Fandoms by nature are usually pretty horrible. Get enough people together who like something and you’ll quickly find their personal opinions clashing violently. Have something that has been around long enough or had enough changes in it’s lifetime and you’ll find yourself with a fanbase divided and constantly at war with it’s self. Lord knows merely posting about any Final Fantasy is fuel for an instant flamewar.
However, of all the fandoms out there, the Sonic fandom is easily the worst of them all. There’s just no competition. No fanbase is as mind shattering as the blue hedgehog’s own. It’s what we like to call a “Broken Base”, a fanbase so utterly unpleaseable it’s pointless to even try. But, even amongst other broken bases, Sonic’s stands out. It’s that bad. What happened? How did we get to this point? Why is the Sonic Fandom a writhing, screaming, Lovecraftian nightmare? It’s a question many have asked and some have even partially answered. But only partially, because it takes a lot to get a fandom to this point of unsalvageability.
Chapter 1: Genesis of Sonic
The best place to start any story is at the beginning and while many Sonic fans will claim that nothing went wrong during the “glorious” Genesis era, they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sonic the Hedgehog was not SEGA’s first mascot, but he was their first serious attempt at competing with Mario. You see, the SEGA Genesis was not originally created to compete with the Super Nintendo. It predates it by two years and competed with the original NES. When the SNES came out, SEGA was in a jam. Nintendo’s new system was clearly more powerful than their own, but it had one weakness: the Genesis had a faster processor. But how does one show off their console’s superior speed? The answer was to make a fast game. That game, of course, was Sonic the Hedgehog.
While the game was made to showcase the speed of the Genesis, the character was made to appeal to a wide demographic. If SEGA was to compete with the well known Mario franchise, they’d need to play hardball. As such, they designed Sonic to be “cool” and took this goal very seriously. Knowing full well that what’s “cool” in one country might not be “cool” in another, SEGA of Japan worked closely with SEGA of America to create a universally cool character. Indeed the tale bears a striking resemblance to that of the infamous Poochie from The Simpsons. Creating such intentionally “extreme” characters usually results in groans and backlash. However, SEGA did it right. They did their homework and showed restraint when necessary. This resulted in one of the only successful “Poochies”. In fact, Sonic was downright beloved.
Chapter 2: Continuity Chaos
With all this in place, Sonic proved to be a success. Not only was the character cool, but the game itself was a truly unique twist on the platformer genre and didn’t feel like just another Mario clone. It wasn’t long before companies were propositioning SEGA to let them put Sonic on everything, including giving him his own cartoon and comic! This is where things get interesting. The story presented in the Sonic games was nothing more than “Mad scientist traps animals in robots, Sonic sets them free and runs fast”, a sparse plot open for interpretation. Was the villain comical with robots perhaps powered by hamster wheels, or was he a threat to organic life? Was the world silly and cartoony, or did the factory stages suggest something more grim? It’s amazing how many different ways one can interpret the world of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Now, SEGA knew that what was “cool” in one part of the world might not be “cool” in another and as such they let each country form it’s own continuities so that they could better serve Sonic’s coolness. After all, it was the 1990s! What were the chances that these continuities would intermingle? As such, Sonic ended up with more than 5 different continuities. In fact, America ended up with two different Sonic continuities at the same time! On one hand you had the lighthearted and silly “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog”, which portrayed Sonic as a mix of Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner. On the other hand, you had Archie’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” or SatAM as it’s now called, which portrayed Sonic as a Freedom Fighter in a grim world being overtaken by an evil mastermind and gave him a sizable cast of characters. These weren’t the only continuities either. Europe had it’s equally grim but decidedly different Fleetway comics as well as a series of light novels while Japan had all manner of manga, one of which even portrayed Sonic as a normal school boy who transforms into a blue hedgehog! This would serve to be one of the first major fractures in the fanbase’s stability. Even before the internet, there were many arguments over whether weekday or weekend Sonic was better. Once the internet opened the international floodgates and the fervent fanbases began to intermingle.
