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.
2010 was the year Sonic the Hedgehog came back.
Yes, we all heard the stories about how the franchise had declined not long after the jump to 3D, how gaming news outlets and critics even now would begin their pieces with some variation of “Sonic has had a rocky history,” and how every new Sonic game released around the “dark ages” period couldn’t shake off the dreaded “Sonic Cycle.”
Then came long-awaited rebirths for Sonic with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 and Sonic Colours, a pair of games that launched in 2010 and restored faith in the series for both fans and critics alike. S4:E1 aimed for true-to-form 2D platforming we hadn’t seen since the Genesis era (though whether Dimps and Sonic Team actually succeeded or not, well… the physics and game design really speak for themselves) while Colours retained and built upon the Daytime stage gameplay many have enjoyed from Unleashed.
They made us feel hope for the future of Sonic again, to a degree that even the most jaded of fans hadn’t felt in years. Lo and behold, both titles were released to widespread positive acclaim, much to our satisfaction and relief.
Unfortunately, SEGA had made a surprise decision earlier that same year that went down in infamy and broke the hearts of many, including my own.
In anticipation of the launches of Colours and the console versions of Sonic 4 after positive pre-release reception, the publisher had announced that they would no longer be selling Sonic games that have received “poor or average” aggregated scores during that generation, officially delisting a litany of games from retail. Jurgen Post, who served as SEGA of Europe’s President at the time, had announced in that October that they would be pulling games like ’06, Unleashed, and the Storybook titles off store shelves.
Now while I don’t like how the idea worked out in the long run, I do understand why SEGA had gone through with that decision. I totally get why. They wanted to better their chances at rejuvenating the Sonic brand’s marred reputation by essentially making consumers and reviewers forget those less-than-stellar games had ever existed, while also giving the brand new Colours a better chance on store shelves as the only Sonic game present. It’s good business sense.
In my eyes, however, SEGA had tragically done what many have considered to be the wrong thing for the right reasons, and have only decreased the supposed “value of the brand.” True, Sonic has made a remarkable comeback since then after a series of moves that would’ve otherwise killed smaller, less fortunate properties from other publishers, but should it have come at the cost of erasing pieces of his past?
To paraphrase Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation (terrific show, by the by), history “doesn’t work that way. You can’t just chop up [certain] aspects […] into discrete parts and select the ones you want like a buffet.”
In other words, SEGA shouldn’t just sweep up a sizeable chunk of the Sonic catalogue under the rug just because of Metacritic and keep it that way.
That decision may have worked for the time, but since then, the gaming industry has evolved to a point where we can buy retro and newly released software from digital marketplaces across various platforms. I love what SEGA have done in previous years with HD ports of Sonic Adventure 2, NiGHTS into Dreams, and Jet Set Radio, how they’ve entrusted fans with remastering Sonic 1, 2, and CD before letting them run wild with producing Sonic Mania, and now with the SEGA Forever initiative which I hope will extend beyond mobile platforms in the future. When exercised correctly, it just goes to show that nostalgia sells.
Most of Sonic’s earliest adventures have been preserved for modern systems in some capacity, and one would expect SEGA to follow through with the majority of his other journeys, what with advancements made on Microsoft’s Xbox One Backward Compatibility, Sony’s PlayStation Network, and (most egregiously) Nintendo’s Virtual Console since. In addition, with PC gaming becoming more and more mainstream, it’s not surprising to hear fans clamouring for SEGA to officially rerelease more Sonic games on Windows, as now more than ever, many are vocal about an Unleashed port to Steam – it’s impossible to watch a Sonic Official livestream these days without viewers clamouring for just such a port (well, that and a Sonic toaster).
And yet, like the neglected middle child while most of the oldest and youngest games get all the love from SEGA (from Taxman remasters of the classics to Sonic Lost World getting a PC port), few of the titles released between the end of the Dreamcast and the modern era have seen any official acknowledgment with some sort of rerelease, and those few that did are only available sparingly in certain regions on certain platforms. I feel that a lot more needs to be done, and I’m sure most of you can agree.
Sure, you could make the argument that SEGA is right to keep things as they are and that some of those games shouldn’t be remembered in the first place. And yet, with a legacy as unique like Sonic’s, rife with many ups, downs, and all-arounds, shouldn’t they deserve a second chance?
Should SEGA really just continue to sit on a catalogue of games that extensive because of some misplaced sense of saving “the value of the brand?”
Should we just forget those delisted games while pieces of their legacy live on even now?
Shouldn’t the fun we’ve had and countless hours we put into those games—those unconventionally designed, rushed, flawed but beautiful games—nonetheless be shared with newer, younger audiences who might appreciate them better than we did, or keep up with us as we go through whole console generations at a time?
For today, we’ll be going through most of the games released after the Dreamcast up to Sonic Forces one by one, being those I find are deserving of another chance and can be rereleased in some capacity that fits the modern gaming industry—within reason. I’ll be grouping some of these together by console families for the sake of brevity.
Also please keep in mind that I’m no professional industry pundit, video game analyst, company accountant, or a developer with technical know-how to back my words up – I’m just a fan who feels that these games deserve some love too, and it’s because of the very lack of simplicity on this topic that I feel it’s worth starting up this discussion. In some instances below, “port” will also be used as a catch-all term for ports, remasters, and emulations. If you want to talk “remakes,” that will be a topic for another day.
