The Sonic Challenge
Also this week, I put together a review of Sonic Mania, Sega’s latest Sonic The Hedgehog game and an attempted throwback to the look and feel of the series’ most beloved entries. As someone who spent a ton of time playing Sonic back in the day but eventually cooled on his early ’90s outings, even I really loved it. But there are some things endemic to Sonic The Hedgehog that plenty of people just flat-out don’t like. DrFlimFlam ran down his history with the games in the comments:
I never quite “got” Sonic, since it mostly seemed designed to move faster than I could follow and react, a kind of train without a brake until I smacked into something I couldn’t have possibly seen coming, a game that served up surprises and gee-whiz visuals at first but really wanted you to stop, explore, and eventually figure out a way to zoom through the entire level, the player’s reflexes and knowledge combined in perfect synchronicity. Sega, in general, seemed to operate with that design, that The Perfect Run was the point of gaming, becoming so familiar with a game’s concept and systems that you could manipulate the game to such a degree that it appears choreographed.
I liked Sonic Generations somewhat, though I admit even that was just “solid” for me, and without the experience of having loved (or really understood) Sonic games myself (I’ve always been a Nintendo Coca-Cola to Sega’s Pepsi), I can only nod and smile politely. But then I read things like this review and I wonder if maybe this time, maybe now, it will somehow click and finally show me what I’ve never understood about this blue hedgehog and his increasingly weird posse of animal friends. And “Stranger In Moscow” is a hell of a good song.
Speaking of Sonic’s friends, Jakeoti ran down why the creators of Sonic Mania should think about coming up with a new character of their own, should they get a shot at a sequel:
If the team gets to do more in the future, I hope one of the ways they distinguish themselves is adding a new character or two.
I know, I know, the riff on Sonic is usually that the cast is way too expansive and unnecessary, but hear me out. I think there’s a misconception that, just because the “great” Sonic games end when they started adding more characters, the trinity of Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails is perfect. Yeah, they’re pretty good. Sonic is your standard for the series, while Tails and Knuckles each sacrifice speed for something. (Tails’ flight makes him kind of an easy mode character, while Knuckles gets powers that make his levels feel like a different game entirely.) What I think truly separates them from the rest of the cast is that they were designed with their own abilities first. Other characters are introduced for story purposes or just to have a new “cool” character. But then, that design clashes with gameplay. It’s why we get clunky non-Sonic mechanics in these games. Even characters that play a bit more traditionally have a weird identity crisis. Like, Amy in Sonic Advance—I guess she uses her hammer for all her stuff instead of rolling? So is her core identity “hammer”? It certainly conflicts with her original design purpose, which was basically “Sonic’s girlfriend.”
I dunno, this has been a wordy way of saying: figure out a new mechanic that is fun to use in a Sonic game, then do something with that. Make a character that fits the mechanic.
All In The Family
Alex McLevy dropped by this week to bring us a review of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a new spin-off of Naughty Dog’s popular adventure starring two fan-favorite characters, Chloe and Nadine, rather than Nathan Drake. He had an issue with the way Chloe’s backstory was told in monologues at the end of each mission and how relegating it to those chunks made her familial story feel less important than the one the other Uncharted games told. Neuroticmoose disagreed with that last sentiment:
The whole narrative force of most of those games and their emotional cores come from finding family in unlikely places and that our origins don’t dictate who we are, except for the fourth game, which mainly focused on the often rocky relationship between two brothers. Even there, the surrogate family Nate had built in the previous games are the ones who end up convincing him that his brother has an unhealthy obsession with the treasure that is almost sure to get him killed
Hungryforpie99 picked up on that and wrote about disliking the Uncharted 4’s long-lost brother angle:
That reminds me how much I hated the whole “by the way, Nate has a long-lost brother who conveniently wasn’t mentioned in any of the previous games even though they were apparently super-close as kids and is a big reason Nate became a treasure hunter” plot. One of the things that I really loved about Uncharted 1-3 was seeing the bonds that Nate had developed with all sorts of different and interesting people throughout the course of his life, so it was frustrating seeing him risk his life and his relationship with Elena for a brother we don’t have any emotional investment in.
Then the writers of U4 come barreling in, trying to prove that blood was more important than anything else and that the “Drake legacy” apparently meant something, which went against everything that was developed in the previous games. Even though Nate saw that Sam’s obsession with treasure could get him killed, he still forgave Sam for his lies and manipulation. And he still ended up risking his life multiple times to save his idiot brother (even after he had the chance to escape with Elena). By the end of the game, I couldn’t have been less invested in the story because I just didn’t care about whether Nate’s douchebag brother ended up dead or the situation Nate had gotten himself into by choosing to follow said long-lost brother who apparently meant more to him than anyone else we actually had become emotionally invested in over the course of three other games.
Before You Go
As you all know by now, this is likely to be one of the last Keyboard Geniuses on this current incarnation of Gameological, but rest assured, it’s far from the last Keyboard Geniuses we’ll ever put together. This feature, just like all our other features, isn’t going anywhere once we transition over to our new home. They’ll just look a little different. And as long as you amazing people follow us to our next destination and keep having these scintillating conversations every week, we’ll keep highlighting them, because you deserve it.
In fact, the new site is way more flexible than what we’re working with now, and I have some ideas about how we can take the spirit of Keyboard Geniuses and our tight-knit community even further. It’s going to be an experimental time, and I’m incredibly excited for the chance at something new. I know change is scary, but I sincerely hope you all can be juuuuuuust a little excited too.
So from the bottom of my heart: Thank you all so much for your support and love over the years. Words can’t possibly express how much it’s meant to me, John, and every single writer whose name has ever graced these pages. (Seriously, go ask any of the amazingly talented people who’ve since gone on to greater things about their favorite site to write for and I guarantee you folks will be the reason why they choose this one.) We’ll keep on rocking as long as you keep showing up.
That’ll do it for this week, all you Gameologerinos, stud fiends, and johnny boys. We’ll see you all next week.