The veil is off "Project Needlemouse" at last: Sega has announced Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a direct 2D sequel to 1994's Sonic & Knuckles.
This weekend, there were rumors that the long-teased "Project Needlemouse" could perhaps actually be Sonic 4, the direct continuation of a once-glorious 2D platformer franchise that had been dormant since 1994's Sonic & Knuckles. And yes, those days had truly been glorious (personally, I consider the combination game Sonic 3 & Knuckles to be one of the finest old-school platformers ever made). But no, it was just wishful thinking, wasn't it? Sega couldn't possibly be giving the fans what they'd been asking for for years, could it?
As it turns out, yes. Yes they could.
"Project Needlemouse" is indeed Sonic the Hedgehog 4, reports Gamespot, and will be out on all three major consoles as a downloadable title (via XBLA, PSN, and WiiWare) this summer. Curiously, the launch trailer seen above refers to Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1, which indicates that there will be more to come. That, of course, makes it even more like Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which was one game that was released in two parts thanks to time and budget considerations (so in a way, the precursor to modern DLC when you think about it).
Sega associate brand manager Ken Balough told Gamespot that Sonic 4 will pick up directly where Sonic & Knuckles left off, and will include old-school elements such as the spin dash and power sneakers - as well as online leaderboards for the world's fastest hedgehogs to strut their stuff, and optional motion controls for the Wii Remote and the Sixaxis.
It remains to be seen if Sega can still pull the same magic out of the franchise, but the classic "Se-ga!" jingle brings a smile to my face nonetheless. One thing remains certain: As long as they call him Dr. Robotnik and can this "Eggman" crap, we'll be good.