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Austroid

Edgy Sonic games were better?

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I recently saw this vid and it got me thinking. Overall I agree with this.

Looking back, it was pretty admirable for Sega to try and take a game franchise staring a talking hedgehog in such an unorthodox direction, when "making it more like Mario" would've been the easier route. You could tell from the way cutscenes were written and shot, that they wanted the series to be similar to blockbuster movies, only they just happened to star talking animals. All the stuff you wouldn't normally see in such a series with the religious prophecies, apocalyptic events and government conspiracies just made Sonic so much more unique. Growing up in this era myself, it definitely made the series more appealing to me as it felt more cool and grown up, over those "kiddy Mario games."

With Sonic Colors to present day, story-wise its just... easier for them to play stuff for laughs, and make light of everything. Memes galore and all that good stuff. Heck, with Lost World and Forces stories, the "dark" stuff even comes across as parody. Right now the series just feels tone deaf trying to appeal to everybody, and in the process appealing to almost nobody.

What do you guys think?

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Didn't watch the video (sorry I almost never do in these topics) but I don't think edgy is the right word. In fact, I don't think a single word really can describe what makes the so called edgy games more narratively engaging. What I can say about them though is that even the more corny games at the time like Heroes had one major difference with the games of today; the meta did not write the story.

It's been a common problem that I've seen complained about with other long running series is that eventually the stories start being told from the meta instead of written using internal logic. Sonic no longer reacts to the events of the narrative from the traits that inform his character but by his current reputation out of universe. The stories feel presented so tongue in cheek that they lack any gravitas or sincerity. As much as I prefer Sonic as an Action Adventure series versus being an Action Comedy series, even Mania Adventures which more toed the line between was able to stay sincere and earnest with the story it aimed to tell by using in universe elements to carry the story and characters rather than letting the meta and memes dictate the narrative. The earnest and genuine affect that left most people praising the show with many saying that is what Sonic should be and what SEGA should push for. It wasn't a matter of tone or story content, but how it was executed and whether or not it stayed truthful to the characters from an in universe perspective rather than the characters' out of universe and meta reputations.

So as I said, for me there isn't a single word that can describe what made the older narratives more engaging, but sincerity and in universe narrative influence over meta influence are things that the old games had and from what I can tell are part of what made Mania Adventures work so well. Now I could be wrong since I'm speaking entirely from my POV and interpretation, but at the very least "edgy" is not the right way to describe what made these games work since there were not even that many edgy moments even in the Adventure games. Again, you had narratives that were genuine and strived to be sincere and truthful to who the characters were and their world from an in universe perspective rather than from the meta which is part of where the "edgy" denomination comes from. Edgy could never be used from an in universe position to describe the events taking place as it is by it's very nature an external descriptor that at best in universe would maybe be cheekily used comment to criticize another character's actions. At least that's my stance on it and hope that I made it clear and understandable.

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I'm going to watch the video after posting this, just so that I've got a point of self-reference before and after. It'll be interesting to see what the video says.

Anyway, my initial thoughts on this are that SEGA took Sonic way off the deep end as the series progressed. Sonic always had a touch more story and lore than Mario and other mascot platformers, and this was built upon consistently even in the old days. Sonic 1 sets the scene, and Sonic 2 is virtually the same thing with the stakes upped. CD and 3K upped the ante with more involved plots, character dynamics and settings, although the scenarios were still relatively simple in their premise; an evil scientist wants to take over the world using ancient magic and it's up to some colourful animals to stop him. 

This trend continued through to SA1, where I personally think the series plot and tonal shifts peaked and have never been bested since (although Unleashed pretty much matches it). Throughout all of this time, the games were a modern fantasy world. There were some serious plot elements and lore being established, but everything felt very believeable and contained within the universe. Artistically the series was also constantly pushing the same direction; the aesthetic was realism to the point of high detail, but only as far as a talking blue bi-pedal hedgehog (who looks nothing like a hedgehog) would fit in naturally. Humans, in their limited appearances, looked like anime or cartoon characters. The environments were usually stylised if they were based on realistic settings, and the series became known for outlandish geometric patterns like those found in Green Hill. Even more realistic city locales boasted vivid designs so that nothing looked too out of place. The use of colour was very well thought out.

