Con-soul Searching: Sonic’s Boom
Remember the glory days of Sega? Wait… I mean do you remember the glory days of Seeeeegaaaaa? Back in those days I could only play the Genesis at my cousin’s house. I recall always heading directly for his room so I could play Sonic. So what happened? I don’t mean what happened to Sonic, I mean what happened to Sega. They used to be Nintendo’s biggest rival; the only one capable of battling the king of the industry. Now they aren’t even the top third party developer.
I think a lot of Sega’s downfall has to do with the business style of the company. Sega was always more brash and willing to take chances than Nintendo was. Think about the Genesis for example. Sega released the 16-bit system two years before the Super Nintendo debuted. It was their most successful system and had their most popular game, Sonic 2. But it didn’t take long for things to go sour. About a year after the SNES released, Sega introduced the Sega CD; then a few years later the 32X. Then not even a year later, they brought out the Saturn. Sega was flooding the market with expensive hardware too fast. Each of these platforms was met with less game support than the last. These pieces of hardware may have been innovative but without software to show that, nobody was willing to cough up the fees to buy them.
Sega always seemed to misstep with their systems. The Game Gear had a lit screen but it ate through the six batteries used to power it in about two hours. The Sega CD and Saturn were both powerful disk systems for their era. Too bad Sega didn’t let third parties know the platforms existed until they were revealed. This lead to a void where third party software would have normally been. The 32X was released too late and at too high a price for people to commit. The Dreamcast was a solid system at a competitive price and it had a lot of success in North America. Unfortunately, they could not maintain that momentum after the launch of the PS2. Whether by bad luck or poor choices, Sega struggled to find the right place at the right time.
There hardware isn’t the only problem. Somewhere along the line there was an attitude change with the games they make. I think just about everyone will agree that Sonic 2 was the highlight of the franchise. Why hasn’t Sega been able to produce something as good as an 18 year old game? It’s almost like they stopped trying after a while. Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast is a game filled with bugs and glitches. Can anyone explain to me how Sega released a game for their most beloved mascot in such an unpolished state? This is Sonic we’re talking about here! The Blue Blur! Sega shouldn’t release a Sonic game until it has a mirror shine to it. It didn’t stop there; more and more Sonic games have hit the market, each with some goofy gimmick and/or a general lack of polish. You would never see Nintendo release a game where Mario will just fall through the world because he stood in one place too long. Granted, Nintendo will add their plumber mascot to just about any game. However, those games always carry a level of production that proves the company cares about their product.
The whole reason I am writing this is because I played the demo of Sonic Fan Remix last night. It is a fan made game put together by three people and it puts Sonic 4: Episode 1 to shame. It has better graphics, better music and a better physics engine. While it is an impressive accomplishment for the people responsible, it is a disgrace to Sega. How can a handful of people make a better Sonic game than a whole company that bases their lively hood around the same character? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Go try the demo of Sonic Fan Remix. Click right here and you can see for yourself how awesome a Sonic game can be. Hopefully it will remind you why Sonic was once so coveted. If you are too young for the Sega glory days, I hope the game will let you appreciate when Sonic was a beloved character. His games weren’t always horrible. I used to smile when I heard, “Seeeeegaaaaa.” Now, it brings me nothing but sorrow for the fall of the hedgehog and the company that created him.