So Sonic the Hedgehog has been released in the US, and all the media outlets are going wild. SEGA have bigged this up supreme and all the fans are clamouring to see if this really is a return to form after Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog. Reviews are trickling out already, and as I suspected, they are all very sporadic. And crap.
Upon a quick scan of the SSMB searching for collated review scores, one website thinks it’s rubbish and another thinks it’s simply superb. I don’t think the situation will get any better with other professional outlets. There’s simply too much bias in the world – particularly in the US media – to ascertain whether Sonic the Hedgehog is truly good or bad at all. You’ll no doubt see a few magazines that will mark it down severely for one reason or another, and another selection will rate it one of the best in the series to date…
What does it all boil down to? The past. Yes, that classic little chestnut. Reading one website’s score of 5.5 filled me with no satisfaction whatsoever, as it became apparent that the reviewers were still stuck in 1994. Can you expect the game to be exactly as the Mega Drive outings, only in 3D? No. Of course not. That’s just plain stupid. Even Super Mario went through a massive change when he hit the 3D space.
Do levels like these scare fanboys so much to give an inaccurate judgement?
It was obvious that someone was expecting a story not unlike Sonic 3 & Knuckles, with few characters, straightforward plot (although some might contest that, regarding S3&K) and no confusing controls. And this is the crux of the matter – this is where every Classic Fanboy’s brain is rooted, to the point where their minds cannot accept rational thought or objective analysis. The mechanics of the game.
“Is Sonic the Hedgehog on XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 supposed to be a return to form for the series?” A simple question at first, easily responded with a ‘Yes’, but let’s get a bit more specific. A better poser would be “Is Sonic the Hedgehog on XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 supposed to be the Mega Drive games, only in 3D?”
All of a sudden, you’ve tapped into just why people are giving the game crap scores. This game is not meant to be a modernised Mega Drive game. Throughout its entire development it has been earmarked as a renovation of the series – a complete change in dynamic. We shouldn’t be looking at this game and comparing it with Sonic 1 or even Sonic Heroes, because Sonic the Hedgehog has started fresh. It has cleared the slate. On some levels, it’s like every game before it never existed.
And that is the correct way of thinking when reviewing Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a brand new game. The characters are all the same, sure, and the general aim of each level may be similar. But the emphasis on a deeper storyline, the co-existence with humans on a grander scale, and the execution of the gameplay elements altogether distance this from any other Sonic before it. Put simply, you are wrong to be looking at this game and even considering any of the past games, especially when it comes to comparisons.
The large change in story development and game play mechanic is too much for some fans.
In an ideal world, every single game reviewed should be based on its merits instead of whether its franchise is going down the pan. Naturally though, the game’s plus and minus points have to be considered – I’m not at all suggesting that rational analysis be thrown out of the window just to entertain the idea that it’s a brand new game. But when you consider the majority of people disliking the modern games all have this anal desire to be 7 years old again (remember, things seemed better than they actually were when you were a kid – for instance, I used to like Geri Haliwell!), you start to wonder whether these outlets really have anything of worth to discuss.
Of course, I’m not too impressed reading US reviews of the game that give it 9.5 out of 10 and saying it’s the best thing ever, without even considering there may be a few niggles in the programming. Can’t we just for once, in the world of The GHZs and Sonic Passions, have an objective middle ground? Where the games in the series are ranked on their own merit instead of past successes? Where flaws are rationally pointed out instead of ignored because “it’s so awesome” (or even blown out of proportion because “it sucks so bad”)?
I try to do this every day, both on TSS and other outlets that I work for – and seeing reviews like this just make my face fall and wonder why anyone bothers wasting their attention reading such publications. By all means judge the games for yourself after reading professional reviews – they are only meant to be a guideline.
However, if you don’t have the money and are counting on a journalist’s opinion, make sure you read the article thoroughly, because there are giveaways to be spotted when a writer isn’t judging the game fairly. It’s in their tone, style and general stance on the whole game. Reviews are meant to be unbiased and looking at the game’s strong and weak points in a balanced way. If you don’t see this in a review – and I’ve not seen it in any Sonic the Hedgehog review to date – then do yourself a favour and trust a well-informed friend or outlet instead.