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Has Sonic the Hedgehog become stagnant?


Kuzu
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Now that I have your attention with that bait title, hear me out. 

I feel like there's a general sentiment with Sonic lately; fans will either sing the praises of recent products, or just decry them as inferior trash to everything else..so what's the verdict? I feel like nowadays more than ever, the reception to Sonic has been kind of all over the place. From games, to Comics, to Tv shows. 

This is in great contrast to the previous decade where the overall reception to Sonic was much more negative, but the series kind of gained some ironic appeal as a result due to the over the top nature of the series at the time. 

 

For my part, I can't really help but feel like the series has been kind of resting on its laurels as of late. Like, things aren't as bad they were in the mid to late 2000's sure, but I'm also nowhere near as entertained either. With the exception of Mania, there hasn't really been a truly stand out product Sonic has put out in the last decade or so. We're at a point when Sonic games are mostly functional nowadays compared to before, but that's about it. Even the comic books just kind of get a "Yea that was fine" reaction out of me. 

So anyone else kind of feel this way, or are your feelings a bit more complex. Am I just a boomer who is out of touch with what Sonic is nowadays or what have you? Maybe there's something I'm missing. 

 

 

Edit: Just thought of a better title more accurately reflects my thoughts

 

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  • Kuzu changed the title to Has Sonic the Hedgehog become stagnant?

It's definitely seen some wild swings, even from game to game. I can enjoy most of these games, but it gets tricky when I think about what I'd actually recommend to others outside of the fandom. There are a handful I'd say are solid recommendations, but if you just jump in blind to any random Sonic game throughout the series, there's a solid chance you'll have a merely okay time within the context of 2022 game design.

I think the tough part of this right now is that we're still waiting on seeing what Frontiers is, since philosophically the series seems like it's in... something like a transitional phase after recent successes. It will be five years between Forces and Frontiers, and a lot has happened around the series in that time without much publicly happening within the series.

Personally, over the last few years, I've taken a serious look at how I feel about the series and why, and my conclusion was that I still have a lot of affection for it, but most of my interest has largely been academic. I want to follow and know this stuff because I think it's interesting in concept regardless how the actual quality turns out. I want to know, even if I don't think I'll have a great time. Which isn't to say I can't be enthusiastic; I'm over the moon for Origins, but my engagement with the series right now isn't necessarily because I think it's consistently quality.

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Can't blame you. I mean, look at Sonic Forces teaser trailer.
It's Sonic... Running in a forest. Ok.
Sonic Prime Teaser. Sonic. Runs in Green Hill Zone. Ok.

These are supposed to make me excited? Mediocre indeed. Jup, here he is again.
He's running. He sure is.

Give me the broken but insane 2000's over functional mediocrity of current Sonic any day.

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9 minutes ago, Roger_van_der_weide said:

These are supposed to make me excited? Mediocre indeed. Jup, here he is again.
He's running. He sure is.

I will note, these are supposed to make you excited if you're the kind of person who is checking out the Netflix After School youtube channel. It's not really a blowout of what that show is, just a pure teaser.

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I agree. The problem is the games aren't coming out as frequently as they were. When that was going on, sure, there was a chance more bad games could happen, but there was also the chance we could get some good ones out of it too. Now we gotta wait 5 years to see whether or not it'll be good or bad. And then wait another half a decade even if they fuck up.

Mania was the only game that released in the last decade that has a good reputation (and it was always their plan B), and I think Sega's okay with that because the movie is carrying things right now. I think they're hoping Prime will take on that burden too. The less Sega has to lift, the better... and I don't think it should be that way.

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3 minutes ago, Muglés said:

I agree. The problem is the games aren't coming out as frequently as they were. When that was going on, sure, there was a chance more bad games could happen, but there was also the chance we could get some good ones out of it too. Now we gotta wait 5 years to see whether or not it'll be good or bad. And then wait another half a decade even if they fuck up.

Mania was the only game that released in the last decade that has a good reputation (and it was always their plan B), and I think Sega's okay with that because the movie is carrying things right now. I think they're hoping Prime will take on that burden too. The less Sega has to lift, the better... and I don't think it should be that way.

This is definitely a significant factor to my feelings yea. Before we had a new Sonic game, spin off or otherwise, almost every year. Even if you had a mediocre title one year, you might get something decent within the same year.

