Sonic Unleashed trailer dissection
Wednesday, 16th July 2008, 1:31pm (UTC), 3 Comments
Following my impressions of the trailer from yesterday, I thought I'd draw attention to a few little bits and pieces you may have missed. Because over-analysing things to suckle out every piece of information we can is what being an obsessive Sonic fan is all about! Firstly, bosses...

Here we have the bosses for the Europe, African jungle and China stages fought as regular Sonic on the run, ala Mushroom Hill, Sonic Advance 2, Sonic Heroes, etc. It does really make me begin to wonder if Sonic simply runs automatically, regardless of the orientation throughout the whole game as we have yet to see him stop at all, and bosses are normally one of the places to do that. Still, I like the designs I see here, particularly the first one in Europe, which reminds me a great deal of the afforementioned Mushroom Hill Zone boss from Sonic & Knuckles - the laser beams acting as the rows of spikeballs. Also note that you can see Eggman inside a cockpit in each of the first two - just how it should be!

This is quite cool - I thought it was a spring at first but on closer inspection, Sonic latches onto a giant firework that blasts him forward. He drops off at the beginning of the next path as the firework continues forward and explodes - looks a very satisfying level object. Would be great if there would be several, and Sonic hops between them in mid-air before each explodes. Also, what in the hell are those icons in the top left corner? One looks like a tiny Sonic head icon, and the other either a rocket facing down, or a hand pointer icon facing up. If they're for the in-game HUD, why isn't the ring meter and life counter there? Is it part of the development software? Mysterious. Check it out for yourself at 2:09.

Platforming! Yay! Sonic must traverse these rotating circular platforms and avoid the spiked things. Note that this takes place on the rear view, so if that gaming aspect is on-rails and Sonic runs automatically, you'll have to do it while being forced along. On the other hand, I can see how controls for moving forward and back, and dodging left and right might work quite well, while being taken on a certain path around the obstacles. While blazing along the speedy paths at that view however, I think I'd prefer not to have to hold the forward direction all the time. I'll be very interested to see how this section actually works, however, any errors obviously result in death by falling, which I don't mind at all in small bits, but lets hope the team stick to their promise of having fewer death drops than we've been accustomed to lately.

These rings are clearly following Sonic as if he carried the lightning/ring magnet shield, however if you examine the video sequence of the first shot, Sonic is clearly without any shield, and doesn't appear to acquire one as he hops between grinding rails. Do rings suddenly become attracted to you when you obtain a certain amount of speed or ring energy? The first sequence is around the 1 minute mark, the second at 1:56.

Some sort of precision involved here as Wolfy carefully walks across this thin beam, very slowly. Wii motion controls would be quite good here, as you attempt to keep the remote balanced in some way.

Lets have a look at some enemies now, seemingly monsters that emerge from the center of the Earth once it's been torn apart and who, hopefully, only pop out at night. I don't mind that too much actually, and they look reasonably interesting. Kind of remind me of the twilight monsters from Zelda: Twilight Princess a bit, but suitably Sonic styled. The dog one in the middle is from the recently released batch of screenshots and there's even some wizard style ones in cloaks. Also note that the ring meter is replaced by shield and vitality meters, indicating a whole different health system to regular Sonic, which makes sense, as it looks like Were-Sonic is going to be taking a bit of battering at times from all these bad guys.

Ending on a bit of a geek-note, we can see in the first screenshot that the checkpoints are a modified version of the Adventure style ones, now with glowing lights across them. In the second shot, you can see what appears to be the same lights, and part of one of the posts to the side, with Were-Sonic possibly in the way of the rest of it. If this is a checkpoint, it extends much further across the path than normal, so perhaps they stretch according to the size of the paths to make sure you don't miss them? Particularly useful with regular Sonic I'd imagine.

I'd love to do a great big article on Sonic Unleashed soon, the first of hopefully many articles that I'll write for this site, going over every thing I've been throwing around in my head and see if I can come to any conclusions and predictions of how it might all work regarding gameplay mechanics, level designs and overall game structure. Whether I will or not is another matter, as I'm also eager to continue redesigning the site (which I've been doing a lot of behind closed doors, and it's looking, frankly, brilliant!) but I do have a few weeks off now, so we'll see how it goes.
Comments   3 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Thursday, 17th July 2008, 4:51am
Okay, now this is just weird.

