March 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

During the 90’s there was only two things on people’s minds Sonic or Mario?, or in other terms Megadrive (Genesis) or SNES?
Sonic and Mario were the stalwarts of the 1990’s gaming decade and defined the system they graced upon. Sonic the Hedgehog was the pin-up of Sega’s Megadrive (or Genesis) and Mario of course is the face of Nintendo and in the 90’s graced the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or the SNES.
Mario had been around the gaming world for a few years now, debuting in the Donkey Kong series and then having his own game series on the NES. During that period, there was no-one to rival the Italian plumber and his adventures to save Princess Peaches from Bowser.
That was until Sonic burst on to the scene in 1991, in Sonic the Hedgehog, (or Sonic 1 nowadays) for the Megadrive, which had been release just a few years earlier. It was an instant hit, gamers loved flying through the Sonic universe at blistering speeds collecting rings. It had everything from alternate paths, to Special Stages, to hard to get to areas with loads of rings, and cool boss fights.
The main aim of the Game was to stop Dr Robotnik from collecting seven of the Chaos Emeralds. You played through six zones, each with three stages, until you confront Dr Robotnik one last time in the game in the Final Zone.
To collect the Chaos Emeralds you had to collect at least 50 rings, which would unveil a giant golden ring at the end of the stage. This could only be done on the first two stages of a zone as the third stage is where you fight off Dr Robotnik. The golden ring would then send you to the Special Stage, where you get flung round a level like a pinball, avoiding pitfalls that would fling you out of the Special Stage. The Chaos Emeralds were always guarded by crystals that took numerous hits for them to disappear. Oh and lastly, Dr Robotnik had turned all the creatures of the Zones into evil enemies that would attack you and make you lose all your precious rings. If you spun attacked them then they would turn back into their fluffy and cute original state! What game has this!!
Anyway, Sonic the Hedgehog was such a huge success Sega released a sequel the following year and introduced a new playable character, Miles “Tails” Prower. Again Dr Robotnik was after the Chaos Emeralds, but this time use them to power his Death Egg. It was up to Sonic and Tails to stop him.
Sonic 2 built on the previous game with enhanced graphics, however, the core gameplay was the same. The only thing they tweaked was the ability to “charge” sonic up and then let him fly along the level in a ball of blue hedgehog. This new mechanism was a brilliant addition by Sega. Another new addition was Super Sonic. If you had collected all seven of the Chaos Emeralds in the Special Stages, Sonic could unleash his Super Form. to do this Sonic must have 50 rings and then jump into the air. When in Super Sonic mode, Sonic glows yellow and is virtually invincible.
Again, Sonic 2 changed things, this time with the Special Stages. Instead of pinballing around a level, Sonic and Tails ran along a course collecting rings and the elusive Chaos Emerald. Sonic 2 was yet another hit for Sega and continued Sonics' rapid rise in video game fame.
Soon after Sonic 2 was released, the inevitable Sonic 3 was rumoured, and to everybody's relief Sonic 3 was released to the masses. It again built on its predecessor, and improved on the graphics front (as much as you can with sprite graphics). It still included the Chaos Emeralds, Super Sonic and Dr Robotnik. However, there was a new Enemy, Knuckles. Knuckles tried to stop Sonic at every turn. The dastardly Dr Robotnik had tricked Knuckles the Echidna into thinking Sonic was a threat to his home.
Knuckles was an instant hit with the Sonic fans, and due to that Sega decided he warranted a game where he was a playable character, thus Sonic and Knuckles was born. Sonic and Knuckles worked as a stand alone game, but had the added functionality of a system called Lock-On Technology. This allowed the previous versions of Sonic to be plugged in combine the two games together and added new elements to the game, except for Sonic 1, which when plugged into the Knuckles and pressing the A, B and C buttons together, a minigame based upon the Chaos Emerald bonus levels is unlocked called Blue Sphere.
Sonic and Knuckles was the last Sonic game to be released on the Megadrive, and ultimately was the last decent Sonic game to date. Since his change from 2D to 3D Sonic entered a downward spiral of poor games, with equally poor gameplay that did not live upto the speed and skill needed for the original trilogy and Sonic and Knuckles. After the failure of Sega's Saturn and Dreamcast consoles, Sega dropped out of the console market and focused on creating and publishing games, and since 2000, Sega have published a Sonic game every single year, to which none of them were any good. Even the games Sega claimed would capture the essence of Sonic, which the fans craved for and was sadly missing, flopped with disgrace. For someone who grew up loving Sonic, this is a sad turn for the blue hedgehog. Personally, I would be happy if I never saw another Sonic game again, just so we are not disappointed again. However, this will not happen as today's kids still love Sonic, and rightly they should, the idea of a super fast blue hedgehog who has superpowers is just brilliant. But Sega has ultimately set their sights on this demographic, as their previous efforts failed to rekindle the older gamers love of Sonic.
So where does Mario fit into all of this? Well he still lives on strong and just keeps getting better and better. Since his debut in 3D on the N64, Mario has embraced the 3D world with relish. Mario absolutely loves it, and 3D loves Mario. The slower pace and platforming suit Mario perfectly, and has resulted in some f his best games - Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. So does this mean Mario has won the battle that has been going on between gamers for nearly twenty years? Maybe, but as long as there are still Sega Megadrives out there (and the emulators) we will always have Sonic at his best!

