Opinion: No, Earthbound hasn’t been added to Nintendo Switch Online yet. Yes, the world will continue to turn.

Nintendo recently announced the latest slate of free NES and SNES games to come to Nintendo Switch Online, the company’s online subscription service, which include games such as Joe and Mac, Magical Drop II (which looks especially fun), and Spanky’s Question. And, quite naturally/to nobody’s surprise, this led to Earthbound (also known as Mother 2 in Japan) trending on Twitter. As usual.

It feels like Earthbound trends on Twitter at least once a month, either due to fans clamoring for Mother 3 to finally get localized, or due to fans begging Nintendo to at least make the game available on the Nintendo Switch. And, while I can’t blame fans for wanting these games to be made accessible on what could easily become Nintendo’s best selling console of all time, I honestly am starting to feel oddly exhausted by their constant requests.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would love to play Earthbound on the Switch. Part of what’s keeping me from picking it up for my Wii U or simply emulating it is the prospect of being able to play it on handheld mode/on my TV at a moments notice. But there’s something about the way people online react to any new NSO games that simply bums me out.

Taking a look at Nintendo’s YouTube upload that announces these new games, you can see that (approximately 12 hours after it’s been posted), the video has already received more dislikes than likes on it. And while I’m perfectly fine with people speaking their mind about these new releases and (especially as a person whose day job is in tech) think that’s is actually really important that we tell companies how we feel about their product decisions, I also can’t help but roll my eyes at how many of the negative comments on this video/Nintendo’s tweets about the new games are squarely about Earthbound.

Nintendo fans have long been passionate about the company’s IPs. After all, Nintendo has played a huge part in the history of gaming and has, for the most part, remained one of the first things people associate with the industry. But something about the discourse that comes to a boil whenever Nintendo does anything for NSO that isn’t releasing Earthbound for SNES online feels entitled at best, and kinda toxic at worst. It often feels like, anytime someone tries to defend Nintendo’s decision not to re-release the game, they’re often ratio’d in the comments and are repeatedly and, at least a little ironically, referred to as “Nintendrones” that blindly love anything the company does.

I get being passionate about Earthbound and wanting to make sure Nintendo does right by the series, but something about how that’s actually been going in practice just rubs me the wrong way. As I mentioned earlier, I’d actually love to see Earthbound make its way to the Nintendo Switch, either through Nintendo Switch Online or even through a “definitive” rerelease on the eShop that adds a few quality of life improvements and such. It’s one of their seminal games and, poor sales history aside, deserves the same attention that some of Nintendo’s other franchises gets. Point blank, that’s not really up for debate. It’s just that so much of the vitriol that seeps into the Nintendo-fandom anytime Nintendo doesn’t re-release the game comes across as childish and lessens the impact of the genuinely well articulated conversation online about how much people would love to play the game on their Switches.

On top of that, Earthbound isn’t even the the only seminal/iconic game to go without a much-needed re-release. Take Sonic 3 & Knuckles for instance; that game has gone without a meaningful rerelease in what has to be at least 10 years now, due to licensing issues over it’s music. Despite arguably being the best Sonic game and being one of the hallmark/best selling/most important releases on the Sega Genesis, it’s basically been ignored by Sega on any of their recent compilations or mini-consoles. In fact, Sega has only just seemingly gotten their act together about rereleasing the game if rumors of a new Sonic compilation are to be believed. And much like with Sonic 3, which is at least still available via an emulated PC release on Steam, there are at least other ways to play Earthbound, such as on the Wii U or New Nintendo 3DS Virtual Consoles, and via emulation.

Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t really owe us anything here. The company is free to rerelease whatever games they choose to, just as they’re free to hold off on localizing Mother 3, delist Mario anniversary titles, and shut down fan projects. It sucks and is potentially a little anti-consumer, but they are well within their rights here.

I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with being upset about all of these things, but I do draw the line at being a dick about it online, especially when some of us are pretty psyched about some of the games Nintendo is adding to the service. While none of these new games are iconic 90’s classics, by any stretch of the word, I’m actually pretty excited to give Joe and Mac a shot. I’ve heard pretty decent things about it over the years and playing it on my Switch is just the push I needed to actually give it a shot. I also think that Magical Drop II also looks pretty fun, especially because I’ve been on a serious puzzle game spree lately.

I, perhaps naively, look at Nintendo Switch Online’s retro offerings as a bit like going to a restaurant for the first time. I may not be familiar with everything on the menu and may not find the particular dish that I’m looking for, but there are some old standby’s like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario World available for me when I’m feeling less adventurous, as well as a bunch of more obscure things that I might enjoy if I give them a chance. And much like a restaurant that doesn’t cater to my particular palette or adhere to my dietary restrictions, I’m also free to leave at any time.

At the end of the day, Nintendo really should get to adding Earthbound to the Switch in some way, shape, or form. There’s no denying that and I’ve even joked about it on my post about why the Nintendo Switch is my favorite console of all time. And while I see/understand how frustrated we all are about it, in no small part due to how infuriatingly vocal Twitter gets about it without getting much of any sort of acknowledgement from Nintendo themselves, I just think we should reassess the way we make our feelings heard on the subject. Because what a lot of us are currently doing, which feels more like huffing, puffing, and stopping short of a temper tantrum clearly isn’t working.


