Sega demonstrated their latest entry to the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise playable for both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 at E3 2006. The latest Sonic is beautiful, bringing crisp, clear visuals in the style of the now-classic original Sonic Adventure, and fast-quite arguably, too fast.
There were two playable characters in the demo: the original Sonic, and a new hedgehog named Silver. Aside from subtle differences of character design, the only difference between them is their attacks. Silver could pick objects up with telekinesis and throw them, while Sonic still packs his traditional moves.
The demo featured two playable levels - the traditional Green Hill level, and a city level. For the Green Hill Level, you used Sonic, and for the City level, the player had to use Silver.
When I played the Green Hill level, I had a hard time performing all of the aerial stunts and moves, mainly because I was playing very cautiously. The game is fast, so fast that it made me nervous in fear of dying by falling off the many ledges that populate the level's islands. Of course, that's the wrong way to play Sonic, and even unexperienced players who just flowed along with the breakneck pace of the game could move through it. The controls are responsive and they left me with the impression that the designers have really been listening to critical and audience reactions to recent 3D versions of the franchise.
Both the Xbox360 and PS3 versions of Sonic contain the same features and levels. The difference between the games is where one would expect it to be-- the graphics. However, the version with the best graphics is not the PS3. After playing both versions, I can confidently state that the Xbox 360 version towers over the PlayStation 3 in graphical prowess.
On the Playstation 3 version, levels had pop up in the backgrounds as bad as anything we've seen on previous generations. Also, the edges of objects, especially small objects like strands of grass and shadows, are not properly anti-aliased, so they have a jagged look to them. On tiled patterns, one can see "fry" on the PS3-- that effect where the floor or horizon looks like it is bubbbling and popping as the camera moves. On the Xbox 360, however, the same objects were smooth and vibrant, pop-in was never an issue, and the framerate held up much more admirably.
There is also a surprising lack of polish to the game's textures and colors on the Playstation 3's version. In the Green Hill level, for example, one of the first islands that you land on contains a number of robots. In the Xbox 360 version, the robots are shiny, metallic looking, sporting some very nice details on their armored frame. On the PS3 version, the same robots are darker in color, with no shine or details to their armor. In general, the PS3 seemed to be using lower-resolution textures and couldn't match the 360s palette. For Sony's sake, I hope this is not what the final product will look like, because if it is, cross platforms games such as Sonic make the $400 Xbox 360 look just as, if not more, powerful, than the Sony's $600 PS3.
Aside from the platform differences, Sonic the Hedgehog has the potential to erase players' previous (and probably somewhat negative) memories of Sega's more recent 3D Sonic games. Once you become comfortable with the gameplay, specifically the speed, it is easy to play, and even fun to watch others play. Hopefully, this Sonic game will not disappoint, and instead return the hedgehog to limelight he deserves.