Sonic Chaos (Sniper)
Genre: 2d platformer
Developer: Aspect
Publisher: Sega

Hisato Fukumoto, who provided much of the outstanding 8-bit Sonic 2 art, leads the way again, except this time via a remarkable pastel, almost muted palette, really differentiating the look from all of the other Sonic games, while giving the proceedings an interesting sense of surreality. The character designs have a pre-rendered look to them, as was the trend in 1993, and they are large and well animated. Framerate problems do crop up in certain stages, but not persistently or during critical moments.

It's amazing that people like Kojiro Mikusa and Masayuki Nagao were some of Sega's B-team composers during this era, really showing the depth of talent the company had in those days. These two flex their compositional muscles here: some of the songs, such as Sleeping Egg and Aqua Planet, alternate pleasantly between the cheery and the foreboding, while others-- think Mecha Green Hill-- are flat out fast and bursting with incredible melody. The game's sound effects are likewise very easy on the ears, and give the game additional character.

Where the 8-bit Sonic titles are concerned, the first two games had mostly linear stages, with occasional branching. Sonic Chaos introduces verticality, in large part because the chosen chaos emerald collection scheme here involves collecting 100 rings in a given stage-- the levels accommodate this through sheer scale, even encouraging back tracking. The game features two selectable characters-- Sonic and Tails-- and the latter can even fly at the player's beckoning, which was a Sonic universe first.

Sonic Chaos is a splendid entry into the series, playing very much like its 16-bit big brothers, but on a portable form factor. The emerald bonus stages are frighteningly difficult, but the rest of the game's relatively low difficulty curve and pleasantly short length mean that it can comfortably be gotten through in a single setting, which should always be the goal in a release like this. It's not going to blow the fabric of space open with revolutionary design, but after the first two hit-and-miss Game Gear entries, Sonic Chaos gets things just right.

Sniper's verdict: