Auld Lang Sonic: New Year’s Resolutions for Sega

I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s been at least twelve months or so since we shed the old, yellowed skin of a dead year and leaped head-first into the warm, fleshy, pink hope of a brand new one. Once you’ve gotten over the nausea I just induced with my wording, you’ll probably agree—it feels damn good to start anew.

That’s why we all love New Year’s Resolutions so much. It’s our chance to try again; an opportunity to rethink our mistakes and misgivings of the past as we embrace the hope we’ve arbitrarily attached to the new number we use to date our checks. In so many words, it’s our way of high-fiving the future.

Then a week rolls by and we proudly give the future the finger as we reach for that eighth slice of pizza.

As I stare at that shiny new 2012 sitting in the lower right hand corner of my monitor, I get to thinking—if a company could have a New Year’s Resolution, what would it be? What resolutions should Sega keep to make 2012 the banner year it deserves to be?

Here’s what my stupid brain said back.

Get in Touch with Old Friends

I’m willing to bet my left arm that the dinner plate-sized ulcer I have eating away at my stomach is all Sega’s fault. Why make such a vitriolic accusation, you ask? Well, for years now, I have been tugging at the Sega gods’ shirts, begging them to entertain the thought of dipping their proverbial bucket into that overflowing well of dead and neglected IPs that have been teasing me for ages. Deal with that frustration long enough, and you’re bound to need a towering glass of Pepto-Bismol to go with your orange juice every morning.

This issue has noticeably been on the company’s mind as of late, as last year was full of constant rumors and news stories pertaining to the subject. In an interview with Gamasutra, Sega West president Mike Hayes made the understandable assertion that Sega cannot simply rest on their laurels to stay relevant. Even so, he stated in another interview down the line that Sega is planning on reinventing classic franchises over the next few years. Then there was that wanted ad for an executive producer for a “re-imagining of a beloved IP.” I guess hope does spring eternal……champions…Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

By the end of the year, we were given the very competent 3DS Shinobi, and fans guzzled it up like water in the Sahara. But is that all? I certainly hope not. While I agree that Sega has been doing a fantastic job of consistently releasing fresh and often unique content, the supposed “balance” they’ve been trying to strike feels more and more like a non-issue. Yes, the desire to progress and create new IPs is definitely going to help Sega stay relevant, but the sheer volume of this company’s forgotten backlog is almost unparalleled, and besides the occasional meager “classic collection” bone being thrown to hardcore fans, this beloved island of misfit mascots has more or less been shrugged off for what seems like years now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that Sega’s past attempts at answering this call have not always been met with the greatest response, critically or financially. Toe Jam & Earl, Golden Axe, and NiGHTS come to mind most readily. I also grant that Sega doesn’t want to come off as an ancient company who isn’t keeping up to date with modern sensibilities, but some of their massive backlog is so lost in the annals of gaming history that revitalizing and modernizing them could easily feel as new and exciting as delivering a brand new franchise. If the right game is placed in the right developer’s hands, and the right marketing was used to hype it up to the right crowds, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sega could easily bring back some of the distinct personality that made them stand out in the Genesis and Dreamcast eras. Thankfully, with Shinobi 3DS and the upcoming sequel to Phantasy Star Online, we’ve all been seeing a change in the wind, and hopefully 2012 see a lot more of these changes taking hold.

 

Gain a Few Pounds

Just like clockwork—ever since the recent announcement of Sonic 4: Episode 2, the Sega-loving community has been ablaze with fervent speculation, premature criticism, and unwarranted requests for updates in the next chapter in the episodic game that most of us had forgotten even existed. Allow me to join in on the Sonic Gimme-fest 2012.

I’ll happily admit that I fall on the side of the fence that quite enjoyed what Episode 1 had to offer. The needless puzzle bits of some stages and the confounding choice to model every stage after themes we’ve seen thousand times before is a little frustrating, but I still happily stand by the B+ I gave it back when it was first released.

But when you stand Episode 1 up next to the unquestionable success that was the 2D sections of last year’s Sonic Generations, my satisfied grin starts to look more and more like a cantankerous little sneer. Both games made the lofty promise of returning Sonic to his basic essence, re-imagining his very first footsteps in a modern light, but frankly, these two games don’t even deserve to stand on the same plane. Generations is head-and-shoulders above Episode 1, in level design, physics, visual style, and character design.

That’s why I am crossing my fingers and wishing that Sega (and presumably Dimps) has not only paid attention to the occasionally absurd complaints of some of the more vocal members of the angry Sonic fanbase, but also to the almost unanimously positive reaction fans have had to Classic Sonic and his stages in Generations. I never really cared about how Sonic looked, but for the sake of metaphor, I think it’s time for the Sonic 4 Sonic to add on a couple pounds. With the recent iPad release, there’s already been some yielding to the notion of a different character model. Now, let’s spread that sentiment to the rest of the game. Visual design, character design, and level design could all use the attention and polish that pudgy little Classic Sonic received in Sonic Generations. If Classic Sonic isn’t returning in the immediate future, maybe it’s time for Modern Sonic to regain his baby fat and act like his old 2D self again.

 

Quit Drinking –

You know what? We get it. Sonic is 20, and that is most certainly reason to celebrate. But really, I think I may very well be burnt out on the blue blur for a while. Maybe it’s because I write for a Sega fansite, but I have never seen an anniversary celebrated as relentlessly and shamelessly as Sonic’s 20th Anniversary. Over the course of 2011, we saw Sonic Generations, Sonic Generations 3DS, Sonic CD, Macy’s Day Sonic Anniversary balloons, Sonic-themed playgrounds, a Sonic Anniversary app, Sonic Anniversary stamps, Sonic Anniversary SKATEBOARDING COMPETITIONS…

Just...why?

Sega is no stranger to pimping out their most popular icon until he’s red and raw, but I think all the sweet hedgehog lovin’ in 2011 may have given me blue, furry diabetes. I need a friggin’ break. For the first time in maybe my entire life, I want to politely ask Sega to give it a rest, just for a year. Please, stop getting tipsy on that Sonic success and give a little attention to all the other games that deserve your attention. I know it’s a completely nonviable financial move to shirk your bread and butter for a year, but you’ve come to rely on this overexposed security blanket of a character so much that you seem terrified to set him aside for just a moment.

In lieu of the year-long break that I want to request, let me just ask that you take your Sonic 4: Episode 2 and be satisfied for the next twelve months. You’ve been gorging yourself on Sonic sustenance for ages now, so maybe it’s time to put down the bottle of lifeblood, sober up, and take a healthier plan of action by exploring the other franchises and titles that have helped to carve your incredible personality as a company.

 

With all of these unfair complaints and petulant requests in mind, I’m still really, really excited about 2012. Binary Domain, Anarchy Reigns, Crush3D, Virtua Tennis on the Vita, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Sonic 4: Episode 2 all have me frothing at the mouth, and if they keep up with just one of the requests I listed above, you can bet they’ll be getting a kiss from me on New Year’s Eve 2013.

  • shiggidy

    Brilliant and true! Hehehe love the tone. It feels like there is a palpable sense of hope that Sega is trending towards regaining their old swagger.

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