MykonosFan And Zippo Presents: Why Skipping Sonic Mania 2 Is A Huge Mistake.
While the wait for Sonic news continues, (Origins, Frontiers, Prime), I decided to go ahead and make an article about why SEGA's current Sonic strategy is missing something...important.
I couldn't do this alone, however, so I brought on my good friend, game reviewer, and fellow Sonic fan Chris (Mykonosfan) to co-op this article.
Introduce yourself, Chris!
Chris: Hello! Thanks for having me on, bud.
Links to all of his stuff will be in the outro below.
It's no secret that Sonic Mania was and remains one of SEGA's most important and happens to be one of their most critically acclaimed games, ever. It's got a 91+ on Metacritic and I just wonder to myself, "Why? Why didn't they follow up on this?". These very thoughts have kept me up many a night now.
It was announced by a majority of Mania's developers, Evening Star, just a few weeks ago that they were developing a new IP featuring a mascot in a 3D platformer.
That news, if anyone knows my tastes, is extremely exciting, and whatever that team makes, I'm buying day one. But, at the same time, it confirmed something I knew all too well was true.
SEGA cancelled Sonic Mania 2, for let's say, some extremely stupid reasons.
And it's a heartbreaking fact that I just had to accept.
This is a huge mistake, and it's something they're going to regret immensely.
Let us break down some reasons why:
The state of the Sonic series throughout the 2010’s has been largely examined to death, but it is still quite a fascinating thing to step back and look at. Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations kicked off a promising decade, only to give way to a confusing but easily forgiven experiment in Sonic Lost World, an even more confusing experiment in the Sonic Boom brand, and ultimately fuurther giving way to a lot of silence and larger gaps between releases leading to, and following,o Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces. It’s still a bit dampening to think that it has been four entire years since both of those games, and that as far as mainline Sonic goes it will be an even larger gap from Forces to the next 3D Sonic Team game.
We had the movie, Team Sonic Racing, a pleasant social media experience with things like the 30th Anniversary Symphony, things have happened. But as a fan, Sonic feels so disjointed and sporadic with most of the output SEGA itself provides feeling largely forgettable.
Remember when a Sonic Colors remaster came out a month and a half ago? Other series get by just fine with long gaps between core releases, look at any major Nintendo franchise and how they’re supplanted through worthwhile spin-offs and re-releases, but the known difference there is that when a new game in those franchises comes out, they’re worth remembering fondly.
Basically, I don’t need to show up for every Mario Party to love Mario because the quality of a Super Mario Odyssey or Bowser’s Fury keeps me more than happy despite the years between each.
When a series makes the jump to 3D, it generally means that the aforementioned series has the potential to appeal to different groups. Think of Mario, for example, the existence of 3D Mario games and the lack of a new 2D Mario for a few years made the demand for a new 2D game grow steadily higher and higher until Nintendo actually did it. And that game ended up selling over 30 million copies.
We've been in a renaissance of 2D platformers and action games ever since, and games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania, New Super Mario Bros., Mega Man 9, 10, 11, Celeste, Shovel Knight, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, Rayman Origins, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and numerous others have proven that they are here to stay.
Why then, should Sonic be any different? In fact, Sonic was a series that was putting out a new 2D entry more regularly than just about any other franchise. Now, they've just... stopped. I've noticed this, and this is coming from someone who really isn't super big on 2D Sonic, with the exception of the Classic and Rush games, obviously. And, there appears to be no real reason why. These 2D games are advantageous over 3D ones for a few reasons. They're much cheaper to develop, sporting much shorter development times on average, with some notable exceptions.
Secondly, they require less budget and less manpower. Lastly, there's less financial risk and higher profits if the game is successful.
Skipping Over An Entire Fanbase:
2D Sonic games, at one point, were SEGA's bread and butter. These four (three) classic games sold literal millions and millions of people on the Genesis alone.
Around the time of Adventure's release, there begin a split of the fanbase. Those who preferred the momentum based platforming of the classic games, and those who preferred the new direction Sonic was going into with Adventure. There was still demand for the classic style of platforming in Sonic, a lot in fact.
SEGA answered these demands with Sonic Pocket Adventure and Sonic Advance. The games, while flawed, were faithful to the games' original physics and level design.
This split would further widen with the start of the Boost era, and those three sides are still very prominent through the fanbase today. For the next decade after the Advance, classic styled games went into a decline until the aforementioned New Super Mario Bros. started the rebirth of classic 2D Platformer.
