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A Sonic Retrospective: The Games, the Fans, and where he is now.


        Hello! Firstly, to anybody who reads this, I thank you for reading my first blog, and I hope you get some enjoyment out of reading my rookie level writing.

       Now then, Sonic the Hedgehog. Oh Sonic, you poor thing. Your fans can never decide what they want from you. (Not saying I'm not part of the problem, because when I think long and hard about it, I really am.) There are many things about Sonic that make him a beloved character, even to this day, especially his "cool" factor. His speed, his attitude, his sneakers. However, while Sonic fans may love him, I tend to think they loathe him alot. Now why is that? We really need to delve deeper into what makes a Sonic game work, and what doesn't. To start finding out why, we really need to take a look at your major games, and again, see what works and what doesn't. I'll be going in order from his birth to modern day. Namely, Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis, to Lost World on Wii U.  I will mostly generalize certain games based on the sonic "era" they are a part of. (Genesis, Dreamcast, Modern, etc.) I'm not discussing the really minor games or spinoffs, like Spinball, Labyrinth and Sonic Dash. I'm here to inform and discuss, not waste your time. (Yes I am.)

Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA Genesis, 1991): The game that started a revolution. (Of playground arguments about a cartoon rat and an italian plumber.) This game is fantastic. Great graphics, memorable music, fast and responsive gameplay. SEGA really did what Nintendidn't with this game. Everything clicked. It was simple, fast, and FUN.

Hey there Blue Blur!!

 Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Genesis, 1992): The same as above mostly applies here. SEGA made some minor changes that made the game even more enjoyable to play, threw in some kickass multiplayer, and again, made a fun 2D platformer that made itself unique on the market. Tails made his series debut here, and has been in (mostly) every game since.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles (SEGA Genesis, 1994): Not much change here again, except that there was some semblance of a story, mainly revolving around how Eggman tricked Knuckles into thinking Sonic was evil and getting him to steal the Chaos Emeralds. The game was fast, looked better than ever, and controlled amazingly. Let's not forget the amazing extra boss, where we first saw SuperSonic. 

 The Original Groupies.   

Sonic CD (SEGA CD, 1993): This one tends to be a fan favorite, and with good reasons. This game is incredible. It looks gorgeous, runs smoothly, and is fast. It introduced interesting time mechanics, that showed off the past, present, and future (which could change based on your actions) and changed the design and aesthetics of each level.) It made for a great dark story, without need for words. It introduced us to Metal Sonic, which many fans consider to be Sonic's greatest rival. I would agree, if it weren't for a certain red/black hedgehog that we'll get around to later. 

Sonic 3D Blast (SEGA Saturn, 1996): The time in between Sonic 3 and this had some interesting games like Chaotix, but it was mostly GameGear stuff to be had. So this game was 2 years after Sonic 3. And man. It was not a blast. This game had a strange top down view, leading to very odd platforming. And the worst part, was that it wasn't very fast. And if you did go fast, you were likely going to run into a wall, a pit, an enemy, you get the idea. It was a nice attempt on SEGA's part to bring Sonic to the realm of 3D, but it wasn't time yet. This was the first major release Sonic title that simply did not play well. (Again, I realize that games like Labyrinth, Drift and the Fighters were around this time, but they simply are worth discussing here.)

                                                            Not much of a blast at all.

Sonic Adventure (SEGA Dreamcast/Gamecube, 1999): Now then. This is where things get dicey, especially with the fanbase. Firstly, It had been a few years since 3D Blast, with only a few minor games here and there. And secondly, Sonic and friends were redesigned, given voices, and put smack-dab into the human world, which many think screws with the canon, but makes sense if you read the Archie Comics. Now then. This was a hub based,3D platformer, with many characters and playstyles to be had. While many will say it was the beginning of the end, I will argue against that until the day I die. Adventure, while flawed, was GREAT. The controls worked very well, the characters kept it varied, the story was deep and "dark", but simple enough that it fit well in a Sonic universe. Sonic's stages were fast, fun, and kept a great pace, as did Tail's. Knuckles had fun hunting sections, Amy, while slightly slow, was fun due to a shorter story, Big was....Big, and Gamma was fun, and was the blueprint for part of the next game. Again, many fans felt betrayed, as this was a clear starting point for a new Sonic. But the game, while aged, still remains fun to play, and is importaint to look at when it comes to Sonic fanbase trends. (Also, the voice acting may be cheesy, but I think it fits well, especially Sonic's voice, Ryan Drummond.)

                                                                 Free Will-Sonic?

