Sonic the Hedgehog 4
Thursday, 4th February 2010, 8:34am (GMT), 6 Comments
The rumours are true...



I think I'll come back and compose my thoughts a little later, but at the moment I'm feeling like I'm done with the whole "critical, whiny" attitude that many fans seem to think is cool nowadays. Sure, that's a fairly generic looking Green Hill clone, but if any game has permission to use it, it's this one. It looks fantastic and I want to feel like a ten year old again, eagerly awaiting and thinking over the possibilities of the next game in my favourite series. Well done Sega, you did it!

*Later that day*

Well we've had a few hours to let it sink in and a few more details to trickle out. I recommend the Q&A with good 'ol Ken if you haven't read it already. Also http://www.sonicthehedgehog4.com now lives and breathes. The design of the site is a little generic-Sonic, the kind of default styling they give to most of their general purpose Sonic websites, but hopefully it might mutate into something more appropriately retro. They're probably still establishing the branding characteristics of the game as a whole.

All in all everything that we suspected is true though;
- A direct continuation of the original series, picking up where S&K left off. The official site even mentions Angel Island and the Death Egg having just been dealt with!
- High res 2D graphics (there's a lot of talk of 3D around, but I suspect it relates only to the characters, not the environments, and even then it could just be pre-rendered).
- Classic moves such as the spin dash. Homing attack also pops in.
- The first game of at least two parts, exactly like Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.
- The first download only Sonic game, through XBox Live, PSN, and also Wiiware will not be left in the cold afterall. And interestingly, unofficially uncovered, iPhone. Christian Whitehead's Retro Engine perhaps..? Hmm..
- July release. That's not long!

Overall, I love what I'm seeing and reading and I love the whole approach. As I've said somewhere before (or maybe just in my own head, I can't remember now), making it a smaller downloadable title ultimately makes it more likely to be of a higher quality because the developers won't feel like they have to pad the game out by introducing other mechanics, which everyone always hates - it won't matter if this game can be completed within a couple of days and only really has one central gameplay mode. Plus, its cheaper price is perfect for the 'normos' who stopped paying attention after Sonic & Knuckles, will one day come across a Sonic 4 advertised on their XBox, download a quick demo, love it and buy the whole thing there and then.

Now I make no secret about reservations over their choice of first level. I was holding out for something more original, however I will admit that a Green Hill clone does shout "look at me, I'm Sonic like you used to know me!!" to lost, casual fans, whom I think this is partially aimed at, in addition to the ones like you and me who have hung around and spent years building complex websites (or maybe that's just me). It does, however, look gorgeous. It's bright and colourful as it should be, and I love the extrusions and intrusions on the individual checkers, creating lovely lighting and shadows. It bodes well for the graphics of the game as a whole, because you just can't find this kind of quality in the world of fan gaming, and I can't wait to see this applied to the other levels too. Those also downhearted by the lack of originality behind this level should hopefully be comforted by the fact that at least one more game will follow this one with a whole new set of levels, and between the two of them, I'm sure they can concoct some more interesting ideas. It's hardly the end of the world.

Inevitably, this game will be nitpicked and such evidence can already be found. I can understand resistance to be excited if you've felt let down multiple times, but clearly some people will never really get the big picture. I speak mostly of those shouting at their monitors about how Sonic has green eyes, how the homing attack will make an appearance, etc etc. I think each Sonic fan needs to realise that the franchise does not revolve around the exact specifications of what they, individually, deem to be a worthwhile Sonic game, that anything less than that is not automatically crap, and that their opinions do not necessarily reflect, even by majority, the opinions of the whole fanbase. Whatever the specifics are that you want, you are unlikely to get all of them in one go, because everyone has different needs - I think some of us need to be a lot more accepting, and less fussy over the details.

Also, I think it's unlikely that any future Sonic game will ever really be better or possibly even as good as your favourites among the original Mega Drive selection - in a way, their quality is time-locked, it's directly linked with the nostalgic memories of playing them in their own time period, when you were probably a youngster and because of all that you've seen and played since, nothing will ever quite live up to that. I personally, have come to accept that and I urge fans not to have those kind of high expectations for new titles, official or otherwise, because they'll probably never really be met. Each game should be judged on its own merit, with its own approach, in my view.

