The Spin: The Notion of ‘A True Threat To Sonic’

[This article will contain some spoilers for Sonic Mania, so if you’re waiting for the PC version, see you next week]

You know how some people have these phrases that they use to try and articulate their feelings? Especially when it comes to Sonic games? Well today we’re going to look at one of them; this one:

“I want the villain to be ‘a true threat to Sonic”


Can we just, stop using that phrase? Because it’s completely meaningless. Most of the time when it’s used, we all know what you mean by that – “I want Sonic to nearly die” or some other dark and moody ideology.

Sonic Mania has proved that you can make threats to Sonic without them becoming a Saturday Night Monster or some God-like apocalyptic entity that wants to destroy everything.

Destroying The World Is Not Scary, Everybody Does It

How many Sonic games have we had in which the final boss/villain’s ultimate goal was to destroy the world/the universe/all of existence/all life anywhere? Off the top of my head, the following games either ended up being like that, or started off like that and resulted in the entire rest of the game’s premise being ‘we’ve got to stop them!’

  • Sonic Adventure 1
  • Sonic Adventure 2
  • Sonic Heroes
  • Shadow the Hedgehog
  • Sonic 06
  • Sonic Unleashed
  • Sonic Generations (sort of)

Some of the other games are much more debatable, such as Generations… yeah, Eggman could use Time Eater to wipe out everything, but… what would be the point? He wouldn’t be able to rule anything.

Now, lets make a list of all the games which end up with a villain who has a lot of super powers – or basically, became the ‘Saturday Night Monster Movie Villain’.

Yup, it’s pretty much the same list I just posted.

Every single villain in these games essentially ended up becoming either super powerful, or was already super powerful and just decided to destroy everything. They all had the same ultimate goal. The motives may have been slightly different, but they’re all trying to do the same thing.

So… we have had villains for years that all end up just trying to destroy everything, yet people are still using the phrase, ‘I want a a true threat to Sonic!’

…wha? But, we’ve just had the world, the universe, and all dimensions at risk!? How is that not…. I give up.

Think of Sonic Mania’s Plot For Just A Moment

If you take what’s presented in the game, you are effectively given this:

Sonic & Tails detect a mysterious gem on Angel Island, when they attempt to find it, they discover Eggman has beaten them to it and extracted it. During the initial encounter, the gem activates and Sonic is warped to a Green Hill Zone which has been distorted from what he knows – it’s the same but has now been meshed with other zones. 

He then heads off to find Eggman to stop him from using the gem for… whatever Eggman will use the gem for. During the adventure, Sonic encounters the Hard Boiled Heavies, an elite Egg-Robo squad with different abilities who try to stop Sonic.

And… that’s it.

There is nothing in Sonic Mania to suggest that anyone is trying to destroy the world, there is nothing to suggest anyone in Sonic Mania is trying to destroy all life. Even in the final few stages, all we see is a giant Egg Mech. And if you manage to find the secret boss… if you fail, Eggman wins and will probably end up ruling the world. But there’s nothing to say that everyone will be destroyed, or that anything apocalyptic will happen.

What Is That Gem Used For?

Here’s a crazy thought – based on what’s in the game, we don’t know what Eggman wants that gem for. We only assume Eggman is going to use the gem to take over the world somehow because… well, that’s what we always assume with regards to Eggman. But for all we know, he might just want a nice piece for his display cabinet.

… I’m serious, show me where in Sonic Mania that we see Eggman explicitly trying to take over the world?

But yeah, we know he probably will use it for world domination because… well… he’s Eggman. But destroy the world? The universe? Extremely unlikely.

So, we have a plot here which is very simple, has nothing on the level of apocalyptic end-of-the-world stakes, yet nobody with any degree of common sense is seriously arguing that this makes the game boring, or that the stakes are not high enough. Actually, go right ahead show me someone who is actually saying that – it’s been a while and I need a good laugh.

Mania Has The Best Villains We’ve Seen For Decades

When Hard Boiled Heavies were first shown, a number of critics were saying ‘they’re just glorified Egg Robos’. Well, now that the game is out we can see that…. yeah, actually they are – and they’re brilliant. They’re so simple, yet are a clear and present danger to Sonic and his friends.

Lets take this guy. Heavy Gunner.

What are his special powers? If you don’t include the jet pack… he has a rocket launcher… and that’s it. Yet, his boss fight is one of the most challenging in the game. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve seen get a Game Over at this guy, and typically most players will finish this fight with 0 rings in their collection.

