So it’s 2017. What’s Going On with Sonic the Hedgehog?
So, it’s 2017. What’s the skinny on the ol’ Blue Blur?
You don’t need me to give you a Sonic history lesson right now, so I’ll spare you the intricacies of my Sonic expertise. You’re here to figure out what’s up with the still-loved, although slightly estranged, Sega mascot.
For the year 2017, Sega has promised two Sonic releases, Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania. We’ll begin our discussion with Sonic Forces. Up until mid March 2017, Sonic Forces was known as Project Sonic or Sonic 2017, but we are finally graced with a proper Sonic title. This unveiling of the name and the new logo surely means that this new Sonic game is inching closer to
being another decent but disappointing Sonic game a more precise release date. Sonic Team’s fresh Tweet of the new Sonic title also promised a new gameplay trailer, which we have here!
Sonic Forces is expected to release in Quarter 4 for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC. From the things I have heard and seen, it appears that Sonic Forces aims to build on the style of play, and ensuing moderate critical success, of their previous games Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors. Yours truly was a fan of Sonic Generations, and you can read my review of that game here. As much as I enjoyed my time with Sonic Generations, I also could not overlook how Sonic Team failed to truly captivate the spirit of classic Genesis-style Sonic, serving up a modest heap of 2D platforming fun intertwined with the more modern 3D Sonic that started on the Dreamcast. This mishmash of old-meets-new Sonic was intended to please everyone, and it was a truly great idea, but it lacked some serious firepower.
The gameplay trailer for Sonic Forces only provides a glimpse into Sonic’s war-torn world, but if this snippet is any indication of what to expect, then it looks like Sonic Team is planning to deliver an all-too-familiar experience. Granted, there are people out there who adore Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors, but the series needs to advance, and I don’t believe that Sonic Forces is going to do enough to satiate the fans’ true desires. Personally, and professionally, it looks like a bunch of the same-old-same-old but with an obvious upgrade in technical prowess to account for the upgrade in hardware. It looks better, and it probably plays tighter, but if I had to guess, I would say that it’s not going to be a revolutionary game.
Although Sonic Forces has the bigger budget and is obviously intended to be the “grander” Sonic game of 2017, Sega’s other Sonic game, Sonic Mania, is generating a large amount of buzz in its own right. Sonic Mania brings Sonic back to his 16-bit 2D roots a la Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles. For those of us who have been playing Sonic since the days of the Genesis, “16-bit Sonic,” or “Classic Sonic,” is often thought of as the purest and most definitive way to play a Sonic game. So while we are all excited for Sonic Forces, and it really does look like an exciting game, I believe that Sonic Mania has piqued the Sonic fanboy interest with much more intensity.
Sonic Mania is Sega’s newest attempt at recapturing the excitement that Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara created in 1991. But this isn’t Sega’s first venture into retro-fitting their current and future game library. Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and Episode 2 in 2010 and 2012 respectively, both of which played much like a Classic Sonic game but with more current generation graphics. In addition to Sonic 4, Sega also released Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations in 2010 and 2011 respectively, both of which utilized side-scrolling and third-person perspectives to provide gamers with a mixture of classic and modern Sonic gameplay. Results were positive, as I mentioned before. So what makes Sonic Mania different, and how is it going to appeal to the classic-Sonic gamers in a way that the others couldn’t?
Sonic Mania is not just another half-assed attempt, which is what I think about all of Sega’s attempts at Sonic games over the past 20 years (with the exception of Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure and Sonic Adventure). This time around, Sonic, his enemies, the stages, the platforms, the loop-de-loops, the bumpers, the designs, the music, and nearly anything else you can think of is being crafted in classic 16-bit fashion. It appears that every detail was given special consideration in respects to its ancestors on the Sega Genesis.
As long as the purchase price isn’t too steep, I truly believe Sonic Mania will be a commercial and critical success. I don’t see people wanting to spend more than $30 on a game designed to stir up your nostalgia. But if the price point is closer to $20, I believe people will instinctively flock to this game like the Salmon of Capistrano. Unfortunately for everyone, Sonic Mania‘s release is being pushed to Summer 2017 to further develop and tighten up the game. While fans will have to wait a little longer, releasing a game a little later is almost always better than releasing it before it is fully ready (looking at you Sega Saturn).
No matter which style of Sonic you are into, modern Sonic or classic 16-bit Sonic, 2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for all Sonic fans. And as far as which direction Sonic goes after both games release this year, we just want to see Sonic succeed! Because he has been down for far too long, and the Sonic Boom series was a serious mishandling of Sonic’s already tarnished brand.
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