The Spin: Can a Sonic Boom game be done right? I think so

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In today’s edition of The Spin, I want to talk about something I think that, despite being a question no one will ask; if a Sonic Boom game can be good let alone should be made, is that if such a game period can be good or even GREAT. Short answer? Of course it can!

The long answer? I have some ideas.

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Back when the whole initiative was announced by Sega back on February 6, 2014, that they would launch a sub-brand of Sonic that would not only come with a new TV show, but two games to accompany it, and at the time, the games seemed to be the meat and potatoes of the sub-brand with the show existing to complement it, rather than the other way around. Well in the end the opposite felt like the truth, where the show felt like it was the true Sonic Boom product and the games were put out to market the show.

We know how the games turned out, but I think most will agree that the show itself is pretty damn good, and is one of the sole saving graces of the Sonic Boom name, that and the comics, but I don’t follow those personally. πŸ˜›

So back on June 9, 2015, just prior to E3 was the surprise announcement that Sega got Sanzaru Games, who developed Shattered Chrystal on 3DS, to make a sequel called Fire & Ice, once again for 3DS set for this year, making it the only Sonic game on traditional gaming platforms for this year (Rio 2016 is out next year breaking the Olympic series’ traditional release schedule).

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And so far Fire & Ice is… not too shabby from what I’ve seen. Shattered Crystal was seen as the “not as bad but not that good anyway” of the two and this at least looks like it might just bump that opinion to “hopefully at least pretty decent”, thanks to some potential refinements to the previous game’s formula and adding in a few extra layers of polish.

This brings me to the main point of the article; can a game be not just good, but even GREAT as I asked? Let’s get to how that might be accomplished.

I don’t particularly think Big Red Button is fit for the job, mostly due to a really bad first impression (I think Rise of Lyric is on both of Sega and BRB’s hands for different reasons), and there’s no telling just how hard the team has been hit following ROL’s release (all we know at the moment is that they helped out with God of War 3 Remastered on PS4) and if they’re even able do a AAA release, even though they were formed for that purpose. The problem is, one, this was their first true game, the second, is that it’s their first game after being formed 6 years prior in 2008. The only dev I can think of that had a similar history that actually put out a damn good game (just one example anyway) is Zoonami who after so long put out an “eh” game with Zendoku on DS and PSP, but then worked with Nintendo directly to make Bonsai Barber on WiiWare which got really good reception for what it was, yeah it was a vegetable hair cut simulator (how many games can be called that?), but a damn fine vegetable hair cut simulator!

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But when can we trim a hedgehog?

Ironically, both companies were formed by pretty notable folks from legendary companies, with BRB being formed by Naughty Dog vets, with Zoonami being formed by a Rare veteran (specifically by Martin Hollis, the director of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark).

Anyway, it’ll take some sort of great game, even a small scale one to restore faith in BRB in my opinion. It can be done, but I want to see it happen first naturally before I want to see them on another big game, and specifically a Sonic game in this case.

So what now then? Well, I’ve come up with two choices. One we already have if only to just make a really good one, but another if Sega REALLY want to do a AAA release without holding back.

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The former would be Sanzaru again on a Wii U game (talking from obvious history here with the games being on Nintendo systems, just work with me here), we have a very proven dev who earned their fame from working on not only remastering the Sly Cooper games, but created an all-new sequel on PS3 and Vita with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, which of course was a full 3D platformer.

Do they own any of the tech used in Thieves in Time, I don’t know, but let’s assume they do. they can use the engine as a starting point, and bringing a PS3 engine to Wii U is way easier than from what we heard of BRB trying to bring PS4 and XBO-made tech to Wii U (supposedly the game started there and was forced to downport), also not using an engine not proven to shine on the platform and also Sanzaru would know their own tech inside and out, so they’d know how to get it working naturally (also they did port the game to Vita and that’s much weaker than Wii U).

I think this is a recipe that can work, if they make a true 3D platforming game that maybe takes some elements of Fire & Ice (I’d expect them wanting to as they are the same dev after all) and make a big adventure on Wii U, I’m thinking the results would surprise some people, especially if Sega do mean it when they said they’re sorry for the poor output recently. Who knows.

The other dev in mind if Sega really want to go all out, and it’s certainly one very familiar with western 3D platformers that really push boundaries, and can work on Wii U, that dev can only be; Insomniac.

