TSS Retrospective: The Needlemouse Debacle: Episode I

“Speed returns, in an all new 2D adventure built from the ground up.”

Ten years ago, on September 8th, 2009, mere hours before the 10th anniversary of the Dreamcast, SEGA dropped a teaser trailer for “Project Needlemouse.” Catching the gaming community by surprise, this mysterious project promised to bring Sonic the Hedgehog back to its 2D roots with a new 2D platformer in the style of the Mega Drive games. This project would later be officially titled Sonic the Hedgehog 4, an episodic download game that hoped to please the older Sonic fans who grew up with the classics. 

Sonic 4’s two episodes have since been filed away as a mediocre experiment on SEGA’s part, with very little love and fondness in its legacy. The entire Sonic 4 saga left disappointed and bickering fans in its wake, with the general gaming community and even some newer Sonic fans wondering what the fuss was all about. For these people, Sonic 4 delivered point-blank on it’s promise of providing a 2D Sonic game in a style similar to the older games. To the target audience however, Sonic 4 was an insult, and they made sure SEGA knew that. 

The story behind SEGA’s Project Needlemouse is an interesting one. The way it was marketed throughout its lifespan and its impact on the Sonic fanbase, and even the gaming community at large, is noteworthy. While the games themselves are generally considered to be mediocre at best, the development and release of Sonic 4 may very well be a watershed moment of the franchise, impacting how SEGA would handle the series and its fanbase moving forward. Making the narrative of Project Needlemouse even more intriguing is how the context of which it was released, sandwiched between other Sonic games doing similar things, would impact audiences’ expectations. 

In this special multi-part series, we’ll take you back in time to a world where 2D Sonic only existed on Nintendo handhelds, Classic Sonic was nothing more than a tee-shirt emblem, and the Sonic Twitter as we know it didn’t exist. We’ll see how fan feedback impacted the course of Project Needlemouse, we might get a sense of why many Sonic fans are so judicious about everything SEGA releases starring the blue blur himself, and we’ll better understand why SEGA markets Sonic the way that they do now. This is the Needlemouse Debacle.

The “Retro” Age

Prior to Project Needlemouse’s first teaser, there had already been a ‘retro renaissance’ of sorts in the gaming industry. The New Super Mario Bros series was raking in cash on Nintendo’s Wii console, and Mega Man 9 set the bar for retro throwbacks. Surely, Sonic was also entitled to participate in this trend. It made sense, after all. Sonic’s origins were 2D, the past few 3D releases were received poorly, or at least had a mixed reception between fans and critics, and Sonic Unleashed’s integration of sidescrolling elements could be seen as the harbinger of the franchise’s focus on going back to the basics. 

When Project Needlemouse’s teaser trailer dropped with the promise of “an all new 2D adventure built from the ground up,”  it was a delightful, if unsurprising, event. It was also a little nerve-wracking for fans. Did SEGA really have the chops to pull it off? There was a sneaking suspicion that they would hand development onto Dimps, who at the time was responsible for a majority of Sonic’s modern 2D outings on handheld consoles. The Advance and Rush series were all developed by Dimps, and while they were generally well-liked, they didn’t exactly nail the “classic” feel, either in controls or level design. 

Certainly enough, Dimps was indeed responsible for the bulk of Project Needlemouses’ development, with some oversight from Sonic Team. Meanwhile, SEGA’s marketing team soon began to promote this mysterious project of theirs. Taking advantage of their burgeoning social media presence, they would do anything from trivia contests to concept art teasing to raise awareness that old-school 2D Sonic was coming back. There was even an “elimination round” that featured the names of popular Sonic characters that would be gradually crossed off, until only Sonic’s name remained; this would be a title where only Sonic was playable. Notably absent from this tournament were Tails, Knuckles and Dr Eggman, implying that they could make an appearance.

SEGA Announces a Saga

In February of 2010, Project Needlemouse was unveiled to be Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, and it would be a downloadable, episodic saga for consoles, PC and mobile devices. A short teaser with no more than 3 seconds of footage of Sonic running along a Green Hill Zone inspired level proved to be everything the fanbase needed to form an opinion. This footage would be dissected and scrutinized to hilarious lengths.

Along with the trailer was a press release reiterating how Sonic 4 would be the crucial “first step” of bringing Sonic back to his roots, and that it would be “Sonic 4 as you truly imagined it.” Sonic 4’s public advocate would be Ken Balough, digital brand manager for SEGA at the time. He would interact with the fans on SEGA’s official (and currently defunct) online forums as well as with the press to give details and drop hints on what Sonic 4 would be all about.

Some concerns were raised on the nature of the game being download only, as well as episodic. It seemed to be taking cues from the New Super Mario Bros series in terms of its presentation as a modern game, but it also appeared to look to Mega Man 9 for inspiration in it’s naming convention as well as the decision to be distributed digitally rather than physically. It would certainly not be a conventional release. It was a concern for fans that it be treated with the respect a game called “Sonic the Hedgehog 4” demanded. There was also discussion about the use of Sonic’s modern design rather than his short, stocky “classic” look. At the time, Classic Sonic wasn’t a major pillar in the franchise, yet the debate raged on and petitions were signed to include him in “Modern” Sonic’s stead.

Adding to fans’ concerns was the presence of the “homing attack,” a targeting move that was never present in the original games. Such a seemingly innocuous design choice would prove to be a major point of contention in the ongoing discourse. Although seen as one of Sonic’s signature moves in the 3D games where jumping on an enemy can be difficult at high speeds, it was almost never featured in modern 2D games as it wasn’t seen as a necessary addition. The presence of this move alone would provide enough fuel to the already kindling fire of fear and fury that fans were stoking: would the homing attack dictate the nature of the level design? How would that interact with Sonic’s momentum-based physics? A few of the more seasoned “retro” fans were already convinced the game would be a disappointment from the short teaser alone. Many questions were raised, but weren’t immediately answered by SEGA’s PR.

Then, the “PartnerNET” leak happened.

Of Leaks and Dying Cats

Not too long after Sonic 4’s official reveal, footage of the game in its entirety was leaked. Xbox Live Arcade used PartnerNET, a system used for game developers to test products, and unfortunately it was not a tightly run ship in regards to security. What started off as blurry screenshots effectively turned into footage of the entire game being leaked.  This would be the catalyst that changed the course of Project Needlemouses’ life.

Many of the retro fan’s fears were confirmed, and then some: the level design centered around the use of the homing attack as well as featured automated and linear level design with an overabundance of boost pads. It was extremely common to see “Bubble Chains,” where the badnik “Bubbles” would be laid out as stepping stones for Sonic to dash into, especially over bottomless pits. The renowned momentum-based gameplay of classic Sonic was rendered inert with a physics engine that gave Sonic no sense of inertia. Sonic’s “spinball” mechanics were totally inert: he didn’t gain speed while rolling downhill and didn’t bounce off of enemies or item boxes. 

The game was so poorly programmed that it was possible for players to stand sideways along curved walls. It was frighteningly reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 2006’s disregard for the laws of physics, and it was embarrassing to witness a game that bore the title “Sonic the Hedgehog 4” to err in so many ways. It was speculated that this wasn’t even a new engine at all, but the same gameplay engine used in Sonic Rush, which had similar issues.

There were other strange design choices as well. Although the well-loved Jun Senoue would compose the music, the overabundance of synth instruments and muffled drum snare samples gave rise to a plethora of “dying cat” jokes which would be a hallmark bullet point on why the game was not up to standard. The game would boot players out of the campaign to a level select screen after completing a single act to where they would need to select the next one, rather than the expected level-to-level transitions.  Sonic’s iconic “blurry feet” were rarely seen, even when at top speed. There were strange “gimmick” acts that utilized unconventional controls or otherwise had weird clear conditions; mainly a score attack pinball level and a level where Sonic is trapped in a mine cart and the stage needed to be tilted to progress.

Finally, the decision to re-use level concepts from Sonic 1 and 2 caused a stir all its own. It was strongly contended that a game billed as a sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles ought to follow suit in introducing unique new places to explore. The starting Zone, Splash Hill, was considered harmless enough as a Green Hill callback, but lined up alongside knock-offs of Casino Night, Metropolis, Labyrinth and Death Egg Zones, it started to feel less like inspiration and more like unimaginative copying.

Damage control was put into place, and the game was delayed to the latter half of 2010 to incorporate fan feedback from the leaked footage. Ken Balough reiterated their intention of pleasing the targeted audience of old school fans and continued to state that it would be “Sonic 4 as you truly imagined it” by the game’s release. Unfortunately, despite the fact that this was an early build of the game, this did little to ease the concerns of fans. Debates on the forums and the heckling of Ken Balough would continue onto the game’s release.

Poor Pilot Episode

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I would release to generally positive feedback from major gaming publications on October 7th, 2010. “Sonic is back, baby!” Declared IGN. Most were pleased with its gameplay, highly saturated graphics and chiptune soundtrack (cats and all), but unfortunately the target audience failed to be impressed. While some would argue it was a fair attempt at a modern sidescroller, it was nearly unanimous among critics that they failed to replicate a traditional Sonic experience.

This wasn’t Sonic 4 as you truly imagined it.

The game was very much unchanged from its early leaked development build. The physics weren’t fixed. The automated level design remained unchanged. Players were still booted out of the campaign after every level (unless they pressed a button to opt otherwise). The only major changes would be the removal of the two “gimmick” acts which were replaced with more fully-featured platforming levels, and the implementation of Sonic’s blurry feet animation at running speed. Curiously, those gimmick acts would remain in the mobile version, raising speculation that Project Needlemouse may have started off as a mobile spin-off before turning into Sonic 4 altogether. 

Sonic 4’s first episode would compete with Sonic Colors that same year, and it was not uncommon to find comparisons between the two platformers. Despite being targeted to a younger, presumably easy-to-please audience, Sonic Colors would be cited as the main game that allowed the series to finally break the so-called “Sonic Cycle”. It would appear that the first attempt at reviving classic Sonic gameplay was less than successful, but this wouldn’t be the last we would hear of Project Needlemouse.

Stay tuned for The Needlemouse Debacle: Episode II, where we’ll cover SEGA’s attempt to appease the criticism from their target audience, and the impending release of Sonic 4’s second entry. 

Sonic 4 Episode 1 & 2 Removed From Mobile Markets

Sonic-the-Hedgehog-4-Episode-2-logo

Well that didn’t take long, barely 24 hours after Sega said that they would be removing some mobile games which didn’t meet their ‘standards’ it appears that our first casualty is a Sonic game. In a move which has surprised pretty much no one, Sonic 4 Episode 1 & 2 have been removed from some mobile market places.

Multiple sources have confirmed to us that Sonic 4 Episode 1 & 2 (mobile), is no longer available to download, however the full rollout of this decision hasn’t yet impact, at the time of writing you can get both episodes from the UK Play Store and Episode 1 is still appearing for some people on the iOS store.

If you’re still after the mobile versions of this game, might want to hurry and get them before they vanish forever.

UPDATE: Episode 2 appears to have gone from the UK Play Store

Sonic 4: Episode 2 (mostly) functional on iOS again


sonic4_ep2_9

After initially becoming unusable following the iOS 7 update back in 2013, reports are coming in from iOS device owners that 2012’s Sonic 4: Episode 2 has become functional once again, following the new iOS 8.3 firmware update.

The game was pulled from Apple’s App Store several months after the discovery of the incompatibility problems, following a promise from SEGA of an update to restore functionality never materialised. The game remains off the store, meaning that only those who bought the game whist it was available will be able to play the game now.

Whilst the game now appears to function with the new iOS software, players are also reporting noticeable bugs during the game (and in the case of some devices like the iPhone 6, still not functioning at all), meaning the app is still not running at optimum performance. The most noticeable of these bugs is that skipping cutscenes causes the game to freeze and crash.

We’ll keep our eyes out for any more reports, and will update with any further details as we get them.

 

Many thanks to Zlynx on SSMB for the heads up!

The Sonic List: My Guilty Pleasures

"....You like what?!"
“….You like what?!”

Given that this is the Sonic fanbase, it should surprise no one that there is a lot of product out there that many feel is…..below average. The mid-2,000s is still an era that Sonic is recovering from in terms of brand image. Basically, there’s a lot of “crap” out there and to be honest, many of us enjoy some of that crap. Many things that are downright hated by most in the fanbase. There are Sonic Underground fans, Shadow the Hedgehog (game) fans, Sonic Rivals fans…..even people who like Sonic ’06! They do exist.

And hey, I’m not gonna bash on someone for what they like or tell you that you have poor taste. This is the Sonic fanbase, a little poor taste comes with the territory. (I’m just kidding! Don’t hurt me!) Even I got some choices that tend to be frowned upon that I genuinely enjoy. Here’s my list of guilty pleasures in the Sonic franchise.

The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic's love of drag goes too far.
Sonic’s love of drag goes too far.

Okay, this one’s low on the list because there’s still a good chunk of the fanbase who’ve enjoyed it . That said, you gotta admit that for the most part, it’s still pretty awful. The comedy is almost strictly for young children and the characters and stories are just too goofy even for someone like me who really enjoyed Sonic Colors. Sonic and Tails come off as bad Looney Tunes wannabes and tend to be bland. So why do I still enjoy the show? Two Words. Doctor Robotnik.

Truly the only way to really enjoy the show is NOT through Sonic and Tails, but by enjoying the ridiculousness of Dr. Robotnik himself. He comes off as the worst, most ineffectual villain, but the way he’s designed and the constant abuse he takes from both his stupid lackeys and his hilarious, overbearing mother (who has the same moustache as him) make Dr. Robotnik the reason to watch the show. This is punctuated by the late Long Jon Baldry’s voice which was perfect for the role. I’ll even admit that there are some episodes that are actually genuinely good. The main one being the four part time travel story which also had the best animation of the whole series.

The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Not good enough to be considered a quality show, but just barely bad enough to be a guilty pleasure.

Sonic 4: Episodes 1 and 2

"....WHY DID I THINK THIS WOULD WORK A SECOND TIME?!!"
“….WHY DID I THINK THIS WOULD WORK A SECOND TIME?!!”

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait a minute Jason! Wasn’t this in your list of WORST Sonic games in the past generation?!!” Well yeah, as a game that dares to call itself SONIC 4, it comes nowhere near living up to that lofty goal. However, let’s look past the title. What if this game was called…I dunno “Sonic’s digital arcade adventure” or “Sonic the Portable” as some background images have hinted at and it was just a simple, arcade downloadable without having to live up to that huge legacy? Well then, it’s actually a pretty good set of games. There I said it.

Even a fair amount of critics looked past the number and had fun with the title. IGN stated “Sonic is back, baby!” while the very critical Jim Sterling actually lambasted against the Sonic fans who were hating on it. Episode 1 may have had poor, robot-like physics and had its levels clearly based on classic Sonic games. But I thought the level design was decent and it had a good pace and flow to the game that I hadn’t really seen since Sonic 2. What I mean by “flow” is that the game keeps you moving along and giving you platform and enemy challenges without the need to constantly stop you and slow you down (except for that damn torch puzzle).

Torch Puzzle
“Why am I carrying a torch? The Olympics are over!”

This “flow” however, wasn’t quite there for Episode 2. While the physics were redefined and made a whole lot better and the graphics were improved greatly, to me, it didn’t quite have the proper pacing and flow in the level design that the first one did. I mean really, a water level in the first zone? That said, I’d say it’s still about equal to Episode 1 and some levels are pretty dang good. I’ll even go as far as to say this. I…..like Sonic 4 episodes 1 and 2 better than Sonic 1. Don’t kill me!

Sonic R

"Got places to go. Gonna follow my rainbow!"
“Got places to go. Gonna follow my rainbow!”

Let’s just put it out there, Sonic R is a bad racing game. It only has five tracks plus five more mirrored, the drifting is horrible and takes forever to get used to and you can probably beat and unlock everything in under 3 hours. So why is it so appealing to me? This is why.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8Tid2htBlE&list=PL9F64DA808270DC84[/youtube]

The soundtrack by the brilliant Richard Jacques and singing by the lovely TJ Davis is just wonderful and just puts me in such a mellow and happy mood that I could give a crap how short the main game is and I just sit back and play. I get a handle on the drifting and the game becomes easier and easier. I just sit back and start unlocking stuff while my ears are being gently caressed by these smooth tunes. By the time I’m done, I’m just totally chill. Sonic R. It’s like the gaming equivalent of weed. Ah man, that hit the spot. I need more Richard Jacques, so here’s the next on my list.

Sonic 3-D Blast

"I'm having a blast! Heh, heh. Get it? Cuz.....nevermind."
“I’m having a blast! Heh, heh. Get it? Cuz…..nevermind.”