See, when you give a character a fleshed out story like Archie and Fleetway did, you give fans a little too much to latch onto. It makes them less susceptible to change. The more characters you add to the story, the worse it gets as well as fans may grow to love some of these added characters. Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto intentionally avoided this, actively claiming all his games have no continuity as he doesn’t want story to prevent him from doing whatever he wants to with the game. But Sonic had multiple stories now, all clashing with one another.
Things got worse when SEGA decided to start adding real stories to the games as well. It left a lot of people annoyed not only because the continuities they had grown to love had been thrown out the window, but so had the characters they had grown to love as well!
Of course, when it comes to beloved characters from regional continuities, most Sonic fans know exactly who I’m talking about. Archie comic’s Princess Sally Acorn, the Sonic fandom’s Helen of Troy.
In the Archie continuity, it was decided that Sonic should have a love interest. This posed a difficult problem at the time. Sonic’s target demographic was young boys, many of which still thought girls were “icky”. So, having Sonic be interested in a girl would make him so much less cool to them. As such, the people at Archie crafted the single most awesome female character they possibly could: a tech savvy, 100% capable, no nonsense leader of the Freedom Fighters. Looking back on it, the TV series was really more about Sally than it was about Sonic! However, this worked and for many young boys, Sally was their first crush. That’s a powerful statement and one that digs deep into the nostalgia centers of our brains.
Unfortunately, being Sonic’s love interest made Sally too important! So when other continuities lacked her and SEGA decided to move on without her, fans of the Archie continuity were left asking, “Where’s Sally?”. However, for a time, fans were able to cope. They wanted Sally back, but they were still fans. Still, it was a fracture in the fanbase and something that would ultimately contribute to it’s screaming collapse.
Chapter 3: Missing the Flight to Saturn
As I had mentioned earlier, Sonic was created for the sole purpose of promoting the strengths of the SEGA Genesis. However, the Genesis would not last forever. SEGA’s next big console was the Saturn, a 32-bit disc based powerhouse capable of incredible 2D graphics. Unfortunately, this generation brought a kink in those plans: 3D polygonal graphics. Widely touted as “the future” by many companies and gaming magazines, 3D graphics allowed for exciting new experiences and many things that were just not possible in 2D. Everyone was excited to see their favorite franchises make the big jump to the third dimension in the hopes that it would make everything even more awesome. There was just one problem: the Saturn kinda sucked at 3D.
In retrospect it seems like the logical choice would have been to flaunt the Saturn’s superior 2D capabilities the way SEGA had with the Genesis’s speed. However, that just wouldn’t have flown back then. We were stupid back then, 2D was old while 3D was new, and that’s what we wanted. While the thought of a 2D Sonic that pushed the Saturn’s capabilities to their limits is downright drool worthy in retrospect, if it had been released back then it would have been an admission of defeat from SEGA. No, Sonic had to make the jump to 3D.
That presents plenty of other problems. Sonic, SEGA’s living tech demo, would now be flaunting the weakness of SEGA’s latest console rather than it’s strengths! We weren’t even sure if the 3D graphics of the era were capable of handling Sonic’s signature speed on any console! But perhaps more than that, how do you make Sonic’s gameplay work in 3D?
This left companies floundering to find a way and we ended up with a number of bizarre experimental attempts at a 3D Sonic. We saw a pre-rendered isometric world in Sonic 3D Blast, we saw limited polygonal race courses in Sonic R, we even saw a miniature world for Sonic to explore in Sonic Jam! But none of these really worked or could be called Sonic’s big jump to 3D. They were all experiments and nothing more.
There was, of course, one serious attempt to bring Sonic to the third dimension: Sonic X-Treme. However, the game was continually delayed and internal strife eventually sank it. Now it is considered one of the most intriguing oddities of Sonic’s long history with everyone wondering what it would have been like. Videos of the game in action show a freakish and disorienting fish eyed camera, generally slow stage progression, confusing level design, and tons of difficulty seeing where you would be going.
It was a valiant effort and years worth of work, yet it still seemed questionable. Placing Sonic’s signature speed in a 3D world would prove more difficult than our young minds could have ever imagined at the time.
