Sonic the Hedgehog’s history, top to bottom, has been at the top of the industry… and at the bottom. When Sonic rolled into neighborhoods on the Genesis, he did it with a reassuring smirk, a mechanic that legitimately got the best mascots in the business anxious and a world that would become (thanks in no small part to the countless covers displaying the level on the front of the games) synonymous with the Green Hill Zone. Sonic’s meteoric rise to fame is evident in his two popular cartoon series, his Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon and countless merchandise items that appeared at the time of his early rise to stardom. Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles would all go on to be contenders for best Genesis game. When the Genesis was relevant, no-one would have predicted that the sands of time could deliver anything other than more good news for our favorite hedgehog.
But that it did.
With a canceled Sonic X-treme and nothing to cover the ugly truth, that the Sega Saturn had no new Sonic game, not forgetting the 32X and Sega CD’s ghost of a presence in the market… Sega had somehow lost their way in the space of a generation. Sega were desperate to disown the Saturn and get their next system out and that they did. The Dreamcast was released as soon as possible and with the system’s launch finally came a new Sonic game: Sonic Adventure. Sonic Adventure and the later released Sonic Adventure 2 were critically praised at release and were also contenders for the best games of their system… this is where it gets a bit messy. Sonic Heroes was the successor to the two Dreamcast games, arriving as a multi-platform game for the Gamecube, Playstation 2 and Xbox. Sonic Heroes was criticized for glitchy mechanics and messy level design, amongst other issues. Shadow the Hedgehog came after Sonic Heroes and was criticized more so than any Sonic game before it, taking issue with its main mechanic of guns and other weapons as a means of attacking and its dark storyline. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was the real critical mess, amazingly drawn out loading times, glitchy mechanics galore, two needless characters, it had it all.
But then it got better…
Sonic Unleashed, released in 2008, was a bad game. The daytime levels were a delight to play, they were well thought out, well designed levels with the Hedgehog Engine serving Sonic’s gameplay incredibly well. The break-neck speed of the levels was enough to make addicts out of any Sonic fan… unfortunately it was only 40% of the game. Sonic Unleashed was majority-owned by its nighttime levels, a poor God of War knock-off mechanic being your means to transverse the levels meant that Sonic Unleashed was far worse than it should have been. But it was a start. It was a start that no-one seemed to pick up on because Sonic by this point had become the punching bag of the industry. The Sonic cycle was more than a reality and as such, Sonic Unleashed became a forgotten game prior to release. It was about as bad a reputation could be when trying to revive a series.
But despite the unpopularity of the series, that didn’t stop Sega from trying. Sonic Colors was released in 2010 and critically was the first time Sonic had received recognition on a console since Sonic Adventure 2. The story was light and goofy, the characters followed suit, the voice acting was better, the cut-scenes were sweet and the levels were fun. This was the Sonic game we wanted. The fans cried out for a Sonic game with only Sonic playable and the daytime mechanics of Sonic Unleashed exclusively and it happened. It was a pretty great time to be a Sonic fan, even if the rest of the world didn’t quite catch on. This critical recognition continued with Sonic Generations, a homage and summarizing of the series up to then.
Sure, there have been other side-games and handheld games that haven’t been mentioned that have been well-received, especially on the handheld front, where Sonic has been proving he’s still got it for quite the time now, but I wanted to focus on the main series of games because realistically, these are the games that get the most marketing, the most hype, the most people talking. With Sonic Lost World coming out soon, I thought it was prime-time to remind people of Sonic’s history and just why you should be excited for the newest Sonic offering. Sonic has been on somewhat of a roll recently, his console games only set to get better and his handheld games are as good as they’ve ever been. The Hedgehog Engine served as a reminder that Sonic could still be fun and Sega hadn’t given up all hope in searching for that perfect Sonic style. Sonic Lost World looks interesting because you aren’t constantly at break-neck speed, flying past everything in sight, you have a choice of moving around more freely, as well as going fast. The more free-roaming gameplay is further accentuated by the Mario Galaxy esque level design.
It has already been confirmed that the levels in Sonic Lost World are derivative of the Genesis-era levels, this is a good thing. If there was one thing I disliked about Sonic Adventure, it was the human setting, the complete disregard for the North-American understanding of what Sonic the Hedgehog was and if there was one thing everyone disliked about Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), it was… the whole thing, but more specifically, the whole “human” thing. Sonic Lost World, as we have seen from the gameplay demo’s so far, certainly plays into the nostalgia and the aesthetic of the Genesis worlds, which I don’t think any Sonic fan will be complaining about. I personally also dig the color palette in the trailer and demo’s.
As we leave this summary of Sonic’s history and just why Sonic Lost World won’t be as bad as the internet may lead you to believe, let me just remind you that Sonic actually isn’t as bad now as the everlasting impression of Sonic’s mid history makes you think. Colors was an impressively entertaining game in its mood and its gameplay and Sonic Generations followed the gameplay of Colors and Unleashed closely whilst bringing old-generation Sonic back for the ride. Sega has been making quality Sonic games for the past few years, it’s just the internet may very well be passed thinking Sonic is a big dog in the industry… and yeah, that is actually a valid point. With Sonic taking so long to recover from his post-2D crash, why would we just wait around for the next Sonic? We wouldn’t and we didn’t. We played the Mario’s, the Uncharted’s, the Bioshock’s. Guys, it’s been a long time since Sonic was on top, it’s understandable that people wouldn’t be interested in the newest offering. I just want to remind you that even though Sonic will probably never hit the heights he did in his hey-day, Sonic has been doing perfectly fine for a while, but he wants the industry back on for the ride.