A new hope … or dying breath?

I know that my intended focus is the world of PC gaming, but this subject speaks back to my childhood. I was there. I took part in the arguments as to whether or not Super Mario World was superior to Sonic 2.  The Nintendo vs. Sega console wars of the ninties was the stuff of legends. 

It’s not important whether or not it was Nintendo or Sony that could be called the ‘winner’ of that console war. What is important is the fact that Mario continued as the gaming icon that he always was, wheras Sonic faded into something far worse than obscurity. He fell into an endless pit of mediocrity. 

The titles released on the 32X and Saturn never captured anything close to the original magic, and the transition to 3D that Mario had pioneered was disasterous for the blue hedgehog.  It started to look like Sonic might have something special on the Dreamcast with Sonic Adventure. However, the sequels to that franchise veered off in the wrong direction, and it got worse from there. Shadow The Hedgehog, Sonic 2006 and many other titles did nothing but outline the fact that Sonic had lost his way, with the exception of the handheld titles.  Sonic Unleashed seemed like a step in the right direction, cross-bred with a God of  War clone, the end result was pronounced an abomination.

The ‘Sonic Cycle’ is still turning, and anyone who would have reason to care about Sonic’s continued horror story of a history should be aware of ‘Project Needlemouse’ that has had a teaser that announced a 2010 release and not much else.

Well, the actual title for ‘Project Needlemouse’ has been released, and along with it, an indication that Sega might have finally taken a hint as to what the fans have been deasperately begging for.

Here are the simple facts so far:

Sonic 4: Episode 1 has been announced.  It is going to be a 3D rendered, 2D based game picking up directly where Sonic & Knuckles left off.  It will be a downloadable title on Wiiware, XBLA and PSN. Beyond that, nothing else has really been set in stone. The trailer shows a little bit of gameplay, and I’m not sure what to think of it yet.

Retconning everything beyond S&K? Smart move. This was the point at which Sonic seemed to start losing his way.

Episodic dowloadable release? Hm, Worked for Valve.  Lower development times, lower cost, less risk per title. The target market, retro gamers, are more likely the ones to take advantage of this kind of release as well.

Is this really the light at the end of the tunnel? Not sure … it could just be the C-Train.  It’s too early to tell whether or not Sega has really learned from past mistakes.  The special thing this time around is the fact that this seems to be the first time that Sega is even acknowledging that mistakes were made. (Okay, there was the reboot, but I try not to remember that.)

I don’t blame any Sonic fan who is feeling bitter and cynical at this point. They all have plenty of reason to be.  At the same time, I hate to admit it, but there is still hope. They might actually do this one right.

And we haven’t seen any new friends … yet.

Here’s to hoping it’ll be availible for PC release.

tl;dr: Will Sonic 4 break the cycle that has trapped sonic in a fiery pit of mediocrity?