Things began to change with SA2. There was a definite shift at this point. Even though we saw areas like Pumpkin Hill and The Ark, the focus was now to make much of the world seem add realistic as possible; City Escape and highway levels for example are simply digital renditions of San Francisco. Things changed even more regarding the plot, which is no longer building upon the series existing lore. There's nothing wrong with introducing new plot elements - storylines run the risk of becoming contrived and convoluted if they just try to reuse the same base material incessantly (looking at you, Assassin's Creed). However, what SA2 introduced was incredibly alien to the series. Suddenly the military and government became important figures, long lost relatives were introduced and the previously mentioned notion of a blue hedgehog no longer seemed natural. Sonic's universe was being very forcibly changed into something that heavily contrasted with what came before.

Further problems arose when the series couldn't decide on an image for itself. After SA2, things went right back to almost Sonic 1 levels of basic with Heroes. The only shake up was the expanded cast who's presence was mostly handwaved, and inclusion of voiced cutscenes even though the plot was basically just "beat the baddie" until the very end. After Heroes the series just flopped sound without a clue about what it was trying to achieve. ShTH was similar to SA1 artistically albeit with a lot less colour, but tonally was SA2 on steroids. Everything about it was totally removed from the series roots as the game took itself so seriously. Realistic guns and cartoon hedgehogs was just a laughable, nonsensical design choice. It got worse with '06, which dropped the last remnants of Sonic's brand identity for total realism.

Compounding the problems of the questionable design choices that the series was making, the games also took a nosedive in quality. Not only was the gameplay diverging massively, fans had no idea what to expect. This lead to new game being brought in and the existing fans feeling alienated. This happened with virtually every game, including the spin-offs. When Unleashed rolled around, some might say that we were looking at a return to form. Others would still see it as too different to the original games, while others would be yearning for the unwavering epic and serious stylings of SA2 and '06. 

SEGA had caused irreparable damage by this point. Nobody really knew what Sonic was anymore. Gameplay and image had been messed around with so much that Sonic couldn't be defined as a brand. Much as it was exciting to see the series never play it safe in the mid-2000s, it went way too far and read never sure of itself.

Since Colours, SEGA have settled more on the making Sonic feel like a cartoon stores. Gone are the epic plots, continuously lore, expanded cast and any semblance of realism, replaced with simplicity and safety. I'm not the biggest fan of what the series is now. But at least it's relatively consistent.

Or at least it was until Forces decided to screw everything up by haphazardly mixing all elements of the series edgier teenage years with its current placidity. Fuck that game.

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1 hour ago, Austroid said:

Growing up in this era myself, it definitely made the series more appealing to me as it felt more cool and grown up, over those "kiddy Mario games."

And that's about all that being "edgy" ever gained the series. Basing the series around a child's understanding of being "grown up" means it only appeals to children trying to feel grown up. It's lead to the series constantly being at odds with itself, losing track of its own identity even as it tried to move beyond that, and alienating loads of fans.

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You find these games more narrative appealing because there are literally more things going on with the narrative. It has nothing to do with being edgy or adult because anyone can tell you that 'characters dying' and 'guns' aren't ever really so far removed from kid's sci fi to be considered adult. It's still stupid shit for kids. Sonic always has been basically that and probably always will be. This stupid shit literally just had more layers.

More cut-scenes with more effort put into framing and executing them. More characters with more driving motivations and story beats. More context given to each stage you play on. A bigger assortment of bad guys that makes the universe feel bigger than it did before. I'm not talking about fucking Sonic Heroes here, but pretty much any game released outside of it: Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic 06, the Rush games, even the Storybook series. I didn't agree with every storytelling decision made here: far from it. Every new character Sonic 06 comes forward with is such a drastic misfire that it becomes comical. I like a lot of ideas that went into Shadow as a character but his story arc consistently chooses being obtuse and shocking over being emotionally resonant. Sonic being more of a wise mentor type than a dynamic character in his own right is a mixed bag. It leads to great moments with other characters like Blaze which means I think it has merit but it can also leave him feeling pretty boring sometimes.

 At the very least there are storytelling decisions being made to disagree with, though. They didn't let the type of people that are uncomfortable playing cartoon platformers unless they make fun of themselves to placate their insecurities dictate their entire storytelling philosophy. They didn't let the type of people who don't want to watch cutscenes but somehow don't think to just hit the skip button run shit. It's more sincere, so it's more interesting as a piece of entertainment. It's simple. I support it because it's not inherently ashamed of what it is and not incredibly self referential to the point of coming off as masturbatory. Two things I I've come to grow tired of in fiction.

