A Fork in the Road

There have not been too many times in my life that I’ve been presented with a proverbial fork in the road.  Often times I’ll end up sitting there, mentally going over each path, and try to look at what kind of signs each path will tell. Sometimes, a path will look very familiar, one could even say nostalgic, and that will tug at my heart strings ever so slightly. The other path could look very modern, newly crafted and hardly worn out or weathered…

In this horribly executed metaphor, the roads are supposed to represent the Sonic titles that will be released in 2017 and the one path I take is supposed to represent which one I’m really looking forward to. On one hand you have Sonic Mania, the revival of the often sought out “classic 2D Sonic” that takes longtime players and new faces on a nostalgic trip to the past to celebrate where our favorite blue hedgehog got his start. The other is a code-named title, Project Sonic 2017 that takes the popular concept of Sonic Generations and supposedly brings it to modern consoles once again.

Again, for once in my life, I feel very confident in which road I’ll actually be more excited for. Sonic Mania has me hooked and I can’t wait to play it. However, it isn’t for the most predictable of reasons you might be thinking.

To start off with, let me give you just a little background into my own personal Sonic history. Being born in the very beginning of 1991, my first ever console was a Sega Genesis that came with a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. This game was quite literally unlike anything I had ever played at the time. I was familiar with Nintendo’s Mario and some of the Gameboy titles that my cousins happen to let me play whenever I begged for a chance to press the buttons on the grey-colored brick system.

The game was very quick, or rather, Sonic was very quick. The art was flashy and so different to the pallet of turtles, brick, and dinosaurs. The music was very different from each stage and helped shape the tone of whatever zone you happen to find yourself in at that time.

I followed this title up with Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, and in my opinion these games were solid improvements over the formula. Sure the graphics were prettier and fleshed out, the music jammin’, and the overall mechanics improved, but the first 3 (er, 4 really if you count physical releases) Sonic games were masterpieces for telling a story without a shred of dialogue nor much in the line of character gestures.

Skipping a bit ahead, when Sonic took the plunge into the next level of gaming, we had Sonic Adventure. This game was an absolute dark horse in my younger eyes. I had missed the Saturn and all of the mess that came with it, so when I discovered the Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure, I was immediately blown away. Here was a cooler (if that was even possible) version of Sonic that was still fast without feeling like everything was blurring past you. The game had a pretty decent story, but overall it still played like a classic Sonic title in some aspects while keeping the newer experiences smaller and focused.

These two ends of the spectrum helped define what makes or breaks a Sonic game for me. On the one hand, Sonic to me is about gameplay. In Sonic 2, it didn’t matter what the story was, I was controlling the hero who needed to beat the bad guy and get there as quickly (and sometimes as safe) as possible. The gameplay was fun and I could spend hours getting lost in the levels, listening to the music, or even just playing out silly scenarios in my head and giving the characters my own internal dialogue. In Sonic Adventure, the story tied all of these experiences together, but I also knew what I was getting into with most of the characters. Sonic would have plenty of running and spectacle, Knuckles would be the environment hunter, and Gamma would be the gunner of the group. Each of these characters had something that made their gameplay unique, but overall it did fit into a narrative that was more clearly defined and told to the player in-game.

Sonic Mania seems to be doing the exact same thing as the previous “classic” titles of Sonic. The zones are wacky and thematic, sometimes with just the right amount of charm. Each character will play just a little different, allowing mechanics to take a secondary ride to the overall gameplay and not define a mode or character type. Finally, it seems that the game is enough classic Sonic mixed in the same style with the newer zones to make it feel cohesive.

Project Sonic 2017 does look to be exciting too, but it also appears to be geared to players who may be green to the series.  Sonic Generations did very well in handling the marriage between modern and classic Sonic styles, although the story felt slightly tacked on in order to explain the flip-flop between different playstyles. While we don’t know very much about the game itself, it could be extremely hard for Sega to strike gold with the same formula in the market today as it did with Sonic Generations. Hopefully, the story will add to the immersion of gameplay and make it feel like a solid gaming experience.

Either way you turn, Sonic is going to have a great year with either of these games. It’s interesting to see just what Sega plans to do should one title sell better than the other. Would it shift their development of future titles to that point? Possibly. I do think it’s safe to say that their efforts are merely for coverage and to include all the diverse fans of Sonic, instead of a straight up competition between oldies and newbies.

With all my thoughts on the table, what do you think? Are you a classic Sonic gamer who is excited for Project Sonic 2017, or even a modern Sonic fan who happens to be in love with the idea of getting back to Sonic’s roots in Sonic Mania? Leave a comment below or check out our forum on SoaH City to share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas!