Sonic has always been a hit and miss franchise with some games rivalling Nintendo at its best while you can’t even mention others without triggering traumatic flashbacks or boundless rage from Sega fans. Some games like the ill-fated Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006 or the ‘gritty’ Shadow the Hedgehog are so bad that they have been scrubbed from the franchise by Sega in an effort to improve both the IPs value and long lasting appeal for fans.
Fortunately, things nowadays are looking up a bit, with Sega cashing in on the whole platformer revival and putting out several 2D imaginings of Sonic on the market. Whether things are going to stay this way or Sonic fans will once more retreat to sites like www.playsonicgames.org to play fan-made 2D nostalgia fodder remains to be seen. So far it’s all looking good.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a back to basics return to the glory days of 8 and 16 bit Sonic. Even the game’s soundtrack is a rehashing of that of the older games with a little bit of new midis sprinkled in for seasoning. The first ‘Episode’ of the game takes players to a lot of classic levels as well and all the old enemies are reimagined in higher graphical detail. Best of all, and perhaps indicative of the direction the franchise is headed in the game is cross platform and available on mobile devices something the company’s previous forays into nostalgia land, like Sonic Generations.
So could mobile gaming, particularly on smartphones and tablets be the future for the Sonic franchise? Well, why not? Since Sega’s console demise and even before that, the portable gaming market has been a stronghold for Sonic the Hedgehog. In the long decade between the Dreamcast’s demise and the series slow but steady return to relevance Sonic’s only good games were often on Nintendo portable devices. The Game Boy Advance, DS and even the Sony PSP were the last refuge of platformers for a long while and while the 3D Sonic games were often disastrous, the 2 or 2.5 D ones on the portables were what kept fans hoping for a reinventing of the series.
Mobile platforms can now take over from these older handheld devices. Platformers are coming back to pre-eminence on PCs and larger consoles as well but the frantic pace and player Involvement typical of Sonic are perhaps best suited for long commutes rather than after a hard day at work or school. Sonic belongs and will thrive on the still relatively bland Appstore market. It would provide a welcome break from tower defence games, puzzle games and other endlessly rehashed casual game models that seem to have become a sort of standard when it comes to mobile phone apps.
If the Sonic franchise is to find a place it will have to carve it out soon. Platformers are coming back in style fast and there might not be a place for Sonic left on our phones soon.