When Sega gave up on the Dreamcast and moved on to making games for other systems as a third-party developer, I didn’t really move on with them. At least, not for a while. I went to college and didn’t play as many video games for a few years, mostly sticking with what I had on the Dreamcast and a few PC games on my laptop. But some number of years later I picked up a Nintendo DS for 15 bucks and eventually learned that there were a few Sonic games made for it.
As it turns out, there had already been some Sonic games made for the Game Boy Advance (in 2001, 2002, and 2003). I haven’t played any of them, but general consensus says they’re all right. These titles were developed by Dimps in conjunction with Sonic Team, and that setup seems to apply to all the 2D Sonic games that have come out since then. This includes the Sonic Rush games for the DS, as well as various installments on the 3DS. And most of these have been deemed to be good? It seems that while everyone was calling the Sonic franchise dead on home consoles following a number of poor releases (e.g. Shadow the Hedgehog, and the infamous Sonic ’06), people could have been enjoying 2D games on handhelds instead.
It is interesting to look at reviews of Sonic Rush (released 2005), and notice how many people make a positive note of it being much like the older classics (i.e. Sonic’s Genesis offerings). But the thing is, the game actually plays pretty differently? It took me a little getting used to, but once I did I found Sonic Rush enjoyable. Playing through this game is really not like playing Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Knuckles–but that’s okay. It’s still pretty good stuff, as the levels were designed according to the physics and controls created for the game.
In Sonic Rush, the name of the game is speed. The old games were about speed too of course, but this one is less about momentum and rolling around as it is about… blasting forward. You see, the main move you will be using here is a speed burst that launches Sonic forward in a wave of energy. When using this, you gradually deplete a “tension meter” displayed on the left side of the screen. To keep this meter filled up, you need to defeat enemies and perform tricks while in mid-air (simply by pressing a button repeatedly when flying off ramps and such). There isn’t much in the way of exploration in this one–it’s much more about timing and maintaining your speed as consistently as possible.
The two main obstacles you will face in Sonic Rush are:
- Running into robots (which is why you want to be using the speed burst whenever you are cruising along a flat plane–you blast right through them that way)
- Flying down a pit (which is why you got to keep on your toes)
The first issue is feasible to deal with–this game is all about keeping Sonic moving and keeping that burst mode readily accessible at a moment’s notice. The second issue, however… Yeah, there’s a lot of cheap pits in this one. Some of the later levels in particular go a bit overboard in that department, and some gimmicks in level design make these pit-crossing segments all the more frustrating. There are seven levels with two acts each, as well as a boss fight. These bosses are similar to those found in the likes of Klonoa, in that they’re a sort of 2.5D, running left and right in a 3D circle sort of setup. They’re pretty fun, but generally seemed too easy.
The graphics look quite nice here, at least for a DS title. The graphics are made with simple 3D models, but when shrunk down to the size of the DS screens it all looks fine, maintaining a cartoon-esque 2D look that doesn’t look out of place for the franchise. Sonic also runs up and down from one screen to the other–another aspect of the game that takes some getting used to–but eventually I found it all pretty neat. Also, something I must mention: the music! The soundtrack for this game is awesome. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s by the same man who composed Jet Set Radio, Hideki Naganuma. Hip and funky chiptunes abound.
There are two characters you play as in this game: Sonic, and newcomer Blaze the Cat. She plays just the same as Sonic, save for slight differences (such as a different aerial move). So no big issues with her, and oddly enough she even has a sort of character arc over the course of the game’s simple story. (I’m all for keeping the stories simple for Sonic games, to be perfectly honest.) To get the full story of Sonic Rush though (i.e. access the final boss), you have to play through all the levels as both characters–and unfortunately, there isn’t any notable difference between the two playthroughs. So, it’s just a way to pad out the game a bit… but at least it’s a fun game? I enjoyed it, so be sure to give it a try if you’ve got a DS lying around.