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[E3 Impressions] Sonic: Lost World

Posted on June 13, 2013 by (@NE_Austin) in Features, Wii U

“I see it as a spiritual sequel, a continuation, refinement, and extrapolation of what was established in Sonic Colors.”

System: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: October 13th, 2013
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: SEGA/Nintendo

Author: Jack

I must say, I don’t think I’ve felt this much buzz surrounding the (we’re far past much-)maligned Sonic franchise since the release of Sonic Unleashed back in 2008. While that iteration ended up as all of the others have in the post-Adventure scrap heap, something feels different about this. It felt like in the trailer as though an emphasis was placed on technical gameplay as opposed to a return to something: speed, the 90’s, etc. The last title in the 3D Sonic series, 2011’s Sonic Colors, was surprisingly solid, and although it fundamentally lacked enough to be considered a triple-A title, it showed finally that Sega team, behind director Morio Kishimoto, was willing to look behind the confines the original trilogy on Genesis imposed upon the series.

Sir Kishimoto is back at it this time, and golly was I interested in giving Sonic yet another last go at this year’s E3.

The demo station featured three different levels, each one (as I was told by a Sega representative) highlighting a differently styled level of Sonic: Lost World. The first demo level exemplified the bread-and-butter third-person platforming levels of the game, and did so with relative aplomb. Heavily influenced by the platform stylings of the Super Mario Galaxy subseries (even moreso than Sonic Colors), I traversed a capsule-shaped abstract floating plane, a bright, beautiful Green Hill Zone avatar in tow. I felt the first demo level did a great job, as all great first levels do, in getting the player accustomed to what’s to come next by foreshadowing level design motifs and letting the player fumble around until controls become comfortable naturally.

It, in addition, did a great job of conflating the speed-platforming element all Sonic games are forced to require with a tinge of slower, more methodical gameplay; I wouldn’t call it intelligent, technical gameplay, but it did alter Lost World’s pacing in a cognitive manner, so I would say Sonic Team had a goal in mind and executed it pretty well. Control of Sonic felt pretty well-off enough, although I would say it plateaued at a level comfortably below the industry-standard control ofMario in the 3D Mario series, enough to possibly already designate this release as another solid Colors experience, as opposed to a generation-memorable comeback for the franchise.

The second level featured in the demo station was a 2D only level, and again borrowed heavily from the Super Mario Galaxy subseries in terms of aesthetics, with Sonic traversing a pliable cake- and sweets-themed world. Gameplay was again methodical yet not meticulous, with a bit more sensory-pleasing play added in. In one memorable section, large round, brown sweets arranged on a staircase were hurled at Sonic in Bullet Bill fashion; to impede them, I had to use a homing chain to go “up the stairs” so to speak, which was just a great deal of fun.

The third level was a change of pace level—the boulder levels in Crash Bandicoot, for example, or the mine cart levels in Donkey Kong Country— across another abstract hedron, this time hexagonal as opposed to round, with an emphasis on the gameplay mechanic of, you guessed it, speed. The level felt a lot like the game Temple Run, having the protagonist run (Sonic in this case, of course) bottom to top very quickly, lane-changing being the sole gameplay dynamic . It’s important to note that in this case, lane-changing is not automatic, in that a simple press of right or left will completely and wholly shift lanes; Sonic does remain free-running throughout.

Another sensory-pleasing section presented itself, this time having Sonic use a homing chain on a group of enemies traveling in a helix shape along the inside of the hexahedron. As like last time, it was simply just a great deal of fun seeing that action performed. This level was another reminder that Sonic: Lost World definitely still lacked the unabashed, unconscious idiosyncrasies present in the control of true triple-A 3D platformers, but on a less fine scale, performed admirably. Overall, in its relative simplicity, I’d say the third had a slight edge over the preceding two demo levels in terms of polish.

With that, my time with the next in line for the Sonic series had come to an end, and I was left with a good taste-in-the-mouth. I don’t think it’ll redeem the series in the eyes of most, especially if the “Deadly Six” have a big influence on the game; they made no appearance in the demo, and though I can’t say for sure if they’ll have a profound negative impact on the game, I’m fairly certain they will. In sum, however, I see it as a spiritual sequel, a continuation, refinement, and extrapolation of what was established in Sonic Colors, finally firmly grabbing hold of a newer identity by the neck. Believe the hype to a slight degree, Sonic diehards; this is the best he’s looked in over a decade.

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