How Sega Can Bring Sonic the Hedgehog Back To Its Glory


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.  (BTW: I’ve updated this post since it got submitted to Digg)


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.


super sonic says:

Sorry about that. I rushed, so some important factors were left out. Tails can use his machines once in a while for variety. Knuckles, Shadow, Silver,and maybe Blaze need to be faster but not fast as Sonic. I changed my mind about Espio.And silver talks weird. NO retarded cats and rabbits. Robotnik’s machines do need to be in Sonic adventure, not that Chaos letdown.
The only things you never mentioned, racketboy, are the Babylon Rogues from Sonic Riders.

A guy says:

This whole article screams “DUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

How can sega possbly ignore these ideas? It really shocks me to think that Sega couldn’t fathom these basic ideas themselves, or failing that, ignoring their public and keeping sonic in the human world, chatting up princesses (in this day and age?) with his unimpressive voice.

The only words that Sonic’s mouth should ever utter are: “Yahoooo!” as he flies through the air, spinning wildy before he lands, when he sets off racing towards Robotnik in some mechanical monstrosity, who is cackling with arrogance and insanity- too dramatic? ok, sorry.

Anyway, I loved this article. It speaks the truth, and realizes the fantasies of every sonic fanboy. Hopefully, it speaks loud enough for sega to hear…

I_hate_elise says:

You have got to convince sega to stick to your ideas!This is all so true!Except i liked sonic heroes.But i hope you convince them.Good luck.

sonic still rocks says:

you have got to be kidding me. First of all, SILVER STAY FOREVER! Second of all SONIC HEROES ROCKS AND KEEP ALL THE PLAYABLE CHARACTERS GOING! Third of all “learn from nintendo”????????? NINTENDO SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MARIO IS A FAT ASS!!!!!!!!!!!! KIRBY IS A BLOB WITH LEGS!!!!!!!!!!!! And, ZELDA IS A STUPID HUMAN!!!!!!!! WE WANT CHARACTERS WITH POWERS!!!!! NO HUMANS OR ELFS!!!!!! MARIO – HUMAN / ZELDA – ELF!!!!!!!!

SONIC!!!!!! STILL!!!!!! ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

myfishbone says:

I agree with your points racketboy, and i believe sega is actually learning… since the death of the dreamcast they have been working quitely in the background on enhancing the sega name in general (softwarewise) and have been cranking out good games (i think) …and in parallel they have bombarded the cheap gaming / toys sement with so many handhelds with built in games which i believe is meant to keep reminding us of SEGA ,which leads me to believe we will see sometime in the future a stronger comeback.

Amy Rose says:

While the comment on getting rid of me as a playable character works from a streamlining standpoint,getting rid of me would dehumanize sonic and that would bring him down to the level of a four footed hedgehog,instead of a reasoning,thinking freedom fighter that he has been known for years to be and that would change the face of sonic and the face of Sega since he is Sega`s spokesman and valedictorian member of Sega and we at Sega are not about to mess with a good thing,thankyou.

Weston says:

I’m curious about something. You said you liked fighting Eggman only because you liked seeing his inventions? Me and my brother played the game constantly and, while I do like the old sonic game and am not saying they are bad by any means, I have to say fighting Eggman was not my favorite part, nor was it my brother’s. Was fighting Eggman really all that much fun? I sure didn’t think of it as any more fun, in fact, it was the hard and annoying part. And when it wasn’t those it was the fast and boring parts. I would think the chaos monster would be a relief, something new and different, instead of fighting Eggman and his stupid machines. I think fighting monster is more of Sonic’s style. I mean a super fast hedgehog fighting a fat guy who is somehow a challenge in his big bulky machines more cool than fight a water monster who turns into a giant monster that destroys the city? Tell you what I was having a blast fighting that Perfect Chaos. He was hard and interesting, far more than some stupid machine that Eggman built. I’m not complianing really, Eggman fights are cool everynow and then, but if you ask me, I think adding more monsters is better than just sticking with Eggman.

