Ken Balough Bids Farewell to SEGA

ken_interview1-515x280

Chances are if you’ve kept your finger on the pulse of the Sonic community over the past half decade, you’ll have encountered this character – SEGA’s Digital Brand Manager, Ken Balough. Ken is probably best known for being one of the most prominent spokespeople representing SEGA during the promotion of both Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episodes 1 and 2, for trailblazing fan engagement with the SEGA Community team, as well as his mean sense of humour.

Yesterday, Ken announced in a statement on the SEGA forums that he would be leaving his position at SEGA to join the team at Sony Playstation.

Continue reading Ken Balough Bids Farewell to SEGA

New SEGA Website Shows PROPE Copyright on Sonic 4

SEGA Japan has recently put up a new website archiving all of its digital download games, and thanks to the keen eyes of Woun over at Sonic Scene, we’ve got some interesting news to report. If you take a look underneath Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, you can see not only SEGA listed as a copyright holder, but PROPE, too. PROPE, as a lot of you will know, is the developer founded by Sonic the Hedgehog’s original creator, Yuji Naka. Could this mean Yuji Naka’s development studio had a part in Sonic the Hedgehog 4‘s development, or is it just an error?

Source: SEGA Japan’s new digital games archives site (via Sonic Scene)

Thanks to SSMB member and Sonic Scene founder Woun for the heads up!

Sound Test Saturday: Chills, Spills, and Thrills

Welcome back to Sound Test Saturday! I’m glad just about everyone appreciated the Sonic Paradox Remix Shorts and the work that has been poured into it! On behalf of the team, I wish to thank you all for the warm reception and support of the album!

Now let us return to our previously scheduled programming, and give the rest of the community a bit of focus, shall we?

Today, four remixes have been picked out for you all! True to today’s theme, only some of the most thrilling and spine-chilling of tunes have been picked out!

For Act 1, we return our attention towards a drummer who premiered on Sound Test Saturday with a most righteous cover of Hydrocity Zone Act 2! This time, with a groovy drum cover for the introductory act for Planet Wisp from Sonic Colours, we welcome back the one and only funkflash!

I had no words for this drum cover at first. Planet Wisp is one of my most favourite tunes out of the entire franchise due to its beautiful melody being handled by a piano, and hearing funkflash play along with the Act 1 track has rendered me speechless. While I love the original on its own, funkflash here has basically nailed the smooth feeling of Planet Wisp and, essentially, remastered the piece through his drumming prowess. Excellent, just as last time!

It reminds me of the last time a musician’s take on Planet Wisp was featured on the site… Similar feelings have been experienced.

In any case, let us turn our attention to Act 2 with a collaboration between Joshua Taipale and alexlp2k10 (or General Offensive! on Soundcloud) that is guaranteed to blow your mind!

For Underwater Maze Escape, here’s their take on Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 3 from Sonic the Hedgehog 4!

If Lost Labyrinth didn’t leave much of an impression on you for its music, it damn well should now, because this is one of the most righteous takes on this track ever! Incorporating a bit of Ancient Maze of Mystery (LL Act 1), Josh and Alex have done an amazing job at remixing this one together, with Alex handling the electronic tunes or Josh providing some breathtaking guitar magic. I oughta play this tune over the stage and see how it goes! Definitely one worthy of your playlists!

Act 3 now, and it’s one that definitely fits this week’s theme! Essentially breathing new life into Hydrocity Act 2 from Sonic 3 & KnucklesHeroBoy1092 turns this midi into a piece worthy of Sonic Generations!

With an entirely different approach on the track, here’s a Modern remix of Hydrocity Zone, for your listening pleasure!

I’ve never heard Hydrocity being played like this. Remixes I’ve heard, though great, were still somewhat close to their source material, but this right here is definitely one of the greatest interpretations of the piece ever. I can see Sonic going all over the water with this song: sliding down the slides, running, even surfing despite the are being confined! Kudos to HeroBoy for remastering an ish midi into something grand!

Speaking of Sonic Generations, we oughta wrap up this week’s playlist with a music video! So how about a cover of… Owl City’s Fireflies?

Released on the eve of the 20th Anniversary title’s release, Golden Rings is both a parody and a homage to Sonic the Hedgehog and his legacy. Some will get a good laugh while others feel like this track truly hits home.

Shadowlink4321 once again takes the stage while Tigura21 of Smash King fame handles the music video! Roll film, and have a good week everyone!

(Those who prefer it without autotune may find it absent here, with Shadowlink4321′s vocals intact!)

Be sure to return next week for the next instalment of The Sound Check! We’ll be with Dr. Mack Foxx as he speaks of his and EspioKaos’s Sonic Piano Reduxes!

Found an interesting cover, remix, or original tune somewhere? Have something of your own? Be sure to send your findings and wares over to me at vizardjeffhog@sonicstadium.org!

Sonic 4: Episode I Now Available on BlackBerry PlayBook

SEGA has announced that Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is now available to download on the BlackBerry PlayBook. With this latest port of the game, SEGA says they have taken advantage of the PlayBook’s seven-inch LCD touch screen and its 1GHZ dual-core processor. PlayBook users can buy the game through BlackBerry App World for $6.99(US)/£7.00 (UK).

Press release and screenshots are available after the jump:
Continue reading Sonic 4: Episode I Now Available on BlackBerry PlayBook

Sonic 4: Episode I Sold Best on PS3 on Consoles

SEGA Digital Brand Manager Ken Balough has revealed at the SEGA Forums that Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I sold best on the PlayStation 3 platform on consoles. Xbox 360 came second and Wii last. The news is quite a twist when compared to retail Sonic titles, where Nintendo’s consoles usually come out on top. No information was given as to where PC and mobile platforms ranked.

Will the same happen for Episode II? Time will tell. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is out now on Steam in the UK, and will be released later today in other territories. The PSN version will also be released later today in the US, then Europe tomorrow. The Xbox Live Arcade version is due out worldwide tomorrow.

Source: SEGA Forums

Sonic Titles on 60% Off Sale Today Only on Xbox Live Marketplace

As part of the Xbox 12 Days of Deals, you can grab a range of Sonic the Hedgehog titles at a whopping 60% off on the Xbox 360 Xbox Live Marketplace for today only. Almost all of Sonic’s Xbox Live Arcade releases are included in the offer, with the exceptions being Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic CD.

Here’s the list of games and discounts:
Sonic 4, Episode 1 Was: 800 Now: 320
Sonic Adventure Was: 800 Now: 320
Sonic Adventure Upgrade Was: 400 Now: 160
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Was: 400 Now: 160
Sonic the Hedgehog Was: 400 Now: 160
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Was: 400 Now: 160

Source: Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Blog

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Found on Steam Registry

SSMB member ezodagrom has discovered a new entry for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 on the Steam registry, indicating that a PC port of the game could possibly be on the way. SEGA hasn’t said anything officially about a PC version, but this isn’t the first time news has leaked from the publisher before the official announcement. If/when a PC version is officially confirmed, we’ll let you know.

Thanks to ezodagrom at the SSMB for the heads up!

Sonic 4: Episode 1 Gets Permanent Price Drop on Xbox 360 & PS3

Following our report on yesterday’s random discount on the Xbox 360 version of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, SEGA has announced early this morning on their blog that the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game have been/will be given permanent price drops. The Xbox 360 version has already received its 400 MSP cut worldwide from 1200 MSP to 800 MSP and the PS3 version will drop from £9.99/€12.99/AU$19.95 to £6.29/€7.99/AU$12.95 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa later today. The PS3 version will also get a price cut in North America next week on Tuesday October 18th.

Source: SEGA Blog

Got a news tip? Send it in to thesonicstadium@googlemail.com, shadzter@sonicstadium.org or via Twitter at @Shadzter and we’ll credit you for the find.

Sonic 4: Episode 1 Discounted on Xbox 360

We’re just 2 days away from Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1‘s 1 year anniversary on the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade service and it seems SEGA’s celebrating early with a 400 MSP discount from 1200 MSP to 800 MSP. Currently, we don’t know whether this is a temporary or permanent discount, as SEGA’s not said anything about this price cut on their blog or social media outlets, but we’ll update when we know more.

You can grab the game over at Xbox.com and put it in your download queue or download it directly from your Xbox 360 console.

Thanks to SSMB member RedCap-BlueSpikes for the heads up!

Got a news tip? Send it in to thesonicstadium@googlemail.com, shadzter@sonicstadium.org or via Twitter at @Shadzter and we’ll credit you for the find.

Sonic 4: Episode 1 Discounted For 1 Week on Windows Phone 7

SEGA has revealed that Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 on Windows Phone 7 is this week’s Xbox Live Deal of the Week in all territories. For one week only, you can grab the game for just £2.29, down from £5.49. Oddly, SEGA says the game has dropped from $6.99 to $4.99 in the US, while the Marketplace lists it at $2.99.

You can buy the game from the UK Marketplace here or the US Marketplace here.

Source: SEGA Blog

Got a news tip? Send it in to thesonicstadium@googlemail.com, shadzter@sonicstadium.org or via Twitter at @Shadzter and we’ll credit you for the find.

Balough Speaks to Retro About Sonic CD & Sonic 4

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWGJpl_xheI&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

Sonic Retro has informed us today that Shade Vortex didn’t speak to SEGA’s Patrick Riley yesterday. The Sonic Retro and SSMB forumer was actually speaking to SEGA’s Ken Balough, as shown in the above video interview with Balough that Shade Vortex has uploaded.

The interview gives us more information about the new Sonic CD port and its importance to Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2. If you don’t have time to watch the whole video interview, Sonic Retro has gathered the main points together in text form. You can read them below.

* It’s commonly understood that Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles form what is called “The Death Egg Trilogy” because of the overarching story of Eggman’s Death Egg across the titles. Sonic CD was a self-contained adventure that hovered around that area with the most popular belief to be between Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, despite no true concrete evidence.

* Sonic 4 is trying to bridge all of them together more. It’s not trying to give Sonic CD a concrete place in the timeline, just say that “It happened prior to Sonic 4: Episode 1.” It does not mean Sonic CD is immediately before Sonic 4: Episode 1 and after Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

* The events of Sonic CD are important to Episode 2. You can see Metal Sonic in the ending. The idea is you’ll see how Metal Sonic comes back after his destruction in Sonic CD and his return. (Knuckles Chaotix unavailable for comment.)

* Sega is supportive on Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead’s Retro Engine, calling it “a really good piece of technology.”

* “You’ve got to work within the confines of what a publisher is and what a publisher does in order to get all the benefits as well. We as a publisher will get the benefits from working with really talented developers, and developers on the flip side get the benefits of working with a publisher and all the things and all the exposure they get and they can bring to the table, as well as working on really big brands, like Sonic.”

* On Metal Sonic: “He’s appeared in some of these [games], but we’ve never made him so integral to that continuity. We’ve had him back, but no one ever explained how he comes back after CD. He’s just there. So, we’re going make sure that we fill in some of these really nice… I almost think of it like Star Wars, right? We’re going to go back and explain this really cool era that was the Clone Wars? We’re going to go back and explain this really cool era that was the classic experience, and show you guys some really fun stuff.”

* With regards to Sonic 2 Spindash and the “HD Filter”: “Stay tuned.” He doesn’t want to confirm anything until details are more concrete. However, a filter will be present.

* On Sonic CD not being on 3DS, Vita: “We never really intended to release it yet for the Playstation Vita, or the Playstation Go, or the Nintendo 3DS… those were never really on the table. We were always talking about, ‘It was either digital console or mobile devices.’

* He’s unable to comment on why the game isn’t on WiiWare.

* The U.S. Soundtrack will not be included at this time due to licensing issues. However, there’s a couple of more surprises to be revealed later down the road.

* The trailers have nothing to do with the continuity of the games. They’re their own thing designed by Balough. The ‘detour’ talked about previously is Sonic going to the past so players can relive Sonic CD and understand its events and references in Sonic 4: Episode 2.

Source: Sonic Retro

Thanks to Sonic Retro staffer GeneHF for the heads up!

Sonic CD Port Officially Announced, Coming This Holiday To Many Platforms

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjF6kq4MFlo&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Four days later and the new port of Sonic CD revealed on Monday has been made official. The Mega CD/SEGA CD title will be making its way to many platforms this Holiday season, which include Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, PC Download, Windows Phone and Android Phone.

The game is said to feature widescreen graphics, the original Japanese soundtrack, special iOS features, Xbox LIVE Achievements, PSN Trophies, PC Achievements and more. Interestingly, SEGA also says this game is a prequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. A trailer, press release and artwork have also been released, which we have shared for you here.

Check out the press release below:

METAL SONIC! AMY-ROSE! ROBOTS! IT CAN ONLY BE SONIC CD

LONDON & SAN FRANCISCO — 25th August, 2011 —SEGA® Europe Ltd. and SEGA® of America, Inc. today announced that Sonic CD™ will debut on mobile phones and consoles everywhere. Originally released for the MEGA CD™ system in 1993 and with Metal Sonic and Amy Rose making their introduction, Sonic CD is coming to digital platforms with music from the original Japanese soundtrack. The beloved prequel to Sonic The Hedgehog 4 ™ Episode I is coming to iPhone® and iPod® touch, iPad®, Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation® Network, PC Digital Download, Android and Windows Phone 7 and will be available for download this winter.

“Ask any Sonic fan to name their favourite games, and Sonic CD always ranks near the top of their lists,” said Haruki Satomi, Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA. “Sonic CD marks an important chapter in Sonic’s history, bridging the gap between his oldest adventures and his new digital exploits like Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I. We’ve made sure the re-mastered edition has everything that Sonic fans want to see with all of the original colourful classic zones.”

Following the classic story of the original, Sonic CD sees Dr Eggman plan to cause chaos and take control of the future by stealing Times Stones from the Little Planet. Sonic must speed through levels and travel through time whilst fending off Eggman’s robots to recover the Time Stones, and save Amy Rose from his mechanical twin, Metal Sonic! This fast-paced game will return with brand new features including enhanced widescreen graphics, iOS features, Xbox LIVE Achievements, PSN Trophies, PC Achievements and more.

