It’s fair to say that aside from a couple of hits, the recent history of Sega’s flagship character has been tepid at best. Poor attempts to force relevance to the modern gaming world typically met with both commercial and critical failure, and games like the 2006 reboot Sonic the Hedgehog did little to inspire confidence that the brand had any real future.
But when they’ve gotten things right, Sega have really impressed. Titles like Sonic Generations, Sonic Colors and even spin-offs like Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing have been worthy additions to the 23 year old series, hinting at greater things to come, and with the latest game to be announced, Sonic Boom (which is exclusive to Nintendo platforms), Sega will be hoping to kick start things once again.
While there are potential warning signs there that this may not be the game that hardcore fans have been crying out for, given the fact that it’s based on a forthcoming new animated TV show and has seen the main characters receive substantial overhauls, early gameplay footage has been promising, and developers Big Red Button Entertainment (Wii U) and Sanzaru Games (3DS) have been making all the right noises so far.
More story-driven than many of its predecessors, Sonic Boom will be a true action adventure title, as opposed to the more traditional platform-focused efforts that litter the series’ recent history. Takashi Iizuka, General Manager of Sonic Team, has confirmed that things are being approached very differently this time around. “The Sonic Boom video game is story based,” he explained. “So you’ll be able to enjoy it as an adventure. Different to other Sonic games, players will advance through the storyline and experience the world while playing the game.”
But even if that doesn’t sound up your alley it’s worth noting that the vision for Sonic Boom won’t have ever-lasting effects on the more traditional Sonic titles. “Modern Sonic, as an action video game character,” says Iizuka, “will continue to move forward in parallel to the Sonic Boom franchise.”
So, in terms of gameplay, what can players expect when the game launches this fall? Well, a focus has very much been placed on the detail of the game’s environments, with non-linear exploration within the worlds being a key part of the experience. Already the game is looking truly remarkable on the visual front, and it’s sure to be the best looking Sonic game to date, but how will the change in tack affect the core gameplay?
With a roster of four main characters in Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy, Sonic Boom has pitched itself as a cooperative gameplay experience, and the developers have been careful to ensure the cast is as evenly balanced as possible. Tails serves as the group’s pilot and mechanic, and will have plenty of gizmos on hand to help the team out, Amy has been made much more powerful and swings her iconic hammer with real purpose, while Knuckles will serve as the game’s powerhouse, able to smash through walls and devastate enemies with a single knockout blow.
As always, speed will be a highly controversial aspect of this foray into the Sonic universe, but Sonic Team has noted that there’ll be a few twists and turns along the way in that respect. Once they manage to peel back on the twitch-based gameplay, which has traditionally punished players continually until they’ve actually memorized the various hazards found in faster sections, things should be a little more accessible – and it looks as though that’s exactly what they’re going for here with this new project.
Sonic Boom will launch on Wii U and 3DS later this year, and serves as a prequel to the forthcoming Cartoon Network animated series of the same name.