I don’t think anyone disagrees that Sonic 3-D Blast was far superior on Saturn than on Genesis. However, many would disagree whether it’s a good game or not and that’s understandable.  It’s not a great game by any means but that doesn’t mean it’s without its charm. The game is on an isometric plane in which you have to bop badniks to free the flickies only this time, the flickies follow you to a warp ring of safety. Only problem is that they will scatter in several directions if Sonic is hit by anything. Then, it becomes an annoying fetch quest of grabbing them all again. The other problem is that the isometric angle makes it hard to get you precise location to hit an enemy. I will say that it does have a decent exploration aspect due to its “3-D-ness” and it’s at least something different from what was the usual norm of Sonic game at the time.

The main reason I enjoy this game is due to both the Saturn’s major upgrade in the visuals, but once again we get a smooth-jazz soundtrack from the great Richard Jacques.  No disrespect to Jun Sunoue who did a great job himself on the Genesis version, but I always loved Jacques Saturn compositions and this one is no exception. The best one and the biggest difference between the two games is in the bonus levels. Click here to see the Saturn version. Now click here to see the Genesis version. The Genesis version just has some bland, rickety bridge while the Saturn version not only does a great job bringing back the Sonic 2 style bonus stages, but has such awesome music that I go out of my way to collect enough coins just to go back to those stages.

Sonic 3-D Blast on Saturn may be just an okay game to some, but its improvements over its Genesis brother makes it seem sooo much better than it actually is that I can’t help but enjoy it.

Sonic Unleashed (HD)

"It's either me or Big the Cat in Sonic Adventure 1. Take your pick."
“It’s either me or Big the Cat in Sonic Adventure 1. Take your pick.”

Screw all the critics, I LOVED this game! Yes, the Werehog is a silly concept (as is a super-fast blue hedgehog), the Werehog levels are WAY too long and the medal collecting gets REAL annoying later in the game not to mention Eggmanla-OKAY! OKAY! This game has its problems but not really any more than the other 3-D Sonics did. Frankly, I’d still rather play through a Werehog level than one of those horrible Rouge/Knuckles levels from Sonic Adventure 2.

What I love about the game is not only those breathtaking, high-speed Sonic daytime levels, but the atmosphere it brings. While others scoff at the hub worlds and find them boring, I loved looking around the villages with their beautiful backgrounds and great detail. I even enjoyed talking to the local townsfolk who FINALLY looked like they fit in a Sonic game for the first time in history. This is mainly thanks to the designs by the Gurihiru duo who also still work on Marvel Comics including Power Pack. I think Japan had it right by calling it “Sonic World Adventure” because that’s what it really felt like to me, a world tour.

You can disagree that the Sonic Unleashed opening is the greatest thing ever, but you'd be disagreeing with fact.
You can disagree that the Sonic Unleashed opening is the greatest thing ever, but you’d be disagreeing with fact.

Then there’s that AWESOME opening animation! Easily the most impressive piece of Sonic animation ever shown and still gives me goosebumps just watching it. Plus, it just had such a quality feel to it. Even if you didn’t like it’s design at times, it felt polished. While I think Unleashed is Far from perfect, I don’t believe it’s the disaster some make it out to be.

So what Sonic game, cartoon or whatever do you love that’s not exactly popular? Let us know in the comments. I might do another one of these “guilty pleasure” lists sometime in the future.

Jason’s guiltiest pleasure is being the president of the Tommy Turtle fan club.

Friday Five: Worst Sonic games of the past generation

"I wonder how hard it is to get vomit stains off of quills?"
“I wonder how hard it is to get vomit stains off of quills?”

Surprisingly, as hard as it was coming up with five good games from the past generation, it was even harder to come up with five bad ones!….With one exception of course and you all know what that one is and yes, it’s #1. In fact, some of the games on this list are actually fairly enjoyable. So I took off the “No spinoffs” rule this time and had to go with more “disappointing” or “blah” than outright “bad”. This does help show that Sonic’s been more on an upswing since the horrible 2002-2006 era, but it also shows were Sonic has fallen back.

Remember folks, these are just my personal opinions and yours may vary. Also remember that the previous generation is only Wii, 360, PS3, PSP and DS. Enjoy!

Continue reading Friday Five: Worst Sonic games of the past generation

Update: “It’s a glitch” Sonic 4’s Website is Down, Speculation is Up.

Sonic-4-Episode-2

Update: According to our resident tech guru Bmn, It’s a glitch. What’s specifically happening is a recurring loop of redirects between www.sonicthehedgehog4.com/us and www.sega.com/sonic4, which suggests minor technical problem. But still, to leave it like that for nearly a week? So there you have it.