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These guys, unlike their pals at Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch, actually do still make 3D platformers, and Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is supposed to the best in the series and each game is filled with personality and when they’re at their best, are outstanding experiences. And just look at Ratchet & Clank on PS4 which is a remake of sorts of the very first game. I said wow.

If Insomniac put the passion and quality they put in for example A Crack in Time in a Sonic Boom game on Wii U, I think we’d ALL be in for a real treat. It also depends if Sega would allow it by giving them the time and money needed to reach that kind of quality.

Of course, on the Wii U side of things, most would just say “wait until the NX”, whatever it ends up being, and you’re right. Wii U’s not having a good time (to say the least) and there’s a lot of talk about the NX being its successor that could be out in 2016 (it will be shown in whatever form it is next year, that much we know). Well let’s focus on the here and now and not straight away assume things. I’ve made my own but this probably isn’t the time or place for you to do the same, this is about Sonic Boom after all and not about what Nintendo’s doing next on the console front. πŸ™‚

So yeah, this is just an idea of what Sega can do with the Sonic Boom series if they want to show people that a Sonic Boom game can be done right. Will they do it? I doubt it, but you never know what the future holds! What do you think of these ideas, and Sonic Boom as a whole? Do you think the Sonic Boom line can be salvaged gaming-wise, and would you like to see a truly serious effort in a game in the series? Do you have any ideas, like of who should make a Sonic Boom game, and what direction it should be taken? Let us know in the comments!

35 Comments

  1. Gameplay wise sure, it should be totally possible if given to the right developer and with enough time, though I don’t have much faith in Fire & Ice, I confess I don’t like the Boom universe in any medium but also I have some objective reasons of why I don’t think SB: Fire & Ice will be good:

    Shattered Crystal left a lot to be desired and they’re making the sequel in less than a year after SC, not to mention they will change the level design to make it more traditional than “Metroidvania” and also adding Amy as a playable character, these are good features in my opinion but with the short development time these will be more obstacles that will require more development time and cost that could have gone to the improvement of this sequel over the original, sure maybe Sanzaru is capable of developing a good Sonic Boom game or even great but I don’t think they will be able to do so in this circumstances.

    1. Fire and Ice was planned a long time ago and has been in development for awhile. Sega hasn’t said for how long beyond “since before E3”, but there’s nothing to contradict that information so far so I’ll assume its true until evidence gets out that proves otherwise. But besides that I can see your point.

      I doubt F&I will be anything more than forgettable myself– at best, it will lay down some good ideas for the next title but have too many failings to prevent it from becoming truly great. Think like Sonic Unleashed. At worst, it’ll probably just be Shattered Crystal 2.0– neither horribly bad nor fantastically good. I know it would be a waste of invested time and money and a large blow to investor confidence to cancel the game considering how its apparently nearing completion, but I wish that it was delayed for a year or so. In its current state, it just looks like it needs a ton of refinement. The graphics need to be polished, the Fire and Ice mechanics need expanding on, etc. There’s no way this game should be nearing completion in this state if it wants to be anything more than passable.

      1. In an interview Omar Woodley from Sega said that they decided to focus on Sonic Booms for the Nintendo 3DS just after seein the critical response and fan reception of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal:

        “And the 3DS was definitely the stronger of the two titles last year. We saw it both in the user and the critical reviews, and so that was what really decided it. If we’re really going to focus on something, we’re really going to step it up and improve all of the things that need improvement, and try to make it a really solid game. The 3DS was a very natural choice.”

        Here is the link: http://www.gamespot.com/articles/sega-isn-t-abandoning-classic-sonic-but-it-wants-t/1100-6427955/

        1. Yes, they said that they were going to focus on it, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t being worked on before. As Kramer said, “this game has been worked on since before E3”. All it means is that they’re hunkering down and getting some stuff fixed in the game before launch. The 3DS being natural choice is probably PR talk for “We didn’t have any other version prepared before launch”.

          Actually, that could explain why the game looks so undetailed and unpolished. If there was a ton of content hastily removed to separate the game from SC, then there would be some holes and awkward empty spaces where content used to be. A refined game would fill those holes and spaces with new details and mechanics, a rushed game would not.

