What do those who have played it think of the game?
The gaming press has had a rocky history with Sonic the Hedgehog. For all of the talk we’ve endured of Sega “going back to Sonic’s roots” time and time again, these guys have been on the front lines of those marketing pushes. Maybe it’s a bit more understandable in that light when somebody like IGN’s Hillary Goldstein decided to play barely even half of Sonic Unleashed before tossing the game aside and writing his scathing (if a touch unfair) review. More than anybody else, these guys are keenly aware of Sega’s marketing cycle.
Which, at the very least, makes previews for each new Sonic game to come down the pipe an interesting read. Starting with IGN UK, whom uphold the trend of reminding us just how bad Sonic games had gotten:
Surely you know the drill by now. Another intro to a preview of another Sonic game and another chance to bemoan the Hedgehog’s fall from grace, to giggle at his descent into mediocrity and to marvel at the unfailing accuracy of the Sonic Cycle.
So when a trailer emerged that showed classic Sonic – complete with pot belly, soft lines and painted in a faded blue – running alongside his modern, more gangly counterpart , you can forgive the fans for getting excited all over again.
You’ll hopefully forgive us for getting a little excited about it too; having played Sonic Generations, a game that’s releasing in time for the spiky blue blur’s 20th Anniversary, it’s clear that Sonic Team is continuing along the strong trajectory that both Colours and Sonic 4 began.
They’re definitely positive on the game, giving positive shoutouts to both Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors in the same breath. Gamespot AU takes the appreciation for Modern Sonic a bit further, to the point of almost implying it might be better than Classic Sonic:
Entering the same level again, the 3D Sonic doesn’t mess around. The camera now moves very closely behind Sonic, so we get a different perspective as he slides and jumps his way across the environment. In the big blur of blue and white and green, we managed to work out that Sonic now has the ability to use a homing attack to target enemy badniks from midair. In this level, the badniks were in their simplest form, the ladybug-like mechanical baddies that Sonic can easily manage.
This incarnation of the level also introduced zip lines, which Sonic glides across to avoid pits and large bodies of water. We also saw an underground part that has Sonic sliding across a zip line through a cave while being pursued by a giant mechanical fish. Things got crazy when Sonic decided to use his boost while zipping: It took the game from supersonic to hypersonic with no remorse for the poor sod watching (us).
Game Informer has kind words to say about both gameplay styles, but once again, nothing but love for Modern Sonic:
Aside from a hot-buttoned spindash, classic Sonic controls just like you remember. Leaping across platforms feels tight, and the sense of inertia is spot-on. After multiple playthroughs of the brief level, I looked down at the modern controller in my hand and was surprised not to see a Genesis pad.
Stepping into the bright red sneakers of the lanky, wise-cracking, modern Sonic is similar to playing any of the recent Wii games. These streamlined rollercoaster segments don’t usually do much for me, but the level I played was a riot. Nabbing rings and killing badniks builds up Sonic’s boost (borrowed from Sonic Colors), allowing you to blaze through loop de loops as the catchy Green Hill Zone music quickens. In one section of this branching course Sonic leaps through a waterfall onto a rail that he promptly grinds. A gigantic robotic fish then springs from the water below, chasing the hedgehog down in a scene reminiscent of the Sonic Adventure’s whale chase.
While Joystiq was clearly wowed by Generations graphics and silky smooth framerate, however, their preview does taper expectations compared to the rest:
The first (and only) level I saw was the Green Hill Zone, but it was split in two by the two generations of Sonic — now does that name make more sense? Chubby/Classic Sonic explored the level strictly from a 2D plane with a focus on platforming, in line with the goal of classic Sonic titles. It seems that the extra pudge is making it a bit harder for Classic Sonic to get his feet off the ground, though, as jumping felt a bit too sticky for a game so focused on platforming.
Though the skinnier, younger version of Sonic embraces speed and various camera angles (giving the impression of a deeper, more involved game), his version of Green Hill Zone felt more like an on-rails pinball machine. Skinny Sonic was tossed mercilessly around the stage with little inspiration from the Xbox controller, reminding me why I haven’t been inclined towards Sonic titles in recent years. A handful of QTEs and scripted encounters helped to make this mode feel “bigger,” but the actual interaction seemed distinctly scaled back to allow for cinematic events. It’s a rather noticeable difference when played back-to-back with older Sonic’s version of the same level, as intended.
And rounding out our list is G4’s preview, which briefly meditates on whether or not Sonic as a franchise can even be relevant anymore before offering up this tasty morsel regarding the game’s trick system:
On the 3D side, the perspective (on the GHZ map at least) jumps pretty frequently between an over-the-shoulder perspective and a more traditional 2D-style side view. Pressing A (again, on a 360 controller) jumps and also performs Sonic’s mid-air homing attack while holding X activates boost, depleting an on screen meter in the process. This meter can be refilled by knocking out enemies and performing tricks in mid-air — done simply by moving the two analog sticks in different directions — after hitting a rainbow-colored jump ramp.
Visually, it all looks pretty spectacular. Even if Sonic’s gameplay hasn’t always aged well, its graphics certainly have. The backgrounds are especially lovely in GHZ’s 2D mode, living pictures with lots to look at, but never too much detail that your eye is drawn away from the action. The 3D mode looks solid as well; the over-the-shoulder elements pull away somewhat from the vintage charm, but Sonic’s world is a richly detailed one and the less retro-styled gameplay mode offers a different view on things.
A special honorable mention goes out to MTVMultiplayer’s preview of the game, which unfortunately dredges up a lot of pent-up childhood frustration as their writer refers to Sonic’s rings as “coins”.
Overall, preview material seems fairly positive – though preview material in general usually is. We may not truly know how good or bad the game is until later this year when the game releases – or at least until more media trickles its way out at E3 in June. Stay tuned.