Sonic's 30th Anniversary And What To Expect.
Hey all. Hope everyone reading this has had a great first month of the year.
So, before we begin, let me get the reason I made this blog instead of going to social media out of the way first.
People have asked me why I haven't just made a Twitter instead. Simple. Twitter is one of the most vile, toxic cesspools around, and I have zero interest in "appeasing" the numerous ninnies out there. Last year alone probably shaved a few years off of my life and I would rather not lose any more of those, haha. This is the compromise I came up with.
With that out of the way, let's get on with why you're probably here. A certain blue blur is turning the big 3 0 in a few months, and many, and I mean many, people are excited and anxious for what's in store. Funnily enough, just as I was finishing this article on Monday morning, SEGA and Wildbrain went ahead and officially announced the new animated Sonic series that was leaked last year, being titled "Sonic Prime", and on Thursday morning, SEGA and LEGO officially announced their intention to make a set based on Sonic Mania. While these won't be a part of the 30th anniversary celebrations, they're still huge announcements, all the same.
To say Sonic has a had a mixed past two decades isn't even scratching the surface. Right from his jump to 3D, Sonic has had a divisive reception with fans and critics alike. With the split of classic fans and modern fans being ever so omnipresent, 20 years later. I'm gonna give my personal take on the year ahead.
Where are we, Currently?
As i'm sure you saw last week, two big changes are coming to the franchise. Roger Craig Smith, the longest running English voice actor has confirmed that he's no longer voice the blue blur, and the writing duo of Warren Graff and Ken Pontac have stated their decade-long run of writing the 3D Sonic games has seemingly come to an end. Cindy Robinson, the voice of Amy, is also leaving the franchise, and it's looking like the rest of the cast may be following suit, soon enough. Those alone are two wide sweeping changes to the franchise that will be felt for years to come. But here's a big curve ball that many may not know:
SEGA of America Is IN Charge of Sonic Now:
Yes, really. Nearly management of the franchise is being done at "Sonic Pillar" in Irvine, California now. They're calling the shots, when it comes to games, merch, social media, etc. SOJ is well aware of how much more popular the franchise is in the west, so they've been entrusted with it's care. That said, here's some stuff that needs to be clarified:
They are *NOT* a game development studio. Producers, artists and all of that are there to ensure development on the games go smoothly. Development is still being done in Japan at the same studios as always. Iizuka and Hoshino are still the stewards of the franchise, but they're doing so in the US now.
Those 3 changes alone are pretty huge, but I would expect more to come out. There's new hands in the Sonic pie, and this is being described internally as a "new era" for the boy in blue.
Edit: "Sonic Studio" is what they're being called officially now, sorry for any confusion.
Just a note, I've exhaustively been looking into all of this with SEGA contacts, sources, and corroborating this information for the past two months, trying to gleam into what I can with what all I've been graciously given. It's a tiring process. Corroborating information is not an easy task, and for many journalists out there, I feel their pain.
What to Expect:
Well, here we come to the big one. SEGA has already told investors to expect numerous Sonic announcements this year as it's his 30th birthday bash. But what *exactly* can we expect?
-Modern is the Focus:
If the logo wasn't a dead giveaway, Modern Sonic will be the focus of this anniversary. That detail is going to be extremely disappointing to numerous people, which is understandable, but here's why:
Classic Sonic and his series of games are seen as "old hat" at SEGA. From what I understand, Classic coming back is and was never going to be a permanent thing. Yes, I know what you're thinking, Mania was a huge success critically, and that team is immensely talented, but the thing is, SEGA doesn't want the franchise being "defined" by a 2D sprite based game that was done by fan/indie developers.
They want the games they make themselves to be the "shining beacon" of the franchise, for lack of a better word. One other big point is frankly, Classic Sonic has more than been taken care of, at this point, by fans. There are literally hundreds of ongoing fan games being made, such as Sonic Mania Megamix, Sonic Galactic, Sonic Roboblast 2, Sonic 2 HD, etc. SEGA has come out and publically supported all of these fan works, they have no need for a Mania sequel, because fans are already doing those, and then some, from their perspective. Another way to think about this is Dragon Ball. For any person not in the know, the classic Dragon Ball era of 1984-1989 has a much different art style and tone from the rest of the franchise. Akira Toriyama and his editors decided to age up the characters, increase the dramatic tone and action scenes, and completely change the art direction of the series, and for the most part, it's been that way for over 30 years. Sonic Adventure has been commonly compared to Dragon Ball Z for that very reason. Z superceded any need for Dragon Ball, and SEGA sees Sonic the same way.
Modern has much more potential in terms of merch, spinoffs, television, comics, you name it. It's what the franchise has had it's core identity in since 1998, and that's not changing, Prime sounds like it'll be continuing this sentiment.
Also, the modern cast is much bigger, is ever-growing, plenty of potential for spinoffs, has a lot of potential depth in the characters (even if the games haven't done a great job showing that), and while this may not be important for some, the much larger female cast is super important for many in the fanbase. Classic will still be around in merchandise and supplementary material, of course, so don't ever expect him to go away completely. I'd love to be wrong about this one, being perfectly honest, but all signs are pointing to this being the case.
It's easy to see why they're going in this direction, and the new show will delve into this a lot more, hopefully.
-The Split of 2D and 3D Sonic:
I have heard from that this point on, that they're going back to 2D and 3D gameplay being the sole dimensions in their respective games, which is an extremely good thing. The past 15 or so years has had Sonic Team's games all be a hybrid of the two, but in that execution, they have realized neither dimension has been able to be used to it's full potential, so instead of trying to make people happy with one title that pleases no one, they're making two.
