Sonic the Hedgehog has had a long and mostly successful history on handheld consoles. He’s appeared in titles on the Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, Nintendo DS and even the PlayStation Portable. If it can fit in your pocket, Sonic and his friends have probably been on it. And these weren’t ports of existing console games, they were completely original games. The Advance series, the Rush series, the Rivals series, each of these went to great lengths to differentiate themselves from the console Sonic games. One major way that they did this was by featuring 2d gameplay. As the series attempted to evolve into 3d, Sonic fans were still able to get their 2d platforming fix on their handhelds, and for a while these were the only Sonic games that were considered good. So why don’t we get original Sonic titles on our handhelds anymore?
For the past couple of years, the only handheld Sonic titles that we’ve been given are little brother versions of the console games. Sonic Colors, Generations and Lost World all had handheld counterparts. While these handheld versions tried to showcase how unique they were, they still ended up feeling kinda cheap compared to the console games. Colors DS is pretty good, but I don’t like it as much as the two previous Sonic Rush games. Generations 3DS isn’t bad, just really boring. And I don’t think I need to say much about Lost World 3DS. Why did this start happening? Well, the simple answer is money. Nintendo handhelds specifically have always printed money, and when you combine that with a franchise as popular as Sonic, you’ve got gold. In addition, the aforementioned trio of handheld games feel like they lack the polish of previous ones, specifically the Advance series, and probably were given lower budgets and development time to boot.
One could argue that the reason that we no longer receive proper original handheld Sonic games anymore is because they have jumped ship to mobile. Sonic Jump, Dash and Runners are all original Sonic games created for smartphones, each with varying levels of success. Jump is kinda fun, but was ultimately overshadowed by the much better Sonic Dash. Runners has the most fun and addicting gameplay, but ended up becoming riddled with its own set of issues. (Quick aside, I haven’t heard anybody talk about Sonic Dash 2 since it launched). This creates a best of both worlds scenario for Sega. They can make handheld counterparts on the cheap that are still likely to sell well, and also make original mobile games that will make money off of ads and micro-transactions.
Recently, there has been one major outlier to my issue with how handheld Sonic games are being handled, and that is Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal. At first glance, it seems to have the exact same problem I mentioned with Colors, Generations and Lost World. This being that it plays second fiddle to a console counterpart. But Shattered Crystal, in spite of its problems, at the very least is a step in the right direction for me. Shattered Crystal shares a world and characters with Rise of Lyric, but features a unique story and gameplay style. Heck, with Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice on the horizon, it seems like the 3DS could become the central hub for the Sonic Boom games.
Even though the Sonic Boom 3DS games are a step in the right direction for me in terms of featuring original gameplay, I don’t feel like they solve the problem. Personally, I’d like to see Sonic on handhelds return to the Advance days. Each game in the Sonic Advance trilogy is really good. Even Advance 3, in spite of its myriad problems, still manages to have a few high points. As much as I love the Rush games, I don’t really need my 2d Sonic to have a boost. I prefer to maintain perfect control in 2d Sonic games, and earn my speed from taking advantage of the terrain and Sonic’s physics. I want Sonic and his friends with classic 2d gameplay on the 3DS and Vita. I want interesting and unique levels like Music Plant from Advance 2, and Water Palace from Rush. I want new shield power ups, special stages and super forms. Huh, I guess I’m basically just asking for a classic Sonic game. Heck, I’d settle for an Advance Collection at this point.
Are you a fan of any of the Sonic handheld games? Are you looking forward to Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice? Well let me know in the comments, and make sure you follow me on Twitter to stay updated on new posts. Thanks for reading, and make sure you have an awesome day!