How Sega Can Bring Sonic the Hedgehog Back To Its Glory

sega-bring-sonic-back

After my rant on How Sega All But Ruined Sonic the Hedgehog, I thought it would be most appropriate to expand on how Sega can actually transition Sonic into the next-gen consoles without making their down-slide worse. I figured the best way to go through this is to take the core elements that did work of all the past games and explain how they could be pieced together to build a new Sonic classic.Ā  (BTW: I’ve updated this post since it got submitted to Digg)

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Make Sonic Fast

With a Sonic game, you obviously need speed, and while the 3D Sonic games were still faster than your other 3D platformers, they still did not have the same sense of speed of the 16-bit predecessors. One of the main advantages of 3D action games is the ability to roam around and have complete directional control of your character. In Sonic, however, I believe that really takes away from the speed of the game.

One flaw that seemed to more prevalent throughout the Sonic Adventure and Sonic Heroes series is the fact that when hitting the side of a track at full speed results in the character coming to a dead halt. This is aggravating, especially when it happens more often than it should. If a Sonic game was a bit more limited in terms of 3D control — maybe to the point of putting it on two-dimensional rails, you would be able to maintain more of the high-speed feel and bring it back to the old-school roots.

Stick With Two Dimensions

 When Sonic is in 2D, players had limited vision when it came to their enemies and obstacles. While at times this brought frustration, it also required players to have quick reaction time, and also rely on either quick instincts or a bit of memorization in order to succeed.

Tying this back to the previous point about speed and the limited movement, I might be advantageous to completely bring the series back to a sideways view with limited 2D movement similar to modern games like Viewtiful Joe.

Viewtiful Joe was an interesting success story. It was a franchise that came out of nowhere in a crowded video game market. What made Viewtiful Joe so successful is that it was something completely different in addition to being simple and fun — all because it was 2D.

A two-dimensional environment works best for games like Viewtiful Joe and Sonic the Hedgehog because they thrive on the simplicity of 2D gameplay. When the gameplay basics are simple, it allows both the developer and the gamer to benefit. The developer can spend less time on getting all those 3D camera bugs and other complex issues taken care and focus more on developing beautiful landscapes, amazing speed, and killer boss battles. The gamer also does not have to learn a complex control scheme or all the little quirks of getting stuck in a 3D environment and focus more on quick response time and enjoying the actual game.

Viewtiful Joe enjoyed quite a buzz in the gaming community through both critical reviews and word-of-mouth as more and more gamers got their hands on the title. But why did a new beatemup get so much attention? Because it was different. It stood out. It was basically the only new, 2D action game on the market. It combined 2D gameplay with the capabilities of modern consoles.

Make Electrifying Bonus Rounds

For me, one of the most exciting parts about the classic Sonic games on the Genesis was the bonus rounds. As fun as the main game was, sometimes you were excited to have a chance at the bonus rounds. Back then, the bonus rounds were not only loads of fun, but also a showcase for sweet graphical advancements and trippy visual effects. With the power of next-gen consoles, developers have unlimited number of effects possibilities to create some incredible bonus rounds.

Sega is also well-known (or at least they were) for making some incredibly quirky but fun games. This is an opportunity to insert some of this quirkiness without worrying about messing up the main part of the game.

Bottom line: Fill bonus rounds with an insane amount of eye candy and quirky gameplay and gamers of all ages and skills will eat it up.

Make Monster Robotnik Bosses

Sonic has benefited from a number of incredible level design. But one of my favorite parts of each 16-bit level was making it to the end and seeing what type of mechanical creation Dr. Robotnik would bring to battle me.

The original Sonic Adventure game was a real let-down with its focus on the Chaos water creature. Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes returned a bit more to the more mechanical bosses, but I really think Sega could work a bit harder to create something that takes advantage of the current generation of consoles and would actually strike fear in the hearts of Sonic fans.

Bring Sonic Back to Mobius

Just like Mario has the Mushroom Kingdom, Sonic once had a magical place of his own. His unique planet was not detailed by name in the original games, but was later expanded on in Sonic comics and animation as Mobius.

However, once Sonic went into 3D, Sega felt that Sonic was better suited on Earth and had him and the other animal-like characters to interact with humans. While many video games should obviously be based around life on Earth and a realistic setting, games that have a more fantasy element such as Mario and Sonic should be treated to a unique world/universe the gives them more personality and builds on the specials strengths of the characters.

Have Creative Level Designs With Personality

The orignial Sonic games had a ton of creative level designs that were each very distinct and featured an interesting gimick. Many themes were repeated thoughout the series, but were always given a fresh flair. Examples are the fresh-but-fast Green Hill Zones, your colorful and zany Casino zones, and your don’t-run-out-of-air Underwater Zones.

