Sonic was never good.
A few years ago, that problematic phrase was uttered during an IGN roundtable, and that short combination of words would set the internet ablaze, drawing the ire of a very dedicated and upset fanbase. The phrase is not without truth. Sonic has typically taken a beating by critics and general videogame fans ever since his first 3D outing in 1999. But it hasn't been all bad, but the fact remains that Sonic's reputation is a little worse for wear.
With the reveal of the new Sonic game, audiences are cautiously optimistic about another 3D Sonic outing. So, what can Sonic do to fix his reputation? Well, I have some ideas.
Stick to 2D
Look; Sonic has had more misses than hits in the 3D space. Just a quick look at his backlog will tell you that: Sonic '06, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic and the Secret Rings, and even the recent Sonic Forces — for all intents and purposes, these games are pretty terrible. But on the flip side, the original Genesis trilogy, Sonic CD, Sonic Mania have only seen pure love, and they all have one thing in common — they're 2D games.
I'm not saying Sonic can't work with another axis in the mix; however, Sonic's brand of gameplay seems to translate best when taking place on a 2D plane. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That was made Sonic Mania such a good game. It took everything that worked so well for the Genesis games — the vibrant visuals, catchy music, and high-speed gameplay coupled with finely crafted levels, and they didn't overstuff the games with any additional powers, ancient prophecies, or some edgy animal friend holding a gun (sorry Shadow fans). It's one of the best 2D platformers to release in the last few years.
To me, this is Sonic at his best. If you gave me a Sonic Mania every year, I'd probably gobble it up and ask for seconds, but I realize that Sonic is much more than a 2D platformer. It's an adventure.
Return to Sonic's adventure roots
Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 are often regarded as some of the better Sonic games to have released. And while I think they have aged like milk, at the time, they were pivotal in expanding Sonic's lore and his gameplay. Sonic Adventure introduced lite RPG elements and provided many different hub worlds for Sonic to explore. The game also featured six different protagonists, each with their own story arc and gameplay loop that eventually overlapped into one massive climax. It was ambitious for the time, and something that they haven't replicated since. Well, they tried with Sonic '06, but it went horribly, horribly wrong.
But since then, Sonic Team has never tried making Sonic an adventure again, and maybe that's what the 3D games need. The recipe wasn't perfect in 1999, but it was the start of something that could grow. One dumpster fire of a game is no indication that fans aren't interested; they just don't want to play buggy, glitchy games.
I have hopes for the new upcoming Sonic. It could be a 3D open-world Sonic game with elements from Adventure. Let Sonic run around a huge city or a forest full of trees to dodge. Barriers have never been able to hold Sonic (quite literally in some cases), so why not just drop them altogether and give Sonic a big open world to get lost in.
The fans know best
Part of the reason Sonic Mania was so good was not that Sega just magically remembered how to make a Sonic game. They hired Christian Whitehead and a development team was composed of members known for their work in the Sonic ROM community. The fact that Sega often has no problem with fan-made games starring the Hedgehog is great, but to hire those fans and get something as good as Sonic Mania is an astounding achievement. But could they do it in 3D?
Some of the Sonic fan-made games are genuinely amazing, and in some cases, better than the games Sega puts out. Sure, they might be cringy, but if anyone knows what makes Sonic tick, it's the fans. Sonic's social media team is definitely aware, as they're constantly engaging with their community of fans — so just extend that into games.
And there's been plenty of times where fans get to create something that surpasses the original. I'm sure there are tons of development teams big and small who want to do Sonic justice. Sonic Mania was one of the best games the Hedgehog got in years. For that alone, I want to see what other teams can do with the franchise.
Sonic was good and can be even better
Sonic's reputation might not be the best, but he still enjoys a dedicated fanbase and community, and he has the potential to be great again. With Sonic Colors Ultimate and the new Sonic 3D game on the way in 2022, Sega seems dedicated to bringing their mascot into the limelight once again.
Do you have any ideas for how to fix Sonic's reputation? Sound off in the comments and tell us how you'd fix his rep. Until then, catch up with all of the Sonic games available on the Switch now.
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Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. He likes playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.