Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - Genesis Sonic is Back!

At long last, Sonic the Hedgehog is coming home to his Sega Genesis roots.  Sega today officially unveiled Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a side-scrolling 2D action game in the style of the original classics.  The title will be released this summer as a digital download, and in episodic chunks, on WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade, and Playstation Network.

This series has been in a permanent decline ever since Sonic Team's masterpiece, Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  The character was abandoned for several years, then resurrected as a 3D adventure game in Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast, only to descend into one terrible sequel and spinoff after another.  And yet, the character and the original 16-bit titles remain very popular.

New Super Mario Bros Wii sealed the deal.  Glorious 2D arcade games are back on center stage, and now it's time for Sega to follow through with 2D Sonic.  Sonic is the game character best suited to give Super Mario 5 a run for the money, perhaps even revive the glory days of the 16-bit rivalry.

Sega has lost most of their creative spark from the days of Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast.  They haven't made anything resembling a great videogame in years; The Pinball of the Dead on Gameboy Advance would be the last highwater mark, in my opinion.  It's been formula and franchise and embarrassment ever since.  Perhaps the Sonic & Mario Olympics (created with Nintendo) games have reignited that old spark?  I hope so.  So many of us are rooting for Sonic's glorious comeback.

I am a bit puzzled about the decision to release Sonic 4 as a digital download.  Perhaps this decision was green-lighted before Super Mario 5 was released and sold like gangbusters?  It shows a lack of confidence in 2D video games, a mindset better suited to the PS360 world of high-budget steroid shoot-em-ups.  But the spectacular success of the Nintendo Wii, and Mario 5 especially, puts this strange notion to rest.  People love 2D video games; it's the game industry that wants to make movies.  That's a key difference.

I don't know if 2D Sonic the Hedgehog 4 would be a hit on the PS360, but there's absolutely no doubt it will be a bigger success on Wii.  I would advise Sega to follow Mario's example.  Release Sonic 4 at retail, with a solid blue package.  Make something that people will want alongside Mario's red cover.  Since the downloaded version will be released in seperate "episodes," place the full game inside the blue box.  Design a smart, iconic cover that evokes the Genesis classics.  Then create a thrilling, fast, and rich 2D game that everyone will want to play.

Ideally, Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima would be involved in the project, just as Shigeru Miyamoto's original inner circle was responsible for Super Mario 5.  If they're not involved, whoever is in charge should know The First Four Sonics like the back of their hand.  Please don't stick us with anything like those terrible 2D Sonics on Gameboy Advance and DS.

I like what I see and hear so far.  Sega appears to know what they're far.  Now please don't screw it up.  Give us the next 2D videogame masterpiece.

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