Many of these unique zones were lost in Sonic Adventure and the later 3D games. Sonic Heroes brought back a handful of these themes, which was one if its few saving graces.

Resurrecting some of these colorful level designs could not only give the Sonic series its personality back, but it would also add new gameplay elements and strategy requirements to keep the gamer interested.

Limit The Amount of Playable Characters

When more people pick up a Sonic game, they want to play as Sonic. I don’t think they by it to play as Tails, or Amy, or some fat cat with a fishing pole. They like to be Sonic. Other Sonic-like characters like Knuckles and Shadow are ok as long as the play like Sonic for the most part.

Sonic and Knuckles on the Genesis was great when it let you play as Knuckles. He did run around like Sonic, but he also had some additional powers like the climbing and gliding capabilities. His levels were, for the most part identical to Sonic’s, but it allowed you to think differently about how to approach the level.

However, in games like Sonic Adventure 2, I dreaded playing as Knuckles because you had a completely different level that, instead of blazing though and exciting landscape, you were forced to fly around until you found a certain number of jewels. I only wanted to complete those levels so I could play more Sonic afterwards.

Don’t Let Sonic Talk

I have to admit, once I heard Sonic and the other characters talk in Sonic Adventure, I was embarrassed to have anyone else see me playing the game. Back in the Genesis days, I viewed Sonic and Knuckles both as being “cool” (for lack of a better term) while each having a distinct personality. Sega did a good enough job with their facial expressions and body language to make them into a character that we could relate to. Tails was once viewed as a dependable sidekick, but once he opened his mouth, he was nothing but an annoyance.

Nintendo doesn’t have Mario speak audibly very often for good reason. If he did, it would be absolutely grading on the nerves. (Unless you are really into the cheesy Italian accent for long periods of time). A few little phrases here and there (like those used in Sonic CD) are fine, but that’s about it.

Slick Graphics Are Fine

Sweet Graphics + 2.5D Sidescrolling = Bliss

Even though I am an old-school fanatic, I still love high-end graphics as long as they are used properly and the game does not rely on them as a crutch. When it comes to many 3D titles, including Sega’s 3D Sonic games, it seems like developers use 3D “because they can” and its what is mainstream — not because it actually suits the game.

Sonic the Hedgehog on the XBox 360 looks phenomenal. I cannot deny that it has some real stylistic potential. But as I mentioned before, I truly believe that combining those graphical capabilities with a 2D gameplay engine could really turn into a landmark game in the Sonic series.

Focus On The Core Gameplay

You’ll notice that one of the biggest differences (besides the graphics) between the 16-bit Sonic games and their newer siblings is Sega tried to greatly expand what a Sonic game included. In the first Sonic Adventure, this was very apparent with the exploration mode after the first level. I can still remember the first time I played Sonic Adventure — I was blown away by the first level and all of its excitement and beauty. I couldn’t wait to jump into the next exciting, blistering fast round. Instead, I had to wonder around some town trying to figure out where to go.

Obviously, Sega toned that element down a bit, but they still have a tendency to drift away from the core Sonic gameplay we all love. Let me clarify to those that think I hate 3D Sonic games: I actually enjoy playing those Sonic levels. Obviously, I think they can be improved, but at least they are much better than many other parts of the game.

Sega (and any other game developer, for that matter) needs to take a look at what elements are actually working well for them. Then, examine the areas that aren’t working and throw them away. If you want to experiment with one or two things, that’s fine. But don’t keep that new thing around for the next installment if it’s a dud.

Take Your Time

Learn from Nintendo

If you take a look at the games that have the highest review scores over the years, you can probably think back and remember that those games were in development for quite a while. Perhaps there were even a delay or two before reaching the final release date. As disappointing as delays might be for fans, they usually mean that the developers are making sure the final product is as good as it can be.

To strengthen my argument, lets take a look at the 3D installments of both the Mario and Sonic franchises. The core Super Mario series has only had three console releases in a span of 12 years (Super Mario 64 [1996] , Super Mario Sunshine [2002], and Super Mario Galaxy [2007]). Sonic, on the other hand, has had six games (if you include Shadow the Hedgehog) in only nine years. Now consider the acclaim the Mario games have received (especially, the recent Super Mario Galaxy) in contrast to the ridicule the Sonic games have received.

What Is Your Opinion?

