Sunday, July 6, 2014

GAME REVIEW: Sonic Chaos (Game Gear/Master System)

"I see it comin' down all over town, it's chaos!"

Ah, my first (completed) Let's Play subject ever. I've played both versions of it repeatedly, but never thought to review it at the end of the LP (I guess it took Rockapalooza to make me consider reviews of my own).

Sonic Chaos is definitely among of the better-regarded pre-Dreamcast Sonic outings that wasn't on the Genesis. It was on Game Gear and the Sega Master System. While most people in North America didn't own a SMS (unlike Europe and Brazil), they would have been much more likely to have played this game on Game Gear. It was a pretty gimmicky handheld that was done in by a bulky design and bad battery-life brought about through giving the platform a color screen. Playtime was eventually extended through the release of power adaptors... defeating the purpose of its status as a portable system. I know this because I owned a Game Gear as a kid long before I owned a Game Boy Color.

I always found myself coming back to this one and Sonic Triple Trouble more than the ludicrously difficult 8-bit Sonic 2 (both of which I hope to review in the future). Personally, I like to consider S-Chaos the immediate sequel to 8-bit S-2.

Sadly, these are just some entries that people easily overlook in favor of the newer ones coming out. I want to rectify it and turn a little limelight on these games, starting with this one.


Dr. Eggman has gotten his hands on the Red Chaos Emerald and wants to use it to make nuclear weapons. This, somehow causes the other five (there aren't seven Chaos Emeralds in 8-bit Sonic games, just six) to be sent into pocket dimensions (read: Special Stages). The disappearance of the gems has made South Island unstable and the country is slowly sinking into the sea. It's up to Sonic and Tails to bring the Chaos Emeralds back and stop Eggman's schemes.


Controls follow the classic 2D Sonic formula, which I think we're all familiar with: turning into balls when you jump, running through stages as quickly as you can manage, collecting rings for extra lives and hit-protection etc.

When starting the game up, you have the option of playing either Sonic or Tails. While Tails can fly (yeah, thought S3&K was the first game to give you that ability? WRONG!), Sonic gets his somewhat useless Super Spin Dash (or Figure-8 Peel-Out, as some call it).

Control aside, another difference between the two is gameplay styles. As Sonic you have the task of finding the Chaos Emeralds. To do so, you must collect one hundred rings in the first and second Acts of each Zone (Which is kind of a drawback in terms of pacing... but you can find groups of 10-Ring monitors pretty often). Getting one hundred will send you to a Special Stage where you have to find the Emerald before time runs out. The first three are absolutely nothing to write home about, five is kind of annoying, but four is HUGE and you have JUST enough time to reach the end.

Tails is pretty much the Easy Mode. You don't have to do the Emerald hunt.

The typical Monitor power-ups are here: 10-Rings, Speed Boosts, 1-Ups, Invincibility, and (exclusive to Sonic's story) Rocket Boots. Rocket Boots allow you to take to the air for about five seconds to reach rows of rings and platforms; these are replaced with 10-Ring monitors.

There are also spring shoes

Also, Dr. Eggman doesn't fight you at the end of every Zone -- he sends out bigger robots for you to smash up. This isn't unique to this game; 8-bit S-2 did it before and Triple Trouble would do it next. Personally, I kind of like this idea because some of the robots in these games look pretty funky!

At the end of Acts 1 and 2, you get the bonus panel from the previous games:

  • Flicky (replacing Eggman) gives no bonus.
  • A ring adds ten extra rings to your counter (providing your rings are a multiple of ten)
  • Sonic gives a 1-Up if you play as Sonic and an extra continue for Tails.
  • Tails does the reverse of the Sonic.
  • A blank panel lets you spin again.

In terms of difficulty things get a bit spotty. Most of the levels are pretty easy, but it was really hard for me to hold onto my rings when fighting boss #2 and beyond. But the difficulty REAAALLY spikes when you get to Dr. Eggman.

Eggy shows up in this bipedal mecha that shoots fireballs and REALLY CHEAP ricochet lasers. Plus, it takes forever to beat him in this part of the fight, but when the top part detaches... converts into a high-speed mode that kills you in one hit, rings or no rings, unless you can hit it square on the head. After that, you chase him away. If you have all five Emeralds as Sonic, he drops the red one. The end. Roll credits.


Maybe it's not as spiffy as the Genesis games, but S-Chaos looks good. The sprites look pretty cool (especially some of the bosses), but the levels blow them away. For some reason, just looking at these stages makes me think of stuff from other Sonic outings: 

  • Turquoise Hill is like the offspring of Green Hill and Emerald Hill (the comparison to the latter is helped by a pathetically easy boss). 
  • Gigapolis reminds me of Chemical Plant without all the inclines. 
  • Sleeping Egg makes me think of a drained Aquatic Ruin. 
  • Mecha Green Hill is a fusion of regular Green Hill and Oil Ocean. 
  • Aqua Planet is basically a straightforward version of Aqua Lake from 8-bit S-2.
  • Electric Egg makes me think of S3&K's Death Egg (despite coming out after this game).  
While I like the foreground graphics, sometimes the backgrounds get criticized for being somewhat minimalistic. Well, it's an 8-bit handheld game from the first half of the 90's. It was no big deal for me, plus I believe we had a little animation in the skies of Gigapolis and Aqua Planet and in Electric Egg's background!

Minor variations occurred when the game shifted from console to handheld: Mecha Green Hill's background went from green to orange (giving it a Scrap Brain Act 1/Oil Ocean feel).


The graphics are fine for my buck, but the music is solid as a rock -- especially on the Game Gear's version. I'm guessing it might have had another sound channel or something. It's because of the Game Gear soundtrack that I keep thinking of Chemical Plant when playing Gigapolis:

It's most likely the beginning part that does it.

Another musical variation occurs in the Special Stages: the first, second, and fourth on the Game Gear were given this somewhat fast-paced, adventurous feel while three and five retained the Master System version.

We also have a variation on the always-epic "You Can Do Anything":

If you put in the code for the sound test, you'd be able to hear an unused track (that was rumored to be for the credits):

Why this wasn't used, I don't know. But it would eventually! For you see in Japan, S-Chaos is called Sonic & Tails and Triple Trouble is called Sonic & Tails 2.


Would you also believe that S-Chaos, in addition to being the predecessor to Triple Trouble, is also its testbed? Yep. You're playing a prototype! TVTropes mentioned stuff like clunky physics, but I never noticed. They also claimed that the stages were short and had lacked enemies. I'll concede to the first point, but regarding the enemies, maybe they were SLIGHTLY less frequent than in its predecessor but there were still a few hazards in the levels. All things considered, it might be one of the better marketed Betas!

The heaviest criticism that I actually have for this game is the difficulty. For the most part, it's a pushover for seasoned gamers, especially as Tails. But that last boss is a doozy!

The music and graphics can serve as a buffer for some of its deficiencies. Ultimately, though, this game should mostly serve as a tutorial for those starting to get into classic Sonic or just have an hour or two to waste. The choice is yours to play or skip.

I'm DLAbaoaqu. Full-on!

Sonic Chaos is owned by SEGA and Aspect

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