An Icon in Crisis

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Sonic the Hedgehog. A name recognized worldwide and known for many years as one of the greatest icons of video games. However, for quite some time Sonic has experienced problems. This is due to the dubious quality of some of the games released in recent years. In fact, I would say that this year completed a decade since the so-called “Sonic Cycle” began. I will do an analysis of what is happening with the hedgehog over the past decade, but will not take into account the spin-offs Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic and the Black Knight and others. 

First of all, let me explain what is the “Sonic Cycle”. It is the period from the announcement of a new Sonic game, the hype created around the same and the subsequent disappointment with regard to certain aspects of the game that did not please the fans and critics, which leads to mistrust on the quality of later titles. This is the “Sonic Cycle”, a process that has been repeated for many years.

The “Sonic Cycle”

It all started after Sega quit the hardware business and became a Softhouse. Having to completely redo the focus of its business, Sega had to begin launching their exclusive titles to his former competitors including Nintendo, old rival. The big bet of Sega was the release of Sonic Heroes for all consoles and PC later. The game was a success and became a good first step for Sonic after the Dreamcast and into the other consoles. However, this good start did not last long because in 2005, Sega decided to launch a new Sonic game whose protagonist was not Sonic but Shadow. It was all in order to try to earn easy cash on the huge popularity of the character. The game, however, was a fiasco. Poor graphics, poor soundtrack, gameplay issues, not to mention the controversy surrounding the fact that Shadow actually used firearms in the game. It was from this point that the “Sonic Cycle” started.

Shadow the Hedgehog, the title that started Sonic's crisis.
Shadow the Hedgehog, the title that started the crisis.

The bad reception of the game “Shadow the Hedgehog” lit a red alert in Sega and so they started working on what would be the biggest fiasco, both to Sonic and Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. The whole problem started when Sega announced that would make a “reboot” of the series, ie start everything all over from scratch. This left many people wary of what might happen. However, Sega showed some impressive trailers that left everyone very excited by the launch of the game. The “hype” had begun.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, a grande promessa que se tornou um dos maiores fiascos.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, the great promise that end up as one of gaming greatest fiascos.

The great idea that Sega had with “Sonic the Hedgehog 2006” was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the series with a whole new epic beginning. As time went on and more details were being presented, most fans were suspicious of what was being done with the plot. Now there was a kingdom and a princess who was kidnapped by the now serious villain Dr. Eggman. Ring any bells? Kingdom? Kidnapped princess? Where have I heard that before?

Yeah. But if the plot was of dubious quality the trailers showed frantic action at high speed and stunning graphics, so if the game was good in that respect there would be no problem. However, supposedly what happened was that the 15th year anniversary was fast approaching and seeing that there would be no time to get everything ready before the great day Sega called the producers and told them to release the game the way it was. And the game was not polished at all. The graphics were much lower than what had been seen in the trailers and gameplay also was not the best. But the main problem was the “bugs”. It was like the game had not gone through a process of complete testing for the detection and correction of programming flaws and the end result was a game with so many bugs and glitches that eventually became reference in the category “most glitched games of all time”.

As it might be expected the game was slammed by critics and although there are still many people who swear that the game is good, it is impossible to turn a blind eye to what was done. Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 became a real stigma for the series and there was a lot of people who thought that Sonic was going to die right there. However, Sonic was having trouble only in desktop consoles. In handhelds, the series was going very well with Sonic Rush and Rush Adventure and previous entries like the Advance series.

Seeing the big mistake they had committed it didn’t took long for Sega announce a new game that this time was going to bring the series to its former glory. Sonic Unleashed also impressed a lot in the trailers, but mistrust came roaring back after the presentation of the “Werehog” which was basically Sonic turned into a werewolf. The Werehog brought a completely different style of gameplay for the series. It was a mixed platform and beat ‘em up (aka ass kicking), a slower style of gameplay. Sonic continued his high speed platforming gameplay and that pleased everyone, because in this aspect the game became very well done and impressive. The Werehog, however, was criticized for being too slow, repetitive and have some problems of level design. The game was a hit among fans, but displeased the critics.

Having seen the success that Sonic’s gameplay style in “Sonic Unleashed” had, Sega decided to create another game this time just for that style, that is, without the Werehog and its slow and repetitive playing style. Thus, came Sonic Colors, a game that brought the best of Unleashed and added interesting new mechanics like the wisps that granted unique abilities to Sonic according to their color, and that’s from where comes the name of the game. The game was an absolute success, both among critics and as well as the fans. Finally, it seemed that Sonic had found his way.

Later on in order to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the series was released Sonic Generations which had the same gameplay style of Colors, but added the “Classic Sonic” which brought back the style of play of the classic Mega Drive/Genesis titles. Again, the game was an absolute success. It seemed that it was the end of the “Sonic Cycle”. But it seems that Sega did not completely learned from their mistakes. And in the end they brought drastic changes in the style of gameplay for the next title in the series, “Sonic Lost World”.

Lost World brought a gameplay style that resembled “Super Mario Galaxy”, due to the style of the stages look like the ones from the Mario game. The game focused more on what i call “gravitational platforming” and greatly diminished the speed which is the main feature of the series. The game was not considered bad, but it was certainly considered inferior to what had been done before. There were people who loved it and there were people who hated it. But that just end up restarting the “Sonic Cycle”.

The latest episode of Sonic’s crisis was the catastrophic failure of Sonic Boom who apparently suffered the same problems as “Sonic 2006” in which it was released before it was actually ready for launch. Most of the audience was already suspicious of the title after the presentation of the new design of the characters, with the bandaged Sonic and super muscular big Knuckles (and brainless apparently).

Acho que o nome é Sonic Boom, por causa da quantidade de bomba que o Knuckles tomou.
I think the name is Sonic Boom, because of the amount of steroids that Knuckles took as these are known in my country as “bomba” (bomb).

It is sad to see the situation in which Sonic is today. Trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of successes and failures, the hedgehog can only watch as his importance diminishes increasingly in the gaming scenario. Sonic has never been so far away from his rival Mario as now. The only thing to do is to wait for better days and that this great icon of the games can find a path with no stones to be able to run at full speed and without worries.

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