Okay, still with me? Let's get into the actual alleged games, at least what I can surmise from my limited knowledge:
-A New Sonic Collection:
This one I've heard of multiple times. I don't know exactly what's in it, but will be a celebration of 30 years of the blue blur, with games that haven't been in circulation in many years. Sonic Advance, Pocket Adventure and Sonic R all seem like likely inclusions here. SEGA/M2 are likely making this in tandem. If I were a betting man, I'd say this one will release in June, just in time for the 23rd of June.
This will NOT include the remakes of Sonic 1&2, by the way. I'd expect the M2 versions to be the ones included, instead. Sonic 3 will also NOT be included, for very obvious reasons that I won't get into here.
Edit: I've heard a bit more about this. Apparently, there should be a mix of ports and remasters in here. It also should be on everything, including PC and Switch. It should also feature games that have never seen a re-release before.
Additionally, I don't know this as of now, but they may also release them separately as an option, for those that just want one or two of them.
Edit 2: Well, lookie there! Sonic Colors is indeed coming to modern platforms and that is indeed one of the remasters I heard about.
Additionally, the information about the collection is frankly, outdated and I have more interesting details about that one coming up here soon. It's sounding like a solid collection. Stay tuned!
-A New Mario and Sonic Olympics Title:
Okay, this one is pretty messy. This apparently is in development, but considering how the pandemic has fucked everything Olympics related, the IOC internally scrambling over a potential cancellation of the Summer Games, and the extremely controversial nature of China holding next year's Winter Games, there's a very good chance that this one may be cancelled altogether. I also strongly believe SEGA and Nintendo want no part in this controversy. It'll all hinge on how this pandemic and the situation with China shakes out in the next few months. I'm 50/50 on this one happening, at the moment.
-A New 2D Sonic:
This is the one I've heard the least about. Iizuka alluded to this one last year, but I would bet money that this is coming rather soon, as well. It's a game with the modern cast, so I think a return to Sonic Advance/Rush formula is what we're getting here. Summer-Fall is pretty much certain. Who's developing it? I'm not sure, to be perfectly honest, but I have a hunch that Dimps is developing this title, as their schedule is strangely empty at the moment. I know they're a controversial developer among many Sonic fans, but I would blame their weaker titles on SEGA's lack of oversight rather than Dimps, themselves. They're an extremely talented and diverse developer in the variety of games they make, so i'm confident in that they can make a great Sonic game again, if it is them developing.
Edit: I don't know why this is being so misconstrued, but I'll do a rundown just to make it more clear.
What I know:
-It's a 2D game, featuring the modern cast, likened to Sonic Advance/Rush.
-From what I understand, it's not internally SEGA developed.
-It's not Nintendo/console exclusive. People want that, for some reason?
-I don't know how many there are exactly, but there are apparently multiple playable characters.
-It's nearing the end of development, seems to be a summer release, which would give enough space between that and the 3D game.
Edit 2: Again, just to make it clear, since this has confused people, I do not know which developer is developing this title yet.
The Next 3D Sonic:
Okay, so this is the big one. This is a make or break title for a lot of people, and it's easy to understand why. I'll do the best I can to elaborate on what I've heard.
What I know:
-It is NOT a boost game. SEGA has realized that they've done all they can with that formula, so this is allegedly a return to more of an Adventure/traditional platformer, which is seen as having much more long term potential.
-Full 3D, no hybrid nonsense here.
-Features return of the spin dash in 3D and character upgrades.
-There are more playable characters than just Sonic, but I wasn't given specifics as to who those were. Tails/Knuckles/Shadow all seem like valid possibilities.
It'll be the first game conceptualized by the "Sonic Pillar" in the US.
-SEGA CS2 R&D has had a number of new hires, post Forces, so a number of the devs involved are brand new to the series. "Sonic Team" is literally nothing more than just a brand name now. No idea if it'll be in the marketing or not.
-The game will be cross-gen, should be on every console under the sun, and a Holiday 2021 release is still on track, last I heard. However, given the very obvious circumstances going on around the world, there is still a chance it may slip into 2022. They're willing to give this game all the time it needs.
-This game is a NOT a tie-in to the movies at all. Paramount is doing their own thing with Sonic.
-Cameos and Guest Appearances:
Sonic will apparently appear as a guest in a bunch of games coming this year, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 being the first game of this year's big push. I don't know what the other games are, but I have a prediction that one of them will be a guest appearance in SEGA's new Super Monkey Ball game, that series will celebrate it's 20th anniversary this year, so expect a pretty big push for that one, as well.
When Is It All Getting Revealed?
One last tidbit I have, is that they are planning some sort of game reveal as we speak, it should be a digital presentation, similar to what was planned last year. Although, given the tenuous state of things, a press release drop is also a possibility. My guess is that this will air from between the next few weeks and the end of March, and should go over at least a good bit of what I laid out today. We seem due for a reveal here pretty soon, so i'm of the belief that we may be mere days away from something substantial.
Some Final Thoughts:
My personal opinion on this year is simple. Cautious optimism. I think there's a lot to be potentially excited about, but, this franchise has frankly, burned me far more than I care to count, so I'm definitely going to be taking the cautious approach here. I would advise my dear readers to do the same.
If you got this far, thank you for taking the time to swing on by and read all of this, I greatly appreciate you taking your time out of your day to hear me rambling on. Again, editorials are not usually something I do, and this is a new format for me, but I felt like this was the best way to communicate with my current schedule. Please let me know if this something you want to see in the future.
Extending on to that, I'm m gonna see how this first article goes, but next time, I'll most likely be diving into Nintendo's 2021, and what to expect from them, anniversaries and all.
Thanks for reading, take care, and be safe out there, wear a mask!
For everlasting peace!