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Knuckles’ Chaotix [Sega 32X] – Review

Knuckles' Chaotix

Released for the Sega 32X in 1995, Knuckles’ Chaotix is the sole title in the Sonic the Hedgehog series to grace the ill-fated add-on. It’s apt that there was only a single title on the Sega 32X since, much like the series, it went fast. Still, this game contains some stellar audio/visual qualities that seem to utilize the benefits provided by the add-on. Despite not revolving around or even featuring Sonic (outside of a cameo in the credits), the gameplay is that of a Sonic game, with one major difference. A second character remains attached to the player’s character at all times via a magical elastic ring. This was quirky and introduced unique platforming mechanics, but I bypassed it entirely by playing as another character.

The game featured a comprehensive tutorial explaining the unique mechanics.
The game featured a comprehensive tutorial explaining the unique mechanics.

Set against the backdrop of an amusement park the day before its opening, Knuckles’ Chaotix documents the trials that the famous (infamous?) echidna and his roadies were put through in order to see its opening day go off without a hitch. Chaotix, as I’ll refer to the group, cleanse Carnival Island’s five areas of Dr. Robotnik and Metal Sonic’s evil influence and prevent the duo from obtaining some sort of all-important crystal. Like its contemporaries, this is a Sonic game that is light on narrative. Which, considering the low, weird places the series has gone since the late 1990s, that’s a good thing.

As I mentioned, the gameplay veers from the series’ familiar formula in one major way: the addition of Ring Power. That’s the system that chains two characters together. It adds an additional element to the fast-paced platforming and boss fighting that traditionally occurs. Ring Power paved the way for rubber banding the characters to gain momentum and using that same concept to slingshot upwards and scale platforms. Because of this newly implemented mechanic, or perhaps in order to make it seem more necessary, stage design seemed to rely upon verticality to a much greater extent than previous games. The stage structure seemed more mazelike as well. There were times when I got confused on which way I needed to be going after doubling back many times while ascending the stages.

Per usual, special stages were present and felt familiar to past games.
Per usual, special stages were present and felt familiar to past games.

I recently read that the stage design for the Sonic games of this era was built upon the concept that the pathways on higher ground would lead to faster stage completion. These pathways contained more divided platforms and as such, allowed a smaller window of time to react, especially when zooming about at “Blast Processor” speeds. In other words, they required more skill. I’ve never been particularly skillful when it comes to these games, which is great since Knuckles’ Chaotix abandoned this approach. Instead, the stages felt more like those maze puzzles that have an entrance and an exit and task you with drawing a line connecting the two. When completed slowly and methodically, mistakes can be avoided but when you try to speed up, errors are made and backtracking is required. Unfortunately, this is a Sonic game and the concepts of “gotta go fast” and maze navigation don’t mix too well.

There was another option however.

The game had a variety of characters to play as but most played identically to Sonic, except for one...
The game had a variety of characters to play as but most played identically to Sonic, except for one…

The characters that make up Chaotix are a diverse bunch: Knuckles the Echidna, Mighty the Armadillo, Espio the Chameleon, Charmy Bee, and Vector the Crocodile. I take that back. They’re all Sonic clones with a unique move or two and they go just as fast as the “Blue Blur.” Well, except for Charmy Bee. Charmy is a bee and accordingly can fly. There isn’t an energy bar or stamina that needs to be considered either, he can just, fly. This impacted my playthrough in the following way: once this fact dawned on me I always chose Charmy and I would just fly to the exit or fly to the objective and then to the exit. Now this wasn’t a linear path I was on, I still had to navigate the confounding stages and believe me, when you ignore the actual platforms, they’re even more confounding. But, this was also the path of least resistance and I’d have been a fool not to take it.

As a result of Charmy Bee becoming my default character, I barely experienced Ring Power. I wasn’t dismayed by this. I spent about a quarter of my playthrough abiding by the platforming limitations requiring its use, but honestly, nothing comes to mind, outside of switches. All I can remember are stages that went vertical and doubled back way more than they should have and the tutorial which demonstrated a few of the ways Ring Power would be necessary. I can’t think of any times it was mandatory though, besides switches. It’s a novel idea, but one whose applications inside a game such as this seem limited and the implementation here didn’t call for it, making it practically nonexistent in my experience.

One of my favorite power-ups seemed to have inspired New Super Mario Bros.
One of my favorite power-ups seemed to have inspired New Super Mario Bros.

