Way back when in the magical time of 1991, when America was invading Iraq for the first time and the Spin Doctors had not yet come to prominence, a game came out called Sonic the Hedgehog. The game, and character, were designed for the sole purpose of aping Nintendo's marketing of home videogame consoles. When it came out (and still today) the original game was amazing.
Now of course I carry a huge bias when it comes to the original 2d Sonic platformers. Growing up my house was a Genesis household. I did not aquire my SNES until about 1998 (which I still own by the way.... Super Bomber Man with multitap ftw!!!!), so the Genesis and it's mascot were the focus of my young budding fanboy praise.
20 years later Sonic should not be relevant. Towards the end of the Genesis era Sega made the poor-decision to take the franchise to 3d with the aptly titled "Sonic 3D blast". They continued with the release of the ill-fated Dreamcast (it sucked btw, more on that later in a future post) and Sonic Adventure. In the 2000's Sonic has developed a cast and many, many terrible games. Time after time Sega has continued to release terribly received titles bearing the Hedgehog's likeness, and time and time again people hope that the series would redeem itself. Of course the problem is Sega completely forgot what made the series fantastic in the first place.
Sonic the Hedgehog games could have been called anything and stared any protagonist. This is a game (I refer to the 2D Genesis releases) that had perfectly executed mecanics, a well balanced difficulty curve, fantastic art and level design, and the best music of the 16-bit era (with apologies to Final Fantasy 3/6). It was always the smooth flow of the 2d mechanics, the vertical-ness of the level design, and the varied art of the locations that made the games the really special journeys that they were. The real apex of the series for me was the combined cartridges of Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles played together. It really was something special.
Like all good things it wasn't meant to last. Instead of pulling a Seinfeld with it (read go out on top) Sega decided that the draw to the series was Sonic's bad attitude and backstory, not the previous paragraph, and continued to dig a hole they now hope to dig themselves out of with the forthcoming downloadable release of Sonic Generations and a real return to the series's 2D roots. Problem is that the magic is gone. What was once a special moment in time has faded away and it really is time to move on (like most of us have).
I will always have a fond place in my heart for Sonic (and maybe Tails). I spent a lot of really amazing hours ensconced in his creative 2D worlds as a kid and the series has definitely shaped how I play games and spend my leisure time. It is a feeling I will always cherish and never look to recapture.
Here's to nostalgia. Now what else we got (time to download Trenched!!!!!).