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Opinion: Is Secret of Mana (SNES) too long for it’s own good?

Released in 1993 for the SNES/Super Famicom, Secret of Mana is arguably one of the greatest games of all time. It follows a sprawling and charming story, features addictive three player multiplayer gameplay, and has one of the greatest soundtracks to ever grace a video game. Simply put, I think Secret of Mana is fantastic and has aged particularly well. Sure, it’s a fairly buggy game with a very simple story and gameplay loop, but it’s extremely fun to hop into and play through nonetheless.

However, I recently came to a conclusion about this classic JRPG that I feel needs to be explored. And, don’t get me wrong, I say this with the utmost respect and love for the game and feel like I’m about to commit a warcrime with this simple suggestion, but hear me out:

Secret of Mana (also known as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan) might be too damn long.

I picked up Secret of Mana last spring and begun to play through it on my Nintendo Switch via the wonderful Chronicles of Mana collection. And, after booting it up for the first time, I immediately fell in love with the game. Everything about it jumped out at me as being extremely playful and whimsical, and it quickly earned a spot amongst my favorite SNES games.

But something happened to me along the way. The further I got into the game, the more I begun to feel fatigued by my adventure. Now I’m no stranger to RPG burnout; I am very familiar with getting worn down by how long games in this genre usually are. It’s why I haven’t beaten games like Fallout: New Vegas or Persona 4 yet. Hell, it’s why it took me close to 6 months to beat Final Fantasy IX for the first time last year, despite it being my favorite game of all time. These adventures tend to take place within drawn out and meticulously detailed narratives. While I’m usually somewhat deterred from the genre due to how long these games are, I’m often happy with the games I do end up playing because of how their extended playtimes encourage deep theming and a comprehensive lore.

Which brings me back to Secret of Mana. As a real-time action RPG, it has a lot more flair to it than it’s contemporary turn-based adventures. This results in the game feeling a lot more action packed and, generally faster paced than those adventures too. However, Secret of Mana also has the same length issue that I have with other roleplaying games despite this, having an adventure that is approximately 30 hours long for most players. Sure, it’s shorter than something like Final Fantasy IV or the SNES’s Dragon Quest installments, but I can’t help but feel like it somehow feels longer. This may be due to Secret of Mana being a decidedly simpler and easier to pick up experience that, especially when compared to the aforementioned RPGs, doesn’t really concern itself with its storytelling or trying to give its characters all that much depth.

While I don’t have anything against the game choosing to keep things accessible in that regard, quite the contrary honestly as I picked SoM up expecting this/initially picked it up as an in-between game for after I had completed Final Fantasy IX last year, I do think that the adventure being as long as it is doesn’t do the plot any favors (and vice versa).

Once games start to pass the 15 hour mark, I usually begin to need a reason to want to stick around for the rest of the adventure. Whether it be due to enjoying the plot itself and wanting to see how it unfolds, being attached to the characters, or being offered any other sort of compelling reason to keep playing, there needs to be something that justifies that length.

And, unfortunately, I simply don’t think Secret of Mana has that. At about 15 hours into the adventure, the game goes from being a linear experience to being more open world after you get the ability to call Flammie; while this is a huge sign of progression in the game and does technically shake things up. Only, the game opening itself up and becoming more exploratory doesn’t really do it any favors for me; I was perfectly content being told where to go and following a linear path to that location. Being told to now fly and navigate an open world (without an in-game map) just doesn’t click for me, because so much of the adventure up to this point revolved around combat and following the story. And while the game has really fun combat, I just didn’t see myself wanting to troubleshoot my way to the next dungeon/story beat in order to fight new enemies to face up against.

At the end of the day, I love Secret of Mana. I can’t say that enough. But I also need to be honest with myself when I say that it lost my attention due to how long it is. And unfortunately, this also extends to it’s sequel, Trials of Mana, which runs into nearly the same exact problem halfway through that adventure. Both Secret and Trials of Mana (specifically the remake for the latter of the two) were two of my favorite games that I played in 2020. In the time of a worldwide pandemic and suffering through chronic illness, I found refuge from the stresses of the world in both of these titles. And while I have nothing but love and affection for them/look back at my time playing both of these games rather fondly, I just don’t see myself coming back to them to finish those adventures.

At least not for a while…


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Collection of Mana – Nintendo Switch

Trials of Mana – Nintendo Switch


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Opinion: Yes, Tetris 99 and Pac-Man 99 are worth a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.

Tetris 99 and Pac-Man 99 are worth the price of admission for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.

There, I said it. For the longest time, whenever someone would state that the only game they played on Nintendo’s ill-received online service was Tetris 99 (and now the newly released Pac-man variant), I’d roll my eyes somewhat dismissively. Those statements have always struck me as a little sensationalist, a little butt-hurt, or simply exaggerated; it’s as if the player were stating that there weren’t any other good online experiences to be had on Nintendo’s hybrid console, or as if $20 a year was simply too much for what we got.