A lighthearted Sonic game could have more of this stuff going on as well, but they pretty much never actually did outside of Sonic 3, Sonic Adventure and arguably Sonic Unleashed. Sonic Heroes, Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations, Sonic Lost World and the barebones genesis titles are the face of lighthearted Sonic storytelling, so some people in the fanbase simply began to associate the "edgier" stuff with good storytelling and the lighthearted stuff with bad or nonexistent storytelling. I think this is an inherently incorrect way of looking at things that's riddled with holes and counter examples, but when I look at the roster of games that are commonly put on either side of the isle and then remember the days where everyone was convinced Sonic had to stomp out any attempt at telling a story because they were afraid of being embarrassed, I understand how it came to be. 

When people say they want "edgy" what they really mean is that they want storytelling back in general. 

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I watched a bit of the video, but it was just questioning why Sonic seems heavily influenced by America. I'm pretty sure we all already know it's because the series sells better in the west. I mean, there is a logical reason they partnered with Hooters for Sonic Forces, I just think they didn't do the proper research in cultural differences. Yeah, Hooters has it's western origins, but also has a totally different image in the west, too.

It also pointed out that the Ark was a Star Wars parody when it's the Death Egg that has always had that particular acclaim, to my knowledge anyway. The Ark did have a weapon more like that of the Death Star, though. I get that Shadow The Hedgehog did parody Independence Day, but I couldn't watch anymore of the video. I'm too nit-picky, I know. It's also worth mentioning Super Sonic and the Seven Chaos Emeralds as a Dragonball Z parody. 

So the series has always had a slight comical vibe if you think about the early parodies. Dr Eggman's appearance basically reaffirms that.

robotnik.jpg

I didn't mind the name, Robotnik. Though I never understood why they tried to change his appearance in the west. I didn't hate it, but in terms a favourite, I've always preferred his original appearance and feel like it's a shame we never got to see him animated much. Only with the OVA and Mania Adventures. But that's not a discussion for this thread.

Though move of what I was going to say has practically been made redundant by Blue Bloods post. What he says makes perfect sense. Heck, it's also possible that the fans expectations have also contributed to the series losing all sense of identity too. With the comics and cartoons doing there own thing and ending up nothing like the universe and characters from the source (Which Sega never really define much in the first place.) the entire community is at each others throats wanting this and that while Sonic Team are dumbing down the gameplay to appeal to new fans, so they can confuse a larger number of people.

In the end, what story they are trying to tell, doesn't matter to me. They need to refine the gameplay first and foremost. Not dumb it down like I already mentioned.

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There are already tons of thoughtful, incisive, and to my mind accurate comments in this thread already, so I'll keep this brief: It seems to me that the "edgy" games (a terrible way of bracketing them, but then again, I'm not actually bothering to watch a thirty-five minute video just for this thread) had a vision.  They knew what they wanted to be and had a story they wanted to tell, right or wrong.  More recent games, conversely, have been more interested in playing safe or pandering to exactly what they think the fans and/or critics want... right or wrong.

They had vision before, but they took it too far and so they backpedalled... also too far.  That's all.

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To me, the "edgy" games were and still are just a different kind of "kiddy" games. Even as a kid in the 90s, I never associated anything Sonic, Classic or not, with being "Grown Up". The plots of Sonic Adventure 1 or 2, for example, remind me more of the old shows made for sell toys that I used to watch like Thundercats, Silverhawks or Digimon Adventure and, to be brutally honest, I think some "cutesy" games like Mother 3 have much better plots than most Sonic titles.

I can agree with one thing, though: SA1, 2 and 06 had a lot of ambition in their storylines (I can't say the same for Sonic Heroes or Shadow, though) and I would like to see the same kind of effort in a new, polished Sonic game. Forces tried to do this again, but had a terrible execution.

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I think it's important to acknowledge that Sonic was always more 'edgy' in the West than it was in Japan. Even in the classic era, the marketing and presentation of Robotnik was far more menacing than Eggman,. I think this is a key reason why Western fans were more open to the edgier side of Sonic in the 2000s, since in many ways it was a development of what already existed in western marketing, comics and cartoons. 

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1 hour ago, -dan- said:

I watched a bit of the video, but it was just questioning why Sonic seems heavily influenced by America. I'm pretty sure we all already know it's because the series sells better in the west. I mean, there is a logical reason they partnered with Hooters for Sonic Forces, I just think they didn't do the proper research in cultural differences. Yeah, Hooters has it's western origins, but also has a totally different image in the west, too.

It also pointed out that the Ark was a Star Wars parody when it's the Death Egg that has always had that particular acclaim, to my knowledge anyway. The Ark did have a weapon more like that of the Death Star, though. I get that Shadow The Hedgehog did parody Independence Day, but I couldn't watch anymore of the video. I'm too nit-picky, I know. It's also worth mentioning Super Sonic and the Seven Chaos Emeralds as a Dragonball Z parody. 