But all he does is follow you in a helicopter and shoot rockets at you. That’s it! Yet would anyone say this guy isn’t a threat? I’ve seen him decimate people’s runs of the game, I’ve seen others barely make it through due to how challenging he is.

And what about the others?

Again, very minimal, each one only has a handful of powers and abilities. But there’s nothing along the lines of all-powerful ‘Saturday Night Movie Monster’ that will destroy the world.

Why are they so good? Because they’re a genuine threat to Sonic despite only having one or two special powers and abilities. They pop up and potentially ruin your run because they are so well designed. There’s only one that I would say is a bit disappointing compared to the rest, but overall, the boss fights here are pretty good.

Each one has a unique personality too. You have Heavy Gunner who acts like the shock trooper 60’s riot police man, ready to disperse those pesky protesters. There’s the female Heavy Magician who bows before she attacks, as if to say “Welcome to my show! Now die!” Heavy Rider is a wild stunt-woman akin to some of the villains we’ve seen from movies like Mad Max.

They don’t even need to say anything, yet they ooze personality as well as being an actual threat to you. That’s all they needed to be, special one-off nemeses that pop up and pretty much say ‘I’ve got the power to ruin your progress! And you’re going to keep on loving me when I do’ 

Infinite: The Saturday Night Movie Monster

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you ‘Infinite’.

We don’t know too much about him. However, here is a list of all his super powers and abilities, according to trailer footage and some guess-work based on his theme song.

Even if you are the biggest fan of Sonic Forces, how can you look at this and not think ‘this is getting a little silly’? That list of confirmed powers and abilities? There are eight of them. Eight. That’s only one less than Mr T.

These are things which we’ve seen in trailers, mind you. But if it’s true, that abilities list is right up there with those fan-made villain characters that we all laugh at. It’s so over-the-top it’s unbelievable. It’s not threatening, it’s stupid.

Now have a look at the unconfirmed and theorised stuff. This is based on a few oddities people have spotted in the trailers, and clues from the theme song. It becomes even more stupid… I mean, if we are now having to make spreadsheets to keep track of Infinite’s powers and abilities, at what point is it going to be apparent that this villain is pretty laughable? He’s not scary or a threat; he’s what children do when they try to create a powerful villain – give him all the powers and think that makes for a credible threat.

Compare this to the Hard Boiled Heavies. Each of them have maybe two or three powers at the most. And they’re absolutely a threat – they constantly pop up in the game just to cause havoc and try to stop Sonic. They’re not trying to destroy the world. They’re not trying to destroy all existence. They pop up to fight Sonic and try and defeat him. That’s it.

And that’s fine! At no point when playing Sonic Mania do you ever think, ‘Man…. I wish the Heavies would try to destroy the world’. Nor do you ever think that the whole world or universe is on the line – you never think that, yet the boss fights are no less intense and the villains no less memorable.

They do small stuff, utterly perfectly, to create memorable battles and villains who we will be smiling at for years to come.

True Threats Which Were Great

If I sit down and think of really great villains in gaming – the ones who were a constant reminder of just how much of a threat they were; the ones which you knew you had to stop; who were a major threat to your character – quite often they don’t appear to do very much and their ‘super power/ability’ count is amazingly low.

One villain I tend to think of is Jack from Borderlands 2, some of the enemies from the Metal Gear Solid series and Mr X from Resident Evil 2. 

Jack, for around 75% of the game, you never encounter, you never see, but he’s always there. He’s constantly calling you and mocking you, constantly belittling you and everyone you meet. He’s just an arsehole. But my god, it makes you want to kick his ass.

However, on your journey, you see all the crazy stuff he’s done. The towns he’s destroyed, the destruction he’s done, the mutations he’s caused to people and animals. He’s always there, you see that he’s a major threat to the world of Pandora… and when you finally encounter him? ‘He’s just a man’. He’s just an ordinary man who is very smart.

Mr X from Resident Evil 2 – he’s a slow-moving Tyrant who appears throughout the second scenario, moves towards you slowly, and effectively takes out most of your health with one punch. He’s not trying to destroy the world, he’s not trying to destroy all existence, he’s trying to ‘clean up’ and remove evidence from Raccoon City that can implicate Umbrella… that includes you. And all he has are his fists.

