Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble

The Game Gear was Sega’s attempt to compete with Nintendo’s wildly popular Game Boy handheld console. As such, it produced some interesting results throughout the years.

The hardware, which unlike Nintendo’s offering, had a color screen, was based on the 8-bit Sega Master System. Because of that, many games shared similarities if not the exact same software between the two consoles.

Sonic The Hedgehog is one of those titles, which was the exact same on both 8-bit platforms. Subsequent sequels, however, were exclusive to Game Gear as the Master System was retired in various territories, including North America.

Five Sonic games were eventually published for the Game Gear, with Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble being the fourth: and worst.

I had previously praised some of these 8-bit Sonic games as clever platformers, original in ways to work around hardware limitations – such as there being no loops in “Sonic 1”, for example. However, Triple Trouble falls incredibly flat on its face as one of the more gimmicky and difficult Sonic games ever created.

All of the same premises exist: collect rings, stop Dr. Robotnik, and do so by moving rapidly through non-linear stages. You can play as Sonic or Tails in this game, as Knuckles makes an appearance after the recently released Sonic 3 on the Sega Genesis.

So, why didn’t I care for this game, you may ask?

To be honest, it starts strongly. Everything feels at home as a Sonic title. There’s even some added power-ups such as rockets and snowboards that appear to fit in the Sonic spectrum.

Then you get to the first boss battle and realize this game is stupid difficult due to cheap cheating mechanics.

Should you play beyond this the issues become worse.

After playing two acts of any given zone, the third act is a mini stage before encountering the boss. I assume this is designed this way due to load time and RAM limitation on the hardware.

No big deal, except the developers tend to hide rings on these stages. No rings? Then you die!

Yeah, it’s kind of like that, except then the acts get bogus too.

Clear paths are hard to decipher, and some of the boosted jumping mechanics become hard to pull off as well. By the time you get to the snowboarding level, you’re already fed up with falling into death traps, and hopefully you haven’t lost too many lives where you have to start all over.

A water level is just as frustrating, with the usual underwater air issue: Sonic drowns to death without air, but bubbles don’t automatically populate and the timer seems to be really fast too.

By the time you get through all of this you’d just as rather toss the Game Gear across the room than actually finish this game. In fact, I’m wondering if kids of yesteryear even had enough battery life to make it all the way through?!

It’s a shame, because graphically the game is impressive. The audio is also superb for its time and limitations. The controls, aside from the added quirks mentioned, are the usual Sonic fare.

But the “new” concepts brought in with the idiotic level and boss designs make this one of the more challenging Sonic games to beat. And that’s saying it lightly if this game could be beat with the way it was intentionally handicapped for a challenge, rather than making it a challenge.

You’ve been warned!

Sonic Blast

Nearly all of the Sonic The Hedgehog games on Sega’s Game Gear were subpar efforts.

However, aside from the first one (which plays like a through and through 8-bit platformer and not really “Sonic”) Sonic Blast is the only other game worth anyone’s time.

At that, it wasn’t the bee’s knees compared to the Genesis counterparts.

The game play was far better than the previous Sonic iterations. (Which wasn’t hard seeing as two of them were downright unplayable.)

This game was short and sweet, and carried over concepts from the Genesis releases – but for some odd reason Sega’s developers chose to use faux 3-D sprites for Sonic and the enemies, on 8-bit tech.

It looks fugly at best and really distracts from the core game.

Sonic fans will no doubt want to re-live this, but for the common retro gamer you’ll be alright sitting this one out.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear)

For the most part, Sonic the Hedgehog games on Sega’s handheld Game Gear console are a forgotten gem.

However, the 8-bit sequel to the excellent first Sonic game on the handheld quite frankly sucks.

That may not even be a generous term – and it’s also lame that Sega named the first and second games identically to their siblings on the Genesis!

While Sonic 2 on the Genesis was a fantastic follow-up in the series, Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was riddled with issues. Oddly, this title came out before the Genesis version, which meant it was the real debut of Sonic’s buddy Tails.