Personally, I’ve never subscribed to that idea. In fact, I believe that NSO has a great value proposition for its price point. The ability to play dozens of classic NES and SNES games anywhere I want, while also offering the ability to play modern Nintendo staples like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Splatoon 2 with friends over the internet? How is that not worth a measly $20 a year?

But recently, I’ve begun to view this rhetoric a bit differently. I haven’t changed my position on the value of Nintendo Switch Online though. In fact, I’d say that newer Switch releases like the hugely successful Monster Hunter Rise, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, and the recent port of Apex Legends raise the value of that $20 subscription greatly. What I guess I’m saying though is that I’m beginning to view this statement as less a condemnation of Nintendo Switch Online and more as a compliment towards the service’s free/retro themed Battle Royale games. I’m sure that many of the people saying this do intend this to be a statement made to the detriment of Nintendo Switch Online, but from where I stand, having a Nintendo Switch and paying $20 a year with the specific intention of accessing the current pair of 99 games is actually a good use of that money.

What I’ve found is that both of these games offer a seemingly endless amount of fun within their, admittedly simple, premises and remain constantly engaging over a long period of time. While I use my Nintendo Switch for a lot more than just these two games, or the now delisted Super Mario Bros 35, I also find myself putting a solid hour or so into either of these games almost every night. It’s actually a bit of a ritual for me to boil myself a strong cup of tea, grab some pretzels or popcorn, and put on a comforting show like The Office or Scrubs to listen to while I play Tetris 99. And, ever since Pac-Man 99 hit the scene, that game has also become a staple for that ritual. I’ve spent countless hours trying to win at these games lately and personally find the experience greatly satisfying, even though I’m awful at both of these of these games. And I honestly don’t see that changing anytime soon, as. these games have an extremely simple and addictive gameplay loop.

Nintendo Switch Online gets a lot of flack for not offering a lot of the features found on Xbox Live or the Playstation Network, and a lot of the criticism it gets is valid. It’s library of bundled games are limited to title that are almost at least 30 years old, it doesn’t get many free games added to it’s library, and the service itself doesn’t offer standard features like voice chat or messaging outside of its companion mobile app that even Nintendo seems to have forgotten even exists in the first place. But at $20, is that really that big of a deal? It’s definitely backwards of Nintendo to still be this hesitant to go all in on this whole internet fad thing, but doesn’t the relatively low price offset how bare bones this is?

I’m all for asking Nintendo to do better, but does the service really not fit the charge? If many of us can agree that the value of a game isn’t decided by the amount of content there is on it or how long the game takes to beat, why are we trying to argue that getting a subscription service to play its killer app is a bad thing? Didn’t the original Xbox only really take off due to the monumental success of Halo? And didn’t many of us or at least someone we know pick up a Wii to play Wii Sports? How is this any different? If anything, due to the amount of tender being exchanged here, this is more like paying for a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu to watch one of our favorites shows than it is spending several hundred dollars on a piece of hardware to play a single game. At the very least, it’s at least similar to the dozens of people I went to high school with who had paid for Xbox Live to seemingly only play Call of Duty or Halo multiplayer with their subscription.

I guess the point I was trying to convey with this article is that there isn’t anything wrong with only having NSO to play either Tetris 99 or Pac-Man 99. So long as you’re having a good time with the software, who cares if it’s attached to Nintendo Switch Online or any other online service? Content is a very subjective thing, so while you may think it’s somewhat bogus to pay $20 a year to play these two games, others may find that it’s actually a great bargain. You do also get access to additional goodies by being a subscriber, so if you’re concerned about whether or not it’s worth the price tag, you could always try playing some of the free retro games Nintendo gives you, or try playing some of your other Switch games online.

If someone held a gun to my head and told me that I had to choose between getting rid of my NSO subscription or continue to stay subscribed but only be allowed to access Tetris 99 and Pac-Man 99 with it, I’d honestly be fine with that. I’d be confused why this guy had a gun to my head, sure, but I wouldn’t be that frustrated about only being allowed to play those games.

Granted, I would also miss being able to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s multiplayer and Panel De Pon.


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Nintendo Switch Online 12-Month Individual Membership [Digital Code]


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Retro Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Ages/Sega Genesis) – Does It Hold Up?

How do you replace a B-tier corporate mascot with a character that has somehow become equal parts beloved and derided? 

Well, you start by drawing a needle mouse.

Sonic the Hedgehog was released for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in June 1991. Created by programmer Yuji Naka and designer Naoto Oshima, the game follows it’s titular character on a quest through six zones to save the animals of South Island from the nefarious Dr. Robotnik, as he tries to collect the six, soon to be retconned to seven, chaos emeralds in order to harness their power for evil.

Upon it’s release, Sonic the Hedgehog would go on to garner massive success and would quickly be established as the flagship title to beat on Sega’s 16-bit hardware. It’s formula would go on to be iterated in sequels released in the following years, it would go on to receive multiple cartoon adaptations in the 1990’s alone, and would even lead to Sonic becoming the first video game character to ever appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, beating out established video game icons like Mario or Pacman, in the process. Simply put, Sonic was everywhere in the early 90’s, and it all started with this very first game.

2021 marks the 30th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog and, as such, I thought it’d be a great idea to revisit his first game, especially since it’s something near and dear to my heart. While some have come forward over the years saying that the classic Sonic games were never that good, or that Sonic the Hedgehog is an incredibly overrated title, I respectfully disagree.

Call it nostalgia, call it a poor and potentially unrefined taste in games, but I think that Sonic the Hedgehog is a banger. An imperfect and pretty flawed one, yes, but a banger nonetheless and one that has earned its reputation quite well.


I grew up playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my family’s Sega Genesis as a kid and, back then, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. In fact, my affection for the Genesis era Sonic games is pretty well documented. For starters, Sonic is one of the few video game characters that I actually own merch for and is my favorite fictional character of all time. In fact, a couple of years ago, I was tasked with talking about my favorite video game characters of all time for a gaming web series I had secured a screentest for and I basically used it as a jumping off point for an improvised monologue about how much Sonic the Hedgehog means to me as a fictional character. 

So… Yeah, I like Sonic. A lot.

And while there’s no denying my love for Sonic the Hedgehog, or as I like to call him, Sonic the Hedge-boy, I can’t help but wonder whether his inaugural adventure is still worth playing today, not just when compared to his other, both refined and unrefined 2-D adventures, but in general. Because if you ask me, Sonic the Hedgehog is a great game… But does it hold up?

However, because this game has been covered by just about everyone on YouTube already in staggeringly great detail, I’m going to approach this review a little differently than usual. Instead of playing the original Genesis release, I’m going to be focussing on the Sega Ages version for the Nintendo Switch, which is my preferred way to play the game these days. I’m well aware of the incredible mobile port this game got several years ago, but I’ve always preferred my Sonic games in 4:3, as well as love the convenience of being able to easily play this game on a TV. The different versions of the game are all fairly similar though and are all fine ways to play this game; I just prefer the Switch version over the reasons I listed just a second ago, as well as the inclusion of both Sonic’s spin and dropdash, which I’ll dive into a bit of detail over in just a bit.

GAMEPLAY

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis)

Sonic the Hedgehog is a franchise best known for its speed and, upon entering the iconic Green Hill Zone, it’s easy to see why. The game employs momentum based platforming with incredible results, often allowing players to get launched into the air and bounce off of enemies like they’re springs if you’re moving fast enough. This first area is a literal playground for the player, who can use it as such in order to grow acquainted with the controls and physics. Fixating on this game’s physics for a second, it’s a huge part of what makes the Genesis Sonic games so good. If you compare this game to other mascot platformers that came out around this time, you can see how this game’s incredible sense of motion and weight make it so engaging. For example, a character like Bubsy the Bobcat may be able to move around as fast as Sonic in his games, but does feel as intuitive or fun, whereas here things are a lot smoother, outside of moments of noticeable and soul crushing slow down.

I’ve been playing through Green Hill Zone regularly since I was 3 or 4 and, in that time, I’ve never grown tired of it. While other introductory levels in Sonic games have also been a lot of fun (shoutout to Emerald Coast in Sonic Adventure for being my other favorite first level in a Sonic game), nothing beats what’s available on this level. In fact, I may even go as far as to say that Green Hill Zone is the perfect encapsulation of what a Sonic level should be. It’s incredibly spacious and open ended, allowing you to explore the stage and it’s multiple routes without getting trapped in too many samey areas or getting lost. It balances linearity with an opened ended design that encourages the player to put in multiple playthroughs. On top of that, it establishes what I believe is another good precedent for good Sonic level design, a relatively low difficulty level that’ll allow players to complete the level without much fuss if they’re careful, but also allow them to blaze through the level quickly and make things a tiny bit harder in the process.

If it sounds at all like I’m focussing in on Green Hill Zone too much, it’s for good reason, as a number of other reviewers and players have come to the conclusion that it’s basically the high point of this game, and that everything that comes after it is has a noticeable drop in quality. And, unfortunately, they’re right, though not to the extent that I think they make it out to be, especially when you bring the games several upgraded re-releases into account.

Once you beat Green Hill Zone, you’re tasked with clearing Marble Zone and are exposed to what many consider Sonic 1’s crucial flaw. Waiting. The game suddenly shifts from a speed based platformer and becomes a more standard and linear adventure. While it does occasionally return to the more open ended and speed-based design of Green Hill Zone, such as in the delightfully pinballish Spring Yard Zone,  a lot of the game plays out in a more methodical and typical fashion, forcing you to wait for platforms to move, wait for armored and spiked enemies to turn away from you so that you can attack, and avoiding traps that may as well be bottomless pits.

