If you're a gamer, possibly in your Twenties- you'll be aware of Sonic The Hedgehog. You might also be aware of Sonic Generations- the latest game that is hitting stores early in November. You might not be planning on buying it though and who could blame you- Sonic has had more bad eggs than any other video game character imaginable, to the point where it begs the question "Why is he still around and relevant today?"
Well the answer is because he deserves to be. Sonic games still come out because he deserves one last Hurrah. So let's begin with a quick history recap-
The Nineties in video games was a very different world to the console-fanboy invested, DLC plagued, graphics race of gaming today.
In the Nineties the world of Gaming had given birth to two of its greatest Icons. One of which had quite the head start in the eighties; debuting with a smash hit and going on to be more recognisable world-wide than Micky Mouse. The other, was his competition- and he was everything the plump plumber wasn't. In this case, Sega really did DO what NintenDON'T- and if Mario was famous for his Jumping, Sonic The Hedgehog was famous for his Speed.
Sonic was designed to embody everything cool in the Nineties, he had a sassy attitude, he didn't take no guff from anybody and he was a rebel who had the freedom to make his own choices. And for many years- he was exactly what he was destined to be. He was cool.
Going head to head with Mario was taking on Goliath but Sonic had the edge to share the spotlight and soon became the established mascot for SEGA, selling system after system on the promise of a mind-bendingly crazy roller-coaster ride as the furry blue git.
As a Gamer you made your choice; SEGA or Nintendo. Sonic or Mario. You chose a side. And for the Era of 2D in gaming, Sonic and Mario were the undisputed champions.
Until everything changed.
In 1994 Sony revealed their new Disc-based system; the Playstation- a force not to be reckoned with and a legacy that would continue to burn brighter as time marched on. With it was the concept of moving through fully realised 3d spaces and in 1996 everything changed when Sonics rival- made the leap to that new found land in Super Mario 64.
Hailed today as one of the finest games ever created and one of the 'Pillars' of Modern Gaming, Mario could not have made a better effort, his place in the new age of gaming was forever solidified. But what of his competition?
Unfortunately for Sonic, his introductions into the world of 3D were to be just the start of a long struggle. After a string of bizarrely disastrous games on various failed SEGA consoles, The SEGA Dreamcast launched in 1998 and with it; Sonics salvation, his 'Super Mario 64'. Sonic Adventure.
It boasted blistering speeds, the best graphics ever seen on a home console at the time and a scale and presentation not yet matched. However, it was plagued with problems, falling victim to the now demanding expectation of Gamers, it had been too long since the dawn of 3D for Sonic to get away with mistakes now addressed in many rival games.
Ultimately, the game did well but criticism spread and cut deep, governing over opinions and choices for games to follow. Sonic Adventure 2 released in 2001 and sought to improve on the many problems of its predecessor. In many fans opinions it was the last good attempt at 3D for Sonic and fondly remembered as his adventures that followed only spiralled deeper into bizarre attempts to stand out.
In the meantime, SEGA fell apart- forced to abandon attempts to create competitive hardware and becoming a software developer- publishing games on existing platforms. It paved the way for the least likely thought ever imaginable in the early Nineties- a Sonic game on a Nintendo platform. Not only that but a Sonic game WITH Mario in it.
Even in this new age for SEGA, Sonic continued to suffer with each new game tarnishing his reputation. Seemingly unaware of the problems with 3D Sonic games at their core, Sonic Team(The group formed and responsible for all the games)continued to try new gimmicks with Sonic to freshen the forumla. They tried making more characters, they tried complicated stories, they gave him a sword(!?), all the while ignoring the glaring basic problems with how the games functioned.
He was a Werehog. That's how bad it got.
However, with no game fully without merit and with the whiniest fan-base imaginable, demands for a classic outing not wrapped in the pretence of a complicated real-world story, or bundled with a pointless stand-out gimmick were HEARD.
No doubt inspired by Sonics new found alliance with his old Rival, Sonic Team created Sonic Colours in 2010. To thunderous applause. Here was a Sonic game with the same spirit as that cheeky scamp we first fell in love with in 1991.
It had no endless sea of annoying characters, it had no stupidly over-done story, it had no stand out gimmicks. Just speed, fun and some platforming for good measure. It was the Super Mario 64 that Sonic Adventure should have been and it was the natural evolution of gameplay to welcome Sonic, arms open, into the world of 3D.
And now, we have different expectations of Sonic Generations- a game that promises to build purely on the merits of Sonic Colours(of which there were many)whilst at the same time, paying tribute to the long turbulent history of the SEGA Mascot.
So why should you care?
Maybe you didn't play Sonic Colours- maybe you still think there's no such thing as a strong 3D Sonic game but I'd ask you to remember the admiration and fond memories you have of what a GOOD Sonic game is.
And to think of the downfall of a Hero who meant a great deal to so many. This story is the story of a Heroes retribution- the fanfare of the Heroes return. Taking his rightful place amoung legends with an adventure that does him justice.
Because crappy games or not- Sonic is an icon of gaming, a symbol forever associated with the hobby that we spend huge fractions of our lives on and if he's to die- let him die with honour. Sonic Generations is such a big deal because this is his return to form, this is putting him back on the map. And that's well overdue and well deserved.
Welcome back old friend!