Is Sonic the Hedgehog Still Relevant? Definitely.
It's an argument that feels like it's been going on for eons -- is Sonic the Hedgehog still relevant in today's gaming world?
The debate is somewhat understandable; Sonic has had a bit of a rough history over the last couple of decades. Despite being an infamous icon of the 90's, he's now mostly become associated with his string of mediocre-to-terrible titles.
His early days on the Mega Drive, when he was considered a legitimate threat to Nintendo's own Super Mario, and even some of his more recent successes like Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations are conveniently forgotten about when the argument comes up. Some people (usually non-Sonic fans) just say that the series should die; that it has actually never been good (really, guys?).
It's all too easy to make fun of Sonic.
Anyone can do it; he's become something of a punching bag that anyone, regardless of their connection to the series or knowledge of it, can just go up to and mock relentlessly.
But, in a way, there's a bit of an irony there. People say Sonic's not relevant anymore. Well, he is. Because you're still talking about him, even if it's in a negative context. If he really didn't matter anymore, wouldn't you all have given up? Wouldn't the announcement of a new game just leave you apathetic and uninterested?
Say what you want about the series; it must be doing something right to have lasted this long and to have survived despite the likes of Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog being made.
Sega recently announced two new titles as part of Sonic's 25th anniversary: Sonic Mania (a throwback to the classic games) and an untitled 2017 game that will feature both Modern and Classic Sonic. And guess what? People are talking about them. Fans are curious and excited for them (especially the latter since we know so little about it) and those detractors that I've mentioned, upon hearing the news, rushed to their keyboards to let people know that they'll probably be terrible. Regardless of the intentions, it's generated conversation. Is that not the definition of being relevant?
It's obviously too soon to say that Sonic has recovered from that brief return to mediocrity, but it's clear that Sega is trying to do something about it. There's still plenty of future plans for the hedgehog -- and not just the games. There's still the second season of the Sonic Boom cartoon and a feature length movie in the works. And let's not forget how Sega's adopted a new level of self-awareness in terms of the franchise, acknowledging its many flaws and even making fun of itself. The official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account has even gained recognition because of this.
Will this new direction work?
I certainly hope so -- because despite the ups and downs, despite the poor titles, I'm still a Sonic fan. And so are many others. Call it Stockholm Syndrome if you will, but we've experienced good Sonic games. We KNOW that Sonic can be good. Sega has always been indecisive with how to handle him; it's why we've seen Sonic turn into a werewolf and wield a sword -- Sega seemed to forget just who they were trying to appeal to.
I don't think we should be debating over whether Sonic deserves to exist in this modern-day industry, because it's clear that he's still relevant to some people. The fans still want more adventures with the guy and Sega seems more than willing to make them.
And from a business perspective, Sonic is still one of their most marketable franchises -- it was the game that MADE them the developer they are today. Would they really be so willing to just abandon it? Even after all this time, it's still one of the best selling franchises in all of video gaming, having made over 140 million sales. Say what you want about the series; it must be doing something right to have lasted this long and to have survived despite the likes of Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog being made.
The question that we should be asking is much simpler and more obvious. Will the next few games be good?
Before even Sonic Mania, we've got another Sonic Boom title, Fire & Ice, coming to the 3DS in September. Despite their quality, though, you can bet us Sonic fans will buy them. Much like the series itself, we're a stubborn bunch but we still believe in Sonic. Like I said, we know good games are possible and while it may be misplaced, I'm positive Sega and Sonic Team can turn things around, regardless of what the detractors say.