Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sonic the Hedgehog: Pocket Adventure (Neo Geo Pocket)

You have to feel sorry for SNK and their Neo Geo Pocket console. It was looking so good. They had a wonderful console that boasted more power than the Gameboy Colour yet had far better battery life. They even managed to tempt some third parties to publish for their console. However they just could not compete with the juggernaut that Pokémon became. Sonic the Hedgehog on the Neo Geo Pocket was a surprise third party release for the Neo Geo Pocket and is to my knowledge the first time Sonic had appeared on a non Sega console. I’m sure the fact that the Neo Geo Pocket could link with the Dreamcast sweetened the deal but it was still a miraculous coup for SNK to have such a big franchise appear on their fledgling handheld.

The usual 'Green Hill Zone' stage starts everything off.
Many people label Sonic Pocket Adventure as a port of Sonic 2. They would be mistaken; Pocket Adventure is a unique sonic game. The game’s looks borrow heavily from Sonic 2. If you have played that game you will have a strong feeling of déjà vu. However the level design is completely different. Art assets look like downscaled versions of Sonic 2’s art and the borrowing doesn’t stop there. All the music is taken from Sonic 3. It’s a bit of a bizarre combination when you hear Sonic 3 music over a level that looks like it came from Sonic 2. Of course there are chaos emeralds to collect. The special stage is accessed by finishing Act 1 with 50 rings, ala Sonic 1. The special stage is ripped straight out of Sonic 2, which were my favourite Sonic special stages. What I don’t like is how fiendishly difficult these stages are and the fact that there’s only one chance in each zone to collect a chaos emerald.

In terms of visuals the special stages are more than a match for its Megadrive cousin

 Pocket Adventure was developed by Dimps, the same team that would later go on to create the Sonic Advance games for the GBA. It plays remarkably close to the Megadrive games it is based on but unfortunately falls foul to the same mishaps as the Advance games. Maybe it’s the development team or the diminutive size of the NGP and GBA screens. Pocket Adventure’ just like the Advance games’ is filled with leaps of faith and pitfalls that aren’t avoidable without the power to see into the future. It becomes more prevalent as the game advances. It’s not enough to ruin the game but enough to annoy. Mostly the level design is pretty good.

The Neo Geo Pocket hasn’t got many platform games and Sonic Pocket Adventure would definitely be one of the best. It’s fast, plays remarkably close to the Megadrive games and looks gorgeous. It’s definitely worth picking up and is relatively cheap even in the gorgeous PAL mini MVS case version. 

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