Gaming My Way

06 Dec

New Sonic Games Have Fun Designed Out of Them?

The Reason Sonic Lost His Way finally explains to us all why we haven’t had a good Sonic game in awhile. I’m not impressed with the response.

David Claymen, on an IGN Three Red Lights podcast, has this to say after talking with a developer for Sonic Unleashed: “I asked one of the developers at TGS, you know I was like, come on everybody just wants Sonic running, like whats up with the werehog? And he was like, well, here’s the deal… he runs at this miles per hour, kilometers per hour, and he laid out all of the statistics on how fast this hedgehog goes, and he was like In order to make a game where Sonic is running and everybody enjoys the whole thing we’d have to design this many miles of level, and it was some ungodly number. And he’s like and that would be like maybe a three hour game and I was like wow, well that kinda stinks and he’s like yeah, so we gotta do this other stuff.”

So basically, the developer said they’re putting in filler to make the game longer. This is not cool. Countless people, fans and critics alike, have said that all of this experimental stuff isn’t working. Ever since Sonic Heroes this has been happening, and Sonic Team isn’t listening.  Here it is one more time: Sonic the Hedgehog is about speed. If you aren’t willing to put in the effort to make a game like that, pass it on to someone else. Sonic Adventure was, on the whole, a very good game. Strip out Knuckles’ and Big’s levels and you’d have an even better game, and one that was still a good five hours long. While that is incredibly short for a game these days, people replay fun games a lot. As long as I can have fun playing through it a few times, there’s no reason it has to be twenty hours long.

In fact, I’d much rather have a short, awesome game that I can play through many times instead of a long, mediocre game with a few awesome parts to it. If it has awesome parts in it, I know the team could have done better, but didn’t for some reason. It also makes it harder to play through a game again when to get to the good parts you have to suffer through parts that just aren’t as much fun.

Of course, if designing large levels is too much work, you could also spend more time on each Sonic game. A new Mario game comes out once a generation now, and while I’m not a huge fan of the 3d Mario games in general, they are still well designed and fun for a playthrough. Mario Galaxy even managed to buck the trend of the previous two games and bring the game back to platforming first, exploration second, which makes the game infinitely more fun. Now, if Sonic Team were to design one game a generation, or even one game every couple of years instead of every year, I bet they could find the time to put in lots more level to make sure there was a decent amount of game, even with Sonic running at high speeds. Say, five to ten hours. They did it for Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, they can certainly do it now if they’ll put in the effort.

What this developer had to say just smacks of laziness and wanting to get the product out the door instead of making sure it’s a good product. Come on Sega, I know you guys can do better than that. You’ve shown us you can before now, so bring back the magic.

Now that I’ve had my rant, bear in mind I haven’t actually played Sonic Unleashed yet. I hope it will still be fun, but I hear that the werehog levels really drag. I guess I’ll find out soon enough though. I felt the need to write this now because what the developer had to say about the current design philosophy of new Sonic games struck me as very much trying to use gimmicks to replace quality gameplay and provide padding to game length. This is not the way to design a game. Hopefully Sega and Sonic Team will decide to fix this soon.

For more thoughts on how to make Sonic better, see The Revival of Sonic the Hedgehog.

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5 Responses to “New Sonic Games Have Fun Designed Out of Them?”

  1. 1
    Silvast Says:

    Wow, I haven’t played a Sonic game since the Sega Mega Drive. I remember them being fun but somewhat frustrating at the same time. I don’t think that the new 3D games can accomplish that.

  2. 2
    Eclipse Says:

    I think the Adventure games did a good job of it… when they weren’t trying to make you do treasure hunts or catch fish anyway. Still, I can understand how 2D might still be a superior design for Sonic’s style of play. I would really like to see a well done 3D Sonic game though, that cuts out all the unnecessary stuff.

  3. 3
    James Newton Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while – as a huge Sonic fan I was disappointed by the Wii version of Unleashed, but with the 360 version I intend to ignore the Werehog bits altogether!

    I understand what Sonic Team are trying to say, and in a way I agree with their intentions. Look at the detail in Unleashed, and then multiply that by the necessary hundreds of miles to sustain that over a six or twelve-zone game.

    I don’t think it’s good business sense for Sega to spend huge amounts of money on what could ultimately be a six or eight hour game. I think they’re conscious about creating value-for-money for themselves as well as their customers.

    It’s not perfect, but I will say that Unleashed is definitely a step in the right direction, although perhaps it’s two steps forward and one back. We’ll definitely see more Hedgehog Engine-based games though, so there’s plenty of opportunity for Sega to get it right!

  4. 4
    Eclipse Says:

    Hey James,

    You can ignore the werehog bits?! Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet! I’ll likely play them the first time through for completion’s sake, but knowing I can play the speedy stuff without the slow stuff later makes me feel a bit better about the game.

    As for the rest, I can see where you’re coming from too. I really probably should reserve judgment until after I get a chance to play the game, but when I read that clip, it just seemed like a cop-out to me, particularly when all the experimental stuff has been dragging the series down for so long. Even the Sonic Adventure line, though still very fun, was dragged down a bit by it, though not nearly so much as the games that came after that.

    And you probably are right when it comes to business sense. I guess a lot of the really good stuff doesn’t sell as well as 20 hours of gameplay and the latest graphics. It happened a lot last generation after all.

    Hopefully once I get a chance to play it, I’ll see the same thing you did, in that it’s a step in the right direction.

    Still, I would really like to see what Sega could do this generation if they really buckled down to make a blockbuster game again. Perhaps once they have the financial backing again.

  5. 5
    James Newton Says:

    Hey Eclipse,

    Just wanted to say I’ve been playing the 360 version quite a lot recently, and it’s getting better and better! If only you could ignore the werehog bits full-stop, but I’m satisfied with just playing them once and moving onto the Sonic bits. There’s some stunning levels, the music is amazing and it looks gorgeous, it’s just got a few flaws – the first night stage for Chun-nan is appalling, absolutely terrible. Other than that I’m really enjoying it!

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