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.


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:
Sega Still Commited To Reviving Old Franchises
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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The Kraken says:

Pardon my errors, I meant Sonic’s glory days to be stuck in 2-D.

AJ says:

What I say is… shut up and enjoy the game! who cares if you have to find an emerald or shoot a certain object? who gives a crap? stop whining, play the game and keep playing until you get more high speed levels with sonic or shadow! I’m referring this to sonic ad 2 battle, as for DX and it’s exploration modes, GET OVER IT!!!!!

racketboy says:

Obviously, you don’t have a job or a house and/or family to take care of. Who else has time to waste time playing levels they don’t enjoy.

Get over yourself…

Jjyhawk says:

Rocketboy…. Racketboy whatever your name is… Shut your face! I know that sonic may have been a little slower than he was in the classic series and a lot slower than he was on the 360, but you don’t have to be hatin’ on him. Think about it, I was dissappointed about the fact that sonic got slower, but also think about the other kids on how great he is. You can talk junk all you want but just know that all your junk talk won’t make Sega stop making Sonic the Hedgehog games. So instead why don’t you just scram and stop hatin’ on sonic. Got that?

racketboy says:

Oh man, you know what. After that stern talking to, I’m going to change my ways right away…

Quit embarrassing yourself.

If some kids like it the way it is, that’s fine. More power to them. In case you didn’t notice, this was an opinion piece that stated what I thought. I have just as much right to express my opinion as anyone else.

At least I’m civil about it instead of spouting off like some spoiled 12 year old.

Mozgus says:

Better watch it, Racketboy. Sounds like he means business. He might beat you up.

wesman82 says:

Oh my Beloved blue blur look at the carry on you’ve stirred up. I just yesterday managed to get a mega-drive again and have been playing the old sonic games relentlessly like I used when I was a kid and i gotta tell ya it was a magical series… The use of the word was just then was completly intentional. The DC games (SA 1&2) just don’t give me the same feeling that the old games managed to enchant me with , I mean they’re good but good just don’t cut it when your’re talking about one of the all time great series.(too much time spent wandering around exploring for my taste)But thats me ,not you or the other guys reading this just me, and me …well I started playing these when I was like 12 and loved em right off the bat so any straying from the formula would be seen (by me at least) as some kind of betrayal of the series. The change from 2d to 3d is not the problem (mario did just fine,metroid did ok too…kinda) it’s the game in general and kids who weren’t playing it just don’t get it.It’s like when older people talk about the 60’s and always add the line you wouldn’t get it if you weren’t there. These were my bread and butter games the basis of the gamer that I am today and untill I get the feeling that I got when i was 12 these new games just won’t cut it.
Guys just mellow out a little it’s great that you get passionate about what you love but this type expression isn’t gonna help anybody. Breath in, feel the love and play like there is no tommorow.

RadarScope1 says:

“At least I’m civil about it instead of spouting off like some spoiled 12 year old.”

Racket – give the guy some credit here. He sounds like he is at LEAST thirteen and a half.

racketboy and to all people who hate the 3D Sonic games, you made your point. You don’t think that Sonic isn’t going where it’s supposed to be. If that’s how you truly feel, then I suggest you stop talking trash about the Sonic games. I enjoyed all of the Sonic games and others enjoy it to. I would suggest you look over the current Sonic games and at least find some good things about it. After all, a lot of people didn’t think “Freddy vs Jason” could work until it was released. You never know, you might be pleasantly suprised. I’m not denying that Sonic is a family-friendly franchise, but IMO there is something for everyone and I honestly don’t think the series, the games in particular suck. It’s my opinion that Sonic has sort of “grown up” with his audience. Those of us who were children when the first Sonic game was released in 1991 are still fans of him now, and the games have matured in both plot and gameplay, possibly in an attempt to keep up with us. It’s still kid friendly and it should be, I wouldn’t want it to be “dark” or “gritty”. But nevertheless, it is for ALL ages.

Take Sonic Heroes. A kid could play it and maybe they wouldn’t be so good at it. The team mechanism can be ppretty complex and some of the later stages can be tough. That’s why Team Rose exists, a kid-friendly, goofy team with very easy levels. Children can play as a pink hedgehog, a cute bunny and an amusingly dumb cat and enjoy themselves. On the other hand, older gamers can play as the other teams, which have more adult stories and characters and are more difficult.

My point is, a child could play Sonic Heroes, but could they get an A-Rank on every mission? Could they beat Super Hard Mode? And would they even want to? The answer to all of them is unlikey. These deeper and more difficult aspects of the games have been designed for those of us who have grown up with Sonic.