First, however, I’d like to talk about the black sheep of the bunch, looked upon by many as “Sonic’s downfall.“
1. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Initial release date: November 14, 2006
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Proposals: Restoring online purchasing, Xbox One (Backward Compatibility), PlayStation 4 (PlayStation Now)
What was supposed to be a celebration of Sonic’s 15th anniversary and a soft reboot for the franchise was unfortunately rushed to meet a Christmas deadline and hobbled by a split-up development team at the cost of any sensible quality control, and so it went on to be renowned as the worst Sonic game ever received critically for that time. Of all the games SEGA had delisted in 2010, the case with Sonic ‘06 was so extreme that the publisher has made it unavailable for purchase on the Xbox Live Marketplace, only months after it became available digitally that same year (yet all of the DLC is still up for grabs somehow).
Despite all the failed potential, there are some elements of ‘06 that are worthy of praise and deserve some commemoration. I’m sure we can all agree that “Sonic Next-Gen” has one of the best soundtracks in the franchise’s entire history, and it was also this game that introduced us to Silver, a time-travelling hedgehog from an era of devastation 200 years into the future who has made frequent appearances since, and the iconic Crisis City, which returned with a marvellous vengeance in Sonic Generations. Its storytelling—while presenting a shoddy excuse of a romance between Sonic and Princess Elise (less “Ewwww hedgehog X human,” more “underdeveloped and rushed” like the rest of the game), and littered with convoluted plot points in a vain attempt to make the time travelling element believable—still works with a cartoonishly nonsensical but understandable enough story that does provide some fun moments between the cast.
’06 was also the last game to borrow certain conventions from the Adventure games, namely several playable characters split between different storylines, wide hub worlds, similar 3D-oriented gameplay, and a more serious plot. It also had the benefit of a half-decent multiplayer mode where you and a friend can race to the goal as any of the three playable hedgehogs, even though the stages were stuck on a rotation.
God forbid you do the thing as Silver and keep me trapped in place as you jauntily jog on to the finish, because I will murder you in your sleep.
Plus, who hasn’t had fun playing around in going off the beaten path and messing with the abundance of glitches and bugs, or laughing at the unnatural NPC animations like that of “Alberto Robert” (I still can’t believe that’s a character name)? I’ve done just that with a friend of mine in the area, as she would play through the entire game while I commentate and provide tips (Hi Cam!).
Watching her laugh at wonky physics or yell in frustration over certain in-game shenanigans or groan at the many loading screens—all while I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed from the sidelines like a good supportive friend would—is the kind of fun and bonding experience only this game can provide. First playthroughs are rough, sure, but there is a lot of fun to gain from conquering a game like this in subsequent runs.
In that regard, I would go so far as to say that Sonic 2006 is comparable to Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic movie The Room, in that it’s so bad you can’t help but seek it out and have some masochistic enjoyment in experiencing it, and heck, even the Sonic social channels must feel the same way as they love to poke fun at the game on occasion to this day.
— Sonic the Hedgehog (@sonic_hedgehog) November 4, 2015
So while I do understand that SEGA wouldn’t want to approach this game again because it isn’t reflective of them as a publisher now, well… it’s been over eleven years, the damage has long already been done, and the dust has since settled. As Sonic Generations and Sonic Unleashed (another delisted game) are available on PS4 via PlayStation Now as of last year, it stands to reason that they’d become Backward Compatible on Xbox One too sooner rather than later.
However, I’d be damned if I lose the capability to play the notorious Sonic the Hedgehog should my Xbox 360 go to pasture, all because SEGA obnoxiously refuses to bring that flawed but still landmark mainline title up to the current era — and I’m sure those who own a PS4 and are subscribed to PS Now, or still have a working PS3, might feel the same way. Hell, it doesn’t make sense that we live in a world where you can download a bomb like Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric at a moment’s notice, especially while it launched with much lower review scores and sold extremely poorly, and not this. At least ’06 sold over a combined two million units between its two systems according to VGChartz (X360, PS3), and people knew what they were signing up for even then.
That “increasing the value of the brand” defence used against’06 is meaningless now.
So please SEGA, let us and others have fun with ’06 again. There’s no point in keeping it behind closed doors anymore. I know Sonic ’06 was an outright mess of a game, but for all its imperfections, I wouldn’t dare trade my copy of it for the world. Restoring online purchasing for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 stores at the very least is but a flick of the metaphorical switch here, and with Backward Compatibility of the Xbox One seeing constant updates plus PS Now streaming PS3 games to PC and PS4 via Sony’s own servers, it likely shouldn’t take much work for Sonic ’06 to keep up with modern iterations of the console families it launched into over a decade ago.
If anything? There are some really good technical perks that come with Xbox One Backward Compatibility—namely Xbox One X enhancements—such as improved frame rate stability and faster loading times. I’m sure we can all agree these are elements Sonic’s best and worst HD adventures at the time could definitely benefit from. It’d be a win-win!
