tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Not quite Mach 1

I had some trepidation when I heard the next Sonic game was going to be outsourced to a Western studio with some Naughty Dog alumni, complete with new character designs and a Knuckles who looked like he had been drinking nothing but protein shakes for the last ten years. But hey, it might not turn out so bad, right?

Well some in-game footage apparently leaked ahead of E3 and it really hasn’t inspired any confidence in me:

Oh god shut up already

The main three takeaways I had were:

  1. The last time we had an ‘in-depth’ (by which I mean incredibly shallow) combat system in a Sonic game it didn’t turn out so well.
  2. I thought one of the key takeaways from Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog was that the characters really need to keep quiet. That seems to have been tossed in the bin for this iteration and I don’t know that the quality of the banter on show here justifies that decision.
  3. The platforming/speed sections look…serviceable, I suppose. I’m not seeing anything amazing that would necessitate a purchase at this point (especially compared to the daytime stages in Unleashed or Generations as a whole), but it doesn’t look bad, at least.

Overall, unless they show something else that blows me away at E3 I’m probably still going to be in ‘wait and see’ mode. I’m not going to quibble about it not being 100% like the older 3D Sonics but it appears to be rather…vanilla.

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Dare I get my hopes up?

Sonic is the only playable character in Project Needlemouse

I have to admit, that enemy concept art reminds me way too much of old-school enemy concept art. Having enemies with actual weak points that you can’t just hit anywhere will be most welcome.

That said, I’m not going to say anything substantive until I see some footage of this thing in action. I’ll just reiterate what I mentioned in my earlier blog entry on the subject – more Sonic CD/S3&K, less Sonic Rush, please.

Although I wouldn’t mind if they had Hideki Naganuma do the music again…not at all.

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The last thing I was expecting this week

A new 2D Sonic, in HD, to be released in 2010

Dammit, I don’t want to get my hopes up, just to be disappointed yet again.

When this does eventually show up, I hope it’s more Sonic CD and less Sonic Rush – while I had fun with that game, it was more about ‘LOL HOLD DOWN THE BOOST BUTTON AND PRESS A OCCASIONALLY’ as opposed to Sonic CD’s expert mix of momentum-based and timing-based platforming.

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More Sonic Unleashed stuff

I’ve more or less gotten everything I can out of the Wii version of Sonic Unleashed – I haven’t gotten all the medals, but I have pretty much S-ranked every stage (a few Werehog stages being the exception), so I think I can set it aside.

That said, the first thing I did after getting back from Singapore (literally the first thing – just a few minutes after I walked in the door) was download the demo for the PS3 version. I’ve taken it for a few spins since then (I’ve A-ranked it at least) and I have some…thoughts.

The game does look rather nice in terms of lighting, modeling and texture quality, but the PS3 version has a few hitches – for one, the framerate is rather inconsistent. Unlike the framerate-locked 360 version, the framerate on the PS3 version can go from 30 to 60 in an instant. On the one hand this is kind of annoying since it kills the sensation of speed that you get…on the other hand it means that someone at Sega has finally figured out how to program a variable framerate engine! Not that I’d want to be licensing it to anyone, given how crappily it seems to run on the PS3…

The game itself is a little uneven. The controls are somewhat floatier than the Wii version for some reason – they’re not as bad as the ‘twitch and fall off a cliff’ controls in Sonic Heroes and Sonic 2006, though. The demo only contains one level – the first level, Windmill Isle. The PS3/360 version of this stage is rather straightforward and linear compared to the Wii version, which has at least 3 alternate routes through the stage that I can think of. The stage also feels very cramped, and this affects the game to some degree, in that you can’t really see what’s coming up ahead of you. In that respect it’s somewhat disappointing.

As I already knew, the boost system in the PS3/360 version is plucked straight out of Sonic Rush, so you can hold down X as long as you like to continue speeding through the stage. There are a few obstacles placed in the stage to prevent you from doing this, like spike traps, bumps in the road that will trip you up, and, well, walls. The actual amount of platforming you have to do in the first level is rather minimal, but there is some of it.

Overall, I can’t say I was blown away, but at least it wasn’t awful like I was expecting it to be. That said, I have no idea how the later levels are (some people have told me that they’re significantly more challenging, although I have yet to verify this), and of course the demo contains none of the Werehog levels, town missions or any of that other stuff which most people regard as a drag on the whole experience. I’ll probably seek out the PS3 version when it’s down to $30 or less (right now it’s still full price at Amazon.com).


On another note, in the comments on my last entry Neochaos just pointed out something interesting to me regarding Street Fighter 4 – the game will in fact feature a full-featured training mode, and from this article it sounds like it’s very much in the vein of Virtua Fighter 4′s excellent Training Mode on PS2.

