An isometric platformer known in North America as Sonic 3D Blast, starring Sega's three-foot speed demon, developed by Traveller's Tales. The game was released for the Sega Genesis and the Sega Saturnnote in 1996, as well as for the Microsoft Windows in 1997. It was initially passed up for release in Japan until 1999, where the Saturn version's release coincided with Sonic Adventure International. The Genesis version was the last brand new Sonic release for that system and second-last overall in North America, after the 1997 compilation Sonic Classics 3-in-1, which was previously released in Europe in 1995.
Remember that little blue bird that Sonic freed out of robot shells in the original 16-bit trilogy, the Flicky? It turns out they reside on Flicky Island, where they can travel through dimensions via giant rings. Learning about this, Dr. Robotnik, a.k.a. Dr. Eggman, has decided to invade the island and trap its inhabitants inside his robot army, so that he can seize the seven Chaos Emeralds and Take Over the World.
During his usual nomadic routine, Sonic pays a visit to his little pals on Flicky Island, only to discover they've all been imprisoned in robot shells. Now, our true blue hero must free his friends and stop Robotnik once again.
As noted above, Sonic 3D is an isometric platformer, with nifty pre-rendered 3D sprites, but that's not the only difference in gameplay. Beating an act is not done by reaching the goal as soon as you can; instead, you have to collect a set of five Flickies and bring them to a giant Dimension Ring; there are usually two or three Dimension Rings in an act, and once you successfully deposit each set, you beat the act. The only acts exempt from this are boss acts and an act near the end of the game which plays like a classic Sonic stage.
The Saturn version somewhat rectifies the control issues by offering the analog pad as an alternative to the D-Pad, as well as included a CD quality soundtrack composed by Richard Jacques, additional graphical environmental effects such as fog and rain, and a polygonal Special Stage; but it lacks a save game feature (despite the Saturn featuring both internal and memory card-based saving) and has unusually long loading times. The PC port includes Jacques' soundtrack and a save game feature, but lacks some of the Saturn version's more noteworthy features such as the polygonal Special Stage and weather enhancements.
Jon Burton, founder of Travelers Tales, announced in 2017 a Director's Cut fan remake of the game. The beta version was released as a patch file during the Sonic Hacking Contest, featuring several quality of life improvements and features such as a level select screen, Super Sonic and a Debug Mode. The final patch was released on Steam Workshop as a downloadable ROM patch on December 23, 2017.
This game provides examples of:
- 100% Completion: In order to achieve 100% in the Director's Cut, you have to beat Time Trial mode in every act, collect every Sonic icon and get an absurdly high total score on top of earning all Chaos Emeralds.
- Alliterative Name: All of the zone names.note
- Anti-Frustration Features: The Director's Cut makes the Flickies easier to catch, tightens the feel of the controls and improves camera behavior when moving fast or fighting Dr. Robotnik.
- Art Evolution: Check out the artwork made exclusively for the Sega Saturn release in Japan — the style looks like a lot like the missing link between the "classic" and "modern" character designs. This is no coincidence, as the art was done by none other than Yuji Uekawa, who would go on to redesign Sonic for Sonic Adventure and is known for his love for over-the-top and impossibly kinetic poses.
- Bonus Feature Failure: Super Sonic is available in the Director's Cut, but forget about earning him as soon as you can, because you can only collect one Chaos Emerald per zone.
- Brutal Bonus Level: In the Genesis version, Knuckles' Special Stages are quite easy. Tails' Special Stages, in contrast, are much more difficult due to the sheer abundance of spiked balls combined with the fast pacing and frequent twists and turns. In the Saturn and PC versions, both characters share identical Special Stages, and only one gives you an Emerald per act.note
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of the four Flickies are color-coded as an indication of their movement patterns:
- Blue Flickies will make a conscious effort to find Sonic, and will wander around in a tight circle if they can't find him, making them easy to catch.
