How to make a great Sonic game

Sega seems to keep trying to find the perfect formula for Sonic the Hedgehog, but it's been right under their noses the whole time.

It seems as if Sega in continuing their experimentation with one of the most iconic video game characters ever. I’m of course talking about Sonic the Hedgehog. We’ve seen him with his amazing speed, but we’ve also seen him inherit magic powers and become a Werehog. Sega needs a formula for the series that works, and I have that formula.

Speed, Speed, and More Speed

Take Sonic Generations as the prime example for this one. When you play a Sonic game, you do not want him running slowly like in Sonic 3D Blast. You want to break the sound barrier and see how quickly you can finish the course. Sonic Generations does all of that, plus connects the best of 2D and 3D platforming. If you want a fan-pleasing Sonic game, it better have him leaving dust clouds behind his footsteps. 

Have a Lack of Change

If you want to change the games to make them unique, that is fine, but don’t change everything about Sonic that we know and love. The Sonic Boom series is guilty of this, changing the gameplay, power-ups, voices, even the size and shapes of their characters. It’s not necessary, and it’s not wanted. If the goal is to try to appeal to a newer and younger audience, it isn’t working. Great formulas for games in the 90’s will still be great formulas now. The Legend of Zelda series doesn’t change their formula that much, and look how much everyone loves that series still. 

Smooth and Crisp

If you’ve ever had the unfortunate chance of playing Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), then you know what I mean when I say Sonic must run smoothly. That game has nothing but mechanical issues that ruin the game, and Sonic doesn’t even run fast. It’s games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors that (while not perfect) felt crisper and more control friendly, helping the gamer feel comfortable with going lightning fast while dodging enemies and reaching the goal. 

Bring Back the Chao Garden

Sonic Adventure and especially Sonic Adventure 2 both featured the Chao Garden as a side activity to the story, and it really took shape in Sonic Adventure 2. Training your Chao from birth and raising it so it becomes a karate master is one of the best things ever, and now it’s gone. The gardens are only mentioned but never actually seen in later games. It’s a great bonus feature for fans to enjoy, and I’d love to see its return.

Listen to the Fans

If it is one thing Sega can take from all the blunders of their Sonic games, is that they have some of the most loyal fans out there. Through our complaining and rants, we are still ready to try the next Sonic game, even if it is a bust. I’ve been a fan of the series since its original release back in 1991, and I’m still a die-hard fan till this day. But Sega, please listen to us. We don’t want Sonic waving around a sword, we don’t want Shadow shooting a gun, and we want a game that helps us remember and brings back the classic Sonic that everyone knows and loves. Take a moment and really listen to the fans. The sales of the games speak for themselves, and I want Sonic to hang around for the next twenty years, not just be a dust cloud that was left behind. 

Featured Contributor

Fireboltz is a die-hard fan of gaming, and has been playing them for over twenty years. He's a graduate from Weber State University and looks forward to focusing his writing on the video game world.

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Published Jul. 16th 2015
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    To be honest, I don't know if listening to the fans is a great idea. If you're part of the Sonic community, then you know there are some very distinct subcategories within the Sonic fanbase:

    - Classic fans
    - Adventure fans
    - Modern/boost fans
    - Boom fans (The smallest of them, thankfully)

    Sonic fans, ultimately, just want the same type of gameplay they enjoy without all the changes SEGA likes to throw in there to mix things up (often for the worse).

    The Sonic series has always been known for three primary things:

    - Speed
    - Non-linearity
    - Good music

    Often they fail in some other regard, though many fail in the non-linearity department. This is pretty inexcusable considering even the games on the Genesis had multiple paths through a level.

    I personally am an Adventure fan first and foremost, but also enjoy 2D classic and handheld Sonic games. I'm not a huge fan of "boost to win", but I did thoroughly enjoy Generations because it brought back multiple paths through a level and did the classic gameplay well (though it lacked the momentum-based gameplay the Dreamcast era and below had, and had too much 2D in the modern stages).

    I'd absolutely love if SEGA would return to the Chao Garden concept, I think any Sonic fan would, and even people who gave up on the series during the Dreamcast era (which is kind of understandable). The fact they haven't capitalized on Chaos at this point is a real mystery.

    I'd really like a new Sonic Team game that isn't a crappy mobile endless runner. They released Boom to tie in with the TV show so SEGA could get that merchandising money, and Boom 2's on the way. The fact people compared Boom to Sonic 06 is really telling -- and it's even more telling that SEGA decided to release another one. Where is my Sonic Team game?
  • Fireboltz_7795
    Featured Contributor
    The Sonic Team game is truly a big mystery. I just wish they would make another Adventure sequel or another Generations sequel. Generations brought the best of the 2D and 3D, including an amazing soundtrack. I've never been disappointed in the soundtracks though. You made an excellent point about the levels needing to not be so linear as well. I also haven't considered if the branch off games, like Sonic All-Stars Racing and Mario & Sonic at the Olympics is a good thing or not; I'm very torn there.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    What they should do is make another Sonic Generations (not literally) except this time add an Adventure-style gameplay as well.

    Seriously. Classic Sonic momentum-based gameplay + Shadow for Adventure style trick/score gameplay + Modern Sonic speedy gameplay + ???? = Profit???
  • Fireboltz_7795
    Featured Contributor
    I like your formula for a profitable Sonic game! Blending Adventure and Generations is what many fans want, it's Sega not doing it that's the problem. They seem very content with making Sonic Boom games that don't sell very well, and that's a shame.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    Well, the thing is the Adventure-style gameplay isn't "in style" anymore and the younger (aka largest) portion of the Sonic fanbase likes boost to win best. So it's not going anywhere.

    Even if they did bring it back, it's easy to gloss over the real demerits of the Adventure games. They were very buggy because there was free but fast movement -- this is something we saw in Sonic 06 as well, which was the last 3D Sonic game with that type of gameplay. It seems Sonic Team just can't do super fast free movement too well, and the types of bugs we saw in the Adventure games just wouldn't be excusable today. I say this with Sonic Adventure 2 being my favorite game, and one I casually speedrun for fun.

    I almost forgot to mention that after Unleashed, the games have been running off Sonic Team's custom Hedgehog Engine, which I don't think they're going to toss out anytime soon. Which is a real shame because the slippery controls are a real downer for me. It feels like Sonic himself sort of has mini-hyperspeed tank controls. It's not as obvious in Generations as it is in Unleashed, but it's definitely still a thing.

    Ideally for me, I'd say momentum-based non-tank controls with branching stages. Generations almost had it right, but the lack of momentum due to boost and the Hedgehog Engine controls made it less perfect than it could have been.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    My biggest qualms with generations are brought up in my response to David below -- ie, the Hedgehog Engine controls and the lack of momentum-based movement. But! I also would have liked for the Modern levels to be fully 3D instead of transitioning between 2D and 3D.

    Also, the All-Stars Racing games are REALLY good. Like nearly AMAZING, especially as a SEGA fan. Though, big surprise, they were made by an out-of-house development team, Sumo. If you haven't played them, they're both definitely worth a shot.

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