Perhaps Sonic The Hedgehog Should Just Stick To Cartoons

Perhaps Sonic The Hedgehog Should Just Stick To Cartoons

When I posted my favourable first impressions of Cartoon Network's Sonic Boom animated series last month, one reader jokingly commented "The Sonic Cycle is finally broken. All you had to do was strip out the gameplay entirely." He might be on to something.

The games launched alongside the Sonic Boom animated series were not received well by fans or critics -- they were sloppy, unbalanced and in some instances completely broken. That said, I did find some small amusement in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U. It just had nothing to do with the gameplay.

During the game's opening sequence, Sonic and Tails are hot on Eggman's trail when the villain turns to them and asks, "Oh Sonic? You know what's better than an ambush?" Tails replies "An ambush with ice cream?" to which Eggman says "That sounds delicious, but no!" You can check out the scene at around 1:40 in the video below.

Later, around 11:10, Amy and Tails encounter a robot that's searching for Sonic, but it refuses to tell them why. Amy protests: "Come on!" The robot returns with "Peer pressure acknowledged. Acquiescing in 3..2.."

I was not enjoying the gameplay at all, but damn if I didn't laugh my arse off. It's the same sort of clever writing that's made the Sonic Boom animated series a hit on Cartoon Network -- many of the same writers contributed to both the video game and the TV show.

Strip away the gameplay from Sonic Boom and you've got some 40 minutes of cutscenes that range from the required boring exposition to some truly clever bits of dialogue. When all is said and done, those 40 minutes are much more enjoyable than the hours of gameplay they frame.

So why bother? Sega has been struggling to find the right Sonic the Hedgehog game balance since 2003's Sonic Heroes -- and some would say earlier than that. Each new 3D iteration feels more and more like a licensed property shoehorned into a video game instead of something that originally sprang to life in 16-bit form. Spin-offs like Sonic All-Stars Racing are nice enough, but without a solid core game to back them up they lack the weight of something like a Mario Kart.

And it's not just Sega who've lost sight of what makes a great Sonic game. Fans are divided as well. For years each new 3D monstrosity was greeted by old-school fans calling for a return to the original 2D side-scroller formula that made the franchise popular in the first place. Then Sega goes and makes Sonic the Hedgehog 4, and despite mostly positive reviews the episodic game just felt dated, lacking the character we've come to expect from the series.

The problem, as I see it, is that Sonic the Hedgehog has outgrown his games. Between the comic books and the various cartoon series and now Sonic Boom, he's just too much of a character. I'm at the point now where I'd rather see Sonic like this...

...than control him in a video game.

It's a problem Nintendo has managed to avoid with characters like Link, Kirby, Yoshi and Mario. Despite some early cartoon appearances and the odd sound bite, Nintendo's stable of characters is a quiet bunch whose actions speak for them. You never see Mario having an extended conversation with Boswer, Luigi or Peach. Kirby never cracks wise. Yoshi doesn't battle Mario for top-billing. Nintendo's characters show up for a grand adventure and then go home until the next one.

In contrast, Sonic's been receiving character development since voice in video games became a viable thing. Between colourful cutscenes, comic books, cartoons and piles of questionable fan fiction, Sonic and friends have taken on a life far greater than the one they were originally given by Sega.

It's incredibly difficult to contain this much character in a video game. You wind up with a strongly written game balanced atop a poorly designed one. You wind up with Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric.

As it stands, I don't feel like Rise of Lyric for the Wii U and its 3DS counterpart, Shattered Crystal, ruined the Sonic the Hedgehog series. With the release of the Sonic Boom animated series on Cartoon Network, these two games the same sort of poorly-made licensed games generated by successful television and movie properties that we've been seeing for decades now.

Sonic is continuing the evolution his been undergoing for years, from video game character to multimedia star. Perhaps its time he left the past behind and focused on his acting career.


Comments

    Stop trying to make him cool and hip. He was cool and hip on the Mega Drive before 3D fucked him up royally.

    Sonic in 3D is fine, it works. Unleashed, Colors and Generations proved that the gameplay is actually pretty kickass. However Sega just need to tale advantage of their critical success with those games and turn it into a decent platformer again.

    And if they do Sonic in 2D again (eg Sonic 4 Episode III) then they better quit fucking with Sonic's physics.

    Sonic Boom is a good show - I enjoy watching it with my nephew... even on my own. Rise of Lyric wasn't that bad, just painfully average on Wii U, and boring as hell on 3DS. I'd love to see another Sonic Colours or Generations though - they were as close to greatness as Sonic has been since Sonic Adventure. I know that game is old and creaky, but I still find it genuinely entertaining :)

    It would also be a crying shame if we didn't get another Sonic & All Stars Racing... Transformed is brilliant, and right up there with Mario Kart 8 for me :)

    Last edited 29/12/14 1:25 pm

    I sort of wonder if this is one of those franchises that is ruined by the fanbase. As someone who is part of the community, I can hardly tell what people want and they just argue other the smallest of things. (OTPs, I'm looking at you)! But when I meet a good and civil member of the Sonic community, we're able to have good discussions about various topics it rather than spewing insult after insult.

    As for the games that I have grown up with since I was 4 years old, I know Sega can do something right. They just need to expand on the ideas that made them great and execute them well, rather than drastically changing the formula, which is usually executed poorly. Even though Sonic Boom was a spin off, the state it was released in (the Wii U version anyway) was just unacceptable. Some people say making Sonic Adventure 3 will save the franchise, but even that could be executed poorly. Just because you have the name, doesn't mean it's going to be good.

    I feel like 2016 (25th anniversary of the franchise) is their last chance to get back on track on the video game side of things. Since they are free from Nintendo exclusivity, it'll give them a chance to open up their ideas. To me, the comics and the TV show deliver, but the thing it started out as, a video game, is on a collision course right now.

    Sonic can be saved, just stick to the Generations/Colors style of gameplay mixing 2D with 3D. That works just fine. Generations made me love Sonic all over again. Stick to that formula. Mario games have stuck with the same style of gameplay, arguably all his games are all the same 2D & 3D, but that what the majority of his fans want. SEGA should do the same. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    And also no longer deal with the studio that made the Sonic Boom games. Just like how SEGA will not deal with Gearbox anymore with their handling of Aliens Colonial Marines.
    The Sonic Boom spin-off, my thoughts alone, it's hit and miss. The cartoon & the new comic series works, I haven't played the games but I can take a hint from all the critics that Rise Of Lyric is a shocker, Shattered Crystal is good but could've been better. But they haven't sold very well at all. Gamewise, it's a failure. And the fanbase is divided over this 'Sonic Boom' era.
    Maybe it's a good thing, it'll either make SEGA go out of their way to make a Sonic game that the fans will love, or just stop making Sonic games altogether (Or at least until the time is right for Sonic's return).
    They still have one more game to make though for Nintendo's contract. And if that fails, well, the Sonic franchise is finished for good.

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