Nearly every 2D Sonic game is great, while the opposite can be said of the 3D iterations. Why is that? More importantly however, why do they keep being made after so much negative evidence to discourage the attempt?
My best guess is that game publishers are terrified people won’t play ‘retro’ games, so they force Sonic into a modern 3D environment to woo the kids and take their lunch money.
Of course, the gaming industry is overflowing with evidence that nostalgia sells and a 2D Sonic would be a very safe bet. Not the horribly clunky Sonic 4 mind you, but a Sonic that feels like Sonic.
Sonic Mania looks to be the perfect meeting of huge publisher and super fan developer, and if everything goes according to plan, it should be a fantastic return for the blue ball of spin.
But, amidst the Sonic Mania….mania, there is another.
Unfortunately, the ‘other’ I’m speaking about is nowhere near as promising as Yoda’s ‘other’. Whereas he alluded to Princess Leia’s force sensitivity, I’m talking about yet another attempt at making Sonic fun in 3D.
What makes Sonic fun
Speedy platforming is the main ingredient, coupled with colorful visuals and killer music.
3D however, is inherently weaker than 2D at platforming, and it gets even worse the faster you go. 2D platforming is much easier because your eye only has to track the movement from left to right. 3D without VR or true 3D will always be more difficult to judge distances and makes platforming a nuisance (just ask the frustrated players of the Crash remaster).
What could make it work?
Sonic gained popularity because it was a visually impressive leap forward. Putting Sonic in 3D isn’t pushing the bar enough. At this point, I’d recommend a true shakeup of the formula. A Sonic in first-person or VR could be the ticket. Take advantage of Sonic’s speed and melt a few faces. A Sonic roller coaster with quick time commands while gamers collect rings could be great fun. But forcing the same, mediocre Sonic 3D gameplay is almost guaranteed to fail.
Sonic Forces has few promising ideas. I love the idea of keeping a linear track for Sonic to race down. The focus should be on dodging left and right. The air attacks however, seem boringly automatic and momentum-halting. Unless there is a timing element I’m not aware of, I’d prefer Sonic to be about reflexes, basically a cartoony Thumper.
At least we have…
Sonic Mania! It’s classic Sonic, created by a super fan so talented even SEGA admitted he made better ports of their games than they could.
It’s a love letter and exactly the kind of love Sonic fans need after this abusive relationship has taken its toll.