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The "Sonic has had a rough time since going 3D" narrative


batson
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So I just watched this video on Youtube where the uploader uses reviews of Sonic Colors Ultimate as a base for sharing his annoyance at the "Sonic has been bad since going 3D" narrative and how often it is stated by gaming journalists:

So I wonder, how do you guys feel about it? Is the "Sonic has been bad since going 3D" statement valid or not, and do you think it has become a catchphrase used by lazy journalists that doesn't feel like analyzing the Sonic franchise in more depth?

Personaly, regarding whether this statement is technically true or not, I would say that it probably isn't, considering that Sonic Adventure and to a lesser extent Sonic Adventure 2 recieved high praise during their initial releases. Like, imagine if every 3D Mario games after Mario 64 had sucked. Would it then be justified to say "mario has sucked since going 3D"? Probably not, because the series 3D era would still have started out with the masterpiece that is Mario 64.

However, even with that said, I do understand why gaming journalists use terms like "the 3D era" as a simple shorthand to mean the last 20+ years or so. Because honestly, for the last two decades or so the Sonic franchise as a whole has been handled terribly. Some games have been good or even great but the amount of mediocre to downright terrible games have tarnished the series image to a brutal degree. Sonic is a big joke around the internet and many of his modern games (again meaning of the last two decades, give or take a few years) have been embarassingly bad. It's perfectly understandable that people summarise the modern Sonic era as "bad" or "rough". And while this era might not technically have started the very minute that the main series went 3D, I honestly can't blame people for more or less equating the 3D-era and the bad era.

 

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Dr. Mechano

I mean, Sonic did have a rough transition into 3D. I love Sonic Adventure but that game is jank city.

SA2 had far more polish, but then Heroes nosedived in quality and the next few 3D games like Shadow and 06 followed suit.

In the boost era, it's been up and down. I'd say Colors and Generations are good, while Unleashed and Forces are not so good.

If you enjoy these games, that's fine. But I don't think it's unfair or biased for game reviewers to quite accurately say that Sonic's 3D history has been spotty at best. 

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Chili Dawg

I mean, it isn't wrong. Even as someone who likes both Adventures a lot, they're far from perfect games, and while they have plenty of fans, the consensus on their quality is far from unanimous.  Since SA2's initial release, there have been all of two 3D games to be well received by the gaming community at large so it certainly isn't an inaccurate statement, especially when you want to compare to how well liked the 2D games were.

HOWEVER, it is a useless, boring, overdone statement, and we don't need to keep hearing it. We know, and we know it probably a lot better than most reviewers do.

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It's true, so, I don't mind it.

15 minutes ago, batson said:

Like, imagine if every 3D Mario games after Mario 64 had sucked. Would it then be justified to say "mario has sucked since going 3D"? Probably not, because the series 3D era would still have started out with the masterpiece that is Mario 64.

I mean, SA is not nearly as well put together as SM64. SA is like 6 different games barely holding itself together, and you can trace a lot of the problems other 3D Sonics have back to it. But that aside if Mario had had one good 3D game and then 20+ years of bad ones...yes, it would be entirely reasonable to say that Mario had a rough time since going 3D? It wouldn't be strictly true that every 3D Mario was bad, but it would not be wrong to sum up 3D Mario as rough, or struggling, or bad.

1 minute ago, Chili Dawg said:

HOWEVER, it is a useless, boring, overdone statement, and we don't need to keep hearing it. We know, and we know it probably a lot better than most reviewers do.

Reviews are for more than just us.

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"Sonic has had a rough time since going 3D" Is still true unless you think Colors, Lost World, Boom and Forces were some kind of a return to form. You only need to look at the lack of enthusiasm around them anywhere on the internet to see that that isn't the case. Some of those games aren't disasters, but that was true last decade too. It's just not enough.

It's not particularly interesting coverage for an enthusiast to read, but that's true most most mainstream coverage of games. If the basic flavor a lot of video game coverage comes in bothers you you just shouldn't be reading it.