Obviously, this is a hot topic for anyone that is interested in Sonic games. I’ve already had a large number of people (usually in their early teens) that have criticized me for what I’ve said in my previous articles, and if they enjoy these newer games, that’s just fine. Perhaps Sega thinks it’s better to cater to the younger crowd. But I would like to think that I’m not the only one that thinks that Sega should put the effort to create a game that gamers of all ages can enjoy — much like Nintendo fans are with Mario Galaxy.

I’m not holding my breath for Sega to take these ideas into consideration. But until they do, I’ll be playing much more of Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Rush than any of the newer console installments.


223 Comments

Jemma says:

What Sega/Sonic team need to do to make the games that extra bit better:

*GET THE OLD VOICE ACTORS BACK! for gods sake! For example Ryan drummond was so much better than that 4Kids actor Jason! or at least new voice actors! cuz atm sonics voice sounds way too cheesy

*CUT BACK ON THE CHEESY LINES! I hate the way they always make sonic say crappy cringey stuff! Like ‘started the party without me?’ etc, I mean, making him act cool if fine, but there is such a thing as being ott…

*TAKE THE STORYLINE OUT OF THE HUMAN WORLD! please, it was so much better before chris + elise etc got involved… a LOT better…

And Finally…

*GET RID OF AMY ROSE! Ever since I first saw her on sonic cd all those years ago i knew she was going to be one of the most annoying clingy characters…

Apart from that the games are great! I really hope someone from sega reads this…

It’s my dream to join sega/sonic team when im older and take over sonic and make him what he should be…

Keep going Sonic

Jemma says:

I have just realised what sega/sonic team should do to get the old original fans back…

REMAKE THE MEGADRIVE GAMES INTO 3D FOR NEXT GEN CONSOLES

and do it well,mabye in a sonic + the secret rings kinda style, that would be amazing, i know a lot of sonic fans, including myself, that would definantly like to finally see those classic levels in 3d

Graham says:

I have LOVED each and every sonic game (other then dr. robotnic’s mean bean machine, which is kinda fun) I know what you mean about how they talk (OH MY GOD! SHUT UP TAILS!!) And I would say knuckles has been the best voice actor out of them all, and I can see everything you’re talking about, but……it’s sonic (to me)

sonic_vs_shadow_fan says:

wow you guys really know what you’re talking about. i wish i could’ve been around for the original Sonic games, but i was only a toddler! ^_^ !!! ok i’ll make this quick:
– get rid of Amy. she’s annoying and only gets in the way; Sonic cant delay saving the world to save her!
– Tails can be cute without being annoying, right? RIGHT?!
– i grew up with the 3-D Sonic games for the Dreamcast (unfortunately), so naturally im more sympathetic with them. i actually liked Sonic Adventure 2, especially Sonic’s and Shadow’s levels. but… why do i have to do each level five times? i liked them, but not enough to do them five times, and get all A rank!!! i like 3-D, but the levels could be a little more interesting. i said interesting, not confusing!
– i believe Sega still has a chance, but only if they listen to their fans/consumers. really though, who are they really making the games for?
– i also like Knuckles with a deep voice. he comes off as a tough guy, so shouldnt he sound like one?
– Eggman could be a little more… ummm… menacing. i showed one of the games to a friend, and she laughed at him! she said he was a complete joke! i dont know about you, but the Eggman i’ve come to know is NOT a joke!!!
– i have a suggestion for the voice acting. ad-lib. think about what THE CHARACTER would say in those situations, and just kind of make it up as you go along. it will make it sound more natural and less rehearsed.
– you dont need all those characters in the mix!!! all you need are Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Eggman, Shadow, and that’s it. Chaotix is ok, though. personally, im a HUGE espio fan! ^_^
– the game really needs a good, upbeat attitude. after all, isnt that what Sonic is famous for? it needs someone who actually cares about what happens to the games.
– for me, the anime killed it. i just hate it when they branch out of a game. the game falls behind after that.
– keep them short. overgrown hedgehogs are creepy. oh, and they really dont need to interact with humans. at all. it’s just awkward.
– i love Shadow and all, but does he have to be so…. emo?
– can you have a female who isnt annoying, or a flirt?

ok, i guess that’s it for now. if i think of something else, i’ll be back. ^_^

long live Sonic the Hedgehog!!! ^_^

sonic_vs_shadow_fan says:

i forgot to mention, i still love Sega! even if they’re screwing up my favorite game of all time, i still love them and believe they have a chance. by the way, are they ever going to put out a new console, or are they going to continue to release games on the 360 or Wii or something like that?

