There aren’t too many video game characters with as much failing variation as Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic has had to go up and down in style, game play, reliability, and likability to the point that saying the name Sonic has become a metaphor for failure. But Sonic’s failure comes from multiple points: his design, his character, his story and his overall capability as a protagonist.
Long ago Sonic was created as a video gaming rival to Mario. Sonic was edgy and his speed tied in well with that. But being edgy isn’t (and probably wasn’t) enough. As time went on and the games had to expand the story never did…and it really should have.
Robotinik (or Eggman) is a fine villain but a simple one. He makes robots, wants the Chaos Emeralds, and wants to rule the world because he’s a bad guy. Standard bad guy. The first level will start and you run off at lightening speed as the story is crammed in small bits and pieces here and there. That’s the sum of most Sonic games.
With just a little tweaking Sonic could truly return as a gaming icon that people could be proud of but there needs to be some change. For starters, regardless of the game Sonic needs more than two approaches to being able to advance towards enemies.
For years Sonic’s only means of attacking was spinning towards them or a homing attack–the Super Smash Bros. franchise actually shows this because Sonic doesn’t really do anything else. I’m sure the developers of Smash Bros. hard a time coming up with a move set for Sonic because he doesn’t have too many to choose from. Not giving him other moves seems like a cry for help from the Sonic designers.
Yes, Sonic runs fast. So why not incorporate more speed related moves into his design? Spin dash? Check? Homing attack? Check. Why not a lightening based attack? Sonic is very similar to the Flash from DC comics and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that a creature moving so fast could generate some lightening based attack from friction.
And what about some air or wind based attack like that hinted in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle? Again, going back to the design of the character is an important point. He runs fast…no kidding. Running fast also generates wind. Just with the idea of lightening and wind elements Sonic would no longer become a close range fighter but one that could work at a distance. From that alone enemies and environments could be redesigned opening up whole new avenues.
Speaking of environments–for years fans have complained about the difficulty of moving in a 3D Sonic game with glitches and sequences that are too fast for the naked eye. Sonic does move fast but that doesn’t mean the levels need to be designed the same way.
Creating an environment where speed can be controlled is more important. The levels can still be expansive. But if the player can have a better control for the character then the player feels more at ease giving players a better way to connect with the character. Making Sonic’s interaction more flexible with the environment is key. Simply allowing him to traverse ledges and the sides of buildings in an easier manner would make game play more streamlined.
Perhaps one of the easiest changes to the Sonic franchise that could work well for the series is the choice of human inclusion. Sonic and all of his friends are anthropomorphic creatures that act and live like people. But coexisting in a world of humans makes story design and plot difficult because there are many obvious questions that are never answered.
Many can argue that Mario does the same thing, but the Mario human characters are few in between the anthropomorphic. Even then Mario and Luigi aren’t as human as they can be since have some pixie or lesser human qualities that have been hinted for the last few years. Above that the love interests in the series have always stayed between human-esque characters.
There’s no shame in sitting down to brainstorm a revitalization of the character since there is still a lot to be desired.