Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Moment That Sega Perfected Sonic, Then Blew it afterwards.

After seen a couple of videos about Sonic Boom (which is not bad, but not great either) I was left to wonder as an all time Sonic fan, what was the time when Sega managed to evolve their famous mascot into its best form. Many say that Sonic stopped been cool after the original Sega Genesis games, but if I had to choose one of the forms in which Sega has chosen to portray their blue hedgehog, it would be the Sega Dreamcast era that included the 2 Sonic Adventure games. Why was this the closest that Sega has ever been to perfecting Sonic? Just continue to find out.

Sonic Sega Genesis
This is where it all started.
We all remember the classic sonic games on the Genesis. At a time when all we knew was Super Mario Brothers, Sonic came as a radical and cooler alternative. The games were fast, stages were interesting and the story was simple but appealing. Sonic itself not only looked different than everything we had seen at the time, but he looked cool and hip, sort of rebellious if you ask me. This gave the blue hedgehog an edge over the Italian plumber that lasted a while and helped Sega to establish themselves as a gaming powerhouse at the time.

Sonic Xtreme
The game that could had saved the Saturn.
After that, Sega went through a heavy streak of mistakes and one of those was abandoning Sonic. This caused their next big console which was the Sega Saturn, to lack a definitive Sonic title and all we got was Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic R which were kind of O.K, but not what we were hoping for. After that came project Katana which turned into the Sega Dreamcast and at that time we saw their mascot making a comeback in the form of Sonic Adventure which at the time was the most awesome thing around.

Sonic Adventure Dreamcast
This iconic image from the game made many people to become early Dreamcast adopters.
Not only had Sonic jumped into the 3D graphics era, but the game looked great, the action was fast and the story was once again simple and appealing, just like they did with the classic Sonic games. This time you also had a little more freedom, as you could explore some stages at will, find secrets, do speed runs and find different ways to survive until the end. Sonic itself was not lacking any attitude either. He was know accompanied by some nice alternative rock music (played by Crush 40) and had a cool voice to express himself. He was cocky, confident and easy going even in the worse of situations so most fans fell in love with this version of the Sega mascot as soon as we saw it.

Sonic Adventure Character Select
Multi characters for high replay value. Something brilliant at the time.
He was also accompanied by other characters that you could play as such as Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Big the Cat and E-102 Gamma (which was made by Dr. Robotnik). Everybody had something different for the player with Sonic handling the fast paced stages, Tails focusing on his gadgets, Knuckles floating around looking for pieces of the master esmerald, Amy going through alternative versions of Sonic stages using her hammer for a more action oriented approach, Big the cat with his fishing stages and E-102 Gamma with his story about how he escaped from Dr. Robotnik and became one of the good guys. The really cool thing about them is that each of them had their own angle on the main story, so it this wasn't about repeating the same stages with different characters.

Sonic Adventure 2
Shadow was a nice surprise back then, he is still awesome.
After that came Sonic Adventure 2. This game introduced a couple of villains like Shadow the hedgehog and Rouge the bat with the inclusion of Dr. Robotnik as a playable character. This time the whole thing was to be able to play as both the good side and the bad side as the story progressed. The game looked even better than the original and featured very imaginative stages following a storyline that was both cool and heartwarming at the same time. The greatest thing about both Sonic Adventure games was that their storylines included a little bit or everything from adventurous, funny and cute moments, to confrontations, peril and even tragedy. This may have to do with the fact that the anime series called Sonic X was been transmitted at the time and as we all know, anime can pack quite a punch in story telling terms.

Shadow The hedgehog
The "Shadow with a gun" thing was kind of weird.
These two great Sonic games came and went, and after the Dreamcast met its demise and Sega became a third party company, the almost perfect Sonic the hedgehog we enjoyed on Sega's last machine was replaced with a couple of experiments that went from so-so to mediocre. At first they made Sonic heroes which was nice and kind of a throwback to the old games with the inclusion of the 3 hero party mechanic that served to solve puzzles and get through the stages in a more strategical way. Other game was Shadow the Hedgehog in which they tried to mix up both speed and action with Shadow using guns and everything.

Sonic Elise Kiss
Pound for pound the weirdest Sonic moment ever.
Then after the next generation in line was about to start (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii), somebody had the "brilliant" idea to bring Sonic as closest to reality as possible and this is where it got ugly. When the Sonic the Hedgehog "next gen" game came to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, what we found was an adulterated version of what we used to love. Not only the game had technical issues like very long loading times, it tried so hard to be a "realistic epic" that it failed miserably at what mattered the most and that was gameplay. Sure, the free roaming aspect was still there, but it felt bland and generic with stages that tried to give that Sonic Adventure vibe, but ended been a lot slower and tedious.

Sonic Unleashed Werewolf
Slow and clunky werewolf.
After that, a whole number of Sonic games began to enter the market, having the blue hedgehog in many different situations that weren't that good. On one of them he could turn into a slow werewolf (Sonic Unleashed), on other he was sort of a knight (Sonic and the Black Knight) and there even was a Wii version of Sonic called Sonic and the Secret Rings which was just an "on rails" game that was kind of fun at first, but after a couple of stages it felt like a hassle. On all of these games the storyline aspect was severely degraded, lacking the passion that the Sonic Adventures games had. Couple that with bad gameplay experiments and then you will know why Sonic isn't as popular on this day and age.

Sonic Boom
It doesn't look that bad except for Knuckles, I will never get over that.
Wrapping it up:
Sonic Boom is not a bad angle to the blue hedgehog's universe (except for what they did with knuckles which was horrible), but the last Sonic games that were made with real passion and imagination lie on those fateful years after 9/9/99. At that time like the title implies, Sega managed to get Sonic to a near perfect state only to dump it all later when they began making uninspired games just for the sake of making them. I wonder if anybody in Sega has ever found him/herself on a meeting saying, "hey, let's go back to the Sonic Adventure style" only to be ignored or something like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment