Man, how awesome is Sonic? He's my favourite videogame character. He's got a series of great games, two great comic book series and one pretty good cartoon (the other one for little kid's a bit bizarre, though...). There are some awesome side characters, with Tails and Knuckles on the side of good and Dr. Robotnik and Metal Sonic on the site of rotten. We haven't had a proper 3D game yet, but they've been hinting at it for ages, with Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island, and the 3D sections in the compilation Sonic Jam. Yeah... just you wait Mario, when Sonic has a 3D game, it's going to be awesome.
Oh, sorry. I thought it was 1997. That happens to me a lot ever since the flux-capacitor/toilet accident. What's the year? Oh, damn. It's 2009. And Sonic sucks now.
Yes, ever since Sonic went 3D, the hedgehog's been on a downward slide. We got a couple of good games out of the critter, but after Sonic Adventure 2 it all went to hell. Now, this is Love to Hate, which means that - heaven help me, I still like these games. But I'm pretty sure it's because I used to be such a Sonic nut when I was a kid. Now that the Love part is out of the way, let's move on to the Hate. I'm going to look at the three key factors which have contributed to the big blue's demise, which I have called the Four C's.
Controls & Quality (Which kind of has a 'cuh' sound... Whatever, I do what I want)
The controls in recent Sonic games are terrible. I mean, what happened? The original Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast wasn't perfect, but at least the controls worked well and did what you told them to do most of the time. Go and play that game, or one of it's re-releases on Gamecube or PC and then play 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog. That game is the poster child of all that is wrong with Sonic these days, and it'll be used a lot in this article. In that game, Sonic flies off at a moment's notice, catapulting himself into bottomless pits as if he were a lemming rather than a hedgehog. Why can't Sega just revisit their earlier games and take a few lessons from them? Such are the mysteries of life.
When I say 'quality', I'm not dissing the series' production values. Even its worst games have astonishing CGI sequences. No, I'm talking about the rushed quality that most of his recent games have displayed. We said before that sometimes Sonic falls to his death quite easily - in some of his games you don't even have to be in control of him for this to happen. Several sections in 3D Sonic games are on rails, as he speeds through loop-de-loops and corkscrews, but if you've entered the section at a wrong angle, or failed to recognise when you regain control, Sonic may find an interesting chasm of death and decide to explore. Or maybe you'll just give up after the game finally loads, as shown by the below video which gives an excellent example of the experience of playing 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog.
Name some Sonic characters for me. Go on, out loud. Humour me. Sonic, yes, that's an obvious one. Tails, Knuckles. Dr. Robotnik (or 'Eggman' now, because that's such a better name). Those are the classics.
Now let me tell you all of the Sonic playable characters I can remember from Sonic games (not counting comics or cartoons). Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Werehog, Knuckles the Echidna, Miles 'Tails' Prower, Amy Rose, Dr. Eggman, Metal Sonic, Shadow the Hedgehog, Silver the Hedgehog, Blaze the Cat, Fang the Weasel, Bean the Duck, Emerl, Big the Cat, E-102 Gamma, E-123 Omega, Rouge the Bat, Mighty the Armadillo, Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon, Charmy the Bee, Chaos, Tikal the Echidna, Jet the Hawk, Storm the Albatross, Wave the Swallow, Cream the Rabbit. Remember, these are all characters who have been playable at some stage in the series.
The Sonic series no longer belongs to Sonic. Even if you go out and buy a game called Sonic the Hedgehog, chances are you're not going to be playing as Sonic, but rather some dark clone, or psychic descendant, or a side character who controls like a sled of bricks on a thin layer of excrement. They've run out of animals to make characters out of, they're not even making sense anymore. One of the newest additions to the roster, Marine the Raccoon is about as annoying an Australian stereotype as you can get. But she's a raccoon. I don't want to sound like some sort of Sonic racist or anything, but wouldn't it make more sense for her to be an echidna like Knuckles, or you know, something else that actually comes from Australia?
And here is where Sonic has truly lost his way. The Sonic series has no idea what it's supposed to be anymore. Sure, characters like Mario may whore themselves out to a shagillion of licensed properties, but they'll always return to another instalment of their core series that doesn't change things up too much, and focuses on quality.
In the last five years, we've seen Sonic appear in Sega Superstars Tennis (Sonic gets a tennis racquet), Shadow the Hedgehog (Sonic's emo counterpart with guns), Sonic the Hedgehog (the one where you mostly don't play as Sonic and have an awful time), Sonic Rivals (a racing game), Sonic Chronicles (a middling RPG game), Sonic and the Black Knight (Sonic gets a sword), Sonic Riders (Sonic gets a hoverboard) and Sonic Unleashed (Sonic turns into a werehog for half the game).
Out of those games, the 'core' instalments are Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Unleashed, and even they lumber Sonic with gimmicks like lycanthropy or psychic physics-based powers. It seems that the developers are afraid to make just a simple Sonic game again. We've heard excuses like it's too hard to make a game where Sonic just runs fast, because the levels they'd have to create would be massive. I'd like to suggest that perhaps Sonic isn't just about speed. It's about tight controls, exciting visuals, and engaging gameplay. The first Sonic game moved at a snails pace compared to the more recent attempts, yet it has some simple puzzles and fun boss battles that make it infinitely more enjoyable.
If one day Sonic Team knocked at my door, gave me $10 million and asked me to save the Sonic series, I'd take the cash in advance and run. But once I'd relocated to a safe destination, my conscience would get the better of me, and I'd e-mail them this advice. Reboot the Sonic franchise - something they should have done with the 2006 game. Take us back to basics. It doesn't matter whether the game is 2D or 3D, so long as it is polished, the controls are tight, and we play as Sonic. That's all we ask for from a Sonic game.
Until next time, hate makes you powerful. Unlimited power.