Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Preview
Ah, Sega. There was a time when you were a goliath of the industry, when I would lose many a happy hour to your Sega Genesis that made me question Nintendo’s reign with the SNES. Unsurprisingly, that fleet-footed spiky blue mascot was a big part of these good times and while the platforming goodness continued onto the Dreamcast, the poor little guy has lost his way recently. Most all of the 3D installments have been dreadful, including that ridiculously mediocre effort earlier this generation. I know it’s based on nothing but nostalgic sentiments to say a certain franchise should’ve always remained 2D, but I just can’t help thinking this in regards to Sega’s ailing series. I believe Zelda should’ve always remained 2D, too, but there are about eight trillion people who would disagree with that idea. But I’m willing to bet that many are interested in one of our favorite mascot’s return to old-school side-scrolling 2D entertainment, which is why we’re taking a look at Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1.
First of all, Dimps is indeed at the helm for this; there was some confusion on that matter when the game was first announced. Secondly, you shouldn’t really think of this as a direct “sequel,” although Sega has said it technically picks up where Sonic & Knuckles left off. Thirdly and finally, we’ve learned through various sources (including a very cool GameSpot Q&A with Sega associate brand manager Ken Balough) that a very enthusiastic team is involved in this digital download effort. In fact, Balough says it’s a game “we’ve all wanted to see” and they know they’re catering to fans of the classic titles. Furthermore, the story in Sonic 4 is “bigger” and because it’s only Episode 1, you can certainly count on future episodes. You can also thank other game makers for pursuing the return of classics in DLC form, because that clearly paved the way for Sega’s decision to make this game. It’s a “promise to Sonic fans,” in that they will get a Genesis-era entry as if it were created with modern technology.
Geez, how long have we wanted that? How many of us have wanted a sequel to something like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? Hey Konami, why not take a cue from Sega and do it! And you know, Sega doesn’t just want to give you an experience that looks like the Sonic of old; they also want the gameplay to be very, very familiar. Hence, we’ll get the spin dash, the power sneakers and all of Sonic’s other abilities we’ve seen before, but there will also be a few fresh additions. One example is the homing attack, and you can also expect a few twists and turns in the level design, which should be more dynamic and diverse than they were in the Genesis days. Essentially, the entire game is built around the aforementioned concept of appearing and playing like the old classics, with the benefit of modern technology popping up here and there. The graphics will obviously have that benefit, and so will the music; both facets of the presentation will be easily recognizable, but they’ll also boast next-gen polish. Get it?
For PS3 and Xbox 360 owners, Episode 1 will run at a glorious 1080p resolution and although media is a little lacking right now, there’s always that teaser trailer you can view through the GameSpot link above. It should show you everything you need to know, really. We’ll be interested to see how they approach the difficulty level and if they wish to make it easier – remember, older side-scrollers were much more demanding than the games of today – and of course, the length will be a consideration as well. As for those of you wondering if Sega will stick exclusively to the downloadable route for Sonic, you needn’t worry about a total abandonment of full games on physical media. Sega just wanted to make Sonic the Hedgehog 4 for the fans, and as a “new way to offer a great Sonic experience through a different medium.” I suppose that’s good news…provided we don’t get yet another lackluster 3D installment. I’m just not sure I can handle another massive letdown like that.
2/25/2010 Ben Dutka