I stand by my earlier point that the game itself is not made more accessible to newbies by removing stuff like parries, but extra modes like this can help them deal with the learning curve somewhat. It won’t eliminate it, but it should at least show them what they need to master.

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Well, that was a surprise

My opinion of Sonic Unleashed has improved somewhat from my last post, which was made after being made to slog through two consecutive Werehog levels which nearly put me to sleep. I’m at the final stage of the game, so I don’t think my opinion is going to change significantly – I might as well pen down some thoughts.

The regular speed levels are basically a combination of Sonic and the Secret Rings with fixed controls and a rather stripped down version of Sonic Rush. To be honest, I’m pretty satisified with how they turned out, barring a few minor issues that are holdovers from Secret Rings (the game doesn’t like it when you try to backtrack, and manual camera control is basically nonexistent). Even early levels like Apotos have a few alternate routes you can check out (and the key to accessing them is timing-based puzzles, much like in Sonic Adventure 2).

Here are a few things I wanted to note about the speed areas:

  • The boost move (done by pressing X on the classic controller) works significantly differently from the similarly-named move from the Sonic Rush series. Here, each button press results in a fixed-length boost, during which you can’t change your direction or stop, meaning it needs to be used judiciously. No more holding X throughout the entire level like in Sonic Rush.
  • Unlike just about every other Sonic game made to date (except Secret Rings, getting 100 rings doesn’t net you an extra life. The way lives work in this game is actually kind of similar to Sonic 2006, in that you can’t farm extra lives by replaying levels over and over again. You have 3 tries, and every time you lose one you get dropped at an autosave checkpoint while the timer continues to run (basically meaning that dying during a level run hurts your chance of getting an S-rank). You can get more extra lives from item boxes you find in platforming puzzles located in the hub areas.
  • Speaking of hub areas, the Wii version doesn’t have hub levels you can run around in, instead opting for an Ace Attorney-ish point and click interface for exploring the various towns you’ll visit. I like this, if only because it lessens the amount of time you need to spend there. The retarded town missions you had to do in Sonic 2006 are still fresh in my memory.
  • There are indeed side-scrolling areas to be found in the speed levels, but they play nothing like any of the sidescrolling levels in the older Sonic games or even in the Sonic Rush games. Just about all loops are scripted, meaning momentum plays basically no role in these sections. I’m not sure what the point of including these sidescrolling sections was if they weren’t going to at least try to apply some elements of 2D design to them.

That said, let’s move on to the Werehog levels.

The actual platforming in these levels is fairly nondescript and unremarkable – I don’t have much to complain about, but I can’t really say I enjoyed these sections either. On the other hand, the combat is just terrible. There really isn’t much strategy involved at all beyond ‘jump to hit enemies in the air’ and ‘make sure to use the roll-dodge if you’re fighting those big guys with the clubs’. Sonic’s main combo move basically consists of pressing X and Y alternately, and his level 2 combo (which you’ll earn by the second or third level that you play) covers a ridiculous amount of area on the ground, making it a very good crowd control move. You can press A at certain points in the combo to get more interesting finishing moves, like an aerial launcher (which is kind of pointless without any sort of aerial followups besides jumping and mashing more buttons) or a ground pound move that’s also great at crowd control.

On top of that, the camera is zoomed out way too far, making it difficult to figure out if my attacks are going to hit anything or not. More often than not I jump to try and tag one of the game’s annoying flying enemies only to whiff entirely. On top of that, I have a sneaking suspicion that the actual attack hitboxes and the effects on the player model don’t actually line up a lot of the time.

Add these facts to the additional fact that there are three times as many Werehog levels as regular Sonic levels (each town has a set of three Werehog levels and a single speed level, along with a bunch of side missions, some of which the game requires you to clear before you can go on to the next area) and we have a rather frustrating package overall. On the one hand the actual speed levels are the most fun I’ve had with a Sonic game in quite a while, but on the other hand the Werehog is mostly bland and uninteresting.

Unfortunately for my wallet, though, I think the game is good enough for me to take a risk on buying the PS3 version when it hits in December. Fingers crossed.

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Bet you saw this coming a mile away

After 3 or so hours of playing, the best thing that I can say about Sonic Unleashed for Wii is that it’s not terrible.

It’s just unrelentingly bland.

No, I don’t really feel like going into detail right now. Maybe tomorrow.

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A followup

I mentioned in my review of Sonic Chronicles last week that the music was rather terrible. Well, the folks over at Sonic Stadium have managed to get their hands on a complete rip of the game’s soundtrack. I’ve taken a listen to the tracks I didn’t get a chance to listen to (since I didn’t get that far in the game) and all they do is reinforce my opinion.

