Sonic The Hedgehog Preview
One of the most beloved video game icons in history has been confirmed for the next-gen for quite some time, but only recently have we gotten a close look at the fleet-footed blue hero. The Tokyo Game Show provided an up-to-date presentation of the PS3 launch title, and without a doubt, there's a serious amount of promise jammed into the blazingly fast title called, Sonic the Hedgehog.
First off, most Sonic fans won't be surprised to find out the PS3 Sonic will feature a couple new characters. Sonic's partner in crime this time around will be Silver the Hedgehog, who sacrifices some speed and power for amazing Telekenesis abilities. In the demo showed at both E3 and TGS, attendees could gain control of Silver and experiment with those mind-based skills. You could grab ahold of boulders, crates, and even cars and fling them at the enemy, and the atmosphere for Silver's playable area appeared bleak and war-torn.
This is in stark contrast to Sonic's level in the demo, which was flush with vibrant imagery ranging from leafy trees and sparkling rivers to the unmistakable gold rings. Overall, the gamer can expect some very large and open-ended environments, loaded with plenty of robots to battle (leaping and attacking is the order of the day). You'll be able to access a wide variety of maneuvers, and it's quite obvious that ultimate success will rely on reflexes and timing...something else Sonic fans should be familiar with.
One major benefit to these massive levels should revolve around freedom; you can search out several shortcuts with precisely timed jumps, and being observant will be key to traversing the landscape efficiently. The potential downside is the sheer amount of effort required to make such expansive levels appear pretty and polished, but thus far, Sonic Team appears to have done a damn fine job. Critics have already praised the demo for having top-notch visuals and impressive artistic design, so there's little to worry about.
And those who are old-fashioned at heart needen't concern themselves with Sonic's "next-gen look." Although it'll certainly feature the most impressive visuals of any Sonic title, and even though there's more of an open-ended feel to the levels, the demo only proves that, thankfully, Sonic is still Sonic. You might not be grinding on rails, but sailing through air currents is awfully similar, and the basic foundation of a quality 3D platformer remains intact. You'll have your little blue friend enjoying a brand new physics engine, yes, but he's still easily recognizable as that brash, speedy hero you're used to.
And let's face it- the prospect of a slightly new style goes hand-in-hand with a new generation, does it not? Sega is walking a fine line between completely revamping a traditional franchise and rehashing the same ol', same 'ol, and for now, it looks like they're performing the tightrope routine beautifully. Sonic is gonna do what he always does, only on a bigger scale and with a handful of new and improved capabilities. He'll have company, as usual, and this guy will be able to hover in mid-air thanks to super-cool telekenesis, but he's basically a silver Sonic.
Don't you worry, Sonic fans. He's back and he's faster and stronger than ever. There has been the appropriate amount of advancements and enhancements, but at its core, Sonic Team definitely hasn't forgotten its roots. It can be yours to enjoy on November 17 along with a shiny new PS3, provided the Sonic release date stays in place.
10/2/2006 Ben Dutka