The same is true of the stories for the Sonic Adventure games. They are fun games for children to play, with bright, colorful characters and cool monsters. Let’s take the basic plot of SA as an example:

A child would play it and see colorful characters animals fighting a big, evil water monster named Chaos, as well as a funny fat man named Eggman. Other cool things that big robots would show up along the way. That’s all very well and good, children can enjoy that. An adult plays the game and sees interesting characters that happen to be colorful animals. On the surface Tails is a cute two-tailed fox, but the game also shows his insecurities, his longing to be like Sonic but also his fear of resposibility, of the idea that he might have to save the day all by himself. Knuckles looks like a brute but he’s actually peaceful and noble, the sole survivor of his race who holds a sacred duty, the Master Emerald, that he values above his own life. E-102 “Gamma” is a cool robot with jet boosters and guns and everything, but he is deeply disturbed by Eggman’s harsh treatment of his brothers and haunted by memories of the small brif imprisoned inside him. He goes on a mission to hunt down the other E-series robots, which invloves lots of cool robot fighting and explosions which children will enjoy. But he’s not actually destroying them, he’s freeeing his bird friends inside, and end the end is mortally wounded and dies himself, freeing the small creature inside him so it can live a happy life.

And the big, evil water creature, Chaos? Not evil in the least. A guardian god of an innocent race, driven to rage and hate by the actions of the ancient echidna tribes that killed the tiny Chao in order to steal the Chaos Emeralds to secure their dominance. He destroyed their race, leaving few survivors, and was finally imprisoned in the Master Emerald to lie dormant for thousands of years, his rage and hate increasing all the time.

You see, the Sonic series has something for everyone. Children can play it and enjoy it, adults can play it and enjoy it for entirely different reasons. IMO it isn’t aimed at children, though. There would be nothing wrong with that, but I just don’t think your right. The characters are too deep, the plots too adult and complex, the games themselves too difficult and involved, to be aimed squarely at youngsters. The games are aimed at EVERYONE, and everyone can take something different away with them.

This is even more true with the plot of SA2, with Gerald being framed by the government, Maria being murdered without a cause, Shadow and Gerald vowing revenge on the entire human race and Gerald actually speaking his lst words before a firing squad, before we hear the bullets slam into him.

I don’t see why you had to make your opinion known whatsoever. It wasn’t very constructive, it was “Sonic is never going to have another good game again and most of his games suck, but I dislike the very idea of what their doing and I just wanted to point that out”. It doesn’t help anything, it just annoys people. This board is full of different people with differetnt interests, and as such there are a ton of threads about things that I don’t know about, or things that I don’t like, or perhaps things that I outright dislike. But because I don’t like them, or because I know nothing about them, I stay out of threads pertaining to them. As for what you said in that review, I play the Sonic games because I love Sonic. Ever since I bought Sonic Adventure 2, I’ve been a massive, massive fan of Sonic for about five or six years now.

racketboy, you seem like a cool guy and I don’t intend any kind of argument over this. You’ve made your point, I’ve made mine, now let’s just part ways. You never have to say such negative comments on the current Sonic games, and I and the people who do enjoy them won’t have to listen to unfounded complaints. End of story.

tHePhAnToM!??! says:

Holy shit shut the fuck up. Racketboy does not need to get bashed by people who do not understand what he is talking about. Wow a sonic fan for 5 or 6 is a golden ring cookie…swallow that and have fun shitting that out. Believe me this is a thread where there is something being talked about and you dont have a clue whats going on. So do what you say you do and stay out of it. YOUR opinion does not need to be heard if you are going to be an ass and not respect another mans opinion by saying it annoys people. FUCKING WANNA BE GAMERS!so just BRBRBRBRBR and JOG ON!!!

racketboy says:

Sonic Phantom, thank you SO much for you well-stated comments. I definitely appreciate it.

You make some good points that complement what one other person said in another post of mine. It seems that Sega is no longer focusing on their most established Sonic fan-base, but is instead looking for the younger gamer.

However, just because a game is meant for kids doesn’t give Sega an excuse to cut corners. This situation reminds me a lot of movies. There are a bunch of animated kids movies like Madagascar or Over The Hedge that I really can’t stand watching because they don’t try that hard to be creative in their humor. However, Pixar does an amazing job of creating a terribly engaging experience for both children and adults.

