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how both light and serious tones are BOTH fitting for sonic


iambitter21
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So has anyone ever been around on YouTube and find videos about stories in sonic games? well I sure have and trust me, it isn't any prettier than It is here, in fact it's even less pretty: J's review's editorial on sonic stories is a very informative video about how the sonic franchise handled storytelling as well as what he thinks is the best and the worst of this storytelling. if you want to see the editorial, here it is:

It was a really good video, but it wasn't what inspired me to make this. no, it was me remembering the comment sections that made me want to make this. the commenters of the video were all quite divided about the video, some didn't like sonic being taken seriously, some being completely for it and want sonic to be taken seriously, and other just said that you "can't do much" about a blue hedgehog and a fat scientist... EVEN THOUGH THEY MADE A 30 YEAR SERIES ABOUT IT AND IT'S STILL GOING ON AND... okay that's enough, I think you get the idea. so how about we break down and debunk this comment. first let's show the comment in it's entirety (this is coming straight from memory so it may not be completely accurate) it's says, and I quote:

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"It's about a blue hedgehog and a fat scientist, there's "only so much" you can do with that"

sounds quite stupid I know, but it has a lot of things to it when you break it down and take out of it's  context.

How serious stories fit sonic narratively:

so what is sonic? "a blue hedgehog" emphasis on the word "hedgehog". what is a hedgehog? an animal, a woodland animal as well. and where do most woodland animals live? in the forest, or in places with grass, wildlife and nature, case and point:

green_hill_zone_by_wilustra-d8w65du.jpg?

A hedgehog living in the wild (or at least some place where nature is prominent.) makes perfect sense and people would understand why it would live there and why it's important to it, thus, taking it seriously.

next one: what is doctor Eggman? "a fat scientist", and of course, emphasis on the word "scientist". what are most scientists known for? make inventions, like cars, or machines, or robots. what are those things made from? factories. again, case and point:

_request__scrap_brain_zone_background_by

this one may make a bit less sense because A.) most scientist wouldn't go this far, and B.) since no sane scientist would have the brain power, and resources to make this stuff alone. but that doesn't matter since, over all that genius, what is a scientist? a human, and what do humans (mostly) live in? cities, and cities are related to? ding-ding: factories, since they're both made of metallic or metallic-like materials, they both use non-renewable resources as fuel, and they both cause pollution to the air and nature around it. so there.

finally: what would Eggman (the fat genius Scientist) want to do to Sonic (the blue woodland hedgehog) and his home? take it over for his own creations, and sonic would want to take it back from him, as it is his home. narratively, serious stories are perfect for a sonic game, the execution of it is pretty hard to nail down, because at the end of the day: sonic is aimed towards children, not that serious stories haven't been done before in kids movies (I mean come on, Toy Story is one of pixar's best films and yet it takes itself quite seriously.) probably the way sonic 1 did it, like as you go through pretty amazing looking and beautiful landscapes, untouched from humanity and urbanization, than the further you go, you see cities and factories that can range from, "oh this looks quite okay, not wonderful, but alright." to, "oooooh, god! jesus christ, WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!" without going overboard like G.U.N shooting Maria Robotnik, (which i thought was fine, even if it wasn't really, you know, sonic-y.) now, next up: blady nosehair... i mean lighthearted stories.

How lighthearted stories fit sonic Fundamentally & and Aesthetically:

now let's go back to that comment, but this time, in it's full context (for the most part):

Quote

"It's about a blue hedgehog and a fat scientist, there's "only so much" you can do with that"

a Blue Hedgehog, and a Fat Scientist. this type of protagonist-antagonist dynamic is usually found in cartoons of sorts: SpongeBob SquarePants, Fairly OddParents, Dora The Explorer (yes, it does have it), Phineas and Ferb and of course, Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, which coincidentally, is the inspiration of Sonic the Hedgehog. I mean look at the artwork of sonic in 1991:

tumblr_pm205amPGU1ueapts_1280.jpg

it's iconic, it's edgy (not that kind of edge), It's appealing and at the same time, it looks innocent, goofy, friendly and borderline (if not actually) for children of all ages. art like that is what drew me into this extreme phenomenon known as Sonic the Hedgehog. but surprisingly, it drew adults in as well, and with that, as well as a revolutionary game in his belt: the sonic fanbase was born.

anyways, I've digressed far enough, back to the main subject: now, what do you think of when you think of a BLUE hedgehog, not just a hedgehog, a BLUE, ANTHROMORPHIC, TALKING (depending on which game he's in) hedgehog, with designs like that, with his own cartoon, or video game with in-game cutscenes? maybe something, goofy? something, lighthearted? something, bombastic and wacky? full of unexpected twists and turns, with a fast-paced plot, figuratively and literally, that never fails to draw in your attention as you watch every second of the beautifully hand-drawn animation? where this blue hedgehog is on a journey to destroy all of a fat scientist's plans to take over the world, almost without fail, like Bugs Bunny?! well, if you look at the fundamentals and aesthetics: absolutely! no doubt about it, dude, it makes total sense! i hate the "it's a blue hedgehog" excuse most meta era fans use, but at the right time, it's true and acceptable.

so how would sonic do lighthearted stories? well for starters, let's not get carried away with THIS either: no "BaLDy nOSeHaIr", no Exposition, Just Silly Banter, Wit and just straight up fun. and the best example I can think of to add to this, is a PlayStation mascot that is known for that banter and wit:

220px-RaCbox.jpg

the Ratchet and Clank games aren't true arts of storytelling, I'd hardly say their completely "lighthearted," but you know what? it's still straight up FUN, it's WITTY, it's appealing as hell and draws the player in. the main characters are 3rd dimensional and flesh-out, the one-off characters are so diverse and comedic, and the villains are menacing, yet still pretty funny (Dr. nefarious is the best PlayStation villain, don't @ me in the comments.) if sonic ever does go lighthearted, I HIGHLY recommend using the ratchet and clank trilogy as an example, if not an inspiration. they are, without a doubt, something to mention when it comes to "lighthearted" wit, and comedy.

so yeah, that's what I think about this. how about you guys?

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I’d say you’re preaching to the choir. :lol:

Honestly lost count how many times this discussion has happened on these forums. What should matter is good storytelling, but people pick fights over the tone so much that it’s become one of this fandom’s favorite pastimes to be petty over.

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Yeah, who would have thought that having stylistic cohesion AND earnest stakes makes for a good narrative. It shouldnt even need to be pointed out, yet you still have to in this community.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again; one thing I personally don't believe that Sonic should be is a comedy. By which I mean primarily a comedy. Primarily, the narratives in the series should be adventure narratives, that makes the player pumped to overcome obstacles and defeat the bad guy. There can be jokes, but I don't believe that something like Sonic Colors, where the jokes become the main focus of the cutscenes, is the right way to go for this franchise.

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My main issue is how damn in-cohesive and overindulgent the series can sometimes be in both light and serious. One minute we can have a really cheesy and sickly sweet scene that would make anyone over five embarrassed to be playing, and then we can go into completely morbid levels of angst and tragedy. Often the execution is unbearably pretentious as well. Colours is so proud of its jokes it EXPLAINS them excess to the viewers, while Shadow and Next Gen were infamously pretentious in being dark 'big boy stories'.

They tend to also completely tear apart the identity of the franchise while doing so, remember when Sonic's world was a gritty photo realistic Earth that just happened to have a dozen candy coloured anthros in it? It often feels like Sonic universe is constantly altered and developed around a self contained story and not the other way round.

 

I will admit that I tend to be harder on the darker works than the lighthearted ones, though maybe that's because I feel like Sonic is to some degree MEANT to be lighthearted. Like it can have atmosphere and stakes, it's not a walking gag machine, but often I feel like the cast and concepts thrive better in a cartoon atmosphere and not making things too 'real'. Eggman always feels like someone who works better as a goofball, even if games like S3+K prove he can still be a threat while doing so. I tend not find much amusement in the works that constantly aim for melodrama, stuff like Archie, Next Gen and Sonic X's final parts felt more morbid and frustrating to sit through for me. Sure there's light hearted stuff as well but that feels less like a balance and more like a painful mood whiplash, it is just feels uncomfortable and incredibly dissonant and I'm left wonder who exactly the work is appealing to. Comical works can be equally pretentious and cringeworthy but I never feel as unsettled by them as I do the really dark ones because of this.

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If the core point of a fast paced platforming game like Sonic is overcoming challenge, then the job of the story needs to be to make overcoming that challenge impact. This doesn't really gel that well with the lackadaisical nature of most newer Sonic games or things like the Boom cartoon. Some level of urgency and treating the circumstances of the narrative with respect is necessary. You need to feel like Eggman's ass needs kicking, not just consider it a foregone conclusion for you to skip leisurely toward. It would be a little different if we were dealing with a more passive, relaxing type of game, but the intent behind Sonic is constant locomotion toward one goal. That's the case in every Sonic game, so I don't see why one shouldn't put some intensity behind that for emphasis. 

Obviously Sonic is inherently playful too and the series shouldn't shy away from telling jokes, but I can't think of too many Sonic games that actually forget to inject levity compared to the many, many Sonic games  and stories that don't sell their conflict. Especially nowadays. 

 

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16 minutes ago, Wraith said:

If the core point of a fast paced platforming game like Sonic is overcoming challenge

I feel like that's debatable. I mean, no doubt that there are challenges in the gameplay and a "save the world from evil" sort of goal, but I don't feel like "challenge" has really been the focus. Most games aren't that hard, and a lot of the ones that are are due to questionable design decisions more than deliberate challenging design. And Sonic himself is cocky and occasionally pretty flippant; he doesn't really take his adventures too seriously (at least not until the late game when things actually get serious, and even then...), and he enjoys the excitement of it. I feel like there's at least as much of an argument for the series being about fun, exciting adventures rather than being about the challenge or serious consequences.

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5 minutes ago, Diogenes said:

I feel like that's debatable. I mean, no doubt that there are challenges in the gameplay and a "save the world from evil" sort of goal, but I don't feel like "challenge" has really been the focus. Most games aren't that hard, and a lot of the ones that are are due to questionable design decisions more than deliberate challenging design. And Sonic himself is cocky and occasionally pretty flippant; he doesn't really take his adventures too seriously (at least not until the late game when things actually get serious, and even then...), and he enjoys the excitement of it. I feel like there's at least as much of an argument for the series being about fun, exciting adventures rather than being about the challenge or serious consequences.

I didn't emphasize it enough in my post but I agree that playing as Sonic is inherently playful/exciting and the tone should match up with that. I just also think that, with almost every level capping off with some kind of conflict in the form of a boss, and every game having some kind of problem that needs solving/crisis that needs averting, that they sell me on that. 

Sonic might not be that hard compared to it's contemporaries but the focus is overwhelmingly on keeping Sonic moving toward his goal and out of danger so I put it with more traditional games where you're playing to win rather than something you kick back with like Animal Crossing. Overcoming obstacles is core to the game to me, so I think that the story should make working your way through to the end feel a bit more urgent and important than it currently does, especially as you get toward the end of the game where the difficulty ramps up anyway. Literally tearing the chain off Little Plane feels great. Shutting down Eggman's plan on the Ark and establishing your superiority to Shadow both feel great. The newer games lack that payoff because they're not making the opposition imposing enough imo. 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Wraith said:

Sonic might not be that hard compared to it's contemporaries but the focus is overwhelmingly on keeping Sonic moving toward his goal and out of danger so I put it with more traditional games where you're playing to win rather than something you kick back with like Animal Crossing.

I mean that much is true but it's also a pretty wide category, I don't think you can say much about tone or style from that alone.

I feel like the problem of a lack of payoff isn't really about any specific tone or the bad guys not being intimidating enough. More a lack of style and proper followthrough on whatever kind of story they are telling. Like, I don't need Mario games to sell me on Bowser being some powerful warlord putting the kingdom in danger; I can bust in on his attempted wedding, smack the tuxedo off him with his own goofy punch-hat, then hijack his body to escape a collapsing cavern to a cheesy vocal song, and it's one of the most fun and satisfying climaxes in the series. There's a lot of different ways to sell a conflict.

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The longer this franchise goes on, so does the idea of what's considered tonally appropriate for it. You got so many people who come from so many different generations who are part of this franchise that the idea of what it should or shouldn't varies wildly. You got some fans who feel the stuff from the Dreamcast/Gamecube era was schlock that never should have happened, while that's pretty much the defining period for a lot of fans. While you have others who feel the stuff from the Wii/Wii U era was tryhard comedy, while many felt the series was "trimming the fat" with that time period.  Speaking for myself, it's a large reason why I've grown very detached, even though I try to not come off that way, because it's all very tiresome for me. 

