I can't take Sonic the Hedgehog completely seriously. He's a gaming icon, but he's also a punching bag. He's the star of some beloved games and the subject of strange experiments. He's got friends people hate; enemies people love and once, he controversially kissed a human female; another time, he developed the ability to turn into a … Werehog.
Because of these Sonic facts, I start meetings with Sega officials about new Sonic games expecting an even chance of greatness or ridiculousness. Sega, bless them, always comes through….
Item 1: Sonic Will Meet Sonic
The new Sonic game, Sonic Generations features chubby classic Sonic and skinny modern Sonic. They will meet in story sequences, Sega's Aaron Webber told me, but only one of them will speak. Modern Sonic will talk. Classic Sonic will be mute.
Oh, Webber told me, maybe they could have had Classic Sonic talk, if only they'd gotten actor Jaleel White on board. I didn't know that White — better known as the nerdy Urkel in the '90s sitcom "Family Matters" — had played classic Sonic in a bunch of cartoons. He did. HE would have been appropriate, but Sega couldn't get him. Thus mute Classic Sonic will have to listen to Modern Sonic yammer on.
Item 2: Sega Knows That You Probably Hated the Werehog
More senior people at Sega than Webber have told me that Sonic's Werehog nocturnal alter-ego, introduced in Sonic: Unleashed a few years ago, was popular with boys and therefore wasn't a bad idea.
Webber — younger, junior and perhaps more in touch with the readership of Kotaku — didn't try to tell me the Werehog was a good idea. He started talking up how Sonic: Generations would be good by saying the developers pondered how to get Sonic right and realised "The correct answer is not: 'Put the Werehog in.'" The new game is Werehog-free.
Webber was much more excited about Generations's nods to other things of Sonic's past, including the re-mixed versions of Sonic 2's Chemical Plant level, a version of Sonic Unleashed's Rooftop Run (daytime), a new take on Sonic & Knuckless' Sky Sanctuary, rival fights against Metal Sonic, a boss battle against Death Egg and more.
Each of the game's levels, pulled from Sonic games that range from Genesis to Dreamcast to Wii include not just re-mixed 2D versions for Classic Sonic to run through and more 3D versions for Modern Sonic to go through, but will include five bonus challenges per Sonic, with modifiers turned on, such as a race against Knuckles in which the enemies in the level are 500 per cent their normal size. Webber was excited that that Knuckles challenge runs with a remix of a song from Sonic R. That's cool, right Sonic fans?
Item 3: Sonic Complainers Have a Leg to Stand On
Many vocal people who just might also be readers of Kotaku get angry about the quality of recent Sonic games and blame Sega. Webber clearly hears their complaints, but he suggested to me that Sonic haters just get more press.
Surely, he surmised, there are Gears of War players who complain about where that series has gone. Mayyybe, I said, but Gears fans never had a human in their series make out with a hedgehog. Webber conceded that that was a fair point.
Item 4: The Sonic Cycle Applies to Real Life, Too
Earlier this year, some Sonic fans won a contest to go all the way from America to Tokyo. This seemed like something to get excited about. Free trip. Exotic country. Fun times with Sega people like Aaron Webber. A Sonic fan's dream!
But there is a thing called the Sonic Cycle in which enthusiasm for a hopefully great Sonic game gives away to the reality of an un-great Sonic game. And then the next game gets hyped and they get excited again. Perhaps, I learned, this doesn't just apply to Sonic games because the poor guys who won the Tokyo trip from Sega went to Tokyo last March… during that country's terrible earthquake.
The contest-winners weren't hurt, thankfully. Overall, they didn't have such a bad time. They went to the Toyko gaming district Akihabara, won big prizes at the Sega Arcade and then were stranded there and had to walk back to their hotel. Took them about five hours. I really hope they had a good time, but, man, is it safe to get excited about anything Sonic-related without fear of catastrophe?
Sonic Generations, I dare say, looks pretty good. So it's potentially… great? Who knows. I do know it will have mute Sonic hanging out with talkative Sonic and that makes it probably partially ridiculous. I'm looking forward to it.
Sega and Sonic, please never be dull.