After spending last week’s column destroying half of your childhood by revealing Mario’s true colors, my first thought was to spend this week destroying the other half: Sonic the Hedgehog. But after doing the research and giving it some extra consideration, I realized that a much bigger problem plagues Mr. Hedgehog. I’ve always had a soft spot for the spiky blue dude, so I thought I could offer a solution.
It’s no secret that Sonic has been going downhill in recent years. Not the downhill that leads to a power-up that will inevitably be missed due to the delayed response time of the jump command, but the sort of downhill that leads to a pit of patented Insta-Death spikes and that freaking music that makes you hate the universe and everyone in it for thirty seconds.
Sonic isn’t a bad character. He raised a generation of devoted fans that are still willing to buy train wreck after train wreck. Rather, I feel he’s been mishandled by the folks over at Sonic Team. A few simple steps can bring Sonic back to the relevance and success he deserves.
1. Take Some Time Off
Simply put, Sonic needs to go away for a couple of years. For the first few years after a nasty breakup, it’s easy to reflect only on the bad times, like the time they used you for knife-throwing practice or tried to put a brick in the garbage disposal. But after a while the edge is taken off and you start to put more stock in the good times, like the music from Mystic Cave Zone or the time she sang along with the Portal song. But look at me, still talking, when there’s Sonic-saving to do!
2. Back to Basics
Let’s get down to brass tacks here. We all know the critical gameplay flaw holding Sonic back. That’s right, it’s 3D gameplay. Controlling Sonic in a 3D environment is like wrestling a greased pig on top of a washing machine with an unbalanced load. The original Sonic wasn’t just a 2D sidescroller. It was THE 2D sidescroller. It epitomized the genre, and it can do so again. 2D games are making a comeback on the handheld device market and you would be surprised at how many childhood Sonic fans are now iPhone owners with time to kill. App stores can be a cozy new home for our meth-addicted blue friend.
3. Ditch the Menagerie
Over time, Sonic has collected a number of anthropomorphic chums to assist in his adventures. And nobody cares. Nobody has ever cared. Nobody will ever care. Tails and Knuckles are fair enough. They were around when the series was still good. But I doubt anybody gives two golden rings for Charmy the Bee. Who the hell is Charmy the Bee? Nobody likes freaking Charmy the Bee! If you think you like Charmy the Bee, you are provably wrong. It’s like saying Huckleberry Finn is a pro-slavery novel or that you like a book that comes covered in an unidentifiable brown sauce. That’s your opinion, but it’s wrong. Sonic doesn’t need a gritty, dark counterpart or a spunky female sidekick or any other companions from that coterie of shoehorned merchandising opportunity. The sooner Sonic Team realizes it, the better.
So there you have it. By following these three simple steps, Sega and Sonic Team can rebuild him. We have the technology. The journey will be difficult, I admit. But we can’t let an icon of gaming history die in such ignominy. Well, at least not Sonic, anyway.