Original Story: Regardless as to what you may think of the game. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 happened, it’s still for sale on several online services and is far from what you would consider to be an old game.

So why then has the official website been taken down and why has it remained offline for the best part of a week? SSMB member -Bender- first noticed that the site had gone dark a few days ago and whilst sometimes sites can go down for a day or two, this site has been offline for nearly a week if not longer.

Click the read more link… and let your imagination run wild…

Continue reading Update: “It’s a glitch” Sonic 4’s Website is Down, Speculation is Up.

RUMOUR: Episode 3 to be Announced at E3?

TouchGamerCommentTouchGameplay recently uploaded a 13-minute long gameplay trailer for SEGA and Hardlight’s upcoming mobile game, Sonic Dash. So why am I telling you this again? Well, what’s interesting is the above comment made on the video by TouchGameplay. They claim to know that SEGA are currently working on a ‘new 2.5D Sonic game’ due to be released this year, which would fit nicely into the category of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 3. Of course, it could be a completely different main-series game or it could be pure speculation. Who knows?

Excited? I’m sure you are! As always, we’ll keep you updated with all the latest as soon as we hear it!

Thanks to SweeCrue over at the SSMB for the heads-up!

Sonic 4: Episode II Out Now on Xbox Live!

Gone live a few minutes ago, Sonic 4: Episode II is now available for purchase off the Xbox Live Marketplace. The game is priced at 1200 points and should be available worldwide.

Those who are away from their consoles at the moment can reserve a downloadable copy of the Sonic 4 saga’s second entry right off the game’s Xbox Live Marketplace product page and start the download immediately when they get home.

Sonic 4: Episode II Launch Trailer, True Blue Initiative Episode II!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq-VFj6YpBA

[UPDATE] The main website has updated with Sky Fortress Zone and Episode Metal in accordance with S4EII‘s launch, including some new screenshots. Thanks to MilesKnightwing for the tip! Prices for the game are now included in the article as well. Original post below!

Showcasing the four main zones and bosses in action, the launch trailer to Sonic 4: Episode II was unveiled today in conjunction with the releases of the PSN and PC versions of the game. The new trailer also unveils the iOS release date: the game will be available off the iTunes App Store on the 17th, two days from now.

SEGA Blog also listed the prices for the different versions of the game: $14.99/€12.99/£9.99/AUD$18.25 off the PlayStation Network and Steam, 1200 points from the Xbox Live Marketplace, and $6.99/€5.49/£4.99/AUD$7.49 for the iOS and Android versions.

Check out the True Blue Initiative and the new screenshots after the jump!

Continue reading Sonic 4: Episode II Launch Trailer, True Blue Initiative Episode II!

New Sylvania Castle Zone, Egg Serpentleaf Screenshots Surface

A slew of 14 high quality screenshots have just surfaced regarding Sylvania Castle Zone and the massive Egg Serpentleaf boss of the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II. Not much to say other than they look gorgeous!

Check out the rest of the gallery after the jump!

Continue reading New Sylvania Castle Zone, Egg Serpentleaf Screenshots Surface

Sega Confirms No Sonic 4-2 For Wii

Ken Balough has recently confirmed what many wondered at the end of his Gamespot interview. Sonic 4 Episode 2 will not be making an appearance on the Wii console. This makes the third Multi-platform Sonic game in a row not to see release on the Wii. Here’s what Ken had to say.

But no – the reason Episode I was on the Wii was because we wanted to bring the Sonic 4 saga to the widest possible audience. Episode II unfortunately will not be coming to the Wii – for reasons most people have probably guessed, but that doesn’t mean the SEGA isn’t supporting Nintendo platforms, we have a very strong partnership and will continue to do so.

Oh well. Here’s hoping for a disc compilation at some point.

Source [Sega Forums]

Sonic 4 #1 Game on PSN & WiiWare, Fails to Chart on AppStore

The sales are in for Sonic 4’s first month on the market, and they are mixed, though largely positive.

Sonic 4 has become a top seller on two services so far: PSN and WiiWare. According to SEGAbits, Sonic 4 was able to beat every other game available on the service during the month, including Sonic Adventure, which took the fourth spot itself. Check out SEGAbits for the full list. On WiiWare, Sonic 4 has become the most popular game on the service. The store has a function that allows you to sort WiiWare games by their sales. The game has been at the top of this list since it came out.

Meanwhile, Sonic 4 has failed to even break the top ten in the Apple’s App Store, for either iPhone or iPad. In fact, Sonic 2 was actually able to crack the top ten twice during the first two weeks of the month, though it’s much cheaper price point may have had something to do with that. To see the sales charts for yourself, check out FingerGaming.

Aaron Webber: “Sonic 4’s Physics Not to Have Too Many Massive Changes”

Aaron Webber just wrote a post over at the Sonic Retro forums regarding the amount of changes that will be made to Sonic the Hedgehog 4’s physics for the final game.

There are some minor changes to music, most notably being one act that has actually had its music revamped completely. We’ll reveal which act this is as part of our S4 Update Blogs.

Physics in general are not going to see too many massive changes, though know that I did push months ago to see how much would be possible. The biggest hurdle here was the level design, and the many ways that even small physics changes require updating almost every stage. It is never as easy as many might think, but I did ask and made sure it was brought to certain people’s attention.

Our biggest focus with the updates has been to make a game that people can have fun playing. When you play Sonic 4, whether you’re an old fan or a new fan, that you can enjoy the levels and not have any moments that are too frustrating or difficult, or that make you want to stop playing. No moments where a random gimmick forces you to lose the fun factor that the game had. This is why Lost Lab Act II saw major updates from the original design, and why other parts of the game are also being polished, including another big level update I think you guys will be glad to hear of.

In addition to the big stuff, and though physics won’t be changed to the extent I know some people here would like, we have thrown in a number of small but important updates to other minor parts of the game. They are things that I doubt most reviewers will ever take note of, but that you guys as fans will hopefully appreciate. Some of these will also be revealed in our next S4 Update blog coming this month.

Though it’s impossible to fulfill every request,I hope that the changes we have made will prove that our claims to have been listening are founded solidly, and that while we can’t make every single person happy, we are doing what we can to make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Aaron Webber is a member of SEGA’s Community Team and has been their main liaison between Sonic 4 and the fans for awhile.


Sonic 4 Wii Footage, Preview from PAX

Well, I’m finally getting around to uploading the stuff I got from PAX. This is the first piece I’m putting up: footage for the Wii version of Sonic 4. Jason tells me there hasn’t been much footage of this version, so he told me to get some. Not sure if you’ll notice the differences, but the only real changes are more noticeable jaggies and darker colors, the most notable of which being the darker color of Sonic himself. The Wii’s D-pad was a really nice change in control from the crappy D-pad on the Xbox 360, so unless I can get my hands on a good 360 retro controller before the game comes out, I might find myself buying this version instead.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCjxMmZg3QI[/youtube]

As you can see, I screwed around in the demo a bit. Mostly, I was experimenting with the game and trying to find things I didn’t see last time. The game was, of course, fun. As I’ve said before, the game focuses primarily on momentum, with many of the boosters only acting to keep you moving along, or help you up steeper areas that don’t give you much room to build up speed. I skipped a couple, some by accident and some on purpose, but that didn’t impede my progress much.

I will say this, though: upon repeated play, the different physics have become glaringly apparent. They don’t do anything to actually hurt the fun, but really, if the fans figured out the equations to Sonic physics years ago, would it really be that hard for you to realize them in Sonic 4, Dimps? It almost feels like the game is “faking” the physics at times. Yes, Sonic could go through loops, but he couldn’t horizontally on them! That said, Dimps has successfully made the closest thing we’ve had to a classic Sonic game in 11 years in this demo.

Naturally, this is the E3 demo. Aaron Webber confirmed this for us before the show even started.  It’s still a really fun game all around and I’m looking forward to the final product, which will hopefully change the physics enough to please those who want something even closer to what the classic games where.

E3 2010: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Second Opinion

Since it was taking me so long to get around to this, Jason offered to do the Sonic 4 preview first. Of course, then he ended up REDOING it, so be sure to check it out. But now, on the last day of the show, I think I’ve finally logged enough game play time on all versions of the game to tell you guys exactly what kind of game this is.

Sonic 4 is an evolution of the classics. For all the screaming of how this game was “Sonic Rush 3”, it really doesn’t feel like it. For one, this game is based around physics and momentum. There is no “press this button to go fast” mechanic here. If you don’t have enough speed to conquer a hill, you have to step back and try again. If you lose your momentum in the middle of a loop, you’ll find yourself rolling back the other way, if not coming to a complete halt. The spin dash will give you a lot of momentum, but will eventually peter out unless the level gives you additional momentum. There are booster pads in this game, but they are used sparingly, and don’t fill the levels like they do in the 3D games, kind of like they did in Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant Zone.