The premise is the same: it’s a platformer. Collect rings (which you can recover some of after being hit, unlike the first game) and defeat the bad guys.

It’s the extras added to this game that make it awful. Sonic has an ability to smash through certain walls, but you have to know when and where to use this. Gimmicks such as a ridable mine cart and a hang glider are introduced too.

And that’s where the removal of checkpoints along with these gimmicks makes the game incredibly frustrating. The hang glider is impossible to use. Even in the case of using save states, several areas took quite the stitching together of well-timed pauses in order to continue across gaps.

If you die? Then you start over at the beginning of the stage.

The game is riddled with all sorts of cheap ways to die: random spikes you’d never know are there, impossible paths to backtrack, and you know right away something’s off because Act 3 of the first Zone has Dr. Robotnik carry you to a hillside a la the Sarlacc Pit in Return of the Jedi, where you avoid sliding to your instant death while other instant kill bombs bounce down the hill toward the, um, enemy.

The very next Zone sees you nearly meet your maker as soon as it starts, with bridges that collapse and spikes at the bottom of the pit.    Giant air bubbles to float around to higher areas of certain levels offer a pretty crappy “challenge” too. Another underwater level starts with next to know air bubbles in which to avoid death either.

It’s quite shameful that the developers thought any of this was a good idea, but it gets “better” when you realize you cannot rescue Tails unless you follow a specific path of getting all six emeralds – one is hidden within each of the five zones.

In the sixth zone you must earn it by beating the zone’s boss and hopefully, you did well and your game doesn’t end right there – that’s right, if you don’t get the emeralds, you cannot access the final zone and rescue Tails.

The game simply ends… maybe mercifully.

Several of the bosses are very challenging in a sense of there’s not enough screen real estate to properly battle them, leading to more cheap defeats and having to do a lot of work over again.

If you read my part about the gimmicks above, then you can sense the pattern of wanting to thrown the Game Gear across the room. (One zone is appropriately named “Gimmick Mountain” in what may be a nod of how craptastic this game is!)

Another consideration in this era of playing the game versus back in the day: I’m not sure how anyone had enough battery life to actually complete the game unless you were a ridiculously good pro video game player.

Hard games were a way of life for an 80’s child growing up, but dumb and buggy games are another story. I only recommend someone check out this game to see the insanity for themselves. Otherwise, this is one of the Sonic games you can definitely skip.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

When Sega introduced Sonic The Hedgehog it knew they finally had their “Mario Killer” for the Genesis console.

But how do you follow up a great game with an equally great sequel? It doesn’t always happen, but Team Sonic was able to capture lightning in a bottle and improve the Sonic formula further.

This platformer continues the speed run inspiration of the first game, actually ratcheting up the animation to be even faster. It’s most famously known for introducing Sonic’s companion, Tails, to the genre – who can be controlled by a second player, and also offers help/hints when Sonic gets stuck.

The graphics of this game are better than its predecessor, as anticipated, along with another catchy soundtrack.

The “spin dash” is also introduced in this game, where holding down on the D-pad along with another button, curls our favorite blue character into a spinning ball which helps accelerate him into objects or jumpstarts his running about the stage.

As a noted Mario fanatic, coming over to Sonic was a bit of a culture shock in ways. Stages aren’t always linear, as Sonic can often complete a level by going up or down through it, and sometimes requiring a backtrack in from right to left, much unlike the very structured left-to-right, mostly single paths of his Nintendo competition.

Once you have this figured out, it’s memorizing threats in a stage which comes next, such as jumping into spikes or lava, or getting trapped in water where you once again perish if you don’t come up for air after so long (which happens to be my biggest pet peeve in the entire series, because this Hedgehog just doesn’t jump or swim very well!)