Then we have Dr Eggman from Sonic 1 – Sonic 3. He’s just an ordinary man who uses his genius to create robots in a bid to take over the world. You only ever encounter him at the end of Zones as he tries to stop you. He has no special powers or abilities, outside of his mind which allows him to create ever more dangerous traps and machines to try and fight you with.

Yes, he creates a Death Egg… but tell me… do you ever see him trying to destroy the world with it? Or is it to more enslave it? Is it not more of a symbol of his power as opposed to the grunts who will actually enforce it?

A true threat to Sonic? How about one which doesn’t require a spreadsheet to keep track of its powers? How about one which does a small handful of things really well just to ruin Sonic’s day? We don’t need the entire world (or universe) in peril every day to recognise a true threat.

The Hard Boiled Heavies will be joining this list. They each only have a few special abilities or powers, but they all cause absolute chaos to Sonic, they ooze personality and don’t ever say a word.

They are true threats to Sonic and at not one point did anyone check to see if the earth was about to explode.


Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.

21 Comments

  1. Excellent read Hogfather. I 100% agree with you. Those villains were cool when I was younger but now, it just shows that they’re designed with the sole intent of being a final boss and that’s it. I love the hard boiled heavies. Every single one. Particularly Heavy Magician because she is just so darn cute. And Heavy Shinobi is a cheeky little bugger, and the dread I recieved from the heavy King towards the end, my heart was racing.

  2. You don’t need to put the disclaimer at the bottom pretending it’s not the opinion of the rest of the Stadium staff. We all know it’s fact that Mania is worlds better than any official Sonic game released in 23 years. Even SEGA happily admit it while still taking money from it and forcing that Forces tie-in into it. And it’s not like a single writer on staff has any objecting feelings to that, so. It is not in the slightest controversial or in need of a disclaimer.

    If somebody thinks it needs to be marked as opinion only, they never really liked Sonic the Hedgehog.

    1. While it may be true that Sonic Mania is better than most Sega-related things in recent years, its not necessary to completely put games like Unleashed, Colors, Generations, etc. under the bus. After all, it is commonly agreed upon that the boost formula gameplay is for the most part pretty good. Although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, its not fair to say that an opinion is just pure fact.

  3. Fairs. I have intrigue in Infinite because I have no idea what he’s there for. I’ve seen what he can do sure but I don’t know what his intentions are. Heck I don’t even know if he’s a boss in the game or anything like that, story wise, yeah he’s pretty much a huge problem for Sonic, his name and abilities so far seem to revolve around time, don’t know for sure though. He doesn’t seem to be a world ending threat either from what I’ve seen. If anything he’s a threat to Sonic’s ego and beliefs; apparently he’s faster than Sonic and the time thing seems to be a concern of Sonic’s in a few stories, I don’t know, I’ll wait til I see more.

    Decent and fairly credible piece though Hogfather. I haven’t played Mania yet, but I was never bothered by spoilers either, don’t have time for first impressions when it comes to games. I’ll know if I’ll enjoy it or not once I’ve got it. All the best this Sunday, God bless and take care.

  4. I actually agree, and honestly, I would be ecstatic to see the Hard Boiled Heavies return in a future title. They, from what I have seen of them in the game, without playing it yet, but oh so want to, have earned their place in Eggman’s line of souped up badniks. Plus, spoiler alert, they weren’t destroyed save for one possibly, and even then, Eggman can simply rebuild them. Much like Metal Sonic has been reconstructed time and again because he’s simply been so effective despite his repeated failures, these guys I fully want and expect to see them return. Use new tactics involved with their abilities, yes, but I want to see them again. I also want to see new ones added to the roster that each fill a new role, do it perfectly, and end up being a pain in Sonic’s tail from just doing their one task, and doing it well.

    Yeah, you can tell these guys are good villains when people want more of them. XD This is the way to do effective villains, and the world need not be at stake all the time as said in the article.

  5. “I want the villain to be ‘a true threat to Sonic” – that’s the most stupidest sentence one can made. Did Mario ever fought gods, destroyers, time eaters that want to eradicate all existence? No, he fights in nearly every single game Bowser. Ofc there are other villains (mostly in RPG Mario’s) but none of them are, like u described them, “The Saturday Night Movie Monster”, their powers are fair for gameplay and don’t require Mario to go Invincibility Star mode for 50sec+ to be even able to hurt them (I don’t mean Dooms Day Zone and Egg Reverie are bad, they are very good cuz Sonic didn’t really require Super Sonic to chase down Eggman in space, but he didn’t have a rocket in his pocket so transform was the quickest option, they would be challenging without Emeralds but not unbeatable without them).

  6. I feel the thing to take away from this is more that interesting villains matter more than ones who have the most powers and are technically the most dangerous. I suppose. A few of the villains on that list above I found interesting because of their motives and some because of the lore surrounding their existence.

    But ultimately, I just care if the story you’re writing is interesting and the villain can be as well. One of the interesting things about Eggman is that despite his goofy persona, he can also be taken as a legitimate threat too… when written correctly. That didn’t come across well in Colors and Generations for me because of how one-sided the dumbass nature of his incompetence was played out. But that also didn’t come across well in Sonic 06 because he was just stock, generic, boring, bad guy in that game. And no matter how serious he was, he wasn’t a threat because he was still incompetent.

    The only thing keeping me from outright passing a verdict on Infinite so far is the mystery angle as well as the fact that I haven’t seen what he’ll end up doing or why. When I do, it’ll most likely not be anything too special but it’s nice being in a space where I can imagine.

    Although, it’s hard to not recognize that despite not being someone who can play the Classic Sonic games, one look at the Hard Boiled Heavies got me interested in them from the get-go.

  7. The key to any good villain: Simple ideas, done well. And that’s what the Hard-Boiled Heavies are, and that’s why they’re brilliant 🙂

  8. I’m one of those “people who want a ‘true threat to Sonic'” trash… but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with what you said. For the most part, I simply want to see Sega flesh out Sonic’s potential and strengths. I’m not gonna rage and banter for a game that has Sonic ascending to some god-tier like Hyper Sonic would’ve been, but if the evidence is there, I’d like to see it put to use.

    Honestly, I was kinda happy that Infinite was some over-the-top villain, cause I’m part of that trash community, apparently… I suppose it’s due to the bad taste that the Deadly Six left with their stereotypical personalities and powers, being posed as “a true threat to Sonic,” when, in the end, they were possibly the most cartoon thing of a villain group.

    i don’t know if there’s something wrong with me for wanting something on the line, some risk involved, but I really loved the story of Unleashed. Maybe I’m just a “feel-good” kind of guy? (not really, in most cases…) I like it when there’s a flowing story and enjoyable gameplay. I’m not saying that I *need* there to be a scenario where the true villain is trying to destroy the world, as in the last console games (Lost World, Generations [to a degree…], Rise of Lyric [wanted to destroy all life forms]), the boss fights weren’t very challenging…

    I think the main problem is trying to give enemies abilities and powers that overwhelm Sonic but are terrible in practice. I dunno, I’m part of that trash group that wants a “true threat”…

    Mania was fine to me… Perhaps it’s more that if the villain is going to be so powerful, I want him to actually display that power and be a challenge to overcome. I’m all for games that don’t have some super villain, as long as they aren’t being posed as such.

    (not trying to be tongue-in-cheek; it’s just my way of hitting myself)

    1. ” I’m part of that trash group that wants a “true threat””

      “Trash Group”.

      So would like to point out before others come out here and think I’m attacking them, that was your words there not mine.

      1. Yeah, sorry… I have a bad habit of downplaying myself that I forgot that I’d be grouping others… Sorry about that…

  9. Pretty sure with “true threat” they just mean the attitude of the villain, the energy they posses. Not so much the litteral consequences. Fang’s usually respected as a proper villain, even if he’s small time and even clumsy. But his attitude makes up for it.
    The Gun Truck chase is considered a great villain moment, even tough they aren’t villains, they’re hilariously incompotent and a giant joke to begin with. And ironically there’s more severe consequences with Sonic fighting it then if Sonic would surrender. But it carries an exciting energy with it.

    Eggman can be both threatening and lame, depending on the writng.
    Sonic Colors can mention all it wants that Eggman imprisoned an entire planet and other cool stuff he did offscreen, as soon as Dr. Eggman is onscreen he’s bumbling around, lets himself be insulted by everyone including his own robots and is more then happy to talk himself down too.
    There’s no exciting energy, it feels like we’re bullies beating up the smelly fat kid at school instead of a hero rising against a big exciting villain.
    That’s when people start complaining they want a threatening villain. It’s not Eggman or the consequences of his actions, it’s that he doesn’t create any energy or exciting build up for a fight.

    But just have Dr. Eggman be menacing, energetic, and roll in with a giant Mech, ready for bussines, and he’s great. He can even make jokes and have theatrics, as long as he isn’t beating himself up all the time or constantly deflating the entire situation. The music, the attitude, the pace. The type of jokes and who exactly is the butt of the joke. Those are the things that matter.

