Thursday, April 9, 2009


An optimistic conclusion to our two-part peek at the ailing "Sonic The Hedgehog" franchise...

I'll be honest, I'm a little concerned that what amounts to proposing a "what I'd do" reboot of the whole bloody franchise strikes me as alarmingly close to the kind of myopic arrogance that tends to inform "fan fiction"... but I think I found a decent balance here. Or maybe not, you tell me.


Rafael Alejandro Sanchez said...

Great episode once again, Overthinker. I'm glad I was online when you put this up.

I loved your description of a Sonic reboot. I had a few similar ideas at the end of my Sonic review video, though not as developed. This makes me want to go and make the game myself (if only I were a more experienced programmer...)

Anyways, this was one of my favorites and I'd been looking forward to it. Thanks a lot for not making us wait long for it.

There are a lot of other ideas regarding Sonic I'd been thinking about and honestly, a lot of your videos (especially this one) make me want to make a response video/article. All my videos so far have been reviews, but I've been thinking of making a kind of soapbox video about gaming. Would you be okay with me mentioning your videos?

Woolley said...

The entire Dash meter/Sonic Adventure revamp would definetly be a sonic game that would get me worked up for. In all honesty I looked at Black Knight & Unleashed and jsut thought "Meh", Admittedly the only 3d Sonic game I have played is Sonic Adventure 2, and that was the gamecube version.
Nevertheless I enjoyed it (except for the stupid knuckles/rogue searching levels) and I would love to see a revamp of that.

Someone needs to get Bob a flight to Sega/Sonic Team.

Blake said...

Good episode!

Absolutely agree about the Robotnik thing. I hate it when companies change the name of their stupid characters. I still call Dr. Robotnik "Robotnik". I still call the princess "Princess Toadstool"; yeah, her name can be Peach or whatever, but it's still Princess Toadstool to me.

All the ideas seem sound to me; I was a Nintendo guy and never much got into Sonic as a kid, but I'd be willing to give him another try.

KidHellion said...

I like your reboot ideas quite a bit, though there are a couple things I want to point out/suggest.

1. They already did a speed-guage dash-attack type thing to a degree in SA and SA2 (Light Speed Dash along a path of rings into an enemy) and in Unleashed (the speed levels were actually rather impressive, some of teh best in any 3D Sonic, and only the terrible and derivative narrative and Werehog levels screwed it up).

2. His name IS Robotnik. Look at teh screen behind Eggman's declaration of world conquest in SA2. It scrolls "Robotnik" over and over. His grandfather was named "Gerald Robotnik", not "Gerald Eggman". The official stance is that his full name in Dr. Ivo Robotnik, and Eggman is just a nickname he eventually adopted after Sonic started using it to mock him for a few years and he finally decided "Meh, what the hell? I name all my stuff after eggs anyway," and ran with it.

3. Metal Sonic or Shadow (or, as I never stop suggesting, and amalgam of the best parts of both) totally need to join that core cast, too. I know I already mentioned it, but c'mon, at least in the sequel to this hypothetical Sonic-of-tomorrow, we need to have a level where Sonic is having a race/battle against someone who can keep up with him. It makes for a cool boss, for one thing.

4. And, lastly, in relation to mass-murdering, animal-torturing Eggman/Robotnik? I was under the impression that (at least up until Heroes) that's what he WAS. I mean, he trie dto kill Tails, tried to blow up Station Square while it was filled with people, he used to stuff live animals into the power cores of his robots, he kept threatening to shoot his giant space laser at a thinly-veiled fascimile of the U.S.... He's just also a bit of an immature, goofy guy with an obsession with beating his "rival" Sonic, and with building ever more elaborate robot duplicates of the same, and big air craft carriers filled with robotic eggs. What I disagree with is the idea that we should do away with these goofier, less-than-threatening aspect of his characterization. My objection to doing away with the "Eggman" moniker entirely ties into this. Based on your previous rants, I'd think that you'd be one of the first to realize that making a series more serious and "badass" while doing away with the cheesier, fondly-remembered aspects can only result in total homogenous swill attempting to pass off an anorexic, blue Mickey Mouse with spiky hair who can turn into a Super Sayain as humourless drama.

Kyle said...

Love the video. I think you're a genius.

Oh, I was a SNES kid. I have no love or nostalgia for Sonic, but so many of my gamer friends do, and this would make them very happy.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, your game mechanics idea sounds great and fun to play. However, I see me doing a post on my own blog after my vacation about the story. Suffice it to say, why kill the cast when they can be written out. (And the only thing that bugs me about Cream was her voice actress in Sonic X, but I can say the same for Tails in the OAV movie as well.)

And while your story sounds good for a 3AM layout, the "deeper backstory"...just doesn't work for me. Japan already gets heat for the "amnesia/part of the bigger plot" stuff in their RPGs. Why bring that headache to the Sonic Multiverse? The rest of it is workable, though, even if it does turn Knuckles into Zero from Mega Man X.

Jonathan said...

I really enjoy your commentary, but the audio is maddeningly poor. It's improved in the last few. You must have gotten a new microphone or something.

I don't know what your set up is, but you clearly need to record at a lower volume. I admit I know little about recording voice, but I do know audio generally.

You want your voice to be at about -6 decibels. That will give you plenty of room to play around with your audio. You probably could benefit from using a noise removal and/or noise gate plugin to remove what sounds like your CPU fan. You may want to use a de-esser or a simple equalizer to soften your S sounds (everyone's S's sound loud through a microphone). You then should run your audio through a compressor to even out the loud and quiet parts. Finally, you should run your audio through a limiter to simply make it louder. A good limiter can make audio sound much louder without introducing popping and crackling.

Finally, you probably don't want to make it too loud because youtube hard-limits audio when you upload your video. I do not know the parameters they use, though.

Seriously, if you just record the audio well and send it to me, I would probably do all this stuff for you for free. Commentary would be a new thing for me, but I'd probably do a pretty good job.

Blake said...

Once again , great ideas. Jeez

Anonymous said...

Awesome video. I always watch your commentaries and they're pretty accurate and insightful.

Yes, the supporting cast has to go. And while your story is somewhat cliched, it works for me and beats the crap out of anything Sega's done recently, that's for sure. Do you think 2D Sonic in smooth HD would be a viable option for a set of parallel download games?

ps. I see you're doing the RE5 race row next episode. I wrote some pieces about that before and I have another one in the works. Feel free to check out my site @ for my reviews and features.

Looking forward to your next ep!

Mark said...

Nice stuff, as usual.
I'm actually a bit surprised that you didn't go for the 2d thing, which I think would be the obvious answer (mega man). I think you're right though that the mario course of action has better potential.

hopefully they listen to this stuff. How many bad games do they need to make before they get it?

CrunchyEmpanada said...

Dude, Cream is awesome. So is Sonic X (well, it's at least not crap).

And just because I feel like it, I'm gonna mention I was a Genesis kid. Totally on Sega's side during those particular console wars. You know, I haven't met a single other person who admits to being on that side now. Where'd they all go? Are they all sad that we lost in the end? Sheesh. Didn't stop me from picking up a Nintendo after the Dreamcast died in America. /side comment

Oh, and check out my blog, I have a few comments on this video you might be interested in. /plug-but-you-plug-a-lot-

Nope said...

I don't think the answer is to just remove the supporting cast, I think the answer is to make them what they are supposed to be. A SUPPORTING cast. Right now, Each game has at least 3 'others' in a starring role along with Sonic and Tails. If they actually made it so that the main characters are once again the focus and moved all the supporting characters to supporting roles (i.e. Knuckles in Sonic 3, boss fights like Sonic vs Shadow near the end of Adventure 2, Amy as the love interest...) then I think they could be 'acceptable' without a total reboot.

Also, I don't know if blindly choosing the way Sega of America portrayed Sonic over the way Japan did is entirely fair. I think the best option for a reboot is to take the best aspects of both, although I'm not really sure how that would work. All the characters should be animals, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

...Can I..make this idea into a Webcomic (Or if my prayers are answered a good flash game) or something?

