Sega has a new Sonic the Hedgehog game coming out, but you probably know this since we’ve extensively covered it since its announcement. Much to the delight of those who enjoy the Genesis classics, it’s a 2D sidescroller. The reveal was back in February, and hopes for the game were high. Sega was teasing its fans beforehand, saying things like “Remember: It’s all about momentum.” or “Speed is something that is not given; but rather earned through dedication. Speed is not found by simply pushing a boost button, but by building momentum.” Those sick of the speed-first focus of recent Sonic titles were built to fever pitch. The skeptics however, saw it differently, saying it was merely stage one of the infamous Sonic Cycle.
It looks like the skeptics were right.
Unfortunately, videos have hit the Internet. Vile videos, showcasing that everything wrong with modern Sonic is now in this game, that is, if what you were expecting is what Sega was advertising. Videos that prove the Sonic Cycle is real; stronger than ever and potentially unbreakable.
If the link above and the picture to the right don’t detail the cycle well enough, allow me to explain. The Sonic Cycle is a phenomenon Sonic fans experience starting from the first reveal of an upcoming game to its release. There are three steps. The first surrounds the early stages, where vague information and little detail is known. Fans begin to speculate about how good the game is going to be, and extrapolate upon the scant information available. Hype starts to build excitement, and people are hopeful.
The second stage kicks in when more information starts to surface, and it’s where we currently sit. Hope begins to give way to worry, as the gameplay elements encompass less of what fans want, and more of what Sega continues to force-feed them. The third step happens when the game comes out, and it’s received poorly — the polar opposite and antithesis of the hope built during step one. Of course, Sonic fans become excited after the next game is announced and fall right back into step one, and the cycle continues.
It’s easy to say those sucked in bring it upon themselves. What kind of improvement did Sega really show between Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic and the Black Knight that should inspire such belief? But with Sonic the Hedgehog 4, it’s easy to make the argument that Sega knowingly exploited the cycle. Look at the list of promises: momentum-based gameplay; earning speed, no additional characters to speak of. Sega advertised this as a return to form — a game that would erase all the ill-feelings created and perpetuated by countless sequels that failed to meet the demands of fans. Sega was acknowledging they’ve made mistakes with the series. Sega, in effect, said “We’ve fixed things! Look!”
The leaked footage says otherwise. Momentum-based gameplay? He literally walks up a curve and then a vertical wall with no problem. Earning speed? Sonic goes from a crawl to nearly top speed immediately when he hits a downward slope. There are speed boosters everywhere. No additional characters? Well, they got that one. But they included the homing attack, something that allows users to shoot across the sky automatically and on target with the press of a button rather than carefully and precicely jumping onto enemies or springs themselves. It’s more of exactly what classic Sonic fans didn’t ask for, but more importantly, it’s more of what Sega said this game wasn’t going to be.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 could still be a good game. The problem is that, at least if this video is accurate, it’s not what Sega said they were going to create. It’s not that they’ve titled in line with a highly regarded group of games as some people complain — the name is unimportant. It’s that there were promises made, and they have knowingly and willfully been reneged upon. To exploit the expectations of fans purposely only to pull the rug out from under them isn’t just disrespectful, it’s a good way to make sure some of them boycott the game altogether. Now that Sega is actually using the cycle, one must wonder if it will ever be broken. It’s not looking good.
UPDATE: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has been entirely leaked from PartnerNET in its current form, though it may or may not be a completed game. Please keep in mind that this article is in no way a review.
PartnerNET is a system used by Microsoft to beta test games, and is a developers-only system. This means that the leaked information and videos may be representative of an unfinished build of the game, just as they may be wholly accurate. At this point, the only way to find out is wait and see. Sega may be able to fix the details that have caused outcry within their fanbase before its release.
This leak is where the aforementioned videos originated, but complete level layouts and boss battle details have surfaced as well. While the data may be from an unfinished build, it showcases many of the same elements people disliked about newer Sonic titles. This is especially highlighted by the fact that it’s the very same developer of those games, Dimps. These aren’t issues that will likely be ironed out since they are signature elements found in most of Dimps’ previous Sonic work. If the article seems to unfairly criticize an incomplete game, it’s only because there’s hope, no matter how slim, that these issues will be fixed.
Extraguy.com is committed to giving Sonic the Hedgehog 4 a fair and unbiased review when the full retail copy lands. We would love nothing more than to eat this editorial for breakfast.