Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Sonic Jam (Sega Saturn) - Is More Than You Think!


One of the infamously known facts about the Sega Saturn is that it lacked a proper Sonic game after Sonic X-Treme was canceled. It had an enhanced port of the Genesis' Sonic 3D Blast, an on foot racing game that was unpopular, and Sonic was playable in Christmas Knights into Dreams. Then, there was Sonic Jam which many people brush off as a simple collection game with a 3D hub world. That is partially true, but there is more to this title than a lot of people know. Click "read more" for my review.

Brief History

Sega was not in an enviable situation in 1997. The Sega Saturn was selling poorly and it lacked any big Sonic title. Development on one that would eventually become Sonic Adventure had begun for the Sega Saturn, but seeing as the system was on its way out they decided to move the development onto the upcoming System the Sega Dreamcast similar to Shenmue's development. From the prototype builds of Sonic Adventure, the Sonic World mode on Sonic Jam was made. This is most evident on Adventure's Dreamcast port during the Tornado sections which still used the Saturn 3D models of Sonic and Tails.

Original Dreamcast on the Left

The DX Gamecube update and later releases changed these models out for the updated ones. Very similar 3D models as used in Sonic World.

Sonic Jam's Sonic World Mode

For the most part Sonic world is just a hub world where you can select menu options with a 3D Sonic. It did also contain a series of missions that are mostly time trial based. These mission consist of tasks like collecting rings, touching flags, and finding tails. Completing all of them will cause a big ring to appear that will allow the player to view the credits. Not really much, but it was a nice mode for a novelty.

The Sonic Collection

The main pull of Sonic Jam is the collection of the main series Genesis titles including the lock-on combinations of Sonic & Knuckles. (Sadly Sonic CD and Knuckles Chaotix were not included.) Now, there are tons of ways to play these titles today, even for the time it would have probably been easier to get the old cartridges. But, these are not emulated roms like other collections, every title was re-done from the ground up in order to run on the Sega Saturn which allowed them to add to the games. Mainly, giving Sonic 1 the Spin Dash and adding difficulty settings.

A veteran Sonic Player will more than likely default to playing the titles on "original" difficulty which puts the titles the same as they were on the Genesis. But, the other modes are really interesting. 
Easy mode is kind of a joke to someone who has played the titles a lot; shortening levels, adding platforms, and removing acts. It does make completing the game much easier, but also gives less chances to collect the Emeralds.

Amazingly, the Normal mode is the most interesting. (I think this is the only time I can say that with any video game.) Like most gamers glances right past that option without a second thought. It is a bit of a misleader honestly because it is more like a Re-Done version. As much as I love the original games, I will not deny they had some level design flaws that lead to a a few cheap deaths. This normal mode feels like the developers second attempt at the game because it rebalances the games in ways I never realized they needed.
To this day, these improved "normal" modes have not been included in any of the collection or compilation games. If you want to know more details about what changed I highly suggest this video by The Geek Critique.

My Final Take

Sonic Jam is one of the most interesting games in my collection. It is a shame that Sonic never got a proper title on Saturn, but as far as spin-off collaboration titles go, this is one of my favorites. Not a cheap game to come across, but I really feel like this title needs to be more well known. (Also, any homebrew game makers want to turn Sonic World into a proper game? Please?) Take it as you will, until next time this is Cendoo the Ghost Ranger, signing off.

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