Review: Sonic Triple Trouble (Game Gear)

Sonic Triple Trouble was released for Sega's Game Gear in November 1994. It was known as Sonic & Tails 2 in Japan. Sonic Triple Trouble marked the fourth and final traditional Sonic game on the handheld. I have played the first 3 Sonic Game Gear games but was never impressed. So how does the final outing hold up? Read on.

The first thing you'll notice when you fire up Sonic Triple Trouble are the graphics. They are nearly as colorful and detailed as the Genesis games. The art style captures the pseudo 3D style of it's 16-bit siblings perfectly, something that is lacking in Sonic's previous 8-bit adventures. Sonic and Tails look better as well, featuring more detailed sprites. They are better proportioned (I always though Sonic looked weird and skinny in the previous Game Gear games) too.

The level design is where Sonic Triple Trouble really shines. The zones feel as large and well designed as the Genesis games, something the latest crop of Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS have still been unable to do. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Turquoise Hill is a proper first zone, featuring blue skies and rich green scenery. Sunset Park appears to be a half-finished construction site of some sort. Meta Junglira is a jungle, like the name implies. Robotnik Winter is a winter/ice zone complete with a snow boarding section (a nod to Sonic 3). Tidal Plant is the obligatory water zone. Atomic Destroyer is the classic Sonic end zone, with plenty of traps and hazards leading to the final boss battles.

Sonic Triple Trouble has buttery smooth controls. While I felt the previous Game Gear Sonic titles had somewhat stiff controls, Triple Trouble feels loose and fast. Sonic and Tails have a new mid-air attack. In previous games hitting a spring would leave Sonic vulnerable to attack. In Triple Trouble, and you can press the action button in mid-air for a brief spin attack. The new attack is required to beat the first boss.

The other new features are a pair of items found in the Tidal Plant (under water) zone. Tails has access to the Sea Tail, a submarine which makes the zone a whole lot easier as it includes an unlimited supply of oxygen. No more hunting down oxygen bubbles! Sonic can find the Screw Shoes, which also makes navigating the water easier.

Overall, Sonic Triple Trouble feels like a proper Sonic game. Something that can't be said for Sonic games of the past 10 years. It was refreshing to play this, as it wasn't something I played as a kid. It was nice to play a "new" Sonic game.

While Sonic Triple Trouble is good, it's not without it's fault. The most obvious is the difficulty. This game is a breeze! The main culprit is that Sonic does not lose all of his rings when he takes damage. He only loses 30-50 depending on the situation. This means you will rarely be without a ring, therefore you will rarely die. It also makes getting to 100 rings (and thus a free life) even easier. It doesn't take long before you have quite the stockpile of lives.

While I'm a pretty seasoned Sonic player, I have never been able to get to the final boss of a Sonic game on my first try. Still, difficulty aside, there are plenty of reasons to replay this one. The levels are big enough that you'll want to play through a few times to find all the secrets and of course collect the 6 chaos emeralds to see the "good" ending.

Speaking of emeralds, to access the bonus stages you must first have 50 rings, and then find the hidden "warp gate" monitor. There are two different bonus stages. The first is a maze-like platforming level with a 1'30" timer. The second is a 3D-like (think Space Harrier) flying stage where you must collect 80 rings. Neither is particularly fun.

It's hard to review the old Sonic games because most people have played them, either by way of original hardware, or new compilation disc releases (Sonic Triple Trouble can be played on the Sonic Gems Collection for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube). If you for some reason haven't played one of the original adventures, what makes thems so good is the speed, responsive controls, and terrific level design. Sonic Triple Trouble captures all of these traits perfectly.

Overall, Sonic Triple Trouble is a good game. It nods to previous Sonic games (especially Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2 on the Genesis), but still offers some new items and a new attack. Like all the classic Sonic games, it pushes the hardware to the limits in terms of speed, color, detail, and animation. I highly recommend it. If only the Game Gear screen didn't suck...

Graphics 10/10 - Sends the Game Gear off with a bang
Sound 7/10 - Catchy music and great sound effects
Game Play 7/10 - Great controls, but too easy and lame bonus stages
Overall 8/10 - Easily the best of the Game Gear Sonics