Sunday 29 May 2022

Virtua Sonic #5: The Sonic Spectrum

To be frank, Sonic has had it pretty rough in the past decade or so. Ever since his massive success on the Sega Genesis in three massively beloved titles, he has been the victim of some very bad luck. Many would attest that it all began with Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 (commonly referred to as Sonic ‘06), it actually started further back than that, Sonic ‘06 is just when it really became noticeable. Going back and forth in quality from the decent success of Sonic Generations to the abysmal failure of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the Sega Mascot has had a dual failure/success rate of gigantic proportions.

One clear example of this is the very recent fanmade super game headed by Christian Whitehead, Sonic Mania. One could say that Sonic Mania is the most success the little blue hedgehog has seen in literally over a decade. That’s not to say there aren’t good recent Sonic games by major developers, but Sonic Mania has seen success that is unparalleled by the likes of Sonic’s most recent game, Sonic Forces. Talk about quality difference of day and night, Sonic Mania has enjoyed the highest ratings even by some of the most skeptical gaming reviews while Sonic Forces has been left in the super speeding dust.

Even with the dream game mechanic of original character creation, Sonic Forces had very little else to offer. With poor level design, questionable controls, and the fact that you play as Sonic through most of the game anyway, onlookers were scratching their heads asking “why create a character in the first place??” Sonic Mania blew all of it out of the water and turned that nostalgia dial to eleven. We were gifted with familiar gameplay and level design with a nice little twist here and there to brighten it up for the new generation of gamers while leaving plenty for older gamers to ogle. Even the seemingly outdated graphics are updated and beautiful in a way that does not impede on the oldstyle 16-bit look. 

Sonic Forces has its fans, but it did have some objectively terrible decisions made for it. Not to mention giving your character a random weapon to work with rather than maybe a general skill it can use would have been far more appeal. As it stands, your character is mostly just an aesthetic to run along obstacles. It's not that Sonic Mania had the best ideas for level design as well, but it was a much more stylistic choice to elongate the game just a bit more. It does make traversing some of the level a bit of a hassle when it comes to the timer. They honestly should have taken that into account.

It’s starting to look pretty clear on what Sonic games should have been doing the entire time. There have been successful titles that go outside the fast-running platforming of his original games, but those have been so few and far in between. Now we have two that are mapped out and marketed very near one another for a comparison that paints a very clear picture. Sonic fans are now hoping and praying that Sega takes some serious notes of this outcome, because it’s clear that even true blue Sonic fans are getting fed up with the treatment that he has been getting as of late. 

In the end, it was a one hit knockout. This contrast really goes to show you that innovation and imagination can do some serious damage against just throwing money at a problem in hopes that it improves. AAA Gaming has been under some serious fire for lack of ideas in the ways of Sonic franchise fatigue, cash grab titles and using nostalgia as a way to lure oldschool gamers into spending their money for games that have little to no effort put into them. This fan game may have been distributed by Sega, but let’s face it, it’s an indie game through and through. Now Sonic fans are hoping that the Sonic Team can learn from this experience, but at the same time, given his very questionable past treatment, there is really no telling what they have in store for our blue radical dude. All we can really do is stay tuned and drink water.


Mel said...

Its true that Mania's been a better recieved game than Forces but a lot of what you're saying about Forces is confusingly wrong. I've never seen anyone before this article remark that "Sonic got most of the levels anyway": Out of the 30 in the game (42 with Bonus levels) Sonic and the avatar each get 13 levels (19 each with Bonus levels). This includes levels where you play as both of them, and the entire story is themed around the Avatar's growth and their friendship with Sonic. Presenting them as if they're just some half-baked last minute inclusion is just not honest.

Then calling anything "objectively bad choices" is bad in of itself: Game design is all preference, because its art, which is inherently subjective. But you go on to ssy thst the Avatars weapons are "random" and that they should've just had unique abilities, you Pick the weapon you want to use (all themed around Wisp powers from Sonic Colors) and each Race of animal you can pick from come with a unique ability.

Your closer seems to imply that there have been very few games that have been successfuk in the series past its originsl Mega Drive games, which is again just flat out wrong. SA1, SA2, Heroes, Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure, Sonic Advance 1-3, Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations...its a series filled with hits, and I don't know whats earned by only holding its games from the 90s onto this pedestal.

Virtua Neptune said...

If you're going to have a character creation, it could have still been better put together. It wasn't an abysmal experience, I simply felt a little cheated that it wasn't given more creative elements in its design. Being friends with Sonic is all well and good, but I suppose you and I were just looking for different things. If I threw out the word "objectively" a little too willy nilly, that's an acceptable comment. I will consider rewording that.

And I was leaning toward how the game publishers aren't interested in putting any real efforts into 3D games currently. I stand by my assessment of Unleashed, I found many of its gameplay elements a farce as far as Sonic goes. Going light speed into killable objects you cannot foresee coming is just a bad design. Then slowing down into a hack and slash Werehog just failed to live up to the high speeds Sonic is known for. There have been some good 3D games, but those seem few and far in between. This all sounds like I'm holding it to high standards because of my deification of the original titles, but I have reviewed my share of 3D games favorably, even some that were not as popular. However, that all seems to have gone by the wayside in recent history. If I'm hard on the Sonic games, it's because I love them a little too much sometimes and my memories and reviews intermix because I am very highly opinionated.

I do appreciate the honest review of my review and concerning some of my writing quirks, I do appreciate you reading and finding the time to come converse for me. Thanks for that. I enjoy the company.