Opinion Piece: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020 Movie)

Hey there, everyone! Long time no see! Way…too long, actually… Heh heh… When was my last post again? September? Yikes. Well, no need to worry, I’m not dead, and neither is the Chaos Project. I’ve just been taking it slow with the writing for life reasons. And video game reasons. Which are basically my life, so…

Anyways, who doesn’t love sequels!? Today, we’re looking at the follow-up to my previous analysis of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, published back in May. Oh, geez, have I still not published that Sonic ’06 review I talked about at the beginning? I don’t have time for that anymore!! *ahem* Anyways, after waiting many long months to see the much-anticipated character redesign that they delayed the movie half a year to do, an official trailer showcasing the new design has finally been released!

And there he is! What a difference it is! This new Sonic is—wait a minute…what do you mean, ‘I said that I liked the old design’? Preposterous! Who would say a blasphemous thing like that!? Oh, wait, I did say that, didn’t I?

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…Let’s talk design. To put it briefly…I’m very okay with this. To be fair, I did choose what is perhaps the most flattering shot in the entire trailer to put above. But I think that shot looks pretty darn good, actually. Sure, this new design doesn’t look flattering from every angle. And sure, I dislike that his stomach is a different color than his muzzle. And sure, I’d rather him have gloves to cover up those freaky hedgehog fingers. And sure, I don’t get why he isn’t wearing socks. But other than that…I don’t see much problem with this design. It looks like Sonic in live action.

Main point, the redesign is certainly shocking at first glance, but there’s nothing about it that makes it “not Sonic”.

No, I wasn’t exactly gushing over it. But given the public outrage I was seeing, I felt the need to express my “okay, whatever” opinion about it. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I would have been fine with it. But with that out of the way…oh, what a difference it is! Basically, what I had in mind with the old design was “choose either tan or white for his non-blue fur (not both), expand the shape of his chin and the whites of his eyes, slap on some gloves (and socks, still don’t understand why those were missing in the first place), and you’re golden.” They did all that and more. And that makes me think…maybe…too much more. I just can’t let up with these controversial opinions, can I?

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Hard to complain about the face. A “handsome package” it certainly is.

The trailer begins with Sonic in Green Hill Zone (a gorgeous representation of it, I might add). Instant respect right there. I will take any and all references to the Sonic canon I can possibly get, anything to make this movie less generic. But, yeah, yeah, I know, Sonic himself is the only topic of interest on the Internet right now. So what do I mean when I say ‘too much’? Well, one major difference between the two images shown thus far is that Sonic’s spines splayed out a bit more drastically in the original design. Though it’s hard to tell here, the spines themselves were also shortened for the new design. Both were done, I assume, to make the character look more “cartoonish,” which is exactly what people were asking for. But I would’ve been happier with them left exactly as they were. I believe I’ve mentioned this before in comparisons of Sonic’s Modern and Classic designs, but having longer spines allows for more interactions with wind and body movement, which conveys a better sense of speed and a more “cinematic” feel. Given that this is a movie, I’m pretty sure that “cinematic” is a good thing. I also have a bit of a problem with the new mouth. I’ve always felt that Sonic in 3D with his mouth modeled at the center of his face makes it look like he has this weird overbite going on. The old design had a center-mouth as well, but, being linked to a more humanoid jawline with actual lips mitigated that particular issue. I’ll still take what we have over what we might have gotten, but that doesn’t mean what we have is perfect. I’ll also note that Sonic’s serious-face doesn’t look nearly as serious anymore, but given that he’s not being portrayed as a very serious character, I can certainly live with that. I’ll also add that having the fur on his face more messy and unkempt as it was in the original design was one of the best parts of that design compared with the new one. Having it so smooth and shiny as it is in the new design makes it a lot less believable as a creature that could exist in our world, especially when viewed from far away or in less focus, making it look almost too much like the smooth clay-like texture seen on in-game models.

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So am I psychic or what?

So with that out of the way, we can finally talk about other parts of the trailer. And so…uh…here’s what I said about the last trailer.

Apparently, Sonic now generates electricity when he runs, which sticks to his quills even after they fall off. This is a fact that is constantly brought up throughout the trailer…If you’ve ever had experience with “The Flash,” a DC Comics character, you may recall that this speedster does the same thing…

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And look at this! We have another example of Sonic pretending to be The Flash as he goes into “Flashtime,” slowing the world around him to a pace that even “the speed of sound” wouldn’t be nearly enough to justify.

Glad to see that connection wasn’t an accident. But regardless, this scene’s showcasing of Sonic as a child roughing it on his own in some hole or basement or wherever he lives did a much better job showing him as a relatable character than the first trailer managed to do. Seeing him speeding through the comics of someone who interests and most likely inspires him, seeing him play games with himself and seek other means of amusement, all of it well demonstrated not just a concealed sense of loneliness, but also his happy-go-lucky resistance to such dark feelings. It made him feel like a relatable person, far better that the previous trailer’s brief glimpses of a pile of shoes and an old tape player did. (Not claiming that the movie has been changed in any significant way, I’m working under the assumption that it hasn’t, just trying to say that this trailer was better put-together than the last one.)  Honestly though, the baseball scene that came next was probably a bit too much, the glimpses of him in his home did the same job in less time (and with fewer fart jokes, which is always a plus). Though I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I approve of references. And the use of the Green Hill Zone theme (which is rather difficult to secure the rights to, from what I understand), was, of course appreciated, even if it is rather odd that it wasn’t used when we were actually looking at Green Hill Zone earlier.

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Ahhhh!

I know I said I was done with the design stuff, but I will note that I find the gaping size of his mouth in this scene to be downright creepy. To have his teeth that far apart, he would most certainly have to dislocate his jaw. Honestly, I never understood the whole “teeth” problem people were having with the old design, but I don’t find this to be any better. But anyways, there’s that Warp Ring again, which continues to show up in several other places throughout the trailer. I hold to what I said about the last trailer, that I’m very interested to see how they go about acknowledging this piece of lore which has never before been acknowledged in the canon. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Still, it’ll be interesting. What else is of interest here is that, despite appearing to be the same  Sonic screaming scene seen in the previous trailer, the context seems to be a bit different, as Sonic was holding neither the ring nor the sack(?) he seems to have now, in the previous trailer. This is the one indication I’ve seen that would suggest that modifications may have been made to the movie beyond the aesthetic since last time. (Also, the close face shots seen above may be the same scene, despite one being on a random desert highway and the other being in Green Hill Zone. I would wager that was not a change made due to the movie’s delay, rather, they showed us an intentionally false setting the first time because they wanted to leave Green Hill as a surprise reveal for later.)

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Apparently, Sonic is now an alien fugitive.

So the whole “I’m not from your planet” thing was brought up in the last trailer, but they definitely drove the point in this time. Sonic frequently refers to the fact that he is from a planet which is not Earth (even though they very specifically call the planet Earth in the Adventure era fhnwrpslsjkjdrkgksnekngsingl*mashing head on keyboard angrily*). The use of the words “planet” and “Earth” confirms that Sonic does not come from some alternate Earth, and strongly suggests that the distance between the worlds is spacial, not dimensional. Which would mean that Sonic is literally a space alien. I mean, I suppose it’s certainly one way to interpret the whole hotly-debated “two worlds” issue of Sonic lore. It’s not like space travel is taken as a very significant event in the Sonic games, so I suppose I would probably like that explanation better than the more commonly accepted separate universes, or worse yet separate canons. But can we talk for a second about Sonic’s motivations for coming to Earth? He claims that people on his planet are after his powers. What people!? Who in a universe even remotely resembling the games (Eggman excluded) would be after Sonic’s powers!? Could it be that we’re actually dealing with potential antagonists who have absolutely nothing to do with Eggman? I do sincerely hope that this is a question that will actually be answered in the movie. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Regardless, I think I smell a potential plot for a Chaos Project crossover episode… (or maybe that’s just the smell of body spray and an old ham sandwich).

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Never thought I’d see Robotnik do the Robot.

I’ll say this again as well. I see a lot more Jim Carrey here than I see Eggman. Or should I be saying Robotnik? I was somewhat surprised to hear the Robotnik nomer used, seeing as they seem to have been doing away with it ever since its one offhanded mention in Generations. But, as I said before, the evolution of an eccentric Doctor into the mad genius Eggman is the plotline I most look forward to seeing out of this movie. So anyways, they can shape “Robotnik” however they want, as long as I’m able to recognize him as Eggman come the movie’s end. And I won’t lie, I’ve found just about every shot he’s in to be hilarious thus far. Especially when he got punched in the face. You just don’t get that kind of satisfying slapstick violence in the games. On another note, I am getting more and more curious about Robotnik’s assistant. Is he supposed to be a reference to something? He seems…almost too perfect. You know what? Calling it right now, he’s the true villain of the movie. I got the Flash thing right, so let’s see if my future-telling powers hold out.

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Seriously though, why wasn’t this a reference to the first boss of Sonic 2?

One interesting change of note seen throughout the trailer is that they seem to have drastically reduced the intensity of the lightning effect used to represent Sonic’s powers. His discarded quills now seem to only glow, rather than having electricity constantly running through them, and the picture shown above has all of the electricity used to knock it over completely dissipated, where it was still going strong at the same point in the first trailer. Not sure that it necessarily means anything in particular, but it’s a change I’m happy they made. I necessarily mind used as a representation of his power, but dialing it back as they did better shows that it’s just a representation, rather than having his powers actually revolving around lightning as the old effects seemed to suggest.

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Glad to see that some things will actually be taken seriously.

There’s not a whole lot else to talk about from this trailer. It was certainly dedicated much more Sonic’s character than it was to the plot, and rightfully so, seeing as the character is what we all tuned in to this trailer to see. I’ll still reserve judgement on whether or not like this interpretation of the character until I see the full range of his personality, but I’m not gonna lie, his excitable personally, expressive animation, and good-looking new design made me really start to think of him as adorable, which never would’ve flown with the old design…or…any interpretation of Sonic, for that matter. Sonic has never been “cute” to me, but this movie seems to be pulling it off well. That is, of course, until things get serious, which I see as a necessity. Sonic is at his best when he knowingly risks everything to perform a heroic deed, not because it’s heroic, but because it’s right. I saw a lot of people shouting “Super Sonic!” at the picture shown above, and…I seriously doubt it. More likely just him discovering the true extent of inner power or whatever. I don’t see Super Sonic fitting into this movie at all, in all honesty. Even though he’s a blue hedgehog who runs faster than the speed of sound, they wouldn’t want to break their precious live-action realism by bringing magic fur-color-changing invincibility-granting rocks into the fray. I’d love to see it—anything that makes this movie more uniquely Sonic and less generic Hollywood is a good thing in my eyes. But it’s not happening.

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My boi’s back in the best pose!

So what’s the final verdict? If the old design was a 4 out of 10, this one’s a 9. Not perfect, but pretty darned close. And as to the movie itself, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I expect it to be mediocre at best. But a mediocre movie staring a lovable character can still be pretty good in its own right, so in that sense, I’m more excited to see the movie than ever before. So…

-I have no idea how it isn’t dead, but that’s a cause for celebration!
(And somebody give Robotnik a big fat break. He’s too skinny.)

Review: Chapter 11

Wow, this one came down to the wire. As an anniversary special, this one needed to be published on a particular date. And I left myself over a month from beginning to end to meet that date. I finished it three days before the deadline. I’m not entirely sure why it took so long. Perhaps it was mostly due to summertime distractions. But also, this episode required an immense amount of research, part of which included replaying the original Sonic Chronicles game (even though I already did about 8 months ago, I felt like doing it again). But enough of all that boring stuff. Let’s talk about why this episode exists in the first place.

So let’s think back. I first purchased Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood just over a week after it came out, so almost exactly ten years ago today. And…I hated it. The little child version of me couldn’t figure out how to use the touch screen prompts during battle, which meant no POW moves, which meant no chance at beating the first boss. So I gave up, put the game down for…probably six months, though it might’ve been as much as a year, and when I came back to it, I decided to start over from scratch, and pay closer attention to the tutorial. It payed off. I became practically obsessed with the game, playing it with any spare time I had. When my DS’s touch screen broke around the time I was entering Metropolis (mostly due to previous experience with Pokémon Ranger, if you played it you probably understand), I didn’t give up. I discovered that, by unscrewing the DS and temporarily removing the battery, resetting the system would cause the touch screen to function properly again for a few hours at a time. So I kept going like that, taking out the battery over and over again every few hours of play, because I so desperately wanted to finish. And when I finally did, that still wasn’t enough. Using the New Game+ feature, I proceeded to replay the game another four times over. Then I was finally done. For two or three years. Then I went back and beat it another three times (by this time, the touch screen had magically fixed itself, don’t ask me how). And then I was legitimately done. Or so I thought. Just over a year ago, after I was neck-deep in writing for the Chaos Project, the thought occurred to me, “I can write whatever I want. So what can I do with that?” It wasn’t long at all before I realized that Sonic Chronicles, the game I had beaten more times than any other in my life, the game that I had long since given up on hoping for a sequel for, had been sitting on an unfulfilled cliffhanger for nine-ish years. As a writer who strives to expand on unfulfilled plot points in the Sonic franchise, I couldn’t let that stand. Immediately, I began pondering on how I could do that. I quickly rejected the idea of simply telling a sequel story, as that would have far too many difficult canon implications, such as the presence of Shade. But the world they all arrived in at the end of that cliffhanger…looked shockingly similar to the world I was planning on building for war of The Chaos Project. So what if it actually was? What if, by mistake, the crew of the Cyclone ended up in a different world, the world of my story, instead of the one they were intending to reach? I know it’s a stretch, it’s pretty obvious that writers were actually going for their own world transformed due to the difference in the way time passes in the Twilight Cage. They were supposed to be in the future. But why couldn’t I stretch that, just a bit? Thus, this episode was born. Of course, at that point, I had no idea when I would place this episode, and in fact I figured it would be quite a bit later. But I decided to do another playthrough of the game, just so I could plan it better. Out of curiosity, once I was finished, I looked into the original release date, since I had no idea how long it had actually been. Surprise! The game’s 10th anniversary was coming in less than a year! There would be absolutely no more appropriate time to write this episode than on that date. I wasn’t totally convinced that making such an unusual episode would be a good idea so early on in the series. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And so, when the time came a month ago, I decided to enjoy a celebratory tenth playthrough of the game, partly to make sure that I got a bunch of the more minor details correct. And I wrote. And you’ve read the results. That’s the whole story, beginning to end.

So, why did I love the game so much? Looking back on my most recent playthrough, without the obscuring goggles of nostalgia, I found that…it was enjoyable, but riddled with many, many problems. Why didn’t I notice them before? Well, the reason I got the game in the first place is because I was told it would be like Pokémon, but with Sonic characters. (Pokémon was one of the only RPGs I had been exposed to at the time.) And on that front, it delivered. I think they did an excellent job taking the usual formula for a slow, turn-based RPG, and turning it into something that feels very frantic and fast-paced, very good for a Sonic game, without losing the RPG appeal. Of course, movement in the overworld was very sluggish, but the use of abilities of different characters, including Sonic’s speed, to traverse certain areas of the map, made it feel like it all worked just fine. And of course, there’s the memorable storyline, heartwarming character moments, and all-around well-written dialogue. I’ve seen lots of complaints about Sonic being written like a total out-of-character jerk (which I actually addressed in the episode), but those were only some of the branching dialogue options, and as Sonic, you could choose to be as nice or as jerkish as you want. I didn’t feel that any of the options, taken alone, were too far outside the extremes of Sonic’s natural character. Then again, almost anything will feel more like Sonic’s natural character than his modern Roger Craig Smith writing.

But moving on…this game inspired me in so many ways. I once stated that I fell in love with the Sonic series more for the world and characters than for any one particular game. And I think this game is quite possibly the biggest reason for that. More than any other game in the franchise, Chronicles gets you a look deep into the psyche of almost every character, and really gets you thinking about Sonic’s world as a place with unified lore. Maybe the writing isn’t perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best in the entire Sonic series. Sonic taking up a leadership role, showing a serious dedication to the mission with the occasional lighthearted snark, that precisely describes the way I write my Sonic now, and that’s no coincidence. If it weren’t for this game, Sonic probably wouldn’t be the leader of the Rebellion now. Then again, if it weren’t for this game, I probably wouldn’t be writing at all. A well kept secret that I’ve never told before is that I was actually writing a Sonic story long before I ever joined fanficiton.net. And that story…was Sonic Chronicles 2. It’s on the Sonic Fanon Wiki. No I won’t tell you which one it is, because there are many. And no, I don’t ever intend to finish it (I think I only got to the beginning of Chpater 3 out of an assumed ten). But if I hadn’t already started that when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to start writing The Chaos Project all those years later. And you know, that’s assuming that I’d be a Sonic fan at all anymore. I think it’s pretty hard to be a Sonic fan right now, and if I had one less Sonic game to look back on with intensely fond memories, I might have given up by now. So thank you, Sonic Chronicles, for inspiring me to do something that I love.

So I guess it’s on to the episode itself, though I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say in that area. The idea for this episode ended up being that, in the end, nothing really changes. If the real Sonic Chronicles 2 were somehow to be announced tomorrow, it could begin with them arriving in the ruined future of their world, just as was certainly planned, and this episode still wouldn’t interfere with that. But then, some things did change. Shadow gained a greater respect for Sonic. Shade learned to trust her friends a little more. That’s what this whole episode came down to. Chronicles ended on a ten years’ old cliffhanger. And no, I didn’t build the bridge to the other side. But I laid down the first plank. I explored character arcs and plot points that have been lost for ten long years.

Alright, let’s think about…references. Lots and lots of Chronicles quotes, obviously. The location of Cyber City AKA Genocide City is a reference to a zone that was scrapped from Sonic 2, supposedly turned into the third act of Metropolis. Genocide City was the beta name programmed into the game, but that was apparently a mistake made by designers who wanted something that sounded cool and edgy, but didn’t have a total understanding of English, and chose something that would be a bit too violent for the little ones. It was supposedly going to be renamed into Cyber City, but was instead scrapped entirely. And of course, the fact that it’s Metropolis, but also not Metropolis, was intentionally done for the Chronicles reference. And it helps that this whole season is taking place on the island setting of Sonic 2. And…so as to not stay here for hours, I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I’m still hard at work on the next Chaos Project episode, but in the meantime, I’ll finally be able to update Shadow of Time again! Be on the lookout!

-And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!

Review: Season 0, Episode 24

So…here we are again. Five months later, and it’s all the same. So what am I going to say this time? That I, for the fourth time in a row, wrote a single finale episode that ended up being so long that I had to split it in two? Or perhaps that I cut out all but the most bare essentials, and still ended up with something that dragged on for far too long? Well, all of the above. But let’s start from the beginning. I was originally going to do one combined review for both parts of this episode, but that review, like the episode itself, ended up being way too long. So here’s part one instead.

I suppose I should clear up that Chaos blacked out and lost the Emerald in the last episode because Eggman used the device to control him. I tried to infer it, but it wasn’t very clear. Sonic’s concerns about his leadership skills, and subsequent reference to Zero and the Speed of Time arc, wasn’t something I was originally thinking about. It came up when I wanted to have everyone blame themselves for something to create a sense of hopelessness, and it was the best I could come up with for Sonic. I inserted the resolution to that concern in a conversation that I had been planning for a bit longer. Over the summer, I had my first real conversation with my older brother (fanfic writer Yuni Oha) about my story. He’s known about it since last December, but that was the first time we ever really talked about it. And when I brought up my headcanon on Sonic as the Controller, he brought up a point that I couldn’t ignore. While the concept of a “Chosen One” can add a certain sense of importance to the events of a story, and he agreed that my logic behind applying this concept to Sonic was sound, he warned that Chosen One implies destiny, and destiny discredits the actions and decisions of the One in question. If Sonic was really destined at birth to save the world, that means that every time he ever saved the world, it’s because he was destined to instead of because he has a kind and heroic heart. You can’t call him a hero for braving danger, because he never had a choice in the matter. I had never thought of it that way before. So I realized that I had to address it as soon as possible. And although actions speak louder than words, I decided that words were still quite important in this case. Words from someone wise, who would know exactly why it isn’t true. So I built the sunrise scene around that concept, to confirm once and for all that Sonic is as much in charge of his own actions as he ever was, even going further to say that he would still be a hero even without his abilities. Regardless, I absolutely love how that scene turned out. Besides being some wonderful and much-needed bonding between Sonic and Chaos, it also set up Lumis as a villain with much more depth, something that I was afraid I couldn’t get to work. And with that, I also disproved another common grievance with fanfiction. It is often said that fanfiction writers ruin the characters by making all of them share the writer’s opinions. Here I presented a clear difference in opinion between Sonic and Chaos, where even though Sonic agrees to protect the Balance, he disagrees on the best way maintain it. He believes some joy and some sorrow to be better than neither at all. And…I’m inclined to agree with him. I avoided the trap of using an OC to convert everyone to my opinions, by putting him against my opinions, while still making him a good person whose ideals can be respected. At least, that’s what I hope happened. This kind of thing is up to the reader.

From then through the end of part one, pretty much everything felt a bit obligatory, only existing to progress the story from middle to end, with one exception. The scene where Sonic goes into Lumis’ orb of light was, once again, meant to add depth to Lumis’ character, concluding for certain that he is not evil, but misguided. Anything else for part 1? There was that little bit Lumis said about Sonic’s pain of abandonment. That probably means something. Probably. Rewinding a bit, Eggman’s face being carved into the mountain is something that also happened in Sonic CD. Still trying to keep up those classic references. I’m glad that I got something to work out for the fake Emeralds, because I had no idea what I was going to do with them when I first brought the idea back up. Umm…the “backwards eclipse” marking the Ritual of Illumination is supposed to be what was pictured on the cover art for this arc, but that art was removed for Sonic Forces, so you can only see it in the Image Gallery now. The way Sonic tried to recharge the Chaos Emeralds was a direct callback to Sonic Adventure, where Perfect Chaos drained the negative energy of the Emeralds, but Sonic still went Super. This was an intentional subversion. Sonic proceeded to reference when Knuckles stopped the Emeralds in Adventure 2, as well as the Gaia Temples of Sonic Unleashed. And I’m pretty sure that’s everything for part 1. But…

This next part was meant to be part of the part 2 review, but that one even on its own was way too long, so I’m transferring it here. This is something that I’ve forgotten to do in every review up until now. That would be the game idea. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, every arc I write seems to be less and less like a game, but technically the underlying concept is still there…even though this one isn’t really all that thought out. This one wouldn’t have multiple stories or anything, but it would have, akin to Sonic 06, a number of “amigo” characters. In general, the game would focus on a “tag-team” mechanic, not unlike Sonic Forces. However, in this case, it would behave more like the classic Sonic games (or Shadow the Hedgehog), in that your partner would be controlled by an AI, unless a second player picks up another remote. For the most part, this team would be Sonic as the leader, with some other character following, though on certain occasions in the story, it would be Tails and Knuckles, or Knuckles and Amy, or something else like that. Different combinations of characters have different abilities and special Team Attacks, and in the post-game (as well as a few special parts of the story) you would be able to pick-and-choose both team members, some of which have access to secrets and areas which the mandated team for the first playthrough wouldn’t be able to reach. There would be a few exceptions where you don’t have a teammate, such as the tutorial Starry Hill Zone, and the first boss fight against Chaos. Although…thinking about it now, it would be pretty awesome if Chaos would be the teammate for that fight, creating a player vs. player battle. I don’t know, it’s not like I’m actually making the game. But anyways, that’s all for the basics of that. Except…I guess I never really came up with a title. Perhaps…Sonic Chaos? Oh wait, that’s already a Game Gear title. So…Sonic Chaos 2? Nope, that would be Sonic Triple Trouble. Maybe something more about the tag-team mechanic? How about Sonic Duo? Sonic Doubles? Oh, I got it! Sonic Double Trouble, make it spiritually linked to a Sonic Chaos sequel. But no, those titles are all lame. Yeesh, this is harder than I thought. Sonic Shining, reflect the concepts of Light? No, I don’t want this to sound like a horror film. Sonic Synergy, back on the teamwork concept? No, don’t want his to be confused with Sonic Boom. Sonic Fellowship…eh, Sonic Balance sounds lame, Sonic Moonstone is too vague…maybe I should just stick with Double Trouble. I don’t really know. But that’s all I have on that right now, so I suppose that wraps up this review of part 1.

-So until next time, remember to live and learn every day!

Opinion Piece: Sonic Mania

I rather enjoyed writing the opinion piece on Project Sonic 2017, so I thought that I would do another one, this time on the other game announced at the same event. Once again, watch the below trailer first if you haven’t already.

This paragraph is mostly a rant, so skip to the bottom if you want to get to actual discussion about the game. Since I started the last one with a thank you to developers for including Nintendo, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to start here by expressing my strong disapproval at this game’s nonexistence for any Nintendo platform. I don’t necessarily have any outright dislike towards X-Box or Playstation. In fact, I still own my old PS2 slim, the console on which I first started playing Sonic games with Sonic Mega Collection Plus. But as a not-particularly-wealthy gamer, I don’t have the luxury of simply getting every gaming technology available in the world. I had to make a choice between the primarily M-rated market of X-Box and Playstation, or the primarily family-oriented market of Nintendo. I chose Nintendo. It is my honest belief that Sonic as a series fits far more homogeneously with Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing than it ever could with Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. That being said, I still think that it’s unfair to Sonic fans to put Sonic games exclusively on Nintendo systems. What they did with Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog, I believe, is by far the best option, developing games which can play exactly the same no matter what system you own. Sonic Unleashed was also adequate, but it is unfortunate that some players (such as myself, who got the cheaper PS2 version) had to settle for non-optimal versions of the game. Anyways, what seems likely to me is that the slew of third-party developers which worked on Sonic Mania simply had a bias against Nintendo, as most third-party developers do. I find it hard to believe that a game meant to play exactly like games for the SEGA Genesis could possibly be unable to be handled by a Nintendo handheld, let alone the Wii U.
In short, when it comes to platforms of release, Project Sonic did it right, Sonic Mania did it wrong.

SM

Now, to the actual game. Unlike Project Sonic, we’ve actually been treated to a considerable amount of information about the game this time around, including the gameplay of two levels, Green Hill Zone and Studiopolis Zone (NOT pronounced “studio-opolis” as Gamexplain would have you believe). Overall, I was quite satisfied by Studiopolis. I thought that its design really did capture the feel of those classic Sonic games, particularly Sonic CD and a little bit of Sonic 2. The aesthetic background elements had exactly as much detail put into them as I would expect out of a classic game. Green Hill Zone, on the other hand…well, let’s just say that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Rant alert! Right at the moment where the preview level transitions from an exact copy of the original level into new territory, I felt the time and effort put into that classic level just slip away. To use a quote from the 20th Anniversary book, The History of Sonic the Hedgehog,

“The level was remade countless times. It was modified and restarted again and again, and was finally completed after almost eight months of work…Sonic Team wanted to make sure that this first level portrayed their hero in just the right way.”

That’s the kind of effort that I’m talking about. That’s the kind of effort that I felt was missing from the second half of the new level. One of the wonderful things about the real Green Hill Zone is that it gives off the feeling that, in some perfect world, it is a place that could somehow really exist. That feeling is completely shattered when that spring at the middle of the level suddenly bounces you up to a huge land mass that’s just kind of chilling up there in the sky, not supported by any sort of cliff like the real level does for its highest areas. Of course, there are floating platforms in the original, but they are tiny and add to the magical feel of the place. But this particular breach of physics serves only to shatter the illusion that this is a reality which is only just out of reach. End Cluck Alert…uh, I mean, rant alert. As for the rest of the level design, it felt like it probably would have been more homogeneous in Sonic 2 than in the original, but I suppose that that much is excusable. It does, after all, have that faster-paced feel that the original Sonic the Hedgehog was a little bit lacking in, all things considered.

Next up, the music. I was really expecting something that sounded like it might have come right out of the Genesis, I was looking for a few of my most nostalgic instruments in particular. Instead the music is a little more reminiscent of Sonic CD, sort of classic-sounding in the way that it’s composed, but with no actual recognizable sound quality limitations. Below is an example, the Studiopolis theme. It’s a pretty good theme all around, but apparently I’m not as impressed as most of the vocal Sonic community, and once again, I would have rather it had Genesis sound quality to match the graphics.

Last to discuss is the entire idea of the game as a whole. I’m going to be frank here. As I’m sure you can tell, if nothing else than by the banner of this very website, I do have a thing for sprites. I find them to be quite charming, and it’s very interesting to see how much expression can be packed into so few pixels. But above all else, they are easy. Infinitely easier than full-quality artwork, at least in my opinion from my experience. And that’s why I’ve always had trouble accepting modern games which purposefully use sprites. It makes me feel like they’re being lazy, not doing as much work as they possibly could to make the game look good and professional. But that’s what makes this so weird. Sonic already tried to go back to a classic feel without sprites, in the form of Sonic the Hedgehog 4. And for some reason that I fail to comprehend, those games were apparently a failure (though I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the reason were that Episode 2 never came to a Nintendo system *cough* looking at you Mania *cough*). I felt that Sonic 4 was a great way to satisfy the Sonicwunners (to borrow a term from Pokémon players in reference to Genwunners who only like the original games) who demanded that Sonic be in 2D. As we’ve been seeing in the past few Sonic games, when those people aren’t satisfied by spin-offs, their needs instead infiltrate the games that would otherwise be entirely in 3D like many other fans (like myself) want. Anyways, I enjoyed Sonic 4, and I’m sad that Episode 3 (& Knuckles?) will never come. But, back on topic, I understand that if Sonic 4 won’t do it, this is the only way to keep die-hard fans of the classics happy. In short, the sprites, just because they’re easier to do, aren’t necessarily done out of laziness, but out of necessity.

Final Conclusions: some people think that Sonic needs a game that can restore him to his “former glory,” and this could be it. It’s not the ideal game for me, but it very well could be for others. If any Sonic game could ever be out of my playable reach, I suppose that I’m good with it being this one. Of course I would rather play it than forever go without playing it, but then, I feel the same way about Sonic 06. If this game is what it takes to keep everyone happy, then I shall embrace it with open arms.

– And until next time, you too should open your arms, and open your heart!

Edit: Direct encoding of videos, a few typo fixes, and the addition of a missing tag.

Opinion Piece: Project Sonic 2017

Starting off, if you haven’t seen the below reveal of this new Sonic game, do that now, first.

Now, where to begin? I guess I first have to thank the developers for not isolating part of their fanbase, and releasing this new game on the Nintendo Switch as well as other consoles. Moving on to more important information. All I can say is that I’m very weary. For one thing, I’m a little upset that they presented this to us specifically saying that this would not be a sequel. And then Classic Sonic comes and ruins that. Not that I have anything against Classic Sonic, or the time-travel implications that he presents. But I was really hoping, as just one thing, that we would actually go back to playing as characters other than Sonic and more Sonic. And at the opening of the trailer, where they seemed to present what could potentially be a narrative the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Adventure era, I was hopeful that that would mean the games could be closer to Adventure era as well. Although, they start with “team that brought you Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations,” which are pretty far off from adventure-style gameplay. Anyways, the existence of Classic Sonic pretty much removes any possible chance of other characters being involved. Other characters were a staple of the Sonic series from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, one of the most beloved Sonic games of all time, all the way to 2006. Excluding spin-offs like Sonic Boom, we’ve only ever been able to play as Sonic (or Sonic and other Sonic) ever since. I just find it so unfortunate, and it stands in the way of so many possible gameplay, and more importantly, story opportunities.

project-sonic-2017

One last thing to mention. The trailer really seemed to heavily infer something relating to the Archie Comics, which scares me. Once again, I have nothing against the comics, but I just think we shouldn’t go mixing universes without a very good reason (which this still could potentially have, which is why I’m worried, not necessarily disappointed). More importantly, I’m worried about how this could conflict with the Chaos Project, which, despite not being in any way directly related to the comics, does share a considerable number of similarities, opening the door for contradictions between this coming game and my own story.

But enough about me. My final conclusions: there’s really no telling at this point, but this game could be very good, or very bad. I was hoping for a good indication of the answer, but that just didn’t happen. What we’ve seen could mean very good things for the story, or very bad things. It’s sort of confusing in a way, I just don’t know what to think. But I suppose that was the point. One other thing I was really hoping for was confirmation of rumors that Crush 40 composed a song for this game, but even if there is no song, then that’s far from a deal-breaker for the game.

Edit: Apparently, the general internet is referring to this game as “Project Sonic” rather than “Sonic 2017” as the official Sonic Twitter called it, so the title of the post has been updated accordingly.
Edit 2: The NX is now known as the Nintendo Switch, and I also added a direct encoding of the trailer.

– And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!