SEGA wanted a piece of that pie, so they quickly shat out the game that would (infamously) be known as Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, which turned out to be a complete disaster with it's awful physics, unappealing visuals, embarrassing soundtrack and unoriginal, full-on rehashy nature. Sonic Generations was another attempt at recreating the classic Sonic look and feel. While it was a respectable effort, it was still very far off the mark in terms of control and physics. Around the same time, Christian Whitehead was enlisted and put out the excellent remake of Sonic CD. It started what would come to be a strong relationship with SEGA. He, along with the equally talented Simon Thomley, would tackle excellent remakes of Sonic 1 and 2, before moving on to enlist more talented indie developer Sonic fans to do Sonic Mania, a game born out of high demand for a new classic game, the game would go on to be a huge sales hit and giant love letter to Sonic fans new and old.
So then, why? Why not follow it up with literally nothing?
I'll get to this in a second.
Letting Evening Star Slip Through Their Hands:
Sonic itself has a title worthy of similar praise in Sonic Mania, a game that soars despite being "from fans” and hardly “being original”. I’m not even much of a 2D Sonic guy, myself, but Mania was a watershed moment for this series. The most obvious thing in the world would have been for SEGA to pony up more funding and give the developers anything they needed to continue their work, to bring more of their vision, their creativity, their energy, to Sonic. Instead, we received more of that trademark silence.
Sonic Mania is touted on the official social media channels as this unequivocal good, as it should be, but there’s been an awkward contrast of treatment when it comes to the notion of there being more. Most of that development team is now showing off a silhouette for their own upcoming 3D game, though, so if you didn’t see the writing on the wall by now, hopefully it has become apparent.
Somehow, SEGA seems to have let the opportunity of continuing to work with those folk pass them by, developers who I’m sure they will go on to start making their own mark in this industry, creating their own characters and worlds for people to become invested in. Those guys would always have needed to leave Sonic’s nest to do their own thing, but to see it happen so soon is bittersweet. They’re friends of friends, so I love to see them get to show what they’ve truly got so soon, but as a fan of Sonic, i’m bummed out knowing this undoubtedly indicates a return to the status quo.
Why then, while the iron is hot, knowing that there is free money on the table, would you not get this team as long as you possibly could? This team was brimming with new ideas. Why would you not further enlist them for future projects? This boggles the mind, not just from a creative standpoint, but from a business standpoint. From all accounts, they were willing and ready for more classic Sonic adventures, but of course, as the story goes, the blame for all of this is going to SEGA of America management as they decided to be, let's say..."extremely unreasonable", ultimately nixing the project. This was a break up, and there's no getting around it. If you're like us, and you wanted a new 2D classic styled game, you are just shit out of luck, and it didn't have to be this way. It's a truly shitty situation all around.
Just to clear a common misconception up, it's actually not really SOJ who is the problem here. There is no jealousy from SOJ, something some people believe for whatever reason. No, the true problem here is SEGA of America. They have very problematic producers and executives there, just like any other company, and a lot of the dumb decisions being made with Sonic can be attributed to them, that includes Colors Ultimate being released in the disastrous state that it was.
This game would have been easy money, and an easy 90+ plus on Metacritic, but of course, SEGA had to be SEGA, and these types of mistakes have haunted them since the 90s and it still continues to this day.
Hope For the Future:
The current mission statement of Sonic seems to be, “We’re taking our time now; fewer releases but more quality”, a mission statement that got torpedoed by Sonic Colors Ultimate being the result of a death by a thousand cuts. Is it totally serviceable as a remaster? Sure. Will most people care about its remaining issues? Should it still have been better? Yes.
It gets difficult to keep faith in the brand when the releases are so far apart, and when they do come out, they disappoint. Sonic Colors Ultimate should have been another easy home run, but now it is plagued by a storm of bad PR due to being released before it was ready.
Some of that storm undeserved, to be clear, but still the result of the state it was released in. I hate being cynical about Sonic, and I hate not being as openly positive for it as I am for, well, pretty much everything else SEGA is doing right now. I’m dying to finish writing this passage so I can go back to adding on to the 90 hours I’ve put into Lost Judgment. But it isn’t easy to keep the faith for Sonic when it’s a coin toss as to whether I’ve been waiting half decades between 3D Sonic games just for the next one to disappoint again.
I got into Sonic right before I turned 6, I’mt turning 28 in a few months. I just want Sonic games that make me care again. As a silver lining, 2022’s 3D Sonic game seems to be shaping up to at least be interesting, so even if it does miss thee mark it will hopefully be more memorable than Forces.
I hope it’s good because I’m already not looking forward to the inevitable formula change and 4+ year wait after it that the Sonic series is currently exhibiting if it isn’t good. Some great Sonic games from the Mania team sprinkled in between these waits sure would make things easier, but, alas...
Ditto, Chris. Can't find a single word to disagree with.
With all of that being said, thank you very much to Chris for joining today. His thoughts are beyond valuable, well thought out and he's the guy to go to for any well reasoned, logical takes on games in the current era. WATCH. HIS. STUFF.
Check him out here:
His YouTube Channel:
That's all for today. I'll have more coming your way very soon. Take care, thanks for reading, have a safe weekend.