Sonic Adventure 2 (SEGA Dreamcast/Gamecube, 2001): Ok, remember when I said Adventure is where it got dicey? I lied. It's actually here. Now then. My personal favorite Sonic game, and a game that has been in my top 5 games of all time since I was 6. (18 now, if anyone cares.) The gameplay was similar to Adventure 1 in that it had 3 main sections. The fast sonic/Shadow sections, the Knuckles/Rouge hunting sections, and the mech Tails/Eggman sections. The Sonic segments built off of Adventure's formula and made it much more responsive, and much faster as well. Knuckles sections were mostly upgraded as well, and were given a nice flair with the rap sountracks by rapper Hunnid-P. Tails segments were based off of Gamma's gameplay, and again, were given minor tweaks and upgrades to make a better experience. However, the gameplay is what people discuss least about this game. No, it's the story in this case. Sonic Adventure 2 was, by all accounts, a fairly dark game. This is because of one character, namely Shadow the Hedgehog. He was essentially designed to be "Dark Sonic", despite being CREATED 50 years before Sonic was born on the Space Colony Ark. Now, people love to hate this game, saying the story is far too dark for a Sonic game. Honestly they're correct. However, I remain perfectly ok with this, because I personally believe this game has one of the finest crafted stories. Ever. Call me biased. Do it. I say this not because of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Rouge or Eggman, but because of Shadow. The Shadow in this game is such a well fleshed out character. I can't really explain it, but his story is beautiful in every way shape and form. His quest for revenge against a world that took everything from him, and his eventual understanding that what his loved one wanted the most was for him to save that same world, and do everything he could to change it for the better. I think it was amazing. The Shadow in this game is my favorite character OF ALL TIME. (Before he phoned it in later, we'll get to that.) All the other characters fit well with their archtypes, and the dialogue, while cheesy as ever led to some funny moments. 

If loving this game is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Sonic Advance 1/2/3 (GBA, 2001,02,04): I'm grouping these together, because they're all quite similar, and for some reason, get forgotten by the fanbase quite often. Sonic Advance was the first Sonic game ever to be on a Nintendo system, which in itself is intriguing. These games are the closest things we've ever had to a real mix between Genesis Sonic and Modern Sonic. The level design is reminiscent of the old days, but brought up to speed with gorgeous GBA graphics, artstyle, and music. Gameplay is like the Genesis games on loads of meth, especially Advance 2. These games are FAST. Advance 1 focuses on platforming, 2 focused on full on speed, and 3 was a mix of the two with tag teaming to make levels more adventurous to find the missing chao. It was a fantastic trilogy that remains largely forgotten for no apparent reason, which I find sad.

                                                  Cream is quite clingy in relationships.

Sonic Heroes (GC/XBOX/PS2, 2003): Now then. Here is where the decline becomes apparent to me. Many oldschool fans will tell you that Sonic was already dead here, but they're wrong. However, yes, this game was not as good as the Adventure games. Now, why is this? Well, it's not the story, which dropped the tone down, whiched pleased many. It's probably the gameplay, because the graphics and music are fine as ever. The gameplay was, simply put, slippery. It was rather hard to control and the camera could go AWOL whenever it pleased. (Now, I did recieve all A ranks and beat Superhard mode, like I do with every sonic game, but I'm a freak, so disregard.) This is a hard game to talk about, because it's technically a fine game, but just not as good. The decline was apparent however. It's still fun to pla---oh wait, Shadow's alive? Even though he definitely died a beautiful sacrificial death in Adventure 2? In a move pulled straight out of SEGA's ass because he was popular? Now we're getting to the icky sticky aren't we? 

                                            The Real Super Power of Cheesy Dialogue.

Shadow the Murderous Hedgehog (GC/XBOX/PS2, 2005): I remember enjoying this game back when I was a kid, and this game to me was "YAY MORE SHADOW I HEART SHADOW UGUU!!" But This is a jaded 18 year old me. I went to replay it recently, and....it's bad. It's awful. The drop in quality was simply apparent here, it wasn't hiding. Shadow controls horribly, the slipperiness in Heroes times 100. It's sole purpose was to appeal to the badass "WHOA GUNS" market because SEGA at the time was confused about what made Sonic games "cool." It certainly wasn't guns, and a story do depressing that any sane person would need a whole container of Abilify with cute puppies in it. The story might've worked...in different circumstances. I would have been all for a backstory on Shadow's past. IF HE WASN'T TOTING GUNS AND MOWING DOWN THE FILTH. It turned my favorite character, a flawed, yet understandable character into an ass. Even in the true final ending, which is a "Save the day" type ending, Shadow is a total dick, with zero emotional capacity. And the whole amnesia thing pissed me off ever since Heroes pulled the "OOOHHH is he an ANDROID?" bullshit at the end of Sonic Heroes Team Dark story. And maybe this all could've been forgiven, but the gameplay was simply rubbish. At least this game introduced us to Jason Griffith, my favorite voice actor for the blue blur.

