Blue 5 standing by...
After the original trilogy of classic, 16-bit Sonic titles, we had to wait some 16 years for Sonic 4. When it did arrive, it was split into episodes; the first of which I actually really liked. Admittedly I play it as a speed-running, time-attack game. The second episode turned out OK, but its quite telling that we havent had Episode 3 or any news of it. Thats probably all we'll ever hear about Sonic 4.
So it's time for a change. Sonic 5 would be a(nother) chance for a do-over. But who should make it? And what should the game be? In my mind, it's very clear what it should *be*: a traditional side-scrolling 2D Sonic game with rings, emeralds, special stages and bosses. No gimmicks, just quality for maybe two hours, with replay value coming from treasure hunts, time attack or score attack. But who could make that dream a reality? Turns out there are a load of potential suitors who could, potentially, make fantastic use of the Sonic license. And here they are...
Youd think Sonic Team is the obvious choice for Sonic 5 but, the truth is, theyre no longer the best developer for the job, in my mind. At least not for a new 2D Sonic game. It isnt that the quality of Sonic Team's recent output has been bad. In fact, 3D Sonic has never been so good, with Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World both offering slick, exciting and enjoyable 3D experiences. But Sonic 5 should, in my opinion, be a 2D-only game. And I've yet to see a 2D Sonic from post-Naka-era Sonic Team that controls like it should. Yep, the old problem.
The pinball-bouncing, slope-rolling, ramp-hitting Sonic you can play on a Mega Drive/Genesis is all about inertia. Sonic Lost World does have 2D levels and they look incredible, but still are simply not what 2D Sonic should feel like. Sonic Team's top priority no longer appears to be ensuring the core process of moving the character is enjoyable in itself and there's always something wrong, whether it's the jump height, acceleration speed or behaviour on slopes. So who could do it 'right'?
Odds of happening? The most logically strong. Like if Spock had been working out.
Yuji Naka was the head of Sonic Team during Sonic's golden age and programmed the original game with phenomenal prowess. Avoiding performance-sapping libraries, he coded for the processor directly, telling it what to do with every cycle of the CPU's clock. It resulted in that famous, 60fps super-speed. The man is a programming genius. More recently, his new studio Prope has been responsible for some iOS oddities as well as Lets Tap on Wii (pictured) which wasnt particularly fun, but at least stands out in my memory.
What's more, Naka understands how important character movement is. He must be suffering from Sonic fatigue after 20+ years answering constant questions about the 'hog, but I would love to see him make another 2D Sonic with all of 2014s technology on hand to exploit. It wont happen, but it really should. There must be a small part of him that would consider it. And I'm sure Sega would commission him if he was up for it.
Odds of happening? Remote like a village in the Scottish highlands, but one with a decent pub.
If youre looking for a talented developer with a passion for Sonics history and a sympathetic hand when it comes to modernisation, Christian Whitehead is the obvious choice. His Retro Engine is replacing Segas own mobile emulations of the Mega Drive Sonic games because it runs those Blast Processing visuals at 60fps on any device you could care to mention.
But better still, he has updated elements of these classics--like the rotation effect in Sonic 1s special stage and the 3D pipe in Sonic 2--as well as realising the infamous Hidden Palace Zone in exemplary fashion, new boss and all. Give him the chance to make a new 2D Sonic and I guarantee the results would be phenomenal, not to mention as authentic-feeling as any new Sonic game could be.
Odds of happening? Just because Junior cleaned daddy's car well doesn't mean daddy will let him drive it.
M2 is the team tasked with converting Segas back catalogue into 3D for the 3DS. The reason I think theyd be a good choice for Sonic 5 is simple: Theyve been so careful to maintain authenticity with thier conversions, they've effectively made a new Sega console. Sure, its only virtual, but the Gigadrive--as theyve affectionately named it--has concrete hardware specs, which could theoretically be replicated in the real world. Its basically a Mega Drive with support for more background layers and 3D depth.
A 3DS-exclusive Sonic 5 running on the Gigadrive would be awesome beyond comprehension. And while the team itself is best known for its conversions rather than its original works, surely they would be interested in at least being involved in Sonic 5. Surely.
Odds of happening? Weak like newborn Bambi.
The best platform games are found on Nintendo machines these days. That is a fact. Retro Studios have a near-flawless track record, having made the Metroid Prime series, Mario Kart 7 and the Donkey Kong Country Returns series. So were talking about a team who know how to make a good platform game, are sympathetic to fans requirements, while also making games that are bang up-to-date in their visuals and gameplay.
20 years ago, I would never have thought I would be saying that a first-party Nintendo studio would be a good choice for making a Sonic game, but since the two companies are such great friends these days, it actually makes loads of sense. They've got as far as publishing Sonic... might as well make it too?
Odds of happening? Stranger things have happened. Maybe Zero Suit Samus will take off her outfit and be Sonic underneath? Sorry if that spoiled Samus for you...
Big Red Button (and Chris Senn)
Big Red Button has yet to prove itself with its Nintendo-exclusive Sonic Boom (and to convince me that Knuckles' new physique and Sonic's long legs are acceptable) but its lead level designer is one Christian Senn--the same Christian Senn who worked so hard on Sonic X-Treme before it was cancelled on Saturn and PC. Naturally, that has exponentially raised my interest in the game. I want to see what he can do with Sonic, given the chance.
Once this 3D Sonic title is done and dusted, why not get Big Red Button turn to 2D? Its 3D game is already classed as non-canon, so making a new entry in the 2D series would sufficiently distance the project from Sonic Team's output. And while Sonic Boom may well represent the last of the three Nintendo-exclusive Sonic games, if that goes down well, I dont see why a Sonic 5-shaped extension cant be arranged.
Odds of happening? *IF* Sonic Boom turns out to be good, then chances are very high. Chances of Sonic Boom being good? Well... why not?
A shame, because their last offering was Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (also pictured), which was published by Sega. It has Sonic DNA running through it, only with a wickedly dark sense of humour too. Arkedos retro-styled offerings prove theyve got the right mindset to make a 2D Sonic, and they have the Sega ties if only someone would get the team back together for one last hurrah. Sadly, thats highly unlikely. Sniff.
Odds of happening? About as likely as Peter Molyneux releasing a collaborative rap album with Helena Bonham Carter.
The 1991 Denver Broncos
The 1991 Denver Broncos may not be the most obvious choice for a group of people well-suited to making Sonic The Hedgehog 5, but then if I was going with strictly obvious choices, I wouldnt be able to reference a 15-year-old South Park joke in this feature. Which would be a shame, especially when we come to the next slide.
Odds of happening? In fairness, there are a few of them. That increases chances significantly. And I hear they built the pyramids.
Who built the pyramids?
So, daft joke aside, thats how I see the possibilities for Sonic 5. Sega hasnt even said theres going to *be* a Sonic 5, but with this much talent around and so many great studios brimming with potential, I think someone, somewhere has got to approve Sonic 5 and give it to one of these teams. And if I had to choose one, I'd say Christian Whitehead. Right after he's converted Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which must surely be what he's working on right now.