Sonic 3Disappointment

The year is 1997, it’s June and my birthday has just passed by. I had received some money from my relatives and there was one thing, or one game rather that I wanted to spend it on. The game in question was Sonic 3D. I’m grew up a Sega kid and as a child I was obsessed with Sonic The Hedgehog. I had played the first three games of the franchise and couldn’t wait to see my videogame hero realised in 3D.

My mum took me to a videogame store and we searched for the Megadrive games. I almost immediately found Sonic 3D, but next to it sat two Sonic games that I hadn’t played before; Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Spinball. Both of these games combined cost the same price as Sonic 3D, which was the around the same amount of money that I had been given. Nevertheless, I wasn’t interested in either of these two games. I gazed upon the Sonic 3D boxart, the European version featured a picture of Sonic’s face bursting from the front of the case in three-dimensional glory. As someone who had only experienced 2D videogames up until this point, you can imagine as a child of 6 years old, how incredible this looked. My imagination began to race as I wondered how amazing this game would be.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-01-19 16-58-20

Sonic 2 is still near perfect today.

Mum had other ideas though. After a bit of stuttering, she told me to buy both Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Spinball instead. I guess as a parent she would rather me have two games to occupy myself with rather than one, and as a parent she also decided that this would be best value for money. I was disappointed, I had my heart set on Sonic 3D, but it wasn’t all bad as I still walked out of the store with two new Sonic games.

I don’t remember which game of the two that I played first, but I know I wasn’t blown away at all by Sonic Spinball. I just wasn’t really that interested in playing a pinball version of Sonic The Hedgehog, I also found the game to be incredibly difficult. I remember only overcoming the first level once as a child. Apart from the difficulty, another reason why I didn’t overcome the first level on more than one occasion was because the end of level boss scared the crap out of me! The boss was some kind of demented mechanical spider that had Dr. Robotnik’s odd face slapped on it, as a kid this unearthly creature was enough to give me nightmares.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-01-19 16-46-38

Just look at that face! Why would you do this to me Sega, why?

Sonic & Knuckles, on the other hand was incredible. With the ability to fly, climb and punch through walls, Knuckles immediately became my favourite character in the Sonic franchise. The game was more of the same great 2D Sonic that I had been accustomed to on the Megadrive. An incredible feature of Sonic & Knuckles is the lock-on feature. The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge has a hatch on top which allows other Megadrive games to be placed on top of it. When Sonic 2 or 3 are connected to the cartridge, it allows the player the ability to play as Knuckles in both of these games. It still amazes me today, that a game released in 1994 was able to incorporate the lock-on technology which Sonic & Knuckles featured.

Anyway, I carried on playing my family’s Megadrive until it was eventually replaced with a next-gen machine, and over time came to forget about Sonic 3D. Several years later I entered a video game store to see Sonic 3D on sale, for a very cheap price, for the PC. The childhood memories can flooding back, I decided to buy it. I finally got my hands on the game that had eluded me all those years ago.

After taking the game home and installing it on my family’s barely functioning PC, I couldn’t wait to see what I had missed out on. A couple of minutes into playing the game, it turned out that I hadn’t missed out on much at all. Sonic 3D felt like a Sonic game only in name. Even at my still relatively young age, it was obvious to me that Sega had sacrificed the brilliant Sonic gameplay of the 2D games to accommodate the new 3D level design. Instead of racing through a stage as Sonic, I was instead forced to skate around (Sonic controls like he is constantly on ice) in search of 5 Badniks, which I had to defeat in order to gather the Flickies that were caged inside of them. I then had to guide the Flickies to a large ring in order to set them free. The game is essentially one big fetch quest.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-01-19 17-11-56

I played Sonic 3D again briefly in preparation for this post. It’s still terrible.

The 3D visuals themselves also left a lot to be desired. The game wasn’t true 3D at all, instead the camera had been switched to an isometric view, so as to give the illusion of 3D. Of course I shouldn’t be too critical, as this was technically an impressive achievement in using the available hardware at the time, but the problem was that I had spent so much time as a kid imagining how incredible Sonic 3D would look and play, to only be greeted by such a poorly designed game. After experiencing the 3D special stages in Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, I thought that Sonic 3D would look like something which resembled those graphically appealing bonus levels.

After ten-to-twenty minutes of playtime, I gave up with Sonic 3-D, the game was extremely disappointing. If I had chosen to take Sonic 3D home instead of Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic Spinball, I think it would have likely been my most disappointing experience I would have had with a videogame. The same feeling manifested itself again a few years later when I played Sonic R. Instead of buying a Saturn, my family’s next console after the megadrive was a PS1. After seeing an advert for Sonic R, a 3D sonic racing game, I wanted that game more than anything. Again, like Sonic 3D, I purchased Sonic R a few years later on the PC, to find it to be a pretty terrible game.

I doubt that my mum stopped me from purchasing Sonic 3D because she knew it was a bad game, the same goes for not buying a Saturn and getting Sonic R. The most important thing though is that on both occasions she made the right decision in not allowing me to have either of those games, and it was only a few years later when I discovered this for myself. So this leads me to ask you, have you ever encountered a similar situation, whereby you’ve purchased a game that you once desperately wanted, after some time had passed since it’s release, only to find it to not be what you had imagined it to be at all?



  1. Even though she didn’t know it at the time, your mum really came through. Nice!

    I too had a similar experience with Sonic CD – I was older than you at the time, but was still really excited to get everyone’s favorite blue ball of speed zipping around in 3D …

    Yep – I had the same let down you did (I was able to rent the game). I remember thinking something like “I must be doing it wrong.”

    Sonic & Knuckles! Such an amazing game. So glad you got that when you did.

    Great post and one more thing – have you played Sonic CD? That was a game a recently played and has really held up well. It came out about 20 years ago and I loved it 🙂


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I was fortunate Sonic 3D came with about 40 others on this collection on the XBox 360, so I wasn’t out much in terms of money when I suffered through it. It may have shortened my lifespan a little, though. Terrible game.


  2. Hatm0nster says:

    I remember getting similarly burned with Too Human on Xbox 360. It had been advertised as this amazing sci-fi epic set in a universe where the Norse gods were actually these highly advanced cyborgs and all of the mysticism found in the lore was translated into cyberspace and technological analogues. The combat was supposed to be engaging, the story was supposed to be something different, the characters were supposed to be interesting, and the world captivating. …It was nonei of those things. It was absolutely awful. The worst game I ever bought.

    Side note: you might think I’m crazy, but I actually enjoyed Sonic 3D Blast. Mastered it as a kid, still have the cartridge. It’s definitely not a *Sonic* game, but it’s always had an appeal. As a kid it was the pseudo-3D visuals and unexpected gameplay (it was fun to explore), as an adult, I think it’s mostly nostalgia. Still, actually like it.

    Also, I agree that Sonic Spinball is awful, got it on Wii Virtual Console awhile back and struglled to get to the 3rd level. Hard and frustrating!


    1. joshorne says:

      I completely agree with you on Too Human being bad. A couple of years ago I found it in a videogame store pre-owned, I didn’t know much about the game beforehand but from the box-art it looked quite cool, so I thought I’d give it a go. As you said, it was awful. The combat was boring, the levels never seemed to end, and the extremely lengthy death animation of the player character which you have to endure over and over again was extremely frustrating.

      I don’t think you’re crazy, Sonic 3-D does seem to be a love it or hate it game with most people. I also enjoyed the exploration, being able to find Knuckles or Tails in a level and paying them rings in order to enter a special stage was a clever idea. Although it’s not for me, I can appreciate it’s appeal.

      What do you think of the Sonic Adventure games? They seem to quite similar to Sonic 3D in that a lot of fans think they are amazing games, whilst others don’t really enjoy them.

      I played Sonic Spinball again yesterday and could only make it to the second level. I don’t think I’ve ever seen what the third level looks like!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hatm0nster says:

        With the exception of Sonic Generations, the Sonic Adventure games were the only 3D Sonic game I enjoyed. There was certainly some clunkiness to them, but they were quite fun nonetheless. They aren’t timeless like Sonic 2 or Sonic and Knuckles, but are decent enough.


  3. Matt says:

    I tried really hard to like that game when I was younger, but I could never do it. I am on the same boat as you, Sonic Spinball kicked my ass when I was a kid.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I played Sonic Spinball, too. It really was difficult. I never was good at pinball. I can’t time things right, and the ball, or in this case, Sonic, basically went the same direction no matter how many times I tried to direct him somewhere else. But, if my reward for my efforts was a terrifying spider-Eggman boss, I think I’m glad I couldn’t get through the game.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. cary says:

    Epic Mickey 2. Definitely Epic Mickey 2. I loved the first Epic Mickey to a fault, and it took me awhile to get round to its sequel. The second game was a sad, souless, and extremely frustrating experience.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      It’s always a shame when we love a game, and the sequel disappoints. Bad games seem to have good sequels, while good games have bad sequels. If I ever check out Epic Mickey, I’ll stick to the first.


  5. dean mozian says:

    There are a bunch of games like that for me but I haven’t gone back to play them: All of the Crysis games and Far Cry 2 and 3 (though I will be getting FC4).


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I used to buy games based off of movies I enjoyed. They were always disappointing. I don’t buy those kinds of games anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. duckofindeed says:

    I first played the original Sonic games on a friend’s Sega Genesis, and I eventually got those games for myself when I got the Sega Genesis Collection on the Xbox 360, and this collection included all the games you mentioned. And you’re right, Sonic 3D was horrible. And that weird camera angle made jumping onto things with any real accuracy impossible. I did somehow finish it, though I’m not sure why I bothered putting myself through such suffering. I thought Spinball was fun, but I didn’t really want to play a pinball version of Sonic, either. I don’t know if I ever reached the final boss, but he does look rather frightening.

    As for whether or not I’ve bought a game I really wanted, only to find it was bad…Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, for example. I loved the first two games, but this one was a huge disappointment.


  7. Dean says:

    Was reading this for the second time! I love the title of this review!!


  8. bz says:

    I’ve had a (sort of) similar experience.

    I’ve heard about Sonic 3D as a kid. This was either pre-internet or dial-up internet times. I’ve only seen the cover somewhere and my imagination kicked off. Sonic in 3D!! How exciting!!

    I couldn’t really get any Mega Drive (Genesis) games in my town, however my dad went on a business trip and, after a lot of begging, brought me back a copy of Sonic 3D. I was over the moon!

    I’m looking at the back of the box. Okay, this isometric levels looks weird, maybe it’s just a camera angle, but there’s a 3D level shown there (the special stage). Oh boy this is gonna be gooooood. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

    I’m inserting the cartridge, the epic intro commences (it _was_ impressive at the time).

    Game starts.

    What the f**k is this.

    I was really disappointed. The game turned out to be something completely different from what I’ve expected. After some time though I grew to enjoy it to a degree, so in the end it wasn’t too bad. But I’ve definitely experienced that day one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I played this game when I got the Sega Genesis Collection on the XBox 360, and I was not a fan at all. I hated that weird camera angle. I always missed platforms that way. It was frustrating.


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