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Ah, Sonic The Hedgehog. Not many franchises can claim as many highs and lows. I wish I could be excited for its 20th anniversary next year but if something that was supposed to be for the old fans (Sonic 4) can be completely busted in physics and control, I have to wonder what new lows the Sega-Sammy franchise wrecking machine is striving for. I actually do think next month's Sonic Colors looks quite nice in videos but it's most definitely still guilty until proven innocent.

Anyway, while I have long lost faith in official new Sonic releases, I do think back to what made me such a fan in the first place. For the entire decade prior to Sonic, platform games in their various forms were my favourite genre. Donkey Kong was my introduction and I found its "jump and run" gameplay more appealing than shooters, sports games, and other genres. I loved experiencing the evolution of these character-based jump and run games. Single-screen games evolved into flip-screen games and side-scrollers. Pretty soon there was a co-existence of mascot platformers, action platformers, puzzle platformers, platform/adventure games, run 'n guns, etc.. Most of those labels didn't exist yet but the genre and its hybrids had become quite varied even before Super Mario Bros..

As much as I loved the genre, by 1991 I wasn't expecting much in terms of gameplay innovation. It seemed like most concepts in 2d platform gaming had been done and all that was left was to make prettier versions of existing stuff with minor gameplay tweaks. Still, my expectations were high for Sonic given the hype from gaming mags.

I was determined to play the game day one. Back then "day one" meant calling around various stores to see where it arrived first. Official release days were virtually non-existent or at least not generally told to the public. As I expected a specialty store across town called Encore Video Games got it first out of the places I knew, and so I rented it. Besides being wowed by seeing the graphics in motion, what amazed me was the that it did manage to innovate in gameplay. Sure, the basic jumping and smacking enemies was familiar but smoothly rolling in and out of curved surfaces felt incredibly fresh. I wish I could articulate it better but this new take on play style, "living pinball" physics, and multi-layered level design combined with some of the best art direction around made it something special. It rightly deserved its GOTY awards.

It wasn't just the game itself I loved, it was its impact on the industry. For years, many excellent Sega games had been denied mainstream success. Sonic + proper advertising finally let the company and its game designers get some glory. That's not to say there weren't still plenty of underdogs or that Sega's corporate side was immune to shitty things (like censorship and stopping unlicensed stuff) but it was a healthier, more balanced industry overall than in the previous console gen.

Aside from some iffy level design in parts of Sonic & Knuckles, the 16-bit sequels were very well done. I was worried that Sega was releasing too many similar games too soon, though. I had hoped they would approach things like Nintendo was doing with Mario, i.e. differentiating the sequels and not releasing them so quickly. At least they weren't anywhere near as rehash-y as Mega Man. Of the sequels, Sonic CD had the biggest impact on me. I dug the time travel aspect, time attack, and the psychedelic atmosphere.

I'm not going to recap all the disappointing 3d Sonics but I did love the first Sonic Adventure and half of the sequel. I think what bothers me more than existence of shitty modern Sonics is that it seems like they have managed to damage respect of the Genesis classics to some degree. An example -
IGN Insider's Michael Thomsen goes so far to decree the whole franchise a sham from the beginning, saying "Our fondness for Sonic is a generational illusion."
Now, this piece of shit fanboy probably thought the same thing back then as well but the difference is that I doubt anyone in the early '90s media would actually say something like that and have it published. It's only because Sonic's reputation has gone to hell because of recent games.

I don't see Sega abandoning the franchise anytime soon. The games continue to sell regardless of quality. If it were up to me, I would take the ironic route by selling the franchise to Nintendo, and having EAD Tokyo do the next one. A more likely scenario for a quality Sonic game is that fan-made polygon Sonic 2 remake coming soon.

While I would like to see some great new Sonic games in the future, it won't affect my love for gaming at all if we don't. I have plenty of other games to look forward to, and in general I prefer seeing new stuff over sequels anyway (I'm really hoping Epic Mickey with its emergent design will be the next gameplay evolution for mascot platformers). It would be a real shame if future generations don't experience the classic Sonics, though. They have stood the test of time so far and I see no reason why they won't continue to do so.

