SEGA has today announced that Sonic the Hedgehog will return to stores later this year with the release of Sonic Unleashed, an all-new Sonic title in development at Sonic Team.

The latest game to feature the blue hedgehog promises to take players on an unforgettable high-speed journey around the globe in a way never experienced before. The game has been built on a powerful new engine which introduces seamless 3D to classic 2D camera transitions, whilst offering the player multiple paths to choose from.

The game has been in development for three years and SEGA says its new "Hedgehog Engine" produces a "visually rich next generation look and feel with elements of classic Sonic gameplay mechanics".

"By combining rich and vibrant scenery with dynamic viewpoints Sonic Unleashed will provide an immersive 3D experience whilst keeping alive the 2D gameplay elements and fantastic worlds that Sonic fans know and love," said Gary Knight, European Marketing Director for SEGA Europe. "In addition to this classic Sonic gaming experience, when darkness sets in Sonic Unleashed players will be able to experience a completely new way to play as Sonic... making this his most exciting adventure yet!"

The story once again revolves around Sonic retrieving the chaos emeralds - scattered across the seven broken continents of the word - only this time he will find himself in an unusual situation that will challenge him in a way never before seen.

Sonic purists be prepared to wince at the next bit. SEGA says that in addition to running at high speeds in classic Sonic style, combat fighting will become possible. Sonic's speed skills will be highlighted by four new modes, while the all-new combat, movement and functional abilities will offer increased depth to the gameplay.

By the sound of it, once the sun sets in the game Sonic changes, offering a new way to play. How exactly he changes and what this means for the gameplay is still to be revealed.

Sonic Unleashed is scheduled for release worldwide in late 2008. You don't have to wait that long to see the new game in action though. Head over to the video player to feast your eyes on the first Sonic Unleashed Trailer.