Sega is NOT dead!!!! at least, not yet anyway…

this is coming from someone who has been a fan all her life, BTW.

long live Sonic the Hedgehog!!! ^_^

sonic_vs_shadow_fan says:

OMG SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!
PLEASE TELL ME THAT SHADOW IS NOT IN LOVE WITH AMY!!!!!!!!!!

… i dont wanna read fanfiction ever again that stuff is just wrong!!!

waaah…

Kaishiomo says:

Nice points racketboy (you are the one talking about this right?) I personally don’t mind the voices. They just need good voice actors and less “cool slang” that sonic uses now. Maybe even going to the point where cutscenes are short and to the point. As for the 3d games. I don’t know about some of you but as long as the camera is right behind sonic and facing forward I don’t mind the gameplay. Any unfair deaths that some fans call don’t exist with me, i just call them “mistakes on my part”. And when you said when sonic hits a ledge and stops completely, sometimes thats realistic. I mean if Sonic goes head first into a wall or ledge, hes gonna stop i’m sorry. but having him bounce of the sides of the tracks and retaining hes speed may solve your problem.

My dream is to become a video game developer and get Sega’s permission to make a few sonic games myself. I’m still in highschool but im on my way. You said earlier that Sonic Team should take more time. Well in case my dream comes true i’ve already started on how my games would work so i have something to work with. i have a camera thing in mind and i’m curious on how you would do a camera if you had to do a 3d game?

Finally i don’t really mind playing as the other characters either, they are all “Sonic Heroes” in my opinion. But i agree mith some that tails and knuckles gameplay should be different.

Example: tails can fly so his levels should be similar to the gameplay of NIGHTS without being too similar.

Knuckles should maybe be more based on blasting threw obsticles with overwhelming power to get to the chaos emerald instead of the goal ring. (and no he doesn’t have to look for it)

Finally Sonic should return to his roots like you said but with some really super crazy acrobatics at the same time. And i’m not talking about sonic riders kind of crazy. The stuff I’m imagining makes sonic riders look like a few roles in a grass field. (I dreamt of play a 3d sonic game like that and it was incredible, better than any 2d sonic game, which is one major reason why I want to make a sonic game.)

But how do you feel about how the gameplay should be if 3d was the only option. I just know that a 3d sonic can be done after i dreamt that amazing expirience.

Taylon says:

I agree with Jemma, SORT OF. Get rid of Amy Rose! SHE SUCKS!

Taylon says:

Shut your mouth! I like the new games. Just go play your Genisis.

Soniccuz says:

I agree with you on most areas.

Sonic was and is supose to move through zones disigned with for speed and action. Bring back the special zones, or bonus stages as you refer to them. Robotnik needs to push the doublecrossing and often hyped one time bosses out of the way and return to being a credable villain.

Soniccuz says:

I agree with you on most areas.

Sonic was and is supposed to move through zones designed for speed and action. Bring back the special zones, or bonus stages as you refer to them. Robotnik needs to push the double-crossing and often hyped one time bosses out of the way and return to being a credible villain.

I’d say the only true disagreement is that I want to play as other characters. Sonic is a major factor but a unique play style for Tails and Knuckles to me is a must. maybe treasure hunting is to slow and the game as a whole needs to be fast paced. But, that doesn’t mean I want a bunch of character’s that duplicate Sonic’s style. I’d say there need to be less mirror characters. Example would be Sonic Adventure Two marketed as play good or bad guys. I don’t want Robotnik’s style same as Tails, Shadow same style as Sonic and Rouge same as Knuckles, all just with evil intent. But Iā€™d like the option to play as them.

Ryan C. says:

The points you made are exactly what needs to be done. The classic Genesis sonics (1-S&K, including sonic CD) were absolutely fantastic. But after Sonic Adventure, at least for me, the Sonic series lost it completely. I havent truthfully enjoyed a Sonic game since SA. The classics had a certain charm and essence to them that sega cannot seem to recapture. Its almost as if Sega losing their power in the console market also made them lose their power behind their chief mascot. I would LOVE to see a revamped sonic (in 2D) that captured the magic that the originals had that made me fall in love with them growing up.

Coldplayer says:

Wonderfull artical.

So, my opinion. Yes! don’t let Sonic or anyone else talk. Drop the extra characters! Only keep the core group. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, shadow. with the exception of Amy and Marine as the “ONLY” supporting cast. Sonic has Amy, and Tails has Marine as his love intrest. Thats it.

