Category Archives: 2018

Sonic the Hedgehog: Everything Old is New Again

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If one thing has become apparent over the course of exploring the complete Sonic the Hedgehog series, it’s that no-one seems to be able to agree on how to handle it “best”.

We have Sonic Team’s attempts to move the franchise forward with various gameplay styles, new narrative components and a somewhat coherent, consistent narrative that ties in with other forms of media. We have Sonic Lost World’s much-maligned but utterly joyful jaunt into Super Mario-esque territory. And we have probably the most disappointingly “mainstream” opinion: that “Sonic hasn’t been good since the Mega Drive”.

Among other things, the perhaps vain hope of shutting this latter group up is the reason Sonic Mania exists.

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Sonic the Hedgehog: Take 2

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Remember back when we explored Sonic 2006 and I suggested that game was an attempt to provide a “big-budget movie” type of Sonic experience? It’s hard not to see Sonic Forces as Sonic Team having another crack at that.

All the major components of “big-budget movie adaptation of popular series” are here: recognisable but somewhat different setting; established characters in unconventional situations; brand-new, original characters designed for newcomers in the audience to attach themselves to; and significantly higher stakes than seen elsewhere in the series as a whole.

If you’re a “once and done” kind of player, you can also probably add “done and dusted in two hours” to that list, too, but rest assured, if you’re the sort of person who likes collectibles, secret levels and objectives, there’s significantly more than that here. Let’s take a closer look.

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Sonic the Hedgehog: A New Twist

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Sonic Generations rather ably demonstrated how the Sonic series’ gameplay had evolved over the years… but where could it go from there?

Certain members of Sonic Team were already contemplating this by the time Sonic Colours had completed development and work on Generations was underway. The concept grew from experimental attempts to make use of the Nintendo 3DS’ unique features, and the subsequent announcement of the Wii U console and the interesting possibilities it offered prompted Sega to focus the new game’s development on Nintendo platforms.

The result was Sonic Lost World; an unusual, highly creative and vastly underappreciated installment in the series, and one that would prove to be an ideal fit for Nintendo platforms. (As always, today we’ll be focusing on the home console version for Wii U rather than Dimps’ handheld incarnation.)

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Sonic the Hedgehog: Old Meets New

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In 2011, Sonic turned 20. 1991 was a big year for the blue blur: he had his first ever public appearance in Sega’s arcade title Rad Mobile, then later in the year thrilled console gamers on both 8- and 16-bit Sega platforms with his first full adventures.

Naturally, such a significant anniversary needed to be celebrated — particularly since poor old Sonic had put up with plenty of resistance from press, public and even his own fans over the years. But how to go about it in a way that would please as many people as possible — or at least attempt to?

By acknowledging both his past and present, of course. Enter Sonic Generations.

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Sonic the Hedgehog: Erinaceidae of Colour

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After 2008’s entertaining but divisive Sonic Unleashed, it would be another two years before we’d see the next mainline Sonic the Hedgehog game.

There were two versions of Sonic Colours developed, both of which remembered to put the “U” in for the European version: a Wii-exclusive version that combined 2D and 3D gameplay in the way we’d come to know from “modern Sonic“, and a side-scrolling Nintendo DS version developed by Dimps that was closer in execution to the original Mega Drive games.

Today we’ll be focusing on the Wii version, though anyone who has played a Dimps-developed Sonic game will know the DS version will also be well worth your time. I’ll leave that for you to explore yourself for now, however… we’ve got one hell of a vacation to go on!

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Project Zero 5: The Difference a Little Warmth Can Make

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And so we come to what is, at the time of writing, the grand finale to the Project Zero series: Maiden of Black Water on Wii U.

While the nature of the series means that it’s entirely possible we’ll see some more games in the future — and indeed unverified “my uncle works at Nintendo” rumours circulated earlier this year that a Switch installment was in development — Maiden of Black Water is an interesting game that acts as a suitable swansong for the series if, indeed, that is truly “it”.

But then Mio and Mayu from Deep Crimson Butterfly and Yuri from this game are putting in cameo appearances in the impending Super Smash Bros. Ultimateso you never know what might happen… Ahem. Anyway. Let’s look at Maiden of Black Water in detail.

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Project Zero 4: Touched by the Moon

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And so it is that we come to the fourth installment in the Project Zero series: a game that never came West in an official capacity.

Known as Zero: Tsukihame no Kamen in its native Japan and Mask of the Lunar Eclipse in the West following an ambitious (and successful) fan-translation project, this fourth game represented a number of “firsts” for the series.

It was the first installment to not be exclusively developed by Tecmo. It was the first installment to leave the series’ original host platforms of PlayStation 2 and Xbox. And it was the first installment to make a number of mechanical shakeups to the basic Project Zero formula, which would become fixtures in subsequent releases. Let’s take a closer look.

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Project Zero 3: Sleep, Priestess, Lie in Peace

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For me, a good horror game is hard work.

I don’t mean that it’s a chore to play or anything like that; I mean that engaging with it to the fullest is a genuinely taxing experience from at the very least a mental perspective… and possibly a physical one too.

As I sit here typing this, still somewhat breathless after the genuinely exhausting finale of Project Zero 3: The Tormented, I can confirm that the third installment in this series is emphatically a good horror game.

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Project Zero 2: Float Like a Butterfly

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How do you follow an impressively creepy horror game about ghosts in the Japanese tradition? With more of the same, but different and/or better, of course.

Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly began development shortly after its predecessor was completed, and eventually released for Japanese and North American PlayStation 2 players in late 2003, and for Europe the following April. This was then followed by an enhanced Xbox port, which released in Japan and North America in late 2004, with Europe once again bringing up the rear in February of 2005.

Interestingly, the game then got a complete remake for the Nintendo Wii in the summer of 2012; this released simultaneously in Japan, Australia and Europe, but skipped a North American release. It’s this latter version that we’re primarily concerned with today. But first, a bit of history…

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Project Zero: Scream for the Camera

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Tecmo’s Project Zero — also known as Fatal Frame in the United States, and simply Zero in its native Japan — has always stood out.

“Survival horror” is most certainly not what it once was, but even during its heyday in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Project Zero set itself apart by eschewing the blood, gore and violent scenes people had come to associate with the genre.

Instead, it provided a rather more contemplative, supernatural tale with its roots in traditional Japanese spiritualism. And by golly has it held up really well since its original release nearly 20 years ago.

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