The Sonic Spectrum – Indie vs AAA (2)

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To be frank, Sonic has had it pretty rough in the past decade or so. Ever since his massive success on the Sega Genesis in three massively beloved titles, he has been the victim of some very bad luck. While many would attest that it all began with Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 (commonly referred to as Sonic ‘06), it actually started further back than that. Sonic ‘06 is just when it really became noticeable. Going back and forth in quality from the decent success of Sonic Generations to the abysmal failure of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the Sega Mascot has had a dual failure/success rate of gigantic proportions.

One clear example of this is the very recent fanmade super game headed by Christian Whitehead, Sonic Mania. One could say that Sonic Mania is the most success the little blue hedgehog has seen in literally over a decade. That’s not to say there aren’t good recent Sonic games by major developers, but Sonic Mania has seen success that is unparalleled by the likes of Sonic’s most recent game, Sonic Forces. Talk about a quality difference of day and night, Sonic Mania has enjoyed the highest ratings, even by some of the most sceptical gaming reviewers, while Sonic Forces has been left in it’s super speeding dust.

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Even with the dream game mechanic of original character creation, Sonic Forces had very little else to offer. With poor level design, questionable controls, and the fact that you play as Sonic through most of the game anyway, onlookers were scratching their heads asking “Why create a character in the first place??” Sonic Mania blew all of it out of the water and turned that nostalgia dial to eleven. We were gifted with familiar gameplay and level design with a nice little twist here and there to brighten it up for the new generation of gamers, while leaving plenty for older gamers to ogle. Even the seemingly outdated graphics are updated and beautiful in a way that does not impede on the old-style 16-bit look.

The overall outlook is starting to become pretty clear on what Sonic games should have been doing the entire time. There have been successful titles that go outside the fast-running platforming of his original games, but those have been so few and far in between. Now we have two that are mapped out and marketed very near one another for a comparison that paints a very clear picture. Sonic fans are now hoping and praying that Nintendo takes some serious notes of this outcome because it’s clear that even true blue Sonic fans are getting fed up with the treatment that he has been getting as of late.

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It was a one-hit knockout. This contrast really goes to show you that innovation and imagination can create some serious greatness compared to just throwing money at a problem in hopes that it improves. AAA Gaming has been under some serious fire for lack of ideas in the ways of Sonic franchise fatigue, cash grab titles, and using nostalgia as a way to lure old school gamers into spending their money for games that have little to no effort put into them. This fan game may have been distributed by Sega, but let’s face it, it’s an indie game through and through. Now Sonic fans are hoping that the Sonic Team can learn from this experience, but at the same time, given his very questionable past treatment, there is really no telling what they have in store for our blue radical dude. All we can really do is stay tuned and drink water.

Check out part one of this series, here! In part one, we introduce the series as well as take a look at a horror concept that both Indie and AAA developers had no clue how to implement.

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