As you may or may not know, depending how many entries of my TL;DR series you’ve read, I’m sort of a Sega baby. (The Dreamcast 2 WILL happen!) I was born with a Genesis controller in my mouth. I certainly wasn’t anti-Nintendo or anything like that, I love games of all platforms and genres; but SEGA was my first, and as the saying goes, you never forget your first. (That saying is about video game consoles, right?) The point of that strange and awkwardly intimate intro was to convey the fact that I love Sega, and in particular, Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. So, you can imagine my delight at the prospect of a brand new Sonic title that ushers in a new age of 3D adventuring for a series that’s long been plagued by issues outside of the classic 2D sidescrolling world. If Sega member Aaron Webber is to be believed, Sonic Lost World looks to be that flagship title.
Growing up in the 90’s, it was more than a little jarring when I heard that Sega was releasing a trio of Sonic titles exclusively for Nintendo platforms. I mean, I went to school telling my friends that “Sega does what Nintendon’t,” and now here we are; with Sonic and Mario on the same platform playing backyard sports and competing in the Olympics together. Whatever the reason behind it, Sonic has always found success on Nintendo’s portable platforms, so making the exclusive switch to the Big N’s console isn’t all that shocking. Anyway, onto the gameplay and features on display at E3 for Sonic: Lost World.
The Demo on the showfloor is broken into two segments: A stage that incorporates a lot of platforming, and one for the more traditional Sonic enthusiasts who just want to go fast. To suit this new dynamic between 3D platforming, which is very reminiscent of the Mario Galaxy series, and speed, which you’ve come to expect from the Blue Blur, the controls have changed quite a bit. For one thing, there is an emphasis placed on control over speed, so simply navigating with the thumbstick will only move Sonic at a walking pace. To break into a sprint, players must hold down the right trigger. Similarly, Sonic’s spin dash is triggered by holding the left trigger. It feels super awkward at first, but after a few minutes, it becomes a natural fit that gives far more control over the character than ever experienced in a previous 3D Sonic game.
Another change is a new feature called the Parkour System. This feature is Sega’s latest attempt at making sure players can maintain their speed in high-stress situations without breaking the action. Basically, if Sonic is about to run into a wall or some other obstacle, he will now turn a would-be blunder into a cool-as-ice wall-run or smooth sidestep that let’s players continue onward with their momentum intact. It’s a very satisfying way of keeping the action literally moving forward. Also assisting the flow of locomotion is Sonic’s new chain-homing attack ability. Doing just what it sounds like it should, this lets players destroy multiple enemies in a line with a single homing attack. It’s a fun and effective way of dealing with a handful of baddies both on the ground and in mid-air.
In Sega’s mind, these changes represent an idea that Lost World “has changed the way Sonic plays in 3D,” and to an extent, that’s true. It certainly offers a more refined experience, so long as the gameplay and level design holds up for the duration of the action.
Speaking of level design, while Lost World is a completely original game featuring a lot of brand new characters, each and every moment of the gameplay pays loving homage to Sonic’s entire history. Everything from the music, to the badniks, to the iconic sounds of 1-ups and power-ups, is undoubtedly a Sonic experience, If you grew up with Sonic like I did, there is an incredible amount of detail and easter egg-level fanservice for you. One stage featured music from Sonic Unleashed that transitioned into the theme from Sonic Heroes when a power-up was collected. It’s a refreshing mix of new content infused with nostalgia that should bring shivers down any fan’s spine. Webber mentioned he views Sonic Lost World as, “sort of the ultimate Sonic experience.”
Getting down to specifics, the platforming segments place an emphasis on using the Wisp abilities first introduced in the Wii-exclusive Sonic Colors game. While many abilities return, such as the lazer Wisp, there are also a handful of new power-ups as well. This mechanic is combined with the current generation’s idea of multiple branching pathways introduced back in Sonic Unleashed and refined in Sonic Generations to offer a balanced mix of replayability and exploration. To further this end, those collectible Red Rings first introduced in Sonic’s portable offerings, such as the Rush series, and later brought to consoles for Generations, will return. No specifics were detailed as to the purpose of these rings in Lost World, but Generations used them as a source of unlocking bonus goodies.
What we do know for sure is that unlockables can also be obtained by saving animals. Getting back to Sonic’s old-school roots, every enemy Sonic defeats will free tiny woodland creatures. Additionally, reaching the end-stage capsule present in Lost World, much like during the 90’s sidescrolling days, releases a flurry of fluffy critters. The game will keep a running total of all the animals you’ve saved, and that number will reward players with unlockable bonuses. What types of bonuses this entails are being kept a secret for the time being.
I did, however, notice one problem during the demo. Any Sonic fan knows that the Blue Dude with a ‘Tude’s greatest enemy isn’t Dr. Eggman (read: Robotnik), but rather, poor camera angles. While many of the lingering issues seem to have been addressed in Lost World, there were still a few spots where the camera got snagged on a texture and went out of control; leaving players hopelessly lost in a sea of misdirection. Admittedly, it only happened a couple times, and I only noticed it during the platforming segments and not the speed level; but with a demo that’s only two stages long, it really shouldn’t happen at all. But, any Sonic fan also knows that micromanaging the camera is just part of the experience at this point. (Developer note: That is NOT a justification. Please continue to work on solving the camera problem going forward.)
Story-wise, Lost World introduces a new group of enemies known as The Deadly Six. Through non-spoiled circumstances, this leads to an uneasy alliance between Sonic and Eggman. Don’t worry though, Sonic is the only character playable during the main game; so nobody has to relive the “glory” days of piloting a heavy Mech through grueling platforming segments. I mention the main game is focused solely on Sonic because Sega announced this morning that Lost World will feature two distinct multiplayer options: A 2-player competitive mode where players will face off against one another (no specifics have yet been detailed,) and a “Support Mode” where the second player can use either the Gamepad or Wiimote to assist the primary player during single-player segments by destroying enemies and obstacles with a remote-controlled gadget. Sega won’t yet reveal whether these modes will use stages unlocked during the main game or be in addition to the campaign, but promised more news would be “coming soon.” When playing alone, the Gamepad is used to trigger Wisp abilities and in some cases, navigate Sonic through the duration of the power-up’s effect. This will occasionally require shaking or tilting the Gamepad in some way, depending on the situation.
Sonic Lost World is coming to both the Wii U and 3DS sometime later this year, with some sources suggesting it will release in October.
Is Lost World on your wish list this year? What types of features are you looking for in a new Sonic title? Is Sonic’s exclusivity enough to make you want a Wii U or 3DS? Let us know in the comments section, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. If you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.