Tag Archives: sonic

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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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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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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