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When you get down to it, it's less about the designs of classic and modern themselves. And more what they represent.
some fans associate certain things about the series with classic and others with modern.
In the case of Project Hero, using the Modern designs set up expectations based on their preferences for Modern Sonic. Only for that to be dropped for Classic Sonic. So there's a feeling of betrayal...as irrational as it sounds, it makes sense.
I'd want to say overexposure is an element too. 2017-18 was the year of Classic Sonic. Mania, Mania Plus, Mania Adventures. If you were just in it for the games, all you had if you were into non-classic Sonic was Forces... and even that had Classic Sonic crowbarred in there so hard that everyone physically felt it.
I think that there's something to be said about there being a lot of insecurity around Modern Sonic as well? It's been a really, really rocky decade, we already had one failed attempt at replacing Modern Sonic as being the flagship franchise with Sonic Boom, and now with all the recent success surrounding Classic Sonic... I can see how the perception can be seen that Classic Sonic could be replacing Modern.
I think a lot of people were looking at something like Project Hero as a sort of statement of "look, you don't have to replace these designs, they can still work, you just have to actually sit down and reassess the gameplay". I think that's where the feeling of betrayal comes from.
While I don't think that Modern Sonic is going to be replaced, I think there's a ton of uncertainty with the future of the franchise given how much of a failure Sonic Forces is, and its been 3 years and we still don't have any clue on what SEGA is going to do next. I find it kinda crazy that it has been so long, and we don't even know absolutely crazy that the 30th anniversary Sonic even is going to be.
Sonic fans are super anxious right now, and I think that's why we're at the point where we're seeing fans freaking out over character designs in unofficial fan projects. I mean, we just had a huge fanbase freakout over a comic panel of Tails being drawn in a certain way, because it reminded them of a scene in Forces, even though the context behind those two moments were entirely different.
That doesn't make it right, but I think that we're going to be seeing a lot more of stuff like this going into the future until we finally get some clarity about the future of the franchise.