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The rise, fall and deafening crash of Sonic the Hedgehog

It's the year 2000. Sega's off to a great start with the Dreamcast thanks to Sonic Adventure's strong performance. It was the first true 3D Sonic title, the one we waited years for, and amazingly enough it turned out fine. It seemed like Sonic was on his way back into the spotlight. Cut to 2003 when the GameCube "remake" was released, however, and you realize how lackluster Adventure really was. The GC port was almost identical yet the scores dropped considerably. Strangely enough, most reviewers' complaints addressed gameplay, not outdated visuals, as justification of the low score.

Basically this means everyone wanted a decent Sonic game so much they handed out scores that were one to two points higher than need be. It's not anyone's fault as a gamer though; Adventure's dizzying effects and screaming-quick action scenes were so far beyond N64 and PlayStation they hid all the glaring problems. Let's compare DC to GC review scores:

So Adventure, the game held up as the blueprint for what a good 3D Sonic game should be, isn't all that hot. It just took a few years for all of us to figure it out. But it appears regular gamers don't mind much, as each Sonic game has gone on to sell extremely well, usually enough to warrant another sequel and spin-off. This led to Adventure 2 (also ported to GC years later) and then to this...

Sonic Heroes: Reviews range from GameSpy's 3/5 stars all the way down to now-defunct Official PlayStation Magazine's abysmal 4/10 converted score. Regardless of the verdict, everyone agreed that the erratic camera was a disaster. Sega had two (four, counting the remakes) previous attempts to work that out, plus the whole "fall off a cliff in a nanosecond" crap, and didn't. Heroes also collects tons of goddamn "Boomerang the Dingo"-style characters all into one broken game.

Remember when the focus was Sonic? Well screw that. Now you can finally play as Cream the Rabbit in 3D! Or better yet you could throw the game in the trash and be Happy the Consumer.

This is the same nonsense that peeled the flesh from our bones in the otherwise-competent Chaotix - a game that tried to do something new (team platforming) and is instead remembered for a deluge of unnecessary mascots. Well that and hundreds of unavoidable deaths due to a junky camera. The PS2 version was the worst of all, suffering from all kinds of extra bugs not present in the GC or Xbox versions. How could Sega let something like that slip? Sonic used to be their prized treasure, and as of the early 2000s he's nothing more than a spiky prostitute they pimp whenever their water bill is due. Case in point:


Shadow the Hedgehog: Viciously reviewed, Shadow's solo title angered just about everyone who grew up with Sonic and joyously pleased those who came aboard later. Everything from the character design (an anti-hero hedgehog with guns and roller skate shoes) to the gameplay (shoddy blasting made nigh-impossible by poor control) came under fire, yet is still sold well. What? How does that happen? Lookhow longhis Wiki page is. He's even considered "the ultimate life form." It's insane! How can any gamer cling to such an insipid idea that was also poorly executed?

The only answer is age. These games aren't even meant for people who played the Genesis originals, or even Sonic Adventure at this point. They've become silly to the point of unintentional self-parody, with overwrought storylines and slapdash gameplay meant for fans or gamers willing to overlook a lot of problems. Different strokes.

But it's not all bad news. While the console games became bloated with unwanted cast members and some of the worst dialogue in history (all history, not just game history), the GBA series took a page from Sonic's glory days. All three channeled the best of the 16-bit days as well as a few of the extra characters and bonus modes from the new titles to create a genius blend of both eras. Rush was the same, though still saw fit to add Blaze the Cat. We heartily approve all four (and their soundtracks) and deride anything else that was Sonic and came out between 2000-2005.

We now get good platformers mixed in with the completely mental console games - a harsh price, but we'll pay it. Anything to keep our eyes away from derivative spittle like Sonic Shuffle (way late Mario Party ripoff), Riders (another sloppy racer with even more stupid characters), and Battle (another disposable fighter, now for GBA).


That brings us to modern day. And as you're probably aware, this isn't exactly the brightest period in his 17 year history.