It was many, many years ago that I had a dream, which I can still vividly recall.

I was standing in the store, looking at the back of the packaging of a newly released Sonic game. I remember being surprised - and a little appalled - at what I saw.

Sonic had stretchy, cartoony, rubbery arms. They could extend to great lengths so that he could grab objects, swing on poles, and combat enemies.

After waking up, I realised how ridiculous of a concept it was. This was long before I played or even heard of Ristar.

And now, bizarrely, the very same mechanic has made its way into a real Sonic game. I guess it wasn't so ridiculous as I thought.

The world is a funny place.

Incidentally, my current project has gone through each of the following working titles: Sonic Collection, Sonic Gems, Sonic Chronicles, and Sonic Genesis. Each of these titles has been summarily absorbed by Sega, of course. To combat this I decided to name my game something I thought they'd never do, and make it a bit like a Harry Potter book - Sonic the Hedgehog and the Such-and-such of So-and-so. Mere days later, I kid you not, Sonic and the Secret Rings was announced. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if Sega has me bugged... So you can see why I'm so uptight about revealing even the name of what I'm working on...

Anyway, in a bit of free time I began to work on the Sonic 3 & Knuckles Zone format, from savestates. I've got them mapping accurately already (minus objects, of course), but they're so bloody big! Ice Cap Act 1 is over a hundred million pixels large, and takes over 400 megabytes to process! I'm at a loss as to what to do, unless users would accept multiple maps per act. Sort of like a part 1, part 2 kind of thing.
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 17th July 2008, 9:19am
Haha, yeah, sometimes I get the feeling Sega are reading my thoughts as well, as I'm often preconceiving ideas for new level environments that soon pop up in some form.

Great to hear you're working on the S3&K maps. I for one wouldn't mind at all having the maps separated into bits and then stitching them up together in Photoshop or something, if that's a viable solution.

Their massive size is going to be a problem for me as well regarding the size of the final png's and my bandwidth, but if you can work out a way of doing it it would really be so awesome, as I think because of their complexity, those maps are probably the most useful to have as there's so much you can miss by just playing.
#3. Comment posted by mercury on Sunday, 20th July 2008, 9:40pm
You're right. I hadn't thought of it that way. Aside from perhaps Sonic Advance 2 (because it requires you to take very specific routes through its Zones to gather the 7 Special Rings necessary to enter the special stage), Sonic 3 & Knuckles would benefit the most from maps, due to the sheer size of them. I think next to Oil Ocean, Carnival Night was the Zone I spent the most time lost in in my youth.

I'll just have to make sure that the maps are cut into sensible chunks - it wouldn't do to have the split run right through an object graphic, for instance, especially for users who may not Photoshop or computers with enough memory to stitch them together.

Interestingly, the reason for the Zones in Sonic 3 & Knuckles being much larger than Sonic 1, 2, and CD is because of a programming trick. They store the layout data in a different format that takes up much less information, so they can fit twice the vertical resolution. That Yuji Naka really knew how to squeeze every last bit out of the Mega Drive, didn't he?
Sonic Unleashed at E3!
Tuesday, 15th July 2008, 10:35pm (UTC), 0 Comments
It's that time again.. E3! When a new primary Sonic game is on the horizon it's usually the biggest event of its development progress. We get a snazzy proper trailer, buckets of screens and info and usually some off-screen gameplay footage and impressions. Apparently Sonic Unleashed isn't playable so dunno about the last two, but these are some seriously juicy items.. screens and info.

The trailer features more of the speedy Sonic segments of the levels, arguably the definition of unrelenting fun, in Sonic form (surely the best form of fun imaginable), plus our very first glimpse of Werewolf gameplay. The low-res version is very low res, and can only give you a basic feel of what's going on, but a 300 meg, very large and high quality version is available here and I strongly recommend FlashGet or something similar to download this, as otherwise it only seems to go no higher than 20 kb/s.

