The Weekly Five: Sonic’s Next Adventure

While Sonic Generations is just over a week old, fans from all corners of the interwebs have started to discuss what’s next for the hedgehog. I would say it’s a bit too soon to start speculation on the next game, but even series producer Iizuka has started hinting towards the future. So with Generations considered completed and released, let’s look towards 2012 and beyond, and just what we might expect from the next Sonic game!

This Generation or Next?

With the next generation of consoles rumored for 2013-2015, and the Wii U set for 2012, one of the big questions concerning Sonic’s next main series title is “Will it arrive this gen or next?”. Given the release timeline of past titles (two years between ’06 and Unleashed, two years between Unleashed and Colors, one year between Colors and Generations), I could easily see one more HD Sonic title arriving this generation. Possibly in 2013. Sonic Team have simply learned too much on this gen’s hardware to move development to the 2013-2015 consoles just yet. Sonic ’06 was a prime example of moving too quickly to push out a Sonic game on new hardware.

If Sonic Colors and the storybook series are any indication, we’ll see a Wii U Sonic title, but I hesitate to say that it will exclusive. A storybook title that takes great advantage of the Wii U tablet controller would definitely be an exclusive, but another main series title like Sonic Colors (yes, it was a main series title, Iizuka said so and so does Sonic Generations. Deal with it.) would be a poor decision in my opinion. Wii U may be more powerful than the PS3 and 360, but it is also touting a number of cross-platform titles including Arkham City and Colonial Marines. Why not release a cross-platform Sonic title in 2013 that includes a little Wii U exclusive by way of the tablet? That way Sonic gets a wide release on all consoles and Nintendo gets an excuse to tout their controller display. Win-win.

The Incredibly Confusing Mind of Takashi Iizuka

I’ll go on record as saying that I like Iizuka. I think he has done far more good in the industry than bad, and I think with the past few years of Sonic titles as an example, a lot of the bad decisions weren’t entirely his fault. And if they were, he clearly has been learning from his mistakes. Still, whenever the dude speaks, I never quite get what he’s talking about. Perhaps something is lost in translation. For example, his latest comment about the future of the series is hard to understand:

“I would like to make a new standard Sonic, a modern Sonic if you will, in 2012 and beyond. There have been a lot of Sonic titles in the past, and I think, at this point, there’s a pretty good idea of what a Sonic game should be like — a fun, frenetic action game. As I said, I feel the need to surprise the fans in new and innovative ways, but I don’t want to do anything to depart from that style. The color powers in Colors are a good example of that.” – Takashi Iizuka

He begins by saying he wants to introduce a new standard Sonic, but also says that past titles have defined what this sort of standard will be. So apparently, the formula will go unchanged, but there will be new innovations that will support the standard style. He cites the color powers in Colors as an example of this. If my interpretation is correct, this really isn’t as big a deal as some fans have thought it was. Of course the next title would feature some sort of innovation by way of adding elements that compliment the standard style. Colors had the power-ups, Generations had classic Sonic. Even series outside of Sonic do this, such as Super Mario Galaxy, which took the basic formula of a 3D Mario game and added a new moves and the gimmick of running on all surfaces of a tiny planet. The next Sonic title will surely do something on a similar level, but just what that new “surprise” would be is anybody’s guess.

What About Sonic Dimensions?

Until a more trustworthy source gives confirmation of the rumored Sonic Dimensions, I’m calling B.S. on the whole thing. For starters, the original source of the story, TSSZ, does not have the strongest reputation in the Sonic community. So to fully trust them on something like this is difficult. Secondly, the story itself simply states that “a source” told them. Nothing is given beyond that. So of course, this “source” could very well be feeding TSSZ lies as a prank, it wouldn’t be the first time. Thirdly, the concept reeks of borrowing existing ideas and spinning them into a “new game”. Any prankster can easily make a lie seem more legit when adding recognizable elements into their story. Altering the space-time continuum? A Generations idea. Multiple colored Sonics? A plot for an issue of a Sonic X comic. Each color giving each Sonic a different power? Sonic Colors color powers. Also, you’d think a leak wouldn’t provide such detailed bits of information so soon. I’ve seen legitimate leaks, and they usually gave 5% of what the Sonic Dimensions leak revealed. So again, until a source is verified and the leak is revealed to be legit, it is no more than a bit of fan fiction gone wild.

