Tag Archives: Sonic the Hedgehog

RIP Archie Sonic Comic

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After several months of uncertainty, SEGA and Archie Comics finally confirmed they’re cancelling the Sonic the Hedgehog comics. I don’t know about you, but for me this is the end of an era.

I’m not gonna try to argue about how good the comics actually were for the 24 years Archie did them, but I am going to try to impart a sense of how and why they meant so much to me as well as other readers. In most news stories about Archie’s Sonic comics you’ll probably hear that the mainline Sonic the Hedgehog series was the longest-running comic based on a video game, but for readers it was really a story in itself, one that in many ways went above and beyond everything that happened with the games. Continue reading

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Sonic Mania And Sonic Fan Cynicism

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For the 25th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog SEGA at Comic-Con announced its latest attempt to revive its mascot franchise. While recognizing that we Sonic fans are going through the Sonic Cycle again, we also have to admit that Sonic Mania is probably the company’s most earnest and promising attempt yet. We want to be excited, but hate ourselves for getting wrapped up in this mess again. Continue reading

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Why Sonic Is Still Important to Me After 25 Years

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I probably noted it when I charted all the major gaming anniversaries of 2016 back in January, but this wave of anniversaries caught me by surprise. This week saw not only Quake and Super Mario 64 hit major anniversaries, but also Sonic the Hedgehog. I feel like I have to type something about Sonic because it was a pillar of my childhood. Continue reading

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Video Game Anniversaries That Will Occur in 2016

Here it is — the list of what gaming-related anniversaries I found are taking place in 2016. This year is a big one too. A lot of major franchises are celebrating major anniversaries, to the point where some other websites have already taken notice. Red Bull in particular is totally on it. Many publishers of these major games have already begun to mark the anniversaries with new game releases too.

Part of this is because 2016 marks a major anniversary for at least two past console cycle transitions. This year it will have been 15 years since 2001, which was not only when the Gamecuube and original Xbox launched, but also when the PS2 received an absolutely monstrous lineup that included the beginnings of some franchises and major entries in others. 20 years ago was 1996 which was a transformative year in 3D video game design — three of the most influential 3D games came out that year. 1991, 1986, and 1981 also saw some major beginnings and landmarks a lot of people might not notice today. Continue reading

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The Game Gear’s Lessons After 25 Years

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There sure are some anniversaries going down in October 2015, so it might look like I’m putting these kinds of posts out in rapid fire. Maybe it’s gonna be like this every fall since that’s usually the biggest season for game releases. Today’s post is about a platform though, and a Japanese release from the early 90’s at that. Continue reading

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The Completion of Taxman And Stealth’s Sonic [Updated]

Correction: I’ve only just now become aware of the involvement of the entire other half of the team behind the classic Sonic remasters — Simon “Stealth” Thornley. This blog post has been updated to include Stealth’s role in the projects. My sincerest apologies.

I’ve been aware of Christian “Taxman” Whitehead’s efforts to remaster Sonic The Hedgehog 3 for a while, but never really paid them a whole lot of attention. It’s only now after someone asked me to bring some attention to the petition for its release that I’ve investigated the project and become a lot more interested in maybe one day playing it. My only reservations are regarding platforms and support. Continue reading

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25 Years Of SEGA Genesis: My Personal Experience

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This one kind of went right by me, but the SEGA Genesis turned 25 years old in North America this week. I didn’t even put it on my 2014 anniversaries list. I personally had a simultaneously close and distant relationship with the console.

The Genesis was basically my first experience with a “next-gen” leap. My earliest memories are of Mario and Ninja Turtles on the NES, and soon after being exposed to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. If you’re familiar with Sonic 2’s release date along the Genesis’ lifespan, then you already know how old the Genesis already was by the time I got into it. Truth be told I didn’t even own one until 1995 — the year before I got a Nintendo 64. Despite that, the Genesis was host to some of my most beloved childhood gaming.

Compared to the original Super Mario Bros.Sonic 2’s speed, loops, graphics, and sound encapsulated the first time I thought a game had reached the “next level.” It was like a kid having been raised on Grand Theft Auto III (as messed-up as that sounds) all of a sudden being exposed to Grand Theft Auto V. I think that was the start of how I pretty much grew up on Sonic. I say that as someone who simultaneously still reads the Sonic Archie comic book and avoids the part of Sonic fandom that get’s so much ridicule these days.

You see, I spent my formative years in the 90’s console war — the vicious schoolyard arguments between Super Nintendo and Genesis. For most of that time I was firmly in the SNES camp, spending my time on games like Super Mario WorldTurtles in Time, and Final Fantasy VI. Despite that, I had to have Sonic. It was most of the reason I went to other kids’ houses. When I eventually did get a Genesis it was basically a Sonic player, and that was enough.

On it I mastered Sonic 3 — my personal top game ever, and spent who knows how many hours cracking the original SonicSonic 2, and Sonic & Knuckles. On top of that the Genesis became the center of things whenever friends gathered at my house. Sonic 2 in particular was a main multiplayer game for that era in my experience. Thinking back it’s kind of odd Sonic multiplayer never became much of a thing afterwards. Even more odd is how nobody picked it back up since the old Sonic games became available on pretty much every modern system (even phones). Maybe Sonic multiplayer was the first real casualty of the fall of that franchise. In any case, it helped build friendships.

That was pretty much my entire old school experience with the Genesis, which brings me to my strangest point: most of my SEGA Genesis gaming is probably ahead of me. In recent years as I’ve discovered retro game shops, my library of Genesis games has grown alongside my SNES and N64 libraries. You’d be surprised how cheaply you can find Genesis classics like Revenge of ShinobiSpace Harrier 2Aladdin, the Illusion games, and X-Men 2: Clone Wars, most of them in their original boxes. I even managed to track down hidden gems like Mystic Defender and Ranger X for barely any money. And then you’ve got SEGA’s own Genesis classic collections, particularly the one on Steam. For like $10 I was able to legally get over 30 Genesis classics running on my PC.

I still haven’t played any Streets of Rage games, RistarPhantasy Star, or the Shining Series, and I’ve only barely touched Treasure’s Genesis works like Gunster Heroes and Dynamite Headdy, but they’re all sitting on my backlog. I’m just waiting for the right time to dive headfirst into that library.

BULLETS:

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Freedom Planet Might Be The Best New Indie Release That’s Getting No Coverage

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Fan art by Gashi Gashi (http://gashi-gashi.deviantart.com/art/Freedom-Planet-Artwork-359546496

This is another one of those “under-the-radar indie game alerts” I like to do from time to time, but this is probably the biggest one I’ve done on this blog yet. This goes double if you were ever a fan of SEGA’s Genesis/Mega Drive action games. In relation to its apparent quality and craftsmanship, Freedom Planet could end up being one of the most criminally underrated indie games of 2014, right alongside Oniken.

This is also a case for why you should scroll down Steam’s New Release section every now and then. It’s filled with trash these days (which I honestly think makes it look more representative of the gamut of PC gaming), but there are still gems that might not make it onto a featured page. I think Freedom Planet is one of them, and I would never have even heard of it had I not scanned Steam’s New Releases on Monday.

After a quick search through well-known gaming websites, only Destructoid and Eurogamer have briefly mentioned it over the last couple years. Apparently this game got some love from niche fans when they released a demo in 2012 (which is still available at the game’s main website) and when it blasted through its kickstarter last year. It’s hard to say how much attention Freedom Planet will get now that it’s fully launched.

Basically, an indie developer set out to do what SEGA hasn’t been able to do in arguably 20 years — make a good Sonic game. Shovel Knight is getting all the love for being a great 2014 NES game, and in the same vein Freedom Planet is basically a 2014 Genesis game. It’s more than that though. After trying the demo and watching the launch trailer, it comes off as an impressively comprehensive love letter to fans of the Genesis Sonic games, the Saturday morning TV show, and the Archie comic. A significant dash of Gunstar Heroes is also immediately apparent. Others have made comparisons to Ristar, Dynamite Headdy, and Rocket Knight.

You run through side-scrolling levels that are designed with real intricacy and craft. A lot of Sonic’s old gimmicks are there as the game shamelessly employs springs, ramps, and loops. But, Freedom Planet doesn’t hesitate to employ things I never saw in Genesis-era Sonic. It’s definitely not just you running forward — it doesn’t just leave it all up to speed, employing some light puzzle-solving and multi-layered paths. The enemies are surprisingly varied too, smartly utilizing the game mechanics. One level in the demo even does something with its boss we don’t see enough — have that boss flee and then reappear to harass you in interesting ways throughout the second half of the level. The specific game of which Freedom Planet reminds me the most is Sonic 3.

Where Freedom Planet seems to go beyond “good Sonic game” and into “love letter” territory is its presentation and story. Basically, it tries to be a Sonic game with a storyline reminiscent of the Saturday AM TV show or the comic. As the opening prologue plays — entirely in the gameplay engine like many Genesis games, there’s a sense of a story that’s serious while also trying to stay within 90’s children’s TV standards. The villain is a cartoon villain, but his goal seems more complex than initially let on. Then they throw in some political conflict for good measure. Freedom Planet also employs a surprising amount of voiced dialogue which I’ll say isn’t terrible. It’s definitely a shade above “fan production” quality, maybe even in-tune with the era of entertainment it’s trying to evoke.

Maybe one reason Freedom Planet might not get the attention it deserves is precisely because of the fan base it appeals to. As soon as someone sees its anthropomorphized animals they might take it to be a game for furry fandom which has kind of a bad name in general “nerddom.” That itself has been attached to the reputation of people who still hang on to the Sonic license (the circles admittedly intersect). I think the weirdest parts of those communities have made people forget there was a time when furry characters with attitude were cool. Freedom Planet seems like a look back at that entire era. Plus, Dust: an Elysian Tail was good right?