                                   "How to ruin a complex character" - A book by Sonic Team

Sonic Rush/Adventure (DS, 2005,07): Noticing a good recurring theme? Regardless of what most people will tell you about 3D games, the 2D games retained their quality. Sonic Rush and its sequel were excellent 2D platformers, with speed of OVER 9000 (sorry) and a simple, yet "Dark" story. I've noticed that Sonic stories are at their best when the darkness is underlying, not doing the cancan in your face, with Adventure 2 being my only exception. Blaze was introduced here, and she was a great series addition in these games, being another flawed, yet redeemable character. Though SEGA kinda kicked us into the ground when it came to her in......

Their fight scene music is still funky fresh to this day.

Sonic the Hedgehog (360/PS3, 2006): The one that made us all go off the deep end. The game that developers are given in a guide on how to NOT make a game. Sonic '06 was bad. It was a broken mess of glitches, canons, and well, everything. The gameplay wasn't even that fast, and the story was the most inpenetrable mess ever concieved. The story...man, it's nasty. Time travel, dimensions, ENDING THE GAME IN A WAY THAT MAKES IT SO NONE OF THE EVENTS HAPPENED? And how is Blaze from the future, when she's a princess from the Sol Dimension? WHAT? Believe me, the only enjoyment I wrung from this game was the fact that it mildy resembled the adventure games in terms of gameplay, and that I played it through with a buddy, laughing all the way. It's a mess. (Still S ranked the whole game...yes, I'm mental, thank you.)

                                                          Directed by Michael Bay

Sonic Rivals/2 (PSP, 2006,07): I would have said that I enjoyed every sidescrolling Sonic games if it weren't for these pathetic excuses for a "racing game." These games are truly bad. Why is this? Forgettable music, boring dialogue between the sizable cast, ugly graphics, average story that tries to be epic, and sweet Jesus. The AI. This isn't rubberbanding. This is the malevolent forces of hell possessing a piece of data in your UMD. I can't justify this AI. Besides these issues, the games are simply forgettable..I almost forgot to put them on this very list.

Sonic Riders/Zero Gravity/Free Riders: (Alot of various systems, 2006,08,10) PURGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii, 2007): Ya know how I said I wrung some enjoyment out of '06? Well I got none out of this, even when I first played it as a kid. This game is bad. BADDDDDD. Sonic is constantly moving forward, and the only was to stop him is to hold back on the wiimote. And you can't see what's behind you. Missed a collectible? Try again. Oh and tilting the Wiimote is not a good control scheme, ever. This game epitomizes any problems 3rd party wii games have. The story was a step up from '06, ableit less memorable. Something about a genie from a storybook having daddy issues. Sure, it was fast, which was good, but when you can't control fast, you get death. And a scared cat from all the Wiimote throwing.

                                                 Put that controller down right now Sonic.

Sonic Unleashed (Wii/360/PS3, 2008):What this game, I spent half the time LOVING it, and half of the time wishing I was with Kratos, in a better beat em up. The daytime levels in this game were GORGEOUS, and a blast to speed through. Some say it was boost to win, and ya know what? That was fine, because these levels were fun, extremely fun actually. I would say this game was Sonic's glorious return to form if it weren't for...the infamous werehog. I get SEGA likes to "reinvent" Sonic, but this was sad. The Werehog is slow, which as we've discussed, doesn't get a free pass in Sonic land. The combat is clunky, the enemies are boring, and when these levels can take ages to complete, (and take up 75% of the game, wii version to be precise) it really dampers an experience that could have been so, so good.  On the topic of story, it was an improvement. I'd say it hit the right notes, and was the simple but dark thing that Adventure 1 and heroes did so well. Oh and the music. The music was some of the best orchestrated game music I've ever heard. 

                                           For ten cents a day, you can stop animal abuse.

Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii, 2009): Ugh, the second installment in the Storybook series. I'm gonna steal IGN's one liner for their. review. "Stuck in the Dark ages." That's all it is. The game is fast, until the game throws enemies at you, which is ALL the time. What do you do when enemies appear? Waggle the wiimote like you're a parkinson's disease victim with a spider on his controller. It's a mess. The camera is horrible innacurate, the dialogue looks like it was written by flicking puke at a piece of paper (the dialogue issue has remained the same in my opinion, to this day) and it was another bastard child for the Wii's 3rd party collection. Oh, and it took me about 2 days to beat. Pathetic. Sonic the medieval knight is just as absurd as Shadow the gunwielding maniac in my opinion. The final boss theme is pretty cool though. 

"Whatcha gonna do with that big fat sword? Waggle Waggle Waggle..."

