First Impressions: Should be called Sonic the Hedgehog Episode IV: A New Hope
Sonic hasn't aged well. It's just a plain fact. I'm a huge fan, and have been since I was young, but even I will admit, the little blue guy has simply lost his way. Perhaps it is because ever since Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast Sonic has been slowly becoming part of a larger ensemble cast. Maybe it's because of the games' focus on storytelling rather than the true heart of any Sonic game? speed. Perhaps, and this is the most likely, they just make those animals talk too darn much. Either way, Sonic has fallen on some hard times, and Sega has realized that maybe it is time to go back and rethink the series. Enter Sonic the Hedgehog, a tentative title for the next-gen rendition of our favorite ?dude with a ?tude? mascot. While the game isn't taking the game back to it's more traditional Genesis ?South Island? (The name of the world in Sonic 1) roots, the game is shaping up to tell a new Sonic story apart from the Adventure series.
In this new game, Sonic will be teamed up with his Sonic Adventure friend/nemesis Shadow the Hedgehog as well as a mysterious new silver colored hedgehog, creatively named Silver. It's unclear just what Silver is actually, considering his long spiky ?hair? almost makes him look like an octopus, but popular opinion seems to favor Silver as being a hedgehog. Tales, Knuckles, Amy Rose, Big the Cat, Cream, and all the rest of the crew are nowhere present this time, and to be honest that's probably a good thing, as they pretty much held the Adventure games down. (Oh Knuckles, why did you have to stop being cool?) Of course Eggman has returned, this time with another new makeover. He actually looks eerily realistic now. The setting is also somewhat unfamiliar looking, like a cross between modern day Station Square from Sonic Adventure and some regal Final Fantasy type town surrounded by dense forests and old ruins. The game also features a human princess, and some confusing plot about a weapon. Wait a tic? that sounds awfully familiar.
The similarities in the plot aren't the only thing tying Sonic Adventure to the new Sonic the Hedgehog either. Expect to find each character to play in a drastically different style than the others. For instance, Sonic's stages will focus largely on running and spin dashing- getting through the stages as fast as possible. Shadow will take to a weaponized vehicle and shoot things up- something that doesn't really sound right, but we'll just have to wait for the final product to pass judgment. Silver will focus more on platforming puzzles using his telekinesis, also making his stages much slower than the others.
Sonic still rises to be the most exciting character to play as from what we've seen. In the E3 demo, Sonic could be found zooming around some ancient ruins fighting off hordes of Eggman's new evil robots. Of course there were rings and springs a-plenty. Sonic's characteristic Spin Dash is back, and his Light-Speed dash, a move that lets players run over chasms so long as there is a trail of rings, is back as well. As far as gameplay is concerned, Sonic will be running across vast landscapes, leaping over vast chasms, grinding rails, and navigating oh so many loop-de-loops and corkscrews. It's definitely something we've come to expect from Sonic's stages as of late.
Shadows stages haven't been put on display for anyone to play as of yet, but they can be seen in the latest game trailer by Sega. From what we've seen, Shadow drives a dune-buggy looking vehicle through a war-torn burning city, shooting missiles at the numerous robots. It's unclear just what his car can do, but I imagine it does more than just accelerate and shoot. It might not be the most exciting element, but at least it isn't Knuckles' chaos emerald hunt from the previous Sonic Adventure games.
As mentioned before, Silver the psychic hedgehog will focus on dispatching enemies using his telekinesis. He will be able to raise and manipulate platforms, throw things at enemies, and deflect bullets. It all sounds pretty cool, especially considering that the game runs on what appears to be the Havoc physics engine. Unfortunately the fact that Silver's gameplay is naturally slow paced does detract from the speed driven nature of the Sonic games.