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The rise, fall and deafening crash of Sonic the Hedgehog

 

From a business standpoint, there's nothing wrong with what Sega did next. It had a viable mascot that sold boatloads of product. Makes sense then to put as many games out with Sonic on them as possible, regardless of how well they stick to the established roots. Problem is, in the course of trying to secure another hit, all Sega did was produce a string of fair to poor half-games that spread the series out instead of moving it ahead.

Knuckles Chaotix: This got a lot of hate from the mid '90s gaming press, but our time with it is fondly remembered. Sure the rubber-band gameplay was irritating (you were constantly tethered to another character), but hey, at least it was a new idea. However, Chaotix diluted the Sonic-verse by introducing tons of shitty characters. Vector the Crocodile! Espio the Chameleon! And best of all, Charmy Bee!

For whatever reason, some people actually adore these idiotic "Something the Something" designs and have written enormous amounts of text about them. Wow.

Sadly, this was just the beginning. Subsequent Sonic games would add even more horrible characters, each more pointless and gratuitous than the last. Chaotix is a perfectly good game forever tainted by the franchise-crushing precedent it set.

 

Sonic's Schoolhouse: Well, it was inevitable, what with Mario teaching typing and all. They could have at least built a better Sonic model, right? And someone cheer up that 12!



Sonic the Fighters: After blasting through levels like a bolt of greasy fast white lightning in the Genesis games, we never once thought "Wow, this would make a great fighting game." Someone at Sega sure did, and from that money-grubbing concept came a 3D fighter with weird cartoony effects. You could smash or slap opponents like a pancake, making the whole thing feel more Looney Tunes than Sonic. Fine for its day, but no one asked for a Sonic fighting game.

 

Sonic R: Sonic on a race track. Couldn't have been a more obvious route to take. Fans ate it up, but most of the press responses were negative (again). GamesRadar wasn't around in 1997 to pass judgment, but we certainly played it back then, and the office opinion is split. Some think it's one of Saturn's best, others couldn't stand the controls, crappy multiplayer and grating vocal performances.



Sonic Jam: Yes, there was a touch screen handheld before the DS. Yes, it was one of the worst things that has ever existed. No, we do not have any fuzzy memories for this slow-as-molasses "Sonic" game that made us question why we ever liked the series in the first place. Not to be confused with Saturn's Sonic Jam, an equally pointless release that collected the four 16-bit platformers and one meandering 3D "Sonic World" devoid of purpose.

Here's what to take away from all this: instead of creating a 3D Sonic game, or even a new 2D one, Sega continued to dump so-so titles on its various platforms - Genesis, Saturn, Game Gear and 32X. All four did co-exist for a brief time (right after Sega CD died), and even with four machines Sega didn't produce a true successor to Sonic & Knuckles. Just a lot of riffraff that sold to diehard fans.

But it's not like they didn't try to push Sonic into the third dimension...



Sonic X-treme: A tragically canceled project that could have been the Saturn's saving grace. Looks a bit Mario Galaxy, doesn't it - all those spinny globes and vertigo-inducing visuals? If this had released on time (or at all) we might have seen a Super Mario 64-like surge in Sonic and Saturn interest. Alas, that didn't happen, and X-Treme made way for 1999's Sonic Adventure and, judging by some of the gameplay up there, Sonic and the Secret Rings. The one game that should have come out, didn't. Brilliant. Gold stars for everyone.

 

Game Gear: The battery-devouring Game Gear enjoyed Sonic's early popularity as much as the Genesis. Ports of Sonic 1 and 2, though drastically changed from the 16-bit game, still delivered the same excitement. Then came the "me too" entries like Tails Sky Patrol, Tails Adventures, Triple Trouble, Drift 2 and "meh" ports of Spinball and 3D Blast. Lucky Neo Geo Pocket Color owners happily plowed through Sonic Pocket Adventure, but it was in such short supply that all of its positive traits were lost in a sea of mediocrity.

Quantity, not quality, defined Sonic in the late '90s, and the coming of Dreamcast would prove Sega learned no lessons at all.

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22 comments

  • ultimatepunchrod - September 13, 2010 11:07 p.m.

    do you guys think that maybe, just maybe, the review scores for the re release of sonic adventure had more to do with how platformers got better in the time period since its original release. stop making it sound like sonic was always awful just because its cool to hate him right now.
  • Chaoscoolperson - September 13, 2010 12:47 a.m.

    The last sonic I liked was Sonic Advanced Battle 2 mostly because of the chaos and the music.
  • Urza4315 - July 11, 2010 2:18 a.m.

    Sonic + Speed + Destructible environments = WIN. There you go Sega, see what you can make out of that.
  • ryno - June 8, 2010 10:02 p.m.

    i wounder if sega deliberately made sonic the hedgehog 2006 suck
  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - February 17, 2010 1:39 a.m.

    I was just listening to tdar 18 and when Brett said it was posted on a bunch of forums and therefore achieved 'just' below successful. Hopefully my view will make it successful.
  • Eevee10001 - February 15, 2010 5:39 p.m.

    Sonic Heroes, Sonic and the Secret Rings, and Sonic Unleashed wheren't THAT bad, but they always get boring after playing the same areas for awhile...
  • LikaLaruku - January 31, 2010 7:32 a.m.

    I was uncomfortable with Sonic 3D Blast & Sonic Adventure was the final straw for me. Glad I listened to my gamer intuition & skipped out on all this crap.
  • marcuszer0 - September 4, 2008 2:10 a.m.

    Sonic the Were-hog...hmm...nope, doesn't sound like something to get too exited about. And for a Sonic RPG, another Mario rip? Let's just hope that they have enough money after being sued for stealing ideas (god of war, Super Mario RPG, legend of the seven stars) to make a solid title after so long.
  • j21795 - July 6, 2009 5:13 p.m.

    I don't get it. When a company tries to experiment with new things, you shouldn't hate them for it. If Sonic keeps doing the same thing it will eventually get old. You should be happy that Sega is expiramenting with new things to keep Sonic alive
  • ALazyMonkey - March 29, 2009 3:31 a.m.

    The extreme sonic game actually looked pretty good, would have gotten lost in the levels very fast though...
  • SuperStingray - February 24, 2009 2:59 a.m.

    "Sonic and the Secret Rings" "Crap" Stopped reading there.
  • killemall - February 19, 2009 8:32 p.m.

    Actually Sonic Unleashed wasn't that bad... or maybe its because the last sonic title was sooo bad that i enjoyed it, but i did like the going superfast, and not having to deal with any other retarded charcaters... knuckles didn't even make an appearance. and you minimally had to deal with tails or amy. which is always good.
  • nateb127 - September 22, 2009 2:13 a.m.

    poor sonic look what sega did to him...he was once so great now look at him... i have given up hope leaving it at that
  • igrimARU - September 19, 2009 6:22 p.m.

    "My poor Sonic, what have they done to you?" *sob* I am one of those people who grew up with him, but I think it must have been somewhere in between all that crap and good stuff, so I have all these mixed feelings about this. (Sadly, my relatives give me most of those "crappy" games and expect me to enjoy them. TORTURE.) ...Okay, I have no idea what's wrong with me. :( But I have high hopes that he'll someday get better... But I also have high doubts. --Jazz.
  • MATTSHADOW - September 12, 2009 9:47 a.m.

    ive played all the games on the sega, all the sonic advance games on the gba and have shadow the hedgehog sonic and the secret rings and sonic and the black knight and in my personal opioin these games rock, although sonic and the secret rings got boring after a while
  • ilike2pwn - September 7, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    R.I.P. Sonic The Hedgehog Its too late no, Sonic is over
  • marluxia2500 - July 24, 2009 6:40 p.m.

    Man i was so excited for sonic unleashed...but then the Were-douche-hog came up...i nearly cried...oh and i liked sonic adventure 2 battle for the gc
  • clucky120 - July 21, 2009 5:04 p.m.

    sonic adventure battle 2 is actually a decent gc game. even if you curse the name rouge after it.
  • leavemealone - April 2, 2009 6:53 p.m.

    I liked Shadow the Hedgehog. His dark, moody, mysterious personality, his ambiguous sense of morarlity, being haunted by his past and the tragic loss of Maria made him such a cool character. And I liked how you choose to ether save the world with good ol' Sonic, or PLUNGE IT INTO DESPAIR AND RUIN! MUHAHAHAHAA!
  • Superchops - September 21, 2011 8:23 a.m.

    Really? I thougt he was a whiny insufferable twat. Couldn't care less about the save-or-destroy thing.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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