Still, what this meant was that it would be a full five years before we would see Sonic make the big jump to 3D. That’s five years of Sonic fans growing older while playing the same handful of Genesis games over and over again, dreaming of what the future had in store.
Chapter 5: Adventures in the Third Dimension
Five years after the release of Sonic & Knuckles, gamers finally saw Sonic make the move to 3D on SEGA’s newest console: the Dreamcast. Clearly the product of years of development, Sonic Adventure broke new ground in many ways. The graphics were incredible for their time, it features six different characters each with their own storylines and playstyles, an explorable hub world, numerous side activities, and a fleshed out fully voiced storyline. There was absolutely no other platformer quite like Sonic Adventure and it blew us all away.
Unfortunately, the changes it made were radical and would cause numerous cracks in the fandom’s foundation. For starters, the entire cast was redesigned for the new era.
While one would think this would cause a massive uproar from purists, at the time it didn’t; not yet anyway. The redesigns were done incredibly well, making the characters look more awesome than ever before without making them unrecognizable. For the most part they were just added details, more consistent artwork, and proportion tweaks. Amy received the most drastic design change, but considering how ridiculous her original design looked, not a single person complained.
The game design was a little more questionable though. There were many “just hold forward” segments, moments where control was almost completely removed from the player. Sonic himself only made up one sixth of the game, with five other characters having almost as much screen time as him. The camera proved to be a problem every now and then, and odd glitches like falling through the floor were a bit more common than they should have been. However, the game’s strengths made up for it’s weaknesses and it proved to be a good first attempt at Sonic in 3D.
Unfortunately, circumstances prevented SEGA from ever topping Sonic’s first 3D outing. It’s direct sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, was developed in a much shorter amount of time than the original and as such it proved to have even more camera issues and glitches than the original on top of forcing players to play as other characters when they didn’t want to. One misstep doesn’t destroy a series though. Fans gritted their teeth and squeezed enjoyment out of it and hoped the next one would be better.
Sadly, this was when the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sonic, did: the Dreamcast died and SEGA stopped producing consoles. Without a system to flaunt and a development team that knew it inside and out, it would be difficult to continue on. However, SEGA tried with Sonic Heroes. The concept was solid: a good old fashioned stage based Sonic, but in 3D and with a team of three different characters. Each character had their own unique abilities and you switched between them on the fly in order to overcome various obstacles. The problem occurred when Sony decided to interfere. According to legend, Sonic Heroes was originally going to be on Gamecube and XBox only. However, Sony told SEGA the same thing they had told Capcom numerous times: “Release this on Playstation 2 or you’ll never be allowed to release games on a Sony brand console ever again”. The PS2 was the dominant console that generation and being prevented from releasing titles on it could doom a company. However, SEGA was terrible at programming for the PS2. They had even produced a number of Dreamcast titles in the past that flat-out could not be done on PS2. But now, SEGA had to take a title they had already partially finished and move it from it’s own proprietary engine to something that could easily be ported to all three consoles: Renderware. This sudden engine shift probably put them far behind schedule and messed up any chance to really polish the game as much as it needed to be. This caused SEGA to produce yet another sub-Adventure title.
With two titles in a row being playable but not as good as the now aging Sonic Adventure, fans were beginning to grow concerned. Not only had their problems with Sonic Adventure’s game design not been ironed out, they were getting worse. The cracks in the fanbase were beginning to show as the fans question many design elements and the growing overabundance of characters. The games were still playable though, but in baseball it’s three strikes and you’re out and the last thing Sonic fans expected was to be hit over the head with the baseball bat.
Chapter 6: The Shadow of Destruction
One character who ended up becoming more popular than expected was Shadow the Hedgehog. Essentially an “evil” Sonic, Shadow made his debut in Sonic Adventure 2. However, he died at the end of that game. But, due to his popularity, he found himself alive and well in Sonic Heroes. Wanting to try something different, SEGA created a poll to see which Sonic side character was most popular and Shadow won. While some question if this poll ever actually happened, one thing was certain: Shadow was getting his own game. This lead to the event that finally shattered the already fractured and crumbling fanbase. No, it wasn’t the release of Shadow’s self titled game, it was this picture:
When SEGA released this promotional image for Shadow the Hedgehog, the fanbase finally crumbled. Sonic had done something that would forever doom him in the eyes of the fandom: he jumped the shark.