At any rate, the shift in design philosophy is jarring to say the least, but is also fairly tolerable. While I would’ve liked to keep moving through these levels and could’ve done without pushing blocks or riding them through lava, I also kinda understand where Sega was coming from with this. After all, this was the first Sonic game; it’s not like they knew what worked or didn’t yet, and I can’t really blame them for not wanting to fully commit to the design philosophy of something like Green Hill Zone. I mean, I do think that’s kinda weird given how Green Hill Zone is the literal video game manifestation of the addictiveness of nicotine, but I get it. Decades after this games initial release, it’s easy to point at Sonic 2, 3 and Knuckles as being the games to play if you’re looking for all Green Hill design, all the time, Sonic 1 feels more unique because of these slower moments, even if they ultimately hurt the experience. I won’t argue that these moments are great or anything, but I do need to at least acknowledge that, Labyrinth Zone aside, they aren’t that bad. They’re heavy on traditional platformer elements, sure, but Sonic is a platformer and, as such, does need those elements. I do understand how they could’ve just been integrated into the parts of other stages instead of getting their own levels like in the sequels, but I’d also hardly call it a reason to avoid this game outright. Also, I honestly was never that bothered by it during my most recent playthrough, in part due to the quality of life updates that the inclusion of the spin and dropdash make the Sega Ages release. 

You see, the Nintendo Switch’s Sega Ages version of Sonic the Hedgehog adds the ability to perform the spindash from Sonic 2 and the drop dash from Sonic Mania, two abilities that give Sonic the ability to blast off at full speed at nearly any given moment. While the guys over at M2, the company that handled bringing this release to life, probably intended for these moves to be there as a way to bring Sonic 1 up to snuff with his younger counterparts, it also serves as an incredible quality of life update that, at best, makes Sonic 1 funner than ever and, at worst, completely breaks the game and undoes the design of it’s slower levels. For example, knowing where and how to use the spin dash in Marble Zone allows you to skip some of those marble riding segments. And in Labyrinth zone, being able to use the drop dash allows you to clear the underwater segments much faster, and with less fuss than you would otherwise. Labyrinth Zone is still a hassle and by far the low point of the game for me, but being able to parkour your way through it with the spindash does make for an easier experience.

Is that a bad thing? Eh, kinda. It goes against what those levels were designed for and makes them play a bit more like something from Sonic 2 or 3, which is honestly a good thing as, like I mentioned earlier, those games owe a lot more of their structure to the design philosophy of Green Hill zone. On the other hand though, it also makes Sonic 1 feel less unique because, for the longest time, it was the Sonic game that didn’t have Sonic’s signature attack in it. It also goes in the face of the ideas that these stages were originally built around and the philosophy of the game. Still, it’s a welcome quality of life improvement and I’m ultimately happy with this inclusion as it does improve the experience for newcomers and, for those of us returning to this game for the millionth time, gives us a new way to enjoy the adventure and explore these levels. The appeal of these added abilities is somewhat similar to the appeal of the mobile ports being in widescreen, I suppose. That’s another example of a quality of life update being implemented that improves the experience overall, but also somewhat muddles the original design specs of the game. I personally prefer my Sonic games in 4:3 and wasn’t all that titillated by the 16:9 presentation of the mobile remasters, but I do see their appeal. 

One of the other things that I always hear about Sonic 1 is that it’s boss battles are way too easy. While I also consider this to be true about a lot of the boss battles in Sonic 2 or 3, I’ve also never been particularly bothered by this fact. I’ve always looked at boss battles in Sonic games as being more ceremonial than anything and as also being more of a way to vary the gameplay as opposed to being a skill check for your reflexes and problem solving skills. As for the designs of these boss battles, they’re nothing to write home about but are also charming in their own way. This could just be nostalgia talking though, and I won’t refute the fact that it’s kinda hard for me not to factor that in a little bit, so your mileage on this games design philosophy and boss battles may vary.

There are also special stages that you can play through in order to score extra continues and one of the six chaos emeralds, which are required to get the game’s good ending. It’s… fine? Special stages in subsequent Sonic games would prove to be a lot more fun but this isn’t all that bad for what it is and showcases a rotating stage gimmick that is equal parts cool and impressive for the Sega Genesis. I also dig the fish design in the background. Yeah, that’s about it.

But overall, this first Sonic game plays quite well, albeit nowhere near as well as I remembered it playing. The game just feels like the first installment in a series at points, suffering from more slowdown and moments of general bugginess than it’s follow ups would. It never got to be that frustrating for me though and is usually pretty funny, but I could see how this could turn some players off from the game. Me personally though, I was more than able to live with the games stranger and somewhat unrefined moments.

