So recently, I pulled out the Neo Geo Pocket emulator to play Sonic Pocket Adventure again after many years, and to help study it for my own fan game.
Most people just think of this as another installment of the 8-bit* Sonic games, it actually plays differently than the Game Gear games. To simply speak, it feels like some sort of amazing hybrid between Sonic 1, 2, 3K and CD.
*A lot of technical people will probably correct me by saying it's not 8-bit, but I find it easier to say what the general public would call it.
Basically Sonic Pocket Adventure starts off with the menu that seems more familiar in games like Sonic Advance (even though this preceeds that game). The game even saves your progress, much like Sonic 3. Most things here we're all familiar with in modern Sonic games, but seem to of pioneered from this game. Not much to discuss.
This game if anything, is a shrunken down version of Sonic 2, right down to a well duplicated 360 engine. Abilities are right from Sonic 2, as are the zones, for the most part. Neo South Island and Gigantic Angel however, are from Sonic 1; taking the Green Hill and Scrap Brain look. The rest of the levels are right from Sonic 2, but rather than just remaking the levels, the entire levels seemed to be redesigned with gimmicks from other games (Gigantic Angel sporting Metropolis Zone gimmicks). This seems to give the game a fresh new feel, along with brand new bosses in a Sonic 2 manner.
The game, like any Sonic game, has Special Stages. Oddly though you get them in a Sonic 1 fashion (Get to the end with 50 rings), but played like Sonic 2 (Half pipe). This time around, like Sonic 1, there's only 6 Emeralds to get. The Seventh being stolen from Knuckles by Eggman. Get all 6, get the 7th from the Final Boss and you get the Super Sonic fight, which somewhat resembles Doomsday Zone.
All the music is from Sonic 3K, sans the Sonic Worlds theme and a remixed Special Stage theme. Some themes however, which would seem to be unfit to the level usually, are remixed to fit in (Mushroom Hill 1 given a water remix for Aquatic Relix) their given zone, or just changed somewhat to sound a bit fresher. Overall, the music is very impressive. The sound effects are given the same case, when compared to the Game Gear games at least.
The game at first seems like a normal "run through the zones" Sonic game, but theres a gimmick that turns this game into hell for the player; the Puzzle Pieces. In the game, there's puzzle pieces hidden in clever places that very often require major backtracking to get to one. Sometimes even, they can be seen just out of view as if teasing the player, then being hard to get in the most annoying ways possible. In fact, if you bother to go for the puzzle pieces, a bright idea is to turn off the time limit. Get the pieces and then go to the Puzzle Room to put your puzzles together. Yes I just said puzzles; there's six of them to put together, and not one piece is found in the game in a full chronological order.
If you put a puzzle together, you get a colored picture of the puzzle, which is a picture of whatever character. Finish three and you unlock the sound test, which includes an animated DJ Sonic. Finish all six of the puzzles and you get the Special Stage Attack (because apparently they think we never get enough of them).
Things that Make SPA Lose Points
As mentioned before, this game duplicates the Sonic 2 engine mostly. However, one thing that is annoying is that Sonic tends to slip a lot, as if he were walking on ice. To top this off too, a lot of zones use platforms as gimmicks, which are very often small platforms where one screw up can mean not being able to go back, having to backtrack, or death. Another disadvantage of Pocket is not the game itself, but the Neo Geo Pocket. The screen size, like the Game Gear is at a whopping 160x144. Unless you're used to small screen sizes like the Game Gear, it might take time to get used to this. Have fun getting used to actually using the up and down buttons to see where you might be going while looking for puzzle pieces.
I think this is a very underrated game, and I'm surprised it gets such little recognition. It basically does what Sonic Advance should have done, and takes its preceding games, and somehow makes a fresh new feel by using nothing more than recycled ideas. A Neo Geo Pocket Color emulator, and Sonic Pocket Adventure ROM are both easy to get. I'd suggest anyone to grab them and check out this game if you haven't. It's definitely, in my opinion at least, the last "classic" Sonic game we had.