Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-10-26 06:06:35
The Reason Sonic the Hedgehog Sucks
It has been a long time since the developers at Sonic Team have come out with a good game. They have used the Sonic the Hedgehog license in recent years for all manner of strange video game machinations, and almost all of them have sucked. Of some of the latest games in the series, Sonic Colors was merely above average, and Sonic Generations was only mildly enjoyable because it recycled stages from the past, when Sonic was actually good on the Genesis. I am hesitant to give Sonic Team a free pass on Generations, given that it's basically just a remade compilation of past games; as a result, it's hardly surprising that it wasn't too bad.
But otherwise, Sonic has starred in a lot of shitty games recently, and, if we're purely going by critical reception, the best games he's appeared in for the last decade-and-a-half have been Nintendo games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl. That Sonic has now become a character who can only achieve critical stardom by latching onto Nintendo games is a sad sign for the hedgehog's durability as a gaming icon. This suggests something very pertinent to me: that Sonic Team seems fundamentally incapable of making a good Sonic game when left to their own designs.
Even when they try and take the blue blur 'back to his roots' they come up short - Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I/II were abhorrently dreadful 2D platformers for such a pivotal gaming icon, and felt nothing at all like their Genesis counterparts. The controls were off, the level designs were uninspired and clunky, the boss fights were horrific and the music was foul - four things that the original Sonic games excelled at.
When the developers at Sonic Team try and make a 3D Sonic game, they fall on their faces because they have yet to create an engine that makes it fun or reliable to control Sonic in a 3D environment. When they attempt to make a 2D Sonic game, they seem to be incapable of replicating the style, physics and speed of the Genesis titles - they resort to recycling level tropes and stuffing nostalgia down the throats of fans in the hope that it will mask their inadequacy to make an engaging Sonic experience. The real shame of it all is that the majority of the GBA and DS titles, such as the Advance series or the Rush games (where Sonic Team partner up with Dimps) are actually pretty good, making me wonder why they keep messing up so badly on the mothership titles of the series.
My detailed analysis of Sonic Lost World went into further detail on why Sonic Team consistently release bad Sonic games. Broadly speaking, though, it is clear that after the Genesis days Sonic Team didn't quite know how to move on with the series - they have tried all sorts of different styles of gameplay but have yet to find one that matches Sonic the Hedgehog on modern platforms. They have attempted to have a deep story involving humans (Sonic '06); they have given Sonic a sword (Sonic and the Black Knight); they have given Sonic's dark counterpart, Shadow, a gun (Shadow the Hedgehog); and they have turned Sonic into a 'Werehog' (Sonic Unleashed). Not once have they stuck with any of these mechanics, because none of them have worked well. The realisation seems to be that Sonic Team has no idea what it's doing any more when it comes to Sonic the Hedgehog - they'll try anything once, but so far none of their gambles have paid off.