Thursday, June 3, 2010

Colorful Commentary: Now in High-Quality!


Hey guys, Rave here. Welcome to Part 2 of Arun & Rave's Isolated Commentary on Sonic Colors, brought to you by Nintendo Power--"It's So Bad."

Today we'll be presenting our observations of Nintendo Power's 6-page Sonic Color feature, written by Steve Thomason and including a 2-page interview with Takashi Iizuka. The July 2010 issue arrived at New York's Nintendo World store at Rockefeller Plaza a full week in advance of it's June 8th release date. We have Metroidfan19 of NGG (and Diogenes of The Sonic Stadium for finding his find), Doctor Eggman of The Sonic Stadium, and Hero of Legend of Find the Computer Room to thank for the high-quality scans.



The first page treats us to three nice screenshots from the Wii version, including the one with giant sweet delicious donuts. Of particular note is the screenshot showing off the Yellow Drill move in 2-D--a telling indication of the game's platforming depth and particular Drill Dozer inspiration. Neato. The editorial starts off with a brief synopsis of the Sonic franchise: it's been sucking hard. Fortunately, the writer goes on to express hopeful excitement for Sonic Colors, even going so far as to compare it to Sonic Adventure's prerelease buzz. Bold claim, but admittedly a good sign: I loved Sonic Adventure.



Page 2 goes on to describe the defining gimmick of the game--The Wisps--and why it's not a cause for alarm or fan outrage. Steve Thomason compares the Wisps to the fundamental "tried-and-true video game concept that's served fellow platforming icon Mario for years: the power-up." Indeed; the last time Sonic's had multi-colored powerups was in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and that game sufficiently rocked my boxers. He was lucky if he got the speed shoes after that game. Fortunately, Thomason goes on to confirm the existence of 7-8 Wisps throughout the game, each of which are activated with the flick of the Wii-mote and have a gauge at the bottom for a time limit (the Yellow Wisp's limit is about 10 seconds). Now, comparing that with S3&K, 7-8 Wisps could effectively multiply gameplay diversity by a little less than 3 times, and that's saying a lot considering Sonic's previous games. So, all you numbnuts complaining about there being "new characters" ought to shut your faces. Lastly, the page also contains a brief blurb of the DS version's two exclusive Wisps, one of which we've already confirmed as Fireball Sonic. The blurb states that Fireball Sonic can activate mechanisms like a rocket platform (for rockets made of jelly-beans), and it's accompanied by a screenshot of Sweet Mountain zone (ORBINAUT INCLUDED zOMG!!)



Page 3 leaves off from Page 2 with mention of a "minimalistic, lighthearted, and appropriately goofy" narrative instead of a serious storyline involving uncomfortable romances, followed by descriptions of the 3-D and 2-D action. Based on the demo, Thomason notes there to be more 2-D perspective platforming than high-octane 3-D action, with the latter taking place on a fairly narrow path. Pacing doesn't seem to be a problem between the two perspectives, says Thomason, distinguishing it from its recent predecessors. Also mentioned are "tons of hidden paths accessible only with certain power-ups," which sounds really exciting as far as the 2-D segment is concerned. You can collect certain "emblems" buried in the ground, but Sega has not commented on their significance. What is certain is that if you don't time it right, the Yellow Wisp can run out on you and leave you fatally buried; try again! The only other Wisp available for play was the Green Wisp, which teleports Sonic from parts of the level to the next using antennae (Isn't that supposed to be the Cyan Laser?).

Page 4 describes in detail how Sonic Colors is supposed to play in-between levels, making an immediate comparison to Super Mario Galaxy--both span "a number of planets," says Thomason. The story goes that Doc Robotnik pulled all these planets together using a giant tractor beam and converted them into his diabolical planet-sized theme parks. His interest in each of the planets has to do with their individual Wisps, as well as the natural evil doctor instinct of conquering reality and the universe with technology. Interplanetary travel will be governed by a world select map, which revealed eight planets to choose from. Most notable planet? A giant Metal Sonic head. No, seriously. He might as well have just blurted it outright. Bad- to the Ass! But no screenshot. :(



More good news comes from the alleged Casino Night Zone-esque "fantastical" level design--and believe me, that word's been thrown around a lot to describe this game--in reference to the game's Tropical Resort zone. It also looks like Las Vegas in Space. The final boss for this stage is that huge robotic ferris wheel of death we showed earlier in a blurry photo, and the entire boss sequence is conducted in 2.5D. Another welcome shake-up to the boss sequences from Unleashed and Black Knight, and it's sure to be a rousing challenge. Thomason concludes this part of the feature with a brief description of the super candyfied Sweet Mountain, noting the existence of stage-specific gimmicks and a end-zone metal capsule containing trapped Wisps throughout the entire game. Oh, and lastly, he mentions there being no hiccup in frame rate and that the soundtrack is nice, upbeat, and perhaps most importantly: jazzy.

