Sonic The Hedgehog: Looks like SEGA is gearing up for another soft-reboot

Avatar image for igort
Igort

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 1

Edited By Igort

Last Thursday Roger Craig Smith, the current and longest-serving voice actor for Sonic The Hedgehog announced he would be stepping down from the role after ten years. During Roger's tenure as the Blue Blur, the series tone shifted dramatically: 3D voice-acted Sonic games up until that point were typically drenched in stilted, poorly delivered dialogue dressing up overly melodramatic plots. This shift in tone focused the dialogue of the games more on jokes and goofs that didn't always land but at least were delivered more consistently (thanks to better voice acting and directing in general). The shift was thanks to the hiring of Ken Pontac and Warren Graff, who punched up the English localisations of the scripts to fit this new tone. Only now it seems as though, alongside the long-standing voice actors for Amy Rose and Tails, Pontac & Graff are moving on from the series too.

While it's impossible to tell exactly what direction Sonic will be heading in the future, I mentioned in my review of the entire series that it definitely felt as though Sonic Team were spinning their wheels with 2017's Sonic Forces, the latest game in the series and the fourth entry in what is considered the "Boost" era of Sonic The Hedgehog. After a brief detour in Sonic Lost World, Forces went back to the Boost formula that Unleashed/Colours/Generations had laid out and over the course of that games run-time it became evident why they had, if only for one game, moved away from that style of play: boring, uninspired levels showed a clear lack of interest on the part of the developers. Beyond just it's gameplay however: Sonic Forces storyline was indicative of a SEGA unsure of what to do with the Blue Blur: the dialogue still felt like the Pontac & Graff "Saturday-morning-cartoon" vibe, but the actual plot and story beats felt like it was chasing the shonen-vibe of the "Adventure" era and as a result the entire endeavor suffered.

Why chase the old era? Well, because it's what a very-vocal section of Sonic fans really really want. Social media posts from the official Sonic accounts become flooded with people demanding a return to that era of Sonic, either in small ways, or in large demands for a Sonic Adventure 3. While I mostly doubt that SEGA are interested in going back to that era of Sonic, Forces felt like it was trying to have it's cake and eat it too by trying to appeal to as many people in the fandom as possible.

As I said, the last time we got a major reshuffle of the cast and writing team like this was when Sonic Team shifted the focus of the series considerably with 2010's Sonic Colours (although the cast technically appeared in Sonic Free Riders a few months before). And the last time we got a shuffle before that? When the voice cast was replaced with the cast of the animated series Sonic X.

And I guess SEGA & Netflix just announced a new Sonic animated series will be launching in 2022.

So in 2003 SEGA recast all of Sonic's voice actors to bring the cast in line with (what they hoped would be) a popular animated series, to provide a sense of familiarity for people who were getting into the games because of that series. Then in 2010 SEGA recast all of the voice actors once again to provide a fresh slate as Sonic Team shifted the series entire tone in a new direction.

So there's a possibility here that SEGA are looking for a new cast for Sonic Prime, who can also double-up and provide the voices for future Sonic games which veer into a new direction; both gameplay wise and story wise. Perhaps they'll also take this opportunity to tie the two projects together? That'd certainly be a neat concept, even if it's a little far fetched. Perhaps Ben Schwartz, who voiced Sonic in that Sonic movie that did pretty well apparently, will be tapped as Sonic's voice actor across the whole franchise.

Sonic, as a series, has certainly had it's fair share of up's and down's, maybe some down's more than up's. But with the character riding high off that there film, I'm certainly hoping that in this, the year of Sonic's 30th Anniversary, SEGA can capitalize and deliver a fantastic experience to push Sonic into the future.

No pressure, though.

Avatar image for bigsocrates
bigsocrates

3377

Forum Posts

93

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

The Sonic franchise clearly needs to be shaken up in a big way. Roger Craig Smith was not the problem with it, but if that's what it takes to start a new era then it's fine.

I notice that you didn't mention Sonic Boom, which is yet ANOTHER attempt to tie in Sonic to an animated series that led to what was supposed to be an alternate version of Sonic and ended worse than anything since Sonic '06 (not the TV show, but the game.)