I must say this is an excellent trailer, especially once you've seen it in full quality, with a mix of both old and brand new footage, but mostly new. Firstly, the music, by a guy from Bowling for Soup and which I assume is the main theme, I think is perfectly suited to Sonic, whether his somewhat generic teen-like voice is your cup of tea or not. It has a perfect, upbeat tune and good lyrics that, I don't know about you, but kind of give me a certain "everything's going to be alright" feeling. It's odd that I mention cinematic shots before the actual gameplay, but I am just so impressed by them. Sonic Unleashed kicks off with what appears to be the ending from another, unseen Sonic game where Sonic thwarts Eggman's space-based schemes and it's just so classic Sonic, with, what I would say are clear homages to the endings of the likes of Sonic 2 and Sonic & Knuckles. The bit where Eggman's mech has Sonic in his grasp and then he later bursts out of it as Super Sonic and zooms off as everything explodes around him.. just wow. Definitely the coolest FMV yet, if that footage is anything to go by. Kind of hard to see what order everything is happening in, as Were-Sonic is also seen falling away to Earth, but we'll soon find out.

Werewolf Sonic plays much like I expected him to, operating in full 3D controls, as I expected, and clearly there's a mix of more slow-paced platforming and some enemy hack and slash going on. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I first saw it, perhaps only because it somehow seems less impressive and much more ordinary when compared to the unique thrill of the Sonic speed levels, surrounding it. Also the inclusion of lots of enemies and health bars filled me a bit with dread, as like many others, I could live quite happily without them in a Sonic game.

Did you see the recent teaser trailer about Were-Sonic terrorising a real city? A bit corny I know, but the way Sonic made grand leaps between street lights and rooftops at a fairly quick pace made me wonder how cool it would be to be able to control him like that, in some way, but unfortunately the gameplay we see doesn't appear to be particularly like that. Still, the more I watch it, the better I feel because although your attention is drawn a bit to the fight sequences, you can also catch numerous bits and pieces where he's inching along ledges, swinging between poles using those crazy stretchy arms, dropping off a statue on a pedestal to open a door and even balancing along a thin walkway. It seems like this part of the game could be a lot more varied, and certainly has the potential to offer a bit more meat to the otherwise possibly shallow regular Sonic gameplay. 3D Sonic has always had the problem of offering substantial, careful platforming without his speed getting in the way and causing him to fall off ledges etc. By separating the two and keeping the thrilling speedy bits to 2 dimensions at any one time, you offer the best of both worlds. I'm still unsure about the battle sequences though - even in high res it looks a little bit awkward, and hard to tell if his attacks are actually doing any damage because he's surrounded by these odd purple creatures all the time. Still, there appears to be lots of different grabs, slashes and throws to utilise, and of course Smash Bros Brawl remained very entertaining with plenty of combat alongside platforming, so there's nothing at all to say at this stage that it won't play well.

What sheds more light on the subject is the interview with Patrick Riley, who explains that the levels won't be separate for each form of the character, there will be a day-to-night system (yes yes YES!) that plays out in the duration of certain areas of the level, eventually transforming Sonic into his were-self come nightfall, although other areas will be locked into certain times. I'm not entirely sure how this will work, considering that they've already said they don't want the levels to last more than five minutes, but maybe he means some whole levels will be set at one time of the day, while others vary, perhaps making multiple instances of the same level environments like Sonic Adventure 2 or Shadow the Hedgehog, which I think would be a good idea. But in these variable sections you can apparently advance the time at your own will too, thereby sticking to a particular form. This not only suggests that you can avoid a particular style of gameplay if you like, but also a considerable amount of complexity in level design, if they're able to accomodate both at the same time. You could be able to transform into Were-Sonic at any time and not be forced to walk across very long roads, but at the same time, somehow still account for Sonic's need to run very fast across large distances. The intricate paths we've seen in some screenshots, particularly the city levels, seem to suggest that perhaps Were-Sonic would be able to drop off to a side road here or there just underneath the main one, leading him down a more platform-heavy route that regular Sonic can't access. That would definitely lead to some seriously varied replayability.

We definitely need more clarification with all that though, but it certainly sounds very interesting, and for me, by far the most exciting aspect to it is the day-to-night shifting, which the newest screenshots alude to by showing Africa at sunset. This is a feature I have longed for over so many years now, and I thought we were finally getting it in Sonic '06, only to have it phased out during production. As a level enthusiast, I think the idea is brilliant, adding a whole other visual dimension to their replayability factor and solves the problem that I was having with the fact that, until now, every level was all bright, blue afternoon skies. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I wouldn't want it for every stage. Now, my prayers have been answered at long last, plus the China stage is suitably cloudy too.