Other elements, such as capturing rings, remains. So long as Sonic has 1 ring on him, and takes damage, he doesn’t technically die (unless you fall into an instant death situation of being pinched between objects, such as a ceiling, fall into the abyss or, of course, drown).

Regardless, these shortcomings were nothing such back in the 90’s when video games still presented some impossible challenges. Sonic had a heavy replay value and mastering it took some quick reflexes. It’s no wonder the sequel is one of the best-selling Genesis games of all time.

If you haven’t played it, or haven’t in a while, Sonic 2 is perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy retro gaming.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

At my household we decided to dust off an old relic of an accessory known as the Wii Balance Board. In doing so, we started looking up games which supported this century’s version of the NES Power Pad… and in doing so, we found a game that was a blast to play, with or without the accessory!

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is something you’d look twice and shake your head at if you were a time traveler from the 1990’s. No one ever envisioned Nintendo’s main mascot pairing up with the face of their competition. Furthermore, I doubt anyone ever saw the duo teaming up on for an Olympic-themed game.

Yet, all of these oddities come together and simply work. Much like Nintendo’s foray into the kart racing genre, Mario & Sonic really clicks with a well-known cast of characters from both series in a number of events that transcend demographics.

I’m the least bit interested in figure skating, for example, but seeing how it works with the motion controls of a Wiimote and/or the balance board, made for quite the experience. In some cases, you could even get a nice workout in playing each of these events.

While some of the events do not use the board, the ones that do don’t always feel like a tacked on gimmick. Snowboarding even has you turn the board vertically, as to stand on an actual snowboard and shift your weight.

There are many events to try out (as seen in the images below) and most of them are well-balanced and play fairly for anyone picking up the game. It’s likely the most accessible Wii game outside of Wii Sports – so yes, even grandma can give freestyle skiing a try!

The graphics are somewhat dated now if you’re playing the SD Wii console on an HDTV/4K TV, but aside from that technical hurdle, Mario and Sonic could be the definitive balance board game for the console. I highly recommend it, especially if you have someone to share laughs with: it makes for a great inclusion on a game night.

Sonic Advance 2

The cartoony Game Boy Advance version of Sonic The Hedgehog received a sequel with Sonic Advance 2: a larger, faster, and much more difficult Sonic game than its predecessor.

As before, Dr. Eggman did something or other evil, and it’s up to you, playing Sonic, to run around stages and foil his plans.

Good luck in trying, as several bosses are borderline impossible to beat! Even using cheats, it was hard to get past them and that’s saying something for a handheld console directly marketed to kids. Geesh!

There are several different playable characters, which I suppose enhances the replay value of this game, but let’s fact it: you really don’t want to tackle this title without Sonic.

The graphics and sound give this game a general Sonic-like feel, but as with the first game, the overall style still reminds me of Sonic stuffed into a Saturday morning cartoon. However, for the retro-completionist in me, I felt compelled to play this game and I wasn’t sorely disappointed (save for the aforementioned difficulty – which I’m not the only one who felt this way according to reviews!)

If you feel the same way, then I recommend checking this game out. However, it still feels like a marginal upgrade to the first game and nowhere near the same experience as my favorite Sonic title to date, Sonic CD on the Sega CD console.

Sonic Advance

This game restored my faith in the Sonic franchise.

The last “great” Sonic game I had played along my adventures was Sonic CD. Naturally, that came after the three Genesis titles and the Sonic & Knuckles add-on, which were all stellar.

Then came the (five) horrid Game Gear titles, which were mostly 8-bit bastards of their Genesis parents. Those games ranged from super easy to stupid difficult to beat. (There was no in-between!)

Most of that was due to awful programming with controls or smashing things onto a small Game Gear screen.

Imagine my surprise when I got my hands on the Game Boy Advance’s Sonic Advance. It was the first-ever Sonic game to be released on a Nintendo platform following Sega bowing out of the console wars.

In Sonic Advance, you can play as Sonic, Knuckles, or Amy. The graphics are altered for the Game Boy Advance and are an upgrade over the old 8-bit and 16-bit titles, with the exception of my personal preference of not liking the cartoonish art direction, especially with the main characters themselves.

