So let's talk Sonic.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis was the first video game I ever played. They were showing it for sample play at a mall I went to, side-by-side with Super Mario World, both of which were new at the time. Just by watching the screens (i.e. without even playing either title) I could tell which one I liked better and gravitated toward Sonic first. It was more colorful and faster paced, plus I preferred playing as an animal actually; I thought Sonic was a cute little critter. My parents took the cue that I was interested in noticing that I'd stayed there, mainly hooked to the same machine, for over an hour straight. They got me a Genesis for Christmas because it came packaged with Sonic the Hedgehog. So Sonic in particular occupies kind of a special place in my heart if you know what I mean.
I think it safe to say that Sonic has lost some luster since those early days. Not that more recent Sonic games are per se bad, but I think it obvious that the blue blur's heyday consisted of his first 10 years of proverbial life: from 1991 (the original Sonic the Hedgehog) through 2001 (Sonic Adventure 2). By "heyday" here I'm referring to those days in which new Sonic games were often compared favorably to the Mario installments of the time. On home consoles anyway, that came to an abrupt halt once Sonic went multi-platform. I, of course, am not counting console remakes of earlier, pre-multi-platform titles like Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, the Sonic Mega Collection, and the Sonic Gems Collection, all of which were great. But every *original* new Sonic console title from Sonic Heroes (2004) down to the present has been somewhat of a letdown. At this point I think it obvious that new Mario titles consistently trump new Sonic ones in overall quality and enjoyability these days. That makes me sad because I still like Sonic better as a character. He's way more stylish than Mario, plus I like the themes of Sonic games better. Y'know, generally animals liberating themselves from a human oppressor, I mean. (The reverse of that being what you usually find in Mario games.) The question then is what's gone wrong in recent years for the hog with the 'tude?
I think first and foremost the answer is that Sonic console
games have gotten pretty gimmicky since the start of the blue blur's multi-platform days. (Fortunately, Sonic's portable adventures haven't experienced a comparable degeneration that I've noticed.) By this I mean that each new Sonic console title has both introduced and relied on some new one-game hook that simply doesn't fundamentally compliment the franchise's most defining element: speed (e.g. eams in Sonic Heroes, shoot-'em-up action in Shadow the Hedgehog, a "werehog" transformation in Sonic Unleashed, swordplay in Sonic and the Black Knight, etc.)...at best, that is. At worst, the installment completely betrayed the essence of a decent Sonic game altogether. Yes, in connection to the latter proposal, I refer to the 2006 one-game "re-invention" of Sonic. Since the failure of this "re-invention" especially, Sonic's undergone a pretty bad identity crisis, veering off into fairy tale land, into Mario games (the ultimate signpost of the character's comparative defeat!), and stuff like this. As an expression of that identity crisis, every new Sonic game that's come out in the last few years has featured a different producer.
All this, however, gives me some hope for these new titles coming out over the Holiday season: Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors (including the console version of the latter). Why? Because they both have somebody I trust as the producer, first and foremost: Takashi Iizuka, the senior game designer for Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. According to the interviews with him I've read on the subjects, he grasps the franchise's issues I've laid out above. I think the reasons to be excited about Sonic 4 are obvious, so let's focus instead on Sonic Colors, and namely the console version: Sonic Colors, from every description I've read so far, will basically (in terms of game play, that is) be Sonic Unleashed minus the "werehog" factor. That's very promising to me because the regular Sonic stages of Sonic Unleashed were frankly the best Sonic experience I'd ever had in terms of fun. The problem with the game was that you instead spent 70% of it as this bulky, unwieldy monstrosity that was totally out of the blue blur's character. Minus that element, it would've been the best Sonic game in roughly forever! And that's what Sonic Colors is shaping up to be. I'm actually just as excited about it as I am Sonic 4!
Then again, I may be getting my hopes up for the revival of a doomed franchise, but I really see strong potential here for these upcoming Sonic installments. But seriously, take a look at these full levels of Sonic Colors and tell me honestly that you'd rather be playing Super Mario Galaxy 2. I don't think so!
Sweet Mountain Act 1
Sweet Mountain Act 2
See what I mean? Even the new power-ups aren't gimmicky: they actually compliment the central speed factor that makes a Sonic game distinctly a Sonic game. Sorry but to me this looks and promises to be way past cool!
Whadda you think? Interested? Or is there no hope for the hog?