So, Sonic Unleashed is out and has somewhat put the series back on track after the horrific Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 however the game is still riddled with many of the problems which have sent the series to the point where it needs to be rescued. So I've decided not to give vague suggestions like Jim has done on 2 seperate occasions and that I have done myself a few months ago. No this is my idea for a 5 step plan which I believe could not only put Sonic back on track but return him to the position of power at the front of Sega's output like he was during the Dreamcast days.
Step 1: Dissolve Sonic Team
The first and most important step, Sonic Team have proven time and time again that they have lost the vision of what a Sonic game should be. It has been apparant since Sonic Adventure 2 and as fun as Sonic Unleashed is it still displays the over-reliance on speed and unrelated gimmicks that have plagued the series. I suggest either renaming the studio or dissolving it and allowing the talent to go elsewhere. By Sega's own admission the character is far more popular in the west, and in Europe particular, than he is in the company's homeland. By that logic surely the licence should be passed to a European or American developer.
Step 2 - Copy Capcom
So you have a character who's universe has become bloated and overpopulated and you need to get the hardcore fans back on board before pressing on with the series revived back in the affections of gamers everywhere. So here are 2 ideas to restore affection in the Hedgehog or just to remind people how good those old games were. Option one is to do what people have been pining after ever since that little screenshot dropped onto the internet of Sonic 2 HD. So you could pull a Bionic Commando Rearmed and remake one or more of the old Sonic games with prettier graphics and OCRemix sound (pretty much all the tracks are remixed already, and dammit OCR did an awesome job with Street Fighter 2).
Alternatively, how about what people have been calling for since Adventure 2. A new 2D Sonic game on the download services ala Megaman 9? After that universe got a bit stale and bloated it took this return to the basics to bring all the fans back on board. Cut it down to just Sonic, Tails and Knuckles (3 characters who all bring differing styles to the game and allow for some excellent level design) and cut it down to how Sonic got as big as he did. 12 zones, 2 acts per zone, 1 Robotnik battle. Bring out a properly numbered Sonic The Hedgehog 4 and bring everybody back on board, that needs to be done before any other new game.
Step 3 - Disown the Excess
Fans of the excellent 2P Start will have seen this before, every element of this monstrosity is taken from a character from a Sonic game.
Seriously, what the fuck? Drop the character roster down to 6 characters, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow and Robotnik. Chuck in Cream if you want to but those 6 need to be the core because they bring the most to the series in terms of gameplay and story. Drop the excess characters but with that a rein needs to be put on the developers to keep from putting any more sidekicks in. As golden as some of Chip's lines are in Sonic Unleashed he is completely unnecessary.
Step 4 - Sonic Adventure 3
Sonic Adventure is brilliant. It is both a jewel in Sonic's crown and a horrible reminder that at one time Sega and Sonic Team did know what made the 2D Sonic games so much fun and could translate that into 3D. So this is what the new developers need to go back to, make them play Sonic Adventure and recall what makes it the most fondly thought of 3D Sonic. The exhilarating rush of the speed sections and set pieces (running down a skyscraper anyone?) broken up by the careful platforming which increases in difficulty and regularity as the game progresses. Just try speeding through the Egg Carrier levels, they are hardcore platforming tests just like we enjoyed in the Mega Drive Sonics. Recreate that level of genius again and Sonic will be back on track in a big way.
Also, go back and play Sonic Heroes, that's the closest we've got to a Sonic Adventure 3 so far. I maintain its one of the best Sonic games I've played.
Step 5 - Cash In
With the games back on track, its time to make with the profit. As we all know, Sonic fans are pathetically devoted people who will snap up everything with their hero's face on it. We're talking bags, plushies, tshirts etc. Merchandise like hell and run this fucking franchise back into the ground!
So there you go, my 5 step plan to take Sonic from rags to riches and right back again. Seriously Sega, you got to this point by being overconfident and thinking that you could drag down the franchise and that the fans would just swallow it. Well the fans are growing sick and you need them back because without the core fans you can't continue this series.