Nearly two years ago, a friend of mine received a catalog from a Hong Kong game seller. Some of the titles inside were enough to set the imagination running wild, but the prices were way too high to make it practical to have anything shipped over to the US. Somari was one of the titles. I speculated that it was probably just some game hacked with Sonic sprites and so forth. The Somari ROM was released a few months ago, and maaaaan was I wrong.

Somari is indeed set in Sonic-Land, except that for some reason, you're controlling Mario! And, Mario's wearing the Sonic shoes!

Although the levels don't match the Genesis version at all, what levels there are are more than adequately done. The bosses are the same as the 16-bit game, and the backgrounds have cute animations and little side touches. It surprises people that the first Sonic game was only 512k; although Somari is the same size, a few things are missing. The entire Scrap Brain Zone, for one. Also, the rotating bonus stages are replaced by much more tame, generic levels filled with rings.

Speaking of rings, when you get hit, only 3 rings fly out from you, no matter how many you might have (a necessary move, I suppose, but having about 50 rings shoot out from you was a highlight of the Sega version). The game has a timer like Sonic, but no matter what time you score you always get a "Time Bonus" of 5000 points. You lazy coders!

They ported the music straight from Sonic, but don't expect a Yamaha sound chip inside your NES. In fact, the downsized music is nearly laughable; sometimes you can barely make out the melody over the random noise.

The game is far from perfectly coded, although it's certainly better than some lame HK efforts. Moving platforms are a little buggy; at least once in the Labyrinth Zone I had a moving platform I was on go through a wall or something, followed by the game blacking out. Like Kart Fighter, the coders didn't bother with an ending... after defeating Robotnik in the final battle above, the screen simply fades into blackness, forcing you to reset.

Still, it's another amazing original pirate production from the anonymous freaks at Hong Kong. They even remembered to change the starting graphic to "SOMARI TEAM PRESENTS".. =)

Thx: Jinnai Zenjirou

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