Dear Games Industry: Sega


Dear Sega,

In all honesty I appreciate what you’ve done for the video games industry, I really do. In particular the Saturn and the Dreamcast were great consoles that were ahead of their time and didn’t deserve their ultimate fate. However I have one minor complaint. Sonic. Now the Sonic series is one of the reasons that video games have become a hobby to the extent they have. Maybe I would have become interested in games regardless, but it’s equally likely that I would have simply stayed with books and not expanded into gaming as much. The little blue hedgehog that speed across the screen fascinated me when I was a child, and was a significant area between myself and my father. In an age when everyone else has moved onto the Mega Drive I had a Master System, although I hold that the Master System was a better console. Playing the original Sonic is a point that I can still recall clearly and something that I look back on with fondness. Going back to it in one of the retro collections I found it’s easily as good as I recalled and played through it again.

Ah the retro collections, now there’s a point of contention. I mean I enjoy playing Sonic and Knuckles, I really do, and in my humble opinion the original Sonic is possibly the best example of level design… well ever. However I now own these games three times. I don’t need to own them three times, particularly as I still own the collection you released for my GameCube, which still functions perfectly well. Whilst I appreciate that you are a business, a rather large one at that, that needs to survive, maybe some innovation would do you well? Well that’s not really fair. You could hardly say that the wealth of Sonic titles that you’ve released in recent years weren’t innovative. We’ve had a wide range of ideas and new genres to push Sonic and his associated universe into. The problem is that not many people actually saw them as very good. I mean by far the best in recent years was Sonic Rush, and that was a 2.5D side scroller. Well I guess that’s not exactly innovative, so maybe even innovation isn’t what’s needed. I mean I can see why you tried to push and expand the game-play in Sonic. Nintendo had started to really push Mario with titles like Mario Kart and Mario 64 and you, like many developers and publishers, looked at the way the rest of the industry was going. It was the right thing to do at the time, you felt the pressure to move forward into new areas and you certainly achieved that goal. Sadly the newer titles were missing something that was there in older titles. Maybe it was the new characters, maybe it was the wider world you tried to invoke. Maybe it’s just the core gameplay mechanic of Sonic doesn’t work particularly well in a 3D environment. I’ve certainly found the last one to be true in the current generation’s Sonic the Hedgehog title as well as the Sonic Heroes title.

Sonic Unleashed initially seemed to have a real possibility to address all of the issues that I’ve speculated on here. Character selection was much narrower, the running sequences were closer to the game-play of “old school” Sonic titles and there was even evolution of the gameplay in the right direction. However then you announced the addition of the night-time Werehog sections, and again we saw a game with significant potential start to fall short. I actually liked some of the ideas laid out in the Werehog sections of the game, the dichotomy between the two faces of Sonic seemed interesting and the use of new powers to compensate for his lack of speed and navigate levels in a different way was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately I felt the execution just wasn’t quite right, there was something missing from the title. It didn’t reach out and keep hold of me like those original Sonic titles did. Maybe it was simply because I younger then and my tastes weren’t as evolved, my attention was easier to hold. Regardless it just never quite grabbed me, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.

And on that subject we come to Needlemouser. Of course we know almost nothing of it, but what you’ve told us so far seems great. Maybe this will be the title that lets a newer Sonic title into the special place in my heart that the series holds. I certainly hope so.

Yours Faithfully,
Kris Lipscombe.