E3 10; Sonic the Hedgehog 4 – The PS3 Attitude Preview
I’ve been a huge Sonic fan since the very beginning. In fact, the original Sonic the Hedgehog was the one title that solidified my love for gaming. I had been playing games before that, but Sonic was really something else. I loved the clever platforming, the music, the gameplay, everything!
Every now and then I still bust out the old SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive) and play through all the classics. It’s a formula that never gets old, yet we’re only just now seeing it return. It really should have been done sooner. Sonic 4 proves this.
Being a person that is extremely critical of anything Sonic related, I am overjoyed to say that you won’t be disappointed. The vicious Sonic cycle has been broken (for now) and you can all rest assured. This game is awesome. It’s not all about speed, flashy visuals, random new friends, or a story that nobody cares about. Sonic goes back to his roots and the result is that familiar greatness we have all longed for.
At E3 we were given the opportunity to play through each act of the Splash Hill Zone. The first thing you’ll notice is that that Sonic feels like he has a bit of weight to him. This isn’t like Sonic Unleashed where he feels uncontrollable. If you want Sonic to do something, he’ll do it. The controls are simple and responsive.
The gameplay in Sonic 4 isn’t all about speed, yet it’s still an important factor. You can’t run straight forward and expect to beat a level. You’ll need to jump, use homing attacks, and speed dash very frequently. There’s also some interesting mechanics that involve swinging on vines, running through loops, and bouncing off bumpers. None of which should be new to long time Sonic fans.
The homing ability takes some time to get used it and it’s an incredibly important technique to learn. Not only does it keep Sonic moving forward without slowing down, but it also allows him to reach high platforms. In classic Sonic games there were always multiple paths to take. Sonic 4 brings back that tradition. If you happen to mess up and fall to the bottom of a level, there’s a whole section there for you to explore. That sense of exploration for new item boxes and secrets returns. Even if you beat a level once, you’ll want to do it again.
What I loved about Sonic 4 is that the platforming is true to the classic games, yet it’s refreshing and new. Swinging off branches, timing jumps, collecting rings, it all just felt right. There were moments when Sonic couldn’t make it uphill a few times. I had to stop and speed dash my way through. There wasn’t really anything blocking my path. Sometimes there is simply not enough room to get a good running start. That doesn’t matter though, you’ll always be able to reach your destination with Sonic’s abilities. This happened in the classics games as well, so it’s not like this is a new problem or anything. We should note that it does take Sonic awhile to gain momentum. Perhaps this is something that could be fixed before the release of the game.
Each Zone contains four acts. The first three are the actual stages themselves, and the fourth is a boss battle against Dr. Robotnik (Eggman). Splash Hill Zone’s boss is just like the first boss from the original Sonic. Eggman has a huge ball that swings back and forth, but there is a new twist. He’ll occasionally swing the ball over his ship to catch you off guard. The battle was a breeze to get through. A person from SEGA who worked on the iPhone version of the game did tell me that bosses do become more challenging later on. We’ll have to wait and see.
Even though we couldn’t hear the music that well, the tunes had that classic Sonic charm. The soundtrack is composed by Jun Senoue, a veteran composer for the series. The music is really catchy and should please fans.
Dimps and SEGA did a great job with Sonic 4 and they are still making improvements. This is the classic Sonic game that we were promised and the one that fans have been waiting an eternity for. Welcome back, old friend. Oh, and Happy Birthday! Can you believe that blue hedgehog is already 19 years old?
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is scheduled to release sometime this Fall. No price point has been announced yet. I was told that it will be appropriate for what the game has to offer, so that’s reassuring. We’ll keep you updated as soon as we get more information.