Sonic the Hedgehog is Dead
With Sonic Boom – perhaps gaming’s worst incarnation of the blue hedgehog’s adventures – plunging the Sonic IP even further into the depths of gaming purgatory, I ask the question; was Sonic doomed from the start.
Well, yes. Yes he was.
The thing that made the original Sonic the Hedgehog so exciting was of course his speed. In the days of Sega vs Nintendo, this made him different. Mario couldn’t replicate the sense of exhilaration a gamer could feel while playing Sonic.
Visually, the game was pretty poor but, gameplay wise, it was absolutely unique. Unfortunately, that very uniqueness is what has led to the speedster’s great demise.
Nobody at Sega was thinking 24 years ahead when the original Sonic the Hedgehog was released back in 1991. Nobody was thinking, ‘Yeah this is great, but in 2015 we might struggle.’ The game was a great idea, a master-stroke, a moment of genius. However, that’s what it should’ve remained.
Initial concept art for Sonic featured him as a chick, a rabbit and even a human. I can quite confidently say that – even though the blue hedgehog design is now absolutely iconic – that the game would’ve sold with any protagonist, quite simply because it’s a good game.
And there lies Sonic’s major problem. He has been through major redesign after major redesign, with numerous developers trying to bring him into the 21st century. Let’s make him taller and thinner, let’s give him deep emotions and invent a human love interest for him to pursue.
When will these big companies realize that Sonic doesn’t belong here? That the character is not the problem, that it’s the gameplay, it’s the very essence of what made Sonic great – the rapidity and the simplicity – that they are failing to utilize?
There is a gap in the market, a space for a developer to pick up Sonic and offer him a lifeline simply by telling gamers, ‘Look, there’s no story, there’s no secret behind this world, just get this hedgehog from point A to B as fast as you can and have some bloody good fun doing it.’
This may be a very unpopular opinion, but pretty much every game since Sonic & Knuckles has been woeful. Yes that includes Sonic Adventure 2; which, barring the first City Escape level – possibly one of the best opening sequences in video game history – sucks.
In fact that whole game sums up the Sonic franchise; a fantastic start which is somehow ruined by the introduction of unneeded characters and over-complication. It’s time to get back to basics.
Let’s examine City Escape further, what plot devices are used? What puzzles are involved? What deeper meaning is hidden within? That’s right, none. It’s just good music, fast running, easy-to-kill enemies and an awesome – yet unexplained – truck chase. Until developers get back to making levels like this, we are not going to see a good Sonic game.
As consumers we have demanded more and more from our beloved hero and, at the end of the day, that has led to his downfall. Developers just don’t know what to do to bring this little guy in to the modern-age, to make him new and exciting; The heartbreak of it is, he was already perfect in the first place.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sonic the Hedgehog is dead, but that’s not to say he can’t be resurrected.