Sonic Mania is gearing up to be the best Sonic game of the year based on recent gameplay trailers and a basket of Best in Show awards it caught at E3. In an interview with Metro’s GameCentral, Takashi Iizuka boasted confidence about both Mania and Forces, but there’s a catch: Both games are targeted at different demographics–older fans who prefer 2D Sonic, and younger fans who like 3D Sonic (I’m on the latter side)–but only the success of Mania might determine the path Sonic will take from there on in.
In the past two decades, Sonic games have been trying to target a broader audience from kids to adults. And Forces has that same idea, so that means a wider range of characters that we know children like. Even if other fans may not be quite as keen.
But for Mania it’s kind of like a new approach. To target specifically 2D fans. So we don’t know whether it’ll be accepted positively in the market. We’ll find out after the game’s released, and we can figure out the direction of future titles after seeing the reaction.
Therein lies the rub. Sonic fans are applying the double standard by saying that they love Sonic with a passion, yet turn around and claim that classic Sonic games are better than modern Sonic games, especially such infamous games like Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic ’06, and Sonic Lost World–each of them graphically and mechanically different in their own right. With two Sonic games releasing within such a shorter time window this year than ever before, fans are treating Sonic Forces with the highest level of scorn imaginable while cheering on Sonic Mania for utilizing designs thought to have been left behind upon the dawn of the Adventure era. All we got from the Forces demo was the Classic Sonic boss fight against Egg Dragoon, the Modern Sonic level where the objective was to find Shadow, and the Custom Character level, and in my eyes, they’re perfectly fine.
There’s absolutely no reason why Sonic should be at a crossroads based on the critical reception of Mania and the massive condemnation of Forces, especially four months, give or take, before the latter game is even released.
Reading Metro’s interview with Iizuka, I took it to heart that Sonic Team will make future Sonic games revolve around Classic Sonic in lieu of Modern Sonic. I pray to God–or Aurora, the Mobian deity in the comics–that’s not the case because, as great as the classic Sonic games were, there’s no progress for the franchise going backwards. Yes, the Sonic fanbase is divided over which incarnation of Sonic is best–traditionalists have been begging SEGA for a new classic Sonic game for years like a little boy tugging at his mother’s skirt for a shiny new R/C monster truck at Toys ‘R Us on Black Friday, while those of us who have been playing Sonic since the Adventure era, as I have, have been begging them to not fuck up a new modern Sonic game–but both versions comprise the brand as a whole, no matter what era we’re in. I’ve seen Classic Sonic merchandise being sold in Hot Topic, Spencer’s, and even Macy’s–I’m sporting a Sonic shirt from the latter retailer as I’m writing this–and I don’t see it as “Oh Lord, Classic Sonic seems to be better than Modern Sonic.” Far from it. It’s just ’90s nostalgia trending in the fashion industry right now.
Forces should be worthy of the same praise Mania is receiving for experimenting with new features, NOT punished. Whatever critical reception Mania gets in comparison to Forces, Sonic Team shouldn’t retire the modern Sonic formula in favor of the traditionalist party–Sonic as I’ve known him for nearly 15 years has been punished enough already. Mania and Forces should be boatloads of fun, because gaming in essence is about having fun and fairness, not a war between the ages.