Areas of Improvement

Sonic Generations may be my favorite Sonic game of the past ten years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see areas in which the franchise could improve. Technically, Sonic Team should improve the quality of the textures. George discusses this downside in his review. Efforts should also be made to shorten load times, as the PS3 version of the game suffered from long loads. Musically, the series has always been fantastic, but a recent college project highlighted at Sonic Retro shows how much more theatrical a Sonic game could be with interactive music. The link goes into the process more, complete with a great example, but basically the way it works is like this: the score reacts to the players actions and location within the stage. Say Sonic slows down to platform, the music switches to a short loop of calmer music. Then he jumps onto a spring and the music switches to a faster paced beat, then just as Sonic flies onto a rail the main theme kicks back in and the music goes all out. These sorts of graphical and musical improvements would go a long way in making the next Sonic game so much more rich and epic.

As for controls, I really think what we have now could just use some tweaking. Unleashed improved upon ’06, Colors improved upon Unleashed (in some areas, other areas… not so much) and Generations took the past four years and improved upon things even more. However, I would like to see slow speed controls tweaked, and jumping perfected. The homing attack could use some tinkering. Once the modern style of gameplay is at a great place, which in my opinion it nearly is, Sonic Team could then expand on these innovations and surprises they’re talking about. As long as these additions do not overshadow the standard gameplay.

2012 and Beyond

2012 might not see the next big Sonic title, but we will be seeing other games starring the hedgehog. Sonic 4 Episode 2 has been said to be on track for a 2012 release. Given how much more improved classic Sonic is in Generations compared to Sonic 4 Episode 1, SEGA would be foolish to not simply implement the controls and physics of the latest 2D gameplay into the upcoming classic sequel. What about the homing attack? Well it clearly works with the Generations style, as it is a classic equippable skill as seen in the video above.

SEGA has been very quiet about another All-Stars game, but Iizuka has recently stated that “We will probably see Sonic going into other genres of games”, so it’s certain that the series is not dead. Perhaps we’ll see another racer, or a fighter or even an RPG? The storybook series is sure to make a return via the Wii U. We’ve seen Arabian Nights and King Arthur, so why not venture into western fairy tales? I’d love to see Sonic and the Beanstalk complete with a giant Eggman living in the clouds. Mario & Sonic at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games is probably set for the Wii U in late 2013.

And then there is the big next game that I’ve been talking about over these five talking points. I really can’t imagine what we’ll see next, though my ideal game would bring back series staples including Angel Island and the emerald lore. Perhaps SEGA could innovate the over world map by allowing players to freely fly the Tornado from stage to stage? Or introduce new powers by way of a parter team up similar to Sonic Advance 3? Or how about bringing back Tails and Knuckles as secondary playable characters? For the first time since 1999 it’s actually exciting to speculate about the next Sonic game, I just hope what we see next will top Generations.

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20 responses to “The Weekly Five: Sonic’s Next Adventure

  1. Pao says:

    -Improved physics and control…Sonic should walk/run without feeling floaty. Yes, it improved from Unleashed, but its still not very good.

    -Better level design… We need more 3D platforming, Generations proved that it works, and I hope its the concentration of the next Sonic game… Also, levels shouldn’t be very liner… there should be open parts ala Sonic Adventure sometimes.

    -Better Camera… How many times it failed me in Generations? Sometimes it just goes way out of control in Speed Highway! I think Sonic could benefit from a Semi-Free camera system… Meaning you can move the camera wherever you want, but it slowly and automatically re-adjust itself behind Sonic if you don’t move it around… Kind of like Uncharted’s camera.

    Better art direction… we need levels with better aesthetics… colors was nice, but it was not imaginative enough… They should take notes from the “dreamy” Megadrive-era levels.

  2. Pao says:

    P.S: I don’t see why Sonic 4 Ep 2 should have a homing attack… maybe for consistency with Ep 1, but other than that, the homing attack is useless in 2D, I hope they remove it.

