When you talk about appeal in the sense of video games, you have to think of it in terms of a shield or a barrier against a particular belief. A type of authority that people respect regardless of actual quality. It’s like saying the President of the USA is “good” because he has a nice smile and great hair.

Or Obama is good because “he’s the first Black President and we need to support him” despite how much he spits on black people time and time again. And you can’t cut tongues about him if you tried.

Appeal is a barrier to criticism that demands conformity and favoritism from dissenters and fans alike. It is the counter to Cranky Gamer Syndrome, the psychological condition that compels gamers to acts of defamation on every single aspect of a video game (usually for the sake of gaining celebrity status on the internet).

Nintendo has appeal that is, for all intents and purposes, damn near impervious. Nintendo seems incapable of being hated. This despite numerous atrocities in game design philosophy over the course  of 12 years. There is a reason for this.

Now, I’ve heard comments that “Mario” in particular has games that are consistent in design. Lets be clear. The consistency has nothing to do with gameplay. It is a lie to declare it so. Mario’s gameplay is drastically different from previous “classic games” in the series. The only actual consistency is that Mario is still very sugar-coated in aesthetic design and universe. This is the key to the consistency claims. Look at Metroid. The series appeal has been obliterated after Other M. Nintendo is damned terrified to even mention it, even on the series anniversary. Starfox, nobody cares about Starfox anymore thanks to Nintendo’s lack of care for the series (it was, afterall, made by an American developer). Zelda fluctuates back and forth due to art design, but it’s clearly fucked. No one cares about F-Zero or Custom Robo or Fire Emblem. The only games that people still truly care about from Nintendo are Mario, Pokemon, and maybe even Kirby. Lets slap Xenoblade up there seeing as there’s a sequel coming out. What do these 3 game series have in common?

The overall art styles and tones of each series have never changed. Anytime there is a change in art style or tone is when a series begins to lose it’s appeal.

This is the consistency everyone talks about. It has nothing to do with actual gameplay so as long as the over-arching content is consistent to previous entries in a series. Gameplay could change for all anyone could care as long as the game’s content doesn’t. This is the key.

We can all agree that Sonic’s content is constantly fluctuating. From the middle-ground of the Adventure games to the cheese fest of Heroes to the detrimental “edgy” world of Shadow the Hedgehog to the Anime Drama fanfiction of Sonic 06 and then to the middle-ground of Unleashed, and then to the saturday-morning cartoon aspects of Colors and Generations both. Is it any wonder why the fanbase is so angry? So confused as to what the hell Sonic should be about?

The problem has always been inherent of Sonic’s design. Sonic was only supposed to show off hardware. He wasn’t supposed to be edgy. That was a marketing gimmick. But it was obvious that the Japanese had a few different ideas. The truth is everyone who had a hand in developing  Sonic’s world has had a completely different interpretation of who the character and universe was about. You can see in Generations that SOJ is trying hard to appeal to western gamers, but they don’t really “get it”. The real problem is Sonic’s world was barely developed even in the classic games prior to Sonic Adventure. The stories we relied on came from licensed works, and that’s where the major confusion comes from. Now that SOJ started paying attention to story details, we have fans that obsessively try to force everyone to accept SOJ’s late entry to the series, and then the wars start.

Sakamoto doesn’t even understand Metroid. Afterall, he inherited it from Gunpei Yokoi. Sakamoto believes Metroid is about Samus’s “broken housewife” personality. It’s not. Eiji Aonuma believes Zelda should be a PC Adventure style Mother goose game. It’s not. Universal believes Spyro should be a mini-epic flight combat game. And you can see the results each time something changes.

Nothing pisses people off more than change. A single difference might be all it takes to set a mother fucker off. If the whole package is different, the world will be mad as hell. Shadow the Hedgehog having a gun was all it took to set them all off. Now the Adventure games “suck”.

Zelda series, a lot of people do not look favorably upon the classic games in the series. Zelda’s content fluctuated. Metroid 1 and 2 don’t matter to anyone. Metroid’s content fluctuated. All Mario games are looked upon favorably. Mario’s content never fluctuated.

Fluctuation of the content erodes the appeal of the content, and gives way for Cranky Gamer Syndrome to arise. Gameplay does not matter unless the game has no appeal. No one question’s the gameplay of COD or Halo. Both franchises have strong appeal. That is an undeniable fact. No one questions the gameplay of Tekken. Playstation is “appeal made easy”. Everyone is questioning the gameplay of Resident Evil. RE5 eroded the series appeal. RE4 still felt like RE despite playing differently and having no fear factor. RE5, you’re are literally in broad daylight for most of the damn game and it feels more like Gears of War. Appeal eroded.

Now… look at Sonic.

Many Sonic games prior to Adventure 1 all had similar themes, tone, and atmosphere. Sonic games were fantasy games with animals that possessed strange powers (none of which were horribly generic like today). Levels were all very bright, colorful, “techno” (CD), but had a neon-like feel to each and every level. Even S3K which felt nearly different from the last 3 titles that came out. The first 3 levels of Sonic 1. Just look at the design and the music and the elements present in those levels. Then to the Hill tops and the Mystic Caves of Sonic 2. Hydrocity and Mushroom Hill of S3K. Collision Chaos, Tidal Tempest, and Wacky Workbench in CD. Hell, just look at all of the levels of the games up until Adventure. These kinds of levels were (in essence) unique to Sonic. Even the supposedly realistic factory levels still had a Sonic feel to them. But then you get a level like Oil Ocean which gives Sonic a surreal feeling to it.

But personally, pay attention to the colors used. The vibrancy of Sonic’s world and universe stood out the most and gave the series a somewhat “dreamworld” essence to it. A lot of Sega games had these elements like Ristar, Astal, Phantasy Star Online, and Nights. But in the general sense, it all started with Sonic the Hedgehog in this stance.

The music of the series also gave the games a distinction from other games out at the time. Even the vocals of Sonic R was unique to Sonic the Hedgehog. And hell, Sonic R’s soundtrack is probably more memorable than all the soundtracks of future games in this series period. The music is an overall description of game’s tone and atmosphere. Music defines personality of the universe in the game. This is, probably, more important than the art design as people can detect what kind of content is in a game by it’s music. If it’s hard rock, you’re probably in the streets beating up thugs, or if it’s orchestrated, it’s one of those medevil “epics”. Or even military shooters.

The techno-dreamworld elements were essentially what defined Sonic’s universe.

Now, we go to Sonic Adventure 1, and the techno-dreamworld is left behind. Takashi Iizuka and the gang decided to focus on basing Adventure 1’s world strictly on the real world. All the trivia nerds could go on and on about how the Mystic Ruins were based on the Mayan temples and Tikal’s name coming from a pyramid/Mur and Station Square being based on California (or was that City Escape?). Whatever. This was the game that took a shift toward realistic locations. While we could point out the Casino level, Twinkle Park, and even the Windy Valley levels, everything is overshadowed by more realistic looking levels. And then Sonic Adventure 2 had little to no techno-dreamworld elements unless you went to the Chao garden. The music also took a change from Sonic’s unique flair to (if I may say) “generic” rock music, something that could be found in several other games at the time. And then we get into the gameplay changes that some might care about. This is the fluctuation of content. The shift of Techno-dreamworld to “Realism” is the biggest shift in Sonic’s Universe.

And then, Sega went back and forth with it. Sonic Heroes is, again, fluctuation of content. Instead of focusing strictly on realism, the game tries to harken back to the classic series games, giving back the “Acts” as well as special stages. There’s only one problem. The content itself is still clinged to it’s realism factor from the Adventure games. This is combined with it’s music which is still mostly composed of rock. The only level that succeeds at harkening back to the classic levels are the Frog Forest Zones. Bingo Highway screwed Casino Park for the most part due to it’s rock music. Rail Canyon feels more akin to Red Mountain and Wild Canyon than Hill Top. Sea Side Hill = Emerald Coast. Egg Fleet felt less like Flying Battery/Wing Fortress and more like the Sky Deck and Hot Shelter levels.

NOTE: This isn’t a bad thing, btw. I know some of you are foaming at the mouth just reading this.

Not only that, but the game’s characters also seemed out of place. Since Heroes took place after Adventure 2, the tone of the game is cheesy as well. Adventure 2’s story had a middle-ground of light-hearted coolness and dark edginess to accompany the characters. Playing Sonic Heroes feels like playing a spinoff. Team Dark feels drastically out of place. Not to mention “Lets show that creep the real super power of TEAMWORK!”

So we really didn’t know what to think by now. Most people were ok with Heroes, others became disorientated by the flip-flopping content. And then we get to Shadow which, again, shifted away from the elements of Heroes and goes straight for realism overload, combined with heavy metal, guns, profanity, etc. The content of Shadow the Hedgehog was severely drastic. And the results are here. So when we come to Sonic 06 where the content then seems to go into Final Fantasy 7 territory, the content fluctuates again. This is why some Sonic fans go around saying Sonic has an “identity crisis”, because the content is not consistent. The period from Sonic Adventure 1 up to Sonic 06 (this includes all of the portable games) is completely bizarre as nothing seems to fit together cohesively. The universe, the music, the worlds present, everything. Due to this lack of consistency, not the gameplay, people are perpetually frustrated with the franchise because it jumps around what it’s own content is supposed to be. Sonic Unleashed was still caught up in trying to play the realism card, while Colors jumped back into the Techno-Dreamworld that made Sonic unique (cue people declaring it a good game due to this).