VISUALS

But now, onto the visuals. Sonic the Hedgehog has what has to be one of my favorite video game art styles of all time. It was heavily influenced by early CGI, which means that everything feels angular and rigid. The use of color in this game is also stupendous. Being the first game in the series, you can really feel how unrestrained the team was when they came up with locals of South Island. Spring Yard Zone feels like it’s part of  a seedy techno metropolis, and the mountains in the background of the stage make me imagine that it’s located in the middle of a canyon of sorts. Likewise, Green Hill Zone takes place in wide open fields that have a checkerboard design everywhere and harshly polygonal trees. It’s kinda easy to overlook all of this after seeing this stage so many times over the years, but I imagine that this game had to have been really visually striking when it first came out, especially when it comes to Green Hill Zone, which has multiple layers of parallax scrolling and a bright, vibrant color palette. That’s not to say that the other levels don’t look good either, though. Each of the game’s six zones are visually unique and mostly fall in line with that early CGI aesthetic I described earlier, which firmly establishes a strong 80s vibe for the game, which I find really visually appealing. I also like how the game seems to take place over the course of a day, beginning in the morning or middle of the afternoon in Green Hill Zone, and gradually playing out until you’re running through Star Light Zone at night. While it’s a relatively minor detail that I honestly just noticed 20 or so years into playing this game, it makes for a nice bit of world building. And, as for the games character designs, they’re all full of personality and a cutsie 80’s charm that makes them a delight to look at. I really love the enemy designs from Sonic 1 in particular, as everything looks relatively cute and unthreatening in a way that reflects the fact that there are cute innocent animals trapped inside of them that are in need of rescue. Other Sonic games also do this, sure, but there’s something to the enemy designs in this game specifically that really bring this idea home for me. I also think that the game’s reliance on a CGI aesthetic helps bring home this idea that the beautiful scenery of South Island has been distorted and turned astray by Dr. Robotnik’s antics. 

MUSIC

Musically, Sonic the Hedgehog bops. The music was done by Masato Nakamura, the bassist from the 80s and 90s J-pop band Dreams Come True. His contribution to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise seriously can’t go without enough praise as, and I kid you not, they are loaded with iconic and memorable songs. Outside of the music for Labyrinth Zone, which is only alright, each of the games tracks are top notch 16 bit tunes. They’re so good that just over a year ago, right before the first worldwide lockdowns sprang up due to Covid, I would often listen to his Sonic music, and Dreams Come True, on the way to work in Manhattan each morning. And, because I used to be way too into being active for my own good, that means that I would walk a total of something like 4 or 5 miles listening to Nakamura music. So much of the music for Sonic 1 feels celebratory and joyous to me, especially Starlight Zone. It’s a running gag that Sonic games always have good music in them and, with a first soundtrack as genuinely good and consistent as this one, it’s easy to see why, and I honestly don’t have much that I can say about Sonic music that hasn’t been said already. If you love the soundtrack to Sonic 1 and want to hear more music like it, I highly recommend checking out Dreams Come True. Their music is insanely catchy and you can totally hear shades of Sonic-like music in it, especially in Nakamura’s late 80s and early 90s baselines for the band.

CLOSING

So does Sonic the Hedgehog hold up? I’ve already said it’s a great game and you’ve heard me spend a bit of time gushing about the game, so I think that you already know the answer to that question. 

Of course it does.

It’s one of the most iconic video games of all time for a reason. I’d be crazy not to agree with some of this games detractors from over the years that it’s a little rough around the edges and doesn’t have as much going for it as it’s immediate sequels do, but I still believe that this is a fantastic game with a lot of appeal left in it. You know, outside of Labyrinth Zone, which is no good.

Sonic the Hedgehog’s appeal is apparent from the opening moments of the game. The games use of momentum and physics based platforming is incredibly addictive and fun to goof around with. And while the game deviates from this type of gameplay as early as the second zone, the game does return to it in great effect in acts like Spring Yard and Starlight Zone. Additionally, the presence of the spin dash and drop dash in the Sega Ages port of the game help rectify the issue of slower gameplay, and gives seasoned players new tools to enjoy the game.

While Sonic 2 and 3 certainly refined what this game did right and trimmed some of the fat off of what it did wrong, I highly recommend this game to newcomers of the franchise. Would I recommend it as the first Sonic game to play? Probably not, as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 offers, in my opinion, the definitive vintage Sonic experience. But I do think that this game somehow attained a worse reputation than it deserves over the years and that it represents a very unique moment in Sega’s history. It’s kinda hard to imagine these days, but Sonic the Hedgehog was everywhere back in the day and his games genuinely represented a type of exhilarating gameplay that Mario simply didn’t offer players. There’s also something inherently fun and playful about the character’s bratty do-good nature that I’ve always found insanely appealing.

So if you’ve never played Sonic the Hedgehog before and are thinking of giving his games a go, I highly recommend giving this game a shot at some point. It’s an extremely common game that has been ported, to varying degrees of success, to a number of consoles over the year and is often available for anywhere from $5-10. It also is available for free on mobile in widescreen, albeit with ads. 


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SEGA AGES Sonic The Hedgehog – Nintendo Switch [Digital Code] (Reviewed in this article)

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Opinion: The Nintendo Switch is the best console of all time.

When people ask what console I spend the most time on, I almost always reply by telling them that it’s the Switch. Four years into its lifecycle, it’d be easy to assume that the Nintendo Switch is on its last legs. And, especially with all of the rumors about a Super Nintendo Switch/Nintendo Switch Pro that have been circulating for the past year or two, that may actually be true. But regardless of whether or not the Nintendo Switch feels a little underpowered when compared to the Xbox Series X or Playstation 5, there’s no denying how outright incredible the console and its games itself are. 

While I’ve only had my Switch for just under two years now, the console has become a piece of hardware that I can’t live without. In fact, I’d actually go as far as to suggest that the Nintendo Switch is actually my favorite console of all time and consider it as the best value on the market these days for gamers looking to invest in a new console.

