Contemporary Alternatives: Sonic Edition

So, there’s a new Sonic coming out in the near future that is an honest continuation of the original series that was native to the Sega Genesis way back when. You remember Sonic, Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, right? After that came Sonic & Knuckles, which is kind of apart of that series, but kind of not really in a roundabout sort of way I don’t especially care to discuss right now. Point being, sometime down the line we’ll supposedly be getting a actual fourth iteration of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and the more I think about it, the more I shed my cautious Indiana Jones like optimism in favor for genuinely excited optimism.

You see, I remember my time with the Sonic series pretty fondly since I was exposed to Genesis before I ever got my hands on the Super Nintendo – primarily because all the parents in my neighborhood shelled out for SNES consoles and my grandparents got a Genesis before I even owned one – sad, huh? But the first time I sat down and was greeted by the iconic “Seeeeeegaaaaa!” I was actually pretty impressed. But then again, I was only about five at the time. Regardless, every single time I boot up any of the Sonic titles it gives me a plethora of warm fuzzies to take me back a decade and a half.

Certainly, part of the nostalgia must be factored in, but it doesn’t discount the fact that those original games in the series were pretty spot on platformers and made the person holding the controller feel ridiculously badass on several occasions. I’ll never forget the first time I played through the first Sonic the Hedgehog, more or less because my grandma was hovering over me telling me what to do because the transition from 8 to 16-bit graphics hadn’t been especially smooth for me. Nevertheless, that sweet old lady knew what the hell she was talking about. She talked me through that game to the final boss battle.

After that, it was playing games like Columns until Sonic 2 released and hooked me all over again. Now, if there is any game in the Sonic series that has an extremely close place to my heart, it’s without a doubt Sonic 2. This doesn’t go to say that the original isn’t spectacular in and of itself; Sonic 2 just has some vastly memorable moments for me that the others just can’t seem to match.

Each and every Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 all held something incredulously amazing for me. The Wing Fortress, Oil Ocean and Casino Night Zones are some of the best examples of platforming, not just in a 16-bit game, but in a video game in the last twenty years. But few levels will ever hold the same memorable qualities for me as Chemical Plant.

After all, the game kicks off with the Emerald Hill Zone and definitely gives off many aesthetic qualities that are similar to what players had been accustomed to in the original Sonic – lush greenery, catchy music, snatching coins and feeling like you’re going fast enough to break the fucking sound barrier. But then you’re dropped into Chemical Plant Zone, one of the greatest between-level divergences in the history of video games.

Chemical Plant changes everything up by dropping players into what seems like Dr. Robotnik’s super awesome chemical facility where he’s creating poisons and terrible things to destroy the world as we all know it. On top of it, one of the greatest tracks ever came out of that level and is still one of my favorites to this day. Cooler still was the first time players saw that Sonic could run underwater. If by run, you mean shuffle awkwardly towards the next stream of bubbles so you didn’t suffocate. And if that music didn’t make you panic a little as the final countdown of Sonic’s ability to hold his breath dwindled, then label you Ice Man, because it still gets me a little to this very day.

Fast forward again and we’ve been convinced for a while that Sonic 4 is coming. Not in the form of a full on release, but an HD version that will be playable on the downloadable services of the various next-gen consoles currently nestled on entertainment centers, desks and tables the world over. While I was initially seized with a sense of dread, I’ve been growing more excited in my anticipation.

Why? Because it really seems like this one might not be completely and utterly fucked up in the same way Sonic and Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed and every other Sonic game you’ve played for the last several years in such a way that you want to forget that you ever loved Sonic or Sega like a jilted lover. Because they took an icon many of us grew up loving and turned him into a serialized corporate shill that was being slaughtered repeatedly in the name of the almighty pursuit of capitalism.

Sure, I don’t think someone just sat down one day and said, “Let’s destroy Sonic and everything everyone loves about him”, but in the last several years, it’s felt like that more than once Sega.

But this is supposedly a return to form for Sonic, Sega and the series that many of us, including me, fell in love with growing up. It’s like seeing a high school sweetheart years after the fact and remembering what you loved about them in the first place. Except this time, you hope they don’t ditch you and turn into a raging cunt for the sake of making tons and tons of money – only to fail dreadfully at it.

Admittedly, this is less my normal feature and more of a pleading on my part to Sega, begging that Sonic 4 be something we can all be excited about. Like the rockstar we grew up watching who finally gets released from rehab, this could really be an excellent chance for Sonic to turn everything around and be the character we all love to play again, when phrases like “Sega does what Nintendon’t” were thrown around. Not because it’s cool to like one system over the other, but because Sega really wanted to stand apart and put the effort, quality and care into Sonic that many artists would consider to be the highest seal of assurance in any profession – the desire to be the best by giving the best.

Anyway, we still have a bit of a wait until Sonic 4 comes out, but even if it feels like Sonic, Sonic 2, or Sonic 3, I personally won’t mind. Because it’s been long overdue and many people just need to understand that there is a certain bill of abilities that Sonic is capable of filling and performing to the best of his abilities – Snatching coins and feeling like you’re going fast enough to break the fucking sound barrier.

Readers Comments (5)

  1. thepumpkinking93 August 8, 2010 @ 8:51 PM

    I loved the 2d sonic games while growing up, but the moment they went 3d with the newer systems I wouldn’t even touch them with a ten foot pole they just stopped being fun to me then, I cant wait for sonic 4 to come out

  2. Nice post, sir. I’ve been playing Sonic 1 and 2 recently since I picked them up. And Sonic Spinball. I really need to get my hands on 3 and Knuckles

  3. @ Matthew
    There’s nothing quite like linking a Sonic 2/3 cartridge into a Sonic and Knuckles cartridge. I still get a slight wave of euphoria when I feel it click down.

    Have you gotten to experience this magic before?

  4. Not since I was a young lad.

    Anyone who’s a fan of the classic Sonic’s should checkout Sonic Pocket Adventure on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It’s a seriously overlooked gem.

    I’m gonna do a bit about it when I do a top 10 list of the best handheld Sonic games before Colors comes out

  5. as excited as i am for sonic 4, i can’t help but express my dread over that ‘episode 1’ in the title. i hope this doesn’t end up like that wiiware final fantasy (or at least i think it was final fantasy, i don’t own a wii) game that ends up costing 75+ dollars if you want to play the whole game.

    my sonic and knuckles cart is a bit messed up. while i can play the actual game, the lock-on technology doesn’t like to work as much. ='(

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