Sonic was now “trying too hard to be cool”. From this point onward, the fandom seemed to apply a zero tolerance rule. Everything the Sonic series did would be put under a microscope and scrutinized to see if it’s “trying too hard to be cool”. However, we’re talking about Sonic here, the embodiment of “cool” and a “Poochie” from day one. Everything he has ever done could easily be labeled as “trying too hard to be cool”.
Suddenly, things we were fine with only a few years ago were “going too far”. The storyline which set Sonic Adventure apart from all other platformers and gave it a unique cinematic flair? Now it’s too much and is “getting in the way”. The side characters who helped provide a colorful and varied cast and fleshed out Sonic’s world? Now they’re stealing the spotlight and “ruining” the game. The unique real world-based setting? Now it’s terrible because it’s not what we grew up with. Even Sonic’s exceptional redesign was considered going “too far”.
It seemed to seep backwards as well. Things Sonic had been doing since the Genesis era were too “extreme” as well. When Sonic Riders was released, many reviewers spent an entire page complaining about Sonic being on a hoverboard when Sonic has been boarding since Sonic 3!
With the leap to next-gen, however, Sonic fans were willing to give Sonic one more chance. Sadly, this last chance is what nailed the coffin shut. In 2006 a game called simply “Sonic the Hedgehog” was released on XBox 360 and Playstation 3 and with the restrictions of the previous generation’s less powerful consoles gone, Sonic fans hopes this could bring about a true revival to the series. Unfortunately, programming on next-gen systems takes more time and money than the previous generation and Sonic 2006 found it’s self rushed for a Christmas release. The end result was undeniably the worst Sonic game ever made, full of numerous bugs and some of the worst load times ever seen. A modern day E.T., Sonic 2006 was so bad it sent shockwaves through the industry and developers almost never rush their titles for Christmas anymore in the dreaded fear that they would produce the next Sonic 2006.
SEGA had run out of chances and the fanbase was more utterly shattered than ever before. A shame too as immediately after that,we finally started to see some forward progress for the Sonic series, but it was too late. No, now Sonic needed to be “saved” and a plethora of articles were written detailing how. It’s here that one realizes exactly how fractured the fandom is as each and every “How to Save Sonic” article is radically different from one another. Some were mere ranting opinion pieces that offered little to no discussion of the gameplay. Others were very specific, demanding that the next Sonic be exactly like one specific previous Sonic from the Genesis era. More frightful still were the ones that demanded drastic overhauls to the entire Sonic mythos, guaranteed to piss off a large amount of the fandom if they became a reality. The fanbase began to spiral into madness.
Chapter 7: How the Fandom Crumbled
So here we are, the Sonic fanbase is finally broken beyond repair. However, our story is far from over. But, before we continue, let’s recap because it’s here we find the answer to the big question asked in this article: Why?
As we’ve just spent the past couple thousand words describing, it was more than just one thing. Numerous events throughout Sonic’s long history caused “cracks” in the fanbase. Many of these events were not bad at all, they were often justified and made good sense at the time. Meanwhile, some events were outside of SEGA’s control. Regardless, they were all things that added a bit of conflict to the fandom. The only reason things stayed civil for so long was due to the fact that everyone could agree that the games were great.
One cannot overstate the effects of Sonic practically skipping a console generation though. In those five long years, the nostalgia linked to the older Sonics became more and more powerful. Our glasses were becoming increasingly rose tinted.
The consistently high quality of Sonic’s previous titles served as the “foundation” for the fandom. Once SEGA started making mistakes in the 3D entries, it weakened that foundation. On top of that, it further divided the fandom as some had a higher tolerance for the game’s issues than others. This caused much of the fanbase to be divided on which 3D Sonics, if any, were “good”.
The shark jumping of Shadow the Hedgehog was what finally did the fandom in. It was a paradox of sorts: the embodiment of cool was trying too hard to be cool and now needed to be less cool which would in turn make him less Sonic and thus piss off the fans. Sonic’s own “coolness” was his downfall, or rather, the fandom’s downfall.
What this ultimately means is that the fandom is now split very harshly. Sonic means so many things to so many different people and everyone wants Sonic to return to his “roots”. However, every single person has a different definition of what counts as Sonic’s “roots”. It’s an unwinnable battle.
Chapter 8: The Five Unsung Heroes
In the midst of all this turmoil there were five unsung heroes of the Sonic franchise: the portable Sonics.
The Sonic Advance series was a beautiful blend of old and new, with classic 2D gameplay based off the older Sonics yet fresh new sprites and artwork based on Sonic’s newer entries. What’s most surprising was that each and every one of them was different, never feeling like a mere rehash.
Sonic Advance 1, for example, is the closest to the Genesis originals with stage concepts and level design based heavily off of Sonic’s earliest entires. They even brought back things like the plungered container full of animals that Sonic frees at the end of each zone. While the music and bosses were less than stellar, it was still a very good Sonic game that held up well next to the originals.
Sonic Advance 2 took what had been learned from Advance 1 and tried something new. Kicking the speed up, Sonic Advance 2 proved to be one of the fastest Sonics ever made and was truly jaw dropping.
Sonic Advance 3 took it’s cues from Sonic CD, being slower and more exploration based. It introduced a team mechanic that allowed different teams of characters to have different abilities that would allow them to progress.
Sonic Rush took the concepts of Advance 2 and kicked both the difficulty and speed way up. Meanwhile, Sonic Rush Adventure smoothed things back out, providing a more polished experience while adding surprisingly enjoyable “adventure” elements and some of the best bosses in the history of Sonic.
Playing these and the Genesis titles side by side, they compare quite favorably. Sure they may not be exactly like the originals, but they’re still undeniably Sonic, undeniably good, and most definitely new. It would seem that these portable Sonics would be the perfect cure for what ails the fanbase. Sadly though, this is not the case. For some reason, portable titles “don’t count” and much of the fanbase ignores the existence of the portable series. Now, as the fanbase continues to crumble, even these exceptional titles aren’t “good enough” for them.
Chapter 9: Blame the Children
With the fandom spiraling into a shrieking madness and spewing increasingly bizarre theories as to how to “save” Sonic, many fingers tend to get pointed. Everyone had a theory as to what exactly was “ruining” Sonic. Was it the overabundance of characters? Was it the increasingly overblown storylines? With everyone asking “Why?”, SEGA revealed the horrifying truth: “Well, the kids seem to like it!”
Except that truth isn’t horrifying at all! In fact, a sane person would call it blatantly obvious! Sonic is a blue hedgehog, of course children are his target demographic! But Sonic fans are far from sane at this point. They took this as a revelation. SEGA openly admitting that they market Sonic to kids means they’re taking advantage of them. The theory is that kids don’t know any better and thus SEGA can produce complete garbage and the kids will still love it because they’re stupid. More than that, kids have no appreciation for Sonic’s long history or staying true to his roots. As such, kids became the prime scapegoat for everything anyone didn’t like in a Sonic.
This is both sad and hilarious. Here we have people in their 20s and even 30s arguing with children about a blue hedgehog. What’s more, in a sort of sick ironic twist, the kids actually want the Sonic series to be less childish while the older fans want it to be more childish! One can’t help but wonder if the entire Sonic fandom comes from Bizzarro World.
Chapter 10: Mission Impossible
With a fandom this loud, SEGA can’t help but listen. Hearing the numerous complaints and suggestions, they decided to make a game specifically for the most hardcore unpleaseable fans. From what SEGA could gather, fans wanted a classic 2D Sonic with Sonic as the only playable character and for it to be released as a downloadable. As such they began the noble experiment knows a Project Needle Mouse, which would later become known as Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
Here it was, everything the fans had asked for, and yet it wasn’t good enough. Some fans complained about the lack of side characters, some complained that it looked too much like the Genesis games and felt lazy, while others complained that it didn’t look enough like the Genesis games. Some even went so far as to claim that it was nothing more than a DS port and that it was just an HD version of Sonic Rush. First of all, this was false. Sonic 4 didn’t look like Sonic Rush in terms of graphics or gameplay (from what little we have seen as of the time of this writing). But more than that, these fans were now complaining that Sonic 4 looked like a perfectly good Sonic game. Why? Because it was Sonic 4, making it the direct successor to Sonic 3 & Knuckles and it’s supposed to be as good as that. This was, of course, impossible. Fans were viewing that last Genesis Sonic through rose tinted glasses and nothing could ever compare to it.
The real question, however, was “What is SEGA doing wrong?”. Even the fans couldn’t adequately explain this and their complaints became more and more nitpicky until finally reaching a point where they literally could not properly articulate what exactly was wrong.
It honestly seems like the fans refuse to be pleased. In some places we even have “fans” claiming to have played beta copies and making up blatant lies about the game just to make it look bad. Why so called fans would do this is so far beyond the realm of logic and reason that nothing could ever explain it.
But one look at the fandom’s shrieking face and you know we’re not dealing with normal or sane people here. They might be perfectly fine elsewhere, but once the topic of blue hedgehogs comes up, all logic and reason goes right out the window.
What you see right here is the worst of the Sonic fandom distilled into a single person. In this video, the fan complains because of Sonic’s eye color. He then complains that, due to Sonic’s eye color, that Sonic 4 is nothing more than a DS port of Sonic Rush (again, a spectacular title though it bears little to no resemblance to Sonic 4) and that the game is not enough like the old Genesis titles. Keep in mind, this is all based on about 6 seconds of gameplay footage. Best of all, like any truly insane Sonic fan, he then blames the children.
It’s worth noting that the person in the video had tried to make his own Sonic fan movie, which also used a green eyed Sonic almost identical in design to the one in Sonic 4. His reasoning being that he didn’t want to alienate newer fans and created a middle ground between the old and new Sonic designs. Why he is able to do this, but SEGA isn’t is beyond me. Though I’m sure it has something to do with the number four being in the game’s title.
Of course, the fans would point out that what we are looking at here is a vocal minority. Many have complained because this one person does quite a bit to make the fandom look bad. However, sadly, he’s not nearly as much of a minority as we would like to believe. Take a look at this article:
Skewered Retro: Opinions of Sonic the Hedgehog 4
Here we have almost the exact same rant, but done in a more professional and tasteful fashion. It’s less embarrassing than a man in his late 20’s telling SEGA that they should be ashamed for disappointing his stuffed animal friends. However, at it’s core it’s the same argument: Sonic 4 is not good enough because SEGA is using a more recent design of Sonic and the children are to blame.
As one might notice, the article comes from an actual gaming website. This is perhaps one of the biggest problems with the Sonic fanbase: it’s bigger than you think, to the point where one could call it an epidemic.
Sonic was one of the most popular video games of the 16-bit era, going toe to toe with Mario. As such, many people have played at least one Sonic game and if not that, then they could have easily seen one of his two cartoons or even his comics. This means that a large percentage of the gaming population has fond memories of Sonic.
This causes a chain reaction. First, the obsessive Sonic fans make a big deal out of something minor. Then, one of the more sane Sonic fans will convert their raving lunacy into a more respectable format, like the article linked above. From here, a gamer with fond memories of Sonic could stumble across said article and due to it’s clever wording, be fooled into thinking it’s a bigger deal than it actually is. This is usually made worse because these more normal gamers may have little to no knowledge of Sonic’s recent history. They then spread the word to other non-Sonic fans and soon the entire gaming community is caught in the grips of madness.
Now, no matter how hard Sonic tries, he almost always comes out looking bad for it. SEGA just cannot win. At this point it’s hopeless and one wonders why SEGA doesn’t just kill the franchise off.
