Sonic's 25th anniversary game needs to ditch boosting and bring back momentum, Chaos
This year is Sonic the Hedgehog's 25th anniversary -- and as someone who spends more time playing Sonic games than anyone would like to admit, I'm pretty hype.
But as any Sonic fan (and morbidly curious spectator) knows, there's a reasonable chance that whatever Sonic Team churns out this year isn't going to be amazing. We can hope, we can dream, and we can throw our money at Sega in frustration -- but it's hard to get your hopes up when Sega thinks the Sonic Boom spin-off franchise warrants a second game.
There should not be two of these.
The primary function of the Sonic Boom games and cartoon (which could be worse) is to sell toys and other merchandise. Apparently it's worth it, and that's fine. Let's just hope Sega's quality control for their Sonic Team game coming this year is more than the one-man job given to the first Boom game.
But I digress.
Whatever the upcoming mainline game is, it's something to be excited about if you're a fan of the series. Our last Sonic Team-developed entry to the series was Sonic Generations, and Generations was a solid title meant to appease both classic and modern Sonic fans.
Generations was a good, albeit short, entry for long time fans and newcomers alike, but one big thing was definitely missing that would be ideal to include in the 25h anniversary game. If you're a big baby for Sonic like I am, you know what it is:
Yeah, you should have seen that coming. This is something that was sorely lacking in modern entries to the series.
"Momentum-based movement" essentially equates to Sonic's speed being related to his positioning on a slope, incline, or obstacle.
These types of curves are a Sonic the Hedgehog staple, but their effects on player movement are different between the older and newer games, which are momentum and non-momentum based respectively.
In Sonic games that make use of momentum, the player will go slower when walking up the curve. Often the larger ones required spin dashing to ascend because Sonic himself literally can't walk up walls. If you give the original Genesis trilogy (Sonic 3 & Knuckles being counted as one game) a play, you can see this in action time and time again.
This is something the modern Sonic games almost always skip. Sonic can unrealistically walk up these types of curves without any sort of build up -- just hold right or up and eventually you'll get over the curve and continue on your way.
Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 unfortunately started the auto-play loop trend.
Some argue the removal of momentum and physics from the series is for the better because it's easy to go fast, but it removes much of the skill needed earlier in the earlier games. It's possible for even brand new players to pretty much hold right and jump once in a while to complete classic stages in Generations.
It's easier to go fast in Sonic 4, Unleashed, and Generations than the older games, that much is a fact. But much of the feeling of satisfaction over beating or going fast in a level is sucked dry, and that is something I hope returns to the series with the new game. In with the old and out with the new isn't so bad sometimes. Then again, I'm all for..
Look, okay, I get it. You boost, you go crazy fast and feel awesome and that's totally great and all but.. really how long is that fun for?
I've slapped Sonic Unleashed around my fair share of times and own Sonic Generations on two platforms. I clearly don't hate boosting but it's time to set it out to pasture and move onto more creative (and less stifling) gameplay.
The problem with boosting isn't the speed itself, but the way levels have to be designed around the player constantly boosting. Gone is the charm of looking around and exploring that we saw in Sonic's pre-boost 3D era. Now we have constantly going fast at the expense of experience memorability.
Can you really say you have levels you truly remember from Unleashed or Generations aside from "pet" levels -- the ones you personally liked enough to play again and again. I remember them, sure. I've played them both in the past 6 months.. but I remember the colors and themes, not so much anything else sans my pet levels, the nostalgia at Generation's level choices, and the trudging through unnecessarily long werehog stages in Unleashed.
Because boosting is so fast, the games featuring it fall short of memorable. You don't absorb the details of a level when you boost, and Sonic Team seems aware of that fact.
The levels in Unleashed all sort of mesh together in to a blob of "bleh". The game's settings weren't anything to really write home about and the music, sans some exceptions, is stale and forgettable.
Generations simply falls back on classic stages and more "modern" music -- and honestly I can't say I prefer most of Generation's takes on older levels and music over the originals. The lack of momentum in classic stages, paired with the constant boosting and mixing of 2D and 3D in modern stages, makes the game feel like it's more nostalgia than substance.
Sonic Team does not stick to one style of gameplay for too long. Adventure-style gameplay lasted three games, and was all but killed with the disastrous Sonic 06. The railroad Wii exclusive games like Sonic and the Black Knight had their own gameplay style, and Colors was Colors. 'Nuff said.
If this year's new mainline Sonic game includes boosting, it may very well be the last. But I'd rather boosting be left the dust for more substantial gameplay and levels with actual personality. Let's be real, though. All anyone cares about are Chao gardens.
Chao gardens need to come back
Do we need to go into this one?
The Chao Gardens in Sonic Adventure and its sequel were some of the best parts of those games, and countless players spent hours raising and racing Chaos. They quickly became a series favorite, so why hasn't any other mainline Sonic game brought them back?
The biggest feature people want to see in the 25th anniversary game is Chao gardens. There really isn't any excuse for those cute little bundles of love to not be in the upcoming Sonic Team game. But then again, you'd think there wouldn't be an excuse to release their awful 15th anniversary game (Sonic 06) in an alpha state either but they definitely did and it still is one of the worst games ever to reach store shelves.
The series needs Chao gardens back, and the 25th anniversary is the right time to make it happen, especially with the increased market focus on platformers as of late. They need to come back -- not just for the fans, but also to help capture the interest of newcomers and the press. Now's the time, hands down.
Every fan has their wishlist of features they want to see in the next real Sonic game. We're never going to see him reach the type of popularity only the 90s could retch up again, but a good game -- a game with good music, gameplay, and stages -- shouldn't be such a tall order from Sega and the developers it contracts for its flagship series.
My hopes are meager and my personal wishlist is small. A Sonic the Hedgehog game where he has weight, raises Chaos, and doesn't zip zam zoom through uninspired, boring levels with minimal platforming. Is that really so much to ask? We'll see once Sega and Sonic Team set the Blue Blur loose once again, but until then all we can do is wait and hope we don't have another Sonic 06 on the horizon. And if we do, it better have Chao gardens.