by Daniel Allison
previewed on PS3
A King Among Kings
Sonic has always been one of the platforming kings. Up there with the fat plumber himself, Sonic has starred in some of the best 2D platformers ever made. Of course, unlike Mario, Sonic didnít do well in the jump up to 3D. While Super Mario 64 revolutionized the genre, Sonic just couldnít keep up (Yes, the fat plumber overtook the speedy hedgehog). It doesnít seem to matter how many Sonic games are announced, everyone seems to hope that the latest one will finally be good and get excited. Of course, disappointment pretty much always follows nowadays. Will the latest instalment be any different?
Sonicsí previous outing had a great concept behind it but ultimately it failed in execution. Merging 2D and 3D gameplay together seemed like a good way to keep the series fresh but still appeal to the loyal fanbase. The fast paced levels worked well enough; the 3D parts were decent and the 2D sections were great. However, it was all let down by everything else in the game. Certain parts had you wandering around towns, talking to people when you should really be running around and collecting rings. Just to make things worse the night time levels put you in control of the Werehog which played like an incredibly basic hack and slash with just as bad platforming tacked on. In terms of core gameplay (i.e. the daytime stages were you got to run around in 3D/2D) it was fine but was brought down by everything else.
Of course, to make it worse was the fact that Sega had created hype and got people excited. Gamers went in expecting a good Sonic game after long last and were given that instead. Playing a bad game is always disappointing but playing one you were expecting to be good is even worse.
Heading Back to its Roots
It took Sega a while but theyíve decided that 3D is not the way to go for Sonic. The fourth main entry will play completely as a side-scroller but with 3D sprites so if all goes to plan, we should have another classic on our hands. It seems too good to be true as Sega is reverting to the gameplay of the old which will keep things simple and fun. Sonic will be the only playable character too, which just reinforces the idea that itís all about the core gameplay.
Sega is making use of a very different strategy for the latest instalment in the series. First of all, itís now exclusively downloadable and will be released in episodes with the first episode currently scheduled for the summer. Secondly, Sonic Team is no longer the main developer. Since Sonic the Hedgehog 2, pretty much every Sonic game has been developed by Sonic Team but now they have been shifted to Co-Developer, under Dimps. This isnít a huge difference but Sega must be confident with Dimps to give them the reins of their largest franchise.
Dimps do have the advantage of having some experience with the series already. They co-developed both Sonic Rush games on the DS which were well received and mainly focused on the side-scrolling gameplay. They also helped with Sonic Unleashed. Itís also worth noting that they co-developed last yearís Street Fighter IV which helped evolve the series greatly; something that Sega will be hoping Dimps can do again.
Pieces Simply Fit
Visually, it looks like it will be very impressive. The majority of what has been released shows off the new Splash Hill Zone which looks very similar to the classic Green Hill Zone. One key difference here though is that itís not severely pixelated and is incredibly smooth which makes it great to look at. Then add High Definition graphics to the picture and you have yourself some fantastic environments and a pretty good looking hedgehog.