For more information on Sonic CD, please visit http://www.sega.com/

Source: SEGA Blog

Thanks to Jemma in our comments section for the heads up and to Woun for the YouTube upload!

Sonic 4: Episode 1 Sells Over 1 Million, Ep 2 Info On The Way “very soon”

In a recent interview with VG247, SEGA West CEO Mike Hayes revealed that digital download title Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 has sold over one million units across all platforms since its release in October last year.

“It did very well and it continues to do well,” Hayes told us in a phone interview this afternoon.

“Particularly when it gets a little shot in the arm with some promotion or some price activity, sales are quite phenomenal. Its downloaded clearly over a million units, so its sold particularly well and continues to sell.”

Hayes also told the website to expect information on Episode 2 “very soon”, but wouldn’t clarify how soon. Instead Mr.Hayes just said “look out for that one.”

Source: VG247 (via GoNintendo)

Thanks to SSMB member Emeraio at the SSMB for the heads up!

Sonic 4: Episode 1 Priced and Dated For Windows Phone

Microsoft has priced and dated its line-up of what they’re calling ‘Must Have Games’ for Windows Phone. Six titles are planned for release on Xbox Live individually each week from Wednesday May 25th and they will all feature achievements, leaderboards and more. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 will launch on June 15th and will cost you £5.49/$6.99 to download. Check out an official screenshot and gameplay footage of the Windows Phone version at the 0:34 mark in the trailer below.

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

Here’s the full line-up of Windows Phone games:
Hydro Thunder Go

Microsoft Game Studios
Release date: 5/25/2011
Price: £3.99/$4.99

Doodle Jump

GameHouse
Release Date: 6/1/2011
Price: £2.49/$2.99

geoDefense

Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 6/8/2011
Price: £2.49/$2.99

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I

Sega
Release Date: 6/15/2011
Price: £5.49/$6.99

Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap Games
Release Date: 6/22/2011
Price: £3.99/$4.99

Angry Birds

Rovio
Release Date: 6/29/2011
Price: £2.49/$2.99

Sources: SocialTimes.com, Windows Phone UK Facebook page and Xbox.com

BlueTube: PSN Down? Go Outside and Grab Some Rings!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df0y6JoydVA[/youtube]

The recent hack attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network may have been no joke, but Channel 4’s news team still saw fit to throw in a bit of light-hearted spin on the crisis – by turning to Sonic the Hedgehog, of course.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is available to download on the PlayStation Network, and was used as the primary example of playing games on the PS3. Bit of a strange choice really, but we’re certainly not complaining – especially as the report goes a bit ‘Brass Eye’ at the 3:00 mark.

Benjamin Cohen concludes his report by stating that the PSN downtime is allowing gamers to go outside and grab some sunshine, before cheesily running across the screen in a park collecting rings. It’s… well… it’s rubbish really, but it’s also awesome because it’s so rubbish. Keep shining, Channel 4.

Marathon Monday: Speed Demos Archive running Sonic games for Japan

Thursday 7th April – Monday 11th April at speeddemosarchive.com

I’m sure some of you remember when my good friends at Speed Demos Archive raised over $52k for charity at their live speedrunning marathon back in January. Not least, a beast known only as Stanski tore up Sonic 2 on the Sega Genesis in one take.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”265″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBZMEJtRrRk#t=4m35s[/youtube]

Normally, SDA isn’t one to do marathons all the time – they usually only have one a year and put everything into it – but last month some place called Japan had its east coast wiped out by a wave reaching 23 metres high, leaving over 10,000 people dead and another half a million without a home.

So, towards the end of March, and with marathoning for Japan seemingly de rigueur right now, SDA decided to join the bandwagon and plan a top marathon in two weeks. Unlike their usual efforts, this one will be done online from the gamers’ homes, and yours truly will also be joining the party.

Japan Relief Done Quick: April 7-10 2011

This time Japan Relief Done Quick will be raising funds for Doctors Without Borders, the American branch of the international medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières. A Nobel Peace Prize recipient, MSF has operations in over 60 countries, and is in Japan right now providing medical treatment to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Now, January’s marathon was a bit disappointing from a Sonic point of view, but that’s not the case this time. Early Friday morning in the UK, there’s a solid four-hour slot where five Sonic games will be played through:

  • First up is the original Mega Drive title, Sonic the Hedgehog, played by MilesSMB on Genesis.
  • That’s followed by Sonic 3D on Saturn, played by Zyre who recently had a speedrun of another Sega classic, Skies of Arcadia Legends, published on SDA.
  • Next Venick will hammer his way through Amy’s story on the original Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast.
  • The greatest Sonic game ever made is next – Sonic 2006 on Xbox 360. Depending on donations, either Venick or Parax will go through one character’s story. If you’re planning on donating, personally I recommend Silver because some of the tricks will blow your mind.
  • Finally, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 will be seeing a full game run. The runner is Parax, the top single-level speedrunner for Sonic 4 in the world right now. If you’re on 360, check the leaderboards and then check your calendar.
  • This marathon starts at 9PM in the UK on Thursday, and is set to run into Monday. You can see the full schedule at the JRDQ site, though if you’re planning on watching a certain game, bear in mind times can change pretty easily.

    Be there, if only to laugh at me when I die in-game during my slot…

    Sonic 4: Episode 2 Confirmed, In Early Stages of Development

    Here’s something that seems to have escaped many people’s notice. Over at the SEGA Forums SEGA’s Sonic 4 Brand Manager Ken Balough has confirmed work is officially underway on Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2. That may be a given, since the game is episodic, but this is the first we’ve heard from anyone at SEGA. Looking through a Sonic 4: Episode 2 topic at SEGA’s forum shows Balough has been doing some Q&A for over 2 weeks there, and we’ve picked some choice posts out below. Continue reading Sonic 4: Episode 2 Confirmed, In Early Stages of Development

    Happy Groundhog / Hedgehog Day (And A Possible Announcement On The Way?)

    It’s 3am on Thursday, the 3rd of February, and fortunately for me Groundhog day won’t be repeating itself for me (although today seems to have gone on forever!) However for many of our American fans, their local groundhog will have predicted whether or not they will be having 6 more weeks of winter, of if early spring is on it’s way.

    However the tradition of calling the 2nd of February “Hedgehog Day” was a tradition continued by SEGA since the announcement of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 a year ago. The SEGA America Blog is celebrating Hedgehog day in a very mysterious way…and no, I don’t mean the hedgehog weather-sensing facts either!

    Keen-eyed fans will notice that certain letters are highlighted throughout the blog, and in order, spell “Berlin”.

    Is SEGA giving us a hint as to a possible announcement that could take place soon in Berlin? Are the SoA employees enslaved to write the blog trying to tell us the city in which they have been locked in a dungeon and chained to a laptop? Is Sonic changing his name to Hans and moving to Germany? No doubt many fans will find this too much of a coincidence, and with two or three Sonic titles in the works this year, this is bound to get the fans talking.

