Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How I wasted a perfectly good weekend and why I am planning a funeral for my Sega Genesis.

 As soon as I saw the title screen for Sonic The Hedgehog 4 I realized that I had wasted $15. It looks like classic sonic, he's standing in a big gold ring waving his finger at me with the title in front of him. But everything about it seems boring. Its title theme sounds like it was written by John Williams evil twin who is suffering from every intellectual disability known to man. And the overall look which is the most bland and lifeless I've seen the character since Sonic Heroes (2003). Sega promised I would feel like Christmas morning circa 1993, instead I feel dead inside.

This game fails in every way possible; graphics, audio, level design and especially the controls. Sonic feels heavy and slow as if friction with the air is weighting him down. He's slow to accelerate but fast to slow down. The homing attack from the 3-D Sonic games is also included, which makes sonic home in on objects like a heat seeking missile. At first I thought it was for the Wii sports “ games are too hard” simpletons but I quickly realized that it's a cover-up for sonic's stiff jump and inability to carry momentum. If you let go of left or right on the Dpad, sonic stops on a dime and if he approaches a quarter pike with so much as a brisk walk he will run up the walls like he's Spiderman with Velcro shoes. In fact Sonic feels like he's made entirely of Velcro. This game's physics are inferior to Sonic 1 in every way. That was 1991 and this is a game from 2010.

This is where I should just stop. I own plenty of other games that don't make me want to hang myself: Team Fortress 2, Killing Floor, Little Big Planet, Street Fighter 4, BlazBlue etc. are all better ways to spend a weekend. Plus I have a test coming up and the last thing I need are thoughts of suicide. However I am in awe at the incompetence on display. This was developed by Dimps who has been developing sonic games for portable systems since 2001. Like sonic team they have actually gotten worse over time! I don't understand how that is possible, but it's too much of a train wreck for me to look away.

If you have a game this bad the last thing you want is for me to be reminded of something better but that's exactly what Sega is doing here. The level themes, enemy design and even sound effects are taken straight from the classic games. The strange thing is I've never seen fan service quite fall flat on it's face like this. Every retro sound effect and tribute to the old school has never felt so fake. Sonic himself looks like he is high on enough dope and morphine to knock out Bob Marley. Like it's all he can do to cope with the monotony. Even the robots, which are all lifted from a classic sonic game, do not look thrilled to be in this game.

This isn't just lazy, it's reminding me how many different ways I can play sonic the hedgehog one or two. Sega has ported them to: Wii (virtual console), PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 (Sonic's ultimate Genesis collection), Xbox live arcade, PSP (another Sega Genesis compilation), Game Tap and Steam. Each of these, excluding the two Genesis compilations and subscription to Game Tap, cost less than Sonic 4 and is a better gaming every way. Worst of all (or best if you will) Sonic the Hedgehog one, two and three are available on steam for five dollars each. For the same price as Sonic 4 you can get three Sonic games each of which is easily twice the length of Sonic 4.

I've already wasted my weekend with this game so I'll wrap this up quickly. It's incredibly boring to look at, it's music is annoying, the level design is frustrating and it is far too easy. You get extra lives constantly and rings are so abundant that the only thing that will kill you is bottomless pits sonic team's favorite standby for proper level design. The Kirby series, for example, is made with small children in mind and it still harder than this. Much of this game is clearly meant to capitalize on the “neo-retro” trend popularized by Mega Man 9 and New Super Mario Bros. But Sega completely missed the point. Mega Man 9 was deliberately made to feel like an old NES game and also happen to be an excellent (and very hard) action game. New super Mario Brothers might have been incredibly bland but it was still competently assembled. Sega has achieved neither.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4 isn't just another bad sonic game or a lame cash in it shows a complete surrender. With this game Sega admits that they can't do anything new or interesting with Sonic The Hedgehog and in the process of surrendering prove that they no longer understand what is good and endearing about the character. Of course they don't Sega hasn't been sure about what they wanted with the characters since at least 2005. It's not just Sonic's corporate owner that has given up this is the game many fans have asked for and received above average reviews and was warmly received by players.

If this the future of the franchise I am holding a funeral service for my Sega Genesis.

Little do you know that I am so awfully publishing schoolwork to my blog so that you think I am providing you with new content when I am actually playing Shogun 2.

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