Approximate Release Month: February 1993
Despite the game’s slow pace, Sonic Blast Man is a surprisingly technical take on the beat-’em-up genre.
Sonic Blast Man resembles Final Fight at first glance, as both games share a similar graphical style and identical perspective. I might have a hard time figuring out which game was which if it weren’t for the character of Sonic Blast Man looking like a bad Japanese children’s television show instead of a burly Russian man in suspenders.
Brawlers aren’t really known for nuance. Punches, kicks, and jump kicks are the three common tools players have in these games. Sonic Blast Man dispenses with that trinity. Players can do a very short-range jab attack, a funny little spin move that hits everyone around you but leaves you open for a second or two for a counter attack, and a limited special move that turns your punches into earth-rocking power attacks. You can jump kick, of course, but the timing is so exact and unforgiving that it is usually worthless.
There’s only one real attack – the jab – which I was immediately turned off by. The range is so short and it does almost no damage! But the jab is basically a combo builder, where if you can land five quick swats in a row to a bad guy you get to do a special move of your choice. Which special move you want to use in any given moment is what gives Sonic Blast Man its depth. For example, the uppercut does a decent amount of damage and will stun the hapless baddie but won’t keep the other enemies off your back as effectively as the super punch, which sends the victim careening across the screen and knocking down other bad guys in their path. There are a few other situational finishers, depending on what buttons you press after you get your five jabs in.
Of course, Sonic Blast Man doesn’t give you many opportunities to use those special attacks. You need to give yourself breathing room by using grab attacks, which are done just by running into the thugs. Yeah, video games have taught us not to run into enemies, but it’s necessary here for crowd control. The throws are basically baby versions of the special moves, so don’t expect to deal crazy amounts of damage. I found myself enjoying the combat once I was able to put everything together in a reasonably effective way.
But why does Sonic Blast Man have to walk so slow? It’s not a big deal in stage 1, but stage 2 starts introducing annoying speedsters to fight and I had a lot of trouble against them. Every other enemy would be defeated except this stupid bad guy who can just stay out of range of my jabs and my throws. Most enemies are super slow, though, but so many of Sonic Blast Man’s attacks cause enemies to go flying across the screen. I got tired of waiting for enemies to slowly saunter back into the play area. A few times I happened to stun an enemy at the edge of the screen but was unable to hit them there.
For the first few minutes, I hated Sonic Blast Man. It felt like a much-too-simplified Final Fight. Give it a chance, though, and learn the weird combo system and you’ll have a good time.
Tomorrow: Super Valis IV is a different kind of side-scrolling game.