    So what’s going on? Answers on a back of a postcard…or let’s hear your conspiracy theories or know-how in the comments!

    UPDATE: LordSpeed has a pretty convincing theory:

    “Isaiah Berlin with his essay called “The Hedgehog and the Fox” takes the hedgehog as the type of the person who knows “one big thing”, as opposed to the fox, who knows many things. This was taken from a poem by Archilochus -> (image of Sega Blog) (Wikipedia).”

    [UPDATE] Sonic 4 PS3 Dynamic Theme Coming To PlayStation Store

    UPDATE: ArchangelUK of SEGA Europe and Sonic Wrecks has received European and Australian pricing and release date information from SCEE. The theme will be available Wednesday 19th January for free to PlayStation Plus members, and cost €1.99/£1.59/$AU3.45 for everyone else.
    Source: Sonic Wrecks/UPDATE END

    SEGA’s RubyEclipse has revealed that a Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Dynamic Theme will soon be available on the PlayStation Store for PS3 owners thanks to a joint effort from SEGA and Sony. This theme is based on the game’s first stage Splash Hill Zone and features Sonic running and spin-dashing around, with an appearance from Dr. Eggman every now and then. Another cool feature is the ring sound effect we’ve all grown to know and love that will trigger when toggling around the XMB.

    This Dynamic Theme will be a part of this coming Tuesday’s PlayStation Store update in the U.S. and will be released shortly after in Europe, so maybe Wednesday’s European PlayStation Store update, if we’re lucky? The theme will cost $2.99 in the U.S. and for a limited time will be available free to all PlayStation Plus members. No European prices were given.

    If you missed the announcement, SEGA added exclusive Sonic 4 Avatar items to the Xbox Live Marketplace for Xbox 360 owners in December.

    Source: SEGA of America Blog & Sonic City Blognik

    Thanks to CobraRoll at the SSMB for the heads up!

    Will you be downloading this theme? Let us know in the comments.

    SEGA Cutting Sonic 4 & Sonic Adventure Prices in PSN Sale

    UPDATE: SEGA of America has announced that the U.S. PS Store will also see discounts. Check the list below for items and prices. /UPDATE END

    Sony’s PlayStation Store Team has announced this week’s European PlayStation Store update two days early, and in it we can see all sorts of festive goodies from not only Sony, but a variety of third-party publishers, including SEGA. Sonic fans who haven’t yet bought Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, Sonic Adventure or its Sonic Adventure DX Add-On Pack are in for a treat, because SEGA will be dropping the price of all three items.

    Here’s a full list of content SEGA are discounting and their upcoming prices –
    EU and U.S.:

    * Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One(was – £9.99/€12.99/$14.99 now – £5.49/€6.99/$9.99)
    * Sonic Adventure (was – £6.29/€7.99/$10 now – £3.19/€3.99/$5)
    * Sonic Adventure DX Add-on Pack (was – £3.19/€3.99/$4.99 now – £1.19/€1.49/$1.99)
    * After Burner: Climax (was – £7.99/€9.99/$9.99 now – £3.99/€4.99/$4.99)
    * Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP) (was – £27.99/€34.99/$39.99 now – £13.99/€17.99/$15.99)
    * Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP) (was – £19.99/€34.99/$39.99 now – £13.99/€17.99/$15.99)

    U.S. only:

    Gunstar Heroes (PS3) (was – $4.99 now – $2.99)
    SEGA Genesis Collection (PSP) (was – $15.99 now – $9.99)
    Iron Man 2 (PSP) (was – $19.99 now – $15.99)

    These discounts will only be available during Sony’s Christmas sale, which runs from December 22nd until January 5th, so grab them while they’re there.

    Sources: EU PlayStation Blog
    SEGA of America Blog

    Will you be taking advantage of these great offers? Let us know in the comments.

    Sonic 4: Ep 1 Avatar Items Now on Xbox Live Marketplace

    SEGA has today released a bunch of new items for Sonic fans to purchase and dress their Xbox 360 Avatar’s with on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The items range from clothing and props themed around Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, which was released on Xbox Live Arcade in October.

    The items and prices are as follows:

    Chaos Emeralds: 240 MS Points



    Sonic Plushie: 160 MS Points



    Chopper Toy: 240 MS Points


    Sonic 4 Ep. I Tee (Women): 80 MS Points



    Sonic 4 Ep. I Tee (Men): 80 MS Points



    Moto Bug Toy: 240 MS Points



    Sonic 4 Cartridge: 160 MS Points

    Will you be buying any of the items? Which one’s your favourite? Let us know in the comments.

    Sources:
    Xbox Live Marketplace
    SEGA of America Blog

    Thanks to Merry Swissmas at the SSMB for the heads up!

    SEGA Permanently Drops Prices of Sonic 1, 2 & 4:Ep 1 on iPhone

    SEGA has announced permanent price drops on most of their iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad games, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. All three games have been jumping up and down in price in recent months, but now you can grab them pretty cheap without worrying about special sale time limits (and just in time for Christmas, too). The two classic Mega Drive/Genesis titles Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog 2 have been reduced to £2.99/$4.99 each and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, which is barely 2 months old, has been dropped to just £3.99/$6.99.

    Check out the full list of games and prices at the SEGA of America Blog (via SEGA Bits)

    Iizuka: We ‘Updated’ the Physics for Sonic 4

    Sonic Team bossman Takashi Iizuka is a lovable chap in person, but gosh does he say the darndest things. He’s like an adorable grandpa that sometimes spouts politically incorrect slurs that would only be acceptable in the 1970s.

    Recently, he demonstrated this again in an interview with Nintendo Power, where he was asked to elaborate on the rather wonky physics of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. Take it away, Papa Iizuka:

    NP: We enjoyed [Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1], but the physics felt a bit off compared to the Genesis games. Is that something you’ll look to tweak in future episodes?

    TI: In this title, we have not done a straight port of the gameplay [from the Genesis games], but rather updated it with actions which could not be done in the previous titles, like ceiling-running. These changes probably made for a different feel to the longtime Sonic fans. We’re happy for feedback like this, and we’ll make sure we can improve the quality even further in upcoming titles.

    Make of that what you will – all I’ll say is “Keep on shinin’, Iizuka. Keep on shinin’.”

    Source: Nintendo Power (via Aeropause) / Image Credit
    Discuss on the SSMB Forums

    SEGA Resets Sonic 4 Xbox 360 Leaderboards

    In the last few hours SEGA has completely reset the Xbox 360 version of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1‘s online leaderboards. Announced at the SEGA Forums late yesterday by SEGA of America’s RubyEclipse, the move has been made to clear the huge amount of cheating times/scores, which consisted of impossible 0″00″00 times and 99999990 scores. The downside to this wipe however is that all of the legitimate players times and scores have been removed from the boards too, meaning those players will have to upload all of their records again.