- Pink Flickies behave like blue ones, but they fly around in bigger circles.
- Red Flickies constantly jump high back and forth between two close points, not making any effort to find Sonic, making them hard to catch.
- Green Flickies wander around aimlessly with no interest in finding Sonic, even sometimes appearing to try to avoid him.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: Archie Comics published a 48-page special featuring a loosely story based on the game's plot, while Fleetway's Sonic the Comic did an even more loose adaptation in issues 104-106.
- Convection Schmonvection: On the world map anyway. Diamond Dust and Volcano Valley Zones are shown right next to each other. Why Diamond Dust Zone doesn't melt into a a fog shrouded land is a mystery.
- Conveyor Belt o' Doom: The setting for the Gene Gadget Zone boss.
- Demoted to Extra: While Tails and Knuckles make cameos throughout the levels and let you access the Special Stage, they have no role in the plot and you don't get to play as them.
- Dimensional Traveler: The Flickies in this game come from another dimension. They come to Flicky Island via Dimension Rings for food.
- Dummied Out: A split screen mode was utilized in very early builds but ultimately discarded. At least one unused badnik (a Crabmeat-esque red crab enemy) also didn't make the final version, though was revived as a Rusty Ruin enemy in the Director's Cut.
- Eternal Engine: Gene Gadget Zone and Panic Puppet Zone.
- Excuse Plot: Robotnik is kidnapping innocent Flickies! Guess who has to save the day?
- Game Mod:
- Sonic 3D: No Flickies is a ROM hack of the game that, true to its name, redesigns the game so that you don't have to collect Flickies and can just blaze through the levels like in the original games, with the Dimension Rings just serving as checkpoints. Obviously, it makes the game a lot quicker and easier. A later mod even gives Sonic the ability to turn into Super Sonic if all of the Chaos Emeralds are obtained.
- The original designer of the game created an official game mod, Sonic 3D Blast: Director's Cut, which adds a better camera, smoother controls, a user-friendly interface, easier enemies, Super Sonic and tons more.
- Green Hill Zone: Green Grove Zone.
- Harmless Freezing: Whereas previous games averted this, this game plays it straight in Diamond Dust Zone. You're even required to be frozen to advance through an automated section.
- In Case of Boss Fight, Break Glass: All of the end of level battles with Robotnik until Panic Puppet Zone Act 3, where flashing lights become the new target due to not being able to hit his cockpit directly.note
- Leitmotif: In the Saturn/PC version, Robotnik's normal theme is remixed into something more epic and sinister for the final boss music. It also briefly resurges in the Bad Ending.
- Lethal Lava Land: Volcano Valley Zone, complete with leaping fireballs and collapsing stone bridges.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: The loading times for the Saturn version can run for as long as 30 seconds. This was slightly shortened in the Japanese release, and substantially improved in the PC port.
- Long Song, Short Scene: In the Genesis version, Green Grove Zone Act 2's song is four minutes and fifteen seconds long. If you're a real good player, you're almost guaranteed to hit an invincibility box, enter a special stage, or finish the stage before the song finishes.
- Mood Whiplash:
- The Genesis version goes straight from the winter wonderland of the Diamond Dust Zone, which has very upbeat music, to the volcanic wasteland of Volcano Valley, which has either intense music for Act 1 or sad music for Act 2. Bonus points for the whole "climate whiplash" as well in going straight from the Slippy Slidey Iceworld to the Lethal Lava Land.
- The Genesis version of Panic Puppet Zone Act 1 uses the same theme as the intro, which is very upbeat, whereas Act 2 has a much more sad and dramatic tune.
- Multiple Endings: Didn't get all the Emeralds? Well, then, you get the Bad Ending, which alludes to Robotnik returning. Get them all? Then you gain access to The Final Fight, which is pretty self-explanatory, and if you beat it, you get the Good Ending.
- Our Founder: In Panic Puppet Zone Act 2, Sonic has to reach the top of a giant Robotnik statue through his nose. The boss fight for the stage takes place inside the statue.
