Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Everybody HAETS Sonic: A rant.

Let's talk about the good old days, when dudes where bad and Gamepro was  a timely source of info.Once, many concole cycles ago there used to be a little franchise known as Sonic the Hedgehog. Spanning 4  core games, multiple spinoffs, and a multimedia reach that spanned comics and multiple cartoons.

But today, that is all but gone. There seem to be two types of people in the world: Those who don't like Sonic, and those that like it a little...too much.
You know, when I was your age I had to DRAW my ill-concieved made up Sonic characters. Dang kids taday!

And I propose we have been looking at it all wrong.

Sonic, as he was in the beginning, was a faster answer to the platform based gameplay pioneered by the Mario games. Eschewing the methodical gameplay of the Italian brothers for more twitch based fast response game, and put a attitude infused Felix the cat Blue Hedgehog as the lead in a world that was less magical, and more aggressive.

And for it's time, that was quite high end.

See, before you could jump into cars and stash them in your garage or have sex with topless maidens, games had a lot of limitations. As I'm sure many of you know, you could put 20 Sonic 2 games in a burnt CD, but back then, you had to limit each sprite and pixel and songs where made from little sound and arranged. Your cellphone could play Sonic and Knuckles with ease. Speed problems and slowdown where known to plague many a game  that dared not to manages it's limited resources well.

It was either this, or Batman Forever.
So, the Sonic games came to prominence because they pushed the boundaries of what was expected of a game's quality, graphics and gameplay. But at it's core still lay running left and right and jumping.

But Sega's decline came, and with it the franchise itself.  But by the time Sega's last ditch effort at relevancy as a console maker with the Dreamcast the world had moved beyond running left and right and jumping. Game's like Final Fantasy 7 set the standards for Story, and even gameplay was taking a turn for the Cinematic, with Resident Evil being one of the key examples. The Genre Sonic inhabited drifted away from stage design and more into  goal based  item quests inspired by Super Mario 64. Clearly it was more of a matter than Horizontal  movements.

So Sonic Adventure came to be. Sega tried to put everything in there: Item fetch quests, an open hub world, a ridiculously convoluted plot involving Puma Pumku, vengefull Gods and Love and all that stuff, with Cinematics that clearly where the FFX before FFX.

And it was panned. It started a mindset among fans and critics that Sonic needed to return to his core elements and not be bogged down with  anything extraneous to what made the old games great. The next game reduced the ephemera and focused more on 3 core gameplay types. But it still needed to return to it's roots. The one after that tried again to center near Platform city while offering multiple characters at once and gameplay types. Still not there. So after that they threw most of the characters out, while leaving 3 fast Sonic like characters running in a 3D plain. Oh, but it STILL needed to return to it's core gameplay mechanics. So they made a new, mostly 2D one with  some extra hulking gameplay and it still wasn't rooted enought.
There was also two or three underrated Portable Plataformers, but nobody likes to bring them up. I guess they don't count?

The next game might as well have been called "Sonic: Are you freaks happy now?" But it settled for Sonic 4. It was as back to basics as it could, with some leftover mechanics from the 3d games. But the problem still laid there.

Recently a tralier for a Sonic 2 HD remake was released, and some people are not impressed. So the big question here is, should we blame the players, or the game?
Worth a shot, I guess?

What is this "sought after" core mechanic? What is returning to it's roots, when even a free repaint and a budget sized retread is not enought to satiate fans? Or have the games really have been that wretched?

I think it's a problem with the audience. People who grew up with Sonic still want to follow the franchise, but have develop enought taste that what a kid's plataformer has to offer always leaves them feeling empty. Kids today, they don't like Sonic that much. They are into other things, I'm gonna guess Bratz and Dinosaur King. You might as well offer them a Betty Boop game.

What should Sega do? Lay off the Sonic for a bit. Bring back other franchises, like Ristar, Alex Kidd, and Altered Beast. Let REAL nostalgia settle in, instead of this blank fog of "I liked it in the past".  Sometimes you need to step away from art in order to fully appreciate it. The franchise does need a new direction, much like Mario 64 completely changed the direction Mario games took.


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