As a kid growing up, you just had to choose. Sonic or Mario. Nintendo or SEGA. Fanboyism between the kiddy Nintendo and edgy SEGA fans was at an all-time high. Looking back, it’s funny seeing that SEGA was the more mature option opposing Nintendo back then. Kiddy or no, I mostly grew up with Nintendo, but man, did I want a SEGA console.
I actually got one. Rather, make that two.
For a short time, I had a Master System that, if I recall correctly, would start Alex Kidd if you turned it on without a cartridge. Alex Kidd wasn’t the only game to play on the Master System either, next to that, there was Sonic. Sonic the Hedgehog. I liked the game.
I say liked because as much I remember enjoying it, I really don’t remember much about it at all. There’s no lasting impression with Sonic, outside that I just generally liked it. I wonder just how much of this was due to the Sonic The Hedgehog cartoon now. Of all the videogame based cartoons that I enjoyed, I liked the two Sonic cartoons best.
Then again, I did enjoy the Zelda cartoon.
Sonic The Hedgehog got itself a second round later on though, in the form of the Gamegear version. This time, and this time he brought help: Sonic Chaos.
Again, not much in the form of memories about either game. I do remember the Gamegear was years and years ahead of Nintendo’s handheld systems, and that the games pretty much played just like a console Sonic would, which was incredible when you consider it only took three GameBoy generations for Nintendo to get at that level.
Outside of that, there’s just nothing I can talk about. It didn’t leave any impression whatsoever.
And it’s not like I haven’t gone back to replay those titles or anything.
I have gone back to Sonic. All the Sonics. All of them.
What I found was a series with bad level, stupid choices, and boring unimaginative boss battles. And no, I’m not describing the modern games. Those are so terrible, that would be a compliment if that’s all that was wrong there.
Sonic’s always been the marketing wonderboy. Aimed at a specific group, lacking any form of substance whatsoever. The only thing that’s kept Sonic afloat all this time was his ability to run faster than the marketing executives willing to axe him because he’s no longer the profitable cashcow that he once was.
The only generation where Sonic really delivered anything special was during his Dreamcast run. Sonic Adventure and Adventure 2 had that special extra push that the previous titles missed during their Sonic levels. And yeah, I’m saying Sonic levels on purpose here, because the games lost their focus completely with every other level and character besides.
Apparently Sonic found his roots again with the latest title, Generations.
I’m kind of wary about what the heck these roots are supposed to be. Running faster than the screen can keep up with? That’s the kind of cool thing like that doesn’t hold up. It’s as cool as the framerate plunging when there are too many explosions in Goldeneye or too many cars chasing you in Driver. If any other game would try this now, it would be a sure sign of bad programming. Those are “cool” things that came from technical limitations.
I really doubt I’m the only one who wonders what it is that made Sonic a beloved character that so many people have expectations of. Just looking at what SEGA has done with the character, and how they’ve been stumbling around with the franchise drunkenly is a good indication of that. If they had any idea of what made Sonic half-decent, they wouldn’t try adding pointless new fluff to each title. And you know why they do that? Because Sonic’s always been nothing more than just pointless fluff.
Sonic never really had any substance. Where Mario was always ridiculed to be the kiddy one, Sonic’s always been the franchise that never grew up. There are jokes out there about how Mario’s got a job, an identity, fights an actual monster, and how Sonic is the deadbeat teenager who is rebelling against an authoritative figure. Charming as this is, that’s not what I mean by Sonic not being the one who grew up.
Nintendo has always added fluff to Mario. Heck, Nintendo has been throwing gameplay elements at it constantly, just to see what sticks. What does stick however, gets taken along for the next title. What doesn’t gets taken away. As a result, the Mario franchise grew and evolved in a natural sense. Then it branched out into different franchises and did the same thing with those.
Sonic started his life as a collection of fluff. It’s located in a fluff room, and there are people constantly refreshing the fluff so that the fluff can never settle. The fluff itself is never really new, it just gets recycled. It’s not an experimental process where we get to see what sticks and what does not, it’s just this bizzaro room that we’re just too afraid to explore or change for sentimental reasons.
So instead, let’s all group together as fans and complain about the curtains. Or the color of the door. Because that’s what is truly wrong with the franchise.
That’s kind of the stance that I’ve seen from most of the Sonic fanbase, with their heated arguments about the crappy voice acting, or the long rants about the name of Dr. Robotnik (Dr. Eggman).