Thursday, February 11, 2010

This looks amazing. Here are three ways to have it NOT suck, Sega.

Watch this.

Looks great, doesn't it? Here's how Sega can keep from screwing it up. Again.


I may be one of the only fans left keeping track, but ever since this generation started, Sonic Team's taken to promising the fans that each new title is a return to form, that we'll only be using Sonic, no sidekicks along for the ride, and that we'll do what he does best.

Then they turn it on us.

This bait-and-switch tactic worked with the godawful Sonic The Hedgehog when they pulled Shadow's vehicles and Silver's physics sandbox gameplay out of a hat months before release, and of course, in Sonic Unleashed when they revealed that Sonic would be transforming into a damned werehog, again veering off of normal Sonic gameplay and forcing players into a cheap, slow paced brawler. Oh yeah. They managed to sneak Tails and another new annoying sidekick in the form of Chip in there as well. Sega, understand that we don't need to play as Sonic, his brothers, sisters, extended family, second cousins, THEIR cousins, AND the black sheep inbetween. Running and jumping is a pastime in gaming that'll never grow old. Sonic doing this has not gotten old. Variety of this sort is atrocious and the #1 thing ruining Sonic games post 1995.


2 - More Platforming, less (yes, I said LESS) Speed.

Ever since Sonic's transition from 2D to 3D, the design seems to have been running in reverse. Sonic games of the Genesis era were tricky, filled with secrets, and had great platforming in huge, multi-tiered levels. Almost as if it were a present for making it through, they were always bookended with short stretches that allowed Sonic to show off his trademark speed. They were brief moments, but they were always rewarding and a blast to experience.

(What a REAL Sonic level used to look like. Click to enlarge)

Sonic games in the post-Dreamcast era have had an emphasis on speed, with platforming either falling by the wayside, or being an afterthought. This has forced the game's structure into a psuedo on rails trial-and-error affair, with success coming not from how well tuned your reflexes are, but how well you've memorized a stage after failing countless times. Even my recent favorite of the series, Sonic Unleashed suffers from this. The stages are amazing rollercoaster rides, yes, but the bottleneck it forces players into, essentially having to play a level the way the developers want you to instead of encouraging exploration and multiple paths is one of the things that has been killing the series since 2000.

A return to the secret filled, challenging platform days would be amazing. Sonic's fast. This has been established. But it's a character trait, not a singular gameplay rule. Imagine if everything Mario did in his games was centered around plumbing.


3 - Please no "epic" plotlines.

Am I the only person who remembers when Sonic was just a tree hugging, chili dog eating, 'tude filled advocate for animal rights? Robotnik captures the animals and enslaves them, then Sonic sets out to rescue them. That's the motivation. All Mario had was a princess, a bunch of mushroom men, or his brother, but Sonic? He was rescuing the entire damn wilderness. But while Mario has been content rescuing Peach for over 20 years with nary a deviation in plot, Sonic's adventures just keep getting more epic, and simultaneously more ridiculous. Emerald legends, strange relics, plots to destroy the earth, mystical beings, clones, prophetic destinies, it ended up coming to a head (at least for me) in 2006 when he had a love interest in Princess Elise.


I don't need to explain what's wrong with this picture and I'm not going to. All I'm going to say is, if I get ahold of this and I find some radical overarching plot that involves Sonic being thrown back in time due to the activation of a mystical device powered by the tears of an ancient mole race who've been controlling time through the whims of a mystical plant being who speaks through his ass, I'm going down to San Francisco myself and shooting someone in the face.

Sega, you look over this carefully and we'll be golden. Otherwise, you're bound to lose a longtime fan. I know I'm not the only one tired of perpetuating The Sonic Cycle over and over again.

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