Now we just get one mediocre game every 4-5 years. Its nowhere near as exciting.

21 minutes ago, Roger_van_der_weide said:

Can't blame you. I mean, look at Sonic Forces teaser trailer.
It's Sonic... Running in a forest. Ok.
Sonic Prime Teaser. Sonic. Runs in Green Hill Zone. Ok.

These are supposed to make me excited? Mediocre indeed. Jup, here he is again.
He's running. He sure is.

Give me the broken but insane 2000's over functional mediocrity of current Sonic any day.

Note, every Sonic game doesn't need to be a breakout hit or do something insane....but we've gone like what, over 10 years without a game that's really done anything out of the ordinary.

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SEGA at this point when it comes to Sonic just wants to rely on movie/tv stuff and merch. Honestly the way they go about their terrible marketing makes me think they only still put out games because they have to.

That's why the games have gotten to this point, they take no pride in them.

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It’s still…”safe,” for lack of a better word.

I suppose you could say it’s stagnant, but that seems to be more out of a lack of creativity and ingenuity of ideas to really excite me.

Perhaps the only thing that has me invested are the comics and the movies, and that Ian Flynn is writing for Frontiers, but beyond that nothing has really rocked me as much as I’d like.

Forces, for example, appeared to bring what I was interested in only to turn out underwhelming, so that certainly hasn’t helped my expectations.

It’s not me getting old (although I won’t deny that that’s had an effect), but that there are great heights that can and has been achieved and Sonic in certain places seems too hesitant to reach them. Honestly, I want to say that we’re still suffering from the aftermath of 2006, as even after more than a decade we’re still hearing much of the same, seeing much of the same, and only when we see something dare to do something more and different does it really seem to catch notice.

Ironically, I’m not as cynical about it as I used to be, but the caution is still there.

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Look, in 2017 we had Mania and Forces. How the hell fandom should feel based on that year alone?

I mean, generally speaking I think Sonic is doing pretty good on every front... except for games. And that's a pretty big part for game franchise.

Spin-offs are so rare and safe it's hard to think about them. Origins now, Team Racing before, another Mario Olympics, Speed Battle. All of it is "eh, good enough", quickly leaving the mind.

Last decade of main Sonic games was not great, but no longer "swearing and guns" insane so it creates less of a discourse.

Of course there was Mania, but we all know what was different about it. And we're still waiting for dang sequel.

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When something hits a certain low-than-ideal barometer of quality  for 20+ years it hasn't 'become' stagnant or mediocre or whatever. It just is. Sonic is mediocre now just like it was a decade ago.  Nothing's really changed.

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1 hour ago, MetalSkulkBane said:

Last decade of main Sonic games was not great, but no longer "swearing and guns" insane so it creates less of a discourse.

True, but we now have the opposite extreme, just functional mediocrity like Roger said.

Look at how even Mario thinks more out of the box nowadays and tries things it never did before:

 

 

If you told me 15 years ago that a song like this would be in a mainline Mario game I would tell you you were insane.

 

The Sonic game series needs an injection of life, bravery and pride in its veins. It's like the Adventure Duology vocal album title says: "Passion and Pride". The series needs to have pride in what made it unique to begin with.

That's why I'm not sold on Frontiers so far. If the only way they have of doing something new is by borrowing ideas from Breath of the Wild and Shadow of the Colossus(2 games that are kinda opposite to what makes this series unique) then what's the point?. You already have a 3D formula for this series, stop being cowardly and just use it. If Odyssey could bring back the 64 formula and modernize it, then the Sonic equivalent should be possible too.

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In many ways I feel like there hasn't even been a Sonic game since 2010, because I feel like such precious little has really been added to the ongoing legacy of the franchise since then. Even Mania, good as it is, can't be said to have contributed much when it has all of 4 original zones. Generations was a nostalgic romp down memory lane, and it seems like when that became a hit SEGA decided Green Hill plus fast was the de facto brand image, and Sonic became more about selling a brand than anything else.

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It's not stagnant, it's just bad. There's a movie series, a comic series, a new cartoon, a retro game collection, and a new 3d game that seems like it could be wildly different from any that came before, it's pushing itself in more directions than most series ever do. Which, if any, of these are worth caring about is the problem.

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Suppose its good to know that I'm not the only one who's felt like this for a while at least...

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4 hours ago, Kuzu said:

Now that I have your attention with that bait title, hear me out. 

I feel like there's a general sentiment with Sonic lately; fans will either sing the praises of recent products, or just decry them as inferior trash to everything else..so what's the verdict? I feel like nowadays more than ever, the reception to Sonic has been kind of all over the place. From games, to Comics, to Tv shows. 

This is in great contrast to the previous decade where the overall reception to Sonic was much more negative, but the series kind of gained some ironic appeal as a result due to the over the top nature of the series at the time. 

 

For my part, I can't really help but feel like the series has been kind of resting on its laurels as of late. Like, things aren't as bad they were in the mid to late 2000's sure, but I'm also nowhere near as entertained either. With the exception of Mania, there hasn't really been a truly stand out product Sonic has put out in the last decade or so. We're at a point when Sonic games are mostly functional nowadays compared to before, but that's about it. Even the comic books just kind of get a "Yea that was fine" reaction out of me. 

So anyone else kind of feel this way, or are your feelings a bit more complex. Am I just a boomer who is out of touch with what Sonic is nowadays or what have you? Maybe there's something I'm missing. 

 

 

Edit: Just thought of a better title more accurately reflects my thoughts

 

Well I don't think so. The last mainline game was Forces five years ago. It's hardly representative of the place the series at now. The franchise as a whole might be doing better than it ever has with the movies, and upcoming projects like Prime. Once Frontiers is out, or at least has some gameplay footage, I think we'll be able to judge the current status of the games better, but at the moment, it's really hard to say. As for the comics, I think they're wonderful, but I think they work better when you read the trades or volumes instead of the monthly issues, since then you're getting the bigger picture rather than small parts of it.

I guess I'm just more optimistic than some. The games aren't the Sonic series to me, they're just a part of it. I've had a great time recently watching the movies, speculating about upcoming projects, and checking out fan content and old stuff I never got into like the Fleetway comics.

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When I first saw this post, my first reaction was "no, we're transitioning into a multimedia era of successful movies, upcoming TV shows, and a game that looks to be revamping the formula", but having thought about it, yeah. The past decade, or especially after Forces. The word I'd use is "stable", though. While I'm sure the mess of quality during the 2000s was more interesting, going to have to say I prefer stability. 

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2 minutes ago, Razule said:

When I first saw this post, my first reaction was "no, we're transitioning into a multimedia era of successful movies, upcoming TV shows, and a game that looks to be revamping the formula", but having thought about it, yeah. The past decade, or especially after Forces. The word I'd use is "stable", though. While I'm sure the mess of quality during the 2000s was more interesting, going to have to say I prefer stability. 

Why do we have to choose between those 2 extremes? Why can't we have stability PLUS the bravery to try new things and a passionate embracement of what made this series unique?

The obvious answer is that current Sonic Team is not talented/passionate/confident enough to pull it off, to which I answer "Then completely reestructure the studio and fire the ones that aren't good enough".

A few years back a celebrity from my country said this line that I like to quote: "If an employee sucks at his job, fire him/her. That's how you do it."

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I dunno man, I have so many mixed feelings about this multimedia push Sonic is doing as of late. Putting out a bunch of passable products to appeal to the masses has never really been what sold me on this series. I get that it was probably inevitable given how iconic Sonic has become, but it doesn't make it any less disheartening to see from my own perspective. 

The only product that has managed to elicit any type of emotion out of me in the last five years was Sonic Mania, a product explicitly designed to build on the foundations of the series for a modern day. After nearly 20 years of experimental hit or miss stuff with the series, it was fucking refreshing as hell to get something that actually felt like a proper continuation of the series. And now, here we are five years later with no sign of a follow up or any indication that Sega saw Mania as anything more than a novelty game, and are just content marching forward with whatever the hell they have planned for the 3D games. 

Shit is disheartening man. I try very hard to not be a debbie downer about this series because I can see it still brings genuine joy to other people, but man...I hate feeling this way about a series I used to hold in such high regard lol. 

6 minutes ago, pppp said:

Why do we have to choose between those 2 extremes? Why can't we have stability PLUS the bravery to try new things and a passionate embracement of what made this series unique?

The obvious answer is that current Sonic Team is not talented/passionate/confident enough to pull it off, to which I answer "Then completely reestructure the studio and fire the ones that aren't good enough".

A few years back a celebrity from my country said this line that I like to quote: "If an employee sucks at his job, fire him/her. That's how you do it."

That's now it works. Its not always about talent, or passion or confidence. Sometimes it really just comes down to bad luck, and management. Everyone should understand just how bad of managers Sega are when it comes to Sonic, as they always seem to put unreasonable demands and deadlines on the developers. 

No amount of talent or passion can really overcome unreasonable deadlines forced upon by the Publishers. 

Its why I'm not completely sold on Ian Flynn writing for Frontiers, because he's still at the mercy of Sega's demands and mandates on what he can or can't do. 

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6 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

No amount of talent or passion can really overcome unreasonable deadlines forced upon by the Publishers. 

Except back in the 2000s most Sonic games were also under those conditions and yet they were far more creative and interesting than most of the stuff we get nowadays, even if the actual quality was inconsistent.

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It's a bit of half and half for me. As Wraith and Diogenes have said--there hasn't been any recent changes to turn the series into smolder. Sonic simply is smolder and has been for a long time. Even for something supposedly new on a fundamental level that Frontiers is being billed as. I'm sure I'm speaking for several in predicting the result being another unceremonious product that will make enough ROI for Sonic Team to peace out for six years until their next game. Hardly even the lukewarmest of takes.

That said, the culling of game releases compared to twenty or even ten years ago can't be denied either. The resources that would go towards greenlighting erratic spinoffs or re-releases beyond the classics, are nowadays arguably pooled towards multimedia Sonic projects and/or other Sega game releases. The success of Paramount's live-action movies have practically given Sega carte blanche to put Sonic game production on cruise control.

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3 minutes ago, pppp said:

Except back in the 2000s most Sonic games were also under those conditions and yet they were far more creative and interesting than most of the stuff we get nowadays, even if the actual quality was inconsistent.

Creativity shouldn't come at the expense of the games being shit. A creative and innovative shit game is still a shit game at the end of the day. I can guarantee you nobody wants another Sonic 06 no matter how "innovative" it was. 

 

And most of that creativity more than likely came about because the games were coming out at a much higher rate. There was a Sonic game every 1-2 years back then, that's not really an option anymore due to the rising costs of game development. Even in Spin Offs in other franchises have kind of dried up for this reason. 

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4 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

Creativity shouldn't come at the expense of the games being shit. A creative and innovative shit game is still a shit game at the end of the day. I can guarantee you nobody wants another Sonic 06 no matter how "innovative" it was.

Honestly at this point I'll take another 06 over a "good" game like Forces. If the franchise at this point can only either wow me with its stupidity or bore me to death with its complete creative bankrupcy, then I'll take the former, at least I can laugh at 06.

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If we're talking strictly about the games then I would agree that Sonic has been stagnant; it's why I opted out of the games for nearly a decade. But overall I can't say same the entire series because there's always something else to keep me invested and for the most part I had more.

When I got disappointed about the state of the games after Generations, I turned to the Archie comics.

When Mania and Forces continued to displayed my biggest problems with the games, IDW comics revitalized why I gravitated towards Sonic in the first place.

If Frontiers doesn't have what I've been wanting out of Sonic games for more than 10 years, I still have IDW series in addition to Prime, Knuckles tv series and Sonic 3 film on the horizon.  

Even if the main appeal of Sonic(i.e. video games) has grown stagnant, at least there's other options to keep Sonic fans engaged with the franchise.

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47 minutes ago, pppp said:

Honestly at this point I'll take another 06 over a "good" game like Forces. If the franchise at this point can only either wow me with its stupidity or bore me to death with its complete creative bankrupcy, then I'll take the former, at least I can laugh at 06.

Or maybe the series can just be good...ya know, like Mania. I don't really get where this false dichotomy of choosing between "Shit" and "mediocrity" came from and it's kind of sad that you feel you need to choose between the two. 

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I wasn't gonna chime in any more but I might as well: The whole ambition vs polish dichotomy doesn't actually exist. Like most things in Sonic discussion, it's hearsay built up from layers and layers of over-discussion of shallow products that don't actually warrant it.

When Sonic team strapped RPG mechanics to Sonic Adventure, or beat-em up mechanics to Sonic heroes, gunplay to Shadow the Hedgehog etc they were moving away from the core Sonic experience to pander to whatever else was popular. They were doing what they thought was a safe bet at the time, because Sega was on fire and they needed to sell units to keep afloat. It's no different to them jacking mechanics that they didn't need from Mario to make Colors and Lost World except it's framed by the fanbase as some sort of sincere push toward breaking new ground instead of the creative dead end that it is. The way they approach game development hasn't actually changed all that much. Things are more polished because they scaled down the amount of features they put in each one and release them further apart, but the fundamental question of "this does not need to be in a Sonic game, why is this in the game?" is one I still ask every release.

The only difference I can tell is that their pandering hits on shit you guys either already like or aren't aware of. This board has a lot of Kingdom Hearts fans so of course all the final fantasy hack n slash bullshit in the dreamcast era struck a chord. I'm a big twitch platformer fan so I'm softer on games like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Rush Adventure than most, but they still isn't a good substitute for just booting up Dustforce or something instead, just like Sonic Adventure 2 isn't a good substitute for downhill jam and Sonic Lost World isn't a good substitute for Super Mario Galaxy 2. The "aren't aware of" bit is a bit of a different point, but short version of it is that there's a minority of Sonic fans that don't actually play different shit and think everything the hog cribs from other games and brings to them are actual new ideas. Most of those people don't even post here though so we're not gonna talk about them today.

And like yeah I get the temptation to say "this COULD work if they did it better". I used to do that all the time. I think a hubworld would be a great addition to a momentum based 3D platformer like Sonic, for instance. Here's the reason I gave up on this angle though: when Sonic Team's idea of a hubworld isn't a place where you can explore freely and find secrets, and instead RPG towns where you fish around for a story trigger, and they do that three fucking times, it's clear that they don't even think about these things the same way I do and there's no point in defending it. Sonic Adventure, Sonic Unleashed, and Sonic 06 don't have hub worlds because they'd be a great addition to the Sonic experience. They have them because other games have them. They're implemented in ways other games implement them without any regard for Sonic. And sure, the artists put a lot of work in to these hubworlds, but in that cause you should be pissed at the game designers for wasting their time and not making them harmonious to the rest of the experience

To wrap back to that point about Sega being on fire: Do you really think there were so many Sonic games on so many platforms because Sega just had so many ideas for the series and they just couldn't contain them? No. There were so many because Sonic was the only thing they thought would sell and they thought strapping gimmicks in from whatever popular games they could find would make them sell even more. And I mean, sure, there was more to discuss back when Sonic had a game every three months but video games are supposed to be more than just fuel for your social circle. How many of those games would you honestly revisit? For me, it's not many. Probably about as many last decade as there are in this one.

The change to less Sonic is actually a sign of a healthier Sega that's willing to take more risks. A lot of their other IPs are thriving right now because of this renewed faith and there's more coming. Streets of Rage 4 is one of the greatest games I've ever played and I can't see the sega of the 2000s making that kind of game. This is the same sega that cancelled the Dreamcast Streets of Rage 4 because it wasn't a safe enough bet for them.

Anyway, I'm getting off track here: The only way to make a truly unique and ambitious Sonic game is to return to his roots: A pure, arcadey 3D platformer with the confidence to focus on a single character in a single gameplay mode without insecure pandering or meaningless fluff padding it down. It would stick out in the market because games like classic Sonic hardly exist anymore. They barely existed back then even when it was hot. Games like Streets of Rage 4 manage to stick out by bringing back tried and true formulas that elicit feelings that are absent in the modern gaming market. Sonic proved that it can do this too with Mania and be successful. Why not expand upon that?

You can tell this is the ambitious route because risk averse Sonic Team refuses to make this game. They are terrified of the idea of just making a Sonic game. They basically said as much in the Dreamcast era and they haven't evolved beyond this insecurity since. They are some of the most cowardly developers in the industry because they don't have any faith in their own, massively popular, wildly beloved creation. They're some of the least ambitious developers in the industry because they always look for ground treaded by other developers and try to capitalize on it in the quickest, most slapdash way possible. I love a lot of these games but I'm done giving them credit they didn't earn.

 

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