Games: Previews of Sonic 4
It's been a long time since Sega has made a respectable Sonic game. Some gamers argue that Sonic's foray into the third dimension was when it went down hill, but personally I'd say it started after Sonic Adventure 2, around the time Shadow the Hedgehog got his own game (2005). I'm not sure that we needed a game that was aesthetically Sonic meets Devil May Cry. Sega just continued to make bad decision after bad decision, failing to maintain the degree of polish a third party developer should have for their flagship series. Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 was a nest of bugs and glitches while offering nothing new. Maybe they thought they didn't need to do anything, but slap Sonic on a title's name. If that's the case they've learned their lesson the hard way.
When Sonic Unleashed came out Sonic fans finally got a polished looking Sonic game and it made a lot of gamers wonder, is the Sonic gameplay just not relevant these days? Sonic Unleashed, werehog stages aside, was a decent product, but it just wasn't capturing our hearts like Mario Galaxy or the original Sonic games and no one could really figure out why. It had Sonic, it looked nice, the Sonic stages felt right-ish, and it lacked all of those obnoxious furry sidekicks that were multiplying every console and handheld generation. So what was the problem? I couldn't tell you and I'm sure Sega themselves couldn't tell you, but I can say with confidence that the werehog stages and God of War mechanics shamelessly inserted didn't help.
Sonic 4 Episode 1 comes out on October 11th, the first episode of Sega's episodic Sonic game and it looks promising. Sonic games for the original genesis were always well paced. They had always been about speed and the stages themselves echoed the conceit constantly. The game mixed up high intensity speed segments with slow and calculated platforming. By doing so the players were always conscious of speed, conscious of whether or not they were going slow or fast and if they weren't going fast, you can make a bet that they wanted to go fast. So speed was always the name of the game. Watching some of the gameplay videos out there, it looks as though Sonic 4: Episode 1 understands that.
I might be part of the problem when I buy Sonic 4: Episode 1 next week by giving Sega the benefit of the doubt, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that Sega's finally managed to do what many argued was impossible - make a relevant Sonic game in twenty-ten.