Thursday, April 10, 2008

That Crazy Hedgehog: A Sonic Unleashed Analysis

We all know that our beloved Sonic the Hedgehog has gone totally rabid on us, though many are still not willing to accept that very fact. All the attempts to bring Sonic back onto the consoles after Sonic & Knuckles ended in shameful failures. Our only solaces are the great Sonic Advance series on the Game Boy Advance and Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS.

Recently, Sega announced that our fallen hero will make a comeback later this year in the form of Sonic Unleashed for all the current consoles. When I read the title, I couldn't help but laughed it off. Yes, Sega have been putting Sonic on a leash for a long time and apparently they are aware of that stupidity themselves. Then came the trailer...

I will admit to this: For a very brief period of time I actually believed it! I said to myself, "Wow! Sonic is really back!" But as soon as those words escaped my quivering lips, I was reminded of the terrible Nights: Journey of Dreams disaster. I quickly gathered myself and watched the trailer several more times. I then noticed that the angles just look strange... The camera seems titled to the left or to the right for the most part, different from the properly aligned flat view of a platformer. So if this is any indication of actual gameplay in the final product, the game will focus more on moving ahead with lightning fast speed and focus less on platforming elements, which is not bad but hardly classic Sonic. And what is this obsession with 2D movement transitioning into 3D? Sonic Team just don't get it, do they?

I also know that Sega have used this particular technique before... This satanic trick of providing their gamers a false sense of joy by showing only the elements that the gamers enjoy the most about a particular game. Remember that they promoted Nights: JoD by showing mainly the flight sections of the game and they hid the nasty real structure of that messy piece of crap. So even though we see Sonic in all his glory in this trailer, who knows what terrible surprises are really lurking in the corners... Long, forced, cheesy, boring cinematic cut-scenes that cannot be skipped? A big overworld to navigate through before one can get to these wonderful stages shown in the trailer?

The official press release doesn't help with the hesitation either. Here are some of the more troubling statements:

"Latest Installment to Extend Sonic's Signature Style... but with a Twist!" - And this is the header that they used for the statement. Okay, who else thinks that chasing after enemies to complete a stage in Nights: JoD was a complete joke? Sega, stick to the basic formula if you want us to love Sonic again.

" the sun sets, a new adventure awakens." Yes, notice their usage of the word "adventure". By now, we all should know what that means.

"By completing a wide variety of action-packed stages, spanning the seven broken continents of the world, gamers will need to unleash Sonic's amazing abilities to save the world, and himself!" I agree with Sonic needing to be saved bit, but this whole statement smells fishy. It is almost as if Sega is trying to secretly warn us that there is a separation between the action stages and a hub stage. Scary.

"Players will have the opportunity to engage in ways never before done with the Sonic franchise, so in addition to running at high speeds, which will be highlighted in four new speed mechanics, combat fighting now becomes possible." - Combat fighting? Are you kidding me? Sonic slams into his enemies to destroy them, now what, we are getting Sonic the Fighters 2? Engage in ways never before possible? Sounds like trouble to me. No mentions of real platforming elements? Sonic is about speed and platforming, period!

The mother of all doubts though comes from this statement: "Currently in development by Sonic Team..." 'Nuff said.

All I can say is this: Sega have a good track record of destroying their franchises, burying them deeper and deeper into the ground. The only exception to the rule is the Virtua Fighter series and if you look into that closely, VF follows the same formula from the original through number 5. Sonic Unleashed better be mind-shatteringly awesome, or Sonic will sink into an unfathomable new low. Oh wait, I think he's already there. Do it right, Sega.

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