If all else fails though, I hear there is a fan-made Unity-powered remake for PC coming along and it’s actually looking pretty good so far. Team Mania did catch SEGA’s attention before, so maybe… no, that’d be too crazy.
While I’m on a Microsoft-related tangent…
2. Sonic Games on Original Xbox
Games Included: Sonic Heroes, Sonic Mega Collection+, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic Riders
Platform: Xbox, Xbox 360 (through disc-based backward compatibility)
Proposal: Xbox One Backward Compatibility
Due to popular demand, Phil Spencer had announced at Microsoft’s E3 2017 conference that Xbox One owners would be able to play select original Xbox games through enhanced Backward Compatibility. Just like Xbox 360 games, those who held on to their original discs over the years can insert them into their shiny new consoles to install the compatible version of the game should it be available, or purchase them digitally on the Xbox store – as is the case now with games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Psychonauts.
Sadly, the selection of original Xbox games coming to the Xbox One will turn out to be significantly smaller compared to the Xbox 360’s lineup, be it due to licensing rights on certain games having changed hands or been revoked over time, or due to certain technical difficulties surfacing in the conversion phase. While some features such as online multiplayer, in-game marketplaces, achievements, and older save files will not be functional, others such as offline multiplayer and the game-dependent system-link will be kept intact, along with additional perks that come with Xbox One like Game DVR and broadcasting.
Barring possible conversion troubles, Microsoft’s push for original Xbox games on Xbox One is the perfect chance for SEGA to round up three entire console generations’ worth of Sonic games on modern hardware, provided ’06, Unleashed, and Generations (as well as the remaining Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing and SEGA Superstars Tennis) receive similar treatment.
Sonic Heroes was Sonic Team’s first originally produced home console Sonic title after SEGA had gone third party, featuring an all-star cast of old and new faces in teams of four as they venture through old school-inspired Zones in a 3D environment. Shadow the Hedgehog starred the titular brooding Ultimate Life Form in his very own game that, while it had its shortcomings, still presented some interesting ideas and stages. Sonic Riders—honestly the best of the three games released for Sonic’s 15th (as we do not talk about that horrid GBA port)—was a fun spin-off multiplayer racer that presented us with the Babylon Rogues, and since Free Riders can’t be brought over due to the discontinued XBO Kinect’s incompatibility with previous generation Kinect games, including the original Riders on Xbox One is the next best thing – plus, who could honestly forget that incredible anime opening?
Finally, I wasn’t going to include Mega Collection+ on here, but I’ll be honest: I honestly can’t recommend the lesser Vintage Collection emulations of the classics on Xbox Live Arcade, where you can’t replay previous stages in your own Sonic 3 & Knuckles save file. Barring Taxman and Stealth remasters (which, aside from Sonic CD, are honestly long overdue on consoles), wouldn’t you rather play the Mega Collection port that allowed you to mess around in your old saves, alongside additional Game Gear goodies?
I rest my case.
3. Sonic Games on PlayStation 2
Games Included: Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic Riders, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, Sonic Unleashed
Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 (Heroes and Shadow as PS2 Classics via PlayStation Network… selectively)
Proposal: PS2 Classics on PS4
Now in this regard, the onus is possibly less on SEGA for not delivering as much effort as they could, and more on Sony for being difficult to work with from both technical and business standpoints. As a result, this entry will likely turn out to be the most depressingly put together as I won’t be touching much upon each game individually, but rather Sony’s collective indifference to the concept of backward compatibility.
Of the three console kings, Sony’s case is the most patchy and complicated when it comes to backward compatibility, as they chose to prioritize new features and services for the PlayStation 4 than to preserve its libraries of older games from previous generations. This was made clear by PlayStation boss Shuhei Yoshida, who said at E3 2015 that “backward compatibility [for the system] is hard”—following Microsoft’s announcement during their conference that just such a feature was coming to Xbox One—so Sony consequently won’t be striding far from their approach.
While he served as President for Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, Jim Ryan emphasized a lack of actual audience engagement compared to demand in an interview with Time Magazine last summer: “When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much.”
What’s additionally disheartening was what Ryan said next as he shared his personal views on retro games. After attending an event showcasing and celebrating the long-spanning history of Gran Turismo, a racing franchise that stuck around since the original PlayStation, Ryan had the following to say:
“The PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”
O u c h .
(In case you’re curious, Jim Ryan is also the PlayStation executive who mentioned the console manufacturer having “to be mindful of […] [their] install base” when defending the company’s decision against cross-play with Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, for third-party games like Minecraft and Rocket League. Juuuust thought I should throw that out there.)
This would explain the paltry amount of PS2 Classics currently available in the PS4’s online marketplace: a low number of 67 games (at the time of writing) sparingly rereleased over the span of two years. Later PS3 models also abandoned on-disc backward compatibility for PS2 games, meaning that, while hundreds more last-gen titles were available on the PlayStation Network for that system, you would be forced to buy those same games again despite still owning the disc. When it comes to PS3 games on PS4 as well, you can only stream them via renting them from—or subscribing to—PlayStation Now.