You can download the tracks here.

More disturbing, however, is the fact that the music appears to have indeed been composed by Richard Jacques. If this is true, then how did he go from composing the cheesy-yet-awesome Sonic R soundtrack and the awesome Euro remixes for the console/PC versions of Outrun 2 to making terrible synthesizer beeps and bloops? I mean, some of the tracks are remixes of tracks that he originally composed for games like the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast, and even those are terrible.

Some samples for those not willing to do the legwork:

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Genesis version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Jun Senoue)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Central City)

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Saturn version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Richard Jacques)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Blue Ridge Zone)

Original (Sonic CD JP version, Collision Chaos Bad Future)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Angel Island)

Original (Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Final Boss) – yes I know Doomsday Zone is technically the final boss but whatever
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Nocturne)

Why did they phone it in so badly? God knows.

There may be legitimate reasons to buy this game (depending on your perspective), but the music is most certainly not one of them.

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Review: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

As some of you may know, Bioware has been developing a DS RPG set in the Sonic universe for Sega. The game, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood was much anticipated by the fanbase, seeing how it was developed by a studio known for its expertise in developing RPGs on PCs. Well, the game is out in North America as of yesterday, so how is it?

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Writer’s block? Not really…

Most people, when explaining a long gap in posting on their blogs, cite the problem of not having anything to write about. I have the opposite problem, in that there’s too much going on and I can’t decide what I want to write about.

Here’s a list of stuff that happened this week that piqued my interest:

  1. The high-profile failure of Congress to approve the Wall Street bailout deal + my general anxiety at the economic climate
  2. Cliff Bleszinski continuing to sound like a tool by saying stupid things like this and this
  3. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood‘s release (and subsequent evaluation by me)
  4. My purchase of the original Fallout (1997) from GOG.com
  5. Gintama being awesome
  6. My falling sick and being kept sane by Qi clips and my DS
  7. Sarah Palin proving herself to be a colossal idiot

In the end, I don’t even know if my next post will be about any of those things, because stuff that catches my attention just keeps on happening. Maybe I need to be more decisive…

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The list of doom, August edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 4 – Beat it on Devil Hunter, although honestly I don’t think I’m really done with it yet. I can’t say that I’ve really mastered any aspect of the game (except maybe Nero’s Devil Buster but it’s LOL EZ anyway).
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I’ve gotten all my C ranks and unlocked the true ending to the game, so it’s leaving the list. I’ll still keep trying for A ranks and better scores from time to time, though (it’s a freaking score attack game – who wouldn’t). Maybe I’ll put some footage up here when I try it out.
  • Zack & Wiki – I’ve beaten the main story quest, but I haven’t found any of the hidden treasures yet. Still, that’s good enough for me for now.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Beat it shortly after my last list of doom post. I’ve fiddled around a bit with the other modes (the Ada side missions and the Mercenaries minigame) but I haven’t gone back to the game yet.

Games still being played:

  • Super Mario Galaxy – Would you believe I’m still stuck on that one Luigi purple coin mission?
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Really haven’t touched it at all.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – That last Sol Emerald is a bitch.
  • Mass Effect – I’ve just finished up the Noveria story quests. It seems that there really aren’t that many main story quests which is a little alarming, but I’ll see what happens. I’ve started to get a good feel for my final opinion on the game, too…and it’s a little uneven.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Still fun – I’m right after the part where Pey’j gets kidnapped (spoiler).

Games that were started and beaten over the course of the month:

  • Metal Gear Solid – Great boss fights, great sneaking areas, terrible gun controls, WALL OF PLOT is annoying.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance – Boss fights are somewhat less great, sneaking is much more fun, gun controls are better, WALL OF PLOT is still annoying.

New entries on the list:

  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence – Not too far in. I can’t say I’ve gotten the hang of CQC yet – for some reason every time I try to grab someone from behind I end up throwing them and setting off an alarm.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword – this is surprisingly good for a handheld conversion of Ninja Gaiden. There are some cutbacks (simplified combos, only one melee weapon and two ranged weapons) but otherwise it’s fast and furious just like the console versions.
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – my first PS3 game! Think Gears of War crossed with Resident Evil 4 with a minimal bit of Tomb Raider splashed in for good measure. Very polished and slick – nothing to complain about so far.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed – I never played the NES version, but even so this game is pretty cool. While the levels and bosses themselves are pretty well-designed, I particularly like the Portal-style Challenge Rooms.

And that’s it for August!

It just occurred to me that my Wii backlog is basically empty now (except for Galaxy). Any Wii game recommendations? Keep in mind that I’m a lonely bastard who plays games by himself all the time.

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