Last time with the Europe trailer, my dissection of key frames that showed hidden bits and pieces proved quite popular, and I've already noticed numerous lovely tidbits in this trailer, quite well hidden by the split-screen section in particular, so tomorrow I'll be screen-grabbing and pointing things out like a well prepared lecturer. The China stage has some very interesting components to watch out for.
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Background Info (and Brawl stuff!)
Wednesday, 9th July 2008, 9:59pm (UTC), 2 Comments
Update: Background Info page added to the Sonic 2 section
The Sonic 2 Background Info section has been added, henceforth the entrance to the wonderful sub-world that is the Sonic 2 section, and contains all sorts of bits and bobs, mainly stuff I've gathered from other sources and just general descriptions of the game really. The kind of stuff you find on any other Sonic resource site to be honest, so it's never really my favourite bit to write. I prefer the levels, which is where I know I'm breaking new ground as far as Sonic sites are concerned, and is why I put them up first. Next up is Gameplay details, which will take a little longer - lots more images.

So I've got through the Subspace Emissary on Smash Bros Brawl, and I must say I was really impressed. Platforming is the best game genre of them all and it's time we saw much more of this sort of thing - doesn't have to be 3D, just good old, innovative platforming puzzles and pure fun gameplay. Although I would liked to have seen Sonic pop up in the story in such a way that he'd interact with the other characters (a confrontation with Mario would have been brilliant to behold), I enjoyed it when he finally did appear. He's fun to control, especially as he comes eqipped with all the kind of moves we know and love, but it seems like he requires a bit of practise to fully make the most of. My brawling skills are rather limited to be honest, and I'm finding the likes of Meta Knight and Kirby to be slightly more effective for me. The Green Hill arena and the selection of music tracks available (particularly the excellent Angel Island Zone remix) are truly brilliant though. It's a little chunk of classic Sonic for the modern gaming world, and in that respect, the whole spirit of the game is admirable - flying in the face of modern conventions and the new, casual gamer in favour of great nostalgia.

I'll probably be beaten, but what the hell, my brawl code is: 2707-3106-1661 for anyone interested.

Thanks to the recent nod from Sonic Retro. It always makes my day to read that someone appreciates what I'm building here, and to see it recommended on other sites, particularly those of Sonic Retro's prominence and quality, is even better. Cheers Jayextee! I see I'm on the affiliates list as well, I'll have to include my own when I revamp the site, and return the favour.
Comments   2 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Cybershell on Wednesday, 9th July 2008, 11:51pm
Hey this site is shaping up to be pretty fucking magnificent so far. Thanks for all the hard work you're putting in.
#2. Comment posted by Crono S. Magnum on Thursday, 10th July 2008, 2:07am
I'm gonna second Cybershell's commment.

Keep up the good work man!
Stages and Story
Tuesday, 1st July 2008, 10:42pm (UTC), 7 Comments
Update: Stages and Story page added to the Sonic 2 section
The first general Sonic 2 page has been added. Yes, partly a collection of the summaries of levels that I've already posted, but also all important details on how to beat the final bosses, plus ending spoilers! That's quite a tough pair of bosses, so I'd imagine this info should be quite useful to anyone who never managed to beat them. To make it, I managed to work out an altered version of my existing back-end PHP system for building level pages, which was fun. For me anyway, I'm a geek for that sort of thing.

Background Info should be next. Hopefully not too far away, even though I am a bit tied up with other stuff at the moment. These general Sonic 2 pages aren't nearly as time consuming to put together as the levels, it's just finding the time.

Like many UK fans I'm currently enjoying Smash Bros Brawl, keenly working my way through the SSE to try and unlock the obvious. I've only had a couple of hours on it really, but it's a great bit of old skool 2D platforming that I wish there was more of these days on home consoles.