Chapter 11: …Because He Still has Rings
So then, why doesn’t SEGA just quit making Sonic games? The answer is simple really: because Sonic still sells.
Sonic is still a big source of SEGA’s profits and as such it would be stupid to kill off the franchise. But why does Sonic still sell if his games are so terrible? Well, it’s because they’re not that terrible. Sub-par, perhaps, but nowhere near as bad as many fans make it out to be. This is actually a part of why the fandom is so wretched as well: despite the decrease in quality, the games are often still enjoyable if you can tolerate their issues and different fans have different levels of tolerance. More than that, however, it’s because of the kids.
The fandom loves to blame children for why “bad” Sonic games continue to sell. It’s true that they are the main reason why titles like Sonic and the Black Knight sell well at all. However, the fandom believes this is because kids are stupid and have no taste. In reality, it’s because Sonic is one of the better kid’s games out there.
This is a problem that has plagued the industry as a whole. As long time gamers get older and graphics get more sophisticated, we find ourselves with more and more “Mature” rated games. It has gotten to the point where if one were to look at the entire XBox 360 or Playstation 3 game library, they’d find barely a handful of E-rated titles and more than a few of them make even the worst Sonic look good by comparison. This is something Nintendo has noticed for awhile and has been a large part of their business strategy. At this point, Nintendo is practically the only company producing quality kid friendly titles. With a few exceptions like the Ratchet & Clank series, most other E-rated titles are lackluster licensed cash-ins. Nintendo alone is not enough to satiate the gaming appetite of kids and whether you like it or not, Sonic is often the next best thing.
It’s more than that though. See, even to kids many E-rated games feel a little bit too “kiddie”. This is where Sonic really scores big. Despite being consistently E-rated, the Sonic series continues to have dramatic storylines and epic scenes. Sonic has mastered an odd sort of family friendly badassery. Just take one look at Sonic’s battle with King Arthur in Sonic and the Black Knight and you’ll instantly understand what I mean.
Regardless of what you think of the game it’s self, the scene on display here is incredible. Sonic dueling a massive knight on horseback against a dramatic sunset while driving rock music blares on. It’s awesome no matter what age you are. However, there isn’t a single thing one could really find offensive or bad for kids in there either. This is something that, really, no other developers are doing. They’ve become so focused on catering to a much older demographic that they forget that kids still play video games.
Yes, one could make the argument that this allows SEGA to slack off. But this is only because SEGA has almost no competition. It’s also here that one has to realize the harsh truth of the matter: who are the real Sonic fans? Is it the fickle, unpleaseable, goalpost moving “hardcore” Sonic fans who will write endless petitions and boycott a game at the drop of a hat? Or is it the kids who buy and enjoy every Sonic game SEGA puts out?
Well, who are the ones keeping SEGA in business? Is it really any surprise that SEGA prefers to cater to kids? No, it isn’t. All one needs to do is step back and look at things from an outside perspective. Put aside your opinions and put yourself in SEGA’s shoes. Video games don’t grow on trees, they cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to make (often more in this generation) and countless man hours to build. Video games are a business and that means you have to make money.
Yet, despite all of this, SEGA still tries to do something for the hardcore fans. As much as they like to claim that SEGA has abandoned them, they really haven’t. After all, they are still making Sonic 4 and you’d have to be completely delusional to think that this is just a mere cash-in aimed at children.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Sonic fandom is. Good thing it takes more than that to kill off a blue hedgehog!
A few colleagues of mine have corrected me on one minor factual error. As it ends up, DiC’s Saturday morning cartoon came first and the Archie comic was based on it. Furthermore, the comic slowly became a spin-off of the cartoon with it’s own parallel canon. This adds yet another continuity to the pile and I didn’t even get into Sonic Underground (due to it being produced much later)!
Personally I feel this detail, while important and intriguing, doesn’t really change the message of this article. If anything, it only solidifies it more. Still, to all hardcore Sonic fans (whom I just bitched out), please excuse this oversight.