How Sega All But Ruined Sonic the Hedgehog

 Sega’s Blue Blur was a whirlwind of excitement in the early 1990’s. Nintendo had a magical formula in the Super Mario Bros series and every other developer had their run and jump Mario clones. Sega on the other hand, took the platforming genre to the next level by taking advantage of their new Genesis console (and it’s infamous “Blast Processing“) to introduce a new blazing-fast rodent by the name of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Digg!

Speed, however was not Sonic’s lone gimmick. The landmark series on the Genesis also introduced unique elements such as the then jaw-dropping loops, super spin dash, psychedelic bonus rounds, and impressive boss battles with Dr. Robotnik’s mechanical creations.

While the Super Mario Bros. franchise was definitely colored with personality and great gameplay, the Sonic the Hedgehog titles on the Genesis and Sega CD offered an very exciting alternative to those that weren’t Nintendo fanboys.

Powered by the success of Sonic and their other cutting edge games, Sega had a great marketshare during the 16-bit era. However, they started to fall apart as they aimed to jump ahead of its competitors in the 32-bit market and beyond. The commercial failure of its newer hardware was unfortunately timed with the decline of the Sonic franchise.

While I love the Sega Saturn and its cult classic favorites, it never brought Sega fans the real Sonic game that it desired. Sega started with a Genesis and Saturn release of Sonic 3D Blast which turned out to be slow-paced and boring at times — quite the opposite of the Sonic games fans had been used to.

Sega had a great deal of inner conflict trying to develop a true 3D Sonic game (which was known as Sonic X-treme) and the closest substitute Saturn owners experienced was Sonic R, which was essentially a cart-racer without the carts.

 Sega eventfully gave up on the Sonic X-treme project (and the Saturn for that matter) and set its sights on the possibilities that the Dreamcast held.

With Sonic Adventure, Sega fans finally had their fully 3D Sonic action game. Sonic Adventure had a tremendous amount of promise as the first level (which was playable on the pre-launch demo) was incredibly fast and was filled with breathtaking graphics that seemed to exceed how every Sonic fan had envisioned the Green Hill Zone would be in a 128-bit wonderland. (Nobody can forget the killer whale-bridge scene)

But all was not perfect with Sonic Team’s newest creation. In reality, very few of the subsequent levels even came close to living up to the high standards that the demo created. Instead, the game was filled with slow and annoying “exploration” areas that turned off many gamers that were expecting fast-paced action.

Sonic Adventure 2 ditched the exploration areas, but instead added more levels that required you to play as other less-interesting characters that had you perform more tedious tasks such as “find the lost emeralds”. Not the idea of fun for a typical Sonic fan. To make matters worse, once words started coming out of Sonic’s mouth, the game was to the point of being an embarrassment to watch. Characters we all used to enjoy such as Tails and Knuckles all became an annoyance and a joke.

 It was clear at this point that Sega had lost sight of what worked in the minds of Sonic’s most dedicated fans and had also failed to bring the sense of speed and tight control to the 3D world.

Once the novelty of Sonic Adventure’s slick graphics wore off, the more experienced gamers realized this wasn’t nearly the same game they had grown up with.

Gone were the intense sense of speed and the awe-inspiring loops. Instead, you were treated to a temperamental 3D camera that was more of an annoyance than a benefit.

The Dr. Robotnik we grew up with and his sweet robotic monsters had also experienced a peculiar makeover for the worse. Sonic Adventure ushered in re-branded “Dr. Eggman” and replaced his cool mechanical boss battles with strange creatures and dim-witted schemes to collect Chaos Emeralds.

Once Sega made its full transition away from the hardware business and developed multi-platform games, they unloaded a series of quickly-developed titles that pulled even further away from the core focus and did more to damage Sonic’s reputation.

Sega’s first original multi-platform Sonic game was Sonic Heroes. Heroes took some of the best aspects of the Sonic Adventure series and put a new spin on them. However, that spin consisted of forcing players to use teams of three characters at a time, when the entire time, fans wanted to play ONLY as Sonic. It also seemed to focus less on speed and reaction time and brought it more into the league of typical platform games as opposed to the high standards that Sonic was once known for.

To give Sonic Heroes some credit, it did go back to the 16-bit roots in terms of level design and the overall look and feel. Sonic Heroes got a little bit closer on fixing some of these crucial things but still managed to screw up other aspects. It’s such a shame that things went downhill after that.

As much as everyone tries to forget about it, Sega somehow thought that the best way to solve the fact that the Sonic franchise was getting tired was to have a game centered around Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow was supposed to be the Sonic for the hardcore gamers that needed a ro ugh edge. (And I thought all this time, Sonic was the cool hedgehog with the attitude.)

As soon as everybody laid their eyes on the promotional artwork and screenshots filled with the pistol-packing hedgehog, the gaming community knew Sega was losing it.

Instead of renewing interest in the Sonic universe, Shadow the Hedgehog fell on its face and was mocked by reviewers around the globe. Again, some players enjoyed the game, but it really strayed from the Sonic formula.

Sega followed up Shadow with Sonic Riders, a racing title that was essentially “Sonic R 2.0”. While I appreciate Sega trying to emphasize Sonic’s speed capabilities (even though the game was not as fast as it should have been), it wasn’t a true Sonic games and was way too rushed to be taken seriously. Instead, it turned out to be a shallow F-Zero clone thrown out on the marketplace to make some quick change.

As the new generation of platforms emerged, Sega used Sonic as a way to show off their newest graphical technologies. There is no doubt that the new Sonic the Hedgehog for the XBox 360 looks nice, but as the abysmal reviews indicate, graphics are not everything.

 In order to push its cutting-edge graphics to the limit, Sega, in their infinite wisdom, felt the need to bring Sonic and his friends into a more realistic world, filled with life-like humans. As you can see from this video, there is something creepy about some giant hedgehogs interacting with humans.

My point is that Sega doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do with Sonic. It seems like Sega assigns various quick-and-dirty development projects in order to see what ideas sticks with consumers. Unfortunately, Sega fans have had to suffer through this process.

Sega’s one redeeming endeavor has been the portable titles. The Sonic Advance series has at least replicated the original Sonic experience about as much as the GBA could, and Sonic Rush on the DS was probably the best Sonic game in over a decade. (Although, the really botched the new Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the GBA)

Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush are essentially the only Sonic games since the Genesis (sans the initial buzz of Sonic Adventure) that the majority of hardcore fans have actually spoke positively about. One would think that maybe Sega would try to go back bringing the series back to its roots more in order to succeed. (Read How Sega Can Bring Sonic Back To His Glory)

As we turn back to look at Nintendo and what they did with the Mario franchise, you will notice that The Big N took their time developing the N64 (remember THAT wait?) and polished Mario 64 in order to maintain its magical feel and bringing a consistent experience to the third dimension. Even though Mario fans would gladly welcome more traditional Mario games, Nintendo kept the pace slow in order to keep the standards high.

Sega needs to take a long look at Sonic and decide where the games of the past really shine and focus on those aspects and those alone instead of doing even more damage.

Personally, I believe the Sonic thrives in 2D and the third dimension should be used on Sonic Team’s other fan favorite NiGHTS into Dreams. Once Sega stays focused on creating killer gameplay in stead of the quick dollar, Sonic may be brought back to his former glory.

Part 2 – How To Fix Sonic
I followed this post up with my expanded thoughts on what Sega can do to make Sonic successful with both hardcore and casual gamers.

Related Posts:
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Sega’s Best Genesis Moving To PSP and PS2
Getting The Most Out of Your Dreamcast
New Nights Into Dreams Coming To Revolution?
Classic Franchises That Actually NEED a Resurrection
Classic Game Franchises We May See Again Soon
The Best Graphics on the Dreamcast

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206 Comments

Rhamos says:

I couldn’t agree more, Racketboy. I grew up with Sonic. I remember being a little kid, and asking Santa for a SNES and then getting a Genesis and Sonic 2 for Christmas. I was dissapointed at first, but that all went away after being completely immersed into the world and it’s incredible speed. I beat the game within a few months, and the game made my mom quit playing games altogether (She just couldn’t get passed Oil Ocean Zone. hehe).

I think though, that the major problem here is that the Sonic games aren’t FOR us anymore. Us being the people who grew up with the original Sonic. The entire franchise is geared toward the modern retarded youth who watch the modern retarded Sonic animes and whatnot. It’s aimed at an entirely new generation who’ve been (in my opinion) raised with low standards when it comes to video games. I mean, for the most part, the next gen consoles are a freakin’ joke! Sure, they’re insanely more powerful, but they’re insanely less imaginative, original and all-round enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE good games for these newer consoles, I just prefer the retro games.
But anyway, yes. I feel that these days Sonic is geared to a completely new generation who really probably don’t even know that Sonic existed before their time and how much better he used to be. And for the record, I think that Dr. Eggman is THE single most, uninspired, unoriginal, pointless, unimaginative, and just plain unecessary character in video gaming history. Even moreso than Shadow or or the other hedgehogs. Rest in peace, Sonic. Your glory days are gone. *sniff*

Kyle says:

from someone who plays sonic 3 on top of knuckles at least once every six months since 1996;

Sega, make sonic 4. Take a note from NEW super mario brothers. Revive your beloved series with brilliant 3D graphics in fantastic 2D worlds.

