The Spin: “2014: A Hedgehog Darkly”

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You know, there are some well respected scientists who are convinced that there exists a bunch of parallel universes in which things are similar to our own, but have some slight differences. Let’s imagine for a while we live in one of those universes, the one where Boom the game isn’t terrible.

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In an alternative universe, they all have beards because.

 

There are around 22 hours left of 2014 by the time I post this. Cast your mind back to nearly a year ago, when this happened. Exciting wasn’t it?

Now, let’s address one thing which I know a certain class of people will say “Well Sega never said that publicly!” and “They never intended for that to come out!” That really doesn’t work as a defence or as a counter claim for the following reasons.

1: That was a piece of official documentation given to the press, every single member of the press was more than free to say ‘Year of Sonic’ following the embargo date. That is an official document from Sega stating that they see 2014 as being ‘The Year of Sonic.’

2: It did come out. It came out 24 hours prior to the intended date, but it so easily could have come out 24 hours after the event, at which point there would be none of this ‘Sega didn’t intend it to come out.’

So then, 2014, the year of Sonic. How did you all enjoy it?

Let’s get right to it. Sonic Boom has set back Sonic’s reputation by nearly a decade. After the disaster to Sonic, Sonic Team and Sega’s reputation which was Sonic 06, we are right back there again. If you were not around back in the time of 2006. Congratulations, you now know how it feels. The only difference is that the vast majority of people saw what Boom was and was prepared for a catastrophe, the only horror was how the game was even lower than the majority of negative expectations.

Anyway, let’s pretend for a moment that didn’t happen. That Boom was somewhere around Generations level of quality, e.g. a good-great game. How was it? Actually… let me put it another way.

Imagine Boom was a good-great game and you lived outside of the United States how was the year of Sonic?

It would still have been kinda naff.

The year of Sonic 2014 is in my opinion, especially if you live outside of the US was a complete non starter. Even if Boom the game was a success, the Year of Sonic was a doomed to fail concept which never saw any life.

Why? Well let’s look at it. Boom is supposed to have three main support pillars. Game, TV Show and Merchandise. How many regions have all three?

So far, only the United States.

How many countries have two? Just One, France.

Everywhere else has just the game or none at all. Put aside the fact that Sega have all but doomed the future reception of Boom in those other nations thanks to the quality of their first product for just a moment and think about it.

How can this be a year of Sonic when it’s no different than previous years, had less impact and less substance?

Now before there’s a flood of ‘EUROPE GETS EVERYTHING’ or “AMERICA GET’S EVERYTHING!” comments which normally follow stuff like this. First of all, grow up. Not every nation can get every single announcement or idea, there’s always going to be some things specific to a region.

However this one is different. Sega announced that this would be ‘The Year of Sonic.’ They then went onto their blog and relayed all the exciting information. There was no ‘it’ll be coming to the UK or other regions by the end of 2015,’ it was 2014 is the year of Sonic.

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Following on from other ‘Year of’ Such as Luigi who saw a huge worldwide promotion of him as a character and from other so called ‘year of’ promotions in other media which saw an equal share of promotion worldwide. Sega knew exactly what it was doing with this one. In fact I wouldn’t doubt it if it were someone in a marketing meeting said ‘Well Nintendo just did Year of Luigi!’ without thinking about having content to back that up.

Some people might be thinking ‘well the merchandise will come when the TV Show does. How I wish I shared your belief, outside of America, especially in Europe, video game merchandise is in shockingly short supply except if your game is called Minecraft.

Despite a strong showing at various toy and merchandise shows, video game merchandise, especially Sonic merch in Europe seems to get a very poor showing. Jazwares is a grand example of this, despite having their own UK office and promoting new distribution partners in the UK, what was release was painfully small compared to the US.

Should Tomy decide to release their Boom toys in Europe, I will be very surprised if it’s the entire range shown so far in the United States is released in Europe, it has never happened before and I very much doubt it will happen for a long time.