When faced with Microsoft’s far more enthusiastic approach with ever-growing Xbox 360 (460 games) and now original Xbox (13) back-catalogues for Xbox One, likely due to the comparatively far easier porting frameworks XBO is capable of, the PlayStation 4 is all but suggesting it’s the most unfriendly platform for retro ports and emulations.
It’s a crying shame, since the PlayStation 2 is still the best-selling video game console of all time—exceeding a whopping 155 million units in its lifetime—and was home to key Sonic the Hedgehog games for Sony-leaning gamers.
In the previously mentioned case of digitally available PS2 Classics for the PS3, SEGA did manage that for Sonic Heroes, but unfortunately that is limited to the PAL release for Europe and Japan. A similar case was made for Shadow the Hedgehog, having only launched in the Japanese and Asian PS Network stores. Sure, the PS2 versions of these multiplatform games were the least favourable ports, but knowing they are there at the ready to be played is still novel, but also frustrating that these games weren’t wholly available to PS3 owners around the globe in some capacity. Hopefully we can see a better push for Sonic PS2 Classics this time around, but I wouldn’t blame SEGA if they feel it to be more trouble than it’s worth because of Sony-only difficulties.
There is also the possibility that Sony will make PS1, PS2, and PSP games streamable via PlayStation Now in the future, but it remains to be seen whether that will ever actually come to fruition at some point. If streaming works better than outright porting, SEGA could make their backlog of Sonic games across Sony’s older systems available via such a means for PlayStation supporters. If not there, then it’s up to the fabled “PlayStation 5” to change Sony’s stance on backward compatibility for the better.
4. Stronger PC Support
Games to consider: Sonic Unleashed HD; Sonic R, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Riders
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; PC at retail
Proposal: Official Steam Ports
This bit will be brief, but I will say this to PC owners who wish to see Unleashed ported in an official capacity: I am in your corner and I support the cause. We’ve long since seen its Daytime stages excellently and expertly brought over to Generations by talented community modders, and those subscribed to PS Now can play the game on PC via streaming, but I think it’s about time for the real thing to be ported over.
Not only would this give PC players a new Boost-based Sonic game to tide them over (and mod the hell out of), it is also an opportunity for SEGA to resolve some minor gripes that those who played the original confronted in the past. For example, Sonic Team could split up the button inputs for the Homing Attack and Air Boost as in Sonic Generations, reduce the required Sun/Moon medal amounts that otherwise bar off story progression, or accelerate RPG-like EXP gains so it isn’t a grind to make Sonic the Hedgehog faster with an improved boost gauge, and make the Sonic the Werehog more accessible through an improved EXP system: thus making him stronger, bulkier, and—more importantly—more fun with a steadily growing moveset, depending on which skills players want to pour their resources into.
As for why I singled out R, Heroes, and Riders in particular, these three were previously available for Windows at retail, just like most Genesis era games and Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut before them. I only found it a bit curious that they weren’t found at the dawn of SEGA supporting the Steam store to begin with.
That is not to say that I don’t support the idea of more Sonic games to be ported to PC, or that I think SEGA should limit it to those I’ve mentioned. PC specs aren’t bound by the same hardware restrictions as gaming consoles due to the crazy potential and range of interchangeable parts, and the very idea of Sonic games being ported onto computers and officially preserved on the Internet by SEGA themselves is something I am completely for.
Yes, yes, “PC Master Race” and what not. As conceited as that mantra became, there is an inkling of truth in those words.
Besides, the whole point of me writing this glorified wishlist is to push for these titles to be archived appropriately and accessible to everyone, after all!
But at last… we come to the bulk of Sonic games I’ve neglected to mention or properly acknowledge up until now. “Saving the best for last” and what not.
That’s right, it’s now time to confront Sonic’s long history with Nintendo consoles.
5. Sonic games released on Nintendo SYSTEMS
Games Included: Sonic Advance Trilogy, Sonic Battle, Sonic Pinball Party; Sonic Rush Trilogy; Sonic Storybook Series, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, Sonic Unleashed, SEGA Superstars Tennis, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, Sonic Colours.
Platforms: Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii.
Proposal: Wii U Nintendo eShop & Virtual Console
“The Wii U as a platform is dead, dude. Everyone already moved on.”
“What about the Nintendo Switch? Did you actually forget the Switch?”
“What about the Gamecube games? Sonic Adventure 2: Battle? Sonic Heroes?”
It’s called “buildup,” my friends! I will get to these points soon, I just felt the need to bring this up as a hypothetical “what could’ve been” because… wow was their potential on this system wasted.
The Wii U. You poor, poor thing, you never really took off as we all had hoped. We could sit here all day about how mishandled marketing and lack of third party support over the system’s difficult development architecture have doomed it from the start, but that’s a whole other subject many others have covered better than I ever could.
It needs to be said, however, that SEGA could’ve done so much more for Sonic on the platform without really having to put in much effort. What did Sonic’s presence on the system amount to?
- Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, which—while an amazing racer and one of the better launch titles for the Wii U—is a multiplatform game you could pick up on other systems without having to spend money on the gamepad-powered console;
- Sonic Lost World, a divisive “love it or hate it” exclusive presenting parkour-centric controls that splintered the fanbase even more, and was then ported to Steam two years later;
- A pair of Mario & Sonic at the Olympics entries that you can’t even download from the eShop anymore, because the video game licensing rights for the Olympics have been snatched up by Ubisoft for Steep, and last but not least;
- Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the game that did the impossible and dethroned Sonic ’06 as the worst game in the entire franchise, due to game-breaking bugs and glitches, poor storytelling, shoddy game design, and a Wii U-incompatible engine all thanks to yet another rocky and rushed development period. Oh Sonic Synergy, what could’ve been…
That is a poor showing for a platform if I’ve ever seen one, but I have to admit it’s not so different from how little other third parties have contributed to the Wii U. Understandably, SEGA might’ve seen no point in supporting a system with a stagnating userbase and players who aren’t receptive to what they were offering (even though it was pretty hit or miss).
But, given the opportunities the Wii U’s Virtual Console presented, I feel SEGA truly have wasted their chance in taking advantage of the platform’s audience since its Virtual Console supported Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo Wii libraries.
In other words, they were all systems Sonic starred in with a sizeable catalogue of exclusive games, ones that I’m more than certain fans old and new would have loved to get their hands on.
The Game Boy Advance era brought us the famed Sonic Advance trilogy, with the inaugural entry marked as Sonic’s first ever game on a Nintendo platform since SEGA had left the hardware business, as well as what was hailed as one of the better sidescrolling Sonics post-Genesis. The 2D platformer series for the handheld also marked the first appearance of Cream the Rabbit with the high speed, high-octane Advance 2, and featured a tag-team mechanic not unlike Sonic Heroes and Knuckles Chaotix in Advance 3. Sonic Pinball Party was a plain fun pinball game for fans of Sonic, NiGHTS, and Samba de Amigo to enjoy, while Sonic Battle filled a void for arena brawlers on the GBA and starred newcomer Emerl – an ancient Gizoid robot players can groom to be a powerful fighter, who also happens to play a pivotal role that bleeds over into Advance 3.
Now, the Advance trilogy at the very least has been made available on the Wii U Virtual Console, but that’s exclusively in Japan (1, 2, 3). What’s been taking so damn long for these three timeless Sonic games to reach North American and European Wii U owners?
As it turns out, many believe that what have “supposedly” been keeping the Advance games from being rereleased in the West are circumstances surrounding the now-defunct publishers THQ and Infogrames. These two entities were partly responsible for co-publishing and distributing Sonic’s Game Boy Advance outings outside of Japan, but have since went belly-up one way or another. We’re about to dispel these ideas.
Infogrames, which only distributed Sonic Advance in Europe, left the video game distribution business for the PAL region in 2009 and sold its stake in its joint venture Distribution Partners to their partners at Namco Bandai, now Bandai Namco Entertainment. Despite that, THQ was the key distributor all of the GBA Sonics outside of Japan, including rereleases of Advance via “Combo Packs” in North America and “2 Games in 1” in Europe – suggesting that Infogrames was no longer collaborating with SEGA at that point. Once they went bankrupt and dissolved in 2013, THQ and its IPs have been absorbed into Nordic Games (since renamed THQ-Nordic) but among its list of acquired properties, none of the GBA Sonic games are listed anywhere.
Since the original THQ has dissolved, should it not stand to reason that SEGA now exclusively owns the distribution rights to the Advance games as their active remaining publisher, or that THQ going into administration never affected SEGA’s capability to distribute the Advance games on their own terms?
Because such arrangements didn’t stop SEGA from porting Sonic Advance onto the Nokia N-Gage in 2003 and publishing the port in the United States and Europe as “SonicN,” or onto Android phones as “Sonic Advance” – be it wholesale in Japan or with an underwhelming Java iteration by Gameloft in 2011. Combined with the above paragraph, this further suggests that ports, compilations, and/or new iterations shouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for SEGA to feasibly accomplish, especially considering there’s no explicit mentioning of THQ or Infogrames in the credits of any of these games.
So if all of this speculation isn’t baseless and it turns out that SEGA does indeed hold the worldwide rights to the Advance games again, let alone this whole time, then we return to our earlier questioning… Where were they? Why haven’t these gems been rereleased on the Wii U outside of Japan? Was it a lack of visible demand, or was this another indication of SEGA’s (again, not out of place) lack of support for Nintendo’s failing home system?
Granted, I could still be wrong about distribution rights altogether and those rights may be gone forever, but I think we dispelled that notion as I’ve seen no hard evidence anywhere supporting that belief a sizeable chunk of the fanbase propogated for so many years. Besides, there’s no way that SEGA would let some other company own a piece of Sonic indefinitely, right? (Though now I am curious about the status of Sonic Pocket Adventure…) It’s a tragedy that we will never know for sure because this industry is extremely secretive in how it operates.
Nonetheless, unofficial online emulations, hard-to-find physical copies, and (at least for the Advance trilogy) Japanese Wii Us remain the only feasible way to play these overall terrific titles. I sold off most of my GBA library as those games became available on the Wii U eShop, but at this time, Sonic Advance, Advance 2, Advance 3, Battle, and Pinball Party are literally the only reasons why I’ve still held on to my Game Boy Advance after all of these years – at least until the day the cartridges’ internal batteries finally give out and die.
