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What would you do if your childhood video game hero was in trouble?  Imagine him in the middle of a dark room, bound and gagged in a chair with an interrogation light beaming down on him.  His arch nemesis stands behind him with a can of gasoline, a Bic disposable razor, and a package of uninflated balloons, ready to do god-knows-what.  The end seems inevitable at this point, but is it too late?

Of course, the video game hero I am talking about is Sonic the Hedgehog.  It seems he has remained on the “continue?” screen since the fall of the Sega Dreamcast.  With the recent news of Sega’s budget cuts and huge losses in revenue, you can practically see the seconds ticking away before it’s “game over.”  It’s time for Sega to reinstall faith in our blue, downtrodden rodent during these rocky times.  It’s time to save Sonic the Hedgehog.

Back to Basics

This is an obvious change

What were they thinking?

The Sonic the Hedgehog universe has become a cluttered and awkward mess in recent years.  Werehogs, guns, swordplay, town exploration, and annoying sidekicks have diluted Sonic’s world, providing failed and superfluous innovation.  The series has become as bloated as its antagonist, Dr. Robotnik, and it’s time to trim the fat. That means no Shadow the Hedgehog or Big the Cat, and the current Eggman returns to the old Dr. Robotnik we all grew up thwarting… Now, I understand Eggman = Dr. Robotnik, but the old version is far superior in name and design.

In a troubled economy it’s best to provide consumers with a sense of comfort and nostalgia, effectively reminding them of “better times.”  This could be achieved by returning to the core four characters of the Sega Genesis days; Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Robotnik.  These characters are every bit as memorable as the characters of Mega Man and Mario, and those series have incredibly successful current generation titles that feature their core characters (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy, Mega Man 9).  There is no question that by emphasizing the strengths of these incredible video game icons, the corny, kiddy-sweetened pulp that Sonic has become could regain its edge and polish.

3D Minus One

Can almost taste it

Can almost taste it

Like many minor league athletes that attempt to make the transition into the major leagues, Sonic just wasn’t ready for the jump to 3D.  But, whereas those struggling athletes will slink back down to the minors, Sonic has tried to hold his own among the heavy hitters of 3D action games, and has received quite a bruising.  Now is the time for Sonic the Hedgehog’s triumphant reclamation of 2D. If Capcom can understand the blue bomber’s limitations in the 3D realm, and Konami willingly keeps Contra in 2D, Sega should be able to understand the benefits of doing this also.  Note that Sonic Adventure wasn’t a terrible game in general, but it simply wasn’t on par with the greatness that was Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and it led to the rubbish that is Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006.  It has simply been rocky for Sonic in anything but 2 dimensions, with stinkers such as Sonic 3D blast, Sonic R, Sonic Jam, etc.

A shining example of the strength of Sonic in two dimensions can be found on the Game Boy Advance, in the form of Sonic Advance.  The game contained the “core four” characters, plus the pink Amy Rose from the fan favorite Sonic CD.  If not for the fact that these games had Dr. Robotnik being called “Eggman,” they would be nearly indistinguishable from the Genesis games.  The Sonic Advance sequel has been successful in its implementation of the old Sonic formula, and thus several sequels have been spawned.  Using these games as a template, developers could implement 2D gameplay with stunning 3D character models and environments.

Teach an New Hog Old Tricks

Dr. Robotnik makes for great boss battles

Dr. Robotnik makes for great boss battles

Speaking of 2D gameplay, when did Sonic the Hedgehog become more of a racing game than a platformer?  Traditionally, Sonic games have been a classic jump on platforms and enemies affair, with brief snippets of speed thrown in to break up the pace.  Sure, you can fly through most of Green Hill Zone or Emerald Hill Zone at full blast processing speeds, but later Acts in the game require much more focus and careful planning.  The adrenaline boosting sprints needn’t disappear, but improving and expanding the platforming to what it used to be is crucial.

As the Sonic series has “evolved” over the years, the control/gameplay of Sonic has become too loose.  Controlling Sonic in the Sonic Adventure series feels like the Hedgehog is always running on ice, or has the floaty, lightweight physics of a beach ball when he jumps.  It’s time to return gravity to Sonic in order to allow for accessible platforming segments.  Namely, no more double tapping the jump button to turn Sonic into a blue heat-seeking missile that boils all combat into a brainless button mashing affair.

In returning to the series’ roots, it is important to reincorporate memorable gameplay like bonus stages, interesting level design, and dynamic boss battles with Dr. Robotnik.  Reincorporating the bonus stages will return the Chaos Emeralds to their iconic glory as something that must be earned, not simply gathered through non-interactive cutscenes.  Incentive to collect the Chaos Emeralds could be achieved by imbuing each colored gem with stat-boosting properties, such as increased defense, damage, speed, jumping height, and a 2x ring multiplier.  Returning the Acts to uniquely themed levels would add variety and unique enemies to the game; think of controlling sonic in Cyber Zone (a virtual reality level with electricity traps and virus-bots), Combat Zone (a war torn level with bombing raids and soldier-bots), Extraterrestrial Zone (Sonic in space with alien-bots and anti-gravity), and the potential list goes on.  Even more exciting is dreaming up what contraptions Dr. Robotnik would toss together in his futile attempts to exterminate the blue rodent (Rambo-botnik, a heavy tank, a UFO).

Fire $onic Team

This is Sonic's future looks like with "Sonic Team"

This is what Sonic's future looks like with "Sonic Team" at the helm

Recently it’s been revealed that the Sonic Team isn’t even close to being the crew of miracle workers that put together the classic Genesis games we knew and loved.  It turns out that many of the members have come and gone, and now the development staff uses the “Sonic Team” name as a marketing tool to sell under-developed, uninspired trash.

