Sonic the Hedgehog – Is It Too Late?

Growing up, I owned an NES. While the Sega Genesis was a marvelous thing, I still loved my NES. Every so often, we would be treated to renting a Genesis and a few games. My good friend across the street also owned a Genesis. Until I got into emulation, this was the extent of my Genesis knowledge. Sure, I got to play a few things like the oldschool Sonic titles, Golden Axe 2, and even Phantasy Star 4, but for the most part I really missed out when the Genesis was still ongoing.

So when I first tried Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast as I entered college in the year 2000, I wasn’t sure what to think. I mean sure, it was pretty, had cool music, the whole nine yards…but it was too fast and I felt like neither I or the controls could keep up with the little blue speed demon. Sadly, this was an omen of things to come.

While Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 did fairly well, literally nothing since has been anything worth mentioning, unless in disgust. So what happened? See, back in the days of “Nintendon’t,” Sonic was a major argument for Sega fanboys. And hey, why not? With most Mario games, you had one way to go: right. That’s not to say it wasn’t a similar formula for Sonic, but there were twists, turns, multiple pathways, and all kinds of secrets.

This was touched on lightly with Mario 2 and greatly improved with Mario 3, but remember: Sonic did it first. And sure, the original Mario had the last castle, but that was more a pain in the ass and only had one correct path to get to the end. It wasn’t about exploration, it was about moving right. And yes, there were warp zones, but I’m not talking about that; I’m talking about exploration rewarded with power ups, craploads of rings, bonus areas, and so on.

“I got 99 problems, but a ring ain’t one.”

Sonic had all kinds of fun, if a little frustrating minigames ever since the first one and they were always different as the series went onward. It was the epitome of 16-bit arcadey platforming goodness. And you know, you might say Super Mario World, but it was more self aware. See, ever since Mario 3, there’s been a simple formula. Have a world map of sorts, travel from level to level on the world map, and explore multiple routes.

This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s clearly not an arcade-like setup. A lot of people think Sonic went wrong when they went to 3D, but I think it’s a little deeper than that. I think Sega forgot what makes a good Sonic game. So here’s my thoughts on what it would take to make a good, new Sonic game. First off, if you want speed, you need more open environments to take advantage of this.

And I love seeing loop de loops as much as the next guy, but let’s think realistically here. One thing that always annoyed me about 3D Sonics was that they would set up this giant domino effect that looks pretty, but may as well be a cutscene. Without being in direct control of it, it’s just not that fun. Much like newer Square Enix titles, it looks pretty, but lacks substance.

HOWEVER…controlling some of these things in 3D and with ridiculous speeds would be anything but easy or fun. I get that, but here’s what I’d like to point out. We keep saying that Sonic was all about speed, but was he really? Well, yes and no. Yes in that he certainly moved faster than the original Super Mario Bros., but no in that it wasn’t all about speed.

Sonic was more about having graphically impressive environments with awesome music, which I think they’ve nailed, but also about exploration, which I think they’ve forgotten about. Further, there’s nothing wrong with having a fast Sonic, but consider this. Why not have it where Sonic moves as fast as Mario in Mario 64? And don’t tell me that’s not fast enough.

Consider all the crazy adventures you get into in Mario 64 and how well that would translate if you simply replaced Mario with Sonic. And especially now that Nintendo kinda sorta owns or has allied with Sega, why the hell not? Would it really be so bad? Would it really be any worse than being a werewolf or introducing us to increasing more annoying characters with equally annoying voiceovers?

At this point, seriously, why the hell not? Mario moved at a decent pace in Mario 64, had about the same powers you’d expect Sonic to have anyway, and had decent placement for powerups. So you just increase the number and variety of powerup pickups, maybe add in a few speed sections, and there you are. What, not Sonic enough?

Okay, so add in some sections where you have to tag out with Tails or Knuckles or whoever to access new areas. Just don’t do voiceovers. Seriously, how many different voiceovers are there in Mario? If you had a soundboard of every Mario voice ever, you probably couldn’t form a complete thought. And yet, it doesn’t really matter. Even the Mario RPGs feature him doing charades, maybe making one noise, and in general communicating in non-verbals.

How Sonic 3D Blast could have worked. I’m just sayin’.

Sometimes saying nothing is saying just enough. Muteness aside, would Sega actually make this? Now that’s the million dollar question. Sega finally listened to their fans and started taking a crack at 2D, rather 2.5D, Sonics again…with limited success. I strongly believe Sonic still has a place out there, but they need to quit trying to make him “cool” and focus on making a solid, fun title.

Ah, but would it appeal to the next generation of gamers? Now that’s a tougher question to answer. I’d say there’s still an audience, at least if furry art is to be believed, but is it going to appeal to anyone under the national wanking age? See, Mario is all about being family friendly, while Sonic is more about being “cool.” Problem is what’s cool now will be crap tomorrow.

Realistically speaking, Sonic has outlived his usefulness and could very easily be retired, but Sega won’t allow it. If Sega is going to make such a strong push to keep him around, they need to get with the times, not only understanding what their core audience wants, but what modern gamers will want as well. Now the question is are they too far gone for that?

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Filed under 32X, Arcade, Dreamcast, Game Gear, Gameboy (Color), Gameboy Advance, Genesis, NDS, Nintendo, PC, PS2, PS3, PSN, Retro, Saturn, Sega, Sega CD, Sony, Videogames, Wii, X Box, X Box 360, XBLA

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