Weston says:

And also, Amy Rose, (Or whoever the hell you really are, you freaking moron) stop pretending to be a character. It’s not funny and is probably going to make less people listen to you. I don’t really have a problem with Amy, she hasn’t pissed me off yet, but you’re hurting your own cause by doing what you’re doing.

Weston says:

One more thing. Sonic-still-rocks, you need to calm down. You aren’t telling me anything, except that you’re an idiot. If you like Sonic YOU DON’T HAVE TO EXPRESS IT BY DOING THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think most of us will agree that you’ll be taken more seriously if you don’t act like an idiot, who types in all caps. Also I have to say that Kirby, Link, and Mario are all awesome and you have no idea what the rest of us want.

IMO, Sega needs to ask the fans themselves what we want.

Personally, a lot of what I wanna see was done in Sonic 1 Megamix. Just an original experience in the vein of what we got back in the Genesis days. No talking. No 3D gameplay paired with a camera that can’t keep up. No adventure elements.

I basically agree with racketboy, except on the characters part. Sonic’s gr8, but while no one else has his speed, they offer their own gr8 qualities and in turn offer replay value. I mean, throw in Tails (flight = awesome), Knuckles (climbing + gliding = sweet), Amy (perky cuteness with a technicolor whoop-ass hammer = kewl), and Rouge (hotty kick-your-ass bat-biatch = necessary).

Toon Link says:

I think that Sonic can excel in a 3D universe. I loved every Sonic level in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. I just think that Sega needs to take more than a years time to find out how to make a good Sonic game. I’m really hoping that I won’t be dissapointed with Sonic Unleashed, because that looks promising. I think they’ve been going down the right path recently. They made Sonic Rush 2, they put Sonic in SSBB, and the new Sonic RPG looks promising.

Anonymous says:

Another thing I’d like to change are the storylines. All this stuff about Babylonian thieves, them being aliens, genies, going into magical books, it’s all just too weird and too confusing. It was all fine with me up until the point when Shadow was partly made by aliens, which was really just a stupid move on Sonic Team’s part. Now Sonic seems to be in space and other worlds more often than on Earth.
But even worse than the aliens was the swearing in Shadow the Hedgehog. I’m am extremely grateful that Sonic Team didn’t decide to bring that back. Sonic games + Swearing = Big nono.
Another thing to “Sonic Still Rocks”, you sound like my ten year old brother. IN MY OPINION, Silver SUCKS. I really, really, hate him. Psychic powers, PLEASE SPARE ME. And also, at first when I saw Silver, I gave him a chance. I thought, hmm, another Shadow-like loner character. Cool. But as soon as I heard is voice for the first time… I hated him. He looks like his personality would be like Shadow’s or Espio’s, but he’s a snot nosed, stuffed up sounding little kid. Wtf? Sonic Team really needs to work on the character development, and clean out all the characters that aren’t really necessary or popular.
I’ve also noticed that a few voices keep changing, especially Tails, Sonic, and Shadow. I really hate that. I like to change them over to Japanese just to escape the voices.. and in SA and Sa2’s case, the unsynchronized mouths.
Storylines, characters, voices, gameplay, music… It seems as if Sonic is going down hill pretty fast… The only thing that’s not bad is the graphics, which are pretty much all that’s supporting him at the moment. Along with my ten year old brother and his friends.
One last note, Tails needs the Tornado back. I liked the Tornado.

sonic CD fan says:

I agree sonic talking make it a wimpy game in sonic CD it was cool when he talked I loved how after 3 min. he would say im out of here but lets get em is not the sonic i knew…….bring the old sonic back =(

Amy Rose Fan says:

Hi I new here but I have a question and I was hoping you sonic experts could answer it?
My question is I have the long hammer for Amy Rose on sonic dx and I really don’t like it does anyone know how to get rid of it?
Please answer my question somebody
Thank you and you are very very kind

kirbysonic22 says:

Sonic should learn from mario. Super mario galaxy brought mario back to being a superstar. If sonic team took the time to make a game like that sonic would come back.Same wirh kirby; if kirby’s adventure for wii is good kirby will come back too.

kirbysonic22 says:

i would like sonic to come back as a great charater in his next game

kirbysonic22 says:

p.s. great sonic games were, all the games on sonic mega collection, sonic adventure, sonic adventure 2, sonic heroes, shadow the hedgehog, and sonic and the secret rings

kirbysonic22 says:

one more thing ditch the humans. you cant cool talking colorful animals in the same game as boring humans. and shadow doesnt need weapons

Weston says:

Well Amy Rose fan, the only way I can think of a way to get rid of it is to open a new file and then don’t get it. Why don’t you like it?

