Believe it or not, I often find myself playing more than one game a day for the purposes of this project, either because I want to spend some extra time on a particular title or due to the (often correct) assumption that I’ll end up with a game I simply have nothing to say about. In the case of Sonic the Hedgehog, I’ve actually dabbled in roughly a half dozen different titles, never quite sure if if wanted to open that particular can of worms.
Being a Sonic fan is hard these days. At least, I assume it is. Truth be told, despite being a life-long Sega kid, I never had much of an attachment to him, more in love with the idea of Sega as a whole, as the erratic company that kept putting out unconventional stuff in spite of perhaps better fiscal judgment. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend a lot of time with those original games, but even I recognized that Mario was better.
The story of Sonic in a modern context has always been one of reliving past glories, a seemingly endless cycle of developers insisting that the next title would “return Sonic to his roots” and bring back that feeling we all had the first time we saw and heard Green Hill Zone. This would, of course, lead to a game that usually missed the mark completely, like that one where he turned into a werewolf for some reason. But here’s the thing, there have been good Sonic games; Colors, Rush, Generations, all of which offered something new without leaving those fans of the old school isolated, but for some reason, we (critics, if you can allow me to label myself as such for a moment) will still deride the announcement of a new Sonic as if it were yet another attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. We found the genie. It may not have been the amazing genie that you were looking for, but, quite frankly, he never was that.
Do we ignore those good titles because there’s simply no way for something new to match the expectation (and nostalgia) that we had? Or is it because mediocre games like Sonic: Lost World continue to exist? Lost World certainly plays like something from a universe where Sonic still has something to prove, but is pulled in so many directions that he has no identity anymore. It doesn’t seem to know what audience it wants to please, be it the Sonic fans wanting nothing but speed, the ones that actually remember the older games and their slower moments or the younger crowd that simply need something visually interesting that will practically play itself. What results is a meshing of all three inside of a very confusing Mario Galaxy-esque level design that can make it very difficult to even figure out exactly where you’re supposed to be, let alone how you’re supposed to maintain speed whilst going there.
But it’s pretty, and the music is nice. The fact that these games still get made must mean they’re selling to someone, and for that someone, such debates about whether or not Sonic will ever return to former glory are irrelevant. It’s not even much of a question when you think about it. Of course he won’t, but I’d also argue that perhaps he doesn’t need to. For myself, the fairweather Sonic fan that would be more than content to just play Generations whenever in need of a fix, he’s fine to simply exist. That’s more than most other platforming mascots have been able to do.