But aside from that. Only one nation got all three of the main pillars, so why should anyone else care or feel that this year was any different even if Boom were any good?

For that matter, even if you live in the United States, even if Boom were good, there seems to be major lack of what was promised.

Skip to 1:40 in this video.

You might now be thinking ‘well this was several years old, maybe they cancelled it a long time ago?’ Actually no, because they had a playable build of it as late as February 2014, again, in a video released by Sega.

Skip to 5:47 and set the speed to 0.25.

This looks a lot like that hub world, the characters are moving around it, look at the detail. However, also take note it is running on a Windows 7 PC and not Wii U hardware (we’ll come back to this point later).

That hub world was clearly finished and clearly planned to be in the game up until at least February… so where is it? It’s right here actually several months later in a later build of the game.

Here it is being rendered on a Wii U at E3, only now it’s a background image for the title screen. Does it exist in the final game? Yes.

Here it is, or what’s left of it.

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In case you didn’t realise, that’s taken from a youtube video so there will be some loss of quality, but my goodness, that doesn’t excuse what we see here. The detail is gone, the graphical fidelity is gone, the design of the stage is different. It’s been completely stripped down to the bare bones.

Here it is again popping up alongside concept art. Looking much nicer in terms of graphical fidelity and in terms of the level of detail in the stage.

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What happened?

An Ancient Land Discovered?

In the very first trailer for the game, we are told ‘An Ancient Land Discovered,’ we can hear Sonic and everybody say things like ‘What is this place’ & ‘this is paradise’ and we were constantly told by Stephen Frost and other Sega PR that this was a lost land which Sonic and his friends fall into.

So why is there nothing like that in the game?

Where is this secret ancient land? The game begins with our heroes chasing Eggman over what I assume is ‘the known world’ or the game world that we’ve seen in every game since? So when do they go into this ancient land? There’s no ‘falling into it’ like the trailer suggests, there’s nothing.

What, Eggman destroys the road and that’s it? That’s ‘The Ancient Land?’ Is it when they enter the tomb? How can it be when Eggman finds those robots and re-activated them? But that’s done outside of the room which Sonic and friends escape into? So how can it… You see the problem here?

Which brings me onto the next point which also adds question to the ancient land claim.

The ancient carvings of Sonic, Tails & Knuckles, that shouldn’t exist?

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This is the biggest head scratcher on the whole ancient land plot point. Sonic & Co. go back in time and encounter Lyric, and that’s it. They don’t encounter ‘the ancients,’ nor do they have any meaningful encounters with any NPC in the past, so why and how do they have carvings on the walls when nobody saw them or interacted with them in any meaningful way.

Which brings me onto the Echidna statues. Why doesn’t anyone comment on them? In the whole game neither Sonic or any of his friends comment on them, I think there is one comment in the whole game which is a random piece of single line dialogue which isn’t in a cut scene which draws attention to it. But nothing more.

‘Wait you said ‘Knuckles’ statue?’ That’s right, and up until a few moments ago I was under the impression that the statues were from an ancient echidna race. Only one of the artists who worked on the game has development images showing these statues and they’re named ‘Knucks Statue.’ This would suggest that it is supposed to be Knuckles?

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But let’s just go with the more likely theory that they’re the ancients. So where are they? They’re nowhere in the game, yet they had concept art made of them, they’re mentioned plenty of times, but we never see them.

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There you go, there’s your ancients, not once are they shown in Sonic Boom. Are the statues supposed to be these guys? If so, why don’t they look anything like them? Unless they really are supposed to be Knuckles?

So why does the game not explain or show a reason for these things to exist? Yes they go back in time, but nobody encounters them, certainly not anyone significant enough to explain the architecture and the carvings.

Perci Was Playable

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Remember how at the start of this I said “I’m shocked at how we found out about one particular aspect of Boom’s cut content.” This is that particular bit. Perci wasn’t just an NPC who you talk to, at one point she was playable, or if not playable she at least joined you on a mission. How do we know this?

Because Amy tells you so in a stage in the final retail release of the game!

I was shocked at this, there’s a mission where if you play as Amy she will actually say “Good job Perci!” Yet the only other character in the stage is Knuckles! Perci isn’t even in the area, she’s back in the Hub town, so how is Amy saying this? Unless it’s left over dialogue from when Perci was in this stage?

Just think about this for a moment, here is a game in which a playable character is able to reference another who is not even in the stage or in any playable role other than an NPC. This is downright amateurish, this should have been spotted and removed months ago, how is it in the final release? Inexcusable.

How is Sonic so Predictable When He Only Meets Lyric for a Brief Moment?

The very first encounter with Lyric suggests that he and Sonic have a long history and that they’ve encountered and battled each other many times in the past. Which is why Lyric is able to dodge Sonic’s spin attack.

So how is that possible when they only meet in the past for barely a minute? Yet other villains are still suspect to this? Please don’t say ‘well maybe Lyric is just that good’ no he’s not, he’s really not.

The only explanation which makes sense, is that Sonic & Lyric encountered and fought each other a lot more in content which was cut… and yes we have something that supports this.

boomfuture

Here is concept art showing what appears to be a future scene, judging from the ruins and the devastation, as well as the giant machine in the distance, it seems that this is a ‘bad future’ (or even a ‘bad past’), in which Lyric has won.

You might be thinking ‘that doesn’t out rightly prove there were more encounters with Lyric? No it doesn’t… but there is something in the game which does.

When Sonic encounters QNC for the second time, he says “How do you keep popping out of nowhere?” Pardon Sonic? You have only met this guy once? That’s an odd choice of words unless you’ve met him on more than one occasion. Where are these encounters? QNC is someone who used to report to Lyric, yet this is never shown or expanded upon.

Doesn’t make any sense unless it was cut content?

“Our heroes haven’t really worked together before”

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Shortly after the game was announced, we were told in a number of interviews by Stephen Frost and other PR people that Sonic and his friends hadn’t really worked together before and that they would have to put their differences aside in order to succeed? Even the official press release which was put out last week still hints at this.

So where exactly in the game do we get any indication of this?

The answer is about 10 seconds into the game and then it’s never brought up again. During the initial stage with Eggman, Eggman mocks Sonic for bringing his friends along, to which Sonic replies with something like ‘I don’t need my friends to beat you!’ Well my first reaction is ‘then why did you bring them along?’

And that’s it, that’s the first and only time Sonic gives an indication that he doesn’t need, care or has to ‘work with together as a team’ something which has been constantly mentioned by Sega with regards to this game since day 1. So where is it?

There’s even a hint that it would be there in the very first trailer for the game, we see the opening sequence with our heroes surrounded, but in the final game, Sonic is no longer with them. What happened here?

My guess, it was cut content. Although, would you believe there are hints that there was to be a storyline about Sonic learning to work with his friends in the game? There are traces of it still there. For example, after they defeat Lyric Sonic acts… really odd in the way he doesn’t want credit and thanks his friends. There is also one line of dialogue from Knuckles when he says “We! He said We!” when the player successfully beats a stage.

But none of these lines make sense since there is nothing in the game to suggest the characters have a problem working together. Even in the very first cut scene we see the team working fine actually doing some tactical moves when fighting Eggman.

Even when Shadow turns up, the dialogue suggests that Sonic has worked with his friends lots of times before. So why was this line constantly thrown at us by the PR team?

The only explanation, again, the story was heavily cut.

Why is Shadow in the game & Why is he so mean?

shadow

Shadow is the most pointless inclusion into this game by far, and nothing about his inclusion makes any sense. I can buy Sonic fighting shadow, I can even buy Shadow turning up to take on Lyric. But cannot understand or buy how he behaves and acts in the game.

For starters, he laughs at Sonic being with his friends and how they make him weak… yet… this contradicts the last 10 years of his existence. Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, heck even Sonic 06, Shadow has worked with ‘friends’ and used them in order to benefit and progress… but in Boom he’s suddenly against it?