In any case, there’s no such distribution confusion surrounding the Sonic Rush trilogy (we’re including Sonic Colours) for the Nintendo DS, the series that introduced fans to Blaze the Cat, Eggman Nega, the Sol Emeralds, and a refined Boost-centric style in a 2D space that took advantage of the system’s two screens to really emphasize high speed gameplay.
The Wii U’s Virtual Console offerings feature some of the best games to have come out for the first dual-screen handheld, but so far only features Nintendo-published games with Picross 3D’s inclusion as the last DS game incorporated into the Wii U eShop nearly a year ago. Wouldn’t it have been fun to watch Sonic disappear from your Gamepad then show up on your TV and back, as you race up and down memorable locales like Water Palace to the unforgettable beats of Hideki Naganuma?
It’s sad that SEGA once again might not have considered there to be a large enough demand, presumably looking at the Nintendo 3DS’ backward compatibility with DS cartridges and thought: “Eh, that’s enough.” The Rush trio were must-haves on the original system all those years ago and are definitely worth preserving, especially now as older games naturally become harder and harder to find.
As for why I neglected to mention Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood… Aside from Bioware being unable to properly finish the game due to Electronic Arts buying them out mid-development, while I do think the idea of a Sonic RPG is an ingenious one that should be properly archived, I do not believe SEGA or EA would want to risk another “enKay endersPay” lawsuit with a rerelease in any way, shape, or form. Lord knows the snowball effect those had on the Archie Comics.
If emulation was an obstacle, then no such thing exists for the downloadable Wii games from the Wii U’s own eShop. When purchased online from the Wii U, the game data for titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid: Other M, and Xenoblade Chronicles are read as though players had inserted their physical discs, which is an easy enough feat given that the Wii U was built around the Wii’s own hardware and was backward compatible with its predecessor’s games from the beginning.
Unfortunately, it was the majority of Sonic’s Wii games that took the full brunt of that infamous Metacritic-motivated delisting from SEGA. Sonic and the Secret Rings was a hallmark game for the motion control-powered system in its very early life that showed some inkling of Sonic’s potential for the platform, and was the start of a quirky spinoff idea starring the Blue Blur in famous fables. Plus, few final bosses in the entire franchise are as gratifying for me than pummelling Erazor Djinn-turned-“Alf Layla wa-Layla” as the wrathful Darkspine Sonic, who cries out with fury and rage we never knew Sonic was capable of with every successful combo delivered – all while Steve Conte sings “Seven Rings in Hand” in the background.
Sonic and the Black Knight’s swordplay mechanics might be lacking, but there was something satisfying in mowing down ghoulish monsters and knights as a sword-wielding Sonic, and the Storybook sequel’s presentation (plus it being the last time Crush 40’s music was present in a Sonic game) did well in building upon the legends and folklore of King Arthur, making for one of the best-looking games on the Wii. I would also go so far as to say that SatBK had the best interpretation for Sonic as a character – a far cry from the goofier “Saturday morning cartoon” angle adopted in recent ventures ever since.
Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity made for a fun multiplayer game by taking the core Riders formula and mixing it with gravity manipulation, though backward compatibility on the Wii U does hamper its control options significantly, having been limited strictly to either the solo Wiimote or the incompatible Gamecube controller. The Wii version of Sonic Unleashed by Dimps was a competently made variant of the HD version that did achieve better critical reception than its slicker-looking counterpart, and did provide a fun alternative for those who couldn’t afford to shell out money for a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360 at the time.
So sure, SEGA would rather the earlier Wii games be gone and forgotten because of aggregated scores, but not even Sonic Colours—the game with pre-release reception so glowing that SEGA decided to delist the other titles in the first place—is anywhere to be found on the Wii U eShop. Without needing to put additional work into emulating the game, with all the praise it has seen as a must-have for any Wii owner’s library, it’s maddening to think Colours of all titles hasn’t been pushed onto modern platforms following the end of the Wii’s life.
So now what? Nintendo and their audience have already moved on to the Switch, but the Wii U still sees some new digital offerings week-by-week. Even Konami, of all publishers on the planet, is still using the eShop and Virtual Console to support their retro TurboGrafx-16 games to this day.
There is no real competition on the system to contend with anymore like Mario or The Legend of Zelda, so SEGA could make some headlines by rereleasing their long list of Nintendo exclusives with Sonic on the Wii U’s eShop and possibly rake in a decent amount of revenue, along with the added bonus of keeping some good faith with fans on the system.
Granted, this approach is likely too little, too late at this point, but I could still be surprised.
An alternate solution?
On the other hand, SEGA could redeem themselves in this light by foregoing all of this and really focus their porting efforts on the Switch to a scale none of us have ever really conceived up to now.
First, we look to the system itself. Compared to the Wii U, the Nintendo Switch has already proven itself to be extremely flexible when it comes to ports. Not only are we seeing remastered editions of Wii U greats like Bayonetta 1+2 and Pokkén Tournament, everything from the most technically demanding games like DOOM to wayback DS legends like The World Ends With You are joining the exponentially growing library of games on the hybrid platform.
