Outside of the excellent Sonic Rush series, Sonic the Hedgehog hasnâ€™t been in the best form for the last decade. Sure, his name still carries a lot of weight and games featuring him sell well, but critically his latest outings have been very poorly received.
Itâ€™s a touchy subject for some, but most people seem to accept that the franchise just doesnâ€™t work in 3D. It appears Sega has finally woken up to the fact, as its latest Sonic game, Sonic Unleashed, will focus on 2D side-scrolling action. Can I get a hallelujah?
Running on Segaâ€™s proprietary Hedgehog Engine, Sonic Unleashed will feature Sonic running sideways through a variety of levels based on real world locations. For example, one early level seen has been based on Greece. These definitely look gorgeous and have a distinctive Sonic vibe despite the real world settings.
While Sonic Team will behind the level design for the 360 and PS3 versions, Dimps â€“ the team behind the brilliant Sonic Rush series â€“ will be designing the levels for the Wii and PS2 versions.
Most of the action will take place in 2D, although some sections will involve Sonic running into the screen. However, these seem to have more in common with Sonic and the Secret Rings than the truly awful Sonic the Hedgehog for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
There is definitely a focus on speeding through levels and jumping with pinpoint precision. The faster Sonic runs, the more a special meter fills. Once full, Sonic can unleash a speed dash similar to that found in the Sonic Rush series. This is a good thing. Sonic Rush is the epitome of a good Sonic game.
However, gamers shouldnâ€™t get their hopes up completely. While the plethora of muppets that saturated the series are now apparently absent, Sonic now has the ability to turn into a werewolf â€“ or is that werehog? Yes, itâ€™s very much palm to face stuff.
Sonic Unleashed promises to include an interesting mechanic that revolves around night and day, with Sonic transforming into his werewolf self at night. Whether this revolves around the time of day in the real world remains to be seen, but itâ€™s likely that if it does, many gamers will be playing Sonic Unleashed during the day.
Also, while the game definitely looks gorgeous, itâ€™s unknown whether Sonic Unleashed will feature the excellent music found in the original titles or the Sonic Rush series, or whether it will feature the ear-splitting J-rock found in the Sonic Adventure series. Anyone with sense should hope for the former.
Itâ€™s been a rocky road for the famous blue hedgehog, but providing Sonic Team and Dimps manage to get everything correct and donâ€™t try and make the game something that it doesnâ€™t need to be, Sonic Unleashed could be the best Sonic game on a console since the Mega Drive. And there isnâ€™t a gamer alive who doesnâ€™t dream of seeing Sonic return to form. Keep it locked to NZGamer for a full review in the near future.
The Good: 2D Sonic! REJOICE!!
The Bad: The chance of unnecessary fluff is high.
The Ugly: Sonic turns into a werewolf? There is no God.