It's worth noting that this is being written by a life-long Sonic fan. I've been right the way through nearly every title to star the blue blur, and infamously bullied myself into enjoying Sonic Heroes. So, chances are I will end up liking Sonic the Hedgehog 4 no matter what. Or I would. It was playing through the Werehog levels in Unleashed I felt that my love affair with the 'Hog was finally starting to come to an end...
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is almost certainly the greatest 2D platformer ever made, only Super Mario World able to hold a candle to it. Never again has Sonic hit those dazzling heights, and in fact the closest he's ever come was in 2008's Super Smash Bros Brawl, a title with which Sega had minimum control over.
Sega recently attempted to rejuvenate NiGHTS on Wii, and it didn't quite work out as planned. Horrible voiceovers were added, dodgy platforming sections found their way into the game, and worst of all, the movement and fluidity was changed and, in doing that, ruined. If you watch the trailer, it seems like Sega has done the same thing to Sonic. His body movement just doesn't seem right. He goes at a far slower pace, and he now brings his arms all the way across his body, and swings his legs, not spin them in a ball at supersonic speeds. It just doesn’t feel right.
Not only is his speed wrong, Sega seemed to have also changed the momentum system that seemed spot on in Sonic 2 and 3. Sonic Rush changed it, too, and that was the games main weakness. The speed that game went at in the end was a strength in the end, and made it feel like it fitted the character of Sonic more, even if it didn't match the old games. Sonic has been slowed down now, which may allow for more puzzle-based action, a la Sonic 3, but then from when have puzzles ever been one of the Hedgehog's strong suits? If the game has been judged to be a genuine follow up to the original trilogy, then surely it should play like it?
Oh, and they seem to have removed the Sonic-Tails co-op that we enjoyed so much in the original sequels. This is not a good thing, obviously.
My main gripe is the format of the game. I have no problem with downloads. In fact, I personally feel that downloadable games are the real highpoint of this generation. As a new feature, they strike me as the only innovation on a console worthy of challenging the Wii Remote. However, it's episodic. This I do have a problem with. Don't get me wrong, Telltale's three-hour monthly tales are fantastic. But they work because of the format of the genre, and how it allows for the story to dominate, and so the Sitcom format works well. But I would not normally be prepared to pay £7 for one world of a platformer. Yeah, I know we don't know how much Sega will pack into each instalment, but knowing Sega, I’m not optimistic.
Oh, and look at Sonic. He used to be such a happy little thing, not a care in the world. He did not have the ability to speak or pull embarrassing facial expressions. Since then, he’s developed both of those things, and Sega may have noticed that fans want a 2D game, but they didn’t see the complaints over the size of his head. It’s the same size as his body, for crying out loud!
However, I’m glad Sega has had the sense to finally make a new 2D platformer in the vein of the old games, even if it does seem to be more Mario-esque than Sonic, although that’s something that leads me onto my next point all too easily...
There is many a rumour about a certain plumber appearing in this title. I’m unable to confirm anything, and am not contacting Sega or Nintendo, as neither would possibly comment. However, if such a thing happens, would it be a good or a bad thing? As it will only be in the WiiWare version, I see no problem with it. The Mario-paced pedestrian platforming will be more suited to his style, although New Super Mario bros Wii showed that even Nintendo couldn’t quite nail down what made a 2D Mario title brilliant anymore, so I highly doubt Sega can manage it. Mario appearing is bound to mean that other formats will get some sort of exclusive, although I hope we won’t be seeing Kratos pop up.
I think I’ve moaned enough, but then there isn’t enough in the trailer to give two sides for. Fewer than three seconds of footage in the video, and even then, it’s just Sonic running up a hill. The fact it’s a 2D platformer means it’s obviously a step in the right direction, and the enemies looked like proper, classic Sonic ‘Badniks’, and not these generic robots we get these days, although it’s a bit of a wasted effort if we don’t get the Flicky’s being realised afterwards.
The best thing about the episodic format? Sega are finally beginning to listen to their critics. So if the first one fails badly, they can just stop by here at KN, or at IGN or Gamespot, or anywhere else that’ll review it, and read up a bit. They can go and speed Sonic up a bit before the realise of the next one. They could always fling Tails back into the thick of things. (I seem to be the only one in the world unhappy now they’ve killed all his friends.) And if these don’t work, then they can fix ‘em. Telltale made their content work by listening to their fans, and structuring things around what they wanted, not the core game itself, a refreshing outlook, and one which Sega must follow if they want this latest attempt to revive Sonic to be a success.