Next, we look across the globe to China. Nintendo has partnered with NVIDIA on licensing Wii and Gamecube games in the Chinese market through the NVIDIA Shield, featuring upscaled emulations of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Punch-Out!! — all boasting higher resolutions, faster loading times, and little lag compared to their original releases for the low price of $10 USD a pop (according to the conversion rate). How fortunate is it that the Nintendo Switch is powered by NVIDIA technology and shares a lot of similarities with the Shield, therefore implying that the system can realistically emulate Wii and Gamecube games?
OH BUT WE’RE NOT EVEN DONE YET. The Nintendo Switch’s cartridges come in several storage capacities: 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB, as well as a 64GB variant coming next year. Naturally, the bigger the storage on a game card, the more expensive it might be to manufacture and produce, but that is a lot of room to stuff in either one massive video game, or a ton of smaller ones.
Finally, we look at Capcom and Bandai Namco, and at how they took advantage of the Switch’s complete lack of a dedicated Virtual Console. The release of NAMCO Museum last summer compiled not only arcade greats like Galaga and Dig-Dug, but also the Gamecube classic Pac-Man VS. with a fully functional multiplayer mode using local connectivity between multiple Switch systems. Capcom, on their side, will be bringing Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 & 2 (encompassing the ten original Mega Man games), Mega Man X 1 through 8, and Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection to the platform throughout 2018.
Not only do these prepare fans for new entries in these franchises for the Switch like Mega Man 11, allow newcomers to catch up with a given series, and offer insane amounts of replay value, but packaging older games into one collection also helps in keeping the number of separate titles available under control, thus dissuading reasonable business fears of cannibalisation unto their own properties.
Put all of these facts and observations together, along with the Switch’s ever-growing audience, the Wii U’s distinct lack of Sonic classics that Nintendo fans missed out on for a whole generation, SEGA Forever possibly porting their wares to consoles with enough demand, and Nintendo planning on supporting the system beyond the traditional 5-6 years… and I think you see now what I’ve been getting at.
Conclusion: the Nintendo Switch can conceivably run each and every single Sonic the Hedgehog game ever produced, and SEGA should absolutely take advantage of this.
6. Port Every Sonic Game EVER Released
on a Nintendo SYSTEM & More to the Switch
Proposal: Compilations for the Nintendo Switch, and select digital rereleases.
That’s right. Split them all up into small, reasonably arranged quality collections at a good price, and it would be impossible not to pass these up.
For starters, let’s begin with a tentative Sonic Genesis Collection. These would incorporate nearly every major release leading up to Sonic Adventure, and could ideally include:
- The Christian Whitehead and Simon Thomley versions of Sonic 1, Sonic 2, and Sonic CD
- Sonic Spinball
- Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
- Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles
- Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
- Sonic R
- Sonic the Fighters HD
- Game Gear: Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic Chaos, Sonic Triple Trouble, Sonic Drift, Sonic Drift 2, Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic Blast, Tails Labyrinth, Tails Skypatrol
On the surface, the tentative Genesis-themed compilation is essentially a combination of what Sonic Mega Collection and Gems Collection offered on the Gamecube whole console generations ago. Just like the original Sonic Mega Collection, however, fans could play these games a certain amount of times to unlock even more games. Perhaps Sonic 3 & Knuckles just like before, or the long-awaited rereleases of Knuckles’ Chaotix and the arcade-exclusive SEGASonic the Hedgehog, or even the SEGA Saturn-original version of Sonic 3D Blast?
Nonetheless, a Genesis collection filled to the brim with well over a dozen games like these would hardly take up much combined storage space for a Switch cartridge and should be relatively cheap to produce. Toss in some additional features like save states on certain titles and galleries featuring old commercials, trailers, concept art, or sound tests, and an old-school Sonic fan will eat all of this up quite heartily.
Next up, we have the unnamed Advance Collection. Representing the time Sonic sported some fresh kicks and a sleek new look based on his Adventure appearance, this collection could feature:
- Sonic Advance
- Sonic Advance 2
- Sonic Advance 3
- Sonic Pinball Party
- Sonic Battle
- Sonic Rush
- Sonic Rush Adventure
- Sonic Colours DS
With this list, all of Sonic’s worthwhile adventures on Nintendo handhelds in previous generations are present and accounted for in one neat package. Various touch-ups can be made to improve some minor issues on otherwise terrific titles, such as having Amy playable in Sonic Advance 2 from the start and retooling Chaos Emerald collecting to be more like Advance 1 (collect them all once? okay, but five times? That’s just unnecessary padding!) and HD widescreen support.
As for additional bonuses, perhaps this bundle could include other SEGA games, like the Game Boy Advance versions of Columns Crown, ChuChu Rocket!—a pair of games included in 2 Games in 1 bundles with some of Sonic’s own GBA games—or Gunstar Super Heroes for additional variety. To make up for the two screens necessary to play the DS Sonic games, players could potentially adjust their display to be horizontally oriented (suitable for big screen experiences) or vertically (ideal for handheld mode), much like the Wii U’s DS screen customization and NAMCO Museum‘s Vertical Mode.
When it comes to the remainder of games, whether or not SEGA might go the compilation route or straight up eShop uploads might depend on Nintendo’s approach with the Nintendo Switch’s online infrastructure going forward.
