Sonic Boom and Bust

I make it a point to write about stuff that either ruffles my personal feathers or the feathers of my peers or I write about stuff I personally find interesting, which should explain this blog’s mixture of posts about presidential debates, dead icons of the political world and the occasional blog post about Legend of Zelda or Red Dwarf. The last few posts have tilted the scales more in favour of serious subjects, such as violent protests and public image scandals with a post about a television show thrown in but I decided today is a day I feel like blogging about something of no real importance… unless you’re a SEGA fan. Sonic the Hedgehog, I’m coming for you buddy, this is your intervention.

So I’m assuming you’re a gamer if you’re reading this far in, you wouldn’t be here if the words Sega and Sonic turned you away after all and by that logic I’m sure you’ve heard of Sonic Boom right? In case you haven’t, it was a game that came out last year for Wii U and 3DS and it was atrocious, an unplayable mess of glitches meant to revitalise a dying franchise and introduce it to the next generation of gaming masses, thus the redesigned outfits. I’ll start by saying I have no problem with game franchises getting reboots, old fans have their games and these renewed looks and fresh starts allow each generation to select an era of a franchise to feel a connection to – my Sonic the Hedgehog bounced around the Death Egg in 2D, someone else will remember Sonic as a fast-talking free spirit that rescues princesses and turns into a werehog (misnomer but whatever). Anyway, Sonic Boom failed, all it achieved was the title of laughing stock and whilst it has launched a semi-successful animated series clearly meant to get kids to like the characters a little more, as games go this was the final nail in the coffin for that beloved blue rodent, his time has well and truly come.

I am not alone in this opinion but apparently SEGA didn’t get the memo that they haven’t just killed off Sonic’s potential now, they’ve cut it up into little chunks and disseminated it across an area as wide as Oklahoma. Sonic Boom, the biggest bust of the franchise since Sonic 06, the game that should not be mentioned, is getting a sequel. A delayed sequel, they pushed the release date back to 2016, thank goodness. Will this allow the game some proper polish? I’m not sure, they had 2015 planned as a release date after a game that had just come out in 2014? That’s uh, two years at best and this sequel for the 3DS isn’t anything groundbreakingly new, it looks like the salvaged remains of last time’s mistakes given a little more work, a viable strategy but reselling polished turds isn’t a sound marketing scheme. Polish all you want, delayed release dates do usually mean a better game comes out in the end, excluding a few (Fucking Duke Nukem, you total let down, you are a blog post in yourself!) but really, who is excited for this any more? Who is excited for any Sonic game? Well, here’s what I want to talk about really.

In my honest opinion, the last good Sonic game was Sonic Generations, before that Sonic Unleashed but only for the daytime sections just because you really did get a sense of speed. Sure, it does sort of play itself but your input essentially makes you the director of an action sequence that unfolds before your eyes in real time with it looking increasingly cinematic and impressive the quicker your reaction speeds, the game becomes much more fun when you try to imagine it as if you are shooting footage for a Sonic movie. Sonic, in his modern incarnation at least, goes through this boom and bust cycle. Essentially, it starts with “OOO NEW SONIC GAME! YAY! PERHAPS IT WILL BE GOOD!”, followed by “THIS GAME IS NOT CRAP! YAY! PERHAPS IT WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME AND REVIVE THIS FRANCHISE” ending with “THIS GAME HAS LITTLE REPLAY VALUE AND I ACTUALLY CANNOT STAND THE STORY LINE, SONIC IS IN DECLINE AS A FRANCHISE!”. Caps rage aside, it’s the same old story, a constant rollercoaster with each new iteration of Sonic being hailed as a blessing before found out as lacking substance. Sonic is washed up, a celebrity you only hear from when they stumble out of rehab or get photographed shitting in a drinking fountain after a raging bender, he doesn’t land any major roles except in yearly crapfests and his only great role in recent memory was just a big ol’ dose of nostalgia with rose-tinted shades. So what should SEGA do now?

SEGA is not in a secure state, they almost had to sell out entirely and for a good while they have only existed as sofa crashers in Casa de Nintendo, paying rent in video games about sexy angel-slaying witches or hedgehogs that can travel through time to Camelot but they’re far from having a hit that gets the whole gaming community hooked and for every Bayonetta game we get, there’s a Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing to follow, a “Please, please buy something” bit of muck lobbed at us desperately with such uninspired DLC you half expect them to include Jerry, the guy who delivers sandwiches, as a payable add-on to the roster. SEGA cannot afford to fail again, they seriously can’t but with Sonic being a dead horse that has been flogged into puree, where can they look? Try fucking anywhere. Samba de Amigo Fitness Game! Golden Axe 3D! Alex Kidd: Return to the Enchanted Castle! Ecco the Dolph… no okay, maybe not, too far. Point is, SEGA is not short of franchises they can give some love, I’d be so glad to see Sword of Vermilion come back as a full scale hack and slash cross roleplaying game or Alex Kidd get the platform game spotlight for a while. Sonic is the company mascot, sure, but this insistence on reviving his brand means attaching his likeness to so many touch-and-go projects that you are putting your greatest name on sub-par products. You know what that makes Sonic? Johnny Depp in Lone Ranger – you reckon the famous face will print money but you ignore the fact you’re slapping a famous face on tinned dog muck instead of someone people want.

SEGA, you’ll never read this but it is just my opinion that you’ve hit a wall with Sonic, put him down, leave him alone for a few years until we forget the bitter taste of Sonic Boom and give old and new SEGA fans alike a reboot of something good like Altered Beast or Decap Attack (Seriously, Decap Attack 2, I’d pay good money, especially if the graphics were cleaner but kept that sorta goofy cheap Halloween vibe to them, imagine the possibilities!). You are an intelligent company, you have produced great games that were not Sonic games and you have characters galore you have barely scratched the potential of, many of them left untouched since the days of the Mega Drive. Bring them back – bigger, better and less desperate!