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The Classic/Modern Character Embargo


Dr. Mechano

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So, as most of you are aware by now, Sonic Team has officially designated certain characters as exclusive to "classic" or "modern" style Sonic games, comics, cartoons, etc.

Perhaps it makes sense that characters like Shadow, Rouge, Omega, etc. are relegated to being "modern only" characters, since that's the era where they made their official debut. It'd muddle the timeline a bit if they appeared in games set earlier than those appearances. (Or not? If Sonic Team is going with the whole "classic's an alternate dimension" thing that Forces seemed to set up). 

But far less understandable is the mandate that characters like Mighty, Ray, Fang, Bark, and Bean - and my personal favorites, the Hard-Boiled Heavies - absolutely cannot appear in modern-era games, and can only be depicted in the classic era. Prior to this mandate, while these characters were still absent from the games, we at least got to see them in a "modern"-inspired setting by way of the Sonic Archie comics, which generally had looser oversight than the current series.

But I figured it'd be nice to have a discussion about this. What do you guys think of the official policy to make some characters totally exclusive to one era or the other?  Love it? Hate it? Don't really care? Think they'll ever change their minds on this, or is this probably the permanent direction of the series going forward?  Let people know!

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We've seen games even prior to Generations use both designs.

Sonic Pocket Adventure has Eggman wear the classic outfit for the majority of the game, before changing into the modern outfit toward the end. This game unambiguously shows that he's just the same guy who sometimes wears different clothes.

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It's one of those weird worldbuilding/branding "commitments" that I expect them to change their minds on in a couple of years. Sega goes through phases of picking up and dropping shit like this all the time and I won't be surprised if this doesn't stick long term. The whole Classic Sonic thing might not still be around at all in time.

It sounds worse on paper than it is. Fang, Bark and Bean have never been present in the modern series and Shadow didn't have a chance at appearing in a pre SA2 game anyway. The only things that happened before that couldn't happen now are certain arcs and jokes in Archie, and if that comic is the only one using the series's backlog of characters after 30 years it probably wasn't going to happen in the games anyway regardless of what the rules are.

The main problem I have with it is that it shouldn't affect the comics, really. If they would just lift that restriction I'd stop caring about it.

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Hate it, frankly. It's an stupidly limiting embargo placed solely for the sake of it, essentially. It's almost as awful as the infamous Bat Embargo where DC had a dumbass belief that having multiple versions of characters in movies/shows at the same time would confuse general audiences, which meant no Robin in The Batman, for example because he was in Teen Titans at the time and was only allowed after TT was cancelled. Same for villains like Scarecrow, and Two-Face who weren't allowed in due to appearing in Nolan's Batman trilogy. Of course, this also worked the other way around - villains in the Batman couldn't appear in Teen Titans or Justice League Unlimited, barring one hard-fought appearance by the Joker, something baffingly dumb in JLU which was directly following up Batman TAS. It also led to Batman only being alluded to in Teen Titans:

And of course, with the Bat Embargo being the shows/movies only, the comics weren't restricted to such, which meant the Teen Titans tie-in comic could just show him:

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It's even worse here because at least the Bat Embargo - as idiotic as it was - had some semblance of a reason to exist. It's a reason that's dumb and severely underestimates how intelligent viewers actually are, but it was a reason nonetheless.

Sonic meanwhile just makes some dumbass distinction between what classifies as a Classic and Modern character. Where does the Chaotix fall into the mix? They're classic characters, but their Modern versions are completely different, right up to interviews around Heroes basically saying "they're new characters based on the old ones". If the Chaotix were to hypothetically appear in Classic, would they be the original classic versions? Or are they now classed as Modern characters and therefore aren't allowed, basically writing Knuckles' Chaotix out altogether?

It's such a frustrating issue that this series invented for itself. Any other series, Crash Bandicoot for example, we're getting hyped and excited over cameos of things like fucking Megamix, N Trance, the Evil Twins, and whoever else appeared following Naughty Dog's leaving of Crash. When CTR: NF was adding these random obscure characters from all angles of the series, they were getting high praise for the amount of fanservice and love, especially from a fanbase admittedly worried that they'd go the Mania route and say "all games after n sane were bad and shouldn't be acknowledged".

What baffles me even more is we live in an era where multiverse theory is more or less becoming more and more common in media, especially with Spider-Verse leading the way with it. As much as I hate it, you could still argue for a Classic universe and Modern universe. I dislike it because it gives SEGA the excuse to say 'its ok classic fans you dont gotta be associated with those *bad* Sonic games anymore", but whatever. But no, they gotta go whole hog and make restrictions for the hell of it.

For supposedly the sake of 'non-confusion', we can't just have two versions of characters. Why can't we have Classic Bean who's not all there and waxing poetic about the art of explosives, and Modern 'completely off the wall' Bean? Why can't we have Classic Chaotix just being a group of guys who occasionally come together to do things, Mighty included, as well as the Modern Detective versions? 

If we can have a Knuckles who has no problems leaving the Master Emerald if he senses danger, and an Amy who isn't particularly effective and feels the need to prove herself compared to her modern counterpart, who's both more lovestruck over Sonic, and a brawler on par with Knuckles, or a goofy Eggman who's just making random ice bases and throwing badniks around, or Modern Eggman using military tactics to take over the planet, why on earth do we have these random, utterly asinine restrictions on everyone else? It's literally just some idiotic half-measure that SEGA can't even keep consistent to. A bad limitation that breaks up the timeline and world-building of the Sonic universe and makes it questionable what happened and where everything falls into place. A limitation that has been awfully retconned in, while other series are fully embracing all roots of it's series. It's annoying as all hell.

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10 minutes ago, Dr. Mechano said:

We've seen games even prior to Generations use both designs.

Sonic Pocket Adventure has Eggman wear the classic outfit for the majority of the game, before changing into the modern outfit toward the end. This game unambiguously shows that he's just the same guy who sometimes wears different clothes.

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Exactly. There are a few other instances too. Character portraits in Casinopolis' slot reels are all Classic, Eggman's logo is based on his Classic design in SA1, Eggman Nega's outfit is based on Classic Eggman, Metal Sonic used his Classic design until Rivals or one of the Olympics games (point being he used his CD design in Heroes, SA2 and SADX)... The divide between modern and classic is pointless.

@Wraith is right when he says that it doesn't have the biggest impact on the series. But that doesn't make it any less dumb. 

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8 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

The divide between modern and classic is pointless.

I'm fine with the idea of "The characters used to look one way, now they look another way." Like, Sonic's taller now. Eggman used to mainly wear the old caped outfit, now he mainly wears the jacket and goggles. Amy changed her hairstyle and got a new dress. That intuitively makes sense to me.

But yeah, you don't need to divide them so starkly that they're now alternate dimensions entirely.

(Heck, in Mario and Sonic 2020, Sonic and Eggman revert to their classic designs when they get sucked into the game console, which doesn't make much sense unless they once did actually look like that.)

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I mean we discuss this overarching issue a lot, maybe too much, but specifically talking about the characters - I guess its fine.

If they really want to go forward with this unbelievably stupid timeline split ON TOP of another split human/animal worlds thing, I guess it only makes sense to give the 'Classic Dimension' (kill me) its own unique characters.

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Futher, there’s a SECOND character embargo going on with other media characters (and most likely a number of games that are further away from Sonic team in terms of their development). Why can’t they show up in the games? The embargo between Classic and Modern that exists is made a little better as long as Mania keeps getting follow ups in some form, so we can keep seeing them. A “Dreamcast Embargo” would be weird to see as well.

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Borderline stupid and unnecessary, I don't know why SEGA is making a change that nobody really asked for or demanded. Classic being from another dimension is a lame retcon as well I know people keep saying "but the end of generations they created a new timeline and that's how time travel works" even tho at no point in the game they had alluded to that hell the series isn't even consistent with time travel given that Silver exist. 

I don't know I just really have a soft spot for obscure and underutilized characters. Bean is one of my favorites thanks to the Archie comics and it would  have been pretty cool seeing him and the hooligans interact with characters like Rough & Tumble. There's just something cool about embracing a franchises history and making it part of one big universe. But ah well hopefully one day they''ll change it and let these guys interact with the modern cast of characters. 

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It's silly, nonsensical, and maybe even confusing at points.

That said, much as I want to see Classic Vector, Charmy, and Espio show up, I don't mind Classic and Modern having a cast that's altogether more distinct from one-another, particularly and especially if they keep at it with stuff like Mania and this week's 30th Anniversary comic. 

In the case of the latter, I especially enjoyed how it felt like Sonic, yet fresh and distinct from what we've been getting in the Modern IDW stories.

And having more distinct extended casts can give them more time to shine as well, so we wouldn't have to worry about Shadow and Rouge getting attention Mighty and Ray could have had, for example. Now they can ALL shine in their own spotlights.

...assuming SEGA and co. keep it up, of course.

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I don't really care. Modern Sonic has no shortage of characters and no compunctions about making more; it hardly needs the handful of old characters it wasn't using before the split anyway. When Sega eventually pulls the plug on the Classic dimension the few characters unique to it will likely just go back in the trash as far as the games are concerned. Assuming it's still running the IDW team will probably try to fish them out again but in all honesty neither the characters nor IDW are interesting enough for me to get excited over that.

It's just, whatever. It'd be cool if Sega gave a shit about Fang I guess but it's not happening regardless so I'll take his handful of appearances in the classic dimension and move on. This whole issue is basically at the very bottom of my giving-a-shit list regarding this series.

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The biggest blow this has is that it means we'll never have the likes of Bean, Fang, and Bark ever interacting with the Modern cast and that's such a stifling decision for creativity. I'm fine with there being an alternative universe, but why restrict which characters are allowed in each world? 

I suppose it's to prevent imbalance; the modern cast make much less sense in the Classic aesthetic than vice versa, but its still a decision I'm not entirely comfortable with

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I'll be honest it's one of two mandates I actually do agree with people on. The other is no money. That's so stupid! 

It's just weirdly limiting to have all these characters and never use them. Honestly if they do a classic Sonic IDW book and we get to actually see these guys more frequently it wouldn't be so bad but the problem is we don't. They're locked away only to appear in classic merch and games and frankly that sucks because who knows when we'll get another Classic game or Comic or anything? 

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Indifferent. With how huge the cast is on the modern side of things, I would be surprised if they wanted to introduce them in such a setting unless they played a more integral role in these games. That's how I look at the situation, and I would prefer not to start a discussion on the matter if you plan to reply to me.

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I actually really like the idea of “two dimensions” rather than “past and present” because it means Sega can expand upon the classic lore without cramming more events behind Sonic Adventure chronologically. I mean, look at Star Wars. Between all the Legends and new expanded media, neither the Lucas nor Disney era really has an in-universe week of down time for these characters. They’re always in some caper like every day. It’s kind of ridiculous. Tying this back to Sonic, I definitely prefer to think that Sonic got to just relax for a while before the Chaos shit went down. Not to mention, “two dimensions” makes Sonic and friends seem more competent and mature, unlike Generations where they were just the Modern characters’ younger, weaker selves. 

And I gotta admit, I prefer having the characters being exclusive. It gives these series their own identities, something they desperately need if they’re really going to continue being separate. Ironically at this point, it’s the modern canon that needs more fleshing out (what even is Sonic’s world?), but that’s a topic for another thread.


One thing I really want to see is Sega changing the names of Classic and Modern to something else. Something that removes the temporal implications. This would really allow the Classic series in particular to grow. 

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I don't really care, and I don't think it's such a bad thing, as we only can use so many character at the same time. There are "logical" limitation of what is possible, and for instance, while Flynn isn't able to use Classic-based character in IDWSonic mainline comics, we never have seen so much some less-used Modern character as Gemerl and the Babylon Rogue (heck, we even got the first Rouge "nearly-solo" story in an Annual). So, even if I understand that people loving them are unhappy… I'm not 100% unhappy ?

If I won't say that we have "too many character" and I feel that IDWSonic would need some more character in some area, I don't feel that the "niche" that the most asked-for "classic-only" character are those, as most are already filled (Hooligans are kinda similar in term of roles to the skunk brother and/or the Babylon Rogue in a way, Mighty and Ray are in the "goody-two-shoes heroes" that have most of the main character in) and IMO it's more having more named character in the Restoration. Some of the few that have a unused niche is Tails Doll, or the Battle Bird Armada.

It doesn't mean that I feel that they shouldn't appear in modern stories, just that it doesn't bother me too much because I don't feel that the storyline need them that much. Having them in some nice classic story is already cool for character that they don't see fit as part of their main brand, tbh. 

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I kind of understand why they do it, but it's a case of "Sega trying to maintain continuity even though the continuity is held together by two dying threads". I do want to see Fang, Bean, Bark, Mighty, and Ray back in some capacity, sort of like how they did in Archie, but the modern canon already does have a solid cast of characters. I think relegating them to classic stories is unfavorable but you can still make it interesting. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see them crossover and have some interesting interpretations, it's just that I'm not too bothered with them only being classic. Like, what I'm trying to get at is, the classic and modern separation has been there so long I think it would be the easier option to go with, but not necessarily the better one. These characters have a lot of potential, I mean Fang is a bounty hunter who isn't really a full-on villain, that's an interesting archetype to have, it's just that Sega seems unwilling to let the crossover, and given that a lot of fans don't seem to be bothered by it too much I don't see it changing anytime soon.

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I will never agree on this with you guys, I prefer that if Classic and Modern are 2 different branches with their own games, they have their own set of characters and designs, concepts and zones exclusive to each other besides the core and necessary cast, it makes them more unique, if a Classic game has literally the same stuff a Modern one would have, there is no point, which in fact there wouldn't be if Classic and Modern weren't so different in gameplay and designs, but they are, so as long as SEGA wishes to continue with both incarnations, characters should be kept in their unique world, for me at least.

But of course the Sonic "canon" is ever changing, I really don't expect this to last forever, so don't worry.

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Honestly, I'm struggling to think of a single mandate regarding the Sonic franchise that I actually agree with. The classic/modern embargo is dumb, the two worlds idea is dumb, the "naked males, clothed females" thing is dumb, the "Sonic can never loose" thing is dumb...

And here is the thing; I think most fans agree with me. It says a lot about the intelligence behind mandated franchise guidelines when those guidelines are rejected by virtually the entire fanbase.

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6 hours ago, Jack-al said:

I will never agree on this with you guys, I prefer that if Classic and Modern are 2 different branches with their own games, they have their own set of characters and designs, concepts and zones exclusive to each other besides the core and necessary cast, it makes them more unique,

You can do that by just having one in "the past" and  another in "the present". The two worlds thing is just wholly unnecessary 

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19 hours ago, Dr. Mechano said:

But far less understandable is the mandate that characters like Mighty, Ray, Fang, Bark, and Bean - and my personal favorites, the Hard-Boiled Heavies - absolutely cannot appear in modern-era games, and can only be depicted in the classic era. Prior to this mandate, while these characters were still absent from the games, we at least got to see them in a "modern"-inspired setting by way of the Sonic Archie comics, which generally had looser oversight than the current series.

Your post already half understood the situation. People are focusing heavily on Archie, and on new comics not getting to do this, forgetting Archie got to do a LOT it wasn't supposed to. Then Forces using the vague "separate world" wording got people to overfocus on this specific term and not the general circumstances of the franchise.

 

The Classic-Modern distinction isn't new. It's always existed. It's just before, the classic-exclusive characters were outright banned. Remember Mighty appearing in a poster in Generations being a massive deal, exactly because he was gone for ages?

The current situation is if anything an improvement- now those characters are allowed to be used since there's a new branch that gets to just kind of have the scraps of what's unused in the main branch. Before, those scraps were nonexistent entirely.

 

tldr- classic-modern division always existed. Forget Archie, it was always an exception that broke many rules and got away with stuff no other licensed material would, and ended up in court for it.

 

EDIT: since people'll focus on that and ignore the rest of the post- no, Archie didn't get sued for using classic characters. Point is instead "Archie did a lot of things outside what'd be normal for a licensed product because it had very unique circumstances that aren't reproducible, and which ended up leading it to court". The classic thing is just a symptom of that, same as using SatAM and AoSTH material

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14 minutes ago, Soniman said:

You can do that by just having one in "the past" and  another in "the present". The two worlds thing is just wholly unnecessary 

Except that the present is by definition based on the past so they couldn't, just as an extreme example, kill off Tails in the past and continue using him in the present.

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Yeah, the fact Adventure acted like a soft reboot that cut a lot of the guff for the new modern era and Heroes was a complete termination of the classic Chaotix shows this has been a thing for a long time, and that's not even the obvious fact that a bunch of characters were 100% barred during the time there was no classic content coming out.

I still just find it funny that the people who wanted the unused classic characters back got what they wanted...and it managed to screw over their comic appearances, a space that had previously been a haven for them since now SEGA actually had to pay attention to what characters they wanted marketed for what appearances.

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16 minutes ago, The KKM said:

The current situation is if anything an improvement- now those characters are allowed to be used since there's a new branch that gets to just kind of have the scraps of what's unused in the main branch. Before, those scraps were nonexistent entirely.

tldr- classic-modern division always existed. Forget Archie, it was always an exception that broke many rules and got away with stuff no other licensed material would, and ended up in court for it.

Not really? Sonic Team had no problems using Classic characters before, Bean, Nack and Bark appeared in Generations as cameos back in 2011. Mania only got them properly as well as Mighty and Ray because it was a specific game made to be in the Classic series, by a different team altogether - a scenario that's increasingly appearing to be a one time job.

There was no distinction between characters at any point, they just didn't use them for a long while and Ian had zero problems using them in Archie, and post-reboot. We know it's only a recent problem because Ian out and out referenced the Hooligans in IDW, only for SEGA to suddenly say now there was a split following Forces (which was only when they really began splitting off the two as dimensions than a timeline). 

And no, classic-modern division hasn't always existed. Post-Reboot Archie in 2013 was explicitly a version of Archie Sonic that was heavily more tightened-up by SEGA and required immense levels of battle on Ian's part to get them to shift gears on decisions (The SatAM cast being the core example). Ian himself has gone on point saying SEGA's decisions and 'mandates' change on a dime and he has to keep playing it by ear because what they say is fine one week might not be fine the next week. This has very specifically only become a issue recently with Forces and Mania driving the stake in dividing Classic and Modern.

And all that to say that we aren't in a remotely better scenario than with Post-Reboot Archie. We had Mania, sure, nice. Mania is nearly five years old, Christian Whitehead has moved on to other projects, Sonic Team seems only interested in pushing Modern forward with odd appearances from Classic Sonic, and now with this dumb split in place, the literal only refuge these characters had in actual decades is now gone, until the odd occasions where SEGA allow IDW to pop out stories set in the Classic universe. Between Mania and the 30th anni special, we only got Mania Adventures, and even that just gave us Mighty and Ray briefly.

That could well change, maybe we'll get a running Classic series if the 30th anni special does well and we'll get more frequent appearances, but until then, I hardly consider them being trapped in a universe that sparsely gets used by SEGA/Sonic Team as better treatment to the regular appearances and world-building they'd brought to Archie Sonic/Post-Reboot Archie. In an ideal world without such an idiotic split, we'd have both, with them getting regular appearances in both the Classic and Modern canons, but now as such, any fans of Mighty, Ray, Nack, Bark, Bean, or the Hard Boiled Heavies, and likely Metal Knuckles/Tails Doll, they have to just wait around until SEGA decide to throw out another table-scrap of Classic material, I hardly deem that a good situation for those fans.

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