AKA “The Re-Retroing”
No one is more surprised than me to see another part to my twenty-fifth anniversary retrospective on Sonic the Hedgehog, but here we are. Two announcements have forced my hand in continuing to assess the trajectory of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, so let us take a look.
So for the longest time, Sonic has sought his center. Many fans opine that he works better in two dimensions. That is not an unreasonable conclusion. After all, the games that rocketed him to stardom were 2D platformers known for blazing speed. Conceiving what a speedy 3D platformer looks like is a challenge. One wrong move could be costly, but take away the room for error from going to fast and you lose what defines Sonic. The various 3D Sonic games have worked around this in different ways – the Homing Attack is a prime example – but none of them has hit upon the ideal blend. Reverting to 2D, therefore, has become more commonplace in the series.
Enter Sonic Mania. Its trailer begins with a lightning run through iconic moments in Sonic history and then switches up things. The audience gets to see a reworking of Green Hill Zone from the very first Sonic game, but with some alternate pathways and a new boss. There is also a flashy, new zone full of razzmatazz featuring Sonic in a popcorn machine and bouncing on balloons. With a new technique, the Drop Dash, also promised, Sonic Mania looks really promising. You can bet I will look forward to its release next spring.
Project Sonic 2017
If Sonic Mania was a bright and colorful experience, the game codenamed “Project Sonic 2017” is anything but that. Whereas Sonic Mania is brought to us by Christian Whitehead, the genius who ported the old 16-bit games to PC, Android, and iOS, PS2017 is the work of Sonic Team. Sega specifically went out of its way to assure us that this is the Sonic Team behind the games people liked: namely, Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. I cannot fault Sega for wanting to make that clear from the beginning, although there is a hint of desperation involved. As for the trailer itself, we see a ruined city at sunset. Giant robots are stomping around in the distance. We then cut to Sonic, running between debris, when a pile of rubble is about to land on him. Before he can react, Sonic is saved by…Sonic? No, not just any Sonic: classic Sonic. Sonic and Sonic run away together, dodging laser blasts from the giant robots. The trailer ends with the words: “Join the resistance. Holiday 2017.”
I would think for the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of gaming’s most recognized video game characters, the big payoff would be greater than an announcement of better games than the ones that are coming out this year. No one really wanted another Sonic Boom after the first one was such a flop. Sega’s commitment to making Sonic Boom a spin-off franchise was as ill-conceived as its commitment to envisioning a Sonic Chronicles spin-off franchise. Nevertheless, two titles promised for the same year at least provides comfort to us jilted fans. Sonic Mania gave us a better show of what it actually is, and that is why I am looking forward to that one the most. PS2017 is an action movie trailer. That is not suited to a game. I have no idea what it is about, which is a bad outcome for a trailer. I am still excited for both games, but I hope that the hope inspired by these two trailers is not betrayed.