Sonic Has Seen Better Days
It’s been nearly 20 years since we’ve seen Sonic the Hedgehog truly in his prime. The 16-bit era of the Sega Genesis gave birth to the character, but these were also his best days. One of my favorite mascots has fallen far since the mid 90’s, and has never quite felt at home in 3D space. I know that the quality of Sonic games has gone up in recent years, but these do not compare to the ‘glory’ days; and hopefully today I can give you insight into why.
The Need for Speed
Sonic’s 3D translation is not an intuitive one. Unlike Mario or Zelda the basic concept of his gameplay didn’t hold up outside of its native element. This was because developers failed to see what made the 16-bit Sonic games so engaging. They believed ‘speed’ was the key to Sonic games. But, what we all mistook for speed was fluidity with a sense of control. I don’t think any Sonic game to date has replicated these aspects to the extent of the 16-bit games, and this is because of the emphasis on speed.
Sonic X-treme (cancelled Saturn title) and Sonic Adventure (and all its direct and indirect sequels) failed to recapture this sense of control. The attempted remedy for this was the homing attack, but this felt unsatisfying because it took away the element of skill from the game. In the 3D titles we too often see, Sonic go around loops without any way to control him whilst doing so; once again a shortcut to remind us of him in the 2D world, and that ultimately felt more like watching than playing. These issues were apparent in the best of the 3D Sonic games, but worse than this was the sacrifice of control that was created by Sonic travelling too fast.
Sense of Control
So, my solution for this (which half belongs to Monday’s guest writer Bryn Smith) is to give Sonic an aspect from the 2008’s Mirror’s Edge. The game had first person parkour mechanics that functioned to be the game’s main mechanic, and I think Sonic could benefit from gameplay inspired from this. Mirror’s Edge definitely has issues, yes, but it gives you the same feeling of fluidity that was in the original Sonic titles. The momentum based contextual gameplay gave the player the aforementioned sense of control while still having some sense of speed.
Give Sonic the ability to free run, add in some rings and environments, sliding, climbing and jumping over different obstacles, mixed with some 2D gameplay could prove to be an excellent title that embodies sonic in the 3D world. I think a 3rd person perspective would be necessary to keep the character recognizable, and possibly new environments that look nothing like Green Hill Zone to signify a restart for the character.
Sega’s Destructive Path
It’s a crutch, much like Sonic as a brand is to Sega. So far, it’s made money, and is somehow still lucrative despite Sega’s earnest attempts to destroy it for the last several years. It’s time for complete and total overhaul; and it starts before it becomes too late.
This idea is what I think could potentially bring Sonic back to the status he once had. I hope something like this is employed (or really any other idea that could work), because I am tired of seeing this beloved character demeaned to some awful titles.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.