...Only with your o.k. of course.

Tal said...

I agree with everything except your point about Shadow, although mine is... Not a complete defense of the character, but more of the character as he appeared in SA2. See, the Sonic Adventure games were, as far as I'm concerned, good games- when they stuck with the speedsters. Tails' levels in SA2, marching around in a mech, blowing shit up? Also good, but then you're marching around in a mech, blowing shit up. What more do you need?

Knuckles emerald-hunting missions, though? Bigs fishing missions? Fuck 'em.

The thing is, as he appeared in SA2, Shadow was a good character. Contrary to popular belief, he wasn't actually angsty. He'd had his best and only friend killed, woken up in a strange place, and what's the first thing he does? Kick ass and plot to take revenge. No "oh god what happened to me?!", he goes straight to the "I demand satisfaction!" portion of things. And I can respect that.

Say what you like about it being 'Maria's last wish', but here's the thing; he doesn't REMEMBER her last wish until Amy points it out to him. He's just making it up as he goes along. Then Amy comes along, reminds him of what her REAL last wish, and what does he do? Break down and cry about how he's messed up, as the angstathon people see him as would do? Nope. In a split second, he shifts gear from "destroy the planet" to "clean up the mess you made".

It's responsible. It's devoted to the memory of his friend. It's a course of action I can respect.

As he was presented to begin with, Shadow was a good character with some genuinely interesting possibilities. The idea of somebody becoming a super-soldier is pretty much played out by now, but somebody who started life as a super-soldier, seperated from the normal world, then forced to become a part of it since his percieved duty means he has to act as a hero? That has the scope for genuine innovation.

Plus, I saw Shadow as less of an evil twin to Sonic and more of a misguided 'worthy opponent' archetype. KidHellion has a good point; we need somebody who Sonic can face off against in a race without the outcome being a foregone conclusion.

HOWEVER, that being said, note that I only defend Shadow as he was first presented. When he came back in Sonic Heroes, he appears to have attended Brooding 101 religiously, and I have no shame in despising that rendition of the character. He's since regained the calm, 'I-am-a-super-soldier-and-I-have-a-duty' personality he used to have, to some extent, but unfortunately this has come along with the unfortunate new gameplay angles for him, which suck on both gameplay and story levels.

From a story point of view; Shadow is a superhuman killing machine with unexplained magical powers. He doesn't need a damn jeep with rocket launchers. He's faster and more dangerous on just his own two feet.

From a gameplay perspective... Do I honestly need to go there?

While I agree almost wholeheartedly with your ideas for a reboot, I think killing off quite as much of the supporting cast as you suggest is unnecessary. Most do indeed need to die, but some are interesting enough to keep around, if used intelligently and -crucially- SPARINGLY.

Shadow could stay, popping up from time to time when Sonic needs help, or to provide a bit of light-hearted rivalry that isn't necessarily a life-or-death situation. Rouge too, possibly, depending on whether people can be trusted to portray her as a person willing to use sexuality to achieve their goals, rather than than the pair of tits who happens to have a person attached to them that she currently is. I doubt that, though. The rest... Hell I don't know. Basically, a purging IS needed, but if you can find an interesting re-interpretation of the character, then it's worth keeping them.

Nope has the right idea. They need to be a SUPPORTING cast, and honestly, you shouldn't see more than two or three extra's in a game. If that.

The punin-sher said...

this is not about this video, instead, it´s about the next one. I am given to understand you are talking about racism in games.

i would like to impress upon you, my friend, the great injustice that has been made. Remember Resident Evil 4? i didnt see anyone throwing their hands in the air because of that game´s racism.

well... it must be because spaniards arent (we arent) predominantly black. No one would say a word about the image shown of my country, or at least about the image they made to pass as my country.

first of all, the level of underdevelopment shown in the areas of the game, isnt present, not even near to the actual situation in spain. you know, we are, or at least we were till a little while ago, the 8th economic power in the world, and FOR FUCK´S SAKE WE DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT SPEAK LIKE FUCKING MEXICANS.
I guess it would be easy for all of you overseas to see us like a first world nation if we didnt speak spanish, because it´s clear you associate that to 3rd world south america. BUT AGAIN, no one said shit. at least i didnt see any fucking zombie bullfighter (Which , by the way it´s another cultural misconception, as long as bullfighting is much bigger in southern spain than in the rest of the country.

