What a Rush

I talk a lot about Nintendo games, for obvious reasons, but I do like to play games/series made by other companies.  One such series I enjoy is the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise made by Sega.  Sonic games are some the most entertaining platformers out there, and my only regret about the series is that I did not start playing the games earlier than I did.

I've played a good number of Sonic games.  I've played a handful of the older ones, a lot of the games made after the series' re-desisn at the turn of the century, and one or two of the most recent installments.  All(most) of them were fun and entertaining, but to me, the Sonic game that best demonstrates the best elementss of the series would be Sonic Rush for the Nintendo DS.

Sonic Rush best exemplifies the core design principles of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.  This game is all about speed, speed and speed.  Sonic games earned their popularity because they put a focus on how fast the character was moving.  While the early games on the Sega Genesis did a fairly good job of delivering the high-speed gameplay, they were not perfect.  And unfortunately of building on what they learned from the first games, the developers of the series made several attempts to change or "update" the games' formulas, characters and image instead of perfecting the gameplay.  That is why games like Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Unleashed exist.

The main premise, I believe, of any Sonic game should be to reach the end of the level as quickly as possible, taking advantage of the character's extreme speed.  There should be few, if any, itteruptions of momentum and movement, with an emphasis being placed on testing the player's ability to navigate a stage at maximum velocity.  Too few Sonic games seem to pull this off, which is why I love Sonic Rush as much as I do.

Everything about Sonic Rush, the levels, the characters, the music and even the enemies are designed to give the sense of speed.  There may only be a few levels in the game, but they are custom-built to strengthen the fun factor you experience from them. They also have a high level of replayability.  I myself have spent hours playing one level again and again, either to beat my fastest score of completion, earn extra lives, find secrets, or just plain beat the map.  Some of the later levels do present a challenge, but most of them have a fun and exhilarating pace.

Look to the first area of the game, Leaf Zone, for proof of this games splendor.  From the get go you thrown into the faced-paced nature of Sonic Rush.  The first level of Leaf Zone (brilliantly) introduces you to main gameplay elements.  You get a feel for the pacing of the levels, The characters' (There are two playable characters, Sonic the Hedgehog and Blaze the Cat) controls, interactions with enemies, and most importantly, the use of both of the DS's screens.  Twice the screen space does indeed equal twice the fun.  It also means twice the speed.  More screen space equals more of the level for you to move through quickly.

The intensity of Sonic Rush only increases as you progress through the game, with each zone incrementally stepping things up.  Before long you become fully immersed in the world of Sonic, which is the world of speed.  The levels are also amazing due to their themes and how they interpret them.  Sonic Rush behaves traditionally with its zones, because most of the are based on stages seen in older Sonic games, which actually further supports the idea that this game is trying to emulate and improve upon them.

The interpretation of these themes are what help Sonic Rush stand apart.  In the years since the first Sonic games, Sonic as a character as become mucher more "edgy."  His character was all about extreme speed, even though his games missed their mark quite often.  In Sonic Rush, the developers took this new, extreme version of Sonic and used him to make useful features which helped boost the gameplay further.  Every level is about pushing Sonic to the limit, and promoting his "cool guy" persona.  What this means for us is levels that are designed to make you move, and move you do.  It's what every Sonic should have been doing.

Sonic Rush does everything right, there's no other way to put it.  If you can find a copy of the game and are in any way a Sonic or platformer fan, I highly suggest buying it.  You won't be disappointed.  The game is true to its name.  It's a rush.


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