You also did not mention Sonic Mania, which of course has nothing to do with the voice actors but is an important part of recent Sonic history.

Sega is in a weird place as a company and it seems to be moving away from Sonic and towards more mature stuff like Persona and Yakuza, and has been for a while. I wonder what the long term plans are. It seems like Sonic might be more of a media property at this point than a game property. I'm sure there will be future Sonic games, but whether they're ever going to try to put a real big push behind them and make them major tentpole titles as opposed to cheaper cash in games, or more focused but smaller experiences like Mania, remains to be seen.

Avatar image for igort
Igort

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 1

I was gonna mention Sonic Boom but kinda glossed over it. It's interesting that Sonic Boom did the opposite of what Sonic X did; whereas the Sonic X cast were brought onto the games, SEGA (or whoever) felt that the game cast wast strong enough that they let them all provide voices for the show. That also ties into my musing about the potential for Sonic Prime being more tied into the games as they've clearly shown a precedent for wanting Sonic to exist in multiple mediums at once. Whereas Boom was separate from the main games but still had it's own games; maybe Prime can exist alongside whatever mainline games Sonic Team can provide in the future.

And yeah, right alongside "that movie did well, huh?" there's also Sonic Mania. While Forces may have been incredibly lackluster, it's mediocrity only felt more apparent considering it was hot off the heels of easily one of the best games Sonic's ever been in. Speaking of, while I did go out of the way to suggest Forces is the end of this current group of Sonic VAs and writers, technically Team Sonic Racing is that era's final hurrah (and is a decent game, even if it doesn't quite reach the heights of other character racing games).

It is indeed a weird time for SEGA and with all that news of a massive restructuring within the company who knows what they'll be focusing on next?

Avatar image for shindig
Shindig

5920

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#3  Edited By Shindig

Sonic the Hedgehog Maker.

Avatar image for clubvodka
Clubvodka

463

Forum Posts

1246

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 6

@shindig: Code it. Ship it. Done. In all seriousness, as a lifelong Sonic fan (31 years old), I'm amazed they haven't already. Literally anything would be better at this point.

Avatar image for topcyclist
Topcyclist

497

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Funny, all the hate that sonic gets, Sonic boom later season was meta in a funny way. Even jeff and Dan liked a bit of what they saw of it and they hate sonic for the most part.

Avatar image for franzlska
FRANZlSKA

106

Forum Posts

17366

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Would be interesting to seem them try and rebuild Sonic as a series at this point, but I'm not especially confident they could find new footing. They've tried a number of times in the past two decades ('06, Colors/Generations, 4, Boom) and not only never stuck with anything after the Adventure games, but never found any new formulae worth chasing either.

Avatar image for igort
Igort

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 1

@franzlska said:

Would be interesting to seem them try and rebuild Sonic as a series at this point, but I'm not especially confident they could find new footing. They've tried a number of times in the past two decades ('06, Colors/Generations, 4, Boom) and not only never stuck with anything after the Adventure games, but never found any new formulae worth chasing either.

Saying they "never stuck with anything" post-Adventure seems like a bit of a weird statement considering they did stick with the Boost formula for quite a while. Hell, aside from the odd black sheep (Lost World) the Boost era has actually lasted longer than the Adventure era did (2008-2017 vs 1998-2006).

Avatar image for mkernstock27
mkernstock27

2

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@clubvodka: Would it? I think most people (including actual children) can get away with making a shitty level in Mario Maker because it's slow, and you still have enough control when slow to make it still potentially fun. Or it's just plain dumb, which still feels kinda fun somehow? The original Sonic games are so good because the levels are designed so well--the moments you're going fast feel fluid, and even when you're going slow there's still generally a rhythm there. I would not be confident in turning that over to the audience, personally. Christian Whitehead and the guys behind Mania are the exception, obviously. I mean shit, look at how many bad Sonic games there are--even the pros can't pull it off every time. A decent portion of their fans think they haven't made a good one in over 25 years.