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Sonic Revived?

February 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Sonic franchise has long been a gaming stalwart, giving rise to one of modern cultures most recognisable videogame characters and spanning several gaming generations and consoles. The first two or three Sonic games were extemely popular and well loved, cementing the character as the poster boy for Sega. However, as time went on sonic struggled to get to grips with new technology, as the side scrolling formula gave way to 3D adventures, Sonic lost his footing and declined in popularity. Some say the games were overly ambitious and frenetic, overloading the screen with visuals and gameplay too difficult to follow. The latest Sonic Unleashed game hoped to right some of these wrongs and return Sonic to the top, but it met with nonplussed reviews.

However, Sega refuse to let the old hero go out without a fight, and the Wii exclusive game Sonic and the Black Knight looks like it just may be a game that succeeds in a few vital areas where the rest have failed. Dispensing with the repetitive storylines of the past, namely dredging up the villain Dr Robotnic again and again, Sonic is summoned by the wizard Merlina in her time of great need. This attracts the attention of a fresh new antagonist; The Black Knight.

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Another area in which the new game hopes to improve upon Unleashed is the combat. Unleashed featured Sonic turning into a hulking 'Werehog' in a gambit which Sega hoped would be the key selling point. Instead, this feature was heavily criticised, as gamers didn't take well to their usually spritely and lightning fast hero being reduced to a slow, cumbersome monster. In Black Knight, Sonic wields a sword which he can use whilst on the trot, giving rise to highly inventive gameplay as you speed through levels and dispatch foes in one fluid motion. As Unleashed was a game that had been ported to the Wii, the motion controls struggled with the system and most gamers simply opted for using a joypad. This isn't a problem for The Black Knight, as being a Wii exclusive the controls have been developed and mastered from the outset.

Will Sonic and the Black Knight restore the age old franchise to its former glory, or will it be just another disappointment in a long line of lacklustre titles? We only have a couple of weeks to wait and see...

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Real Games for Real Wii Owners!

February 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Nintendo's Wii has been a controversial gaming platform. It has sold in massive amounts, with it being out of stock consistently for nearly a year after its release. However, gamers have many complaints about it, with the majority saying that they, as "hardcore" gamers have been left out when it comes to games for the Wii.

This year sees yet more releases for the console that has took the world by storm, and yes most of these will be aimed at the casual gamers who own a Wii, however, there are some games that have been designed for the hardcore gamer, and these are them.
#3: MadWorld

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An extremely bloody gorefest on the Wii, doesn't sound right, right? Well, Platinum Games, will have you believing differently as it prepares to release MadWorld this year on the Wii. The game sees players take on the role of Jack, who is a contestant in a game called Death Watch, and it is your job to win the game, or die trying.

The visuals are very reminiscent of scenes scene if Frank Miller's Sin City books, with black and white graphics dominating the screen, except for the splattering of crimson of blood. The gameplay relies on strategic and gruesome combos being pulled off using the Wii Remote.

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MadWorld is truly a unique game, both in its visual style and its gameplay style, so if you are looking for a game that moves away from the cuddly and friendly face of Nintendo first party games, look no further than MadWorld, expected to be released this March

#2: Sonic and the Black Knight

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Sonic was an icon of the 16 bit generation. But since the move from 2D to 3D Sonic has had a rough time, with more than a few mediocre games over the recent years. Yet Sonic and the Black Knight seems to be turning things in the right direction for our beloved spiky hedgehog friend.

Sonic and the Black Knight follows the Story-Book style of the spin-off series that Sonic and the Secret Rings began, seeing Sonic embark on an Arthurian inspired adventure to end the Black Knights reign of evil. Sonic dons a sword and gauntlet to defeat evil knights that plague the lands. The combat sees Sonic pulling off spinning and slashing manoeuvres whilst flying through the air to defeat his opponent.

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The game boasts graphics unlike anything seen in platformers yet on the Wii, as you race over green plains, thousands of blades of grass flow back and forth in the breeze. Sonic fans everywhere can look forward to the game's release thi March.

#1: Tenchu: Shadow Assassins

Tenchu has being flying the ninja-based stealth-action game flag for many years now since its arrival on the PlayStation. after along absence of Tenchu games, 2009 sees Tenchu arrive on the Wii, with Tenchu: Shadow Assassins, and will attempt to deliver many aspects that have been the norm for games of late.

Tenchu will envelop gamers into 13th century feudal Japan, which has been recreated beautifully on the Wii. Tenchu: Shadow Assassins sees you again helping the troubled Lord Gohda's realm, as betrayal is rife through the realm. It falls to you to restore the peace back to the realm.

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To do this, there are many different stealth kill options for different situations, and a stealth system where players can slip between dark areas, such as bushes to create ambushes or to evade enemies.

Shadow Assassins is available now, and is one stealth action game you should not miss out on.

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