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  1. Yoshi's Avatar
    I too was all in very early with Sonic. I remember selling my 1990 Leaf baseball card set to buy the version of the Genesis with Sonic as a pack-in when it was first released. My dad was pissed at hell at me, because the cards theoretically would continue to appreciate in value, while the games would not. It's ironic as hell that the opposite has happened, though obviously not with something as common as Sonic. I beat the game with all the Chaos Emeralds repeatedly, which was already odd for me by then. I was just about old enough to have a job, so the days of having to play the same games ad nauseum were at an end. But Sonic earned it. In fact, Sonic and ThunderForce III were probably the games I beat most often on the Genesis, if you throw out NHL and Street Fighter II: SCE.
  2. Satsuki's Avatar
    I was beyond obsessed with Sonic 2 when I was a kid, kind of to the point now where I don't really ever want to play it again. I think it is one of the few games I know inside out. I liked Sonic and Knuckles as well, but Knuckles sort of broke a couple of levels so he was the better character.
    I think in Simpsonsesque fashion, the Sonic series has gone on too long and should probably be put to sleep. But I suppose the Sonic name is the only thing making Sega any money at this point,
  3. kingoffighters's Avatar
    I thought Sonic 1 was amazing, the color, the music, the speed, it was truly a breakout game for the Genesis. While the later sequels were better games (especially Sonic CD), none of them has ever made the same impact as the first game. While some of the portable sequels were okay, none of the 3D games are even playable to me. This series is pretty much dead to me.
  4. CouryC's Avatar
    Totally agree, KOF. Sonic 1 is the only one that I truly loved, and play regularly to this day. I still have my release day copy of Sonic 1 - its one of those memories that I'll keep forever.
  5. Razor Ramon's Avatar
    Fuck Sonic.
  6. Chux's Avatar
    I didn't have a Genesis until way later, but my friends had them. It didn't stop me from getting to regionals on the Blockbuster Video Game Tournaments on a system I didn't own. I was also that jackass kid calling up Babbages and Software ETC to find out if Super Mario RPG or Final Fantasy III came out that day.
  7. Bacon McShig's Avatar
    It's kind of strange to me that, in this era of farming out games to western developers when their franchises aren't even in decline, Sega is content to sit idly by and let Sonic Team have carte blanche to cheapen the license with shitty game after shitty game. Even if handing an installment or two to western devs didn't turn out to make for a better game, at very least it would give the japanese devs a fucking rest. Sonic games are getting worse when you're cracking the whip on the same people to oversee three of them per year? No shit.
    Updated 16 Oct 2010 at 11:11 AM by Bacon McShig
  8. Diff-chan's Avatar
    I can't believe Sega fucked up Sonic 4 so bad, considering even fans have figured out the physics of the old titles.

    Maybe Sega should "crowdsource" these games and hire up some of the people making these fan tributes (they are all over the Youtubes) so people can be in charge who actually know what the fuck is going on.
  9. Rated E's Avatar
    Technically, my first video game experience was a brief encounter with Duck Hunt, but Sonic 1 was when I actually learned how to hold a controller and play video games. <3
  10. StriderKyo's Avatar
    'Our fondness for Sonic is a generational illusion' is the title of my new album, in stores November 14th. Just in time for the holidays.
    Updated 16 Oct 2010 at 07:43 PM by StriderKyo
  11. Fe 26's Avatar
    Sonic 1. Man. I still remember traveling all the way to Jackson Mississippi for that game. I remember lusting after it for months. I was crazy about robots as a little boy and Sonic was FULL of them. I had to have that game. I needed all those robots in my life.

    I remember my mom going shopping while we visited her sister in jackson. I'd finally managed to talk her into going to toysrus and I remember getting the paper slip and going up front for the game. I also remember that I had to wait two days before we went home so I could play it. I went over every page of the manual in those two days.


    the game was so good when I finally got to play it. I was hooked after that. I got every sonic on release after that. And I got a sega cd just to play sonic CD. I loved every one of them. Even Sonic R for the saturn. And I got the first 50 sonic comics and watched the cartoons.

    Those were the days of gaming for me. Those were the years that I was a "gamer." When the dreamcast failed, and sonic adventure 2 whatever came out, that all ended. I still play games, but that world doesn't have the magic it used to have.

    God. I love those old sonic games so much. I also don't know how I feel about Satsuki being better at Sonic 2 than me. I never could get passed the flying fortress. 9 times out of 10, Id fall to me death.

  12. ChaoofNee's Avatar
    Sonic is the part of my childhood that I can't even pass on to my little brother in good conscience anymore.

    Thanks, Sega.
  13. Frogacuda's Avatar
    The sad thing about garbage games like Sonic 4 is that they make people forget how really excellent the original trilogy was. I see reviews that praised Sonic 4 for living up to the original and gave it a 7/10. Like they recognized it wasn't great, but in their mind they made to that that was how it was supposed to be. That's really sad to me.
  14. MechDeus's Avatar
    Sonic Chaos was my favorite back in the day, followed by Sonic CD. Sonic 2 on GG always pissed me off, mostly because I would always get stuck on a stage that was nothing but springs and spikes with no way to tell where I was going to land.

    The Genesis ones were good, but I didn't get into them as much. The first was awesome back then, I don't think I cared much about part 2, Sonic 3 was cool, and I liked the idea of S&K but don't think I got to play it until it was an emulator years later.
  15. ChaoofNee's Avatar
    Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was like some twisted torture device. Some of those levels remind me of that flash game that surprises you with a cheap death no matter where you go.


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