So today, I’m going to round up 5 reasons why my Switch is so beloved, as well as why non-Switch owners should consider jumping on the Nintendo Switch bandwagon, regardless of whether or not that’s via the current Nintendo Switch, a Nintendo Switch Lite, or any new-fangled Super-Dooper-Nintendo-Switch-Fami-Pro-Cube-U. 

Console Experiences on the Go

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For a lot of gamers, the Nintendo Switch signified the moment that portable and home gaming properly converged. It was the first time that gamers could take near-perfect representations of games like Borderlands 2 or Final Fantasy X/X-2 on the go without needing to compromise on the games graphics or performance. That’s not to knock consoles like the PS Vita which had both of those games and, to-date, the most convenient way to play Persona 4 (come on Atlus, bring it to the Switch already), but the Nintendo Switch was the first time that playing those games on the go didn’t feel like a compromised experience. 

For the longest time, I always held the belief that taking console experiences on the go was a fairly futile endeavor. I based this opinion off my experiences with playing console games portability as a kid, which came in the form of playing my N64 on the DVD player in my parents childhood van, playing ports of games like Super Mario 64 or Ridge Racer 64 on my Nintendo DS, or playing games that were heavily modeled after their console counterparts such as Star Wars Battlefront Renegade Squadron or Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on the PSP.

And, honestly, those early experiences with those games tended to always disappoint me. I always ended up wishing I could just play those games on a normal TV or take advantage of the added buttons/form factor of a standard controller. And it was actually because of this that I ended up sleeping on how great the Nintendo DS was for a long time, as those N64 ports were the first and only games I had for the console for a while and I couldn’t shake the feeling that their original releases were more enjoyable.

But that all changed when I got the Nintendo Switch. It’s form factor and ability to migrate between portable and TV play at your own leisure means that I can enjoy the game on a TV whenever I want to. And it also means that I can take that game on the go or play it portably when I want to, for example, passively play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or grind on Final Fantasy VII while I watch Netflix.

While it’s true that multiplatform games, and even titles that are exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, can take a pretty noticeable hit when going from docked to handheld mode, the fact that massive and beloved games like The Witcher 3, the Outerworlds, or Doom Eternal can even run on a handheld is honestly pretty incredible. And while you are trading performance and visuals for these games in order to get them running on the Switch, it’s still pretty awesome that the option of playing them on a hybrid console exists to begin with.

Controller Accessibility 

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Building off of that, I’m also a huge fan of the fact that nearly any bluetooth or wired controller can be used on the Switch with little fuss. For the controllers that don’t natively work on the Nintendo Switch, such as a PS4 or Xbox One controller, you can also get those connected to your console via an adaptor that you can pick up for relatively cheap online. For guys like me that tend to play a wide variety of games that span multiple generations, being able to use my controller of choice for any given game is a huge win, especially when you bring into account the fact that certain controllers are better optimized for specific types of games. 

Take for instance the SN30 line of controllers, which are my go-to controller for playing most NES, SNES or platformer games in general. These controllers have a great cross shaped D-Pad on them that feel perfect for these types of games.

Another great example is my wireless Sega Saturn controller. While unfortunately not bluetooth, the controller pairs with my Switch via a USB dongle just fine and allows me to play stuff off the Sega Genesis collection I have for my switch with slightly more authentic controls. The button mapping isn’t perfect here, but it’s still really fun to play games this way. Plus, it has what has to be the single best DPad I’ve ever used on it and also has a button layout that’s perfectly suited for fighting games.

There’s also the Nintendo Switch Pro controller which is genuinely the most comfortable controller I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. It’s essentially an Xbox One controller, but much lighter and feels so natural for, basically, any 3D game.

And, to round things out, there’s obviously the controller that’s bundled with the console itself, the joycons. While joycons tend to get a bad rap online, due to drift issues and being just a bit too small and un-ergonomic, they’re still a pretty good way to control your games. In fact, I tend to play Tetris 99 for a bit every day and I genuinely think that Joy Cons are the best/most accurate way to control your movement in that game. Outside of Tetris 99 though… yeah, I’d rather have a regular old DPad.

Either way, the fact that I can even choose the type of controller that I’d want to use on my Nintendo Switch to begin with is pretty awesome. And this isn’t even every type of controller you can use on your Switch; there are literally dozens of different controller types out there and different converters and peripherals that allow you to use anything from a Gamecube controller to a real SNES controller on your system. There’s, quite literally, an infinite number of ways you can control your Switch!

The First Party Exclusives

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And I haven’t even gotten to the best part of the Switch, which encompasses the rest of the reasons on this list, yet… the actual game library.

The Nintendo Switch has one of the most varied and unique first party lineups that I’ve ever seen in a video game console. If you run down a list of first party Switch games, you’ll see everything from party games like Clubhouse 51 and Mario Party, to wildly creative and joyous platformers like Super Mario Odyssey or Yoshi’s Crafted World, and games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which genuinely belong in it’s own category. Oh, and the Switch also has Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was the biggest/most important release of 2020 for a ton of gamers in quarantine.

