|Sonic the Hedgehog 4|
Logo from the official website.
|Developer(s)||Dimps, Sonic Team (co-developer)|
|Native resolution||1080p (PS3, 360)
|Platform(s)||PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare|
|Release date(s)||Episode 1: Summer 2010|
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (codenamed Project Needlemouse) (ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ4) is a 2010 episodic platform video game in development as part of the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and WiiWare. The game was first announced September 9, 2009 and its official name was revealed on February 4, 2010. The game is being developed by Dimps alongside members of Sonic Team and will be published by Sega. The game is rated E for Comic Mischief.  The game is a direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles and will be playable in high definition on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The Wii and PlayStation 3 version of the game will feature support for motion controls.  The game returns to the roots of the Sonic series, and is strictly a 2D side-scrolling game rendered using 3D models; Sonic the Hedgehog will be the only playable character in the game. The game will be released in episodes, the first of which will be released in Summer 2010.
The game will be a two-dimensional side-scrolling platformer reminiscent of the original Sonic games with an emphasis on speed. Players will control only Sonic the Hedgehog, using control mechanics such as the original spin dash and power-ups including Speed Shoes, alongside moves such as the homing attack seen in the 3D entries in the series.  Players will be able to use the online leaderboards to compare their fastest times and high scores.
The game follows the adventure of the series' main protagonist, Sonic the Hedgehog, taking place after Sonic & Knuckles. With the Death Egg destroyed and Angel Island returned to the sky, Sonic decides it's time to take a break. After arbitrarily parting with Tails and Knuckles, he sets off to explore new territories by himself; however, unbeknownst to him, his nemesis, Dr. Eggman, had somehow survived their last encounter, and revisits - and improves - the very best of his creations to defeat Sonic.
The game's existence was first revealed at GameSpot on September 8, 2009 (one day before the 10th anniversary of the Dreamcast's North American launch) under the code name Project Needlemouse, with the release of a brief teaser trailer, and an interview with Sega's Ken Ballough who acknowledged that "old-school Sonic fans have long asked to see Sonic return to a more 2D style of gameplay", and that "Needlemouse is that critical first step that brings Sonic back to his 2D roots". The codename is derived from Sonic's prototype name, Mr. Needlemouse, when he was being pitched by his designer Naoto Ōshima.
On January 11, 2010, Sega of America began a "character countdown" on their blog. The countdown took the form of an image of the teaser video logo superimposed with a list of Sonic universe characters that may potentially have been playable in the game, and the proviso that "not all of them are going to make the cut". On each of the next four days, readers were invited to answer three trivia questions; provided enough replies with correct answers to each question were achieved, an updated image with certain characters ruled out would be posted each day, until Friday when only those to be playable would remain. It was also stated that should enough posts above this threshold be achieved on at least three days, readers would receive a bonus in the form of information about the game.
On each subsequent day, Sega updated the blog with a new image, in which two more names were stamped as "rejected". First to be excluded were Charmy and Chip, followed by Tikal and Vector, and then Shade and Amy Rose. In Friday's final update, Shadow, Big the Cat, Froggy, and "Sonic's new friend Mr. Needlemouse" were rejected, leaving only Sonic's name visible, making him the only playable character in the game as was speculated; the bonus was revealed to be concept art of Shellcracker, a badnik that previously appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and would be returning in Needlemouse. Also in the same blog post, Sega acknowledged fans' concerns about superfluous characters and the departure from the gameplay of earlier Sonic games:
Today, we are about to break the trend that has continued on for many years. To the thousands of you out there asking for a game where Sonic is the only playable character – rejoice. As of today, your wish has been granted. In Project Needlemouse, there will be no new characters – playable or otherwise. The focus will remain solely on one blue hedgehog.
On January 27, 2010, Sega updated its blog with a second (and final) challenge, and another piece of concept art (Motobug, the first badnik encountered in Sonic 1). The challenge was in response to a fan-made illustration of another badnik from Sonic 2 (designed to resemble the official art), which apparently staff liked a lot. To this end, Sega stated that they wished to see more: the new challenge was for fans to submit over 100 pieces of their own art of classic badniks (from Sonic 1-3 and Knuckles, and any other game from that era) to Sega by the following Monday, to show them which enemies they wished to feature in Project Needlemouse. Sega stated that if this number was met, the following week they would reveal the game's real name, concept art from the first zone, and "a very cool extra bonus". The blog provided advice on methods of creating illustrations and how to submit them, and stated that the best submissions received would be published. Sega stated that this was the final community challenge, and one of the last times that the game's codename would be used. Finally, Sega left some parting words:
Speed is something that is not given; but rather earned through dedication. Speed is not found by simply pushing a boost button, but by building momentum. It is the reward for skill in the face of difficult challenges – this kind of speed is the most exhilarating, not only because it is fast, but because of the pure perfection such speed exemplifies. This is the truth of the original Sonic games – and this is the truth of Project Needlemouse.
In a subsequent blog Sega stated that over 350 pieces of artwork had been submitted within 48 hours, and in recognition of this achievement the following week would be "the Week of the Hedgehog" (beginning on February 2, "Hedgehog Day"), featuring further information and art, and a merchandise giveaway as well as its actual name (to be announced later in the week). As a footnote and to address some commentators' concerns, Sega stressed that despite featuring old badniks, Needlemouse would be an "all-new adventure" and not an HD remake of Sonic 1.
On February 2, as well as showcasing some more concept art, they updated the front page of Sega of America's website with a short flash animation which featured a sample of music from the game, reminiscent of old Genesis/Mega Drive sounds. The game's proper title was revealed on February 4, 2010, as Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, along with debut footage. The footage was criticized for Sonic's seemingly slow running animation, but it has since been clarified that there will be faster animation similar to that in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic CD.
An official website was also launched, featuring time-unlocked content indicated by countdowns obscuring certain menu items. Items revealed to date include story details, character information and concept art. All badniks revealed so far are variations of enemis from previous games, e.g. Newtron from Sonic 1 and Bubbles from Sonic 3; according to the site, Eggman is revisiting "the best of his creations", albeit possibly with some "budget cuts".
Leaked footage and screenshots from an alpha build were sent to 1UP.com, which shows four zones; Splash Hill, Lost Labyrinth, Casino Street and Mad Gear, each with 3 acts and a boss stage, and a special stage that appears similar to the special stage from Sonic 1. The footage and screenshots have since been removed from 1UP.com. The game's achievements list revealed a fifth zone, E.G.G. Station, and confirmation of Super Sonic being playable during regular gameplay for the first time since Sonic & Knuckles. In an interview with Nintendo Power, project leader Takashi Izuka stated that the classic Genesis-era Sonic design would not reappear, despite some fans' requests:
With so many other retro elements included, why not bring back Sonic's original pot-bellied character design? That's because Sonic 4 is a brand new title and not a remake. As you may know, all Sonic character designs were changed in 1998, so since then, all new titles have those new designs.
On Thursday, March 18th 2010, the Sonic 4 website received an update, revealing a new background design with an area of Splash Hill Zone, in which Sonic can be seen briefly running past from time-to-time in the background. The site also revealed three new areas on the site; the screenshots section, showing Sonic running through Splash Hill and a lock-on feature for the homing attack, which can lock onto enemies and even TV monitors. The screenshots also revealed Sonic's running animation once he reaches full momentum, continuing the animation the Genesis titles held, showing Sonic holding his arms at his sides and his legs becoming a circular red blur. The website, along with the screenshots, also revealed a music downloads section, which currently features the official music for Splash Hill Zone Act 1, which can also be heard in the background of the page. A zone area was also revealed, currently holding the Splash Hill Zone as its only section so-far; a gameplay video for Splash Hill is planned to be added soon. The website also revealed the hidden featured character, now revealed to be Doctor Eggman, the animation showing him in his Egg-o-matic hovercraft.
The game is being developed primarily by Dimps, with some members of Sonic Team, including project leader Takashi Izuka, the senior level designer for Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Music and sound are being composed by Jun Senoue. The game will be released as a digital download for the WiiWare, PlayStation Store, and Xbox Live Arcade services, and in some format on an unconfirmed fourth platform, though rumored and leaked to be the iPhone.