 

But to address the topic; the series should do what is appropriate for the type of game it's trying to sell. Despite what I just said, the franchise is honestly simple enough where it can spin off into a plethora of directions and make it feel organic provided there's some level of care involved. If you think psuedo-Shonen Anime Sonic from the 2000's was  terrible, or if you feel meta humor Sonic from the 2010's was terrible, the fact remains those games touched a portion of the fanbase, otherwise would have died off a long time ago. The most basic premise of the series is "colorful anthros fight mad scientist", and there are so many ways you can spin that depending on the narrative you want to sell. I don't really think it's this "either this or that" deal that most of the fanbase are making it out to be. 

 

Truthfully, it's less about the tone and more how much they actually commit to what they're doing.

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Can we just point Flynn writing and say "something more-less like that"?

It's really not that hard. Forces tone was almost good, minus one or two lines. People laugh that Infinite is edgy, but everyone who pays attention will see he doesn't do anything 'edgy'. If anything, it's Lost World that had lines about eating hearts.
I'm harsh on Pontac/Graff era, but I can admit that they added a little life to characters. Just please let villains feel remotely treating, not like bumbling fools that Sonic will give wedgies. That's a bare minimum.
I am more lenient on serious games, because even bad stories creates ideas to work with. Eclipse anyone? Bad comedy can't be really saved.

(Also, Pontac/Graff aren't bad because they comedy, they are just bad. Shadow/06 is my preferred flavor of badness)

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1 hour ago, MetalSkulkBane said:

(Also, Pontac/Graff aren't bad because they comedy, they are just bad. Shadow/06 is my preferred flavor of badness)

Yeah. This is just a personal preference, but I too tend to prefer badly executed action/adventure/drama to badly executed comedy, especially in a series like Sonic.

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3 hours ago, MetalSkulkBane said:

Can we just point Flynn writing and say "something more-less like that"?

I think I'm the minority that isn't really much for Flynn's mainstream work and thinks his attempts to be 'dark' tends to just fall under the same issues as other serious Sonic works (eg. convoluted, soap opera-ish plots, overblown angst, characters unintentionally coming off as unlikeable or flat, excessive exposition, trying to come off as more deep and dignified than it really is). Admittedly this applies a lot more to the pre-reboot Archie comics than post-reboot and IDW, but I do feel the same issues do sometimes seep through.

Weirdly though I tend to love his more lighthearted works like Boom and the X comics. It feels like he's in more of a comfort zone doing tongue in cheek writing and often he does better making the cast's personalities shine through them (which I find more important than giving them 'gritty' development).

Can I also say that I have NEVER been big on the ongoing formula nearly EVERY darker attempt at Sonic now uses, ie. the Freedom Fighter/La Resistance vs evil empire one. I just feel it downplays the ability to be character driven and making the whole hero cast into a unit of soldiers with no agendas or drives of their own, which I think also overplays the need to abolish their innocence and whimsy and exacerbates a lot of the aforementioned baggage. Say what you will about the series and whether it's meant to be serious or not, but the Sonic cast is definitely meant to be whimsical cartoons with funny quirks, and while development is certainly beneficial to enhancing that, downplaying that base tends to just dilute their appeal. While people are tired of Eggman and Amy being full on joke characters, no one really likes their non-comedic versions that are just another bad/good guy that plays their role either.

The general problem with the worst serious AND comical works is that they tend to fall under the same old cliches of both and rely on those elements to tell a story, rather than being interested in bringing Sonic to life. Both often feel like they put the cast on 'automation' for the expected cliches, be it angsty convoluted plots or just tiresome gags (or sometimes both when the writers are being REALLY pretentious).

Often I feel like a key way to see if the mood and story fits Sonic is to watch a random scene and consider whether, out of context, does it still fit Sonic? Does it enhance the franchise it is meant to represent or is it just trying to capitalise on some flash in the pan it isn't? I think this is a common complaint with both sides of the matter, be it scenes of a realistic corrupt human military gunning down innocents or kooky cereal mascot esque monsters talking bad puns. Often it feels like they forgot to add anything to tie it back into being Sonic and building on the franchise, which can alienate and make the series feel like it's without an identity. You're meant to build stories around the Sonic universe, not vice versa.

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4 hours ago, MetalSkulkBane said:

Can we just point Flynn writing and say "something more-less like that"?