Ex-Sonic Team employee Ben Andac stated in his famous blog that, “Sonic Team, for all their past accomplishments (long past one should emphasize), are not the development force they once were. They no longer represent that name and ideal they so desperately cling onto now.”

This revealing blog, combined with the fact that the quality Sonic Advance titles were developed by non-Sonic Team development crew “Dimps,” means that Sonic needs to be torn from the leeching hands of Sonic Team.  It’s time to stop bleeding the franchise for every last sordid cent and relinquish future big title Sonic games to companies that actually work hard to make decent games.  Your time in through, Sonic Team!

S.O.S.  Save Our Sonic!

Sonic's path to redemption is obstacle strewn, but not impossible

Sonic's path to redemption is obstacle strewn, but not impossible

It’s not too late for Sonic.  With a return to 2D handled by capable developers, the fun and relevance can be returned to the series.  Then, after regaining gamers’ trust with a quality Sonic game, the new development team can slowly wade back into the 3D realm, keeping the old school gameplay close to their hearts.  Here’s to hoping the little blue hedgehog has one last life.

  1. Brilliant. I can only hope SEGA takes a gander at this article.

  2. avatar ryan smith

    its sad when a company loses focus on the game itsself and tries to capitalize on the marketing elements ( tennis anyone? )

  3. Silly Were-Hog, the day sections were pretty good.

  4. avatar Ricky

    What they really need to do with Sonic, is take him out back and shoot him in the head.

    I think jeff gerstmann said it best; he’s a product of the 90′s and the cultural touchstones he was built on aren’t relative anymore.

    Plus, that whole mythos has gotten kind of weird.

  5. avatar Hugh Isaacs

    I really think the Sonic series could take any direction and do good (look at Mario) it’s just Sonic Team sucks, and most of the original developers are gone.

    It’s kinda sad.

  6. avatar Xbot

    If anything needs saving is mario all the 3d mario games have sucked really bad.

  7. avatar blu_7


    another delusional 91′ fan…

  8. avatar Matt

    One last thing to add.

    Sega has to make the story/ cutscenes less akward. I feel like a loser playing a childs game when I watch the cutscenes…

  9. @xbot
    You’re a fool, the 3D mario games have been some of his best games.

  10. avatar Xbot

    ‘ ‘ another delusional 91? fan… ‘ ‘

    Yay more noltalgic losers that still think mario games are fun and never get with the times.

    all 3d marios have been trash ask any gamer who has played the real 2d marios and you will know.

  11. avatar Orion

    You forgot to mention how the robots (aka botniks) used to be animal based with Sonic’s little animal friends trapped inside them. That was one of the most charming things about those game. Also the music. The reason the music in Sonic 3 was so good was because it was they where written by Micheal Jackson, i thought that was a Myth but it seems it’s true, research it.

    But… realistically i’m not sure if this could ever happen. All we can do is pray.

  12. avatar Charity

    Poor Sonic. He deserves better than the games he’s been forced to be a part of lately. It’s time to make him proud and make a game worthy of him!!!

  13. Only if SEGA would read this….

  14. SEGA should focus most of their efforts into level design for high speed sidescrolling action. They have the music and graphics spot on. Though the music could always be better if they use Hideki Naganuma or Masato Nakamura. Please SEGA, rescue sonic from the third dimension

  15. I agree that there is too much useless periferals in the newer Sonic games, i would love to play a game more resembling their earlier work, how fun would it be to have new maps for time trials and two player online with the old school side scroll play.

  16. avatar Claws

    Oh for the love of God! You a brilliant, good sir! Apart from the stat increasing chaos emeralds, this is a fantastic idea! I’m really breath taken at that concept art as well. It almost makes me cry to think that isn’t a real Sonic game…yet.

  17. avatar Acm1pt

    Obius, the solution is really back to roots concept.
    This fan idea game, is (i think) the best, sonic idea, in this days,, is called Sonic Beyond. this concept is in 2d, 3 playable characters, eggman is called robotnik, whit robotnik battles, fresh skills, and badniks, playable super form in any level, capsules in final acts, and classic end-pannels, and yea,,,no chip.

  18. avatar Dip

    Sega should should really take the time needed to make the best next gen sonic game. for example Mario Super Galaxy (2008) and Mario sunshine Bros (2004?)? I feel like the sonic games now have been rushed to get in the store.

  19. avatar Dip

    Sega and Sonic team need a video game stimus package.

  20. avatar Spyda

    Wow, dats how i feel. Jus Pray dat Sonic 4 will do dat.

  21. avatar jpIZZLE

    mAN ITS HEARTBREAKER i GREW UP WITH THIS HOG MAN WHEN i WAS YOUNGER i CRIED IN THE EMO PARTS OF HIS STORY i EVEN GOT GOOSE BUMPS WHEN TURNING INTO SUPER AND TO HEAR THAT HE IS A DIEING TREND PLEaSE SOMEONE SAVE this badass hedge hog yea hes been tossed maround like a pease of dough but all real gamers know what the real sonic should.SAVE SONIC!!!!!

  22. avatar Xerostarr

    I never had any problem with the sonic adventure series if they’d fine tune it a bit (mostly camera angles and control issues), but it would be nice to see them have a big release with the series returning to its roots. I think I’d rather keep around Shadow instead of Tails, or just Sonic, Knuckles, and Metal Sonic. Anything to get rid of that annoying orange fox :P

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