Sonic Triple Trouble is a classic Sonic game, and it’s absolutely one worth remembering. The Game Gear saw five Sonic games trying to capture the same feel as the Genesis games; starting with Sonic the Hedgehog, a port of the Master System adaptation of the first Sonic game, and while more limited than the 16 bit version, it was popular enough to get more Master System ports in Sonic 2, and Sonic Chaos – the first game where Tails could fly. By 1994 however, pushing out a Master System Sonic title just didn’t seem appealing or marketable any more, so SEGA go to work on a new portable installment for their most popular franchise exclusively for the Game Gear – Sonic Triple Trouble, a direct sequel to it’s predecessor Sonic Chaos. While later they would release Sonic Blast, Triple Trouble was really the title that showed that the Game Gear was capable of having a truly great Sonic game, albeit one that wouldn’t find the cult status of a title like Sonic CD simply due to the comparative obscurity of its platform and a perception that the game was ‘too easy’.
Playing the classic Genesis Sonic games twenty years later, it’s clear that this is a series that’s no stranger to difficulty. Playing a game like Sonic 2 and moving to Triple Trouble might at face value give the impression this game could be where the “Hold Right to Win” stereotype came from, but this sells short the satisfaction of playing this game with a completionist mindset, not to mention that the Game Gear had such limited battery life trial and error gameplay was not conducive to a satisfying experience. Triple Trouble really begins to shine when you actually begin hunting down the Chaos Emeralds, as the game features plenty of opportunities for vertical exploration finding the Emerald boxes that take you to the Special Stages. Fans of Sonic CD will no doubt be reminded of hunting down the machines when finding these boxes, and will be rewarded with a variety of Special Stages to grab those Emeralds – either time based labyrinths or the more ‘classic’ third person ring gathering missions. New to these bonus levels is actual boss fights, as in each one you face off against Fang the Sniper (or Nack the Weasel if you prefer), so gathering the Chaos Emeralds feels far more satisfying than simply having hammered out half a dozen mini games.
Music is a strong point of Triple Trouble, at least as far as the Game Gear can manage – Sunset Park Act 3 and Meta Junglira Act 1 both stand out as highlights and can fit in with some of the top Sonic tracks out there. That said, bosses do not have a visual cue when they take damage so you’ll need to be listening closely to hear whether or not you actually registered a hit at the end of each zone. Bosses are a decent challenge – not as intense as those found in Sonic 1 and 2 on the Game Gear, but still not a complete walk in the park. Old villains returning to this game outside of Robotnik include Knuckles the Idiot Echidna and Sega CD‘s Metal Sonic, both of whom feature in a satisfying end-game boss rush.
Nobody likes water levels, and it appears while the Sonic team was mandated to include one, they at least decided to make it easier, with air bubbles capable of navigation (that don’t break on walls, unlike Sonic Chaos), and a Submarine for Tails; perhaps to make up for the fact that yet again he’s not given the snowboard Sonic is. In this installment Sonic regains his ‘peel-out’ move from Sonic CD, perhaps to offset Tails’ flight capability, though in most scenarios you’re likely going to prefer to use the tried-and-true Spin Dash. Another cool perk is the flight items – Both Sonic and Tails can grab variants of rockets to fly through the level quickly through item boxes, and you thought that the classic Power Sneakers were cool…
So what’s wrong with Triple Trouble? Detractors will say it’s short, and while they’re not wrong it’s certainly longer than Sonic Chaos or Sonic Blast, and it’s by no means embarrassingly so – especially considering like most sonic games there is an aspect of trial and error as you learn your way through the world. The draw distance can be a limiting factor on a first playthrough as you don’t get very much advanced warning when coming up to a hazard. The game is not as hard as the Genesis titles, but considering how frankly silly the difficulty was in Sonic 1 and 2 for the Game Gear, moderation on this platform is key. Ultimately, the game’s shortcomings could all in some ways be points in its favour. Sonic Triple Trouble features satisfying gameplay, interesting worlds, fun items, and rewards the explorative behaviour from another cult classic in the Sonic Series, Sonic CD – much of Triple Trouble’s feel is probably most similar to CD, and that’s pretty much as high praise as you can give a title. If you want to go back to the days of the Game Gear, give Triple Trouble a shot… just have lots of AA batteries on hand.