Supa Tails says:

EPIC WIN!!! I agree with everything you said!!! (exept for the voices, they sound corney, but they should stick with jaleel white and Bradley Pierce as in the Sonic SatAM and stick with the comic story like the old games)

Supatails says:

QUOTE: At 5/21/2008 10:17 AM, Amy Rose Fan said…
Hi I new here but I have a question and I was hoping you sonic experts could answer it?
My question is I have the long hammer for Amy Rose on sonic dx and I really don’t like it does anyone know how to get rid of it?
Please answer my question somebody
Thank you and you are very very kind

I’m sorry, there isn’t an option to do that =C If there was I would tell you but amy’s piko hammer is permanent, well as her weapon in sadx at least

DonutGuard says:

You know what I think of when I think Sonic the Hedgehog?

Fast paced, simple gameplay and MUSIC. Some of the original Sonic tracks for the Genesis are quite possibly among the best video game tracks of all time. Chemical Plant Zone, Sky Sanctuary Zone, Lava Reef Zone 1&2, and a whole bunch of others as well.

I’ve always wanted to hear a modernized version of these songs, and a lot of people have really done some great jobs with it on YouTube, but it would be awesome to hear a real orchestrated version of some of these songs… all instrumental.

Sorry SEGA, but Sonic shouldn’t have a complicated story behind it. It should just be him stopping Robotnik/Eggman and maybe dealing with a couple of foes along the way. No need for long speeches or anything like that. They did a perfect job on Sonic & Knuckles; all they did were a few gestures, and you knew what was going on if you had half a brain.

Kaishiomo says:

The new sonic game looks like its doing what you said with gameplay. But not with story. Sonic + Werewolf = Nauseatingly Stupid. That will be the first sonic game that I will gladly not get. Unless this idea can be miraculously made good. The chances of that though are like 1-10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000.
And since its sonic team we’re talking about that makes the chances more like 1-100000… x100 to the 1 trillionth power.

dude says:

Let’s take a look at what you said in here.

Make Sonic fast
He is.

Stick with 2d
A more creative alternative would alow you switch between 2d and 3d at the pause\main menu.

Make electrifying bonus rounds
Good idea!But you can find those in Sonic Heroes.

Make monster Robotnik bosses
Ivo is cool,but keeping the same villain all the time is boring.

Bring Sonic back to Mobius
The games don’t mention what planet he’s on untill Sonic The Fighters WHICH SAYS “GASP” EARTH.Planet isn’t mentioned again until Sonic Adventure 2.2.That’s right.2.Also,Sonic Advance 1 and 2 are on Mobius.The answer is simple.Space travel between Earth and Mobius as a gameplay element with KH Gummi Ship style game play.

The level design is creative,they just need to make it less linear.

Limit the amount of playable charechters
NO.Instead have Sonic story,Shadow story,Amy story,MetalSonic story,Tails Story,Ivo story,Knuckles story,Rouge story,and so on and so on.And scrap the Last Story crap.just have bad ending,good ending,and alternate ending.And make the bad ending worse than a creepy picture of Ivo.

Don’t let Sonic talk
WHAT?!?!Just bring bachSonic Adventure VAs (Sonic Heroes for Vector)except for Charmy and Espio.And make Silver and Jetsound like Sonic Heroes Vector.And cut back on corniness and swearing.Making kid charechters sound corny when trying to be tough would be realistic and funny,though.

Also,Amy Cream and Big haters:SSSSSSHHHHUUUUUTTTTT UUUUUUUUUUPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!There’s simply nothing to hate about them.

Interesting tidbit time!!!!!!!!Speed charechters are the weakest,flight the slowest,and power can’t jump high.Thank you for reading this!1!!

If anyone will:(

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