BULLETS:

  • Pretty touching story of someone discovering their deceased father’s ghost in a racing game. http://t.co/X3D6sFGxmR
  • What is this thing? http://t.co/6Iznwqf0sk It can’t just be a router.
  • The third Witcher novel came out in the US some time ago.
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What Is It With Sonic?

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So. Sonic the Hedgehog and all his friends are getting redesigned and rebooted. Again, with a new game and TV series. Is there really any hope left for the franchise at this point? I think the problem is a combination of SEGA’s aims and the search for development talent for the franchise.

This is at least the second time Sonic has gone through a major redesign. Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles — the last indisputably good Sonic games (others have their fans), will be turning 20 years old this year. I don’t have much hope for the new Sonic Boom game, and I’m done giving and listening to input on how to make Sonic games good again. Maybe instead we should look at other franchises that have faced the same challenges and overcome them, and think about what the problem is with Sonic.

Sonic is a franchise that failed to overcome what TVTropes likes to call the “Polygon Ceiling.” That is, when console gaming moved from 2D to 3D on the N64 and PS1, a lot of old franchises had to redefine themselves to keep with the times. Pretty much all of Nintendo’s franchises successfully made the leap sooner or later, but many others did not.

Castlevania is only just now finding some success with the Lords of Shadow series which has dragged it from handheld obscurity. Capcom has pretty much allowed Mega Man to fade away completely. Konami just basically put a bullet in Bomberman’s head. Sonic is of course the most famous trainwreck. In many ways you could actually say Japanese game design in general had a rough time transitioning into 3D.

With Sonic in particular I think SEGA tries too hard to parrot other popular games. Sonic Adventure tried to ape Mario 64’s model with mixed results. Sonic Unleashed kept elements of that outdated system and even threw in a God of War rip-off side to the game. Sonic The Lost World basically tried to be “Sonic Galaxy.” Actually that game brings me to the other problem — Sonic trying to follow the apparent rules of big-budget games.

Lost World tried to introduce this new cast of cartoon villains with their own cut scenes, voice acting, and whatnot. This is basically a continuation of the embarrassingly grandiose storyline of the 2006 Sonic The Hedgehog and the characters Unleashed introduced. Lost World didn’t feel much better to me. Meanwhile, people like to make fun of Nintendo for either repeating the same premise in every Mario game or having basically no storyline at all. For games like these I’d honestly prefer no story to what SEGA keeps trying to do. Why can’t we just go back to the short event scenes we had on the Genesis?

What I’m saying is, Sonic needs to be Sonic. SEGA even tried this with Sonic the Hedgehog 4, which turned out to be a digital-only repurposed mobile game. SEGA seems to believe a retail game needs to “feel big” by having complex gameplay and stories, while Nintendo doesn’t really give a crap. No one criticizes the Mario games for being about platforming and absolutely nothing else. They aren’t afraid to be pure, straight-up platformers in retail boxes with full price tags.

Furthermore, Nintendo was willing to change the workings of Mario, Zelda, and Metroid at near fundamental levels with the move to 3D. In the process Nintendo wrote the book on 3D platformers and 3D action adventure games while still maintaining the spirit and structure of their franchises. Even Capcom managed to re-think Mega Man into Mega Man Legends, though it wasn’t commercially successful. SEGA hasn’t really tried to do anything new with Sonic that some other developer hadn’t done.

Though maybe that’s because Mario games still have some of the top designers in the industry working on them. SEGA hasn’t really displayed that level of talent in a Sonic game since 1994, if even then by some accounts. Actually, the main level designer for the Genesis Sonic games left after Knuckles, moved to Naughty Dog where he worked on Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted, and apparently now works at Nintendo. Huh.

Actually, some Uncharted veterans are working on Sonic Boom. Maybe hiring western designers is a needed change (some of the Genesis games were done in the US), but I still don’t know about the approach they’re taking with that game.

Maybe franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid being able to transition into 3D with such immaculate results just shows how damn good Nintendo is. They’ve been able to retain their game design leads for 25+ years while the SEGA we knew in the 90’s was gutted circa 2004 when all its development studios were reorganized. For most intents and purposes, the SEGA that made Sonic what it was on the Genesis isn’t really the SEGA that’s trying to keep the franchise relevant now.

All I can really hope for now is that this “renaissance” SEGA’s talking about doesn’t flow back into the Archie comic which has recovered greatly in the last couple years and is going through a reboot as we speak. The last 20 issues or so in particular have been some of the most exciting I’ve read in a long time and I hope its new writers can keep this going.

BULLETS:

  • My custom cover art for Bravely Default. http://t.co/vimC0DAalH
  • My Steam user reviews for Spec Ops: The Line and Dishonored are now up through the link above under “My Work.”
  • Nice descriptive video on FRACT OSC. http://t.co/2hoS87RWaL
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