    Sonic Team managed to bring excellent 2D gameplay without Homing attacks in Generations, they should build on that.

  3. I agree Pao, the homing attack is not necessary, but at this point its best to just include it for consistency with episode 1.

  4. CrazyTails says:

    optional would be my take. I really LOOOOVEE the bouncing in generations

  5. Well, with the upcoming Sonic CD rerelease, they made an option for the type of spin dash. So a tick box for homing attack isnt too crazy an idea for Sonic Team. Maybe call it “purist” mode or something cheeky.

  6. ShadiNeko says:

    homing attack is cannon to classic Sonic now. Iizuka made sure that was known at the end of Sonic Generations.

  7. Sega Uranus says:

    Another Weekly Five, what is it this time, Sonic or Dreamcast related?

    You are wrong about Sonic 06, it had nothing to do with rushing the product. Yuji Naka left late in development and almost all of Sonic Team fell into confusion and despair and the three years it took to develop the game had almost a year in between lost completely. It would have been a disaster even if it had another 3 years in development. It should have been canceled.

    Shadi is wrong about the game too, it was originally just for Xbox 360, Fifth Phantom Saga was going to be exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Porting the game did not effect the outcome much regardless, they just blended concepts from FPS and another canned game into it, which is why it has so many bizarre and clashing styles.

    I guess I could understand them still using the homing attack for consistency in Episode II, but regardless if it is there or not I am expecting an excessive amount of sections where you need to remember what is coming up to do get past it. They need to focus more on general platforming instead of nothing but speedruns. Sonic Generations does this decently, but Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 still did it much better. Sonic Pocket Adventure and Advance 1 did as well, it is weird how they just dropped that.

    Otherwise I fully agree with Pao. Especially with the camera. Eliminating control of it entirely is not an innovation, but a cheap way to bail from attempting to fix it. I am hoping more 3D platforming returns, but with no camera controls they are only limiting themselves.

    I like the nod towards me. Sonic Generations also points at Secret Rings and Shadow the Hedgehog as main series titles. I guess we have to deal with those too? Regardless of what has been said, every other Sonic game is developed by a different studio within Sonic Team. I am expecting at least Sonic Colors quality games (with the majority being platformers) every year for quite a few years now, so no matter what I would say it is a good time to be a Sonic fan.

    Right now we most likely have Sonic Team probably working on 4 Sonic titles for various platforms (Next major retail game, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II and maybe III, next sports-like game [perhaps even a new Riders] and another game that tests the market like Colors did) and I am sure some by other developers like AM3 or SUMO Digital. Hopefully another solid conversion of an older game like Sonic CD is being done. Fingers crossed for something like Triple Trouble HD with Taxman’s engine.

  8. Another post by Sanus, what is it this time, five or six paragraphs long? 😉 I know you’re goofin’, because not every one of these features are Sonic or Dreamcast related. A majority? maybe, but only because I primarily drift towards those two sections of SEGA fandom. I’d love to write a Yakuza weekly five, but I don’t follow the series.

    Anyway, I agree that ’06 should have been canned. And I still stand by that a part of the problem with development was adapting to the new hardware. I definitely think that if it was developed for the sixth generation that it would have had fewer flaws. Still would have been shit, but not as shitty as what we got.

    Regarding the nod towards you, you’re welcome. 🙂 I was hoping you’d spot it, as I know it was a hot debate in the forums last year. Generations references a number of main series titles and spin-offs, but I say Colors is a main series title due to the fact that in Generations it is among the modern generation stages. We see no Riders stage or storybook stage. Also, the ending of Colors links directly to the whole reason for the plot of Generations. I get that Colors has a gimmick and is a Wii exclusive, but it is up there with all the other games that have stages represented.

    Oh yeah, and no camera control sucked. Why remove it?

  9. Sega Uranus says:

    The Weekly Five thing was not really a personal jab, I know you like Sonic and Dreamcast stuff the most. I do not really mind because I enjoy them too.

    A big issue with Sonic 06 was that the concepts sucked. I guess Sonic Team needed to understand that they should not use that old development mentality anymore, and I bet SEGA pushed them harder than ever before, so I guess it was a learning experience.