Tray says:

Look no further sonic fans i have the answer to why our hero sonic has fallen. First off it seems kinda fishy that the sonic games have went downhill after sonic adventure2 well it may enlighten you to know that sonic teams lead man yuji naka, the mastermind behind all sonic games up to sa2, along with ten others have up and left sonic team under his lead. Yuji Naka began getting tired of focusing on old franchises all the time and wanted to focus on new games for the new generation of people so he left the team and said if anyone wants to come with me nows your chance so 10 people joined with him(most of wich where also crucial to the team) and left to form the new “prope” team. I am pretty sure that most of them didn’t leave because they wanted to start something new but because they knew sonic would die without him and that it would be useless to stay however the remainder of the team stood strong with sonic and beleived that they could still amaze the world without him and his group of traitors. Now for the second reason, everyone knows that mario and all other first party nintendo games are almost always good and of high quality why do you think this is? It is because the games are first party meaning that nintendo is these games home, meaning that if mario entered his home on a dark night he would easily find his way around his house and turn on the lights. Also he can go to his kitchen and prepare a sloppy joe and eat it whilst getting it all over the kitchen table, and then take his clothes off and leave them on the floor before going to sleep, but it doesn’t matter because that is his house meaning that all nintendo first party game developers know all of the ins and outs, as well as limitations of their sytem. so you may have noticed that all of the good sonic games where on the sega consoles that is because sega are now guests in the home of nintendo theyre not familiar with the sytem so its hard to make good games (its already hard enough with yuji and the 10 traitors gone) they need to follow rules etc. Also nintendo can tell sega that they want 2 games by christmas and they’ll have to scramble and make them even if they only have 2 months to do so!(look at all the smash brothers brawl delays) So there are your reasons no more wondering and complaining ok? sonic team is doing the best that they can with their terrible situation. But do not give up hope sega is now working with dimps on the sonic rush series that is why sonic rush was so good, and hopefully those 2 teams will make a comeback if they keep working together, and maybe they’ll even continue the adventure series after they gain more momentum. By the way sa2 was one of my favorite games, i really liked how every character had there own musical theme especially knuckles hip hop theme(pumpkin hill ftw!!), and shadows heavy metal theme, and i absolutely loved the choa gardens and choas emerald hunt levels the story was excelent too with many twists, i cannot see how you don’t like the story it beats many other sonic storys and the storys of most other games in general, its on par with twilight princess’s story in my oppinion. so many memories…i also think sonic 3 is the best 2d sonic game of all time.

dylan says:

i think the only sonic games i havent played are rush, rivals, secret rings, blast, and sonic jam, and the only sonic games i think were bad were basically evry game gear title, 3d blast, spinball, and mean bean machine. every other sonic game kicked ass. while the recent 3d games have suffered poor camera angles, and the new one on 360 looks like they put it together in a week, i think sega will pull through EVENTUALLY and make a game where EVERY character has there own FULL story line, all of there moves, old and new, useable, and eggman be the main villain, and maybe the return of the hyper forms.

thats just me though

dylan says:

also, i feel sega should have made all these new 3d games (the ones after sonic adventure) the same as the adventure games, but with more moves and power ups, more playable characters, same storylines as shadow and heroes and crap, but just with better graphics. if sonic heroes, shadow, and sonic360 were just graphically enhanced sequels to the adventure series, than these articles about “how sonic is dead” and all that other stuff, wouldnt even exist, and bush wouldnt be attack iraq.

anthony says:

personally i agree with tray. he’s right the sonic team isn’t formilliar with the soft wear so give them a break.i have played every sonic game made and was satisfied with every one. i have just started playing (sonic and the secret rings) and it’s great.also nintendo did rush them on the new games (sonic the hedgehog) and (sonic rivals). so all im saying is to not give up on sega because you know and i know that the sonic team will come threw for us.and if you don’t like the new 3-D sonic games your crazy and maybe you just shouldn’t play 3-D adventure games

sam says:

ha none of this makes sense especially about next Gen thats the best game EVER made and always will be

sam says:

next Gen is the best game EVER made and always will be

Ben kramer says:

What I’m seriously confused with is that WHO THE HELL IS BOLSTRIKE OR ANY OF THESE BOGUS HEDGEHOGS!!! I mean, what kind of name is mable the hedgehog! THESE PEOPLE FROM SEGA ARE SCREWING UP SONIC LIKE THEY DONT GIVE A S*** ABOUT THEIR FANS! -_- im just angry with these last . . .i dont know 22 characters that have never been in the games like the alligator the bee and the pigmy rhino -.-.

dylan says:

who the hell are bolstrike and mable the hedgehog?

