A new threat...
Nintendo has confirmed the first gameplay details of Sonic Lost World for Wii U and 3DS. The game will feature two-player co-op, various multiplayer modes as well as a single player story. You'll be able to play the whole Wii U version on the GamePad alone if you so desire, plus use its touch and tilt abilities to control Sonic's improved Colour powers.
We also know some plot details, such as the fact Dr Eggman harnessed the power of the 'Deadly Six' until they overthrew him, meaning you and the moustachioed menace must join forces to defeat the six fiendish baddies. But there's still a lot we have to work out for ourselves. So we've dissected the trailer (IGN's exclusive, hence the watermarks) in detail. Come and see what you might have missed...
Our first glimpse of the Lost World
It's set in the sky. A blue sky with small clouds in it. While it's obviously got the chequerboard earth of Green Hill Zone, the overall look is not dissimilar to Super Monkey Ball's environments. Smallish chunks of 3D scenery are suspended in the air inside a vividly-coloured skybox.
This is clearly a CG render as opposed to in-engine graphics. But it's also very clearly a deliberately 'set' scene. That's no free-roaming world down there. It's surrounded by Nintendo-esque mountains (probably no co-incidence) that are clearly designed to be far-distance scenery. No, any action will be taking place in the immediate vicinity.
These guys are from Sonic 1
The blue flicky, white chicken and flesh-coloured pig (sorry, I'd gotten into colour-themed adjectives and couldn't get out in time) all appeared in the original Sonic The Hedgehog, on both 16-bit and 8-bit machines. These are Sonic's traditional 'woodland friends'.
Why is this important? Because it signifies a return to the Sonic 1 universe. It means we've moved away (finally) from the weird character design of modern 3D Sonic games and gone back to the start. Sure, and Sonic Generations and the Sonic 4 episodes featured the old crew, but that was because they were deliberately retro. This is an all-new Sonic game with the old cast. And that means someone is paying attention to what made Sonic 1 so great, which bodes very well.
The peace is shattered as six strange, never-before-seen monsters appear with the words 'a powerful new enemy emerges'. Will we be facing one per zone, perhaps?
They're nicely characterised, too. Anthropomorphic animals (well... monsters), certainly, but with classic Sonic team styling, taking in the NiGHTS-era face shapes while maintaining the feel of Sonic Heroes' 3D modelling. They're known as the 'Deadly Six' and were too much for Robotnik/Eggman to contain. Doesn't say much, really...
The animals are scared
Again, as with Sonic 1, there is no hope of the little guys being able to stand up to this new threat. They are small, fluffy, squidgy or a combination of all the above.
Who can possibly stop them from being squished or turned into pies or bedding or whatever else the Deadly Six want to do with them? If only there were some sort of hero who could appear like right now and save them...
There he is!
Right on queue, Superted whispers his magic word and... oh no, wait... sorry, it's Sonic. Yes, that makes much more sense. And would explain why there was no Spotty Man too. Although there's curiously no sign of Tails despite his appearance in the initial promo image.
Anyway, that it is clearly 'modern' Sonic, as proven by the fact he has long legs and green eyes and all the other traits that pudgy, 'classic' Sonic does not.
Aaand... oh god, we're in-engine
Suddenly the edges are sharper. The movement is more precise. The trailer has jump-cut between CG render and in-engine graphics/gameplay. And the art style persists. Not only that, it's vibrant and exciting. Sonic is curled up into his traditional buzz-saw ball (perhaps after a spin dash?) and hurtling along.
Only... he's not, is he? Sure, the impression of speed is great, but if you look at how fast Sonic is actually travelling, it isn't the wonder-speed of the likes of Generations or Unleashed. And that's a crucial difference. One that might make this 3D Sonic truly great. Why? because he's moving fast enough to excite, but slow enough that you will still have control.
And we're running...
Sonic pelts around the top of a looping section of rounded scenery. There's actually very similar level scenery in the iOS game Sonic Dash. The camera has cut away suggesting (if this is in-game) that the traditional camera-pull-back for loops remains, rather than the rarely-used 'chase cam' that flips the world upside-down.
But it's worth noting too that this looks like 3D gameplay, like that seen in Sonic Generations. It is ostensibly 'a 3D Sonic game'. However...
What's this? Mario Galaxy?
This game isn't about scintillating speed through relatively naturalistic surroundings. It's a videogamey videogame. Levels consist of small, interconnected pathways. And they're rounded. Everything's rounded.
First thought? Super Mario Galaxy. Second thought? Sonic X-Treme. The greatest Sonic game we never got to play. But the hardware of today is now able to deliver that vision effortlessly. And classic Sonic traits are in. Look - he's collecting rings as the platform collapses behind him. Also note the bell-like object on the right. A Colour power-up?
That's 2D gameplay!
The trailer then switches from this constrained 3D gameplay into traditional 2D Sonic action. But with a twist. Quite literally as Sonic rolls around a curved surface, the camera tracking him as he does. This really is Sonic X-Treme's gameplay in a modern game.
There is classic Sonic level furniture here too, as you can see from that spring, which Sonic hits. It's too early to tell how the physics feel, but the height on that spring looks right so far. In fact, everything looks 'right' so far...
Waterfall logs? Waterfall logs!
Jungle Zone on the 8-bit version of Sonic 1 featured waterfalls with logs slowly falling from them, which you could use as platforms. They're back. But more significantly, the fact that they're a part of the level design itself and not just a visual throwback is very telling.
The fact that Sonic is travelling slow enough to be able to use these closely-placed platforms demonstrates the gameplay's intended speed. This is not the ultra-expensive-to-produce dashing through dense scenery that forced Sonic Team to create the Werehog in Sonic Unleashed. This is a palette of level elements combined to create a dense, gameplay-heavy experience. It's a platformer.
Round we go...
The game appears to use gravity as a gameplay mechanic. For instance, this loop makes the camera follow Sonic round until what was down is now up. But then he hits the spring and flies skywards just for a couple of frames of video (until it cuts again)... which would have been downwards mere seconds earlier.
This is very much like Super Mario Galaxy. But in terms of Sonic's own gameplay, it makes a massive difference to be able to continue pushing 'right' and see Sonic moving right. Usually, if Sonic's moving left along the ceiling, you still need to be pushing right... and that can get confusing. This looks complex enough to be interesting, but easy enough to play fluidly.
This section looks superb and we suspected it was another pre-rendered sequence. But looking at the grass texture here (3D flat rectangles reminiscent of the Viva Pinata graphical style), I'd wager this is another, astonishingly good-looking section of action from the in-game engine.
We were initially concerned that Sonic is running in a lot of straight lines. But with confirmation that the touch screen is used for Colour powers, we're no longer worried. Looks like stick control for Sonic.
Perhaps the only logical method of getting Sonic to attack Badniks in 3D space, the homing attack makes another appearance. This time, however, it's executed in a much faster fashion than usual.
Definite good news is that these are proper Badniks. These fish robots are Choppers--the fish that jumped up at you from the waterfalls in Sonic 1. And that's not all. Look (very) closely and you'll see that Sonic's woodland chums are indeed still captive inside them and are freed when the robotic shell is destroyed. We'll see them clearer later too.
More Mario Galaxy-alike action...
This could easily be a scene from Super Mario Galaxy. Heck, Sonic even enters each new section by air, just like Mario and his swooping 'falling with style' star cannon linking sections.
However, it seems platforming is the key here, not just spectacle. Look closely at the wings on that giant fan at the end. See those grey platforms on them? They're arranged at jumping height, presumably intending for you to climb towards the wing tips as it revolves. A platforming game, starring Sonic, in 3D. Is this finally the game Sonic's long-term fans wanted to see?
And for every slower section...
...there appears to be a faster one too. Sonic somersaults over spikes at speed in this shot. That was always the reason Sonic's speed was so impressive in the 16-bit games. It is used sparingly and interspersed with slower sections, so that when the speed comes, it is fleeting and leaves you wanting more.
It's also worth noting the running animation for this 3D Sonic, which keeps his feet rendered while adding the traditional circular red motion blur from his sneakers. He'll look faithful to his 2D self in side-on shots, but stand up to scrutiny close-up too.
Look up in the very top-left and you'll see the familiar site of the restart beacons. Run through these and they swing around, turning from blue to yellow. if you die, you start again there instead of right back at the start of the level.
However! There's more to glean from this. If you're worried about just how much 3D control you're going to have over Sonic, I would say that these beacons suggest you'll have rather a lot of freedom to run where you please. See how far apart they are spaced? There's loads of room between them, presumably so that you have a big target to aim at as you're zooming along. If Sonic were always 'on rails' as it were, they wouldn't need to be so far apart. This bodes well.