I don't care when people make this point and I won't care until it stops being true. Sonic fans need to stop trying to puppeteer everyone else into changing the narrative around Sonic and put the pressure on the people responsible for the narrative in the first place.

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There hasn't been a Sonic game that has had long term fond memories in two decades. Considering most people are probably much more familiar with Adventure DX than Adventure, I daresay that that means that there's only ever been one game that even rose "many people remember it really fondly", after 23 years of Sonic Team trying to make 3D Sonic games. Every time one that was even passable came out, indeed like Colors, people were saying it was going to be the start of a new era and then it wasn't because even the best ones have either had horrendous debilitating issues that invalidated any hidden qualities therein (Unleashed) or were playing it so safe that they quickly became anonymous (Colors). Where's the lie in the "narrative"?

 

 

 

And as a point of comparison to Mario, there might be a point there (SM64 is a better game than Adventure and way more important of one, but it is very jank itself) if Nintendo made SM64, then Sunshine (a kind of shitty 3D Mario game) and then just didn't make UR MR GAY, or 3D Land, or Odyssey, or... anything really after that; and at that point that becomes pretty questionable as a hypothetical.

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PublicEnemy1

Well, I don't think it's really a BAD thing to say Sonic had a rougher time in 3D mainly for the fact that MOST games with a 2D background struggled in 3D. Mario and Zelda are more outliers than anything. 3D games, especially back then, were hard as fuck to make. There's a reason that series like Kirby stuck to 2.5D at most (and in Kirby's case, still sticks to this day). Look at Earthworm Jim, look at Castlevania, look at Bubsy 3-- OK, not the best example.

And Sonic was no different. Honestly, it was a miracle SEGA got him to work in 3D after the mess that was Sonic Xtreme. But as Dr. Mechano said, it did come with its fair share of problems, but I think that, in general, it worked fine enough and it's charming enough for me to replay it to this day. However, saying that Sonic DIDN'T have trouble going to 3D would be a straight up lie, because almost every franchise at that point did.

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It's one of those things that's not technically wrong but also really annoying to read after you've seen it a hundred-thousand times. That said, people should probably try avoiding reading it instead of actively looking for reviews that will tell it to you.

(I think for my money, it bothers me more when they precede that and then mention a game as an exception that doesn't really deserve it. Like uhh. Colors. But that's neither here nor there.)

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Its not WRONG, but its extremely tiring to read that statement year after year after year after year....

It starts sounding less like legitimate criticism and more like a meme that reviewers check off for every review.

 

I think Sonic fans are painfully aware of how mediocre the series has been even when it doesn't completely suck., and constantly being reminded of it without any way of stopping it just feels like a kick in the balls.

 

It doesn't matter how thick skinned you are, being told the same thing over and over will grate on your patience.

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Dr. Mechano
6 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

I think Sonic fans are painfully aware of how mediocre the series has been even when it doesn't completely suck., and constantly being reminded of it without any way of stopping it just feels like a kick in the balls.

It doesn't matter how thick skinned you are, being told the same thing over and over will grate on your patience.

The way I look at it, fans who are dissatisfied with the current direction of the series (as you and I both are for varying reasons) should honestly encourage this kind of negative coverage for mediocre-to-bad Sonic games. I don't get being unhappy with 3D Sonic while also being upset at how reviewers keep criticizing 3D Sonic. If you fundamentally agree that 3D Sonic is underwhelming and needs to change, then anything that might pressure Sega to do better - such as criticism - sounds like it'd be a net positive for everyone.

I say "might" pretty lightly of course. Sales numbers are the almighty driver of Sonic's trajectory, and the series has consistently sold well enough.

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None of the criticism I read in mainstream outlets is great, so I wouldn't say I want Sonic Team to listen to that stuff("Sonic Colors has difficulty spikes"???). Just saying '3D Sonic isn't great' hardly counts as bad criticism but things got pretty silly sometimes when they were asked to get specific.

