Is this game a blast from the past, or does its age show?
Release Date: March 15, 2012
Score: 2.9 / 5
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Sonic fan, and always have been even before Sonic the Hedgehog 3 existed. As a child, I remember seeing commercials for Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble on Game Gear, and being fascinated by the idea of going up against three different villains. Nearly twenty years later, I’ve finally obtained the ability to play it on the 3DS Virtual Console, and unfortunately, the experience isn’t exactly what I was expecting.
You’ll never really interact with the story in this game, though there is one to be found if you do some research. In this title, Dr. Robotnik has built an Atomic Destroyer device, but while testing it he accidentally scattered the Chaos Emeralds all over the world; Sonic and Tails go out to find them, as does Knuckles the Echidna. Also entering the fray is a character who has never been seen since, the thief Back the Weasel, who wants to sell the Emeralds. Again, though, you’ll never interact with the story in any reasonable way; the only thing you need to know is that the enemy is to the right, and is vulnerable to attacks from spherical creatures.
If there’s one thing that you absolutely cannot mess up when making a Sonic game, it’s the physics, and that’s unfortunately where this game stumbles. Sonic has a sort of floaty jump arc, and it’s not really clear when he’s going to make it up to a platform and when he’s not. Worse than that, however, is how easily Sonic can lose momentum when he encounters a slope. In the original games, it’s no problem for Sonic to run around a loop if he’s going fast enough, but in Triple Trouble, if you’ve forgotten to roll into a ball, you’ll just barely clear the top, assuming you make it up there at all. Getting places is overall more of a pain than it needs to be. Playing as Tails offsets this somewhat, since he can fly for a limited period of time, but this movement is also slow, which is something a Sonic game should not be.
The levels are designed fairly well for the most part (with the glaring exception of the game’s token water level). If you’re just aiming to get yourself to the end of the level, running forward usually takes you on a fun path through the level, without losing too much momentum in the process. There are some instances, especially in later levels, where it’s not exactly clear how to get where you need to go, but this never got really bothersome until the final level.
Where things stop going so smoothly, however, is when you try to explore the levels further, in search of the special stages. Getting anywhere specific is a serious chore, as there are lots of springs and crumbling platforms in the way, to make sure your job of exploring is a difficult one. If you want to see the game’s end credits, or even have the game last longer than an hour or two, you’ll want to track these levels down, a highly annoying task. The ability to use a restore point helps with this somewhat, if you manage to track down the location of a special stage container.
The special stages themselves come in two flavors. The first is a 2D side-scrolling level, filled with springs and acting more or less as a timed maze. These are fairly fun, but tricky to get through, and once again the restore point ends up being quite helpful. The other is a pseudo-3D biplane level, where you fly the Tornado biplane through the air and attempt to collect 80 rings. This section is more annoying, as I felt like I wasn’t collecting rings that I should have been. Each special stage, like the normal stages, ends with a boss battle, and just like the normal stages, they’re completely uninspired and lacking in challenge, with only one or two exceptions. The bosses are probably the biggest disappointment in this game.
The presentation is about as good as the Game Gear was able to produce, back in the day. The 3DS offers several screen customization and resolution options, including one where the game is played in its original size, with the surrounding area occupied by a 3D rendition of an actual Game Gear. You can also create and load restore points, as well as change button configurations around. As for the game itself, it’s rather bright and colorful, and the levels are generally attractive and well-designed from an aesthetic point of view. The music, while immediately forgettable, is pleasant to listen to and a good accompaniment to the game; the sound effects can be a bit grating after a while, though.
Overall, I’d have to say this game isn’t quite inspired. It feels like a game that should have been much better than it is, but the details get in the way and make the experience a bit more shallow. It speaks to the limitations of the Game Gear when such well-designed physics can’t translate from a console to a portable. If you’re looking for a platformer you can somewhat mindlessly dash through, or if you’re a big Sonic fan, Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble might be the game for you. There are markedly better platformers on the eShop, though, and I can’t say I would recommend this game over something like Super Mario Land 2. If you really need a Game Gear game, give Dragon Crystal a try instead.
Thanks to SEGA for giving us the code for a review copy!