Peter Inns says:

Hi there,
I’ve been a Sonic fan since his debut. I totally agree with almost all that you say. You clearly have the same love of Sonic as myself, and you talk a great deal of good sense. If only Sega would listen to you my friend, oh how happy that would make me! šŸ™‚ Maybe forward your article and all the reader comments to Sega at some point, to see what they have to say? Sadly, I think we will be very lucky to ever see anything like a “Sonic Galaxy”, but I live in hope. Meanwhile, I’m so glad I still have my Mega Drive and Mega CD! šŸ™‚
All the very best,
Pete.

kaylacat says:

accually I agree at what you say…but 3-d games are…good,okay,but they should AT LEAST MAKE ANOTHER CLASSIC SONIC GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
but the game I really don’t like in 3-d is shadow the hedgehog.I mean it does have violence that is good but
it hides the original sonic totaly! but I still have(and love) the original sonic!
kayla

Vee says:

I think, from all of what I’ve read, I agree about Sonic games being different from the 90’s and all of the changes throughout the years. I grew up playing the Sonic the hedgehog series, still today. Sonic’s roots are 2D ,like many other popular games were, such as Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania etc.. But playing those games in 3D wasn’t the same just like Sonic wasn’t. I think, the changes from 2D to 3D were to experience our old favorite game characters more realistic. But, maybe game developers ‘forgot’ that, that ‘new’ change is in the past. I would love to see a good, fun, fast pasting, less character prologues, more action Sonic with today’s technology. What if they made a Sonic game fully 3D and completely played in 2D, like Killer Instinct was in 1994. Keep all of the game’s true aspects alive without killing it’s first true reasons of being here today. Picture a fast pasting, Side Scrolling, beautiful Unique enviroment Sonic game designed with today’s technology (such as in Ps3 and Xbox 360’s Sonic) where all you can go is up, down, left or right waiting to see which ZONE is next and how it would look. Take Green Hill Zone for example. Unlike Sonic Adventure DX, see it more colorful and detailed, more special effects, beautifuly rendered landscapes from the same angle the classic and true Sonic games. Its great to experience Sonic in 3D, but why does he have to be stuck in 3D. I hope Sega just goes back in time of their truely loved and never be forgoten games, like Sonic, grabing all of their heart and combining them with today’s video game capabilities…I repeat, grab the Heart.

Vee says:

Sorry, I forgot to mention this: If Sega brings Sonic back in his roots, maybe they can start with a SONIC 4…

80's baby says:

ok kevinski thanks for repeating everything he said in the article.. plus throwin in ur own dumbass thought about your ‘deep seaded hatred’.. anyways i dont think what theyre doing is all that wrong.. theyre going for a younger audience.. granted i agree its nothing like the good ol’ days.. when they first introduces knuckles i was extatic.. then cam shadow and silver and a barrage of other rediculous characters and the twisted half-assed off the wall story lines.. its just too much.. im with you, guy who wrote this article in that i still play the games for the fast-paced sonic (and parts of shadow’s) levels but its just too crazy now..

80's baby says:

another thing 1 of my favorite aspects of the old game (since ive got a lil bro was the second player able to control tails and interact with you grab your hand + fly etc. or how u could plug othe games into the knuckles game.. or whatever it was one of the games had that thing on top that was cool.. lol

tehcosmicexplorer07 says:

An NSMB-ish type game WOULD be interesting – 3D models in 2D environments. Or maybe a 3D environment, but only movement in 2 dimensions (a good example of this is Super Smash Bros).

Meh. Not like it’s ever going to happen. I think I’ll have to stick with the athletic Italian plumber who we all love so much.

tehcosmicexplorer07 says:

OK, sorry to double post, but ohhh boy…

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-BnS9evG9vI

Did Sega read your article or something?!

Vin Lauria says:

The only thing I really disagree with you about is the “bring Sonic back to Mobius” thing. The comics and shows aren’t canon and in Japan even the Genesis games took place on Earth. Mobius was a translation error and someone referred to the planet as those twirly strips Sonic sometimes runs through, “Mobius strips.”

Canonically, Sonic always took place on Earth.

Jason says:

i think the should bring sonics old look back and all the old stuff back like SEGAWORLD and AoSTH,SatAM and there should be a SEGAWORLD in america.

sonic56 says:

i just whant him back

super sonic says:

I’m with racketboy on this. Sonic needs his speed back SERIOUSLY. Slick Graphics can stay. Catchy levels and bonuses I am craving. NO MORE AMY OR ROUGE OR CHAOTIX(except Espio) THEY SUCK!!!!!!! Tails can stay if he doesn’t talk. Knuckles is okay he just needs something. NO MORE CHEESY DIALOGUE!!!! Shadow can stay, he’s cool. Silver didn’t need to be there anyway, but I’ll let it slide this one time.EVERYONE ELSE GET OUT!!!!

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