    What I’m saying is, cut the damn Self awareness angle. Unless you’re doing a weird Star Trek/Ultron type AI villain or something. It’s not fitting for a villain to be self aware, especially not someone as theatrical, self obsessed and crazy as Eggman.

  10. The Hard Boiled Heavies a threat?
    Nope, all Sonic has to do is give them a few bops on the head when he has an opening and they’re done for.

    Infinite laughable?
    Nope just look back at the Hard Boiled Heavies design… their little gloves and cute egg shaped bodies, oooohhhhh I just want to cuddle with them.

    Sorry man but Infinite is the real threat here…. just look at the burning city in the Forces trailer and you’ll see.

    1. A few bops on the head…

      So that’s going to make infinite look even more stupid when you realise that’s how you defeat him too.

      Like in every Sonic game?

      1. Have you seen a leaked demo of Infinite’s boss fight?

        No?

        We haven’t seen anything so it’s hard to tell if that’s what we do to defeat him.

        1. Can you please show me a final Sonic boss fight where Sonic didn’t bump or run into the enemy?

          Cheers.

          1. I mean… unless we gonna be playing puyo puyo tetris with Infinite as the final boss fight lmao

            But real talk tho, I think what the dude means is that even though it is a few bops on the head is the norm for pretty much every sonic boss fight, its a lot harder to do so and seems more ominous and threatening due to the multiple final boss phases, the music, and atmosphere.

          2. Well then judging by what you just said it seems Infinite and the Hard Boiled Heavies aren’t that much different, so what makes Infinite less of a threat?

          3. The fact that he has all these ridiculous world ending Super Powers that need tracking via a spreadsheet and he’s defeated by a ‘bop on the head’ as you put it.

  11. I don’t know about that. I kind of disagree with this article. The villains, as Roger stated, were meant to build energy, raising the stakes isn’t really important compared to how the stakes were raised. The hard boiled heavies weren’t technically interesting villains, they were just really interesting concepts. The idea of Eggman’s robots turning against him is very intriguing, but it’s been done before with Metal Sonic. As far as threats go, you speak about them outside of the game’s own logic, and refer to them from the player perspective, which I would say doesn’t hold much weight, because players also didn’t know you could roll into walls in Green Hill Zone Act 1 for Sonic Mania. Does that mean it’s a legit threat because you didn’t have the skills to overcome it?

    Joking aside, I think you’re focused a bit too much on the “world threat” aspect of those games, and not the depth in the story. At least, not how it worked and what made the beings who did it right interesting. Not what they did, but why they did it. Chaos wanted to destroy everything out anger for what was done to his fellow Chao and the game doesn’t start out like that, it ended like that. Same with Sonic Adventure 2, it doesn’t start off as destroying the world, and by the time Eggman gets the eclipse cannon, he’s using it as a bargaining tool to bully the world into surrendering to him. Shadow’s friend was killed by people, he was wronged and wanted revenge. That’s two villains who basically became villains because inhabitants in the world Sonic is trying to save wronged them first. “Why” they wanted to destroy the world is what can lead to an interesting villain. It also gives way to Eggman’s “standards” and portrays him as a more complex villain by showing you the difference instead of telling you about it. Robots being villains with designs and their own needs are interesting, but the hard boiled heavies are just boss robots that work under Eggman. Their personalities just don’t compare to his, we’re going to be more excited when he’s screen than we would if Hard Boiled Heavy #3 is on screen.

    They’re interesting designs, but in all honesty, they’re just boss characters we have to fight. We fight them, and move on. I wouldn’t say we’ll think about it randomly when we think of the great villains in Sonic history. I’ll remember Fang more, because he has a presence, and the same goes for Infinite. The moment he’s around, we’re going to focus on him, not for his powers, but for his personality. What this character about? There’s mystery to him, and his theme only adds to that mystery in the lyrics. Also, someone mentioned Mario fighting Bowser, but all of those battles are not really epic at all? The Thousand Year Door was far more epic than anything Mario and Bowser did. Compared to Eggman, Bowser is not really an active villain. Mario just goes around stopping all the things he does, and he just kind of sits there until the end of the game and by the time you fight him, but really it should be him fighting you for what you did to him. At least Eggman sees Sonic messing things he did up and actually tries to stop him immediately.

Comments are closed.