It's a punchy trailer...
In that this member of the Deadly Six is taking a swing at Sonic, who nimbly somersaults by. But what's this? The hog then sprints up a wall and runs along it, before a big message appears on the screen.
USE SONIC'S NEW MOVES!" it exclaims. And then we get to see exactly what those new moves are...
Taking a leaf out of the Prince of Persia's book, Sonic can now wall-run. Well, he could wall-run in Sonic Advance, plus the corkscrew ribbons in Sonic 2 kinda involved the same technique... but whatever, it hasn't been done with graphical echoes before, so what the heck. Let's say it is new.
What does this mean for the game? Well, it means momentum can be maintained while running and offers twitch gameplay potential for any high speed section. And hopefully it will work on any such surface if you're travelling fast enough. Imagine actually being able to use Sonic's speed as a gameplay device. Keep the momentum up and do things that would otherwise be impossible. It always used to be the Sonic way...
No more tripping on tiny steps?
As if to verify what I was just thinking, Sonic hits this small raised platform and stops. Now, in games like Sonic & The Secret Rings, this was a major downer, as you'd lose the rhythm of the game, have to back up and then run forwards again and make the jump. Well, it seems here Sonic will run up even vertical walls if he's going fast enough.
In this instance, he gets that new 'ghost' echo behind him for the small vertical movement, then he's back powering along and into the arms of the speed-up pad to make him go even faster. It's such a basic facet of the character, we're amazed this hasn't been done before.
Seems like Sonic has some Sonic 3 electricity shield-esque magnetism when it comes to gathering rings. When running at full speed, they definitely appear to follow him before catching up and finally being collected.
Could this be another benefit to travelling at speed? Or perhaps a Colour power? Sonic is running along a wall in this scene and later we see him running on flat land when it happens again. Plus there's no visible shield in action. Looks like the ol' blue blur' is an actual gameplay element this time around and not just an affectionate nickname...
Wot no buzzsaw?
Another new move as Sonic dispatches these Moto-Bugs without curling into a ball. What gives? He's never had a stomp attack before.
Note also the totem pole on the right of the picture. Yet another throwback to the classic iconography of Green Hill Zone. It's a small thing, but seeing as Sonic 1's art style was every bit as briliant as 2D Mario's, its amazing Sega has steered clear of revisiting it properly for so many years. Now? This doesn't even seem to be a 'retro section' in a modern game. It's just a modern Sonic game.
Sonic 3 enemy?
Erm... isn't this Snail Blaster from Sonic 3? In which case we're not just looking at enemies from Sonic 1. Of course, there was never any suggestion that only enemies from Sonic 1 would be used, but given the fact everything else in the trailer is directly borrowed from the original game, it's interesting to see.
Weird anachronism aside, it's worth noting that the rendering on the enemies is excellent. Wii U may only be packing current-gen innards, but there's nothing blocky or cut down about the quality of the characters here. They're smooth, cartoonish and full of personality.
Sonic can climb
Not content with just running up walls, it seems that Sonic has some extra environment-traversal tricks up his sleeves (or at least tucked into his gloves as he's clearly sans-sleeves). The trailer demonstrates the hog grabbing at ledges and pulling himself up at low speeds.
Quite why the game needs this remains to be seen. Usually Sonic either makes a jump or he doesn't. Still, such versatility of control can only be a good thing. And it doesn't half remind us of a platforming character who made the tradition into 3D in exemplary fashion. If only we could remember who that was...
Freezing the frenetic action reveals that every Badnik definitely has an animal inside, which is freed upon destruction of the casing. Cute. But what's that in the background?
Several smallish, blue crystals. Are these collectibles used to trigger Colour Powers? Looks that way. Also explains the 'bell' item that's shown near the start of the trailer.
What did you spot?
We've learned a heck of a lot from this one trailer, but we still have loads of questions. Like 'where's Tails?' after his appearence in the promo art and then subsequent no-show in the footage. We also want to know whether any other elements of Sonic X-Treme have been resurrected. A Jade Gully level with *that* music would be out-of-this-world...
The game is due out this year on Wii U and 3DS. So let us know what you make of it all in the comments. There's very little here that's raised any alarm bells. We say it every time, but this really could be the one...