I remember back when I was a little kid, Sonic 3D blast was the first Sonic game played. Not a great introductory game yet, it still served as a gateway. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is what helped me understand what the gameplay was supposed to be like and I fell in love. When you’re a kid and you find something that checkmarks what you’re looking for in fun and what looks cool, it’s going to take a lot to let it go.
My history with the Sonic games was great for a handful of years. I’ll still argue that Sonic CD is the best game in the series. Up until high school is how long I had before I started seeing Sonic in a less than positive way. I was ten years old when I was waiting for Sonic Adventure to release. Back then, the graphics from the Sega Dreamcast would mesmerize you especially after you’re used to the Nintendo 64 or Sony Playstation and when I finally first played Sonic Adventure, I had this comforting feeling that I was playing in what was like the future. The wait to see what would happen was going to have me excited. But, when was the beginning of the end? Was it Sonic Adventure 2?
In some ways, Sonic Adventure 2 was a step in the right and wrong directions at the same time. While I had an undeniable amount of fun with them, Sonic Adventure and its sequel would serve as a foreshadowing of what was to come. Dialogue that would feel like it’s from a children’s show that tried too hard to be serious, awkward storylines, music that would feel embarrassing if someone caught me listening to it and bad gameplay mechanics would all begin to cause a disconnect between me and the games. I don’t believe it was Sonic Adventure 2 that would be the beginning of the end and instead, here’s where I think it started. Sonic Heroes.
The 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog hasn’t been announced yet or even known of before things began to crumble. Bad gameplay was making the titles suffer and what was once a fun competition to Mario had now lost appeal and by the time high school was over, you wouldn’t catch me buying a Sonic game unless it was a classic. I even abandoned buying Sega games. Here’s the problem: even if the games didn’t have problems of bad gameplay, there was another problem that Sega is still trying to shake away from.
Current Sonic games and their fans make people cringe.
In a video by Good Blood, it is pointed out that the people who loved the 90’s Sonic games growing up are now reaching their 30s if they aren’t there already and this includes myself. Since the early 2000s, there has been a disconnect from that core fanbase. In another video essay done by The Kazeblade, it’s pointed out that the decisions that made Sonic the character he is are why people don’t think he’s cool anymore. As stated, he’s not cool anymore but instead, he acts like he’s cool. A person from the original fanbase is likely to want to enjoy a new Sonic game but, the fanbase has had a weird shift in the past 15 years.
It doesn’t take much work to find cringe videos related to Sonic and the fans. Think about the fact that one of the most well, known Sonic fans is Chris Chandler, a person who’s most well known work is making a poorly made Sonic fan comic called “Sonichu” where you can see it was done by markers and crayon. Chris Chandler, the person who would be outraged over Sega changing the color of his arms, make a campaign over it and mace a GameStop employee after trying to vandalize their displays as a protest.
Because of the fanbase, Sonic has become a joke for a lot of us. I still fondly looked back at the fun I had with the games of my childhood but, you wouldn’t catch me buying a Sonic game at a gaming store unless it was a classic. For a while, I wondered if the series would die. Sega’s reputation was pretty well shot and players already have what feels like an infinite amount of games to play instead.
Then, something happened. Word broke out that a new Sonic game was in the works and to our surprise, it was a 2D sonic game. Not even a 3D looking sidescroller but, an actual 2D Sonic game. You know, with sprites. It’s called Sonic Mania and as soon as I saw the reveal trailer, I was ready to hand credit card information.
In glory, we have a new Sonic game where it feels like Sega said, “Hey Sonic fans, remember this thing called fun?”
The thing is, if you were to look at Sonic Mania as a fan game, you wouldn’t be too far off because it was developed by people who started off making Sonic fan games and releasing them on the internet. Imagine that, Sega deciding to let a team of fans who grew up with the games take the wheel.
“Look, if you think making a good Sonic game is that easy, we’d like to see you motherfuckers go on and try-
So what now?
After years of waiting, we finally have a Sonic game that I don’t feel ashamed to feel excited for. Meanwhile, we have another Sonic game planned for release in November called Sonic Forces. In this game, Sonic cringe is back and the meme of Sonic original characters is actually implemented in the game.
Sonic Forces is a game that looks like a step back into what created the disconnect from the fans that abandoned the series. The 3D Sonic games have caused players to believe that Sonic does not transition well to that form of gameplay. However, this is more because the games simply aren’t handled well by Sega and they are not listening to what fans want. Do I want Sonic Forces to do well? Of course. I don’t want to see a game simply suck but, Sega has needed a kick in the ass to get their shit together. For what it’s worth, Sonic Generations did have a lot going right that could be further branched out.
Let’s be honest, Sonic Mania is not a game we saw coming and I believe everyone who has enjoyed Sonic would like to have more games they’d love out of the character. If anything, Sonic Mania is a sliver of hope that Sega can start making great games again. Sega has a choice right now. They can either listen to the fanbase’s love of Mania and understand that if they make more games like that, people will buy them. Or, they could keep going down the same path they started back in the early 2000’s and keep Sonic Mania as a one-time thing. Maybe things can look up. It’s not like Sonic can get any cringier, right?