Tiki says:

Dude how old are you? what 12. You should defiantly be more appreciative of the early Sonic games that came out, they gave birth to what we have today, whats this about blaming Sega (WTF). Were you expecting Sonic on Nintendo/SNES. This is another lame person who knows nothing about Gaming…

racketboy says:

Your comment makes little sense… It seems to contradict itself.
Who are you even talking to? If you don’t think I’m appreciative of early Sonics, you haven’t been paying attention.

Sonic says:

I agree with this article almost completely.I think that Sonic games should Spread through different systems even if they are against it.Sonic riders could have been alot faster and had more blur affect,I was dissapointed when Sonic the Hedgehog was’nt sold for the Wii(but sonic and the secret rings is still a good game to me),theres always a different setting in sonic games(I wish they would bring back places and characters like the Land of the Sky and Sara from the movie),its not that I hate any of the other characters but I liked it better when it was only Sonic knuckles and tails(Character always have somthing knuckles a has rouge tails has robots and what does sonic have he’s main charater,he save the day, and amy………NOOOOOOOOOO thats really embarasing… although all of the characters have somthing it(except sonic) wasnt enough then they came up with hyper shadow and hyper silver(really the only thing that sonic has is that hes fast ang goes super)I didn’t really like that they were cool enough before then ),and it was kinda lame when sonic came up with all of these thumbs up and stuff.Im always a sonic fan though)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….One Question shadow died in sonic Adventure 2, had a clone in sonic heroes,Omega blew the clones up where are all of these other shadow coming from if not the same clone from sonic heroes???????????????????????????????????????????????????

Ёж Тень says:

А у нас в России игры HIGCHS не продают. Но я помню, что это фиолетовое существо было в игре “Sonic Adventure DX” . Ещё тогда, кагда Sonic заходил в Казино.

Phil says:

I totally disagree with the above article. The Sonic and Shadow levels in the Sonic Adventure games captured the speed and fun of the 2-d games perfectly. The Speed Highway and Battle Radical Highway stages were nothing BUT speed. And the visual effect of going through some of those loop de loops was unmatched in the 16-bit games especially when you were going upside down

The complaints about camera angles and controls are just excuses for lack of skill as I got high ranks in a few levels in both games and never had much trouble with any stage. I think there is a youtube video or two of people A ranking stages and making it look easy

The only real flaws were that they tried too hard to work other characters into the story and gameplay and it hurt both games a bit(though SOME of the other character levels were kind of fun in my opinion). Also, the adventure elements in the first one were pointless. Those are the VALID flaws in my personal opinion.

Despite this, the falsehood that the two games were failures(a lie which many gamers try to pass off as fact)is proven wrong by simply going to http://www.gamerankings.com and seeing the review scores both games received.

I’m not saying I don’t think the games were flawed, but when you were playing as Sonic or Shadow, everything was just as awesome as the old games and the end game bosses in both games(particularly the one in the first game)were very impressive

Phil says:

And when I mention the gamerankings scores I am referring specifically to the scores the original Dreamcast games got as I believe later ports got lower scores for reasons dealing more with the ports themselves than the quality of the original games

racketboy says:

I never said the entire Sonic Adventure games were bad.
Actually, I usually enjoyed the Sonic and Shadow levels (and sometimes the Robotnik ones), but the rest of the characters where the problem.

But I still prefer the 2D gameplay of the older games and Sonic Rush

chris says:

iv said it once ilsay it again here theres nothing like the old sonics i grew up playing thes games on the mega drive they were great up until the last great sonic game was sonic 3 were u first meet knuckels than sega just tryd to hard its a shame

brnliby says:

i think the guy who said all that stuff above is wrong they’ve made some dissapointing games yeah but hey it beats mario by far and so what doesnt every game company make at least one bad game. But i do agree with what you said about the sonic 2 characters and sonic rush is excellent ye but sonic and that lass aint creepy but mario is all im saying is sonic beats mario anyday and some things you’ve put i think are wrong BUT thats just my opinion don’t have a go at me please.