          1. You have to remember the E3 was last month so that doesn’t says much. There is plenty of evidence that suggests Sanzaru Games will have less than a year to develop Fire & Ice since they finished Shattered Crystal between June and July from last year and the interview that I posted above suggests that they didn’t start development of Fire & Ice until Shattered Crystal was released in November 2014 and that Sega has to release Fire & Ice in Q4 2015.

            Source: http://www.tssznews.com/2014/12/11/radiosega-interview-with-mat-kraemer-of-sanzaru-games/

          2. Last year’s E3, I meant to say. IE when demos of the first two Sonic Boom games were first unveiled.

            If you have this evidence, please show it to me because that interview doesn’t disprove anything. Its very possible to refocus and make drastic changes mid-development to improve a game. Heck, this wouldn’t even be the first time this has been attempted. Take Metroid Fusion for example. The first version of MF was well along when it was shown to the public. However, it was torn to shreds upon announcement, and the public anticipated a massive failure. So Nintendo gathered its resolve, took a good hard look at the game and what people were saying about it, and did a complete 180, redoing much of the game to produce a new MF that was received much better.

            I’m not saying that Fire and Ice will be successful like Metroid Fusion, but the various changes to the SC formula (for example, the game lacks forced exploration) combined with the awkward emptiness of the levels indicate a game where a lot of content has been cut quickly in a hasty attempt to turn the game around rather than indicating a game that was quickly rushed out in November. To its credit, there is legitimate effort put into it and it does appear BETTER than SC for not having some of this stuff, but the emptiness needs to be filled somehow to create a game that’s better than “decent enough”. This is a game that definitely needs more time– just not because it only just started development in November.

          3. @Mad Convoy

            There is evidence to everything I said right in those 2 interviews I posted, Fire & Ice couldn’t have started development before last year’s E3 since they were working on Shattered Crystal and Mat Kraemer of Sanzaru Games basically complained about the little time they had to make SC (that’s also discussed in the interview I posted above).

            I have shown you plenty of evidence and you still have to show me any true evidence.

          4. My evidence is the official statements given by Sega and Sanzaru regarding the development time (in an interview with Youtube’s Nintendo World Report and a later interview with Aaron Webber by Sonic Stadium’s own Jason Berry in one of his Boomcasts), and I’ve explained how they do not conflict with previous statements. Don’t see how that isn’t “real evidence”– I know that Sega can be dishonest, but there’s no reason to discount what its saying just yet.

            I already stated why that was the case for the game supposedly being an improvement from SC and feel no need to repeat it. But just because SC was rushed doesn’t mean that F&I wasn’t being worked on during its development, nor does it mean that I think that F&I isn’t being rushed. I reiterate, I think its been making very hasty changes rather than being an entirely new development, and I cited observations from the game footage that we’ve seen to make this point. If I might add, that’s more “real evidence” that I’ve provided for my points. F&I and SC being worked on at the same time, if anything, could further substantiate his claim that he wasn’t given enough time to finish SC since Sanzaru was basically expected to develop two games at once and so had limited manpower for each game.

          5. @Mad Convoy

            You got that wrong, it was Sonic Boom Shattered Crystal which began production before last year’s E3 and not Fire & Ice, furthermore the guys had to wait until Shattered Crystal was released to know the fans feedback and develop Fire & Ice based on that, it’s all there in the interview you’re talking about.

        2. No, in the interview it was explicitly F&I that was being worked on before E3. SC was already stated to have been worked on before E3, plus its kind of a given. As the Metroid Fusion example proves, it is possible to give a game a complete 180 mid-development in response to criticism. Or at least attempt such.

          Furthermore, if F&I was really started in November, it would have only eight months of development at this point, seven when the demo was released. By the modern standards of video game development, that’s like being asked to cook a whole chicken in 20 minutes. With such little development time, it would have to be a) fundamentally broken because the new code has not been given the time to properly bugtest it (think like Rise of Lyric or Sonic 06) or b) a clone of the previous game because the previous game’s code has been almost completely reused to save time (think like CoD or Fifa). Although it reuses a lot of graphical assets from SC, F&I’s core gameplay and a few enemies/items are unique to itself and so qualifies as new code. And it functions on a basic level. Thus, it fits neither of those, so it must’ve have had more than seven/eight months of development. I’d give it two years, maybe a year and a half.