But lets be excited for once, for goodness sakes, this is SONIC 4! This is a game I remember dreaming about a decade and a half ago, and sure it's not going to be as it would have been had it been released in 1995, but I think that's for the best. I think it would have been a shame to see them use Mega Drive technology to represent this game here and now, when it can look as good as it does in those brief 3 seconds of footage. Emulating S3&K's 2 part nature is a fantastic idea, and I'm hoping the two will then be playable together in one massive chunk. Who's to say that episode 2 won't feature Tails and Knuckles, who could then be played in episode 1 and access whole other routes? What I'm most excited about is the fact that all of the classic staples; spin dash, badniks, end of act signposts, hopefully item boxes and potentially just about anything from S1-K is being reintroduced into the modern flow of Sonic design. All of these features have gradually been phased out of modern games to be replaced by new mechanics. I'm all for trying new things but this stuff should never be left to die completely, and Sonic 4's mere presence ensures that won't happen. plus I can't wait to just play through a whole new, classic 2D game. By the time of release, it will have been a good three years since any fully 2D game, and many more years since one of this nature.

Unsurprisingly, the real meaty stuff, like level design decisions (multiple routes, unique objects and layouts per level, water, fewer death drops, etc) still remain to be seen, and these are the kinds of things, along with general control physics of Sonic himself that will really determine whether Sonic 4 sinks or swims with many fans, however so far, everything is going rather well I would argue, and in general it's a great choice of game for Sega to do, at the time when Sonic really needs it.

I always knew that Sonic the Hedgehog 4 would come one day, in pretty much this kind of packaging. Having known that the game would be announced at 8am this morning (UK time) I was like a kid on Christmas Eve last night. I even kept dreaming about various different forms the game could take, from Mega Drive graphics, to full on 3D, and waking up after each. I think it would certainly be aided by slightly more retro branding than what's currently on the official site, but I really hope this game inspires the kid in every twenty-something or late teen Sonic fan to come bursting out into life again and jump up and down at the prospect of a new, full on 2D adventure, simple and brilliant.

Oh, and to all the people who have, or will be interested in writing guides for Zone: 0.. dibs on Sonic 4. Both/all episodes :P
Comments   6 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Svend Joscelyne / Dreadknux on Thursday, 4th February 2010, 12:06pm
A lot of people were unreasonably expecting Mega Drive style graphics or something - this game looks more like it's channeling New Super Mario Bros. Wii's approach than, say, Mega Man 10. And that, undoubtedly, is a good thing. A very good thing.

Excellent article, mate. I agree pretty much wholeheartedly. It finally looks like we're getting the game we've been waiting for. Why sully the celebration with the colour of Sonic's eyes, eh?
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 4th February 2010, 12:17pm
Exactly. The details like that don't matter, it's the overall spirit of the game and effort gone into creating a fun and engaging experience, through great level design and character momentum. We still need to see evidence of that but if you can't get excited about something new now and then, then what's the point?
#3. Comment posted by Meph on Thursday, 4th February 2010, 3:51pm
It's kind of the Sonic Team to do this. I think it would be rude if we were to lash out at them over minor details.
#4. Comment posted by Speeding Hedgehog on Thursday, 4th February 2010, 9:38pm
I dunno. call me a spoil sport, but I'm kinda disappointed to see new Sonic, especially since this game takes place RIGHT AFTER Sonic 3 & K. It doesn't ruin the whole game, but it is kinda a letdown. I'm also not too thrilled with the inclusion of the homing attack, but as long as it takes a back seat and isn't used to travel over bottomless pits by attacking still enemies (ala anything after Sonic Adventure), It'll be fine.
#5. Comment posted by supersonicsmash on Wednesday, 10th February 2010, 9:09pm
Already seen it on Youtube. Also, someone predicted this that it would be SOnic 4, I thought it would be a remake looking at the wikipedia thing. I recently did of course look it up. remake of Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection.
#6. Comment posted by Chaos Shadow on Friday, 12th February 2010, 3:49am
Whether it turns out to be closer to a remake than an original game, or we get back to the real good stuff from the 90s (Sonic Advanced/Rush, you try so hard, but you never quite -make it-; it's like an uncanny valley of fun, where you know it should be but it just feels more like busywork), I am excited. This looks absolutely gorgeous, and if the gameplay remains true to the original Genesis titles (or Sonic CD), this is going to be a blast.
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