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Sega's Double Shot Of Sonic

Wii owners get a Sonic Unleashed-like platformer while XBLA and PSN users go retro with Sonic 4.

 Totally Colors.
 Totally Colors.
Sega's never shied away from pumping out the Sonic games, something that's probably angered more than a few fans of the classic, but tarnished franchise. For 2010, though, the publisher is more focused on providing different Sonic games for the different Sonic audiences that are, ostensibly, out there. So Wii owners will receive Sonic Colors, a modern Sonic game that sort of feels like Sonic Unleashed without all that goofy werehog junk. Players looking for Sonic's classic style, however, are probably more likely to be interested in Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a downloadable update that feels like it's very devoted to reissuing the 16-bit experience with updated graphics.

The E3 demo of Sonic Colors contains a world named Sweet Mountain, and the whole thing is literally made of candy and snacks. Sonic has a drill move in this game that lets you drill into the cakey center of the level, and there's a meter that governs how much drilling you can do. But for the most part, it's all running and bumpers and homing attacks.

 Pretty retro.
 Pretty retro.
The Xbox 360 version of Sonic 4 was on display, as well, and the levels being shown at least look like they could have fallen out of some sort of "HD Remix" version of Sonic or Sonic 2. The key differences are that the graphics are polygonal and Sonic has that same homing attack that he's had for the past several years. The game's been pushed back to the second half of 2010 to incorporate player feedback based on responses to the in-game videos that have been posted online, so Sega at least seems serious about making a Sonic game that people might actually want to play someday. The games will be released episodically, and though Sega reps were being fishy about the total number of episodes, at one point I heard someone talk about "the other two" installments. That sounds like a three episode arc to me, but that's not quite an official confirmation.

Call me jaded or hopelessly cynical when it comes to this franchise, but even though Sonic 4 is supposed to be pointed at "my generation" of Sonic players, the homing attacks only add to the feeling that Sonic games--even the classics--barely have any gameplay in them. I felt like I was holding to the right and occasionally jumping right up until I reached a fight against Dr. Robotnik. It doesn't feel like evolution or a fun, modern take on a once-beloved franchise. It feels like strictly sticking to the original script in hopes of roping in the nostalgists that have been poo-pooing the more recent attempts to bring Sonic back. But, for me, anyway, it ain't working.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+