I would like to know your view on that bob.

PS: i do not intend to offend any mexican people, i just mean you cant throw a bunch of german guys on a set, tell them to speak their mother language, and pretend it could pass as austria.
and by 3rd world south america i mean the part of south america that is underdeveloped in terms of industry, education, and economy, amongst others.


Anonymous said...

I disagree on Mario 64 and OoT being "The Master Class."

I like OoT but with M64, which I consider the basic standard in 3d games in level design not up to its standard better have a good hook (GodHand, you ARE 80s fighting manga protagonist, more Riki-oh than Kenshiro but eitherway you kick unbelievably varied and large amounts of ass, or Killer7, playing out a gainax mindfuck is much MUcH more satisfying than watching one), but if you have that there is nothing OoT will give you M64 wouldn't

The real 3d master class after Mario 64 (how to do this right in varied challenges and setups) is Prince of Persia SoT trilogy.

I mean seriously need I elaborate? PLUS PoP seems an EXCELLENT way to learn how to integrate speed into the 3d environment.

Like others, and shame on you after going through the 90s doing this too, I object to killing the cast. Phasing them out or giving them a purpose is fine. Murder cute just strikes me as lame.

Now as for going the SatAM route.. you do know about the DS rpg, see how they'll handle the dystopic freedom fighter thing I think it will work worse than people think.

David said...

I like all your ideas for dash mechanics. Some have already been done, but I'm about to propose ripping off half the video game industry, so I can't really fault you for it. I haven't played any Sonic game for years, and then only on Genesis, so if I mention something Sega has already done, good for them! I didn't know.

I would propose taking what you said a step further. Let's assume Sonic's speed is universal, i.e. not just for running, he can do anything the Flash can do.

Bullet-time is one of the more overused features of modern games, but the fact is it could work really well here. He can move so fast, no player can actuate Sonic's potential in any complex endeavor without some kind of slowdown. Viewtiful Joe has already done the I'm-so-fast-I-punch-your-bullets-back thing, why not use it for Sonic? He could beat invulnerable enemies or barriers by deflecting projectiles into them. Joe autododges while his slowdown power is active, maybe Sonic could, too.

Make Sonic's shoes catch on fire from air friction like Joe's fists and he can use this to ignite objects or terrain -- like the ground an enemy is about to walk on.

Steal from the Lego games and have Sonic interact with objects at super speed to attain objectives, e.g. hyperbuilding a wall out of loose bricks so a rampaging machine smashes into it.

Take speed powers to any extreme you like: how about a power-up that makes Sonic faster than light for a short time, so he moves forward while enemies and objects hold completely still, or even move backwards? He could light up with streaks of Cherenkov radiation (which happens to be blue, by the way). Introduce a few enemies who can only be seen or fought when Sonic is hyperfast. Not a bad idea for a central villain, actually: someone even faster than Sonic, a bad guy so speedy he flickers through time, and the only hero fast enough to even see him is -- guess who?

Time dilation and rewind make for some very cool puzzle mechanics from very simple principles *cough*Braid*cough*.

This is bound to be taken the wrong way, but you could do what every third-person action title is doing and try to be God Of War -- only with speed rather than grit and blood. Let me say it again: SPEED AND CARTOON IMPACT instead of brutal violence. Give Sonic a complex arsenal of special moves to run Sonic around an enemy so fast it creates a tornado to blow him away, use sonic booms to knock enemies down, etc. Populate the enemy roster with critters designed around various combinations of these attacks. The trick would be keeping the fights short; a Sonic game should avoid grind at all costs.

