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Has the "Sonic's sh*tty friends" mentality been a detriment to this series?

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Hello! I finally decided to make an account after looking at this site for a long time.

Ever since Unleashed in 2008, it seems as though Sonic Team have been reluctant to include other playable characters in games probably due to the backlash against sonic games having too many characters. I think this is where I think people haven't really been clear in explaining what the real problem is. I don't think it's the friends themselves that are the problem though, it's the forced unnecessary alternate playstyles that detract from the core Sonic experience that is. Sadly most of the alternate playstyles in Sonic games feature his friends meaning these two were bound to be associated. 

Unleashed proved that you don't need other playable characters (unless you count Gaia colossus as a character) in order to introduce a forced alternate playstyle and Mania (and pretty much every other 2D Sonic game) proved that you can have many playable characters and still have a solid focused game.

There was this random thread on Reset Era that basically inspired me to make this one. It talks about how Sonic is actually ahead of Mario when it comes to playable female characters in a platformer game! I wanna play as Blaze, Amy, Cream & Cheese, Rouge (and maybe even that new character Tangle) in a mainline game again and I wanna see them done some justice!

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Sheesh, what's up with all these character threads lately?

But yeah, somewhat. There are other factors at play as well, but I think it's a little fair to say there is, amongst other things, a fear of having other playable characters or styles without a safety neat nowadays.

Notangletho

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It's Sega's fault this has happened. Ever since Sonic Adventure, every character except Sonic himself had absolutely miserable gameplay (maybe with a couple of exceptions), everyone agrees that the best parts of SA1, SA2, Unleashed, and (maybe) 06 are the Sonic parts.

The easiest solution is to make everyone play and control exactly like Sonic in the same stages but with their own abilities, like the Classic games. But it's much harder to make level design in 3D that accommodates Tails and Knuckles' abilities without them breaking the level, that's why Knuckles has Treasure Hunting and Tails has the Racing.

Of course, the actual easiest solution is to make Sonic the only playable character so the professional critics don't get turned off by Sonic's friends, that's why we have the Werehog and Classic Sonic, who are technically still Sonic. Sega thinks that simply having Sonic the only playable character will fix all issues.

In my honest opinion, I think they should return to the Adventure gameplay style but with refined controls and level design that accommodates Sonic and the different abilities of his friends, while at the same giving the player the choice of who they want to play as.

Sonic and the Black Knight ironically did this very well, since it allowed you to choose between three different characters other than Sonic (after you unlock them), but they never force you to actually play as these characters.

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29 minutes ago, Bowbowis said:

Case in point:

latest?cb=20100115202113

Has any other videogame franchise in history ever advertised its lack of additional content as a selling point?

I mean, nothing wrong with advertising that you're going back to the basics...that's just funny though. In order to please the hate squad, they really just gotta drive home how Only Sonic is playable.

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32 minutes ago, Bowbowis said:

Better question: Has the Sonic's shitty friends mentality ever not been a detriment to the series? At best Sonic Team's catering to people who whine about characters other than Sonic and Eggman upsets fans of those characters and limits gameplay and story options. At worst it leads SEGA to demonstrate an utter lack of confidence in what they've built over the years.

Case in point:

latest?cb=20100115202113

Has any other videogame franchise in history ever advertised its lack of additional content as a selling point?

 

Just now, StaticMania said:

I mean, nothing wrong with advertising that you're going back to the basics...that's just funny though. In order to please the hate squad, they really just gotta drive home how Only Sonic is playable.

Aw, but what about Mr. Needlemouse?

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23 minutes ago, Detective Kaito said:

But it's much harder to make level design in 3D that accommodates Tails and Knuckles' abilities without them breaking the level, that's why Knuckles has Treasure Hunting and Tails has the Racing.

I don't think it's quite as simple as that.

In regards to Tails in particular, you have to take into account that he actually changed mechanically between S3&K and SA. Most notably, in the genny games his acceleration and speed cap while flying is much lower than his ground speed. He could break that speed cap by jumping while in motion - for example, revving a spindash and then jumping - but that low acceleration still carries over regardless, making him much harder to control in the air once he does gain that speed. SA1 obviously doesn't have any such restrictions and that's a big part of why he's considered overpowered in that game, which is why I think it makes sense to look back at genny flight mechanics as an appropriate counterbalance to simply being able to fly wherever you want. Of course level design does play a big part in that too, but I don't think you should hold it against Tails if the designers are stupid enough to place the level goal within flying distance of the fucking spawn point.

As for Knux, of all games I think Sonic Heroes had the best means of keeping gliding from breaking too much of a given level - just make him lose height faster the longer he stays in the air. Climbing I don't have too much of a problem with as things stand now - it's slow enough that most alternatives are better unless a route is specifically designed for it, and any threat of outright breaking a level can be thwarted simply by putting a lip at the top of a wall.

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1 hour ago, StaticMania said:

I mean, nothing wrong with advertising that you're going back to the basics...that's just funny though. In order to please the hate squad, they really just gotta drive home how Only Sonic is playable.

Which didn't make any sense in the context of classic Sonic. Very few people were calling for Sonic for the only playable character for a new classic Sonic game, most people are fine with Tails and Knuckles. (Although that's sort of a moot point because the game wasn't even supposed to be a classic Sonic game to begin with...)

That image about hyping Sonic up as the only playable character for that game didn't even make any sense at that point in time; Sega had already released at least three "Sonic only" games as it is to begin with, and the next Sonic game announced afterwards was also Sonic only...

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1 hour ago, DabigRG said:

Sheesh, what's up with all these character threads lately?

But yeah, somewhat. There are other factors at play as well, but I think it's a little fair to say there is, amongst other things, a fear of having other playable characters or styles without a safety neat nowadays.

Notangletho

They seem to be returning in recent years, even after ROL, which used their return as a selling point, became a disaster. Games like Mania have brought them back, and people want them to stay.

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It's clear it had an effect on the series, but I think the point where (for me) it went from being something I wasn't a fan of to absolutely ridiculous was when Tails wasn't playable in Sonic 4 Episode 2.

I never really understood why the 3D boost games were so strict about it. I can understand most characters (besides like, Shadow and Blaze) not fitting into Sonic's levels, but...Colours aside they always have something like Classic Sonic or even the Avatar who have different movesets and level design. I understand people don't like having these secondary playstyles but I think it makes sense, just get the right designers on it and maybe don't rush them so much and you're good. (I know that's easier said than done but circa 2008 thru 2011 they had some pretty decent level designers so it's clearly not impossible.)

Also, uh.

56 minutes ago, Bowbowis said:

Better question: Has the Sonic's shitty friends mentality ever not been a detriment to the series? At best Sonic Team's catering to people who whine about characters other than Sonic and Eggman upsets fans of those characters and limits gameplay and story options. At worst it leads SEGA to demonstrate an utter lack of confidence in what they've built over the years.

Case in point:

latest?cb=20100115202113

...Is that official? lmao I guess their Sonic marketing being really embarrassing like this goes back further than I thought.

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On 1/13/2019 at 5:58 PM, Bowbowis said:

Better question: Has the Sonic's shitty friends mentality ever not been a detriment to the series? At best Sonic Team's catering to people who whine about characters other than Sonic and Eggman upsets fans of those characters and limits gameplay and story options. At worst it leads SEGA to demonstrate an utter lack of confidence in what they've built over the years.

Case in point:

latest?cb=20100115202113

Has any other videogame franchise in history ever advertised its lack of additional content as a selling point?

I don’t know which is more insulting. That countdown or having Classic Sonic show up right after the line “But even heroes need help” in the initial Forces trailer.

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54 minutes ago, Bowbowis said:

Better question: Has the Sonic's shitty friends mentality ever not been a detriment to the series?

Yes, absolutely. Because something absolutely needed to change in the way the series' cast was handled. Recognizing that there was a problem and scaling back was a good first move.

The problem is that that alone doesn't fix the characters. Not in terms of their actual quality (in both writing and gameplay), not in terms of how they're perceived. The writing is still shaky at best, when characters do show up they're generally not that interesting or important, and they haven't been given another shot at being playable, so people who didn't like them before haven't been given much reason to reconsider them.

I'm still going to argue that rehabilitating the extended cast isn't top priority for the series right now; we don't actually need people to like Silver or Vector or Rouge or whoever for Sonic games to be good and successful. But if the series ever finds a solid grasp of the basics again, figuring out what to do with the rest of the cast, who can be fixed and who should be cut, is going to need to happen.

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To an extent. I'd say it affects the story more so than anything else. While Sonic's friends may have been a detriment to gameplay in the past, their inclusion into the story was generally fine. Knuckles's treasure hunting stages may not have been to the liking of certain players, but his character is likable and the history of his people is interesting. By shoving Knuckles into the background, we miss out on what he can add to the story. The same goes for all the other characters that aren't Sonic. There are ways to include the characters without them being a detriment to gameplay. The classics and Mania figured it out, so I'm not sure why Sonic Team can't just do that in 3D, and use the characters to tell an engaging story to boot.

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41 minutes ago, Celestia said:

Also, uh.

*charactercountdowncontest.jpeg*

...Is that official? lmao I guess their Sonic marketing being really embarrassing like this goes back further than I thought.

Yep, that was the final result of the Sega Blogs' "Project Needlemouse Character Countdown" event used to promote the game, before it was officially revealed as Sonic 4: Episode I later in the week.

The blog site's apparently been nuked though, with no official archive to save it (much like the Sega Forums). Wayback Machine remembers, though. (If only partially--there were four days and a fifth "finale" day that revealed the outcome of the image, but days 2 and 3 are missing. Day 4 and Finale Day for those curious.)

(On that note, I kinda don't blame Sega for discontinuing the blog site, their PR team has since shifted towards using their social media handles on facebook/Twitter/tumblr/etc.; the last blog post was in August 2016. Still would had been nice if they made an attempt to preserve it though or announced they were taking it offline first.....)

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1 hour ago, Diogenes said:

Yes, absolutely. Because something absolutely needed to change in the way the series' cast was handled. Recognizing that there was a problem and scaling back was a good first move.

The problem is that that alone doesn't fix the characters. Not in terms of their actual quality (in both writing and gameplay), not in terms of how they're perceived. The writing is still shaky at best, when characters do show up they're generally not that interesting or important, and they haven't been given another shot at being playable, so people who didn't like them before haven't been given much reason to reconsider them.

I'm still going to argue that rehabilitating the extended cast isn't top priority for the series right now; we don't actually need people to like Silver or Vector or Rouge or whoever for Sonic games to be good and successful. But if the series ever finds a solid grasp of the basics again, figuring out what to do with the rest of the cast, who can be fixed and who should be cut, is going to need to happen.

Why...can't we just do both? Are these things really mutually exclusive?

Topic question though: I'd say it's more of a detriment to the narrative than the gameplay, but I suppose those two go hand-in-hand. I definitely would prefer my games to play well than wondering if my favorite character will show up, but the lack of them really has made the series extremely dry and boring. Which wouldn't be a bad thing if there was something else to flesh out the games, but there usually isn't. Removing the characters didn't really solve a problem, it just swept it under the rug and hoped that people would forget about it. 

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4 hours ago, Bowbowis said:

Better question: Has the Sonic's shitty friends mentality ever not been a detriment to the series? At best Sonic Team's catering to people who whine about characters other than Sonic and Eggman upsets fans of those characters and limits gameplay and story options. At worst it leads SEGA to demonstrate an utter lack of confidence in what they've built over the years.

Case in point:

latest?cb=20100115202113

Has any other videogame franchise in history ever advertised its lack of additional content as a selling point?

Oh God. You had to bring that up. I remember being so mad when I saw this shit. While a particular individual was busy complaining about Sonic having green eyes in Sonic 4, I was just looking at this and going "Are you serious?" It's so transparent and awful. Sonic Mania, the best reviewed Sonic game in eons, didn't slap a REJECTED stamp over Tails and Knuckles and it did just fine. This was so bad.

What was worse is that people were taking it seriously. I saw blogs out there running down the list of characters before the rejected stamp went on them and analyzing why they shouldn't be in Sonic 4. It was the most astonishing thing, witnessing people fall for this as though it wasn't an obvious set up to advertise the fact that Sonic 4 was their latest attempt to go back to the series "roots". And by "roots" we literally mean JUST Sonic 1 and nothing else. Because apparently people forgot that Sonic and Eggman were the only characters in the franchise until Sonic 2 came out the very next year.

This prevailing narrative that the old Sonic games used to be JUST Sonic was never true. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy after that idea made the rounds. Now all of a sudden, it IS true. Not with the Classics though. Ironically, it's the 3D games that held onto that idea and made it a reality that's lasted over 12 years. 

It's irony so hard and sharp it might be enough to make the edgiest of Infinites bleed. 

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6 minutes ago, Kuzu the Boloedge said:

Why...can't we just do both? Are these things really mutually exclusive?

In theory they don't have to be, beyond the fact that there wouldn't reasonably be time to fix every character at once. But given how much they struggle with just about everything about Sonic anymore I'd prefer they focus on the things that are vital first and save the things that are optional for later. Reduce the number of balls they're juggling, in the hopes that they can actually keep them in the air this time.

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Fuck yeah; it's a detriment, but I think the OP is wrong about one thing.

Based on every Sonic game I've ever played, alternate playstyles are necessary.  Or if they aren't, at least Sega thought so, because this didn't actually start with Big the Cat; that's just the point when it got so alien to the core Sonic experience that it was the most noticeable example of forcing in an alternate, slower playstyle--it helps that it's a whole, separate story, which inherently fuels arguments that the game can be improved just by taking that out.  However, from the very first game, they made excuses to slow the experience down, whatwith Marble Zone and the Special Stages being a totally different type of gameplay than the signature Sonic speed.  They added to the slowdown in subsequent games by making you explore and play methodically to get the Chaos Emeralds/Time Zones/Good Future.  Also these games were packed with "no going back" mechanics meaning that if you didn't get something write the first time, you'd have to replay a bunch of stuff to get another chance.  I hated that part of Classic Sonic and hated seeing it return in Sonic Colors--especially since that game is full of invisible walls, speed pads and forced dimension shifts, putting me further at the mercy of the developers' insistence that I do things their way or not at all.

The bottom line is that no mainstream Sonic game I have ever played is totally content to let you speed through everything to complete it fully.  All of them demand some form of slowing down at points in order to complete 100%, and I think the reason for this is that being all speed would make the games too short; that or make them take an absurd amount of time to develop.  Also, while some people say they'd love to see a Sonic game that was all-speed, all the time, unless Sega somehow discovers a way to give Sonic the same level of control while at full speed that normal characters have when going slower, it seems there's a very limited amount of things Sonic can actually do when going fast, which would lead to a very repetitive game.  My take on the base concept of Sonic going fast is that its novelty wears thin if it's not well-rationed.  You need some other sort of gameplay to break it up, but Sonic himself isn't as well built for platforming, combat, etc, so it makes sense to bring in some other characters who are better at it.

The key for me is this: Other gameplay styles don't have to be as fast Sonic's ideal established in Green Hill Zone, but they have to be fun and the characters have to have some really impressive abilities to justify their existence The problem with Big the Cat is that his gameplay isn't what many gamers consider fun, and his athletic skills (at least originally) start and end at being able to lift heavy things, which is only used a very little bit in the game.  Yet none of the ire aroused by Big the Cat, even when directed at other post-Genesis characters, ever hit Tails and Knuckles until maybe 2006 botched them, but it botched Sonic, too.

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5 minutes ago, Diogenes said:

In theory they don't have to be, beyond the fact that there wouldn't reasonably be time to fix every character at once. But given how much they struggle with just about everything about Sonic anymore I'd prefer they focus on the things that are vital first and save the things that are optional for later. Reduce the number of balls they're juggling, in the hopes that they can actually keep them in the air this time.

Even when they focus on things that are "vital" they drop the ball, so you're not making any real progress here. Focusing either gameplay or the characters aren't the problem, it's literally just a matter of mismanagement and lack of confidence from the development team. Assuming things were better, I see no reason why you can't just have a game that plays well and has Tails or Knuckles as playable characters.

9 minutes ago, Dr. Detective Mike said:

Oh God. You had to bring that up. I remember being so mad when I saw this shit. While a particular individual was busy complaining about Sonic having green eyes in Sonic 4, I was just looking at this and going "Are you serious?" It's so transparent and awful. Sonic Mania, the best reviewed Sonic game in eons, didn't slap a REJECTED stamp over Tails and Knuckles and it did just fine. This was so bad.

What was worse is that people were taking it seriously. I saw blogs out there running down the list of characters before the rejected stamp went on them and analyzing why they shouldn't be in Sonic 4. It was the most astonishing thing, witnessing people fall for this as though it wasn't an obvious set up to advertise the fact that Sonic 4 was their latest attempt to go back to the series "roots". And by "roots" we literally mean JUST Sonic 1 and nothing else. Because apparently people forgot that Sonic and Eggman were the only characters in the franchise until Sonic 2 came out the very next year.

This prevailing narrative that the old Sonic games used to be JUST Sonic was never true. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy after that idea made the rounds. Now all of a sudden, it IS true. Not with the Classics though. Ironically, it's the 3D games that held onto that idea and made it a reality that's lasted over 12 years. 

It's irony so hard and sharp it might be enough to make the edgiest of Infinites bleed. 

I'm not really surprised, because that was point in the series when people were being very stupid and illogical. It''s people being stupid and illogical is why we're in this predicament to begin with, but hey we share with these people. 

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12 minutes ago, Kuzu the Boloedge said:

Even when they focus on things that are "vital" they drop the ball, so you're not making any real progress here.

And do you think things would be any better if they were still trying to stuff a half dozen or more playable characters into every game? My point is not and never has been that they would be guaranteed to succeed if they didn't spend time on other characters, because basic sense and all the evidence prove otherwise. But I think they are more likely to succeed if they focus on the things that are essential to making a good Sonic game, and not split their time, energy, and attention between the essentials and a bunch of optional things.

12 minutes ago, Kuzu the Boloedge said:

Assuming things were better, I see no reason why you can't just have a game that plays well and has Tails or Knuckles as playable characters.

Yeah, well, things are not better. If and when things become better I'll be open to more playable characters and more storylines focused on other characters, like I said in the first place.

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45 minutes ago, Kuzu the Boloedge said:

Even when they focus on things that are "vital" they drop the ball, so you're not making any real progress here. Focusing either gameplay or the characters aren't the problem, it's literally just a matter of mismanagement and lack of confidence from the development team. Assuming things were better, I see no reason why you can't just have a game that plays well and has Tails or Knuckles as playable characters.

I'm not really surprised, because that was point in the series when people were being very stupid and illogical. It''s people being stupid and illogical is why we're in this predicament to begin with, but hey we share with these people. 

I'd argue that unfortunately, the problem is deeper and older.  The problem with Sonic Team, and furthermore, with the Sonic series, is that its primary concern has always been looking cool.  I don't know how much Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima were looking specifically at Western trends when conceiving it, but these extreme sports dude trends happened to fit the series and character well, so that's what we got, along with a first zone designed to play up this specialty, followed by ones that...were spotty at doing so.  Later Sonic games would get closer to this ideal of going fast through environments set up like skate parts, but they had the benefit of of being released when all of that was still cool.  Trends change, though, and that's probably why they shat out Shadow the Hedgehog.  Focusing on hatred of the supporting cast, and then on the mockery of the series and the popularity of memes, are just further episodes in this ongoing quest to appeal to what's cool, as opposed to investing enough in making a game that actually influences a broad consensus of what's cool.  On that note.

20 minutes ago, Diogenes said:

And do you think things would be any better if they were still trying to stuff a half dozen or more playable characters into every game? My point is not and never has been that they would be guaranteed to succeed if they didn't spend time on other characters, because basic sense and all the evidence prove otherwise. But I think they are more likely to succeed if they focus on the things that are essential to making a good Sonic game, and not split their time, energy, and attention between the essentials and a bunch of optional things.

Yeah, well, things are not better. If and when things become better I'll be open to more playable characters and more storylines focused on other characters, like I said in the first place.

I need to ask: Does Sega not have faith in Sonic these days?  Based on what I've heard, they seem to have been downsizing its development staff for a while and Sonic doesn't seem very popular in Japan.  He isn't necessarily popular in the Anglosphere either these days, but he's still the first thing many think of when they hear about Sega, compared to Japan where people are more into Sega's animesque human characters.

It may well be a blessing that now, Sonic is exclusively handled by American and Australian developers, but that is still hanging on their ability to fund a good game.

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1 hour ago, Diogenes said:

And do you think things would be any better if they were still trying to stuff a half dozen or more playable characters into every game? My point is not and never has been that they would be guaranteed to succeed if they didn't spend time on other characters, because basic sense and all the evidence prove otherwise. But I think they are more likely to succeed if they focus on the things that are essential to making a good Sonic game, and not split their time, energy, and attention between the essentials and a bunch of optional things.

Yeah, well, things are not better. If and when things become better I'll be open to more playable characters and more storylines focused on other characters, like I said in the first place.

Wraith kind of already covered it, but yea. Sega have "reinvented the wheel" more times than anybody cares for and have nothing to show for it since 2008 when they axed every character to begin with. Even when we got good games with just Sonic, they eventually fell back into their old habits of half-assing things resulting in a mediocre product.

The amount of characters were never the problem; Mario had a game with five playable characters that all played differently enough just a little over five years ago. So many other platforming franchises have done the same thing of balancing narrative and the amount of playable characters involved. 

So yea, if Sonic can't do that, it's not because of the characters. It's just because Sega fucking sucks. Plain and simple.  Removing the characters didn't solve anything, and it's not going to solve anything as so as long as they're committed to this half-assed direction they've been taking the series. So if you're gonna subscribe to the idea that no other character shouldn't be used until they "get the gameplay right" then you're no better than those people that just want every character gone period, because it's the same fucking thing at this point. 

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