Nearly everything else follows the same formula: each zone has two acts, you collect rings, fight a boss and/or “Eggman”, etc.. The game is brief but satisfying, with many nods to other games in the series (no spoilers!)

I urge any Sonic fans to check this out.

I, myself, can’t wait to check out the sequels.

Sonic the Hedgehog

I want to get this out in front: the Game Gear versions of Sonic the Hedgehog are not the same titles which were originally seen on the Sega Genesis. The confusion lies in the not-so-original naming scheme. For whatever reason, Sega published the titles under the same exact names (in most cases) as their Genesis siblings. Therefore, there are two Sonic the Hedgehog titles, however, they are not the same.

To further muddy the waters, there are also two editions of this same Sonic the Hedgehog “not Genesis” title, which were ported to both the Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System.


Obviously, the game didn’t have the same visuals as the 16-bit Genesis version, but even in the 8-bit world of the Game Gear (and the Master System, which is near identical) this title holds up very well. In fact, to the uneducated, had you handed them the 8-bit Sonic first and then had them play the 16-bit Genesis version, they’d feel like a natural progression in the series.

However, the Genesis version released six months earlier, making it the first in the series.

According to WikiPedia:

A version of Sonic the Hedgehog was developed by Ancient and released in late 1991 for Sega’s 8-bit consoles, the Master System and Game Gear. Its plot and gameplay mechanics are similar to the 16-bit version, though some level themes and digital assets are different and Chaos Emeralds are scattered throughout levels rather than special stages.

Gameplay as a whole is simplified; the level design is flatter and has a larger focus on exploration, with no vertical loops, and Sonic cannot re-collect his rings after being hit. The game has a different soundtrack composed by Yuzo Koshiro, which includes adaptations of music from the original version.

It was the final game released for the Master System in North America.

While this may seem like an oddity, it’s definitely worth playing. The content isn’t a ripped-off version from the Genesis. The two games share similarities, just like Mario games have over different platforms throughout the years. It also has enough original content to make it feel fresh, even though it’s a short game.

This first version is an excellent 8-bit rendition that feels like a prequel to the Sonic series and therefore, one I recommend any retro game puts on their bucket list.

Sonic CD

Another one off the bucket list… Sonic CD!

Never owning any Sega consoles growing up, I had an itch to finally sit down and play through all of the Sonic games starting with the first four on the Genesis and then their Game Gear counterparts.

I can see now why this game had to be re-released on other consoles later, because it was so far ahead of its time. Graphically it was superior to every other Sonic game. It built on mechanics introduced in the others while adding a high replay value “time travel” element to it.

It also has a pretty killer 90’s inspired soundtrack that, while sounding dated at times, still holds up in other ways.

My favorite of the Sonic series thus far… that and the final board of Sonic & Knuckles!

Sonic the Hedgehog

Having not owned Sega consoles growing up I have a new appreciation of this series. The three-button Genesis controller layout was so foreign to me and I don’t think I ever quite had enough time to sit and understand how the Sonic games worked.

Going back and playing them now, I absolutely love them… at times.

Spikes, lava, and randomly placed cheap obstacles (enemies who make you lose all of your rings) definitely makes me think of other games of this era. It’s not always a bad thing and adds to the challenge of simply speeding through each board as fast as possible. (A gripe of mine with some of the Game Gear iterations, which are NOT ports despite sharing the same name with may of their Genesis siblings.)

The first Sonic is definitely groundbreaking. Graphically, it looks as if it pushes the boundaries of the Genesis hardware while giving the “blast processing” myth some credence with the fast-paced gameplay.

Once you have the hang of things, the game isn’t extremely difficult to defeat. It’s on par with Super Mario Bros. as far as platforms are concerned, which isn’t a wonder why Sonic became the face of Sega for the better part of the 90’s.