Gimme Five! Biggest Mistakes of the Sonic Franchise

With Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors out, it seems like Sega has a better grasp on what to do with their flagship hedgehog. That’s a really good thing, because the message sent by ol’ Sonic’s recent history is “we, Sega, have no idea what we’re doing, but we’re going to pump these things out anyway”. How did this once-proud spiky azure franchise turn dull and…less blue? Well I’ll tell you, and luckily for me and my column format, there were exactly five big mis-steps!

5. Adding Characters

This was a big case of learning the wrong lesson from success. “Hey, we introduced some good characters, like Deformed Fox Sidekick and Rastafarian Monotreme Wolverine! That means we should add a million more characters!” The Chaotix was okay, if a bit uninspired. Then you get to Big the Cat, a fat slow feline known for fishing. Perfect for a game series built on speed! Shadow and Silver were just indicators that they were running out of ideas, but the worst error here is Rouge. When your game with cartoon mascots and one of them has breast physics, you’ve definitely gone down the wrong path.

4. Putting Him in a Human World

Speaking of cartoon mascots: they are things you shouldn’t put into a human world! Next to somewhat properly proportioned human beings, any cartoon creature will look monstous, especially if your creatures are as tall as a human being! A real hedgehog is pretty darn cute, but if you enlarge it and give it humanoid legs and tennis shoes, it turns into a sideshow attraction. Not only did Sega do this, they kept Dr. Eggman as a malformed not-person in this real world, creepily realistic moustache and all! Well, to be fair, they never went as far as having a realistic girl kiss Sonic on the mouth.

Oh. Right. Moving on!

3. Going for Milquetoast Pop-Punk Instead of Awesome Chiptune Music

The music in Sonic used to be amazing. The theme for Zone 1 of Ice Cap Zone in Sonic 3 alone has ten remixes on OC Remix! For comparison, Aeris’s Theme from Final Fantasy 7 has four. They even did a whole album devoted to just that stage’s music. Sadly, younger gamers may not know the chiptune bliss that a Sonic title used to herald, since Sega decided to ditch this style of audio in favor of what rock experts call “bad” music. Now firing up a Sonic game bombards your ears with tracks that Blink 182 threw out early in rehearsal. You could kinda get away with this in the nineties, maybe even the late nineties, but when you promote your new game with the same type of screechy-voiced pop-rock track in 2010, that’s a sign that you need to hire a new music director.

2. Aping Mario So Much

For a series that started as the antithesis to the Mario series, they sure copied it at every turn, except for the whole “doing what Nintendo did right” thing. “Mario favors exploration and deliberate platforming? Let’s put that in Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles! Surely that won’t break up the pace. A racing game starring your main characters? Sure, we do fast, let’s make a crappy racing game and make it the only Sonic game on one of our systems! We’ll name it R for Red, which is what our budget is going to go into. Oh, Mario 64 favors 3D exploration and a central hub world? Sonic Adventure to the rescue! Five minutes of somewhat-Sonicish gameplay in-between walking around a boring city – good times! Okay, let’s throw in a knockoff party game and call it a day.”

1. Making it the Flagship Series

By now, you may think that I hate Sonic and his games. I really don’t! In fact, I grew up with them, being a Genesis kid. They were tons of fun…but there’s only so much you can do with the central “run-jump-hit-fat-guy” concept. If Sonic were just a Sega series instead of the Sega series, maybe the creators would have had time to figure out some new ideas and polish the game even further. But that wasn’t the case. They pretty much milked their cash cow dry and it kinda sorta died for a while. Only now do they seem to be getting their act together, and it’s been nearly 20 years since Sonic 2. Even though he’s a fast little dude, it seems like all he needed was time.

(Thanks to Anatotitan for the column comic!)

18 thoughts on “Gimme Five! Biggest Mistakes of the Sonic Franchise”

  1. Yeah, pretty much all those things that you said. The Chip-tune music is where it was at and was some of the best chip-tune music in any game series.

    It seems like for every 1 good Sonic game there were 2 meh ones to follow it. Does the series have some awesome games, yes, but I think the Sonic franchise as a whole is mediocre and has a long way to go before I would start to considering it an amazing series again.

  2. A lot of this I strongly agree with, a lot I strongly disagree with. Great article by the way. These Gimme Fives always stimulate my brain activity on the subject at hand (love how you add videos for things people may know nothing about, nice touch).

    Anyways, I agree that chiptone music was the best, but on the same note, some (note only some) of the rock songs were great, too, and all fine and well for one or two games (honestly I like most of the Crush 40 songs). Maybe a pop/rock/pop-rock/whatever remix of a pre-existing Sonic tune for like ending credits or something. But yeah… should definitely stick with chiptone for the most part.

    Characters… I agree about some and disagree about others. Big… well he should’ve never come to exist. Probably the same should be said about Cream (although out of all the new characters they’ve added since the Genesis-era, she’s probably the most tolerable). Vector and Charmy probably should’ve been forgotten in the anals of time. They chose to bring back Espio, which I suppose was a good move since he’s the most popular Chaotix, but poor Mighty…

    You can’t really blame them for Shadow – he makes a great anti-hero where the series didn’t really have one (I mean… there’s Knuckles, but he’s a good guy when it comes down to it, he’s just dumb as a brick) and he is the most popular character behind only Sonic himself. I dunno what all the hate for Silver is for though – sure he’s kind of annoying but his gameplay in Sonic ’06 was so much fun… I suppose Sonic ’06 was all that needed to be said there. And Rouge. She’s actually one of my favorite characters – one of the few characters in a video game that was made with a voluptuous design and actually uses this trait to her advantage. Then there’s Nack/Fang… this forgotten character was actually a pretty good character – another adversary that effectively replaced Knuckles’ role in S3K but is actually a bad guy so it can be a permanent role for him, but alas, he has been forgotten it seems.

    1. I totally forgot to mention Fang. Drat. xD

      But yeah, Fang was a personal favorite of mine as well , when I played Sonic Championship in a arcade once.

      If only he were adapted in later games, he’d be pretty cool to see again. He’s pretty dark too, especially using a pop gun as his weapon haha.

    2. “he’s actually one of my favorite characters – one of the few characters in a video game that was made with a voluptuous design and actually uses this trait to her advantage.”

      But she’s a bat.

  3. Great article here Toast, same for me though, I agree/disagree in some areas.

    Along with Shadow, it was neat to have an anti-hero in the series, so he’s got a good place in the series imo. Plus, his back story is really deep, so I give him credit for going through the loss of Maria.

    And as for Rouge, I actually like her in both the games and the Sonic X cartoon. Sure she’s not a speedy character, though Knuckles could use a female rival to deal with. 😛 I like her sass as well; she’s got real good character.

    For Big, he’s always been okay. In both the games and cartoons. He’s just not that exciting, since his role is so minor later on in the series.

    Lastly, Cream, she’s good to have around. She even appeals to the audience that are littler girls around her game age. Just ask my baby step sister. And sure, maybe the series needed just a few more major female characters around. 😛

    Again, I enjoyed reading this Toast. Nice review overall!

  4. I agree with this article a lot. Oh how Reach for the Stars makes me wanting to pull out my eye sockets. 😐 I love the old school Sonic games and I never noticed that they did ape Mario at every turn o.o like I did with the racing games but not with Sonic 3 and Sonic Adventures. Good article all in all.

  5. I agree with most of what you said. Big was a bad idea, never EVER let a human girl kiss sonic, and don’t follow your enemies. But i disagree with on the point of the music. I enjoy Reach for the Stars and City Escape form Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, though i still do dregde up Chemical Plant Zone in my head

  6. Great article Toast! However, I do have a question/suggestion: have you given any thought to turning “Gimme Five!” into a podcast or video series? I think I speak for everyone when I say you’ve got one heck of a talented voice for that sort of thing, and it would add a whole other channel to the TSG Network. Just throwin’ that out there.

    Excellent article, as I mentioned before. As a gamer who got their real start on the Sega Genesis (with the original Sonic the Hedgehog no less), I’ve had the “pleasure” of watching some of my favorite game series wither and die thanks to Sega’s (specifically Sonic Team’s) lack of focus and consistence. Sonic, Shining Force, Phantasy Star; all series that essentially got run into the ground (well, Phantasy Star Online was pretty good, but hey, there are always exceptions). Anyway, that’s my two cents, and this comment just became officially TLDR.

  7. Haha great article. The old Sonic games were definetely the best and SOnic Colors is pretty good too. I think the one mistake you missed though was Sonic the Hedghog 2006 in general…

  8. I… I liked Big the Cat.

    I also liked how the different stories in Sonic Adventure came together in different ways, and everyone had a slightly different view of things. And Big the Cat was just this cute friendly lummox who was completely out of place but still ended up being involved.

  9. I completely disagree about Shadow. He was an amazing Character with a interesting, deep background story. He is one of the reasons I play Sonic games really. Although his story was never really finished. To many questions left unanswered.

    Also the rock songs in sonic are amazing. I have every single one on my MP3 player.

    Every thing else I pretty much agree with.

  10. (From #4) “A real hedgehog is pretty darn cute, but if you enlarge it and give it humanoid legs and tennis shoes, it turns into a sideshow attraction”

    That reminds me of one scene early in the Sonic X anime (I think it was the fifth episode) where Tails and Amy act like Chris’s stuffed animals when the three of them ride on a train full of people. No surprise that they attract attention from the people on the train, resulting in a lot of awkward embarrassment for Chris.

    I also agree with #5, especially the fact that the secondary Sonic characters (anyone who isn’t Sonic or Tails) don’t seem to serve much purpose (anything more than just a cameo appearance) lately. What was the last Sonic game where the other Sonic characters actually did something to help Sonic save the world? The last game I can think of is Sonic Chronicles where they acted as fellow party members who fought alongside the blue hedgehog.

    Pretty good article, lots to agree with.

  11. You make good points, but I have my disagreements of course… Wait, hear me out, its not just fanboyism! I agree that they’ve added too many characters (even though I actually like Shadow and Rouge), and I hate how Sonic 06 handled the human world (though I was okay with it in most other games, including the Adventure series and Unleashed). But I love the music in the entire series. And I don’t find them copying Mario to be true. Especially your complaint about Adventure copying SM64, it didn’t feel like it was at all. And as for your point about it shouldn’t be the flagship series, I disagree with that, but do agree that they could spend more time in between games.

  12. I can’t help but like the music from Sonic Adventure 2, I have to admit. Eggman’s theme never fails to make me wanna rock out and dance.

    As for the extra characters, I honestly rather like Rouge. Shadow, though, should have stayed dead. And I say that as someone that LIKES him — his death at the end of SA2 about made me cry, but it brought a good end to the story. Bringing him back from the dead in the later games cheapened the impact of his death and made me lose faith in the series for a long time.

    Nevertheless, this was a good read, as always! I agree with your other points, and even the points I don’t agree with make me think.

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