In short, Sonic 4 does a lot of what made the classics so great. But what about the new mechanics? Well, this is where the whole “evolution” aspect of the game comes in. This game isn’t like Megaman 9, which basically emulated the early NES titles in graphics, game play, and mechanics. Rather, this is a true sequel, with different mechanics that make for a different kind of game. The most pronounced and controversial additions in this game is the homing attack. How does that figure in?

I would like to get something out of the way right now: the homing attack, in and of itself, does not give Sonic any additional momentum. It doesn’t make him go “insta fast”. Rather, doing an un-targeted homing attack gives you the same amount of momentum that a normal jump would give you. Hitting enemies with a homing attack, meanwhile will completely kill your momentum. The homing attack feels like a natural addition in this game; many of the things you can use the homing attack to reach, such as springs or pulleys, you can access just as effectively without it. What the homing attack gives the game is a certain tempo, allowing you to quickly move from one object to another in quick succession in a way that wouldn’t really be possible without it. It doesn’t make the game any easier, though. It could prove to be an interesting exploit for speed runners as well.

Perhaps the only problem with the homing attack is that some of the enemy placement requires its usage. When Sonic rolls off of a ramp, Sonic does not remain in his spinball form, meaning you then after to use the homing attack on enemies. There are also enemies you will need to homing attack attack when bouncing off of a spring,  in order to access higher areas.It is, of course, fully possible to beat the levels on the showfloor without using the move, but I would love to see a mode that removed the homing attack, and change the placement of the enemies somewhat to allow for some good old fashioned bouncing. Of course, some sort of move that allows Sonic to turn into a ball in mid air would have to be added, which wouldn’t be unheard of since such of a move was used in Sonic Adventure 2 and Triple Trouble. But really, this “problem” is something I only present in the interest of informing the old school fans who say they refuse to use it.

All that said, the homing attack is actually a surprisingly fun addition to the game. It’s been fairly well implemented, and while classic fans may cry foul, it did nothing to detract from my enjoyment of the demo.

In addition to the physics, the old school level design is also back. The levels are multilayered, with several paths possible throughout all three acts. The upper path is the most difficult to get to, and not one I was really able to reach in my playthroughs, so I can’t tell you much about it. But all of you begging for branching paths in Sonic games, well…here it is.

Honestly, as I played through this demo, I had to keep asking myself…what where people complaining about? If this was basically the final product, Sonic 4 probably would have been the best 2D Sonic game since Sonic Pocket Adventure on the Neo Geo Pocket. The level design is superb, the physics, while not dead on exact to the original games, where pretty close, and homing attack is more like a fun addition to the formula rather than “spam to win”. My only real complaint with this game is that Sonic starts off a little too slow. No, this isn’t what Sonic 4 would have been like on the Genesis. No, this isn’t like Megaman 9. Rather than copying the old games beat to beat, it took what made the old games great and forged its own path with the formula.  This game is exactly what Sonic fans have been asking for for years. It’s just not quite what was expected from a Sonic the Hedgehog 4.

RUMOR: Is Project Needlemouse “Sonic 4?”

So, I went on Sonic Retro a second ago and got a link to a 1UP article about the “games that they’re dying to see.” Project Needlemouse is on the list.  Here’s what they said:

Here’s what people already know about the game: it centers on only Sonic, it’s going to be 2D, it’s in HD, and it’ll be coming to Xbox Live and PSN. Here’s what they don’t know: it’s Sonic the Hedgehog 4. At least, that’s how it’s considered internally at Sega — whether it’ll have some other name when it ships, we’re not sure. But from its 2D gameplay to its focus on just the character we actually give a shit about, this is the Sonic game we’ve been waiting for since we moved on from the Sega Genesis. Let’s just hope this doesn’t all sound too good to be true — the second we see a Weresonic or Sonic’s fat purple friend we’re calling bullshit on the whole thing.

You call bullshit, 1UP?  Nah, I call bullshit on you.  Sonic 4?  You know just as much about Project Needlemouse as the rest of us: nothing.  We got crabs.

Each commenter gets a bonus point if they post a link to a “Sonic the Hedgehog 4” fangame.

Source: 1UP