On one hand, grouping together these bigger Sonic games could help keep the number of games littering the eShop at a low, but on the other: upgraded Wii and Gamecube emulations for the Virtual Console would make additions like Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic Colours, and the Riders and Storybook games no-brainer inclusions.
Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle can finally be made available digitally on a compatible Nintendo system after Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam users have had them for years. Who knows, perhaps these versions could be improved for added compatibility with the hypothetical Advance Collection‘s Tiny Chao Gardens!
Why stop there? Nintendo fans who had to sit out on high-definition console editions of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations could finally play the “intended” experiences with the added bonus of playing them on the go. Lost World could see a minor port on the eShop too, joining a variety of other Wii U games brought up to speed on the more popular Nintendo Switch!
I could ramble on and on and on all day, but the fact remains that the possibilities for Sonic the Hedgehog’s retro rereleases on the Switch are outright limitless, and if SEGA erroneously chooses to sit this one out, well… it’ll be everyone’s loss.
And besides, historically speaking? Sonic games have always performed really well on Nintendo platforms compared to Xbox and PlayStation. Take advantage of this, SEGA – your audience is waiting for you!
EXTRA. Sonic and The Curious Case
of Inconsistent DLC
DLC Mentioned: Casino Night Zone in Sonic Generations, Nightmare Zone in Sonic Lost World, Ryo Hazuki in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Proposal: Make them available on consoles and not just on Steam, for crying out loud!
Again, likely another case of “too little, too late” at this point. However, while the whole point of today’s The Spin was to focus on neglected Sonic games, Hogfather proposed I include the ridiculous case of neglected downloadable content and after thinking it over, I couldn’t help but oblige.
So you picked up the first-run copy of Sonic Generations on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, if only to snag the preorder-exclusive Casino Night Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You just had to pick up the “Deadly Six Edition” of Sonic Lost World on Wii U, just to scratch that NiGHTS into Dreams itch with that Nightmare Zone boss rush. Metal Sonic & Outrun for Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed? Heck yes, sign me up!
First come first serve, gone forever. That’s what the rule was.
Okay. I would believe that. I would have been fine with it.
But first, explain something to me. What the hell is SEGA’s excuse when it comes to these games on Steam?!
If you want to pick up Sonic Lost World now on Wii U, go right ahead. That is, if you’re fine with finding an elusive, unopened, factory-sealed “Deadly Six Edition” out in the wild with a Nightmare Zone download code that no longer works. Don’t bother checking the Nintendo eShop either – it’s never been publicly available and it’s practically gone forever. Not on Steam though, no timed early bird exclusivity there – not even in the year 2018!
I sure hope you didn’t come late in purchasing Sonic Generations on home consoles, because it’s the exact same case with the Casino Night DLC. The Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network stores no longer support it, and yet here it’s included on Steam at no extra cost. Why haven’t they put them up on the other storefronts sometime after release? There’s no point to it other than alienating newcomers by barring them off from content now only available on PC.
Oh but then there’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.
Metal Sonic & Outrun DLC? Okay good, it did become available after launch on all systems.
Team Fortress 2? Yogscast? Characters based on Football Manager, Total War, and Company of Heroes as Steam-exclusive characters? Despite the other versions receiving no platform-exclusive characters, these are PC franchises and Yogscast was included as a fun charity thing. No biggie.
But there is no excuse—and I mean no excuse—for barring SEGA legend Ryo Hazuki of Shenmue with an Outrun-inspired vehicle as yet another Steam exclusive. Despite Steve Lycett’s assurance before that DLC came into being that Sumo Digital wasn’t done with Transformed yet, SEGA didn’t push for Ryo Hazuki DLC for ASRT on Xbox 360 after the game became backward compatible on Xbox One (or for Shenmue fans who played the sequel on the original Xbox after the Dreamcast’s downfall), not on Wii U after it rereleased as a Nintendo Select last year, and not on PSN for those still playing the game on PlayStation 3.
At least this didn’t turn out to be the case for Sonic Forces at launch for the most part, but otherwise? For shame, SEGA. For shame.
And these are just some of the bigger steps SEGA should take to preserve and archive Sonic games on today’s platforms. In doing so, rereleases—be it ports, emulations, or remasters—will serve to benefit Sonic fans across all walks of life: from the oldest who stuck around since the beginning and don’t want to lose their massive libraries to modern hardware advances; to newer, younger audiences wanting to acquaint themselves with Sonic’s earliest journeys that they have missed out on.
In turn, this will also benefit SEGA and Sonic Team, who can easily cash in on untapped nostalgia in a manner that would please everyone, without having to put in much creative elbow grease while tiding us over for the next big Sonic game and thus reinforcing Sonic as a brand in generating safe, stable profits. Additionally, it would raise our own expectations for the publisher-developer combo to stop relying more and more on poorly implemented nostalgia (Classic Sonic in Sonic Forces, anyone?) as shortcuts for good game design just for the sake of marketing.
Now, what do you guys think? Should SEGA put an effort into making up for the drought between big-budget Sonic games by taking advantage of rereleases? Which older Sonic games would you like to play on modern hardware? If not Sonic, then what other SEGA franchises would you love to see get similar treatment?
Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below!