Having recently bought an N-GAGE (mainly because
I needed a mobile phone) I thought 'what the heck' and bought
all SEGA releases with it. They weren't very expensive, anyway.
First one to arrive at my doorstep was Sonic-N. Now
this game has a little history for me, so that makes for an
easy intro. I first came across Sonic-N at a Dutch
game expo, way back in 2003. Nokia was displaying their
N-GAGE units in demo pods, and Sonic-N was
one of the main games running at them. I remember playing
it for a while and walking away with a 'well I guess it's
OK' feeling. Now -about three years and a full cruise through
this game later- I can tell you straight away; Sonic-N
is bad news. Why? Simple really; it has too many flaws, which
I will tell you about right now.
The game starts with an okay-ish intro
featuring Robotnik/Eggman/whatever grabbing -you guessed it-
an emerald. Gets a bit old, doesn't it? Anyway, after the
four main characters are showcased as well, you'll get the
option of GAME START, TIME ATTACK and OPTIONS. Nothing new
really. After starting the NEW GAME you'll get to pick from
four characters: Sonic (Good), Tails (Not bad), Knuckles (Good)
and Amy (Rubbish). Each character has their own special moves;
Sonic is the fastest and has a special dash, Tails can fly/tail
whip, Knuckles can hoover/bash enemies and Amy..has a mallet
(!) and can do high jumps.
characters are on offer
that red blob?
Oh.. it's Knuckles'
After starting the first stage, there's two
things that I immediately noticed. The first thing is the
TINY playing window. As if the N-GAGE screen wasn't small
enough by itself, huge borders now fill the 'non rectangular'
areas at the top and bottom of the screen. Anyone who had
a Game Gear and any of the Sonic games will be disgusted by
this lack of screen optimising. The 'artsy' borders are always
the same as well! (Blue with a Sonic picture and 'Sonic')
Was it really that much work to change them depending on the
character used? Lazyness. Because the screen size is so small,
the sprites -which are decent, it must be said- are very hard
to see. Some of the power-up boxes are hardly destinguishable
from each other.
The other thing; the music. It's terrible.
No, TERRIBLE. It sounds like it was recorded through one of
those 'two cans and a piece of string' kid telephones. Sega
Smash pack anyone? *shudder* Admittely, the first stage music
isn't that bad, but it does gets worse and worse. Is the N-GAGE
sound chip really that bad? I don't think so. Now, if only
the quality was bad, that would be one thing, but the tunes
are hardly 'catchy'. 'Dull and screechy' would be a better
description. A special mention goes to the Game over 'tune'.
It's so terribly screechy you'll start to try extra hard
to stay alive, believe me.
Right, that's basicly the graphics and sound screwed? Well,
yes and no. Yes, the screen is waaay too small and yes the
BGM is rubbish but -like said- the actual sprites are pretty
detailed and generally O.K. looking and the SFX isn't too
bad either. Thank goodness.
Onto a stage overview; The first stage is called 'Neo
green hill' and reminded me of the Emerald coast
level of Sonic adventure. Some loops (naturally),
some palm trees and some crabs. The usual, really. The boss
isn't too bad; Robotnik driving a machine with a huge hammer
attached to it. After beating it, the pod with captured animals
drops and it's onto the next level. 'Hidden base' doesn't
exactly look like its namesake, it mainly features big loops
and pullies. A bit like Sonic 2's Chemical plant
zone, especially because of the fast pace. The stage its boss
is a Robotnik-esque robot on a spring, Sonic Chaos Sleeping
Egg zone, anyone?
The third stage is called the 'Casino Paradise zone'.
A 'paradise' it isn't, but it ain't too bad, featuring plenty
of nods towards the Sonic 2 Casino Night and Sonic
3 Carnival Night zones. It's not as good, though.
As the rule goes, every platform game must have an ice stage,
so the inclusion of 'Ice mountain' wasn't really a big surprise.
This stage tries to be Sonic 3's Ice Cap zone, but
fails. Badly. Nothing really special was added apart from
a super annoying under-water area. Gone is the snowboard section,
the smart 'push the block of ice, jump on it and crash through
some ice borders' and everything else that made the Ice Cap
such a cool zone.
The zone ends with one of the most annoying boss fights I've
ever seen in a 2D Sonic game; it's underwater. Now, it isn't
the first time there's an underwater boss in a Sonic game
(think Labyrinth zone, on the Master System, Sonic
3 - Hydrocity act 1) but you can actually run out
of air now! The boss drops ice spikes (those things you could
stand on in the Ice Cap) and you should jump on them to hit
the boss and occasionally get out of the water for some air.
Problem is that the boss section starts with Sonic being underwater,
looking at the boss above. By the time the boss fight starts,
the 'five second' timer is just about to start! If you miss
one of the spikes the boss drops (which is easy, because moving
around underwater is a PAIN) you'll drown, as there's no time
to 'catch' another. Aargh!
on one of the game's
If you made it past this bloody annoying
boss (which will probably take quite some time), you're 'treated'
to one of the most pedestrian Sonic stages ever. It's called
'Angel island', but that really is a bit of an insult to the
Sonic 3 zone. Some 'rollable' platforms, some 'go
with the flow streams'. It's not terrible, it's just so..boring.
The boss of this stage, some sort of weird Knuckles/Metal
Sonic crossover isn't very good either. Worst of all, though,
is the godawful 'music' that runs in the background. I don't
know who 'composed' this music but it sounds like crap. The
'sound chip' sample demo tape that came with an MSX 2 I once
had sounded better.. and also, that actually sounded like
a song, which isn't the case here.
The next level is a bit better thankfully.
The Egg rocket (hmm bit of a dull name really) stage,
looks a lot like Sonic 2's Wing Fortress
stage, but -again- isn't as good. It's the usual 'jumping
over gaps' gameplay, which becomes a bit boring , really.
Now, if you beat the boss of this stage, you're only a quarter
through the game. 'There's another 18 levels then?' No, but
if you finish the game with the other three characters (and
emeralds, which I'll come to in a bit) you'll gain a special
extra stage to finish the game proper. I really couldn't be
bothered to be honest.
Like said above, while playing through the
game you also need to complete the 'regain all emeralds' task. By
finding well-hidden special springs (there's one on each stage)
you'll bounce straight into the bonus stage. Could've been
good, but to keep in-line with the rest of the game this bonus
round doesn't really excite. It's a bit of a cross between
the 'tube' bonus stage of Sonic 2 and the 'falling all the
way down' bonus stage of Knuckles' Chaotix. Oh and
you're on a skateboard too, for some reason..
As you may have guessed by now, I really didn't
like Sonic-N much. It simply has too many flaws and
the lack of good stages or features doesn't help much either.
If must own a portable Sonic game, there's plenty of other
choice (Think: Sonic pocket adventure, Sonic
Rush ..) so there's no real need to pick up Sonic-N.
Unless you're a nutty collector, of course.
boss is a major pain
in the ass..
Homer's 'boring' speech.
Puny unoptimized screen size, lame level design. Sprites
Awful BGM, reasonable SFX.
Boring and annoying stage design, small screen size hugely
from playability. Basic bonus stages.
Four characters, but overall the game is too easy (apart from
some totally frustrating parts). A very basic time attack
no multiplayer mode, no chao garden, no nothing. Yawn.