So the series has always had a slight comical vibe if you think about the early parodies. Dr Eggman's appearance basically reaffirms that.

 

 

18 minutes ago, Plasme said:

I think it's important to acknowledge that Sonic was always more 'edgy' in the West than it was in Japan. Even in the classic era, the marketing and presentation of Robotnik was far more menacing than Eggman,. I think this is a key reason why Western fans were more open to the edgier side of Sonic in the 2000s, since in many ways it was a development of what already existed in western marketing, comics and cartoons. 

Sonic was technically designed with America in mind to begin with. In fact, SEGA of Japan were slightly annoyed when Sonic was given a slight redesign anyway.

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I personally do not miss the overly edgy tone of the Sonic series. I can't take the characters seriously if they act so overly dramatic. Sonic is for me a series like Donkey Kong Country, Crash Bandicoot or Banjo. Something that is just lighthearted fun. I mean... the series is still about a big, blue, super fast, chili eating hedgehog with big feet and a 90s attitude that fights a mad, self absorbed, egg shaped scientist that wants to take over the world, only so he can build his own theme park on it. 

Why would someone ever take this concept and make it super dark and edgy? Also, Sonic Team and Sega never really went far enough to justified the edgy tone of the series. Like with SA2. The death of Maria is actually the trigger point of the whole story, but they barely showed us anything about Maria. How was her life before she meat Shadow and what did G.U.N. did to her body after they killed her? Did they used her body for weird experiments? Did they sold her organs to make a quick bug? Or did one of the G.U.N. soldiers stuffed her to a hatrack or to some ofter knick knack for one their summer homes?

Or the whole deal with Shadow the Hedgehog. It tried so hard to be super dark and edgy but still showed stuff like carnival levels, minor curse words, anime girls, and weapons that looked like toys. 

Nah, Sonic isn't made for stuff like this. This whole super serious tone is the reason why Sonic has become such a laughing stock in the first place.

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Yeah no. Edgy Sonic is stupid. When the series looses sight of any sense of fun but is just focused in how deep and serious it is it gets more laughable and ridiculous than any Pontaff script.

The only game IMHO to actually handle a serious story but retain an amount of fun and joy to the story is Unleashed and that's as far from Edgy as it gets.

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17 minutes ago, Rowl said:

 Did they used her body for weird experiments? 

 

Okay, my eyes read before anything else in that second paragraph--that's fucked up, dude.

Pretty sure she was buried and possibly written off as a casualty of Gerald's experiment.

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I know that this is fucked up. But this is what Sonic kinda needs to be, if ST really want to make the hedgehog super edgy and dark. Either make it fully dark and disturbing or just don't do it in the first place.

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1 hour ago, Rowl said:

I personally do not miss the overly edgy tone of the Sonic series. I can't take the characters seriously if they act so overly dramatic. Sonic is for me a series like Donkey Kong Country, Crash Bandicoot or Banjo. Something that is just lighthearted fun. I mean... the series is still about a big, blue, super fast, chili eating hedgehog with big feet and a 90s attitude that fights a mad, self absorbed, egg shaped scientist that wants to take over the world, only so he can build his own theme park on it. 

Why would someone ever take this concept and make it super dark and edgy? Also, Sonic Team and Sega never really went far enough to justified the edgy tone of the series. Like with SA2. The death of Maria is actually the trigger point of the whole story, but they barely showed us anything about Maria. How was her life before she meat Shadow and what did G.U.N. did to her body after they killed her? Did they used her body for weird experiments? Did they sold her organs to make a quick bug? Or did one of the G.U.N. soldiers stuffed her to a hatrack or to some ofter knick knack for one their summer homes?

Or the whole deal with Shadow the Hedgehog. It tried so hard to be super dark and edgy but still showed stuff like carnival levels, minor curse words, anime girls, and weapons that looked like toys. 

Nah, Sonic isn't made for stuff like this. This whole super serious tone is the reason why Sonic has become such a laughing stock in the first place.

The classic games weren’t quite as light as Lost World, though. The levels were still versed in some sort of reality unless they were Special Stages. The instrumentation is less whimsical. And the Badniks actually look like they’re made of metal. And, much like the super-edgy elements, the super-goofy elements of the 2010s aren’t doing much for the series any longer. They were liked in Colors, but later, these goofy elements are generally ignored or even considered annoying, even by critics.

