Next year, it will be Sonic’s 25th anniversary, but what’s there to celebrate if there isn’t much of a future left? Of course, I’m saying this because of the abject failure of Sega’s Sonic Boom games (Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal respectively), which have been declared by fans and critics as two of the worst games in the history of the Sonic franchise.
Due to financial difficulties and a busy schedule, I haven’t been able to play either one, but all this negative press had come to my attention, so as a hardcore Sonic fan, I’m here to make sense of the situation, and offer my comment on the way Sega is handling the ageing franchise.
I remember when Sega announced the concept last year. Back then, nobody knew how it would turn out, but I was adamant that it would turn out well. If the gaming press is to be believed, then it looks as though my hopes were misplaced. Aside from the new character designs being hard to get used to, chief among the complaints for both games included lacklustre gameplay, a poorly written story, and bad dialogue, but the general consensus is that the Wii U version is far worse, with broken controls, camera issues, and numerous reported glitches. In other words, Sega fucked up…again.
In fact, I think this is sounds an awful lot like what happened to Sonic ’06; a game that was supposed to bring new life to the Sonic franchise, but instead cause it to teeter on the brink of oblivion. I worry that this is exactly what’s happening as a result of the Sonic Boom games, but this time it’s even worse, because this is the result of two disasters, and not just one. From what I can tell, these were games that Sega clearly rushed for the holiday season in order to coincide with their new TV show and line of kid’s toys. It’s almost the same flaw as Sonic ’06, except this time, Sega was clearly afraid of how they thought these games would be received by fans. In a way, they botched the games through their own lack of confidence.
In my opinion, a big problem with the franchise is that, after Sonic ’06, there have been too many poorly conceived new directions for game series. I can tell that this may have been the biggest gamble so far, and it failed miserably, all because it’s highly apparent that all the effort went into the marketing, the art design, and the TV show. After this, I think Sega is going to take fewer risks, with the new iOS title Sonic Runners looking like a by-the-numbers, retro-style Sonic platformer, just to make up for what is widely recognised as an abject failure. In a sense, these games may have crippled the franchise in a way that even Sonic ’06 couldn’t accomplish (at least that game made strong sales from the Sonic name).
All in all, I’d say that Sonic’s lost it this time. There’s an old saying that I think perfectly fits the Sonic franchise. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. What I’m about to say violates every once of my childhood love of the Sonic franchise, but it must be said. Should we in the gaming community really trust a franchise that, if I’m very honest, will never get its mojo back and keep it? Sega already screwed it up twice, and unless it takes a third major screw-up for them to get the message, I think it’s very obvious that there’s very little hope left for the franchise.
I might still get the 3DS version, if mainly because I still have some faith in the franchise left. The Wii U version, on the other hand, might be a poor investment on my part. For many Sonic fans, however, I think the message is clear. The Sonic franchise is in its twilight years, and its hard to imagine one of the most enduring video game characters of all time calling it a career, but I think that’s exactly what should happen, because it’s clear that the longer Sega tries to keep Sonic alive and relevant, the further apart the newer incarnation of Sonic will be to its original audience.
After 24 years, I think the Sonic franchise has gone far enough. We’ll always remember the classic games, but the newer games will never eclipse them, and maybe it’s time for Sonic Team to stop trying.