I’m not an expert on the first handful of Sonic the Hedgehog games, or any really (maybe Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (Chao man, Chao!)), but the stage design on display here was confounding. The prospect of taking the series – known for its speed – and putting characters with similar abilities in positions where the focus on speed is removed in exchange for labyrinth navigation is frustrating. Not only that, but they introduced a new mechanic and in the same game introduced a character who completely nullified it, let alone require its use (disregarding switches). There are enjoyable moments in this game, and it’s a worthwhile addition to a Sega 32X collection because of the add-on’s small library, but Knuckles’ Chaotix isn’t worth seeking out otherwise.

And… all the way down here is the link to my collected let’s play where you can witness firsthand my opinion of this game form.

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Random Game #24 – Sonic Riders [GameCube]

Sonic Riders

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

Before this came out, I thought it looked very interesting. I wasn’t super into Sonic at this point, but I had been previously, notably after the launch of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. I wound up forgoing this game, but a friend purchased it and we played a fair amount of it. I remember the controls being super sensitive, although imprecise. This didn’t make for an enjoyable experience, especially with a shrunken screen during multiplayer. More realistically, I just wasn’t as good as he was because he had the opportunity to play it more. My poor performance colored my impressions of the game, although I’d like to return to it and examine the single player component. I still think the game has cool look to it; in my mind, it’s very evocative of the time period it was released.

Sonic Riders was developed by Sonic Team, with assistance from NOW Production. It was released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube in North America on February 21, 2006 and published by Sega. A PC version was released later that year: November 17, 2006.

Beginnings

Before I dive into blogging I think an introductory post would be ideal, just so you, the reader, can get a handle on where I’m coming from when I talk about games. I thought this would be cool to do as a post rather than just stick it in the about section.

My first gaming experience was Christmas 1995. My parents bought me a Super Nintendo that came bundled with Killer Instinct. I was only six at the time and having never played a video game before, I just mashed buttons. I remember my mom being distressed about how bloody it was and wanting to sell it, even up until middle school; I also remember my uncle coming over and playing against me. I played a lot of games on the SNES and remember going to Blockbuster all the time and renting games, even searching years afterwards trying to buy the games I used to play. When I think of playing the SNES back then, these are the games I remember: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Family Feud, Goof Troop, Killer Instinct, Kirby Super Star, Ms. Pac-Man, NBA HangTime, Space Invaders, Super Star Wars, Tetris 2 and Top Gear.

My next system was the Game Boy Pocket which I received for my birthday in 1996 of 1997. All I had for it was Black Bass Lure Fishing and I really loved the game, it probably fueled my interest in fishing. It was my only game… until Pokemon Red and Blue came out. They were all the rage at school; the games, the cards, the TV show; I had to get a copy. Around this time I also bought a Game Boy Color, which I think I bought them both in the same trip, so this must’ve been late 1998 or early 1999. Pokemon games were really the only video games I cared about at the time and it was really all I had a Game Boy for. All the Pokemon I played shaped my interest and love for RPGs and I am still a Pokemaniac, though not as much as I used to be. Of course when Gold and Silver came out I had to get one of those as well. Even now I only own seven Game Boy Color games and four of them are Pokemon games.

Moving onwards, my next system was a Nintendo 64. My parents got this for me during Christmas 1998 or 1999. I got Mario Kart 64 and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron with it as well. My sister and I played lots of Mario Kart 64 and I played lots of Rogue Squadron. During this time I still rented a lot of games from Blockbuster and I remember renting a few but I don’t remember them well. I remember my first experience with GoldenEye 007 at a cousin’s house and playing N64 games at another cousin’s house. I played soccer all the time at this point and that was my focus along with Pokemon games, but towards the end of the N64 I started to get more into games. The games I really remember playing during this period are: 1080 Snowboarding, GoldenEye 007, Mario Kart 64, Micro Machines 64 Turbo, Paper Mario, Pokemon Stadium and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.

I’m going to say the next system I got was the GameCube. My parents got it for me for Christmas 2001 along with Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. I loved Rogue Leader and was amazed by the graphics but didn’t know what a memory card was so I had to buy one a week or two later. The next game I got was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and it’s one of my favorites on the system. Early on during this period was when I stopped renting games, I did rent a few for the GameCube but that was it. I also bought a Game Boy Advance in 2002 for Golden Sun and is just strengthened my burgeoning interest in video games. During this console cycle is when I became “hardcore” into games. I started reading gaming magazines often and browsing the internet. I’d have to say the GameCube is one of my favorite systems mostly because it’s the system I started to care about games on.

I won’t delve any deeper as this is already pretty long and it just gets more convoluted from here on out. I will mention I started to get into retro games around the GameCube era as I purchased an NES and Intellivision from garage sales as well as bought a PS2 and many other retro systems; this is really the period when I started to become a collector and an avid gamer.