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Sonic and the Story of a Franchise Reborn

by Zack Kaplan - October 16, 2013, 9:20 am PDT
Total comments: 4

Many successes within recent years have put Sonic back on the gaming radar.

Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most influential video game characters of all time, making him an obviously important part of the gaming industry. Back in the days when Sega was making consoles, Sonic could be found everywhere, cereal boxes and McDonalds Happy Meal toys included. Times have changed, however, and so has Sonic. When Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in 2001, less than two years after launching in North America, Sega became a third party game publisher and Sonic no longer had one specific console to call home.

Since Sega left the hardware business, Sonic has managed to survive on other systems, including Nintendo’s handhelds and consoles along with competing systems and mobile devices. In many cases, it has been a bumpy ride, but Sonic has managed to collect his rings after a stumble and move on to bigger and better titles.

Many gamers who feel Sonic has “lost his way” point to Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 as the first “next generation” Sonic game, this is considered to be the low point in the Sonic franchise. Despite mediocre to awful reviews, it sold relatively well worldwide, but the bad taste it left in many people’s mouths has hurt the perception of the franchise since.

As time went on, so many Sonic games were released with poor reviews that Sega started taking action by delisting Sonic titles with “average” scores on Metacritic in 2010. By taking these poorly received titles off shelves, they hoped to “increase the value of the brand.” Though speed may be the focus of Sonic games, quality over quantity has proved time and time again to be the real key to a thriving series. With that in mind, the Sonic franchise has experienced a rebirth within only the past few years.

In the last three to five years, Sonic has seen a big turnaround. Much of the series’ success lies in less conventional titles. A series exclusive to Nintendo platforms, the spin-off sports game Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games was a substantial success, with the two sequels that followed also selling well. They may have not been popular among game reviewers, and it did help that the name Mario was in the title, but either way, it put Sonic in a game that appealed to the Wii masses. 2010’s Sonic Colors on the DS and Wii was an example of the long-needed critical shot in the arm the franchise needed.

Other spin-off titles have also reviewed well, like Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed have performed well and reviewed admirably. Other examples of series successes within recent years have been found on smartphones and tablets. Since mobile gaming exploded, with the likes of Angry Birds and Cut the Rope ruling, Sonic has made a name for himself with re-releases of classic Sonic games like Sonic CD.

While Sonic might not be found as abundantly as he was in the '90s, taking a look around, it seems that Sonic still has life in him yet. Go into any Toys"R"Us and you will see Sonic plush toys abound. Turn on the TV in the morning and you may just find Sonic X repeats running. Visit a local comic book store, and you’ll find Sonic the Hedgehog comic books, including a recent crossover with Mega Man. Even the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has had a balloon of modern Sonic since 2011.

For one day a year, Americans gather around their dining room tables to give thanks to Sonic.

Sonic’s place in the fast moving game industry used to be trying to catch up with his rivals, releasing game after game in order to maintain a wavering franchise. There has been a major turnaround in Sonic within the past three to five years, and this looks to be continuing with Sonic Lost World, a game exclusive to 3DS and Wii U.

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Talkback

IssunZXOctober 16, 2013

Sonic may be "back on the gaming radar" but critics will continue to beat the dead horse over Sonic having a couple mediocre games and one really bad title for as long as it's still running. I won't be at all surprised if reviews for Lost World open up with how Sonic games haven't been good in years (because supposedly time stopped after 2006 when it comes to Sonic). I'm personally sick of Sonic constantly being a punching bag for critics who think they're being clever by constantly bringing up one bad title. I don't see any other franchise get this kind of treatment.

SEGA definitely has tried to be more watchful and protective of the brand though. Between actually giving the developers time to work on titles (which was quite a rarity in the past) to being more actively involved in the production of the comic series and actually producing merchandise (this was a rarity when I was a kid). It definitely is a revival of sorts, though it started about five years ago, despite what some people like to say.

MetalMario2October 16, 2013

Bullcrap. "Sonic Colors" and "Sonic Generations" were both mediocre games at best, but desperate fans hail them as the Second Coming simply because they weren't terrible. The Sonic games were never that good in the first place; they were just technically impressive alternatives to Super Mario Bros. And, like any franchise built primarily on gimmicks, Sonic has been completely 0wned by the passage of time, and it didn't start with Sonic '06. Face it, the Sonic Adventure games have aged about as well as dead fish. And if fans weren't satisfied with what Sega tried to do with "Sonic the Hedgehog 4", then I simply don't believe them when they say they want to get back to Sonic's roots. No, their problem is Sega shows them Sonic's roots, and they're forced to see how flimsy those roots are.

Fatty The HuttOctober 16, 2013

Colors and Generations are both good games. Lost World looks very good indeed. Check out the extended gameplay video right here on good ol' NWR and tell me it doesn't look great.

LucarioOctober 16, 2013

i agree with fatty

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