Eric says:

Do you hate Sonic or something? 3-D Games like SA2 and Sonic Heroes were pretty good. Sonic DX for Gamecube was good execpt for Big and Knuckles.

racketboy says:

Obviously, you didn’t read everything.
I love Sonic. And you would have noticed that I said SA2 wasn’t bad. As you kinda elluded to, I liked the Sonic levels for the most part, but the games weren’t as good with Knuckles, Big, etc.

Read this follow-up:
http://www.racketboy.com/retro/2006/12/how-sega-can-bring-sonic-hedgehog-back.html

Bonnie (Hellsorb) says:

I love the Sonic Adventure series and the retros the best. Sonic Adventure 2 was the crowning glory when it came to Sonic 3D. Sega put it all into it hoping to survive. It was fast, play Final Rush sometime if you don’t think so.^^ I admit I’d like to see an end or much less shooting and hunting stages. I’d like it if there either were stages all characters could get through differently(fly, run up walls or glide/climb.) (Thats not so different from Sonic and Knuckles and Sonic Adventure.) Or stages build for each character. Another thing, for the hard core gamers the stages DON’T have to be realistic. They should look at the wild random stuff of the Marble garden zone. They can add a theme after they design it. They can get rid of the “Chase scenes” they are getting tiring. I do give Sonic Heroes credit for Bingo highway, that was a good stage. The rest was either repetitive or slow(frog forest, please shoot me>

Arshfard Tendinum says:

I don’t like any 3D Sonic games. They all suck in my opinion. The 16 bit Sonic games were the best. Sega got those right back in the day ya know people…
good times.

Daeris says:

I disagree with this article. I love the ability to play as characters other than sonic. I admit the game speed went down a bit but at least this way the younger generation can play the game a bit easier. And if i ever hear someone say Shadow The Hedgehog was a botched up game again, i will personally chase them down with my samurai sword. You think i’m kiddin? Try it!

The Kraken says:

It’s clear, that Sega has simply lost their minds. I think the main reason why they have fallen off the console business was them trying to support a number of consoles at once. It’s a company run by idiots, and always has been. I mean who would try to support six different consoles/add-ons at once (Sega Genesis, Sega Nomad, Sega 32X, Sega Game Gear, Sega CD, Sega Saturn)? They tried to push ahead of their competitors (Nintendo and Sony) by releasing 32-bit systems that were better off scrapped. Their focus on hardware more than their games is one reason why Sonic X-treme was never released. Thus we never got a true Sonic game for the Sega Saturn. When the Dreamcast was released it seemed like a breath of fresh air, with Sonic Adventure pulling in many gamers. But once Playstation 2 entered the scene, the system failed to provide satisfaction with gamers, until Sega eventually got out of the console market in late 2001. It’s never been the same since.

It’s sad too, that I have grown up to see one of my fondest childhood memories being brought down by bad decisions and much criticism. Sonic used to have lots of potential. The games were great, his tv shows were cool, the comics were fun to read, people loved him, and most importantly, it didn’t matter what you liked about the blue blur. People accepted what you did like and agreed with it. Back then he was better overall. But ever since the release of Sonic Adventure (1999-present), the franchise has gone downhill in a never ending spiral. Sonic Team can’t make a 3-D Sonic game without a few critics stating that the game is rife with errors. I think in this current generation of platformers, Sega has been pushing the limit to make awe inspiring graphics while dumbing down the gameplay. Sonic Next-Gen was so disappointing that I began to wonder if Sega knew how to even make a game in 3-D. The loading times were long and it seemed that you couldn’t control Sonic and pals without falling off a cliff. It’s an example for showing that Sega rushes their titles into stores only to find that their fans aren’t happy with the concept. One reason why Nintendo has always been successful is they actually take the time to make their games. Even though some of their release titles were slow to make it to the market, they were critically-acclaimed by fans across the globe.

To add insult to injury, Sega had their chances to improve and learn from their own mistakes. But they have blown them, and it’s only a matter of time before their monitor reveals “Strike 3.” I truly think that Sonic’s glory days are long gone, being stuck in 3-D. The portable titles are one factor keeping this franchise alive, but it won’t go on forever. Sega must concentrate on a Sonic game that will satisfy the majority of fans (including older ones), or risk the chance of giving their franchise to a different company.

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