E3 2004 Sonic Team Coverage

E3 2004 Sonic Team Coverage

E3. The Electronic Entertainment Expo. The biggest video games showcase on this living earth, and also known as the Journalist’s Zoo. Taking place every May, Sonic Team have been on hand to show the world their latest games, alongside other worthy stalwarts such as Nintendo and… Nintendo. Oh and Bungie. Last year brought Sonic Heroes to the Los Angeles show floor, 2002 was comparatively minimal due to the exchange in SEGA’s first-to-third party involvement, and 2001 – well, 2001 blew everyone away with Sonic Adventure 2, didn’t it? Thankfully, Sonic Team made a pretty good presence at this year’s E3, bringing more to the table than the blatantly obvious, with even a kitsch little demo of Sonic on Nintendo’s new DS portable system. This page showcases all of Sonic Team’s showings at the LA gathering, how we can expect them to play like, and just how damn excited we should be with them. Onward, noble steed – sorry, that was The Legend of Zelda again wasn’t it? I should stop doing that.

Click on the images to enlarge them…

  • Sonic E3 Demo – Nintendo DS
  • Sonic E3 Demo Movie – [ Right click and hit ‘Save Target As’ to download ]

    Now before you lot get excited, let’s get this one out of the way first. NO, it is NOT the announced Sonic DS game that Sonic Team are making, for all of those panicking. This was simply one of the many technical demos that Sonic Team made to toy around with the many abilities and innovations of the Nintendo DS. The ‘DS is a new handheld that Nintendo are making alongside the Game Boy Advance, and has a lot going for it. Two screens, touch screen, Wi-Fi (basically, online without the line) and even instant messaging and linking to a wireless router for ‘proper’ internet. This handheld will rock, no doubt about it, and Sonic Team are making no bones about developing for this wondermachine. In fact, this demo pretty much uses a special feature to make even this tech demo real impressive. By using the touch panel on the bottom screen and rapidly sliding either a stylus or your finger from side to side, you make Sonic run faster and faster, reaching mach speeds and warping the surroundings Neo (The One) stylee. You can recognise the environment from Sonic Heroes and the jingle at the end is a souped up Sonic Advance 1 title theme. Which I always did like anyways. Again, not going anywhere as a standalone game, but I really wish I was the one farting about with a touch screen to make Sonic run. Plus this demo is a testament to the hidden power of the Nintendo DS – the Sonic model in this demo is simply amazing to see, and is most reminiscient of a mix between Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic R models. In some twisted way, this one demo also feels more like a Sonic game than most of the blue hedgehog’s recent outings: but that’s a debate for someplace else. Not a game so you can’t get it, but check out the movie IGN made anyways.

  • Sonic DS – Nintendo DS

    This IS the proper, announced Sonic game that Sonic Team are reported on developing. Not an awful lot is known about this game, and like most of Sonic Team’s games at E3, no real concrete media could be seen. However it has been announced at E3, and during an interview as to where the Sonic Advance series was to be taken after Sonic Advance 3, Yuji Naka stated that the next in the series would involve a mix between 2D and 3D Sonic gameplay. Perhaps referring directly to the Nintendo DS, as one screen can handle 3D while the other can manage 2D. A Sonic handheld game where 2D and 3D graphics and gameplay was combined sounds intruiging at the very least, and maybe the Sonic games can get a little bit simpler this way too: we can do without Cream, Shadow, Rouge, Chaotix and the entire Sonic Character back catalogue making an appearance every game thank you very much.

  • Phantasy Star Universe – Nintendo Gamecube, ???
  • Phantasy Star Universe Movie – [ Courtesy of Sonic Team ]

    Next to Diablo, one of the sole catalysts of Online Multi-Player Gaming has got to be Phantasy Star Online. Sonic Team are truly to blame for the losses of many people’s social lives, with the PSO series not only a defining turning point in the classic Phantasy Star series (which have been going since the 1980’s don’t you know), but also a landmark in console gaming as we knew it. First appearing on the Dreamcast and subsequently settling in on the Nintendo Gamecube, with a small stint on XBOX, the Phantasy Star Online series IS online console gaming. You won’t find many people playing much else online on their XBOX Live simply because everything else is too yawnsome, and on the Gamecube because there really is nothing else. Suffice to say then, that PSO has pretty much gotten predictable as of late: every time it’s the same old rehash of the original PSO. If it wasn’t ver. 2, it was Episode I & II, and if it wasn’t that it was PSO I & II Plus, and then Blue Burst… But this E3 Sonic Team have teased us with something very very special. The next step – the evolution of Phantasy Star Online. Perhaps the biggest game Sonic Team had to showcase at E3, the movie simply blew everyone away. Not a lot about the game has been revealed though, and it looked like the movie was entirely in CG, although the way top brass games are going these days, it could well be real time. With the lack of information, it’s obvious Sonic Team want to keep us hanging in the balance here. After all, work just seems to have started on the game. Only a few small screens have been unveiled, and shows something truly special. Basically, it looks like Phantasy Star’s going back to it’s ’80s roots, along with a bit of Star Wars thrown in for good measure. No word on any consoles that PSUniverse is heading, but we’re putting the safe money that the Nintendo GameCube is a definite. Whether it will end up on the XBOX too remains to be seen. PSU looks simply stunning even now, and we’re going to be keeping a very close eye on this one, don’t you worry…

  • Sonic Heroes – SEGA PC

    A no brainer really. This, alongside Sonic Mega Collection Plus, was actually announced a few days before E3 by SEGA Europe, not SEGA Japan. Hardly surprising, as the success of Sonic Heroes in Europe is evidently the most surprising and headline-grabbing news compared to it’s success anywhere else in the world. After the SEGA PC division recently got back on the ground and running in Europe, and subsequently the release of Sonic Adventure DX among others, Sonic Heroes on PC will be much in the same vein; a console port with improved graphics and speed. Since there’s a whole market untreated to the hype of Sonic Heroes yet, PC gamers around the world can soon experience the gimmick of team play. Let’s hope SEGA Europe don’t make a balls up of the ping-pong-esque CD exchange system like they did with SA:DX (but consequently fixed for the US and Japan release of the game – bastards).

  • Sonic Mega Collection Plus – Sony PlayStation 2

    It was going to happen. After having seen rewards aplenty with trial-running Sonic on PlayStation 2 with Sonic Heroes, it seems Sonic Team want to milk past games for all their worth. Since most of Sonic Heroes’ sales came from the PS2 version (despite hardly getting off the ground in the first two weeks of release on the platform), it makes sense that Naka-san could make a killing by rehashing old material like they did on the Nintendo Gamecube last year and beyond. No-one knows quite what the ‘Plus’ part stands for, but evidently it could mean more boring-as-hell Archie comics, more shoddily crafted “movies” and perhaps another five pieces of random artwork to waste disk space inefficiently. If we’re lucky. Or it could just be a port which would make the ‘Plus’ part irrelevant. Still, there are many PS2 owners that originate from the good old days of the Mega Drive, so perhaps the compilation of quality classics (and hogwash ‘extras’) could be more appreciated on PlayStation 2. Or maybe it’ll sink down the charts without a trace in favour of a resurgance in the dire “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Or even worse, “Manhunt”. But still, crap happens.

  • SEGA Superstars – PlayStation 2 Eye Toy
  • SEGA Superstars Movie – [ on SEGA USA’s E3 Minisite ]

    Sony announced their Eye Toy device for the PlayStation 2. People got excited. You can’t say it’s not a quirky little addition to the PS2 family, and all the more for it. Eye Toy sold by the truckload when it debuted last year with ‘Eye Toy: Play’, and ‘Eye Toy: Groove’ helped secure it’s success over the Christmas period. But now interest seems to be waning and the appeal in the Eye Toy is wearing off. Most probably why SEGA didn’t bother to release their DreamEye outside of Japan (the DreamEye was a camera add-on for the Dreamcast, and is where Sony nabbed the idea for the Eye Toy). SEGA, being third party, have decided to make a compilation of their most profitable and ideal franchises and bringing them to you – Camera style! Sonic Team are primarily behind this one, and like ‘Eye Toy: Play’, sees you using your limbs and movements on the camera to affect gameplay. Move your hands to the right beat circles in rhythm alongside Samba from Samba de Amigo. Slap some zombies about a bit, courtesy of House of the Dead III. Guide Sonic through the Sonic Heroes Special Stage in a quest for the Chaos Emeralds, and kick Akira from Virtua Fighter in the groin. Grand. Sounds like classic stuff, and with the appeal of 12 different games (all assigned to a different franchise – there are plans to use the power of Crazy Taxi, Billy Hatcher and even NiGHTS via Eye Toy), it could be the ‘Eye Toy: Play 2’ that Sony are desperately needing to revive the camera device.

  • Astro Boy – PlayStation 2
  • Astro Boy Movie – [ on SEGA USA’s E3 Minisite ]

    Sonic Team are now relaying the arrival of Astro Boy, after United Game Artists (UGA: creators of REz and Space Channel 5) merged with Sonic Team as part of the whole “Let’s merge half of our studios” manouevre by SEGA. Based on one of the most defining and influential Japanese Animes ever created, you control the world’s most powerful robot, Astro – handily Astro also has the added bonus (or drawback, depending on which side of ‘efficient’ you’re looking at) of having human emotions. Soaring about the expansive Metro City on his rocket shoes, you get to play missions to unlock all of Astro’s special abilities. Screenshots are definitely showing Tezuka’s style faithfully, and anyone who has a passing interest in Anime will enjoy this alongside Astro Boy’s return to this generation. Hardcore anime fans will just be gagging for this game and we can tell. Don’t worry, it’ll be released soon…

  • And the rest of ’em

    Alongside Sonic DS, Sonic Team are also responsible for making a game for the Nintendo DS called Project Rub. No sniggering in the back there. No real concrete details from the Nak-meister, but suffice to say it will be quite the inventive game, taking advantage of the touch-screen that comes with the DS, as some kind of rubbing is involved to experience gameplay like never before, according to the press release. OK, you’re really being childish with the sniggering now.Sony enters the handheld market by announcing the PSP (PlayStation Portable) at E3 2004. Basically a PS2 without the ridiculous size. Not one to miss a potentially large profit scale, Sonic Team are on board faster than the blue one himself (but then again Sonic Team did also support the flailing N-GAGE…). Sonic Team have two games lined up for the PSP, one of which is a faithful port of Puyo Pop Fever. Not quite what everyone was expecting, but if you have the Game Boy Advance and the DS, what else can you really do on a newcoming competitor to the market? The other title is called Project S, which sounds like a better codename than Project Rub, I must say. Not really much to go on with Project S however even judging by the name of the title, although Yuji Naka states that SEGA “will propose a new style of gaming and entertainment that maximizes the features unique to PSP”, which include the ability for wireless LAN and the impressive 16:9 widescreen TFT screen. No Sonic in sight of the PSP, but since I personally won’t be able to afford both a PSP and Nintendo DS, that’s perhaps more of a relief than most.

    Finally, in an interview about the future of Sonic games on home consoles (IGN), the Naka-san commented that Sonic could perhaps take a 2D route in the future on home consoles, and is in the mind that to truly enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog, the action really has to be in 2D form. Considering most people consider Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles as their all time faves, alongside the sales of Sonic Mega Collection, we tend to agree with you there, Yuji. He also said regarding Sonic’s future, that he will listen to what the kids think; as the kids are Sonic’s target audience, what they say will shape Sonic’s future turns. Hmm. A bit more controversial there methinks; sure Sonic’s main audience is with the children, but as Sonic gets older so does the kids in the older generation. The kids of ’91 are now adults or older teenagers, surely their views cannot be totally dismissed? Else we may even see more of Shadow than is really healthy (… even more so). And we don’t want that do we? Well, the kids do…

    Overall a good E3, and a good show by Sonic Team and Yuji Naka this year. Although there is a substantial Sonic title lacking this year, it always seems to be the case; this is the pattern that Sonic Team follow, so don’t fret gentle readers; next year you’ll see a new Sonic console game announced at the very least. Phantasy Star Universe and the Sonic E3 Demo on Nintendo DS pretty much won the attention of the TSS staff, what games are you most looking forward to? And what do you think about Yuji Naka’s statement on the future of Sonic games? The SSMB is the best place to chat about it with fellow Sonic fans. Until then, expect another E3 coverage report next year!

  • Published by


    Founder of The Sonic Stadium and creator/co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic convention. Loves talking about Sonic the Hedgehog in his spare time. Likes Sonic Colours a little too much for his own good, apparently.