This is why Sonic cannot escape this conundrum. The franchise broke the unwritten commandment “thou shalt not change it’s content for the sake of appealing to a different crowd”. The appeal of the franchise is gone unless there is a reboot. And that’s usually the only way for it gain any real ground. You see, no one bothers talking about Colors or Generations, what most consider to be good games, because it’s a game that is still tied to previous entries like 06 (generations directly references the game as being significant to it’s universe afterall). Or… because of CGS and an unhealthy desire to defame the series.

Believe it or not, but people are addicted to consistency within continuity.

If you have a universe, they should all flow together with little to no fluctuation. It’s why Pokemon has never lost it’s appeal. Look at the Batman films. The tim burton movies died at #3 and no one could really stomach the series afterward. Plus, actor changes constantly.  Too much fluctuation occurred. They had to reboot it, and it is now the most overrated Comic book film franchise in the history of mankind. Hulk had to be rebooted as well. The X-Men films DESPERATELY need to be rebooted. After 3, everyone can’t even stomach the films. Most would say First Class was good, but many would not give a damn about it. It’s all still tied to the same continuity.

If you have even one bad entry in a series that continues going and going, the lack of consistency in quality becomes apparent. Because people cannot get that one chapter of the series out of their minds. The next entry of the Metroid series is going to be under a tight watch. Other M had to have been the single most devastating entry in any series.

Starting fresh with a new continuity set would do well to wash the bad taste out of the fans mouths. It’s the only way to do it. The problem is the fans don’t even want that either.

People are not satisfied as the Sonic Series does not have a universe so much as every game is set in an alternate continuity. But given that Sega makes no distinction between each game, there is universal confusion and frustration. The plot holes that surround that bitch Blaze the Cat are endless. Why did Knuckles become such a retarded shit head with an inferiority complex? Whats with the overuse of beach/island themed levels nowadays? And with the epidemic of CGS, that frustration is taken out on the gameplay, which could, for all intents and purposes, be just fine. Poor, poor night levels.

To illustrate the Techno-Dreamworld aspect of the previous Sonic games, pay attention to the overall design and music:

Special stages from Sonic 3D Blast Saturn version.

Botanic Base from Knuckles Chaotix

……The whole damn SCD game, basically.

Springyard Zone

Oil Ocean

….You get the idea, hopefully.

Now contrast these kinds of levels with the “realistic ones” from the modern Sonic games, and you can see this “lack of consistency” at work.

Ocean Palace: Heroes

White Acropolis (and hell, the whole game)

Spagonia: Unleashed

Speed Highway

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLtAjn2eGq4

Route 99: Advance 3

Yes. Even your precious City Escape.

Can you see it? The fluctuation of content? The near abandonment of anything resembling Sonic’s previous universe? It’s literally not the same thing anymore. At least in terms of universe building.

Sonic fans delude themselves in thinking “well change isn’t bad, you’re just nostalgic!”. The accusations of “nostalgia” are the cries of fools who are only obsessed with the “evolution” of gaming. And those obsessed with evolution would be more likely to push changes on everything for the sake of. And usually, evolution involves “more realistic” in this sense. Change does not automatically make something good. Hardcore gamers in general seem disgusted by “classic games” due to this mode of thinking. Something that is old is not automatically something to be opposed. And hell, many fans seem opposed to classic games because gamers can’t stop talking about them. It annoys people to no end.

There’s more to the Classic Sonic games than a basic character design and no voice acting. It’s actually it’s history that the series is not taking into account. Again, the content of Mario and Pokemon has remained virtually the same. Zelda fluctuated with Wind Waker, then Phantom Hourglass, then Spirit fucking Tracks, and now Skyward Sword. They can win all the pretentious awards, but the sales keep going down. Obviously, if this “change” shit didn’t work for Starfox either, how in the hell can it work for a series who’s reputation is virtually obliterated? Change only needs to occur when a PROBLEM is present. And that problem needs to justify the changes. Did Sonic’s universe need to go into the realism realm? Did the music need to change? Did we need a million beach levels?

Zelda did not need to change. It just came about because Aonuma is a dipshit who has no respect for the franchise. Metroid NEEDED to change because no one bought Super Metroid, but it was just fine without Sakamoto’s mangafication of Other M. Changes need to come only to fix a problem. When changes come for no reason other than the creator’s desire for experimentation, the fans get pissed. There’s no other way around it.

Sonic’s CONTENT kept changing, and the fandom’s frustration only rises.

Advertisements