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How Can One “Save Sonic?”

How does one talk about Sonic that doesn’t sound like a mourning? The world’s fastest hedgehog is a fascinating character to look at since it feels like he is the last of the “gaming mascots” that struggles to find relevance in the world of gaming nowadays.  Try as they might, every one of them lost their way over time, if not after their first attempt. For the longest time, we looked towards the plumber in red or the hedgehog in blue as the “faces of gaming” when it was Nintendo vs Sega. Yet nowadays, it feels like Sonic is a shadow of his former self. And I’m not talking about his edgy counterpart.

enjoy your future it's going to be great
At this point, even Sonic is lying to himself…

For the longest time, the series has run into its fair share of issues with each passing game. It would be too easy to look at some crash and burns – like Sonic Boom – and have that serve than a means to explain everything wrong with the series.  Rather, if we look at the main titles in the series, we can see that while it has had its highs, it has had twice as many lows. It is a definite issue we have on our hands if the 16-bit tribute game got more of a positive response from gamers rather than the actual game from Team Sonic that allowed fans to make their own original characters. If we are to see another game, there need to be some changes to help bring our hot dog eating hedgehog back up to speed.

Also as a note, we will not be talking about Sonic Mania. It would be unfair to make these points if Sonic Mania addressed them. This will focus on Sonic’s 3D games and how, in the latest entries, they leave much more to be desired. Can everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog see a resurrection? By all means. But it will take a lot of fixing up before we can get him back into a favorable position.

What Excuse To Give Friends So They Home?

I’ll take the two-tailed fox and the red echidna. The rest of you, go home!

If you had to make a list of the things that annoy fans, chances are one of the front-runners would be the endless list of Sonic’s friends. It started off simple enough where there was at least one new character in a Sonic game, but it has since spiraled out of control. The biggest issue is how with each new character, we have to a new way to “play the game” when the idea of “run to the end of the stage” was more than enough. Some ideas were fun like E-102 Gamma shooting up everything while others, like Big the Cat fishing, brought the game to a grinding halt. The biggest of these offenders being Silver in Sonic 06: taking speed out of the equation so he can throw objects at enemies. Dashing into enemies wasn’t good enough?

So is this to say all of Sonic’s friends need to die?  As wonderful as the thought might be, no. If we look at recent games, his friends are there more than a supporting cast rather than you playing with them. Having two Sonics is a different argument altogether, but we are not playing as a bee or a stalker girlfriend. The story though is also an issue since time away from Sonic feels like a filler more than development in a story. We know that his friends will be there to cheer him on, but if we are playing a Sonic game, chances are that people would have an interest in following his story rather than how Big kept misplacing a frog every time he caught it.

Sonic Shouldn’t Need To Be The Flash When Running

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Ludicrous Speed! GO!

A question asked by those who have issues with the level design of Sonic games is, “How fast is too fast?” Sonic’s biggest character trait is his speed, but the games have tried too hard to emphasize this. While it’s thrilling to watch him run fast past everything, these segments feel like filler. Just hold the boost button down and let the game play itself until you either get to the next location or can’t keep boosting anymore. It is funny to look at how Mario’s progress over the years has been straightforward since it was about platforming. Meanwhile because Sonic is the “gotta go fast!” kind, the games feel like he needs to be always going a mile a minute or risk losing the interest of anyone playing.

It was fun for the first few times we’ve had it, but the boost is wearing out its welcome. When you only had Sonic or his friends running around stages, you had that feeling of them running fast while also taking in the scenery while you’re at it.  If you are running close to the speed of sound, you will not take in the surroundings because you already missed it the moment you boosted past everything. Stages feel lackluster since it isn’t about navigating or platforming as much as it is to boost your way through the game, and the challenge goes out the window. Take a page out of Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 and see how you can still have your fast moments while still having that engaging gameplay.

Stop Mixing Lights With Dark Story Elements

Does Sonic look like someone who was tortured for months?

If we look at Mario games, the plots could look to be dark, but they are still silly like “stopping Bowser from marrying Peach” or “clean up the island from an evil version of yourself.” That’s great and all, but in the games from our blue hedgehog it doesn’t seem like the story knows what direction it wants to go. At first, you have this dark and sinister setting establish itself.  Places blowing up, people getting chased by robots or demons, and much more. And yet when our blue hedgehog pops up, he treats it as though it is a slight complication. This is even more nonsensical when you have Sonic eating chili dogs while taking out said dark forces with no problems.

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I know when I’m about to fight off waves of enemies, I need to carb up first.

This pattern feels like it has been going on since Sonic Unleashed, where you’d think our main lead would have issue being turned into a monster at the start. Instead, he shrugs it off as though this involuntary transformation is as much of a minor convenience as forgetting to tie your shoes. Even Shadow the Hedgehog felt like it was trying to be so dark and edgy that developers forgot to put in some gameplay to match the tone. Not that the games can’t be too serious or nonsensical, but when you have Sonic cracking jokes in serious situations, it takes the urgency out of the situation. Hell, if there’s one positive you can give Sonic Boom, it is that it knows how to tell a story (the TV show anyway).

Conclusion

If you are a longtime Sonic fan, chances are you already know how to counter argue the points made here. While you may think these issues either don’t exist or are minuscule, the games should still be better. We want bigger and better things for our chili dog eating friend, and yet Sega leaves us scratching our heads, wondering if they want the same thing too.

We can only hope that when the announcement for the next game comes, they can learn from their mistakes and touch up the issues that come to the game.  It’s good they try new things, but sometimes, these changes aren’t for the best.  If we look at Sonic Mania, it shows us the one thing that Sega should have been taking notes on: keep it simple. I don’t want to think the only way Sonic will be good is if Sonic never goes 3D again, but there is a reason Mania succeeded while Forces struggled. Sega is capable of making the magic happen again. They just need to slow down and take their time rather than trying to rush like Sonic and get the next installment out as soon as possible.

So what do you think? What does Sega need to do to bring Sonic back into the spotlight? Leave your comment down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more editorials on popular gaming icons and all things gaming.

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