          1. Nope, it was Shattered Crystal and the examples you make at the end of your post are exactly my main concerns with this game, that due little developmen time we will get another awful game, even in your best case scenario where F&I have been worked on since last year it will use a new code because of the changes made because of people feedback (aka the “180 degrees turn”) and thus it would still be in the losing side.

          2. Can you give me exact quotes? Even so, Webber mentioned that its been in development for a long time. Yeah, I know, the ever unreliable PR guy’s statement, but its still the official Sega statement on the matter.

            Not long enough is what I’m thinking though. Really, I think our only point of disagreement is when the game started development and what its trying to do– besides that we’re in agreement that it needs more time. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think the game will be much more than a somewhat decent forgettable timewaster, but I do think it made an effort to be better. Hey, a semi-decent, forgettable timewaster is better than a mediocre, at times annoying, forgettable waste of time, right?

    2. Well, a lot of the work is already there with the original and it’s more development time than the average Call of Duty sequel. It could be probably be done, but you’re right to be concerned.

      1. More than CoD? Wow, that is a sad reflection on the current state of Activision…

        But yeah, its obvious that F&I had quite the effort put into it– but thing is, if the final version ends up highly problematic, your effort was wasted as a bad game is still a bad game no matter how hard you worked on it. Not to say that F&I will be something bad per-say– it seems to function on a basic level with very little BS to impede you. But unless Sanzaru has put its efforts in the right places and had enough time to refine the game and take it to the next level, this game will end up being really, really blah.

        A good Sonic Boom game is possible, but it MUST get managed properly or it’ll all go to mud. I would personally keep it 2D and comical just for the sake of keeping each game connected to each other– we don’t want Boom to end up like the mainline where there’s a million different playstyles and tones, and thus no ubiquitous, agreed-upon brand identity. Though P&G would get the boot for sure.

      2. Yeah though you should remember there is also a lot of work done with the CoD franchise which allow the studio to make the sequels faster, the biggest difference though is that Activision maintain a very stable quality margin and the CoD games tend to recieve scores from 85 to 95, in the other hand Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is so far the only Sonic Boom game made by Sanzaru and received an average score of 47.45%.

        1. Actually, although CoD has solid sales and good reviews, its widely held up as an example of corporate laziness. Because of this, CoD games obviously don’t take long to make. Its made very little variation on its formula (as in, Activision has pretty much been releasing the same game for years with only superficial upgrades at best), and its something of a laughing stock amongst Nintendo fans for being held up as the “pinnacle of innovation” despite being very repetitive, linear, and uninspired. Plus Activision engages in all sorts of shady stuff to get those high reviews– bribery, “game parties” where the devs pretty much tell reviewers how to enjoy a game and serve them alcohol to impair judgement, holding ad revenue hostage, etc. Sega clearly does not use these practices (at least for Sonic), so its franchises already at a disadvantage to Activision’s in terms of getting good reviews.

          Plus Sanzaru has only released one and worked on two Sonic games while Activision has made several CoD titles. Most franchise patterns become verifiable after three games and cement themselves by five games, so there isn’t much to really substantiate the claim that Sanzaru’s Sonic output is unstable.

          1. Not defending Activision and the CoD games mind you, just pointing out that Sanzaru its following the same “business lazyness” patern but without the quality to justify it.

          2. You can’t have a pattern with one or two games though, especially since series often have early installment weirdness in their first two games. You need at least three to confirm that something like, say, corporate laziness is a running theme in Sanzaru’s Sonic games.

            Plus there are major changes to the SC formula for F&I. For example, there’s a bigger attempt to emphasize platforming and speed than before. Activision on the other hand has been giving fans the same game over and over again with minor aesthetic upgrades, new plot, and new servers for online matches. So Sanzaru has not, at this point in time, established a pattern Activision-esque laziness because its most recent Sonic game is not a clone of SC thinly disguised with a new coat of paint.

        2. @Mad Convoy

          So far it looks like is following the patern several game developers do, I mean only one year to release the sequel, seriously?

          Though hopefully Fire & Ice turns out as different as you say and hopefully is good for a change.

          1. Again, its only two games. If the next game comes out immediately next year, then I’ll call it a pattern. I hope that isn’t the pattern though given how that just isn’t feasible for modern video game development anymore.

            Keep in mind that I don’t think that F&I is going to be good, or memorable, or anything but a semi-decent timewaster with some good ideas here and there. But it will definitely be better than SC, if only in a similar way that Secret Rings was a better game than Sonic 06.