    Will this reset help the situation? It appears the answer is no, as already someone has uploaded a 99999990 record to Splash Hill Zone Act 2’s Score Attack leaderboard and taken top place, so it may be only a matter of time before the boards are ruined again. No announcement has been made by SEGA regarding whether the other versions of the game will receive a leaderboard wipe.

    Do you think this is the correct way to deal with the leaderboard cheaters? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Sonic Stadium Soundtrack Squad Review: Sonic 4: Episode 1 OST

    Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Epsiode 1 OST Review

    by JezMM

    With veteran Sonic composer Jun Senoue taking the musical helm for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, many interviews inquired into how the inspiration from Masato Nakamura’s works from the original games would be shaping Sonic 4’s soundtrack; fans of the classic era began looking forward to future, and the music that would inevitably accompany the title.

    Generally speaking, almost every track uses a blend of old 16-bit style samples and synthesised instruments as appropriate, such as the jazzy horns of Casino Street or atmospheric pipes of Lost Labyrinth. This works well and is very appropriate, reflecting the way the game also uses a mix of old and new visually. In a rather different move for a 2D Sonic game, each act has its own melody, rather than traditionally remixing the zone’s theme. However each melody generally keeps in style which the rest of the zone with regards to instrumentation, with vague hints of melody shared between acts. Likewise, each act has its own unique and memorable gimmick, so unique and memorable melodies for each one is a great idea.

    However, while there are a fair few ear worms (Splash Hill Act 3 and Lost Labyrinth Act 1 are sure to stick with you) I found a few songs quickly forgettable, or just simply too repetitive, especially considering almost every act is between 3-6 minutes long. Repetitive music certainly reminds one of the old days, but I felt there are still certain standards to adhere to considering this is a modern game being released in a modern market.

    Of particular offense was the downright dreadful Final Boss theme. In light of the episodic nature of Sonic 4, a ridiculously epic boss theme would have been inappropriate (well, not that it was a problem for Sonic 3), but frankly Episode One ’s grand finale is just boring sound-wise. The boss is long and difficult, requiring many, many re-attempts – a 20 second loop just simply does not cut it for these circumstances. This might have been forgiven had there been a more dramatic “pinch” version for when Eggman goes nuts half way through (as with the other bosses), but not even that happens. A crying shame as a great, memorable piece of music would have been just what this boss needed to smooth the frustration threshold after frequent failure.

    The soundtrack feels like Jun tried too hard to capture the original soundtracks – including what little was wrong with them. Additionally, while several of his melodies have that classic almost melancholic Sonic 1 aura to them, several don’t quite pull it off for me. For example, Lost Labyrinth Act 1 and Act 3 really pull it off in a way that slightly reminds me of Marble from the original game. Meanwhile, I can clearly hear the Special Stage theme trying to emulate the Sonic 1 version’s melodic style, but it fails to grasp quite the same magical something the original had. I also feel that the classic Sonic 1/Sonic 2 tappity-tap percussion severely limited the potential “oomph” factor any track could have possibly had. Using some more modern beats – at least in a few songs – wouldn’t have gone amiss.

    In my opinion, Jun’s style was hampered by his attempts at mimicry. When I think of other tracks of his, in particular Azure Blue World from Sonic Adventure, I think it’s very possible for him to come up with an enthralling melody that wouldn’t sound out of place in a classic Sonic game, yet using modern instruments for that extra edge. I’m hoping the reliance on classic elements was purely in celebration of Sonic’s roots, just as the game’s graphics and level genres were, and that we’ll have a much more exciting soundtrack for the next episode. In summary, Sonic 4’s soundtrack does its job. It is a good soundtrack. But being appropriate is the bare minimum a soundtrack should do, and to me that is all Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1’s soundtrack is – good and appropriate – when it could have been so much more. [6]

    Thumbs Up: Perfectly fitting to the content of the game and theme of each zone.
    Thumbs Down: Plays it a bit too safe, making for a wholly unsurprising aural experience.
    Favourite Track: Splash Hill Act 3

    Extaticus
    Though it originates from a wholly god-awful source, (the game from which the soundtrack comes is, quite frankly, an absolute travesty) Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1’s fantastic BGM is a monstrously marvellous electro masterwork, with fiery synth, rockin’ retro beats and a shining and prominent influence from the styles and moods of the tunes of the classic titles – it truly is a glorious flashback to the halcyon days of chippy-trippy MegaDrive music, and is an absolute godsend to anyone who’s been hankering after a taste of a fresh, modern, Sonic-style take on the genre since the series changed its musical fashions so dramatically when guitars took over the audio side of things in Sonic Adventure.

    With blindingly awesome tracks such as Splash Hill Zone Act 3 (which truly is the alpha of the pack, sporting supremely catchy chord sequences and a massively memorable melody) and Mad Gear Zone Act 1, (a far jumpier, more dance-orientated affair, which contains more saw-wave licks and syncopations than you can shake a glow-stick at) the Sonic 4 OST is most definitely an album to be remembered and revered as one of the true greats that the Sonic series has managed to produce, and despite a couple of minor niggles, (the instruments aren‘t exactly what I‘d call “authentic“ in terms of their ability to re-create a realistic retro sound, and, right from the off, it’s crystal clear that the track entitled “Boss 1“ was booted from the final cut of the Sonic 3D Soundtrack for a very, very good reason) is the epitome of excellence in modern electronic video game music – it’s by no means perfect, but extremely good and wonderfully well-formed nonetheless. [8]

    T-Bird
    The stand-out quality of the Sonic 4 soundtrack is that they do a bang-up job of being reminiscent of the older classic tunes. The majority of the compositions are instantly synonymous with Sonic, and while not exactly replicating the Megadrive soundcard, there is a definite fresh, regenerated feel and pace. I’m particularly glad to see Senoue has borrowed from the later Megadrive titles to revive the evolution of each stage’s sound from one to the next.

    While I disagree with any consensus that the classic kick-drum and snare is used too much (they were used in the original as frequently), they don’t seem to have been used with much originality ; for example, the Casino Street percussion is extremely similar to that of Casino Night from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Having said this, I would love to see the Sonic 3 drum set utilised in future titles…but that’s personal preference! Mad Gear’s vibe lands itself perfectly at a transition point between classic titles and the post-Sonic Adventure style, a format I think sound be maintained for Episode 2. [8]

    Thumbs Up: A vibrant new sound to compliment the new title.
    Thumbs Down: You’d be forgiven to think you’d heard some tracks before.
    Favourite Tracks: Lost Labyrinth Act 2 & Mad Gear Act 1.

    BlitzChris
    When he isn’t busy being chased by flocks of beautiful woman, Jun Senoue composes music for SEGA. His latest soundtrack for Sonic 4 doesn’t disappoint, immersing you into sonic’s new 2.5D environment. I’ll start off by being completely honest. I LOVE the title theme to Sonic 4. It’s short, catchy and whenever I hit an invincibility box I hum along to it.

