Oooo, so very close. I sat in on a presentation of Sonic Unleashed at the Sega booth today, and things look pretty much as I feared when I first heard about the game. On one hand you have the daylight gameplay, which features Sonic racing across levels inspired by real-world locations such as Greece and China, alterating between the 3D platforming we know from Sonic Adventure and the 2D perspective from classic Sonic titles.

The sense of speed in the daylight sections is completely amazing. The Sega rep informed us that once Sonic fills up his ring power and boosts he can reach the real-world equivalent of 300 miles per hour. Watching Sonic speed through the levels made my hands ache to get my hands on the controller.

Then the evening comes.

Sonic Unleashed begins with Dr. Eggman using the chaos emeralds on Sonic, cursing him to evenings filled with beat-em up platforming and fuzzy, implausibly stretchy arms. Yes, Sonic becomes a were-hog, a hulking beast that runs slowly on all fours, beats up hordes of enemies at a time with his giant fists, and uses his elastic arms to help him navigate some traditional platforming segments.

The difference between gameplay neatly parallels the shifting of my emotions while watching the demo in action. The daylight portions had me grinning from ear-to-ear, bringing to mind the magic of Sonic games long since past. Why does Sega then shift gears and give us a beat-em-up, with gameplay elements that have nothing to do with the original premise of the franchise?

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I'd imagine the idea men at Sega are as split as Sonic is over this next game. A part of them realizes that fans want gameplay similar to the 2D platformers of the past, while another portion believes they are keeping the franchise fresh and new by adding these new concepts. With 50% of the game night and 50% of the game day, Sega has effectively halved my interest in the title. When we said we hated the stupid tacked on 3D gimmicky elements of the 3D Sonic games, we didn't mean we hated them only 50% of the time. 50% of crap and marshmallows is still 50% crap.