Sonic 4: What’s In A Name?

The following is the opinion of a man who is conflicted and about a company that chose the wrong name.  If you don’t want to read any negativity about Sonic 4 (or you don’t like to read), turn back now.  If you’re going to read on, you’re going to read parts that you might agree with and parts that you might not agree with.  So is the nature of opinion.

My first Sonic forum was Sonic Fan Games HQ and it is where I rose to the community status that I have today.  My first administration job was there and it is also where I met a lot of people to get me in the position that I’m in today.  SFGHQ is where I began development on Sonic Nexus, a project that I began because I did not think SEGA would provide another classic romp ever again.  When college allows me to work on it, Nexus is my only gateway to an “all-new adventure.”

SFGHQ is also the home of many “Sonic 4” fangames that have come and gone over the years.  People have always dreamed of making the direct sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles and have either given up, lost interest, or have changed the name of their game to rid themselves of the high expectations that they have set for themselves.

SEGA is now guilty of setting their own bar too high.

I kid you not, there is a Sonic Retro wiki article for every pixel of this screenshot.


Before you stop reading the article to comment on how 3-seconds of gameplay cannot justify an opinion as critical as mine, I’ll remind you that classic Sonic fans only need a little to break down anything and everything within a single frame.  Sites like Sonic Retro, SFGHQ, and Zone:0 exist for a reason.  We have perfected analyzing every pixel, color, and motion in the classic Sonic games.  If anybody’s going to not fall prey to the hype monster… it’s us.

You might say that we’re ungrateful for not being completely sold or hating what we have seen thus far of a project that Ken Ballough, SEGA’s brand manager, said is finally intended for us.  In reality, are we really unappreciative for dogging on it?

The game is called Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a direct sequel to a trilogy made famous on perfection.  We do not have ridiculously high expectations.  When you name the game Sonic 4, it has to be perfection.  If it’s not, you might as well piss all over my Genesis.  SEGA PR giving reasons as to why I’m not pleased is making excuses for something undeserving of a title that they gave it.  It’s not us… it’s them.

Isn't "concept art" supposed to help conceive new ideas? I saw this spinning flower 19 years ago.


The original games are also built on creativity.  Where one game came up short, the other expanded upon and surprised you with more.  Sonic 2 introduced a spindash, another character, and Super Sonic.  Sonic 3 had a “tropical green  trope” zone to begin the game, but broke precedent and set it on fire almost immediately. Sonic & Knuckles introduced a playable Knuckles and lock-on technology, which even breathed new life into Sonic 2.  The bar was raised whether you were prepared for it or not.  With 3-seconds of a Green Hill rip-off and an Emerald Hill corkscrew, along with old badniks, Green Hill palmtrees and flowers, Sonic 4 currently does not surprise or rise above the three games before it.

The blatant rehashing of old materials is fangame quality at best.  Even the story admits that this game will be bringing back “Eggman’s finest creations.”

Yes, “official fangame” is an oxymoron, but that’s what Sonic 4 looks like thus far: an average bit of fan-service that ultimately does not live up to its choice of name.  Aside from the aforementioned “fangame n00b mistake” of a name, the game is rehashing old stuff and updating their looks to make it all seem “new.”  For most of fangame creators, that is all we really do to make level art and badniks, since we lack the skill to sprite original things ourselves.  Observe:

The art style of the classics is there in the trailer, but we saw Green Hill nearly two decades ago.

With the talk of art style also comes Sonic’s appearance and where the train really comes off the tracks.  The pudgy, short-spined, black-eyed original doesn’t return.  What a sequel to the Genesis games gets is the lanky, floppy-spined wannabe that has been romping around King Arthur’s court as a werehog with Shadow, Cream, Marine, Silver and the ruffles.  I do not care about confusing the children and being consistent with Sonic’s modern design.  The Sonic I knew has a spirit attached to him that no other character can match.  Even a re-design of Sonic would have sufficed because, hey, we are rebooting, right? If the game was called something else, modern Sonic wouldn’t be an issue.  However, the game is called “Sonic 4.”

The face of failure... or someone who just farted.


“Modern” Sonic’s appearance hit me the hardest.  SEGA had lied to us.

They invoked the winged ring back on 9.9.09.  They made a whole forum skin around the Genesis sprites. The “Hedgehog Day” flash ditty was classic Sonic coming out of a hole.  Classic Sonic was coming back.  Even the trailer had a classic Sonic retrospective!  My hopes were dashed when the face of an underwhelming decade faded up at the end of the trailer.  SEGA’s commitment to finally pleasing its original fanbase after sixteen years was a front.

Ken Ballough said it himself: Sonic 4 is our game.  When a new Sonic game came out with 10 new characters and laser guns, we clamored for a return to form and SEGA has finally obliged.  The kids have had their games and they were mediocre at best, most being the butt of jokes across gaming websites.

If Capcom can commit to classic Mega Man to the point of fully embracing its past by making awesomely bad box-art, then so can you, SEGA.

Here's a fan's altered "Sonic 4" model. Looks like a winner to me.


Last week, I had chastised a few people at SFGHQ for an absurd amount of complaining over the Needlemouse contests and the eventual recycling of old badniks.  My posts were along the lines of, “Shut up, you guys.  Classic Sonic is returning.  This is what we want!  Can’t you be happy?”

Unfortunately, now I’m the one doing the complaining.  What Sonic 4 appears to be isn’t what I want.

SEGA, you owe it to your legions of 20-something and older fans to make a change.  Our commitment to you when we were still wetting beds in tacky windbreakers is why you are still around today.   We defended you on the playground against those Mario-loving, Super Nintendo owning sons of bitches.  We followed you to consoles that were complete failures.

Either change the name and respect what are still Sonic’s best games or fix what I saw in that trailer.  I will not settle for anything less than perfection.  We’ve been settling for a decade now.  Provide throwbacks while expanding and innovating.

The time is now.  The choice is yours, SEGA.

You might think I’m overreacting (hell, I think I am, too), but that is just how close the name “Sonic 4” is to me.  Again, if the name wasn’t “Sonic 4,” I would be completely sunshine smiles right now, but that’s not the case.  There is a weight so heavy tied to “Sonic 4” that I doubt anybody will ever be able to pick it up.

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I’m prepared for the flaming below.  Let me have it, fellas.  I’m aware that this is probably not the time nor place for such an article, but with a subject so close to me, I had to get my two cents out there.  You’re entitled to your own opinion, too.