    The Colors level seems forced to me honestly. It is the only level that has level-specific requirements, like if you use a custom ability – shield for instance – And then use a wisp, all of your equipped abilities are recharged. Also, it has the same writers as Colors, so they can likely do whatever they want. None of the previous 3D Sonic games have had linked plots.

    Anyways, the Planet Wisp Zone level really grew on me, but I wish it had more of a “Last level” feeling to it, you know? I really, really wish Eggmanland was the last level instead… That level needs to be better represented.

  10. Barry the Nomad says:

    I agree that Planet Wisp needed more of a final level feel to it. I was hoping to have it end at the big glowing chain, perhaps having Sonic travel through the giant structure to totally destroy it in the end. It also would have helped to have a cutscene within Planet Wisp, have a major event take place at the end of the stage rather than simply a little scene outside the hub.

  11. Radrappy says:

    Out of curiosity what game was that sonic artwork from in the title image? I’m having a hard time recalling and the proportions are really appealing.

    great article btw. Keep up the good work.

  12. Barry the Nomad says:

    thanks radrappy! the art is from sonic 4, its my favorite render as the proportions look great

  13. Damon says:

    ShadiNeko… first, it’s “canon”, second, that scene at the end of Generations wasn’t a homing attack but an air boost. (Haha, boost now canon for classic Sonic! – Not)

    Also, from this point in time, the Wii U *is* a next generation console. The “generation” of a console is roughly determined by its release date and its line of ancestors, not by its “graphics” or other technical features.

    Sega Uranus…
    “Sonic Generations also points at Secret Rings and Shadow the Hedgehog as main series titles.”
    Nonsense. Just because they are mentioned in a cutscene (where is Shadow’s game mentioned, btw?) doesn’t make them “main series”. It’s just a fun little reference for the fans. Those games were and still are spin-offs. I wonder if the Japanese dialog mentions them at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did not (it doesn’t include the nice “Robotnik” reference in that certain cutscene either).

  14. Barry the Nomad says:

    @ Damon: too true on the Wii U (hey that rhymed!). It may be underpowered compared to what the PS4 and next XBOX will offer, but it is just as much next gen as Dreamcast was of the same generation as XBOX, Gamecube and PS2.

  15. nuckles87 says:

    I’d argue that most of the Sonic 3D games have linked plots, Sanus. Sonic Adventure 2 not only carries on certain developments from past games such as the new Tornado design, but also references an event from Sonic Adventure (Tails saving Station Square from Eggman)

    Sonic Heroes followed up on Sonic Adventure 2 by bringing Shadow back from the dead.

    Shadow the Hedgehog expanded significantly on Sonic Adventure’s plot line by presenting a more detailed history of the arc and Shadow.

    There are most certainly links between the games.

    I’d also like to add that as far as Iizuka is concerned, Sonic Colors IS a main series game. I was right there when he said it. I asked him about Game Gear games, and he laughed and said he “decided not to do spin offs for Sonic Generations”.

    Iizuka, bless his heart, has said some weird things. But it’s hard to misunderstand that point: he considers Sonic Colors part of the main series.

  16. radrappy says:

    and why wouldn’t you? I’ts the best console sonic game in ten years.

  17. unknown says:

    I dislike the idea of dimensions on Wii U. And when i saw the picture of the sonic dimensions thing it reminded me too much of Zelda:Four Swords Anniversary edition

  18. xino says:

    I regret not playing Sonic 2006:/
    because of all the bad reviews it got, i didn’t want to touch the game. And Sega took the demo off. Now I want to play it for future project i’m working on:/

    i think i’m gonna rent it

  19. Damon says:

    xino, if you really want to, you can still get the Sonic 2006 demo. For the Xbox 360 at least. You should be able to find it on the web. Just download it to your PC and transfer it to your console. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s not that difficult and you should find tutorials for that process, too.
    Anyway, if you really want to experience that dreadful game, then renting it is probably the better choice (the demo is quite short).

  20. Jacquise says:

    You should make a Silver the Hedgehog game. Or to step it up a bit have a movie on the sonic team. We need some new fresh ideas that are different like sonic turning human and living on earth.

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