  2. I would love to see Insomniac make a true action/adventure Sonic game. At least they are proven to make something incredible. But why still restrict to the Wii U? The Nintendo exclusive deal is over and Sonic has only been on Nintendo systems since Lost World (not counting their new mobile game). A Sonic game made by Insomniac would probably be better on PlayStation and Xbox consoles instead of only on Wii U (again).

  3. I believe it’s completely possible! Heck, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, by gameplay, seems like it’ll be decent at least…

    However, thanks to just one game, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, I don’t think a Sonic Boom game would be good to general public. It’s a matter of reputation. I have seen SO many comments claiming how Sonic is garbage, and hasn’t had a good game in 20 years. That’s a bit of an overreaction based on one game to support a TV series, but it seems I’m the minority in that thought. Point is…. most people HATE Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice with absolutely no complaint about the gameplay, structure, or design. People will just see Sonic Boom games as “Rise of Lyric 2” or better yet, “Sonic 06 3, 4, 5, and 6.” Even Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom shares this same reception.

    I want to say yes, good, even great Sonic Boom games can be made… but regardless of gameplay, I feel like people will just shove it off as another Rise of Lyric. Honestly, though, the idea of Insomniac Games making a Sonic Boom game makes my heart grow.

  4. It’s totally possible. I think a good sonic boom will really help the series. I don’t mind the concept of Rol. I would love to play an open world sonic game or a combat based one. I just want it to be fun and functional. If Sega ever decides to make another 3D sonic boom game, I think they should go with Sanzaru or the folks behind the Lego games.

    1. Oh yeah, the people behind the LEGO games. They’d be perfect for a Sonic Boom game, if we’re to redo the concepts of Rise of Lyric. πŸ™‚

  5. Sonic Boom Kart racing game! Who doesn’t want to play as Dave the Intern driving a Meh Burger Mobile?! πŸ˜€

  6. A hood sonic boom game? Possible! A successful sonic boom game? Almost impossible. We all know the best thing that came out from the boom universe is the tv show and comics(which is cancelled). People will not count on sonic boom again. Yet again let’s see how fire and ice does. We might see a change.

  7. I seriously hate it when companies give us something people what we didn’t ask for, instead of what we wanted. For example, Nintendo gave us Super Mario Maker, instead of Super Mario Galaxy 3. That said, Sonic Boom, Fire and Ice, can still be the best Sonic Boom game, (barely LOL), but in reality we’ll just be pouring our heart and soul into whatever Sonic game SEGA decides to reveal at Tokyo Game Show. (YAY!)

    1. Well with Mario Maker the WiiU can finally have something resembling modding support, and Sega has never revealed Sonic at a TGS event and they would never reveal Sonic at a TGS event because Sonic isn’t really popular in Japan.

  8. “most will agree that the show itself is pretty damn good, and is one of the sole saving graces of the Sonic Boom name”

    Seriously? That show is a streaming pile of crap. I have to SMH at the Sonic fanbase.

  9. It could be very possible to make a GOOD Sonic Boom game, just as it is with making any good Sonic game. The only necessary ingredients are creativity, money, skill, and TIME. Thinking realistically though, depending on how Sega wants to keep using its Sonic Boom card, it might be wise to let Sonic Boom continue with a smaller profile, probably existing purely in show form for a while, keeping the franchise rolling with the Modern Sonic line as usual, all the while having a competent team work on a new Boom game, give them the money needed, but especially give them ALL THE TIME THEY NEED FOR ONCE! If anything Sega’s biggest blunder has always been in its desire to meet deadlines without giving any compromise for giving the game more time. This is what made Sonic 2006 such a failure and unsurprisingly it is one of the biggest reasons Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric did so poorly as well, apart from also having far too lofty goals of downgrading the game and stuffing it into it’s Nintendo Exclusivity contract last second. My philosophy has always been that in whatever Sega is doing for Sonic, be it the next big title in the Main series, a spin off series like Boom, or especially an Anniversary title, the biggest resource they should allow the creators is an abundance of TIME. Whether that means planning a title half a decade in advance or delaying a title’s release far past it’s “ideal” release window, the result will ultimately be worth it in the end, as word of mouth will be what drives sales for a good game, no matter what shopping season it is. Give a game enough time to be good, and the money will soon follow.

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