And those don’t even account for all the Switch has to offer, as there are other games on the console like 1-2 Switch, Ringfit Adventure, and Arms, which approach gameplay in a more unique and immersive way than other Switch titles do. 

While first party exclusives are important for any console, Switch exclusives feel especially unique. There’s a legacy to a lot of Nintendo’s first party franchises that elevates these games to unforeseen heights. I don’t often find myself drawn to the exclusives found on Microsoft or Sony’s consoles, but I almost always am at least curious about what Nintendo’s cooking up. Even if the game itself doesn’t end up appealing to me or I just don’t pick up the game, I’m still always initially curious about what they’re working on. A great example of this would be Arms. I actually don’t care for the game all that much and have only played it a few times as a trial provided on Nintendo Switch Online, but I remember being intrigued by the premise of the title itself, and totally see its appeal. 

Switch Ports

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And where Nintendo’s first party offerings fall short, there’s always the invaluable presence of third party developers. HoweverI’m not going to dive into the droves of quality third party releases for the console, nor am I going to dive into the untapped depths of indie support that Nintendo’s Switchy-boy has going for it. Instead, I’m going to focus on the number of older generation ports that this console has, and get a little personal and share why I think that’s awesome.

See, I kinda fell out of gaming around 2012 or 2013. I was going through a lot of stuff at the time and didn’t really have any money for an Xbox One or a PS4. And, while I did love my Wii U, I also didn’t exactly get that many games for it outside of Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 8, and Super Mario 3D World. And because of that, I kinda fell out of sync with gaming for a while; I still liked video games and enjoyed playing them, but when I eventually did pick up an Xbox One in 2018, I was pretty confused and underwhelmed with the games I ended up getting for it. Nothing really impressed me on the console and I honestly ended up mostly just playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection and GTA V because of how familiar I was with both of those games already.

So, when I got my Nintendo Switch, I was pretty thrilled to find out that the Switch has a huge library of classic and sometimes forgotten games from previous generations. And for the first eight or so months that I had a Nintendo Switch, these games were what helped me ease back into enjoying gaming. Games like Katamari Damacy Reroll, Final Fantasy IX/VII, Doom, and the droves of retro game compilations that are available on the Switch were just what I needed to help engage with gaming again and helped me feel comfortable enough with gaming again to want to check out other newer games on the Switch and, eventually, my PC and PS5.

And these re-releases aren’t just retro games from the 7th generation and earlier. You can play games like Bulletstorm, Bioshock and Skyrim on your Switch and take advantage of portable mode.

Oh, and there’s also a literal treasure trove of Wii U games that barely anyone got to play that have been moved over to the Switch and made available for a whole new set of players. While it is pretty weak that these re-releases usually go for full retail, there’s no denying the quality of these releases and the fact that they’re worth every penny. 

Nintendo Switch Online’s NES and SNES games

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Okay, so this last one is a bit of a point of contention amongst Switch owners. For those not in the know, paying $20 a year to subscribe to Nintendo’s online service not only allows you to play your games online, but also grants you access to a library of just under 90 classic Nintendo and Super Nintendo games for you to play at no extra fee. These games include a number of titles for Nintendo’s classic IP’s from each generation, as well as some third party releases from companies that didn’t want to repackage their games themselves to be sold on the eShop separately. On top of that, you also get basic netplay functionality for these games, which allows you to play them with a friend over the internet, and you get some basic emulator functionality such as savestates, rewinding, and the ability to add scanlines to your game.

While some people are unhappy with this service, and how it has basically replaced Nintendo’s Virtual Console on the Switch, I’m actually pretty happy with the service in it’s current state. Much like a number of other fans, while I’d love to see Nintendo do a better job of adding games to NSO, or even other consoles like the Gameboy line of consoles or the N64, I also tend to view this collection of games more as icing on the cake of having a Switch, than I do the cake itself.

It’s a very valid complaint that Nintendo isn’t doing enough here, but I just feel like I could always pick up an RG350 or my modded PSP if I really wanted to play more retro games on a handheld. Plus, at $20 a year, playing the NES and SNES games available here is still much cheaper than it would be to pick up all of these titles on their own, and you get the added benefit of it being on a digital library that you can take anywhere with little fuss.

Again, I recognize that this isn’t perfect, but being able to play Super Metroid and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the go is a lot of fun and I personally found the price point needed to do this to be a great value. Also, it has Kirby’s Dream Course, so of course I’m going to love NSO.

Closing

So there you have it, 5 reasons why the Nintendo Switch is my favorite console of all time, as well as why I think it’s a great device to begin with. If I could sum this entire video up in a few words, I’d basically say that the Nintendo Switch does a great job of putting convenience in the hands of its users. It’s not perfect and there are a few glaring ways Nintendo could make this console even more convenient, but the ability to play games that span just about every generation of gaming on it, coupled with the fact that you can use a wide variety of controllers and take this thing on the go with you makes the Nintendo Switch a really unique piece of hardware. Simply put, there’s something for everyone on the Nintendo Switch.

Except for Earthbound. And Netflix.


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