Have you seen the official Sonic Chronicles website? I was very impressed by the whole design and idea behind it, very creative approach. Bonus points to anyone who recognised the background music to the purple alien area as Panic Puppet, from Sonic 3D Saturn/PC. What an unusual choice, and not a favourite of mine, but it's cool that they seem to be plucking those tunes and other Sonic references out of the whole spectrum of the series, from the obvious to the obscure. Is that the kind of audio quality we can expect from the game though? I know it's DS, but I'm sure they can do better than that, it's rather minimal. The Green Hill area sounds a bit more interesting however. Taking a look at the videos of the game in action, I'm impressed by the gorgeous environments, but they appear to be taking a toll on the fluidity of the game in action, which could be really annoying. Reading some of the previews of how it might be a fairly straightforward RPG, to be honest, I think this might be one of those games that will be extremely popular with Sonic fans, but less applicable to the general gaming public. Hopefully Sonic Unleashed will be more balanced with regard to that.
Comments   7 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by iNAUDiBLE on Friday, 4th July 2008, 10:44pm
Will be sure to check that out, thank you much. You planning on having some part of it dedicated to the Sonic 2 manga things that they had for the game?

It's notable for the fact that a prototype Amy and Charmy were in it. I also have pictures of another manga story by the same author that I think...MIGHT have come with the Japanese manual, but it's not much really.

The music for Central City is a remix of Diamond Dust Zone from the same game. There are even going to be SWATbots. Yeah, it really does seem to be that way. But I'd honestly prefer a straightforward RPG than one that tries to do this that and another. D': Another concern of mine is the preciseness needed for the special attacks, but they have enough time to polish that up. Sonic Unleashed is the big one.
#2. Comment posted by mercury on Monday, 7th July 2008, 5:10am
Hey, I finally finished my programme. The first release of "Sonic Extractor (CD Mix)" is up at Rapidshare at the following link:

I really hope it comes in useful for you!
#3. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 7th July 2008, 8:25pm
Wow, Mercury, I am truly impressed! I've used Game Maker myself several years ago and to think it can now be capable of reading and manipulating data from actual Sonic games is amazing! I wouldn't know where to begin to build such a thing, you've got considerable skill there. Very well done.

I tried it out on both the savestate you supplied and one I made myself, and they work perfectly! You've just made my Sonic CD section much more useful and comprehensive than it was going to be, and if you can provide the same tool for Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles (oh please please do!) you will have reduced the time I'll need to produce those guides by at least 50% I would say, probably a lot more. For that, I would be truly grateful! Your work will make a massive contribution to the progress of Zone: 0.

iNAUDiBLE - thanks for the link. I have seen this before and it's pretty weird, but I don't really see the relevance, other than it being associated with the release of the game. At this stage at least, I'd prefer to focus more on the actual game and even more specifically the levels - the kind of thorough details the other sites ignore, but I always hesitate to do too much borrowing of content and info from other places. Thanks for the suggestion though, perhaps in later years, Zone: 0 will grow to encompass a wider range of content such as this.
#4. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 8th July 2008, 1:45am
I'm really glad that you like the programme! Sonic CD has always been my favourite of the Sonic games, and I feel honoured to be able to contribute. I'm also very glad that it sounds like it's going to be a big help as well.

I definitely want to have a whack at Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and I'm pretty sure it should be faster and easier than doing Sonic CD (what with no time frames and all), but I'm going to take a break for now and go back to my main project. But I'll probably start work on mapping them within the next couple of months.

And, just as aside, how did you like the Help file? I'm somewhat renowned for being a wordy guy. I hope it was clear as well as enjoyable.
#5. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Tuesday, 8th July 2008, 7:21am
Yeah, the help file was very comprehensive! Much more indepth than most people bother to write for these kind of tools.

That's cool, let me know how your main project goes, it sounds like an interesting one. Best of luck with it!
#6. Comment posted by Chapolim on Wednesday, 9th July 2008, 7:45pm
Hi there, I just found your website and I'm really impressed with your work. Those level maps are awesome and brought me back a lot of good memories.
I'm keeping it in my bookmark will sure come back many times again. Thanks!
#7. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Wednesday, 9th July 2008, 10:01pm
That's great to hear, thanks a lot for posting! :)
Europe Observations
Thursday, 19th June 2008, 7:46pm (UTC), 2 Comments
With the full quality, 100MB version of the previously discussed trailer for the Europe city level of Sonic Unleashed, I thought I'd do what everyone else is doing and look out for some cool, new things hidden away in there, hopefully many of these you won't have noticed or read about before..

