Sonic – Part 2   Leave a comment

Last week, we took an in-depth look at the downfall of Sonic the Hedgehog. Through a series of increasingly awful games, Sega eroded away their goodwill and Sonic lost his reputation.

Today, we find out if Sonic has, as of yet, managed to pull himself out of that rut.

There’s little arguing that a three-game chain of console titles in the mid-2000s hurt true blue’s credibility But even during Sonic’s worst period, there were more good games than bad.

The “Sonic Advance” series, while not nearly as memorable as the Genesis titles, was still a very well-received trilogy of platformers.

“Sonic Rush” brought a fun and challenging strike at the more modern gameplay style and had a unique, memorable soundtrack to boot.

These handheld games, combined with the long shelf-life of “Sonic Adventure 2: Battle” brought a whole generation of new Sonic fans into the fold.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2006” was an abysmal failure both critically and financially, and it could be argued as one of the single most damaging video games to its franchise of all time.

Many games are disappointing, but few are as infamously awful as this one.

Fortunately, it was a wake-up call for Sega.

The developer, Sonic Team, was completely restructured, replacing most of the old guard with much younger people that had grown up with Sonic.

For the first time, the games would be created by the fans.

They inherited a series with an awful reputation and dwindling mainstream support.

Younger fans had been put through a series of disappointing (or worse) titles.

Older fans had largely grown disillusioned and resentful.

Sonic Team and Sega as a whole set to work rehabilitating their mascot.

The infamously terrible games were pulled from store shelves and digital download services.

This new team’s first major release was 2008’s “Sonic Unleashed,” which saw a storyline that didn’t take itself too seriously (we are, after all, following the travels of an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog) and a completely revised gameplay style focused around quick-snap reactions and boosting forward. Sonic Unleashed was faster than fast, and was largely well-received within the Sonic community.

Among larger gaming circles, however, Sonic’s reputation preceded him.

Sega had made the ill-fated choice to pad the game out with a gimmick that saw Sonic turning into a monstrous version of himself, dubbed a “werehog” when night fell.

The game was split between daytime stages, where Sonic’s new gameplay was dazzlingly showcased, and nighttime stages, where the werehog bared his teeth.

These night levels featured slow, dull gameplay, tricky platforming and simple-but-time-consuming puzzles. They weren’t terrible, but they were rather mediocre.

And on that sticking point, the mainstream media blasted the game, with GameSpot rating it even lower than the much-worse “Sonic 2006.”

Clearly, Sonic still had a lot of rehabbing to do.

Sega was undeterred, as 2010 saw the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1,” After 16 years, it was decided it was time for a new game in the original series.

Oddly, “Sonic 4” was met by a rather opposite reaction than its predecessor, “Unleashed.”

The mainstream gaming sites enjoyed it, touting it as a return to form, while many more hard-core Sonic fans derided it as being unworthy of carrying the name due to its odd physics, uninspired level design and most tellingly, the complete lack of the classic, shorter, black-eyed version of Sonic.

Sega heard the cries of its hardcore fanbase, and in 2011 “Sonic Generations” was released, part of commemorating the hedgehog’s 20th anniversary.

Just how far had Sonic evolved in the five years since “Sonic 2006?”

“Generations” brought back classic Sonic, but it did a lot more than that. It evolved the modern gameplay, giving it more depth than ever before. Controls improved a great deal, so that a player would never feel like they were only loosely maneuvering the blue speedster.

The game was very well-received in gaming press, and was almost universally adored among Sonic fans. “Sonic Generations” is quite simply the best 3D Sonic game ever created, and it easily gives the classics a run for their money, too.

Yet just two weeks ago, GameTrailers.com put the entire Sonic series as number one on its top 10 list of the worst blockbusters: games that sold better than they deserved to.

Why are people still so hung up on where Sonic was, and not where he is?

I still see people deriding Sonic, as if he’s still in the rut he was in five years ago.

I still see references to “Sonic 2006” abounding, general negativity toward the hedgehog and trepidation and eye-rolling every time a new game in the series in announced.

“Sonic Heroes” was a moderate disappointment. “Shadow the Hedgehog” was an awful direction. “Sonic 2006” was an absolutely horrid game.

But three bad games don’t make a bad franchise.

Sonic the Hedgehog has been redeemed.

After a string of middling-to-terrible efforts a half decade ago, Sega finally has the series back on track, and they deserve all the praise in the world for that.

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Posted April 7, 2012 by positivejosh in Uncategorized

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