Opinion

A fan’s response to The Guardian’s ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ article

[Editor’s note: This article is an opinion piece written by therequiem95 on the SEGA Nerds forums in response to Leigh Alexander’s article in The Guardian titled “Sonic the Hedgehog: how fans have subverted a fallen mascot.”]

I’ve heard several people make the claim in the past few years that the original Sonic titles weren’t as good as they were once thought to be. Most of these claims tend to focus on Sonic’s blazing through a level at high speed, essentially that all you have to do is “push right on the control pad to win.”

As anyone who played much of these titles back on the Genesis knows, that’s simply not the case.

I honestly don’t know how best to combat this mindset. It seems very pervasive, almost to the point of being trendy.

My suspicion is that many people (maybe Nintendo fans, but I don’t want to generalize) might have only played in-store demos, or possibly the first two to three stages at a friend’s house and decided that the whole game was represented by that “vertical slice,” if that term applies.

Of course demos or the first couple of stages were designed to not only be easier than later stages, but their fast, flashy nature was meant to be eye-grabbing to younger audiences and to differentiate the games from any other titles at the time.

The later stages added far more platforming complexity, and while sometimes speed still came into play as you tried to rush past a series of traps (Scrap Brain Zone), these levels were much more in-depth, and generally well-done, if sometimes a bit annoying (Labyrinth Zone, I’m looking in your direction).

TheRequiem95 believes many video game outlets have a mistaken sense of what makes a good platformer.
TheRequiem95 believes many video game outlets have a narrow point of view as to what makes a good platformer.

There is a lot of selective memory among video games media these days. I’ve actually thought a lot about it and could probably write a small research paper on the topic, but that’s one of the reasons I’ve found so much enjoyment from this site and a select few others.

It seems as though legacy Nintendo fans make up most of the group, and that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that explicitly, and I myself love a lot of what Nintendo does and has done for years. Hell, I even own a Wii U! But I’ve seen far too many articles/reviews that criticize platforming games based on their controls, and they often refer to Mario games as “the way to do it right.”

I’m sorry, but there is more than one way to do platforming correctly. However, I think so many folks are so used to Mario’s mechanics, it’s ingrained in them and has been for a long time, that anything that strays from that particular norm is wrong.

There are plenty of old games that have good platforming mechanics that are very different from Mario, such as Dynamite Headdy, the Mega Man series, and yes, Sonic, as well. If you want to play a truly bad Sonic game, pick up Bubsy, Socket or Awesome Possum and see for yourself. The Sonic series destroys those games, hands down.

socket-video-game-screen
Socket is a video game that shows the difference in quality of Sonic the Hedgehog and its many clones.

There is a lot of SEGA bashing to go around these days, and some of it is deserved with the titles from this past generation being so rough (Golden Axe, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Sonic ’06, etc.), but the trend to retroactively rewrite history at the expense of SEGA during what was a very creative and successful time for them is very odd and even more distressing to me.

I actually heard a podcast recently (on a site I won’t name) where one of the journalists blamed SEGA for killing the F-Zero franchise, and his entire group agreed! F-Zero GX was almost universally lauded at the time of its release, and despite its single-player story mode being stupid hard, it might just rival the original as the best game in the franchise. But for this panel, SEGA (and Amusement Vision as the game’s developer) was the incompetent party to blame for their Nintendo fanboy woes of not getting a new F-Zero game in the past ten years.

I honestly don’t know how best to combat this mindset. It seems very pervasive, almost to the point of being trendy. For honest game journalists to try to claim that the original Sonic games aren’t every good, well, what can you do?

I suspect that they haven’t actually sat down with Sonic 2 and played through it recently, because it is a good, solid game.

I’m not saying it’s better than Super Mario World or anything like that – that’s a whole different debate entirely. But there is a reason why so many other developers tried so hard to copy Sonic’s gameplay, yet failed in so many respects.

That’s because the Sonic series on the Genesis had too many elements that came together well that made the games special: the graphics and sounds, the vertical nature and multiple paths through each stage, the fairly well balanced difficulty curve, and yes, just for kicks sometimes, the speed, too.

Ms. Alexander is certainly entitled to her opinion, but I think it’s fair to say that I disagree.

Chris Powell

Chris is the editor-in-chief at SEGA Nerds and Mega Visions Magazine. Over the years, he's written for publications like Joystiq, PSP Fanboy, RETRO magazine, among others. Oh yeah, he's also been a diehard SEGA Nerd his entire life.

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