Sonic Colors (Wii/DS, 2010): What? A 3D Sonic game? The whole game plays like Unleashed? With level design like that of the Genesis days? Sold. Sonic Colors, gameplay wise and graphics wise, was GREAT. It was smooth, fun to play, and surprisingly challenging. Despite having the famous boost modern games have had, it mde you think critically due to some smart level design. The Wisps were a fun addition that made me enjoy power up gameplay again, as I was in a phase where I was kinda bored with Mario. It was the "OMG Sonic is great again" moment that many of us had. However, the music lacks any impact, and the game brings the cast down to just Sonic, Tails , and Eggman, which wouldn't have been a problem if the writing had been worth a damn. The dialogue is atrocious, and even that could have been forgiven if they hadn't changed the voice actors. Excuse me for being harsh, but the current voice actors for Sonic games are ABYSSMAL. Roger Craig Smith cannot play Sonic. At all. I get that Colors was aimed for kids, but maybe having it so the older players could get through the story without cringing about 20 times would have been nice.

                                         You have no soul if you don't think Wisps are cute.

Sonic Generations (360/PS3/PC, 2011): Sonic Generations is a damn good game. It would be my favorite Sonic game if I wasn't nostalgia blinded by Adventure 2. It is, technically, the best Sonic game to date. The classic Sonic sections truly feel as if they made the Genesis games in the modern day, and the Modern Sonic sections truly refine the boost gameplay and it really shines. The simple story and bad voice acting is forgiven here because this game was a love letter to the fans of every major Sonic "Era." The remixes of older music were gorgeous, the graphics are gorgeous, and I never found myself mad at the experience, even when some S rank attempts were sabotaged. Fantastic game.

Before and After the SEGA 32X.

Sonic Lost World (Wii U, 2013): What a disappointment. A sad, sad disappointment. I thought Sega had learned what worked through Colors and Generations. Sonic Galax--I mean Lost World is strange. If you want Sonic to go fast, you have to HOLD A BUTTON. Like, that's better than Sonic Labyrinth I guess, but...really? It's not a fast paced game, and the parkour system isn't used to it's full potential. It was,again, disappointing. Didn't help that the music was bland...and oh, the story. Remember how I said Colors was too kiddy? This is worse. Like way worse. I couldn't play this with the volume up during cutscenes, especially with Roger Craig Smith dumping his garbage into my ears. The game was a forgettable game that will only be remembered for bein the most mediocre Sonic game in recent history.

                                                              Sonic Lost Concept

Sonic Boom (Wii U, 2014): It may be a spin off, but it's the only major release for Sonic soon...honestly, I have no opinion on it. Again, I'm shocked Sega doesn't realize how excellent Generations was, but besides the voice acting, nothing seems particularly offensive about it...yet. We'll have to wait and see.

     Now then. We got through every major Sonic release, except for Sonic 4, which I didn't play, because episodic gaming must be purged with fire. So what's the real issue? What is plaguing the Sonic franchise? While I believe that the infamous quality decline occured later than most fans, I obviously believe there was one, starting with Heroes, possibly Adventure 2, even though I let that one slide because of reasons I talked about earlier. And honestly. It's many things. It's SEGA, wanting to please us all, but not being able to do so. No game could contain elements from the old games, the Adventure games, the boost games, and all the handheld games. I think Lost World was their attempt at that personally, and as I said, it failed at a lot of things. It's the fanbase, and I am no exception. If it were up to any single individual in this fractured fanbase to determine what the next Sonic game was like, it would be one of any of those Sonic eras. For example, I want more Adventure style games. Many more. But that can never be, because the Sonic series has to evolve (In non stupid ways, goodbye werehog and Sir Sonic of the Round table) and find what works. As I said, Colors and Generations are definitely the modern day standard of what Sonic could always be. The fanbase genuinely needs to come together and have a mass discussion until we find the missing piece. Because as long as this fanbase remains divided on literally everything, Sonic will stay the way he is...stagnant. He'll continue to put out awful to average games, with the occasional gem, and we'll just be having the same discussions as we are today. I hope a day can come when Sega finds out what really makes Sonic click. But until that day, I think Sonic needs to take a break. As a Cross Country and track runner, I can tell you that rest days are important. In Sonic's case, he needs a while, because he's been running a very long time, trying to please so many people, and it saddens me that my favorite childhood mascot is in this situation. But Sonic needs a break. Maybe he'll take some time off and come back and blow us away like he did in the 90's between 3D Blast and Adventure. I can only hope that he comes back ready to run. See ya for now Blue Blur. Stay fast.

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About XCKingBrentone of us since 7:36 PM on 09.18.2014

Brent Starks, SCAD freshman, graphic design major, XC and track runner! Love anime, and gaming, they're really what make me, me! I'm hopefully going to keep a consistent blog running here, so I hope to have some great discussions here! Favorite game series are hard to come up with...I love so many! That's a blog for another time!