tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Terminally cynical

I suppose I am, at least when it comes to Sonic games. I honestly believe that my cynicism is justified, though.

There’s an old Tamil proverb, a personal favourite of mine, that can roughly be translated as “If you endeavour to do something, do it such that everyone will praise you; or you are better off not doing it at all.”

Sega’s policy with regards to Sonic games for the past…7 years or so has been “quantity over quality” – numerous games which have all been flawed to some degree, whether these flaws are terrible cameras, loose controls, poorly-developed game mechanics or just being bloody unfinished. For some reason, Sega has decided that the way to improve the quality of the games is to keep tacking on “interesting” subsystems which almost always end up being implemented poorly.

There’s a strong case for specialization in video games, in that established series should find something they do well and stick with it, only requiring tweaks to the formula from game to game while keeping the core mechanics the same. Most successful series have done something along these lines – Mario, Diablo, Half-Life, Ninja Gaiden, they take a successful formula and add things as time goes on, usually with successful results. At the same time, these additions are always in the spirit of the series, and do nothing to detract from the core mechanics of the series.

That last point is what is crucial here. Almost every single mechanic Sonic Team has tossed in to date has served to hinder or dilute the core mechanics of the series – namely speed and momentum-based platforming. They have yet to come up with a solid implementation of these mechanics in 3D (the Sonic Adventure games, while much-loved by the fanbase, did have problems that needed working out). There isn’t a gold standard 3D Sonic which can then go on to be the template for the rest of the series in 3D. Yet, instead of endeavouring to make such a game, Sonic Team has persisted in throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the series, trying to see what will stick.

There is some hope – the daytime portions of Sonic Unleashed look good enough to be a decent starting point for a new series of good 3D Sonics…with a few tweaks, at any rate. Apparently Sonic and the Black Knight is basically Sonic and the Secret Rings with the tilt control taken out, and some sidescrolling sections, which is also very promising.

However, extraneous mechanics like Musou-style hack and slash action or swordplay that don’t really need to be there will only serve to dull the shine of these otherwise promising games. Until Sonic Team realizes this, I really have no choice but to continue viewing new titles in the series with skepticism.

8 comments

8 Responses to “Terminally cynical”

  1. Iie-Kyo says:

    I’ve said it once, I’ve said it again.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it. But if you do try to fix it, make sure EVERYONE likes it before you make that fix permanent.

    I wish SNK-Playmore adopted this idea after KoF 98. The series was certainly starting to take a turn for the good after KoF 2k, albeit the striker system needed some fixing. KoF 2k1 brought in a fixed striker system (yeah yeah, I know there are still issues, but at least there’s not as many brain dead easy striker combos) but they took EVERYTHING NEW THAT THEY TRIED TO ADD out of the game. No Armor Mode, No Counter Mode, etc. Cries of OMG OLD KOF PLZ appeared, and 2k2 was made to appease the fan base that hates change.

    Then 2k3 came out, and SNKP just fucking dropped the ball on that one – probably being one of the most convoluted pieces of shit KoF I’ve ever had the unfortunate opportunity of playing. Now look at XI – SNKP finally realized what they did wrong, and corrected a lot of the mistakes they made in 2k3 (but fucked it up by being dumbasses with the character balance).

    I wish Sonic Team would SEE THIS. If you’re gonna add new concepts, add stuff that goes in line with what made Sonic awesome and most importantly, *what works*. The homing spindash jump was kind of a neat feature in Sonic 2k6, but of course, it was implemented incredibly poorly – that’s the kind of stuff Sonic Team needs to add. None of this Sen/sangoku Musou bs, no fucking swords and sorcery. I just wanna run at crackspeed and hit stuff with the blue blur. Is that too much to ask?

    • sonictempest says:

      Well, the homing attack has been around since the first Sonic Adventure. It was always rather iffy (and they didn’t change it until Sonic 2006, where they actually made it even worse by making it ambiguous as to what you were going to hit next and making it such that you had a ridiculously long rebound time after hitting an enemy with it).

      The only game to get it right so far has been Secret Rings, where they actually showed you which enemy you were going to target (and making the recticle turn red to signal that you were within range).

  2. P_C says:

    what’s sad is that i’ll be buying all three of sonic’s games this year (sonic unleashed, dark brotherhood, and the black knight). i shouldn’t really say it’s sad, i’ll probably still end up enjoying them, still, they should really just release a game that gets the basic sonic running game down, and just that. sonic unleashed looked like it was going to be that game, but then they introduced the werehog element. if it was just a small part of the game maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but with half the game like that, i fear it will really ruin the pacing of the game.

    • sonictempest says:

      I’ll probably get Dark Brotherhood, if only because I’m a Bioware fan.

      With Unleashed and Black Knight I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. My days of buying Sonic games on impulse are long over.

  3. NeoChaos says:

    http://www.gamecyte.com/2008/07/23/e3-2008-sonic-unleashed/2357

    Werehog mode has platforming elements in it. Perhaps it’s salvagable?

  4. Shiny disguised as a mudkip says:

    wtf, iie-kyo? <3

    I havent played a 3D Sonic since the 1st Adventure. And the way its looking, it’ll stay that way.

    Wait that’s a lie. I tried that racing game Sonic Gliders or whatever it was (and facepalmed) and Sonic Heroes (which wasn’t as facepalm attracting).

    • sonictempest says:

      You’re not far off – it’s Sonic Riders :p

      I think I would have enjoyed Heroes a lot more if the controls weren’t so slippery and the level design didn’t consist of “sequence of floating platforms over a bottomless pit.”

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