    One of the things I love most about the soundtrack is that the music for each of the four zones is very different, but the acts all have a similar buzz to them. The Casino Street stages all have a little Casino Night charm in them but are distinctively different from the more Metropolis sounding Mad Gear acts. The album isn’t without its faults however, with the drum set being a constant annoyance. As much as I liked the throwback to the genesis/megadrive sound font, it quickly begins to stick out like a sore thumb and can really get on your nerves. The E.G.G. Station track is also disappointingly short and can begin to irritate your ears as it loops 5-6 times every time you play the level.
    Getting the limited low points out of the way, it’s difficult to pick out a favourite track in Sonic 4 because the rest all have their own charm. I absolutely love the flute in Boss Fight and it helps give it an almost “Banjo Kazooie” feel. I am also a huge fan of Splash Hill Act 1. It’s such a catchy tune, and I think it is well worthy of being the next “First Stage” tune alongside the other classics like Emerald Hill and Angel Island. On a side note, be sure to check out the range of Sonic 4 Remixes sprouting up all over the place. Overall, the music is really appropriate for the game, and I hope Jun can hold back his huge female fan base long enough to produce some Episode 2 magic. [8]

    Thumbs Up: Each acts music is noticeably specific to that zone and complement each other really well.
    Thumbs Down: Drums can drain the brain, Egg Station really isn’t long enough
    Favourite Tracks: Title Music & Boss Fight

    A formidable collection of catchy beats that capture concepts of the older titles and blend them with the new.  Although there are many examples of memorable tunes, some fans will grow tired of the recycled drums and the shorter looped tracks.

    Sonic 4 iPhone Price Drop In Halloween Sale, ChuChu Rocket Out Now

    SEGA Europe has announced that the classic Dreamcast puzzle game ChuChu Rocket is now available to download from the App Store on the iPhone/iPod touch at €3.99 /£2.99 / AU$5.99 and in HD – on the iPad for €5.49 /£3.99/ AU$8.99. In other news, a Halloween Sale has been announced, with discounts across five titles, including Sonic’s latest classic revival Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1.

    Here are the full list of titles and prices:

    Shining Force
    Was: $2.99 £1.79 Now: $0.99 £0.59
    Ecco the Dolphin
    Was: $2.99 £1.79 Now: $0.99 £0.59
    Streets of Rage
    Was: $2.99 £1.79 Now: $0.99 £0.59
    Sonic 4 Ep 1
    Was: $9.99 £5.99 Now: $6.99 £3.99
    Football Manager
    Was: $4.99 £4.99 Now: $2.99 £2.99

    The sale is only for a limited time, so grab those bargains while they’re there.

    Source: SEGA Europe Blog

    SEGA To Attend Paris Games Week

    SEGA France announced on their blog “The Blue Room” on October 15th (yes, we’re a bit late noticing this) that they will be attending the Paris Games Week event that begins this Wednesday October 26th and ends on Sunday 31st. SEGA will be bringing along some of their recent and upcoming titles, including Sonic the Hedgehog‘s latest bunch.

    The full list of titles and pods available include:

    Sonic Colours (Wii) = 4 pods
    Sonic Colours (DS) = 4 pods
    Sonic Free Riders (Xbox 360 Kinect) = 2 pods
    Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 = 2 pods
    Crazy Taxi = 1 pod
    Space Channel 5: Part 2 = 1 pod
    Vanquish (PS3, Xbox 360) = 3 Xbox 360 pods and 3 PS3 pods
    Virtua Tennis 4 (PS3) = 2 pods with PlayStation Move and 3D support
    Yakuza 4 (PS3) = 2 pods

    Also, Atsushi Inaba, the co-founder and Producer of Platinum Games developed title Vanquish will be in attendance on Saturday and Sunday to make some presentations and sign your copies of the game or posters that you can only get exclusively at this event.

    Finally, Atsushi Inaba, co-founder and Producer of PlatinumGames VANQUISH come specially from Japan on Saturday and Sunday to make several presentations-hourly news soon-but especially to sign copies of VANQUISH you’ve purchased per thousand and / or large posters printed exclusively for this occasion.

    (Google Translate)

    Source: SEGA France’s “The Blue Room” blog
    SEGA France to attend Paris Games Week announcement
    Space Channel 5: Part 2 at Paris Games Week announcement

    For more information about Paris Games Week, head over to the events official website.

    Will you be attending Paris Games Week? Let us know in the comments.

    TSS Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1


    Sonic 4, then. Hyped as the true return to 2D form for the blue blur, unleashed at last upon the fanbase after a year-long wait that was riddled with delays and controversy. Does it live up to its promise? Is it worth your hard-earned Sonic wonga? Read on and find out, in TSS’ Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 review.

    Premise

    There’s really nothing to say when it comes to the game’s premise – it follows the formula of the classic games to the letter, seeing Sonic race through levels to rescue his animal friends from Dr. Eggman’s capture. As it continues on from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, there’s something of a bare bones plot – the evil doc, still smarting after the chaos that ensued on the Death Egg, is trying once more to bury the planet with his league of robot badniks. Of course, with the recession and everything, he’s on the back foot, forced to recycle only the best of the baddies from past games. Obviously, Sonic’s having none of it.

    With no cutscenes or any other guff to endure in-between levels, Sonic 4 does a great job of keeping the focus on what really matters – 2D platforming and fast-paced action. There’s a lot to be said about games that just let you get on with the game and just play – and Sonic the Hedgehog is such an accessible game that jumping in is a total cinch.

    JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up
    FAVOURITE SCENE: As it should be – the ending sequence.

    Presentation

    Sonic 4 is simply gorgeous. SEGA has brought the 2D games bang-up to present-day, and although the 16-bit sprites had a bit more charm to them, you’ll still be able to appreciate the detailed locales and intricate designs implemented here. With 3D models, special effects such as card-based paths looping in and out of the screen, and traditional items such as pinball bumpers and loop-de-loops covered in foliage, Sonic 4 does what the original Sonic the Hedgehog did in 1991 – create a graphical presentation that can truly wow kids.

    All that being said, there’s something of an obvious pattern when it comes to the design of Sonic 4 – it’s not entirely original. In fact, it could be argued that it’s not original at all. Each of the four major zones (and the concept of the Special Stages) are re-imaginations of levels already seen in the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The multi-tiered and engaging level design helps break the argument that this is but a mere rehash, but it is fair to say that this initial episode does feel more like an homage rather than a true sequel. Maybe some fresh ideas for the next episode, SEGA?

    JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up
    FAVOURITE BIT:
    The all-too familiar looking Splash Hill going from daylight to sunset.

    Sound

    When you think of the music behind classic Mega Drive Sonic games, one of the most distinctive elements you would pick out would be Masato Nakamura’s deft use of percussion. Jun Senoue, a veteran who has been involved with the series’ soundtrack ever since Sonic 3, has tried to replicate that to mixed success. Oftentimes the background music sounds like there’s a 16-bit woodpecker knocking against your head. At other times, tunes are barely memorable – try humming a Sonic 4 song two hours after playing it.

    There are some blinding gems that show Senoue’s skill, like the pumping theme to Mad Gear or the absolutely delightful Act 3 music to Splash Hill Zone. But we all know what the man’s capable of when given a Mega Drive – 1996’s Sonic 3D Flickies’ Island is testament to that. Ultimately, I can see exactly what Senoue was going for here – it’s just a shame that the overall result is a bit hit-and-miss.

    JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down
    FAVOURITE TRACKS:
    Splash Hill Zone Act 3, Mad Gear Zone Act 1

    Gameplay

    This really is the heart of the debate – whether you rate Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 as a good or bad game depends entirely on what you perceive the game to be (ignoring SEGA’s constant marketing natter about ‘back to the classics, fo’ real homes’). Do you focus more on what the game should be, or what it really is? Here’s my take – Sonic 4 is a lot of fun. With some caveats.

    When you start playing the game, a lot of the hangups in the physics department appear glaringly obvious – and if they don’t, then you’ll be blitzing through the first few stages thinking subconsciously that something isn’t right with this picture. As it turns out, Sonic Team (for whatever reason) did not decide to build on the Mega Drive codebase but instead created as close enough a replication as it could. For some, the bits it got wrong are a deal-breaker.

    Jump to the side and let go of the analogue stick/D-pad, and rather than letting momentum take its course, Sonic stops moving and drops in a vertical line. Closer inspection shows that the same is true for other midair activities, such as being shot out of a cannon. Elsewhere, the game doesn’t seem to encourage the use of the spin attack because every time you use it, you slow to a crawl. Even on the Casino Street half-pipes – where in classic Sonic games, spin-attacking would actually make you go faster than running, the opposite is true in Sonic 4. For those used to the physics of the originals, it’s baffling.

    But if you stick with the game, you’ll get used to those setbacks and enjoy the game for the short, enjoyable ride it otherwise provides. Running around curves and bouncing off of badniks really takes you back to those halcyon days sitting in front of a Mega Drive as a kid. The level design – multiple tiers and with several routes for time-attacking – is a triumph compared to those found in recent 2D Sonics.

    And the sole addition to the blue blur’s attack roster, the homing attack, is far from a cheap get-out-of-jail-free card, but instead offers access to alternate paths and feels just as natural as a classic power-up should. Sonic 4 is a game that divides opinion like no other – just as I feel there is a lot of fun and gameplay worth to the game despite its setbacks, others may feel that the physics is enough to fail the game entirely. The strange thing is, both opinions are correct.

    JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Up (Your Mileage May Vary)
    FAVOURITE PART: Running like a madman to escape the chaos in Mad Gear Act 3.

    Longevity

    You won’t really get a lot of bang for your buck here – you’re buying entirely into the nostalgia trip that you may (or may not) receive when Sonic 4: Episode 1 first loads up. To compare the number of zones to past Mega Drive games is silly – Sonic the Hedgehog came out in 1991 with six zones for around £40. When you consider you’re only losing two for a tenner that’s not so bad.

    What can’t be argued is that you can easily beat Sonic 4: Episode 1 in the space of an hour or so (minus chaos emeralds – it will take you an extra couple of hours to grab them). When there are other premium games on downloadable services commanding at least four times that for about £2 less, you start to ask a question or two as to whether the longevity is value for money. It will be interesting to see how that might change if it has the ability to ‘lock on’ with future episodes, however.

    JUDGEMENT: Thumbs Down
    FAVOURITE TIME-WASTER: Time-attacking – the homing attack has some nice uses in speed running.

    FINAL WORDS

    YOU’LL LOVE
    + The sublime level design.
    + All of the beautiful backdrops.
    + A fresh challenge, wrapped in a familiar setting.
    + That you can still have fun despite its drawbacks.
    + The homing attack. Yeah, I said it.

    YOU’LL HATE
    – The rather naff jump and spin physics.
    – A rather forgettable soundtrack.
    – That it’s over far too quickly for your money.
    – It’s more of an homage than a fully-blown sequel.
    – One or two gimmick-specific stages.

    Sonic 4 WiiWare Out Now In Europe and Australia

    European and Australian Wii owners can now finally purchase the WiiWare version of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 from the Wii Shop Channel. The game costs 1,500 Nintendo Points and weighs in at 387 blocks of memory. Those hoping for multiple control schemes such as the Classic Controller and Gamecube Controller will be disappointed, because the game only supports the Wii Remote. Special Stages do have some control choices however, with the option of playing with the d-pad or with motion control.

    Will you be buying Sonic 4 on WiiWare today? Let us know and share your thoughts on the game in the comments.

    Thanks to just4lolzz in the comments for the heads-up on the Australian release.

    Sonic 4 Speedrun, Out Now On XBLA & EU PSN

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrkeyrU3wSw&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

    GamesRadar’s Justin Towell, who gave Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 a 9/10 in his review has put out the world’s first speedrun of Splash Hill Zone Act 1 and it’s a very impressive run at 40.79 seconds. Towell currently holds the Guinness World Record for the Xbox Live Arcade version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s Emerald Hill Act 1.

    Source: GamesRadar

    UPDATE: The game is now available on the European PlayStation Store for £9.99/€12.99 and weighs in at 197MB. /UPDATE END

    In other news, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 has just been released on the Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points and weighs in at 191MB. If you want to give the game a try before you buy, a demo is available. The PS3 version will release in Europe on the PlayStation Store later today. We’ll update when that goes live.

    Source: Xbox Live Marketplace
    (The game is not immediately visible right now. You’ll need to look under the ‘Top Rated’ section to find it.)

    Will you be buying the game today? Do you think you can beat Justin Towell’s time? Let us know in the comments.

    Sonic 4 Launch Trailer, U.S. PS3 Version Out Now

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihZY56kYIis&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

    UPDATE: The game is now available to download from the U.S. PlayStation Store. /UPDATE END

    SEGA Japan has today released the above launch trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, which showcases all of the game’s four zones in action, including some of the bosses. The PS3 version will be released on the U.S. PlayStation Store later today for $14.99, so fans looking for an HD experience will now have that option. Tomorrow sees the launch of the PS3 version in Europe and the Xbox 360 version worldwide, followed by the Wii version’s European release on Friday.

    Will be you be buying the PS3 version today? Let us know in the comments.

    Source: Official Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Japanese website

    Thanks to Shaddix for the heads-up and Woun for the YouTube conversion.

    Sonic 4 WiiWare Out Now, First Gameplay Video

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Kg-JsR5LNA[/youtube]

    Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is now available to Wii owners in the U.S. via the Wii Shop Channel for 1,500 Nintendo Points. This is the first of the console edition releases this week, with the PS3 version out on the PlayStation Network in the U.S. tomorrow and Europe on Wednesday. The Xbox 360 version will also release on Xbox Live in the U.S. and Europe on Wednesday and finally the Wii version will hit Europe on Friday. Courtesy of crinos43 at YouTube we have some gameplay footage of the Wii version of the game above.

    Will you be downloading the Wii version? Let us know in the comments.