When Sonic is homing attacking the Spinner badniks, you can make out this strange green box. At lower res it almost looked to me like something that flew out of one of the badniks, but now you can clearly make out the green shield symbol on the front and a red circular pad underneath it just like the item boxes originally from Sonic Adventure. This is a Sonic Unleashed item box! And the standard shield has clearly made a comeback after its absence from previous 3D outings. It's an odd design though, almost a cross between the classic TV monitor style and the newer design, but the TV box is replacing the glass as the thing that essentially holds the item graphic, with the pad underneath to keep it floating. It might be hard to see where it is, spatially, from these shots, but if you watch, it's floating in the air with the badniks and presumably can be obtained by holding left while homing.

Take a look at these guys, who hover ahead of Sonic in the later clips. Here you can see that they're three-eyed, bulked up Egg Pawns, seemingly, hovering by way of two massive jets on their back. Very interesting.

What the hell is that red-rimmed circular thing? It's not a spring, it's flat and there's no star on it. Could be a jump panel like those in Sonic Adventure where Sonic leaped between them on the walls by jumping. Also looks like a button, similar to the original, flat and.. button-like designs of old, rather than the abstract floating sphere ones.

You may have noticed this already, but these platforms below prove the existence of slower and more careful platforming areas. Here you can now make out a large floating hoop in the middle, much like those in the Advance series, and assuming it provides the same mid-air dash functionality, it appears to get Sonic to the highest spring on the right, from the lower one on the left of the pic. It's interesting that the grinding rail route on the trailer starts at the top and goes down, and seems to run against the direction that these platforms and springs will take you. Perhaps the multiple routes in this game are less a case of short and sweet than we might have thought, if, at one point, they're going in entirely different directions?

If you wondered how far all those nifty 3D houses went before they switched to a flat background, there's your answer. Still, you really don't notice it while moving at that speed.

If you've seen the trailer more than once (and I'm sure most of you have), you're bound to have spotted the Carnival Night style balloons all over the place, and I'm hoping they're a level-specific object, rather than yet another one that appears throughout the game. Also note the flagpole there though, popularised in the Sonic Advance series. The team are clearly making use of standard 2D objects, rather than just 2D-ising standard 3D ones, which is good.

There's certainly a lot to look for in this trailer, and one of the most interesting and exciting ones that Sega have produced in recent years I think, at least of the ones that are just for pure gameplay, like this. Will post more observations if I spot them.
Comments   2 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Wednesday, 25th June 2008, 1:03am
Hey, when you give the site the ol' redesign, how about giving it a Favicon? There isn't one when you bookmark it Firefox. :)

I have to say, despite myself, that Sonic Unleashed looks totally awesome. Personally, I don't think Sonic will ever be truly back on the map until they re-hire Masato Nakamura to do the soundtrack and start drawing Sonic the way they did in the Sonic CD cinematics, but regardless of that Sonic Unleashed looks like it might finally be a worthy successor to Sonic and Knuckles. I promised myself after the series of let downs that were Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Next-Gen I'd never be fooled into getting stoked about a new Sonic console title - but I'm stoked anyway. It helps alot that Hashimoto sounds like an intelligent and dedicated guy. I dug it when he said that careful platforming was as much an integral part of Sonic as the speed - something no one has understood since the Megadrive era, in my opinion.

I've completely finished up the first five Zones, leaving only Stardust Speedway and Metallic Madness, which thankfully don't have a whole bunch of complicated objects (unlike Tidal Tempest, which took four days on its own!). It's slow work, but rewarding!
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Saturday, 28th June 2008, 3:30pm
Favicon's not a bad idea at all! I'll probably make it a teeny little Z:0, rather than a Sonic head or something, so as to distinguish it from other Sonic sites.

Cool news about the zones, can't wait to try out the program!
High Europe
Tuesday, 17th June 2008, 7:10pm (UTC), 0 Comments
Yeah, I kinda hope that's not the name of the level either, but, just in case you've missed it today..