I’ve been doing that ever since Flynn proved me wrong and made Big the Cat interesting all the way back in Archie.

Quote

It's really not that hard. Forces tone was almost good, minus one or two lines. People laugh that Infinite is edgy, but everyone who pays attention will see he doesn't do anything 'edgy'. If anything, it's Lost World that had lines about eating hearts.
I'm harsh on Pontac/Graff era, but I can admit that they added a little life to characters. Just please let villains feel remotely treating, not like bumbling fools that Sonic will give wedgies. That's a bare minimum.
I am more lenient on serious games, because even bad stories creates ideas to work with. Eclipse anyone? Bad comedy can't be really saved.

(Also, Pontac/Graff aren't bad because they comedy, they are just bad. Shadow/06 is my preferred flavor of badness)

Or maybe they’re just bad because Sega keeps yanking them on a leash and their idea wind up coming off as worse in execution than on paper.

People are hard on them, but never really keep in mind who they’re working under—even Ian’s had some issues with his execution of stories ideas for practically the same reason at the source: Executive Meddling. He’s just able to better salvage his problems than Pontac/Graff can.

I always defend Pontaff when I can, not because their writing is good—for the record, I don’t particularly like it all that much (it has its moments, but it easy to see where it falls short), but because often times it’s clear where the hiccups in quality are when the company puts a harsh grip on things. Honestly, they could cook up something far better if Sega were less heavy handed.

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11 hours ago, Diogenes said:

I mean that much is true but it's also a pretty wide category, I don't think you can say much about tone or style from that alone.

I feel like the problem of a lack of payoff isn't really about any specific tone or the bad guys not being intimidating enough. More a lack of style and proper followthrough on whatever kind of story they are telling. Like, I don't need Mario games to sell me on Bowser being some powerful warlord putting the kingdom in danger; I can bust in on his attempted wedding, smack the tuxedo off him with his own goofy punch-hat, then hijack his body to escape a collapsing cavern to a cheesy vocal song, and it's one of the most fun and satisfying climaxes in the series. There's a lot of different ways to sell a conflict.

It's not like Mario Odyssey is completely robbed of any kind of dramatic tension though. It's not a world ending scenario or anything but you also don't really want to see Peach put in that position. It's a pretty by-the-numbers hook that the game doesn't treat that seriously, but there's a reason they keep using it. The game even gives you a nice permanent change in the world by allowing you to see Peach explore on her own terms now that she's free. 

I'm not arguing that Nintendo blew anyone's minds with such a basic damsel in distress narrative. Just that they understand that good payoff comes with creating even a little tension and following through on the resolution. 

It's fair to say that Sonic and Eggman's rivalry is at least more serious than this, since it's often an ideological difference rather than a direct rip from a popeye skit. Eggman's capacity for destruction is illustrated perfectly in Sonic CD and I'd rather the series at least try for that standard going forward. 
 

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4 hours ago, E-122-Psi said:

 

Often I feel like a key way to see if the mood and story fits Sonic is to watch a random scene and consider whether, out of context, does it still fit Sonic? Does it enhance the franchise it is meant to represent or is it just trying to capitalise on some flash in the pan it isn't? I think this is a common complaint with both sides of the matter, be it scenes of a realistic corrupt human military gunning down innocents or kooky cereal mascot esque monsters talking bad puns. Often it feels like they forgot to add anything to tie it back into being Sonic and building on the franchise, which can alienate and make the series feel like it's without an identity. You're meant to build stories around the Sonic universe, not vice versa.

This is ultimately subjective though. What fits the franchise to some may not fit it to others, because what this franchise is varies wildly from person to person. You yourself just admitted that you prefer Sonic's lighter works and feel it's attempts at being dramatic are overblown and trite, while many people from the Adventure era in particular feel the exact opposite, hence why someone like Ian Flynn is so popular, since it's rather obvious he plays more to the Adventure of things than anything else. 

I feel like there wouldn't be such a divide about this if people were more open-minded about this stuff and no so adamant at shunning the stuff that doesn't fit their specific preferences, and if the series ultimately executed these things better to begin with. Yes, there is a balance between Sonic being a terrible comedy skit and Sonic being an overdramatic soap opera, neither one of these things are mutually exclusive but people need to actually be willing to compromise on some things otherwise nobody will ever be satisfied.

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