Man. They really have been listening. Good show, Sonic Team, good show! Take it away Arun. I'm afraid I'm too thrilled to continue.

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With details on gameplay, level design and the Wisps already tackled, it’s my turn to relay what producer and longtime Sonic veteran Takashi Iizuka has to say. I found this part to be extremely interesting and appreciated his honest assessment of the Sonic franchise as a whole and his explanation for how Sonic Colors will attempt to fix those issues.

As you all already know, the setting for Sonic Colors is an intergalactic theme park (and, no, this doesn’t automatically make Sonic Colors a Mario Galaxy rip-off). While initially planned as a terrestrial amusement park, possibly with more “realistic,” Unleashed inspired levels, the team sought to give Colors a more “fun and fantastical flavor” and to create something “exciting and new and fun.” It’s a refreshing change of pace, and it’s nice to see Sonic Team revisiting the cartoony, lighthearted feel from Unleashed and expanding on it.

Both the Wii and DS versions of the game are being developed by teams involved in the development of Unleashed and Black Knight. Morio Kishimoto, lead designer of the storybook series, takes the reins for the console edition. The DS version will be directed by Takao Hirabayashi, lead planner of Unleashed. I can’t speak for others, but this gives me confidence that the next Sonic adventure could very well be a winner this time around. Call me optimistic, call me a fool, call me Ishmael, but perhaps this could be the “fresh start” Sonic very much needs.

Iizuka goes on to explain the need for past “gimmicks” and how they clashed with the traditional Sonic formula. It was important to have something other than running, so many games came with strings attached. Despite the introduction of the Wisps, gamers should be happy to hear that Colors cuts the fat and delivers a traditional Sonic experience. The Wisps themselves serve more like traditional power-ups, transforming and giving Sonic special abilities which will complement Sonic’s natural moves, to help him get through the levels but never compromise the core experience.

“We wanted to explore ways of adding new moves and new styles of play without sacrificing the traditional Sonic running action, and that led to the creation of the transformation power-up system.”

“When it came time to work out the power-ups for Sonic Colors, I feel we really succeeded in embracing our core concept of ‘100%-pure Sonic-style high-speed action,’ and coming up with new moves that gelled well with Sonic’s core gameplay.”


No word on multiplayer modes… yet. According to Iizuka it’s too early to say, so we can take that to mean a bunch of things, but in the end, it’s not confirmed. Anyway…

Now this is where the interview gets interesting. The DS and Wii versions will have two different stories! While Tails is slated to appear, at least, in the Wii version’s story, Iizuka says that he hopes characters like Shadow and Knuckles will make appearances in the portable version. Unfortunately, Iizuka did not go into detail as to what sorts of differences in the story there will be, though it’s safe to say the premise is the same. It’s a strange decision as far as multiplatform games go, but this, along with exclusive content on both versions, might be reason enough for gamers to check out both versions.

As Rave touched on earlier in his commentary, Colors on the Wii will make use of a mixture of 2D and 3D perspectives, similar to the day stages of Sonic Unleashed. Iizuka comments that by transitioning between these two views they can “present a better balance of speed and action.” The 3D sections will have more of an emphasis on speed and the 2D sections allow “deeper platforming-style action.” Apparently there will be more sidescrolling sections to 3D speed sections, but an exact ratio is not known (NP writer Steve Thomason says that 2D sections made up 70% of the demo he playtested).

Finally, Iizuka gave his thoughts on the franchise up to this point, commenting how many of the recent games did not play to the series’ strengths. However, despite an apparent slump in the franchise’s evolution, Iizuka promises that 2010’s Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (of which Iizuka is the poject lead) and Sonic Colors will be the first steps in “reestablishing the traditional Sonic experience.”

“I’d like to see the franchise evolve with more of a focus on the elements that make Sonic special, as well as the fundamental joys of the action genre, in order to make games that can be enjoyed by everyone from children to serious gamers. I think the next pair of titles, Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors, will be a good demonstration of that.”


And we hope so too, Mr. Iizuka. Here's hoping!





This feature is a basic paraphrase of the Nintendo Power feature; it is not entirely representative of all the feature's content. Be sure to grab your copy of the July issue this Tuesday, June 8th.

2 comments:

  1. I really like these blogs guys, I'd love to feature these on the news section of FTCR when it comes back online.

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  2. Thanks FTA! We're glad to know you like what we do.

    ReplyDelete