Avatar image for igort
Igort

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 1

@mkernstock27: Yeah, I think I tend to agree more with you when it comes to the idea of a Super Sonic Maker, and I think the difference typically lies in the nature of their levels: whereas you can get away with a Mario Maker because Mario's 2D levels can exist as blocky chunks that fit nicely on a grid; Sonic's 2D levels depend so much more on slopes, quarter-pipes, and loop-de-loops feeding into Sonic's momentum. And that simplicity with the grid formula is what makes Mario Maker shine. I'm not saying they couldn't do something to make that system work, but it runs the risk of over complicating the simplicity that makes Mario Maker what it is.

And then, as you say, the level design aspect. I've never played a Sonic fan-game that hasn't frustrated me in some way with it's awkward level design (even Christian Whitehead's pre-Mania stuff felt off), and the people that make Sonic fan-games are taking it more seriously than the average person would. That's not to say that everyone who made a level in Mario Maker automatically struck gold, or that there isn't potential for some stellar levels in a hypothetical Sonic Maker, but the odds feel stacked against it.

Avatar image for gythaogden
GythaOgden

10

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I just watched AVGN's destruction of Sonic 06 and I think the premise of the story was sound -- an adventure game framework leading to individual levels outside the city. It's just a shame they didn't construct it well.

That said, I am most comfortable with Sonic as a 2D platformer. The games I've been having most fun with are Sonic Rush on the DS and Sonic Advance on the GBA. It's in 2D that Sonic shines and I think that there is more freedom to experiment with 2D games now that 3D is in a more comfortable position in the market. Sonic is fun rather than epic and I don't think it needs huge innovation, just a more solid programming technique.

Avatar image for clubvodka
Clubvodka

463

Forum Posts

1246

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 6

#12  Edited By Clubvodka

@mkernstock27: Maybe just Sonic Mania 2 then? Mania and Sonic Generations are probably my favourites in recent years but a lot of that was playing to nostalgia, it worked but it isn't sustainable. I don't envy any dev trying to make a fresh and commercially successful Sonic game.

Avatar image for tds418
tds418

640

Forum Posts

151

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

@bigsocrates said:

It seems like Sonic might be more of a media property at this point than a game property.

I think this is very true, and helps to explain the poor quality of many recent Sonic games. It often seems nowadays that the Sonic games are attempts to cash-in on the success of the cartoons, movie, etc., instead of the other way around. Why spend the time and $ on a game if a certain percentage of the TV/movie audience is going to buy it anyway?

Avatar image for shagge
ShaggE

9535

Forum Posts

15

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

I mean, the solution is staring them right in the face: What if Shadow the Hedgehog? Now, hear me out: I'm not suggesting bringing back Shadow, no no no, I say bring back Shadow but now he's edgier than ever! He listens to The Korns, scoffs at teachers to their faces, and has an older brother who totally has a weed stash you guys! Oh, and now Sonic raps or something.

Boom, Sonic franchise saved, bigger than Mario in 5-10 years.

Avatar image for jeremyf
jeremyf

566

Forum Posts

2962

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 9

#15  Edited By jeremyf

Another wrinkle is that Mike Pollack is the only 4kids voice actor to continue his role through the present. For most Sonic fans he IS Eggman, voicing him in the games for over 15 years at this point. They probably won't recast him, but if they do, it will be WEIRD at first. Unless they somehow get Jim Carrey back... in all seriousness I do think they'll tap Ben Schwartz for the games, he seems to really enjoy the role and fans responded warmly overall.

Also, Sonic Mania 2 is one of the bigger instances of leaving money on the table I can think of.

Avatar image for igort
Igort

50

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 1

@tds418ehhhhh can't say I agree. Sonic games haven't really been able to cash-in on the success of Sonic cartoons because in the last fifteen years there's only been one Sonic series, and it only lasted two seasons. And there hasn't been a game released near or since the movie launched, so if SEGA were going to release a game to cash-in on it's success they missed a window already.

Avatar image for tds418
tds418

640

Forum Posts

151

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

@igort: Yeah, I guess I don’t disagree. But I do think Sonic is a cultural figure like Mario or Pikachu whose presence in popular culture is largely independent from the new games coming out. And that the Sonic Team games do try to capitalize on that.