Back in my school days, I was a Nintendo kid. I was happily playing on my Gameboy in all of its pea soup colored glory while other kids enjoyed the full color of Sega’s Game Gear. We all know how the handheld war turned out, but Sega has a chance at a little revenge by stealing the spotlight on Nintendo’s own e-Shop. Sega chose Sonic Triple Trouble to highlight their Game Gear offerings. Does Sonic’s handheld adventure redeem the ill fated Game Gear?
The first thing you’ll notice when you play triple trouble is that it features great emulation. While Nintendo’s GBA and DS games look awkward and pixelated on the 3DS’s screens, Sonic Triple Trouble looks surprisingly crisp. By default, the game will have black borders on the right and left side of the screen. If you prefer, you can blow up the game to fill the whole top screen of the 3DS. You can also play the game in its original size and ratio with a snazzy Game Gear border filling up the unused screen real estate. While it’s unnecessary for this game, you can remap every button to your liking. This is a very cool feature, and Nintendo should be a bit embarrassed that their emulators do not support this.
Sonic Triple Trouble will be familiar to fans of Sonic the Hedgehog games. The basic elements are all there. You’ll run fast, you’ll collect rings, you’ll jump into enemies, spindash, and all that jazz. Players can choose between Sonic and Tails. Both characters are nearly identical, although each has one unique move to call their own. Sonic has a useless speed boost move which is similar to his spindash, but offers no protection against enemies. Tails has the ability to fly for a limited amount of time which makes him a better choice.
There is a story here, but it’s not especially intelligible. Sonic and Tails are after the Chaos Emeralds because that’s what they do. Knuckles has been tricked by Dr. Robotnik into pestering Sonic and Tails, because that’s what he does. Meanwhile, a new character named Fang the Sniper is being a pain in your backside for reasons known only to him. The upshot of all of this is that you need to find all of the Chaos Emeralds. This means scouring each stage for well hidden entries into Special Stages where you can find the mystic gems. The whole ordeal will provide somewhere around 3 hours of gameplay for the average player.
Visually, Sonic Triple Trouble holds up quite nicely. Sonic’s worlds are colorful and crisp. They offer a pretty fair approximation of Sonic’s Genesis exploits. An unobservant passerby might even mistake this game for a Genesis game or even an early GBA effort. Sadly, the audio package is far weaker than the visual package. There are plenty of 8-bit games that feature rocking soundtracks, but this is not one of them. The music and sound effects are high pitched, chirpy, and grating. Sonic’s jumping sound was particularly offensive.
Triple Trouble has been tweaked a bit to meet the Game Gear’s limitations. Unlike Sonic’s Genesis adventures, Sonic will rarely utilize his maximum speed. The Game Gear featured a limited processor, and its small screen side would make it difficult to see enemies ahead of you in time to react. Instead, Triple Trouble focuses more on platforming. This choice as a smart one considering the hardware, but Sonic fans may find that their favorite Hedgehog is a bit slower than they’d like. Since Sonic’s been slowed down a bit, the game skews a bit towards the Mario side of the platforming spectrum. Levels are less straightforward than traditional Sonic fare, and involve more exploration and backtracking than most Sonic games. Sonic’s physics made their way from the Sega Genesis to the Game Gear in one piece. Despite some subtle tweaks controlling Sonic still feels right.
Overall, Triple Trouble offers a nice does of Sonic action, a fun bit of nostalgia for Game Gear owners. If you’re a fan of Sonic, platformers in general, or old school gaming, Sonic Triple Trouble is worth an Abraham Lincoln. There are some obvious limitations, but isn’t that part of the charm of old school gaming?