I’d like Sega to take the Pixar approach.
I hope that makes sense 🙂

Possibly. I buy Sonic games because I want to keep up with my blue hero. And do you listen to stories instead of talking about the basics? There are a ton of great things in Shadow the Hedgehog. I still don’t see why everyone hates that game. For example, when you get hit, you only lose ten rings instead of all of them. Now people complain about the guns because there’s no lock-on. Um, hello? It’s called auto-aiming. In other words, the bullets hit the enemy directly instead of lock on to them. What? Were you expecting a Halo type of shooter? To be honest, I don’t care about graphics or gameplay, or any of that stuff. In my terms of gaming, I play the gaem and I determine if I want to keep it or just sell it. Sonic is just fine as he is. And snice Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity for the Wii will be released early next year. I’m going to but that game, simply because I love Sonic. The Sonic games have been designed to challenge us gamers. And so far, I haven’t been dissapointed. I respect what Sega is doing and I have no cmoplaints. You know, it seems that once that peopel get into their early teenage years, they turn into a prick about the things they love. Well, those idiots won’t spoil it for me. I can’t wait to find out more aoubt the new games.

Miss typos from the last post. I will BUY Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity. When If first played Sonic 2006, I thought it was the best game I have ever played and it still is today. Now of course, camera is the main problem in Sonic games, but that doesn’t really bother me much. Of course, there is that talk about the Sonic and Elise relationship. While the odd bit of chemistry is fine, I don’t think they had any intention of taking it too far. Heck, I wouldn’t mind a mixed tag team match between Mario and Peach vs Sonic and Elise.

I like all the 3D Sonic games. For people who say that the Sonic games suck. You are idiots, and your admitting that Sonic kicks your ass because you suck st his games.

racketboy says:

Is this the same “Sonic Phantom” that commented before???
Why the immature and pointless comment all of a sudden?

Sorry about my last post. I got a little carried away. Sorry about that mean stuff. But seriously, I just wish everyone would just keep their minds to themselves. What about the two other comments before that idotic post? Did you get what I was saying?

Sorry about my last post. I got a little carried away. Sorry about that mean stuff. But seriously, what did you think of the other two posts before that.

I’d rather not see Sega go to the Pixar approach and be way to kiddish. Think about it, Sonic’s growing up. Shadow the Hedgehog had his own game with guns and everything. Sonic is maturing but still lovable to all it’s fans (including myself). Look, Sonic games are NOT meant to be perfect. In fact, I don’t think Sonic is ever going to be perfect. No one’s perfect. Not Mario, not Sonic, not even the gameplay themselves. As long as a Sonic game is announced then I’m buying that Sonic game no matter who says what. It may have some frustrations but I don’t think that much of a problem. My point is, Sonic is just as fine as he is today. If you can’t deal with what Sonic’s next move is then I suggest you stop making complaints leave Sonic as he is. I’m sick of negative comments from people who don’t like the current Sonic games and have to whine and complain about it. As I said before, all of the Sonic games have done an excellent job and I have not been dissapointed.

I loved Madagascar. I don’t care about that humor stuff. I just love the movie. Besides, Pixar has had a lot of bad games recently. I’d reathe stick with the movies. Instead of playing those games. You know, movie games. Most of them are bad, and I agree. If Sonic ever went to Pixar, they would really ruin it for me. Sonic and Pixar do not mix.

The Kraken says:

Wow, have we gotten some intelligent posts here.

Sonic Phantom if you have a problem with this topic then leave. I was beginning to think you were making some good points, until you started to jump the gun. Either that or your an imposter trying to be the user that posted here earlier. Don’t take this immature attitude with you because it only makes you foolish in the long run.

Going back to the topic, I think that if Sega took what Nintendo did in the 20+ years as a console maker, they may learn some valuable lessons. They too have made some mistakes along the way, but they helped solve the problems that were most evident. Sega on the other hand seemed to have this laid back “I don’t care” attitude, because Nintendo wouldn’t try to support a number of consoles at once if they were all just going to fail. That and a few of their games catered more to the adult audience than in the family friendly category.

I apologized okay? I’m sorry about that comment.

Lovely Lady says:

rackeboy, shut your mouth! What? you think Sonic is for kids only? Well that marks you as a grade A retard!

Solid Snake says:

racketboy, you obviously did not even listen to the plot of the Sonic games or even played them. So you should keep your mouth shut.

Blade says:

racketboy, you are the biggest wanker of the highest possible grade! If you think you can make a better Sonic game, take your best fucking shot! But do not ever slag Sega off on all those great Sonic games that Sega put a lot of work and effort into, from Sonic Heroes to Shadow the Hedgehog to Sonic Riders and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, unless you have something constructive to add you fucking retard!

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