    Sonic 4: New Casino Street Zone Act 2 PS3 Footage, Super Sonic Included

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzxiOu1LJfA&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

    SEGAOnline.nl has posted up exclusive gameplay footage they’ve recorded from the final build of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1‘s PS3 version. In the video we see footage of the console exclusive redesign of Casino Street Zone Act 2, which was shown recently on CNET’s preGame, but now we can see and hear it played directly and in high quality. Super Sonic is shown in full force throughout the stage and it sounds like the music for this Act, as well as Super Sonic’s theme music have been completely revamped.

    Do you like the new Casino Street Zone Act 2 and the musical changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Source: SEGAOnline.nl

    Thanks to Shaddix and Indigo Rush at the SSMB for the heads-up!

    [UPDATE: IGN 8/10] First Batch of Sonic 4 Reviews

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8__PP88BCY&feature=channel[/youtube] UPDATE: IGN has posted up their review of the Xbox 360 version, in written and video form (see above). They give the game an 8/10. /UPDATE END

    The first batch of reviews are in for the iPhone and PS3 versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and they’re all pretty positive. We’ll focus on two of the reviews here and provide links to others at the bottom of this article.

    AppTilt’s Dan Lee gave the iPhone version a 9/10, claiming SEGA has done well in bringing Sonic back to his roots, while still keeping him fresh.

    Every level is bright, colourful, detailed and screams ‘Sonic’ at the top of its lungs. SEGA has done a fantastic job of bringing Sonic back to his roots, but also making him feel fresh and modern.

    Lee says the game meets the classic Sonic level design of multiple routes, which encourage the various play styles of those who like to speed through a zone and those who like to be more adventurous and explore.

    The good news is that the level design is classic Sonic. Each act has multiple routes depending on your play style – so those who enjoy the speed can simply put the hammer down and blast through, whilst the more adventurous can slow things down and eek out every ring there is on offer; just be wary of the ten minute level time limit!

    The only complaint Lee had was with the controls. Lee didn’t find the touch or tilt controls to be as accurate as buttons and an analogue stick.

    So now for the bad news – the iPod controls aren’t as slick as they could be, and occasionally ruin parts of a level. There are two ways to play the game – ‘Touch controls’ or ‘Tilt controls’. Touch gives you a faux analogue stick in the left hand corner, which controls movement, whilst a circle in the right corner simulates a jump button. This button is far too small and in the full flow of a level it’s very easy to miss – which usually results in death. Both the move and the jump buttons sometimes fail to register as well, which is beyond frustrating.

    Tilt controls enables you to move left and right by tilting the iPod in that direction. Jumping is taken care of my tapping any part of the screen. I quite enjoyed the Tilt control as it removed the small jump button – however it lacked the precision of the analogue stick. Neither of these controls schemes are awful; they could have just done with a bit more tweaking. In terms of longevity Sonic 4 is as deep as you want it to be.

    Lee finished up by highly recommending the game:

    So there we have it – overall Sonics return is a rousing success. The occasional unresponsive controls are not enough to put a dampener on some top notch level design and good old fashioned fun. Highly recommended.

    Full review here

    GamesRadar’s Justin Towell reviewed the PS3 version of the game and also gave it a 9/10, stating that like most fans, he noticed the physics differences in early footage and had doubts the game would live up to its name, but after playing the full game he says that it surprisingly does live up to the title Sonic 4.

    The physics are different, the art design is different… perhaps it was just too different to be worthy of the name ‘Sonic 4’. How could anything possibly live up to that name? To my utmost surprise, it does.

    Towell also wasn’t overly bothered by another factor often complained about in the game, the homing attack.

    You get the lock-on attack from Sonic Adventure, which threatens to change the game too much, but is actually used sparingly and works well almost all of the time. There are a couple of occasions where you want to use the air dash to power over a spiked enemy’s head, but the game thinks you want to attack it, resulting in a cascade of lost rings.

    Towell explains there are new speed tactics not found in the previous Mega Drive classics that he enjoyed playing with and improve Sonic’s speed without having to wait for the next steep hill to come along.

    Going back to Sonic 1 after spending hours with its new sibling feels very strange. Sonic 4 handles very differently. It’s more… bold. Clinical, even. Every movement seems more deliberate, and while the finer nuances of low-speed control have arguably been lost, it’s at high speed that it reveals its true depths.
    I mentioned that lock on attack can be used as a simple air boost. When running at speed, this has a noticeable acceleration effect, allowing you to reach speeds on open stretches that old Sonic simply wouldn’t be able to do without a hill to help him. Jumps on hills still react as you’d expect, and landing a jump on a decline results in a welcome burst of speed, just like those loop-jumps of Sonic 2.

    Towell then goes into the games replayability through various modes like Time Attack and brings good news that Super Sonic’s times will be ranked separately to Sonic’s.

    So how much game is there for Sonic experts? I was able to beat the entire game, collected all the emeralds and beat the secret zone in one evening. After that, there are separate score and time attack modes to try for every stage, complete with online leaderboards. These are split into all/friends categories, and scores attained with Super Sonic are categorised separately from regular Sonic.
    Add in the countless hidden routes through levels and it’s clear there’s a truck-load of replayability. Finding the fastest routes and mastering them is going to take weeks, maybe months. Maybe years.

    Towell finishes up the review with the following positive thoughts and verdict:

    A friend on Facebook asked me to sum up the game in one word. It’s a tough thing to do. I wouldn’t say ‘magnificent’ – it’s still a little too unambitious for that. I certainly wouldn’t say ‘disappointing’, because Sonic Team and DIMPS have done the impossible and managed to make this most critical of Sonic fans love a new Sonic game.
    So I’m going to plump for ‘deserving’. And I mean that in two ways. It’s deserving of your time and your money despite its length. But more importantly, it’s deserving of the name ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 4’. That was always going to be this game’s biggest challenge, but it’s succeeded with aplomb.

    9/10
    You’ll love
    + The purest Sonic game for ten years
    + Works on so many gameplay levels, like its predecessors
    + So much game to master, despite its diminutive size
    + You’ll hate
    – Can be ‘completed’ in one evening
    – Physics are different, not necessarily worse
    – Visuals could have been even better

    Full review here

    GamesRadar also shared the completed map screen:

    Other iPhone version reviews:
    GameShard 9/10
    AppAdvice 4/5
    iLounge (B)
    Pocket Gamer 7/10
    TiPb 5/5
    SEGABits (B)
    AppSpy 4/5

    What do you think of the game’s positive critical reception so far? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Sonic 4 iPhone To Get Game Center Support

    SEGA’s Digital Brand Manager Ken Balough has just announced at the SEGA Forums that SEGA will be submitting a free update to Apple on October 15th for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 on iPhone, which will add Game Center support.

    Hi Everyone,

    Hopefully you guys had a terrific 1st day enjoying Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I on the iPhone!

    That said – I’d like to let everyone know that on October 15th, we are submitting to Apple a free update for Sonic 4 that would give it Game Center.

    So stay tuned as we add this new feature.

    Cheers,
    Ken

    No exact details were given as to which Game Center features will be supported, but we expect the game will gain the online leaderboard and achievement features that other versions of the game have. We’ll update you when more details are made available.

    Source: SEGA Forums

    For more information about Game Center, head over to Apple’s website.