Sonic Lost World rekindled my long-lost desire for Sonic X-Treme

Sonic: Lost World Screenshot - Zeena boss battle

For most people looking at Sonic: Lost World -- the new, Nintendo platform-exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog game from Sega -- they see Sonic combined with Mario Galaxy. For me, I see the tracking failure on an old VHS tape full of footage from E3 1996. I remember my childhood eyes dilating with wonder as Sonic X-Treme, a Sega Saturn game that never came to be, danced in front of my face. Pull up some footage of X-Treme on Youtube, and you’ll find a cancelled Sonic project that still looks pretty cool today.

Sonic X-Treme gave Sonic a 3D world to explore, but from a fixed perspective in a warped, fisheye world. Sonic: Lost World is almost the exact opposite, with many stages built around cylinders that you run the length of. In both instances, the 2D Sonic gameplay is translated to 3D in a really clever way, maintaining some of that sensation that the 2D games had, but in a world with more depth and detail.

Aaron Webber, Associate Brand Manager at Sega of America, didn’t miss a beat when I made the comparison. “When we first started showing off levels people were like ‘Oh, it looks like Mario Galaxy’ and then being a big Sonic nerd I was like, ‘Well, actually in 1995, if you want to get technical, Sonic experimented with that way back in the day.’ But that game never came out.”

Sonic Lost World on Wii U

That said, Sonic Team doesn’t invite the same comparisons. “The dev teams’ official answer is that this game isn’t supposed to be X-Treme, it isn’t supposed to be Galaxy, it’s kind of a natural evolution of the Sonic formula,” Webber said. In my time with the demo, the natural progression from Sonic Colors to Sonic Generation and now Lost World was indeed pretty clear.

I had a chance to play both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game. While the 3DS version is the first 3D Sonic game on a handheld, it isn’t a port of the Wii U version. The games share similar mechanics - Sonic can run and jump, dash forward, and lock on to enemies, and the cylindrical level design is part of both games - but each version has its own completely unique set of levels.

“We wanted to give fans a whole new experience on each platform,” Webber explained. Rather than giving fans a downgraded port on 3DS, Sega wanted a game that diehard fans would buy both versions of. “Not only do your skills transfer over, but it’s an entirely new game for you to play and every level is brand new,” added Webber.

Sonic Lost World on 3DS

On the Wii U that means better overall graphics, some tilt and touch functions on the Wii U gamepad, and a mini-map on the touchscreen. For 3DS, you have that eye-popping 3D, which looks great if you’re into it and gives the game even more visual depth than it already has.

For those that do go and pick up both versions, they’ll enjoy a bit of cross-over functionality between the two games. In the Wii U version, a second player can take control of an RC gadget to help out player one. These are made in Tails’ workshop, something you’ll have access to in the 3DS version of the game, where the RC gadgets also factor into the gameplay. Those with both games will be able to bring exclusive RC gadgets from the 3DS version into the Wii version for the second player to use.

As for the core gameplay, both demos I played were quite enjoyable. That cylindrical level design really does shine alongside the Sonic gameplay. There were instances where Sonic got away from me and I’d fall to my death in ways that felt a bit clunky, but that’s been a bit par for the course with the 3D Sonic games. Hopefully, that’s something that the full game will be able to avoid as much as possible.

Casino Night in Sonic Lost World on Wii U

Either way, I can’t unsee that Sonic X-Treme comparison, and with the game right around the corner, I’ll be excited to check it out and see if it doesn’t fulfill those childhood dreams.

“I think it’s pretty cool, personally, to see certain elements from these things coming back in good ways,” said Webber. “But, officially, it’s definitely the next step for Sonic and platforming and finding ways that we can give players more control over Sonic. And likewise give them new ways to play that they maybe have never seen before...except in 1995 perhaps (laughs).”

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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