1:59 of pure Sonic brilliance as he races non-stop through the "Europe" level of Sonic Unleashed. I love the amount of variety in there, and sure, it's all running very consistently fast along winding paths and rails and I think there is reason for some concern that the game will feel like it's playing itself, as I've read some people point out today. But I think the developers are realising this and combatting it with Quick Time Events, where you must press a particular button at a particular time to dodge an enemy, skid under or dash straight through something, all while moving at great speed. I'd be worried if this features too prominently so that it becomes a bit like some sort of non-musical Sonic-based Guitar Hero, or some other rhythmic button pressing game that I can't play very well, but it seems to mesh quite well with Sonic's usual gameplay mechanics.

As big a fan as I am of the balance between smooth speed and traditional platforming that the original megadrive titles had, I think as Sonic fans in this modern, harsh world where guns have replaced the act of jumping on people's heads and the hedgehog can no longer expect automatic love from reviewers, we need to be ready to accept that things sometimes need to evolve into new, fresher approaches. The Sonic Rush formula has been more successful than any other in recent years, so, a bit like natural selection, that's the mutation that the powers that be are running with now, so to speak. Those in fear of a complete loss of all platforming traditions however should be reminded that there is still the Were-Sonic side of things to be unveiled, said to, logically, operate at a much slower pace. I know, it's not the same, but it's better off present in a distorted form than completely absent. Plus, we've only seen the bits that Sega want us to see, which are more often than not, the fast bits, as that's where Sonic is special. Doesn't mean to say that there won't be slower bits too.

I love the amazing speeds of it all, and the behind-view segments requiring quick left and right dashes look immensely fun. I love that powerslide, the wall-kicking and the freefalling sequence down, what appears to be a Dilapidated Way-style sewer. All is not lost with level-specific objects, as we can see spiked and non-spiked rolling barrels, water fountains and especially look out for the returning Carnival Night balloons. I also liked the variation of the floating spinner badniks from Sonic Adventure and Advance 3, which Sonic homes in on, and enemies in general certainly seem to be taking their rightful place in the levels, being one-hit-to-kill, easily disposed of and fairly comical creatures, as opposed to appearing in lots of large gangs and contributing too much to the overall challenge. The large soldiers falling away are very satisfying to watch. Also, I can't not mention those amazing graphics. If the high-end version of the game is capable of rendering all those buildings and details without dropping a frame, then it should be able to handle just about anything. The music, I wasn't that keen on at first, but as with most new Sonic music that I'm initially not sure about, I came round to it very quickly.

You can say all you want about concerns regarding where this game is taking the series in terms of gameplay style, but I think most would agree that this is all looking to be a big step in the right direction, and I for one am extremely impressed, and excited. Gameplay looks constantly exhilarating in a way that only Sonic can do, but I don't think this necessarily means a drop in challenge and genuine difficulty, or a game that will play by itself. QTE's should give it a simple, easy to pick up and play, but tough to master quality, and I'm really happy with the balance between 2D side-scrolling and rear-camera "on-rails" stuff that allows them to give us the best of both worlds I think. If Sonic must take the option of a game filled with fast-paced, think-quick button presses and reactions rather than slower semi-puzzles, I for one am happy to run with him and see where we go, but to be honest, the inclusion of Were-Sonic makes me doubt that things will be that black and white anyway.

Previous interviews have revealed that Sonic Team are dedicated to this title, and are picking out the flaws that we've all discussed to death and making sure that the likes of too many bottomless bits and waves of tough enemies are being hopefully replaced by excellent variety and challenge, all while keeping a consistent pace and ultimately resulting in what I think could be the most enjoyable and heart-pumping Sonic game yet. I think if this game fails, it won't be through lack of trying. Could still be through lack of time unfortunately, but lets hope that if the developers really need extra time to work things out, Sega will give it to them. If not, they'll be making a massive mistake.

On a final, site note, I'm in the planning phases of a massive overhaul to the back-end system that drives this place, resulting in something that is easier for me to edit and progress into the future with when I come to newer games that follow different structures (i.e. ones that don't always have the same two acts and a boss for every character, or even have acts at all). This will also lead to a completely new look for the site, with many new features added, and I've already started designing that, to much satisfaction so far. However, I don't want to make you wait too long for the general pages of Sonic 2, to round that game off, so I've decided to do those old skool for the moment and build them in straightforward HTML, then convert them to dynamic later on. Otherwise it might be a while before anything is actually added to the site, and I'd rather that not be the case.

Only a month or so til E3 I believe, so hopefully more Sonic Unleashed goodies then! Enjoy!
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