All of this completely neglects the freerunning aspect a great Sonic game would need. Look at Prince of Persia, Mirror's Edge, or the Spider-Man/Hulk open world games. The mobility these characters enjoy is supposed to be Sonic's signature. Wall running, vaulting over or sliding under barriers, launching oneself with rocket velocity across dizzying chasms, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Give me an open world, throw rings in random places, and let me go crazy.

I was a Sega kid, and it's bothered me to watch my company's mascot go from the apotheosis of cool to a combination of latchkey kid, laughingstock, and coke mule. He deserves better.

This wouldn't be an easy game to make, or a quick one. The way I look at it, Sonic is still a star player. He was hitting .370, then he made some bad decisions, had a drug scandal, and got saddled with an uncaring manager. The talent is still there. All he needs to be great again is for someone to blow on that spark. Come on, Sega, wouldn't it be worth every ounce of effort if, just one more time, you could see your star player run onto the field, not to a mediocre performance worthy only of wary skepticism or even mild revulsion, but cracking it out of the park to thunderous applause?

Anonymous said...

Take this with a grain of salt if you will, but seems to be rather illuminating to the idea that Sega doesn't want to stop milking it's favorite cash cow.

Anonymous said...

Past watcher, first time commenter. I like a lot of your ideas for the Sonic franchise, but I've got to be irritating and throw in my support for my favorite new-era Sonic character: Blaze.

I won't say that the character doesn't have problems: the two different origin stories has to be fixed, and in some respects the character comes off as a Mary Sue. Yet I'd still rather have her around than Amy, who I think most die-hard Sonic fans will admit is grating.

The thing is, though, it's pretty rare that you have a female character in an established franchise who is not only an equal to the hero but also not a girlfriend. It's something that I think young girl gamers need and respond to really well.

In fact, I've SEEN girls respond really well to Blaze. I have a pre-teen female cousin with whom I usually play Nintendo DS games. When I brought over Sonic Rush for us to play together she fell in hero-worship love with Blaze instantly. And when we played two-player she went on and on about how awesome Blaze was. ("She's pretty! She's purple! She has fire powers! She's a cat -- I love cats!") I think that sort of quick taking to a character means that Nintendo/the Sonic team really did something RIGHT with her.

Plus, damn it, Blaze is from one of the fan-accepted GOOD GAMES of the Sonic era. I think that alone should save her from the axe.

squall lee said...

Amazing episode. To me, it seems like Sonic is going the way of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and too a certain degree; Megaman.

However I think World Adventure (Unleashed) was a fairly good step in the right direction. Tails and Amy are around, and no one else is, thank god, although I would've liked Knuckles. There's a reason for losing and hunting the Chaos Emeralds this time. And the writing has gotten a bit better, with Sonic, and Eggman, and certain characters having some nifty banter.

Complaints though, the Hub world and the human characters were arbitrary, useless, and were only around to make the locations you'll be running in seem more lively but there's largely no point to it.

And the gameplay was pretty annoying, the Werehog stages were actually tolerable although you could easily switch him out with Knuckles, and a motivation regarding the Master Emerald.

But the regular Sonic levels, christ. I know the little blue guy's thing is speed but he accelerates way to quickly and runs way too fast to be easily controlled, stopped, or to see enemies and obstacles before smashing into them. I swear you can not turn in this game or steer yourself without it causing some amount of frustration.

And his jumping, fuck it to hell, who's the dickhead at Sega who decided to put the jump and homing attack on two different buttons? And at that, make the homing attack be uncontrollably fast so you end up falling into pits against your will.

The game may be littered with bad design choices, and it may be a pain in the ass to play with in comparison to the control scheme of Adventure 1 but at least it has a silver lining. It was a test of the new Hedgehog Engine, and looks like it can be utilized to make a fast, exciting game. That is if they turn the speed down a bit, and oh yeah... GIVE HIM BACK HIS ABILITY TO ROLL!!!!11!!

What in gods name was up with that?! He's a hedgehog, curling into a ball is his most prevalent trait. That burns my ass more then anything. But anyway that's all I've got to say.

Roope said...

Holy crap. Your 3am plot outline for Sonic was better than 90% of what those professional plot writers for video games seem to be able to come up with.

