Once again, it’s not a secret that I’m a Sonic fan (see my icon), and I have been for 20 years now. My first console was a Sega Genesis that came with Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Even to this day, I’ll pop that in (granted, into my PS3 from the Ultimate Genesis Collection) and play it when I’m bored. However, it’s also no secret that Sonic fans have been disappointed with essentially every Sonic game after the Dreamcast was discontinued. Sonic Generations was a nice breath of fresh air because it gave Sonic fans hope for a Sonic game (either 2D or 3D) that had its focus in the right place. Granted, Sonic Generations took the styles from previous Sonic games, but they were still new levels.
Recently, Stephen Frost, former producer at SEGA, was on the SEGA Nerdcast podcast and discussed some points with the Sonic Boom development. There were a few things that I agreed with, but a number of things that I completely disagreed with. Frost brought up the idea that fans and license holders were excited for a “fresh start” with the character redesigns. I agree with this to an extent. With the idea that “modern Sonic” being so tainted with all the recent games, it’s no wonder why a character redesign was in the works. However, this “redesign” wasn’t just for the characters, it was also for the gameplay itself. Frost stated numerous times “you don’t see any vehicles.” Well of course not, Sonic should be “rolling around at the speed of sound.” You shouldn’t need vehicles an any Sonic game because that would logically slow down Sonic.
Another gripe I have is the script. The voice acting seems fine for what they were given, but the script is so cheesy. This is coming from a guy who loves cheesy ’90s action movies. For example, Knuckles was my favorite character in Sonic & Knuckles. He was evil in Sonic 3, but when you got to play as him in Sonic & Knuckles (or if you had both, you could plug Sonic 3 into Sonic & Knuckles and unlock Knuckles in Sonic 3), he was so much fun. He could climb walls and glide where Sonic could only run fast and Tails could fly. However, Knuckles in Sonic Boom was portrayed as a meathead. Now I want to strangle Knuckles for his character in Sonic Boom. His character is not funny, and is just dumb.
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It’s said in the article “… we were trying to add more to it. We overextended our grasp in some ways.” and he’s absolutely right. “Good” doesn’t equal “more features”, “good” equals “fun”. That seems to be the key thing that they’re missing. They seem so interested in “innovating” and “adding” that they’re not focusing on the “fun” or “core” aspect to a Sonic game. Frost even stated that the team shelved the “speed” mechanic because of the response from focus groups saying “Sonic games are all about speed, I can’t even keep up.” Frost admitted that this was probably a bad decision because they focused more on the new features and getting them nailed down and didn’t have enough time to polish the speed mechanic. Frost also stated “trying to cram too much into the game means you’re scrambling to finish the game.” That’s absolutely right. Too much “innovation” means you’re not focusing on any certain aspect. So, instead of being great at one thing, you’re mediocre at a lot of things.
Whoever is working with Sonic now needs to strip away everything and figure out why Sonic was fun on the Dreamcast and previous. I’m not saying “make more 2D platformers”, I’m more saying “take the concepts that worked from before and refine them”. Fun levels, fast paced, multiple routes. However, we DON’T want Final Fantasy-esque story (Sonic ’06), Knuckles skipping leg day (Sonic Boom), Sonic the Werehog (Sonic Unleashed), stupid steering controls on the Wii (Sonic and the Secret Rings), 5 hour games where the credits scrolled for the first time at 2 1/2 hours (Sonic and the Black Knight), and (as much as I love Shadow) Shadow shooting enemies with a gun (Shadow the Hedgehog).
I understand the need to reinvent Sonic as a character to give a fresh start for existing fans and a new thing for people who haven’t heard of Sonic to look at. But, when the “success” is the cartoon and toys (which were stated numerous times in the podcast as successes), and the game is pushed by the wayside, is it really a success? Should the game have even existed if all the focus was on everything else? Hell, the Sonic cartoons and comics when I was a kid had no correlation with the games, and I was perfectly fine with that. It was just more content for me to take in. But, the way that Sonic Boom was handled by having the game, cartoon, comics, toys all have to work together to create a new universe just seems like it ruined what could have been a good idea.
I’m blurryphoenix… and game on!