Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) Game Review- Is It Really That Bad?


Image courtesy of Mod DB.

Nicholas Paragano, Co-editor, Arts & Entertainment

Intended as a soft reboot for the franchise, 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog was to be an exciting new chapter for the titular character, releasing on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. However, due to many development issues and holiday 2006 release lead to a buggy, unfinished product that was harshly criticized by both critics and fans. “This…is a mess from top to bottom,” a reviewer for Gamespot wrote, “only the most blindly reverent Sonic the Hedgehog fan could find enjoyment out of it.” It’s been nearly fifteen years since this infamous game came out, and I’ve finally got the chance to play it recently. So, is Sonic ‘06 (the most prominent nickname for the game to distinguish it from the Genesis original) really that bad? Let’s find out.

Image courtesy of Gaming Goodness.

The story of Sonic ‘06 is often hated, but I don’t personally find it to be that bad. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the story is quite heavy for a Sonic game. Basically, Dr. Eggman kidnaps Princess Elise of the nation of Soleanna, who has the power of the devastating Flames of Disaster sealed within her. Sonic and his friends must rescue her and prevent Eggman from using the flames to conquer the world. When starting a new game, one of the first things you’ll notice is the much more realistic art style. In fact, you couldn’t even tell that it was a Sonic game until the titular hedgehog shows up. He, along with his other anthropomorphic friends look very much out of place in the more realistic environments and human characters. That being said, I actually quite like this distinction. I like how the game looks, and I appreciate Eggman’s more realistic design, as it makes him more menacing than before. The next thing you’ll notice about Sonic ‘06 is the abysmally long loading times. Even installing the game to my Xbox 360’s hard drive only improved loading by a few seconds. This is one of the many things that you’ll have to get used with for this game. If you go into it expecting it to play like a typical 3D Sonic game, you’ll mostly be disappointed. 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

For starters, Sonic’s movement speed is much slower than in prior games. This took a while for me to get used to. Sonic’s levels are, for the most part, very well designed. They’re exactly what I’m looking for in a 3D Sonic game: big, open levels that are nonlinear and have multiple branching pathways for you to explore in. Exploration is rewarded with secrets like ring boxes, 1-UPS, and Soleanna medals (which are the games main collectable). Despite all the good things about Sonic’s stages, the overall sloppiness of Sonic ‘06 often bogs the experience down. Horrible collision detection, janky physics, and an assortment of other bugs and glitches can often stop you right in your tracks, if not outright kill you. This was particularly frustrating to me at first, but once I got used to what I like to call “the ‘06 jank”, I was able to play these levels with minimal frustration. Some levels have you carry Princess Elise, which isn’t too bad, and grants you a shield to protect you from environmental hazards. In some levels, you also switch to either Tails or Knuckles briefly to complete a task such as flipping a switch. Their gameplay isn’t the best and is a downgrade from the Adventure games. Finally, some levels have mach speed sections, where Sonic suddenly speeds up. Controlling him in these sections can be a nightmare, and the awful collision detection and awkward controls can lead to many deaths. Highlights of Sonic’s campaign include Wave Ocean, White Acropolis, Crisis City, Flame Core, Kingdom Valley, and Aquatic Base. Outside of the main levels, there are hub worlds that Sonic (and the two other main characters) travel through. There are optional and mandatory town missions that you can play to either progress the story or collect rings to use in the shop. At the shop, you can buy upgrades for your character that improve your ability to traverse levels and defeat enemies.

Image courtesy of YouTube.

The second campaign you can play is Shadow the Hedgehog’s. His gameplay is somewhat similar to Sonic’s, albeit with a focus on combat. Shadow also uses vehicles like an armored buggy, a paraglide, and a hovercraft to traverse areas and defeat enemies. Although the vehicle physics aren’t the greatest, I still had fun with them and I think they’re a solid addition. Shadow’s levels are mostly good, but the jankiness of Sonic ‘06 can sometimes ruin your fun. Regardless, I think Shadow’s campaign and levels are solid. Some highlights include White Acropolis, Crisis City, Flame Core, and Aquatic Base. Shadow can also switch with other characters in certain levels, in this case being Rouge the Bat and E-123 Omega. Rouge’s gameplay is pretty bad, while Omega’s is solid. The third campaign you play is newcomer Silver the Hedgehog’s. His gameplay is the most unique of the three. He has telekinetic powers, and can use them to levitate objects and fly. His levels are pretty solid, for the most part. He switches with Blaze the Cat occasionally, who is essentially a faster Sonic and is one of the best controlling characters in the game. Highlights of Silver’s campaign include Crisis City, Wave Ocean, and Aquatic Base.

Image courtesy of Sonic News Network.

It’s often said that even the worst Sonic games have excellent soundtracks. And I can confidently say that is absolutely the case with Sonic ‘06. It is definitely worth a listen. In general, I don’t consider Sonic ‘06 to be the worst game in the series, it’s far from it, in fact. There are a lot of games that are worse than it, such as Sonic Boom, Sonic Labyrinth, and even Sonic Forces, to name a few. It has a lot of ambition that later titles would drop. Despite its many flaws, Sonic ‘06 is completely playable from start to finish, with a few hiccups. It was unfinished, and needed more time in the oven. If it had a year or two more development, it could have been perhaps the greatest Sonic game ever made. It had a lot of potential. With that being said, is Sonic ‘06 really THAT bad? I’d say no. Is it good? Not really. Is it the worst game in the series, and one of the worst games ever? Definitely not. It has too many good elements to be considered bad by my standards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a buggy mess, but a fun one at that. I had fun playing Sonic ‘06 to completion. I can’t say the same about Sonic Forces. Overall, I’d rate it a solid 5/10. Not a great game by any means, but definitely not as bad as its reputation would have you believe.

Image courtesy of Studio C Games.