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The rise, fall and deafening crash of Sonic the Hedgehog

Up next is the newly announced Sonic Unleashed. All we have is a trailer, a couple of screens and this image from an internet leak:

Sigh. Wolf Sonic. They're going full steam ahead with this "serious story" bull they overdid in Sonic '06. The leaked screens already show Super Sonic, Eggman and Wolf Sonic, plus there's no way Knuckles and God knows who else won't show up too. Maybe Sonic is the star and we only play as him, but rest assured there will be problems, be they unnecessary gameplay changes (Wolf Sonic could very well be the worst part) or another outstretched cast. There is no evidence to suggest Unleashed will play as good as any 2D game in the series, which is exactly what Sega's promising. We've been duped for too long and this time we're not biting.

Er, well, if it's as fun as it looks, then sure, we'll bite. Switching from classic side view to Secret Rings-style behind the back might allow for some new level design quirks - or more ways to fall into bottomless pits without warning. We're not cautiously optimistic, we're just plain cautious. But then just today lead designer Yoshihisa Hashimoto had this to say:

"As a development team, we originally started off this project planning to create Sonic Adventure 3," Hashimoto revealed to Official Nintendo Magazine UK. "In our minds, this game will have more in common with the older Sonic Adventure series. It has no relation to Sonic the Hedgehog [on PS3/Xbox 360] or Sonic and the Secret Rings"

We're 50% relieved by this. The other 50% remembers the score chart from the previous page proving Sonic Adventure was never a formula worth emulating. And seeing how Sega couldn't even emulate the first Sonic game on GBA, we're still not convinced. Please, please don't mess this up.

Then there's Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. What a mind job this is. The first-ever Sonic RPG with 11 of the same lame characters, a handful of new ones and a genre that emphasizes dialogue, not speed. That sounds like a nightmare. But it's developed by BioWare.

What.

Yes, that BioWare, the one that gave us KOTOR, Jade Empire and Mass Effect. If there's one thing it can do, it's RPGs. So we have to think this will be good, based on the track record alone. The developers even have the balls to say they can make us care about the menagerie of awful animal friends.

That is borderline impossible. But if anyone can do it, it's BioWare. Again, please do not mess this up. Don't make it for eight-year-olds. Properties can appeal to all ages without being childish, after all.

And that's where we are today. Sonic, a once unbeatable mascot, is reduced to broken platformer games and requisite spin-off titles, and even those come after Mario's already done the samespin-offto death. Will he climb out of this bottomless pit of multiple yearly releases (like Mega Man) and regain some of his platforming dignity (not like Mega Man)? Or will he only be allowed to attain success on handhelds, as is currently the case with Castlevania? Unless the next two games are mind-shatteringly astounding, don't expect a second/third/fourth coming anytime soon.

Yes, this article ends on a downer. Pleasecommiseratewith fellow Sonic lovers for the time being, but check back tomorrow for something that will raise your spirits guaranteed. It's even about Sonic, the very same mascot we've been chastizing for five whole pages. It'll have you smiling again in no time.

Promise.

Apr 9, 2008