Sega is always pretty easy to find at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. The twenty-some foot tall spinning Sonic the Hedgehog is tough to miss. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been great “Sonic the Hedgehog” game in quite a while. This is particularly painful for someone that spent a lot of their youth with the spikey blue guy. I was an unabashed Sega Genesis lover and to this day still mourn Sega’s hardware exit with the Dreamcast. I still argue its finer points against the surviving consoles and how it was a much better console than the Sony Playstation 2, albeit without a DVD player.
Twenty five years ago, a Sega/Nintendo partnership would have been blasphemous and honestly most of the “Sonic” titles on Nintendo’s original Wii were terrible. At this point though, the marriage is finally starting to hit its stride. Both companies, for the most part are serving a small retro gaming demographic, older gamers looking for new experiences with their favorite franchises. “Sonic: Lost World” for the Nintendo Wii U looks to serve that group and hopefully grab some new fans along the way.
“Lost World” starts how almost every the “Sonic the Hedgehog” game does, with Sonic and his friends battling Eggman, until the villain’s plans fall apart. The graphic fidelity, voice work, and overall presentation is impressive. The cutscenes look better than any of the “Sonic” cartoon serials without over-modernizing the classic property. “Lost World” consistently works at blending a classic or retro feel with more modern sensibilities. While the cutscenes and actual levels seem to achieve this, the world map and menu system still feel a bit dated and detract from the experience.
When Eggman’s new friends in “Lost World” turn on him, Sonic has to help his nemesis save the world. For the most part, this just means more work for the blue guy. The levels are split between 3D and 2D levels. The 2D levels in “Lost World” are pure retro gaming, though they utilize the same controls as their 3D counterparts. Those 3D levels borrow quite a bit from Nintendo’s gravity defying “Mario Galaxy,” but use Sonic’s speed abilities to keep the experience feeling authentic. Even the cooperative option is reminiscent of early “Sonic” games.
Sonic the Hedgehog, even more so than Nintendo’s Mario, has had a difficult time making the transition to 3D. The first “Sonic Adventure” game was a commendable effort, but each subsequent title has failed to capture the thrill and speed of the originals while improving the experience with 3D. While the originals were at the time technical marvels, the more recent attempts have seemed like low budget afterthoughts and also-rans. Playing the original games was like driving a Ferrari, where the player had control of the fastest and most powerful video game mascot. It was almost dizzying watching him at full speed and being able plow through the giant walls.
“Sonic: Lost World” isn’t perfect, but it is a step in the right direction and easily Sonic’s best experience in 3D. As an exclusive for Nintendo, it is easily a “must own” for the struggling Wii U and the game attempts to utilize everything the console has to offer. “Lost World” utilizes the GamePad’s screen well and offers full off-screen play. It even uses the social features of the Wii U by allowing players to share powerups and hints via the Miiverse. For the first time in a long time, the new game I was playing finally felt like I was playing a Sonic game. “Lost World” is also available for the Nintendo 3DS handheld system. It largely replicates the experience, but the hardware limitations do hamper the overall presentation level.
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