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1 hour ago, Rowl said:

I know that this is fucked up. But this is what Sonic kinda needs to be, if ST really want to make the hedgehog super edgy and dark. Either make it fully dark and disturbing or just don't do it in the first place.

Yeesh. Reminds me of a comment or so about making Maria what might as well be something akin to Alice Angel.

9 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

The classic games weren’t quite as light as Lost World, though. The levels were still versed in some sort of reality unless they were Special Stages. The instrumentation is less whimsical. And the Badniks actually look like they’re made of metal. 

Um...

10 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

And the Badniks actually look like they’re made of metal

To be fair, I think that has more to do with the fact that they were originally 2d sprites with limited animation, whereas Lost World was a higher end console game.

It's not exactly universal, either way. 

9 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

And, much like the super-edgy elements, the super-goofy elements of the 2010s aren’t doing much for the series any longer. They were liked in Colors, but later, these goofy elements are generally ignored or even considered annoying, even by critics.

Balance is the key

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1 hour ago, Rowl said:

I know that this is fucked up. But this is what Sonic kinda needs to be, if ST really want to make the hedgehog super edgy and dark. Either make it fully dark and disturbing or just don't do it in the first place.

I have to disagree. A well written story and characters could easily balance dark and light, respectively. Going to one extreme or the other will most likely alienate fans further and complicate the Sonic universe even more, too...

I agree that Unleashed did a good job at balancing the tone. It was even able to give the player a lot to do, like Adventure 1 & 2 did, but this time with only Sonic as playable.

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I think “dark” or “light” isn’t really the right spectrum to hone in on when analyzing what made the Adventure stories more compelling. It’s more about storytelling consistency and quality in general. In SA, the Echidna tribe tramples over Tikal and the Chao, knocking down and perhaps killing these living embodiments of peace and innocence. Chaos wakes up, and then we hear it killing the entire tribe. Contrast this with how Forces might have handled these events, namely by just telling us instead of showing, which would come off as more blunt and flat. 

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Again why not learn from Avatar the Last airbender?

Adventure, comedy, fun mixed with heavy character development, drama and dark storytelling.

It is going to be my Exhibit A on what I want the Sonic franchise to be like.

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I always find the Sonic should be lollipops and rainbows argument silly because cartoon. Look no further than Disney. Look at their animated kids movies. LOOK AT THEM!!! Those are children's movies and they still can tackle these "edgier" subject matters. Besides that's not even the problem. It's telling a good story. I don't think anyone will cry over the tone of a Sonic game if it at least tells a good meaningful story. As long as actual thought and care is put into it, then it can work. The big problem is they literally can't tell a good tale to save their life. They suck at either end so people basically have to choose if ya want toddler tales or edgie hedgies.

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There's simply not much point Sonic Team focusing on making a serious and dark story when you can find that kind of storytelling in many other games and we know that Sonic Team would do it worse than its competitors.

Sonic became popular primarily because of its platforming gameplay.

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Edgy...

Oh, do they just mean they want stories where stuff actually happens and it's less of an comedic romp of an adventure?

Do they want to go back to serious themes or just Shadow the Hedgehog level stuff?

Do they want character development and world building or just a whole lot of action and set pieces?

What makes stuff like the Sonic Adventures edgy and comparable to Nex Gen and Shadow? They aren't even really the same in that regard.

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58 minutes ago, Strickerx5 said:

Tone rarely matters. The actual narrative, how the characters are portrayed, written, and animated do. The 2000s games simply put more effort into all of that (and a number of other aspects).

This is pretty much the truth of the matter and why I'm disappointed that the discussion always focuses on the tone. Always feels like missing the forest for the trees.

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I could only get through about 13 minutes of that. 

To answer the question, I'd say they have better stories, but they aren't better games, necessarily. I like Adventure and Adventure 2 more than the other "3D" Sonic games, but that's in large part due to nostalgia. No doubt nostalgia is throwing off my objectivity, at least in regard to Adventure 1 specifically. I think Adventure 2 still holds up relatively well, it's imply a matter of preference in regards to gameplay. I think most of the treasure hunting stages are fine, maybe 1 or 2 Tails stages are fine, and Eggman is generally fine. The problem with stories present in modern Sonic games is that there isn't much to sink your teeth into. Say what you will of the stories in games like Sonic '06, but they're more engaging than the stories present in Colors, Generations, and Lost World. This is an unfortunate situation where the baby was thrown out with the bath water. The stories weren't really the problem in the older Sonic games, though they could no doubt be improved. It was the games themselves that were the problem.

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