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19 minutes ago, Dr. Mechano said:

The way I look at it, fans who are dissatisfied with the current direction of the series (as you and I both are for varying reasons) should honestly encourage this kind of negative coverage for mediocre-to-bad Sonic games. I don't get being unhappy with 3D Sonic while also being upset at how reviewers keep criticizing 3D Sonic. If you fundamentally agree that 3D Sonic is underwhelming and needs to change, then anything that might pressure Sega to do better - such as criticism - sounds like it'd be a net positive for everyone.

I say "might" pretty lightly of course. Sales numbers are the almighty driver of Sonic's trajectory, and the series has consistently sold well enough.

Most people genuinely enjoy these games despite their problems, and don't simply want to hop on a hate bandwagon. Also, not everyone is willing to admit that what they love isn't all that good.

Also, let's be real. People have been mocked and bullied for liking this series. Nobody can tell me that they haven't been accused of being a disgusting furry or some type of deviant for liking this series. Its easy to forget but most of Sonic's demographic are young, insecure people in their late teens and early twenties, at least on the internet. To say nothing of the tweens 

Most people define their entire identity around their love of Sonic. Is that healthy? No, but people do it. Mocking Sonic to a lot of people feels like a personal attack on their character and identity, hence people lashing out. Its easy to look at that as a mature and grounded adult and just blow it off, but I'm almost positive many of us have been there once upon a time.

 

Most people take legitimate joy in mocking Sonic, because they know its gonna piss off his young and impressionable fanbase. The "Sonic was never good" narrative doesn't exist as a genuine criticism but just a blanket statement to mock Sonic and anyone who likes him, and Sonic fans react the same all of the time.

 

And the sad part is that as long as Sega keeps dropping the ball, they're only further justifying the mocking of their brand by these people. There wouldn't be anything to mock if the games were actually good, but they release mediocre shit in 2021. Like no shit Sonic fans are insane with an environment like this. And its entirely Sega's fault for letting things get this bad to begin with.

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Dr. Mechano
2 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

Most people genuinely enjoy these games despite their problems, and don't simply want to hop on a hate bandwagon. Also, not everyone is willing to admit that what they love isn't all that good.

Also, let's be real. People have been mocked and bullied for liking this series. Nobody can tell me that they haven't been accused of being a disgusting furry or some type of deviant for liking this series. Its easy to forget but most of Sonic's demographic are young, insecure people in their late teens and early twenties, at least on the internet. To say nothing of the tweens 

Most people define their entire identity around their love of Sonic. Is that healthy? No, but people do it. Mocking Sonic to a lot of people feels like a personal attack on their character and identity, hence people lashing out. Its easy to look at that as a mature and grounded adult and just blow it off, but I'm almost positive many of us have been there once upon a time.

Most people take legitimate joy in mocking Sonic, because they know its gonna piss off his young and impressionable fanbase. The "Sonic was never good" narrative doesn't exist as a genuine criticism but just a blanket statement to mock Sonic and anyone who likes him, and Sonic fans react the same all of the time.

Well, obviously, making fun of the fans themselves isn't right. Nobody should be made to feel bad about themselves because of their hobbies or what kind of media they enjoy. That's bullying, not criticism, and I won't ever defend that.

However, I also think it's important to separate criticism of art from an attack on the people who enjoy that art. Sonic fans themselves are often highly critical of this series, but few would take those criticisms as attacks on their fellow fans. We should view criticism from outside the fandom more charitably, unless they're just blatantly being shitheads about it and belittling people for enjoying the series.

It's important to not take critiques of the series to heart. To not attach your identity so strongly to any work of fiction (Sonic or otherwise) that people insulting it feels like people insulting you. You are more than the things you enjoy. They may be important to you (as they also are to me), but you as a person are not inextricably tied to your fandoms to the point that criticism of it is an attack on you.

 

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4 minutes ago, Dr. Mechano said:

Well, obviously, making fun of the fans themselves isn't right. Nobody should be made to feel bad about themselves because of their hobbies or what kind of media they enjoy. That's bullying, not criticism, and I won't ever defend that.

However, I also think it's important to separate criticism of art from an attack on the people who enjoy that art. Sonic fans themselves are often highly critical of this series, but few would take those criticisms as attacks on their fellow fans. We should view criticism from outside the fandom more charitably, unless they're just blatantly being shitheads about it and belittling people for enjoying the series.

It's important to not take critiques of the series to heart. To not attach your identity so strongly to any work of fiction (Sonic or otherwise) that people insulting it feels like people insulting you. You are more than the things you enjoy. They may be important to you (as they also are to me), but you as a person are not inextricably tied to your fandoms to the point that criticism of it is an attack on you.

 

You should tell that to the droves of people on Reddit, and Twitter :V

The real problem here is that most Sonic criticism isn't all that constructive to begin with. Like Wraith said, reviewers can make blanket statements like "Lol 3D Sonic sucks", but they never go into the specifics about them, or what can be improved about them. Ya know, constructive criticism. I don't think Sonic fans would react anywhere near as badly if these reviews actually addressed these problems and what can be done to fix them. 

But that's not what gaming reviews are there for; they're paid to play the game once, type up their initial thoughts and then move on to another game. Gaming reviews only judge games on the surface level, if it doesn't completely suck, then it's deemed good. Sonic games very often cannot be judged on one or two playthroughs, and only start showing their merits a few years or months down the line. 

Just look at Unleashed; when the game came out, the critic and fandom reception were more or less in line with each other, with fans thinking the score was a little too low. It was only a couple years later when people started to appreciate just how much shit Unleashed had despite its issues, but by that point, it's reputation was already set in stone by the wider  gaming community as one of the "bad" games. 

 

 

This is why I find it hard to trust "professional" reviews for Sonic, because so many of them simply do not understand the nuances of these games. Reminds me of how fighting games and character action games. Those games have way more intricacies and depth than an initial playthrough will show you. But the difference is that professional reviewers acknowledge this and know that the fans will dive way deeper than them. I think its generally accepted character action games and fighting games are inherently niche, but Sonic is widely publicized and known than those genres, so the general expectation is that Sonic should accessible to everyone.  

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Rabbitearsblog

I guess we should post up the original video for more context for the situation:

"Sonic had a Rough Transition into 3D" and "Sonic hasn't had the best time since making the transition to 3D" are two completely different statements.

The first statement, I can sort of agree with.  There were a couple of games in the 3D Sonic games that weren't that good and I will admit that the series still continue to have problems in regards to its 3D formula.  However, the second statement seems to ignore the fact that there were some good 3D Sonic games (like the Adventure series, Sonic Colors and Sonic Unleashed) that managed to keep the series afloat and gave the series lots of recognition.  And I completely understand that people are sick and tired of hearing the "Sonic had a rough time since going 3D" statement because it's basically beating a dead horse at this point.  We don't need to constantly hear that statement in every Sonic the Hedgehog review.  What professional critics really need to do is review the games that's being put out in front of them and just discuss the pros and cons of that specific game and if there are any problems with the games, make some constructive criticisms with SEGA and tell them that based on some of the problems with this specific game, you can improve in this area or that area for the next game.

 

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3 minutes ago, Rabbitearsblog said:

I guess we should post up the original video for more context for the situation:

"Sonic had a Rough Transition into 3D" and "Sonic hasn't had the best time since making the transition to 3D" are two completely different statements.

 

 

No they aren't. They both mean the same thing

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As long as Sega keep releasing subpar and mediocre shit, these reviews are going to keep happening. Sure, Sonic has a few good 3D games, but they only last for about a year or two before we get more mediocre shit. 

Sonic needs to have a consistent string of actually good games for a few years before that stigma will even begin to wane. 

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Dr. Mechano
1 minute ago, Wraith said:

No they aren't. They both mean the same thing

I guess I could see a slight difference, if “rough transition” refers to the early days and “hasn’t had the best time since” is more broadly about the 3D series from then to today.

I’d say both are true.

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13 minutes ago, Dr. Mechano said:

I guess I could see a slight difference, if “rough transition” refers to the early days and “hasn’t had the best time since” is more broadly about the 3D series from then to today.

I’d say both are true.

They're interchangeable this case. They're juat trying to acknowledge that the 3D games aren't great. 

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I realized something that needs to be addressed here.

Because if there's anything the phrase does that I don't like, it's that it leads a sort of false narrative that Sonic's 3D outings didn't work. Like, mechanically. There's always been a lot of rumblings amongst non-fans that Sonic doesn't translate to 3D because of it.

Which isn't true! At all! In fact, the reason people still go back to and think highly of Sonic Adventure, SA2 or say Unleashed to this day are because the Sonic stages did work, and they worked really well at that. The mechanics do translate to 3D with the Adventures, and they also can be reinvented to work in different ways as seen in the boost titles. It's just that the rest of the game around them are the rougher aspects, like them or not, but that's never quite clearly said when referring back to the fact.

The narrative of "Sonic has struggled since he went 3D" is easier to say as-is (especially to a layman), but I do understand if somebody has a problem with the misconceptions caused by them. Maybe people should bring that up more rather than going monkey-mode over another reviewer who's not honestly as invested as you think.

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Rabbitearsblog
3 minutes ago, Dr. Mechano said:

I guess I could see a slight difference, if “rough transition” refers to the early days and “hasn’t had the best time since” is more broadly about the 3D series from then to today.

I’d say both are true.

That's the thing about these statements. They are not very specific.  Regarding the "Sonic had a rough transition into 3D" statement, it could mean that Sonic had some bad games when it made its transition into 3D and didn't have as smooth as a transition as Mario did.  And in regards to the statement about "Sonic hasn't had the best time since its transition into 3D," that could mean that they are overlooking all the good Sonic games that came out during the 3D period that actually helped the franchise at some points.  So, the way I'm looking at these statements, one of the statements is saying that yes, Sonic did have some rough spots when it made its move to 3D and it still has problems with them to this day and the other statement is saying that Sonic never had any bright spots when it made its move to 3D, despite the fact that there are some 3D Sonic games that proved otherwise.  At least, that's how I'm seeing these statements.

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"Sonic hasn't had the best time in 3D" in no way means that there were no good games.

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1 hour ago, Kuzu said:

I think Sonic fans are painfully aware of how mediocre the series has been even when it doesn't completely suck., and constantly being reminded of it without any way of stopping it just feels like a kick in the balls.

I mean, are they? Like, outside of people who have been on a Sonic fan forum for half a decade+?

 

 

 

We just temp-banned someone yesterday who insisted that the only reason mediocre Sonic games aren't rated better than mediocre Pokemon games are because of a hexagonal conspiracy on the part of the collective of professional game reviewers; and wasn't going to rest until a topic about a Sonic game's review scores was fully derailed into discussing that and that alone. And it's not like people don't come out of the woodwork to insist similar sentiment (albeit usually somewhat less insane) every time a new Sonic game comes out.

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16 minutes ago, Tornado said:

I mean, are they? Like, outside of people who have been on a Sonic fan forum for half a decade+?

 

 

 

We just temp-banned someone yesterday who insisted that the only reason mediocre Sonic games aren't rated better than mediocre Pokemon games are because of a hexagonal conspiracy on the part of the collective of professional game reviewers; and wasn't going to rest until a topic about a Sonic game's review scores was fully derailed into discussing that and that alone. And it's not like people don't come out of the woodwork to insist similar sentiment (albeit usually somewhat less insane) every time a new Sonic game comes out.

......Ok, point taken. 

 

Let me rephrase, the portion of Sonic fans that are actually somewhat sane probably understand, on some level, that Sonic games tend to be mediocre, but refuse to accept it due to misguided love for the series and seeing it as their own identity. That sound better?

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It isn't wrong, but it's a very unnecessary thing to repeat when talking about a franchise that's been 3D for over twenty years. Most of its lifespan. Maybe say Sonic has had a rocky past few years, but why talk about it like Adventure came out 8 years ago? 

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