence. I got stumped a few times, but ultimately some parts are just about picking the right menu options. A version with voices would be pretty awesome, Snatcher-style. I have to admit it is hard to believe that Nintendo created this game, and it’s no wonder this game never appeared in the United States (besides the fact that most Americans fail to appreciate visual novel games the way the Japanese do). The eerie game soundtrack, color schemes, and anime scenes gave me the shivers at least a couple times throughout my play.

I finished the game impressed and wanting more. Definitely check this game out if you haven’t done so already. Hopefully someone will translate the original game, Famicom Detective Club, as the the second game is a prequel. Yet another day that I wish my Japanese foundation was stronger.