I'm not sure what to make of that, but, my hat is off to you, sir. The thing with Sturgeon's law is that it's always nice to find something on the better side of the divide. Keep up the good work!

Raccoon-Rocketeer said...

I think your suggestions of how to save Sonic the Hedgehog is a pretty good idea, although it would be a good idea to get rid of most of the cast but I wouldn't want Metal Sonic to go because he is actually cool, he can be the main villain's right hand which sounds just right. =)

Anonymous said...

Hooray for SEGA.

A new Sonic is coming.

Good news

it's 2D
it's just Sonic

DHos said...

I just rewatched these in celebration of the new Sonic game announcement.
You and I have very similar backstories in terms of which console they were on, but the main difference with me was that I lived in a backwoods area and was largely unaware of any wars and rivalries. Plus, the fact that I only owned about 10 NES games and maybe 12 SNES games didn’t help.
Yet, to get to the point; I still loved the little blue hedgehog. One of my friends had a genesis and we would always compete over who played Sonic 2. I also loved the Sonic the Hedgehog series (the good one,) because it was not only awesome to the little me, my father who hates cartoons and hates that I watch them liked watching the show with me. Now that’s something.
When I got older and finally made enough money to buy my own games, all I ever heard was only the Genesis games are good, thus I never bought any of the games. Ever…except Sonic Adventure, the only Sonic game So I guess you can say I was one of those kids who only knew the old Sonic and not the new Sonic.
Nowadays I still have yet to want to go out and buy any Sonic games, but when I watched your video I almost even prayed that Sega would actually listen to these videos and bring back that fun we had in the early 90s.

DHos aka the guy who hides his southern accent
signing out from the guy who hides his Brooklyn accent

apple said...


Chris M H said...

Well, this is the first time I've disagreed with you enough to genuinely want to comment Bob.

My point of contention is you saying that Sonic Adventure 2 was not a good game, which I think is a pretty bad oversight.

It seems to me like your primary contention with it is that it includes Shadow the Hedgehog. Now, think back on that game for a minute, do you remember how Shadow acted in that game? I remember a fairly complex character (for a Sonic game) who is angry at humanity for taking from him who he thinks was the only person who ever understood him and wants to kill/subjugate everyone as revenge. As far as sonic character motivations go, that's about as complex and genuine as it gets, especially when you add in the factor of his late-game heel-turn, where apparently the sheer endearing naivete of Sonic's sidekicks have convinced him that earth is actually an OK place. By the time he sacrifices himself at the end of the game to save the planet I, personally, thought the scene, combined with his final words recalling the old companion whose request he had come to realize he had misinterpreted, was genuinely emotionally impacting in a way that no other moment in a Sonic game has ever really even attempted to be. Along the way, I had actually started to "like" Sonic's cliched evil twin.

Now, yes, Shadow did go on to star in some really creatively bankrupt, crappy games. I was pretty pissed off at the massive suckage that was Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog because by the end of SA2 I was genuinely curious about how Sonic and Shadow were *really* related, as they'd seemingly left that open for a sequel. Of course, I think they explained it at some point, but I had lost interest by then.

Basically, I'm saying you're blaming Shadow for ruining a game that he didn't ruin, but vastly improved by his inclusion, and it's not fair to accuse that game of being bad merely because it includes a character who would later go on to represent everything that is wrong with the franchise.

Maybe, you didn't feel anything really emotional from a Sonic plot, which is totally understandable, but the "Speed" parts in SA2 work really well and are a good rebuttal to everyone who says that the sonic style of "quick exploring" a level doesn't work in the modern generation of games, and the "Mech" parts are pretty fun shooting galleries too. A lot of the bosses really showcase the better aspects of the game design too.

(I do really like your idea of Flash-style slo-mo as a feature for future Sonic games. That would be awesome.)

Distilledfx said...

I was a through and through sonic kid, at least on the megadrive and I agree; if Sega believe Sonic has mileage left then they had better treat it with respect. Either they just don't care anymore and the silliness they are creating is enough to justify the next abomination or they are lost and need to get in touch with the fundamentals of any good game franchise.

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