It sounds totally cliche for a journalist to start a Sonic-related article in this manner, but Sonic fans like myself have understandably had plenty to moan about in this past decade. I don’t need to make a list, you know the drill. But 2006 was a long time ago. Now it’s 2010, and it seems like the fanbase at large is actively trying to pick a fight every five minutes. The target? Take your pick – Sega for not getting it, Sonic Team for losing it, Bentley Jones for having a life, Dimps for screwing up 2D (despite actually being good)… even fellow fans and fansites. It’s slightly ridiculous.
Sega’s past, present and future mistakes shouldn’t come to pass without complaints from the fanbase, sure. But I don’t believe it deserves the same level of vitriol today that it received when we all realised how cack Sonic 2006 was. It’s like instead of slapping Sega on the wrists, we’ve bound it, gagged it and invited a gimp to violently rape it every three hours.
The basic argument against blind complaining is not a new one. But recent comments surrounding Sonic the Hedgehog 4‘s “delay-but-not-really-but-it-really-is” sparked a fresh thought in my mind. Assume Sonic 4 turns out great. Will this fragmented and confused generation of fans ever accept it?
Time Is Not A Healer
I doubt it. I hope I’m wrong, but it appears that the fanbase at large has reached a point of no return, where any little announcement is fair game for baseless criticism. Rather than assessing each game by its merits and weaknesses and voicing them in a calm and collected manner, fans’ otherwise understandable disappointment of titles such as Sonic Unleashed get bogged down with pointless grudges and emotional blackmail. After all, “I’ve been a Sonic fan for fifteen thousand years, I deserved better!!1!1one.” Like, ‘OMG.’
I understand why this is the case. Sega’s missteps have been burned into each and every fan’s psyche over the years, so complaining is Priority One of a new-age Sonic fan’s list of activities. Talk someone who claims to enjoy the Sonic series, and the first thing out of his/her mouth won’t be a joyful reminisce or a discussion on favourite games or comics, but about how the upcoming game will be totally rubbish along with a fifteen-page long list supporting his/her obviously well-thought out reasoning.
Sonic 4 has been the most-complained about Sonic game during its pre-release phase – and despite countless videos being leaked all over the internet, nobody is really the wiser as to how good the game is! Apparently, the excitement of games journalists actually seeing the game being played properly with all routes explored (including myself) should be brushed aside – in favour of a low-quality, off-screen recording that shows an inexperienced player actually trying to break the game. Way to turn on the logic, guys.
Except for the ‘lol minecart’ fiasco, I think we all agree that’s got to be looked at.
Generally however, nothing will ever be good enough for the fanbase because ‘we’ are all too busy wanting Sonic to look like a 16-bit sprite instead of a fully-animated 3D model. ‘We’ are too busy wanting ‘better level design’ because the leaked video only detailed one route (and completely sucked at it). And ‘we’ are also too busy complaining about the homing attack, despite the level design more than compensating for the move (but again, the video doesn’t detail this – it’s alright, everyone thought it best to assume the worst).
Now ‘we’ are all having a go at Sega again for delaying the game to add some polish. Wait, weren’t ‘we’ all having a go at Sega yesterday for rushing the damn thing? Oh no wait, sorry, ‘we’ were having a go at the fact that ‘we’ all sat in a basement, had to wee in a bucket and stop playing Pokemon or World of Warcraft for sixteen hours because “Sega kept us waiting.” My mistake.
There are some fans angry at the fact that the delay announcement occurred with promises of a ‘blowout’ and yet more hype. I might suggest you get up, walk outside and enjoy the sunshine a little bit. This is just the way the games industry operates. Disappointing, over-hyped news happens. Maybe the company would have had something more to show if someone didn’t record the entire game and leak it for all to see? Food for thought.
So detractors – what if you’re wrong? What if game critics the world over end up loving the game? What if the long lost Sonic fan, who remembers playing the Mega Drive games, picks up Sonic 4 and doesn’t notice a difference? What if, on a completely objective level, Sonic 4 is a great game? I think if that happened and you still had the same condemnations, a lot of questions would – and should – be asked about your intentions, and whether you would be happy with any kind of Sonic the Hedgehog game at all.
Now let’s answer an obvious retort from the get-go. This question could easily be flipped – what if I’m wrong? What if Sonic 4 ends up being crap, and the detractors ended up being right about how bad it looks to play? Ignoring the simple fact that I wouldn’t be ‘wrong’ because I have placed no personal or emotional stock in the final quality of a computer game, there would be no doubt of my disappointment, sure.
But you know what? Mistakes are made. Life goes on. If nothing else, the presentation and design of Sonic 4 is a step in the right direction, and that is something that final gameplay mechanics won’t change. I actually understand that the road to Sonic recovery has been long and hard for Sega, particularly as there hasn’t seemed to be many people who knows which direction to take the series lately. So if Sonic 4 is disappointing, I know there will be a long list of stuff that the team will work on and fix. And for my part, I’ll get on with my life and play some Sonic the Hedgehog 2 instead. No big hassle.
Unfortunately, I get this funny feeling that for most part, the Sonic fan has become so jaded, so critical, so full of inane commentary on blogs (oh, the irony) that he/she has transformed into something of an ‘anti-Sonic fan.’ There’s only so much you can complain about a game before you start showing yourself up, after all.
And of course, a lot of complaints in games are unique to each player (I’m not a huge fan of the Spin Dash for example – others love it) – it’s those who consistently pine for the unattainable and unreasonable that should be held to question. And until we do, the fanbase will continue to bicker and be dissatisfied. My advice? Do what I do – just chill out, remember what you loved about Sonic in the first place, and enjoy yourself. Get excited at the new shit. Get disappointed with the crap shit. But above all, just rise above the shit shit.