Why? Because I'm kinda stressed and just want to blow steam about a blue rodent. This is a change from the usual on a furry site, I know (the norm being simply: "blowing a blue rodent").
I'm not a die-hard Sonic fan. In fact, I got into gaming quite late. With a Gameboy and a Playstation being my first consoles, I only experienced the older 8- and 16-bit games at other peoples' houses. As such, Sonic the Hedgehog wasn't even on my radar until I befriended a kid just over half of my age next door, who owned a few older consoles and was an avid fan of The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog.
Adventures was just inane, but somehow still fun. Though not as good as Ren and Stimpy, or Rocko's Modern Life, at least give it credit: it was wacky and nonsensical without trying to gross you out, and when you're overwhelmed with gross-out humor, you do get a bit sick of it. Especially because the stereotype of kids "loving gross stuff", so to speak, is as bullshit as most stereotypes - many of them don't.
But as for the earlier games, I had little experience with them. Critical to this discussion though is this: that's not true any more. I've played the original Sonic games now, and you know what? Like most early video games, they're really not that good.
For their time? Maybe. But certainly nothing impressive - and I don't just mean in shallow, technological ways. Anyone who reads any of my game reviews knows I rarely even mention graphics. The Sonic games were mindless fun, and perhaps most importantly: they were not actually challenging or interesting to play. I'll come back to this later.
There exists a sort of manifesto, it seems- not that I've found the bloody thing. It must exist, and it must details at least five insubstantial complaints for "fans" to make about the Sonic The Hedgehog video games, because so many morons make the exact same arguments about how the series is sucking now and how we need to revert to making 2D games only.
There are a laundry list of problems with the Sonic games, but you're not going to see reasonable criticism from, say, a certain internet celebrity, who wielded the "anti-3D" saber as clumsily as a toddler role-playing He-Man. They never actually mention what the issue with 3D is, and why they feel it cannot work with the Sonic formula... when hundreds of thousands of players are enjoying it greatly. Amongst Sonic critics, this is just some kind of accepted mantra; understanding is irrelevant.
Unsurprisingly, these people tend to be "rose-tinted glasses" nostalgia victims, not realizing that the current 3D games work pretty well, are enjoyable and intense; and more importantly, that it's clearly not the fact that the games are 3D themselves that are causing Sonic to show his age. How can we tell? Well, firstly, the original Sonic games were kinda crap - especially compared to the... you know.
The 2D Sonic games that are being regularly produced today. SEGA has been producing modern 2D platform games with Sonic and company since the Gameboy Advance, and you know what? They're awesome, and can be utter bastards in the difficulty department. With colorful, refined graphics and modern character designs, the Sonic Advance games are actually really fucking neat, and there's no valid reason to argue the originals are superior.
More importantly, it must be remembered that SEGA is still making/licensing 2D platforming games that are very, very good, and of course they're not going to release these games to the more powerful consoles. Don't be fucking stupid. The compromise with Sonic: Unleashed seems to be the ultimate form Sonic games can take. Uh-oh...
Yes, that's right. Sonic: Unleashed is probably the best Sonic game to be released on a home console, ever. If you excise the "man-hog" levels, that statement becomes even more apt. Sonic: Unleashed has its flaws alright, but none of them are the typical anti-3D spiel you get from the morons.
For instance, I didn't recall anyone complaining about being forced to play an annoying, purple-blue, furry piece of distended rectum in Sonic Adventure. Oh, wait...
It's worth mentioning Bioware's Sonic Chronicles. I own that game, and was quite impressed - for a rather experimental notion (a Sonic JRPG written up by westerners?) with not much of a budget, it was very good. What it lacked in sound (both music and effects), and even in level design, it made up for with dialogue and plot. SEGA seems to sabotage their own characters with disturbing regularity, and seeing Bioware just waltz in and get the characters perfectly right, and then expand their personalities, writing appropriate and witty dialogue for them was a major surprise.
Can the gameplay be improved? Yes. Can Sonic: Unleashed have its writing improved? Yes. See, now we just need a middle ground.
The thing is, that middle ground doesn't involve going back and remaking Sonic 3 and Knuckles, or telling the hundreds of thousands of gamers who enjoyed Sonic Adventure 2, with its surprisingly mature, dark plot, gameplay variety and wicked music, that they're retarded.
Even the oft-complained about "shooting levels" where you play as Tails or Eggman aren't that bad. Yes, as a Tails fan I complained too - "I don't want to have to control this failure of a machine when I play my favorite character! Wait, this is kinda fun... and HOLY SHIT that boss-fight was epic!"
And that's another thing. No, "fans" don't want Sonic games to be just "about Sonic." SEGA's own polls showed that a huge chunk of the Sonic fanbase are over 18, and certain other characters are massively popular, with Tails and Knuckles each having a fandom that rivals that of the stupid, blue rodent. So all of these new games featuring Sonic and ONLY Sonic as playable are NOT necessarily going in the right direction. So long as I do not have to control a big, purple manifestation of irritation ever again, other characters are welcome, just not to the degree that we want to play as Sonic.
Whilst I feel Sonic 2006 and Shadow The Hedgehog were abominable, there's life in this franchise yet, because it has evolved - the problem is, SonicTEAM appears to be run by incredibly stupid hamster overlords, who ignore the possibility for mature, dramatic games that would appeal all the way from 10-year-olds to 25-year-olds (the same principle shonen anime operates under). They've created a world of characters that Bioware has already shown can be developed into entertaining story dynamics, but they don't explore that.
Even funnier, after the REALLY dark story of Sonic Adventure 2, what the hell is this garbage we've been seeing? We've gone from an amnesiac super-villain hedgehog who tricks everyone into the destruction of the planet because his best friend, an eleven-year-old girl, was shot dead in front of him by government troops... to... I don't even KNOW what the deal is with Sonic 2006, and I own the fucking game.
Here's a hint, Yuji Naka. Dragon Ball Z was okay, and it's alright to draw on it for inspiration, but stop cramming in obvious "exported characters" such as Shadow-Vegeta and Tenshinhan-Knuckles. "Super" forms are cool, even though they're clearly fucking Super Saiyans.
Of course, anyone notice that in the later games, only Sonic and Shadow get those super forms? Oh, what's that? Silver? You mean Trunks? Or that character I'm gonna pretend doesn't fucking exist? Yeah, I'm only counting characters that aren't retarded... and at least make an effort to NOT sound exactly like the DBZ character they're imitating.
So the ultimate lesson to take away from the franchise is this: hedgehogs are gods with hidden powers, foretold to defeat the evil lord of the galaxy, Frieza... then go on for another bazillion episodes before going bat-shit insane.