Sorry but that is beyond weak. Shadow does not act or behave anything like he has done since his initial outing in Sonic Advenure 2. Which brings me onto this gem.

This is one of many interviews conducted in which Stephen Frost says “We understand these characters.” Really? You understand these characters, so why then…

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If you understand the characters, does this entire scene exist!?

Shadows inclusion in Rise of Lyric suggests to me that they did not understand the characters at all. Before the Boom defenders rush to the comment box, or someone accuses me of being a ‘Shadow fanboy’, nope, not that much of a fan of Shadow, but I know enough about the character to know he’s not acted in that way since Sonic Adventure 2 and his own history contradicts everything he just said.

Also before the Boom defenders rush to the comment box and say ‘this is an alternative branch!’ or something similar, we’ll be coming onto that in just a little while.

It seems to me that Shadow was brought into the game at a very late state in development, however by late state we’re talking ‘with less than a year to go,’ Stephen Frost did mention in multiple interviews that old characters would be returning, so odds are he was one of them. However consider this, we have concept art showing an alternative Lyric, showing cut stages, showing Sonic fully clothed, of early Tails, Amy & Knuckles.

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Yet there is not one single piece of early concept art for shadow, the only thing we have is a finalised image released when he was announced, that image up there is it. Might this also explain why Shadow looks no different to his SegaSonic counterpart? He was a last minuet inclusion in the game just to get fans excited?

Was there a 4 player mode?

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In the final release, Sonic Boom does have a 4 player mode in the form of side challenges, not tied to the main game. However, early artwork suggests that there was a 4 player mode in which all characters would be used by 4 players to beat tough enemies or complete puzzles.

This doesn’t exist in the final game.

However, this could have been a very early cancellation, the concept art isn’t absolute proof that it was to be included, early testing may have shown this wasn’t possible or too technically demanding on the system.

Except the concept art itself suggests that this wasn’t the case. Look at the very early concept art of the characters,

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now compare it to this image and the image at the start of this section.

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The designs are very close to their final look, there’s only slight differences such as Knuckles having a belt. Don’t look at the artstyle, look at he overall design, it’s pretty much the final design suggesting this concept artwork of a 4 player mode was not that early in development.

Clearly a 4 player mode was brought up at one point otherwise why would there be concept art? Also does it not make sense for there to be 4 players in the campaign mode given the nature of the game?

If this is a Separate Branch, Why does it not feel like it?

Sonic Boom's new designs for the main cast

Let me ask you a question, if it were not for the sports tape, or the clothes, or the character designs. Would you think that this is a separate branch? There is nothing different, the characters never act any different from their SegaSonic counterparts, the voice actors are the same, the character interactions are the same, they seem to share the same history, there’s references to the previous games, there is no sense of an alternative history, there is absolutely nothing.

How is this a different branch?

The only differences are cosmetic changes, there are two exceptions, Shadows amazingly poor excuse for being in the game and Knuckles is really stupid, that’s it. Otherwise, how is this a separate branch when it relies so much on SegaSonic and offers nothing to say ‘this is my identity, this is why I’m different.’ At no point does the game or series say ‘I’m not SegaSonic’.

So what happened? Since day one, Stephen Frost and other members of Sega have been trying to hammer home ‘this is a separate branch’ or continuity. How is it when there’s nothing in the game other than alternative character designs to suggest such a thing?

End of Part 1

I’ve written quite a lot with regards to cut content. However, my investigation showed a lot more has happened behind the scenes, later on this week I’ll be looking closer at Big Red Button and showing new evidence not discussed about before which shows that there was major problems at Big Red Button during the development. We’ll also be looking at Sega’s role in all this and asking the question “Is this actually BRB’s fault?”

Feel like discussing anything I’ve brought up, let us know in the comments, I know that in places like the Sega Forums there has been discussion about cut content, so feel free to share this there if you like.