- Painful Pointy Pufferfish: Spring Stadium Zone and Gene Gadget Zone both have spiky airborne pufferfish Badniks who defend themselves with their quills and can only be hit when these are gone.
- Palette Swap: Panic Puppet Zone uses the same tileset as Gene Gadget Zone, only it's beige instead of grey.
- Point of No Return: The final non-boss act of the game, Panic Puppet Zone Act 2, is a straight stage with no Flickies, and several points exist in the stage to prevent Sonic from backtracking, but the most notable one is at the end of the stage, where you cross several plates that fall below you. After the second one, you're left with no choice but to enter the pipe in Robotnik's nose, which ends the stage and takes you to Panic Puppet Zone Act 3, a three-phase boss fight against three separate big-armed machines. If you have all the Chaos Emeralds, The Final Fight, which is in its own stage, follows Panic Puppet Zone Act 3.
- Power Up Letdown: The Power Sneakers are not very useful in this game. They make Sonic, already slippery-moving as is, very hard to control and it makes it easy for him to collide into an enemy or obstacle by accident. The open-ended nature of the gameplay and lack of time limit also contradict the whole point of the powerup — helping you get to the end of the level faster.
- Recurring Riff: The Saturn/PC soundtrack incorporates the title theme melody into nearly every single track in the game.
- Recycled Soundtrack: The game uses the same 1-Up, Act cleared, and Game Over tracks as Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
- Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Rusty Ruin Zone.
- Sequential Boss: The fight with Robotnik in Panic Puppet Zone Act 3 has three phases to it as you descend down his machine. The first tier has arms that try to crush you, the second tier has flamethrower arms, and the third tier shoots electric particles. When the arms attack, Sonic needs to hit the flashing light at its base. There are a total of six arms, and all six must be destroyed to finish the level.
- Single-Use Shield: There are basic Blue Shield and Red Shield power-ups, the latter of which protects against fire and lava but doesn't enable the Fireball Spin Dash like the original Flame Shield from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, while the former protects against electricity but doesn't provide a Double Jump and attract nearby rings like the original Electric Shield. Instead, a midair homing ability called the Blast Attack was instead redistributed into the new Gold Shield, which is a predecessor to the Homing Attack seen in Sonic Adventure.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Diamond Dust Zone.
- Snowy Sleigh Bells: The obligatory ice world, Diamond Dust has light, jingling bells as part of their soundtrack.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: As many have noted, the Final Fight theme in the Genesis version sounds oddly relaxing for a Final Boss listen to it here.
- Spiritual Successor: To the Flicky arcade game, which also revolved around guiding small birds to a goal while avoiding enemies.
- Tactical Suicide Boss: The True Final Boss. The only time you can damage the final weapon is by hitting it when it briefly enters the platform Sonic is standing on. It will do this on every phase (you have to hit it to advance to the next phase and you have to go through each phase twice). Particularly egregious on the third phase, where you must dodge its spiked hands, as the ship isn't visible at the platform like it is on the other phases. The only time you see the boss on this phase is when it shows up for the sole purpose of being smacked and advancing the battle.
- Tornado Move: Sonic can perform this move in Rusty Ruin Zone when he steps on the spinning fans. This attack allows him to break through pillars as well as destroy badniks, but if he gets hit or jumps, he returns back to his normal state.
- True Final Boss: The Final Fight, the final Boss Battle, is available by beating the game with all the Chaos Emeralds. Beating this boss is needed to get the Good Ending.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The entire game involves destroying robots to free Flickies. But then Panic Puppet Zone comes. Act 1 has you freeing them in pods. Act 2 lacks them entirely, being a traditional Point A to Point B stage. The manual handwaves it by saying that Robotnik hasn't had time to put the Flickies in the robots yet, as Sonic got there sooner than expected.
- Word Salad Title: Panic Puppet Zone. what?