"Sonic was alive and breathing, and Sonic was our friend."
March 4, 2016 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Sonic the Hedgehog's Long, Great, Rocky History by Blake Hester [Polygon]
Sonic the Hedgehog has stood as an institution for Sega for more than two decades, a cultural icon with mass marketing abilities. He has appeared in dozens of games, numerous action figures and hundreds of comics. He’s had five television series and even his own tubes of toothpaste and cans of spaghetti. To date, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has collectively sold over 140 million copies, with some games regarded as some of the best of all time and others some of the worst.


- Unfortunately, a 'Live-Action Hybrid' Sonic the Hedgehog Movie is Happening by James Whitbrook [io9]
Sega Sammy Group is currently planning with Sony Pictures to create a live-action and animation hybrid ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie scheduled for release in 2018. Like with this CG animation production, we would like to expand our business into other entertainment areas beyond what we are currently involved.
- The Strange History Of How A Gene Was Named "Sonic Hedgehog" by Ria Misra [io9]
There's a gene that's pivotal in not only separating your right brain from your left, but also in making sure that you have two, individual eyes. That gene, and the protein it codes for, are both called Sonic Hedgehog. Here's how that happened. As the NIH (somewhat wearily) explains in their notes on the gene, "The official name of this gene is 'sonic hedgehog.'" It is not a nickname or an epithet, if you're looking for another name to call it, the only acceptable substitutes the NIH can offer you are sonic hedgehog homolog (Drosophila), sonic hedgehog protein, or sonic hedgehog protein preproprotein. If you're really bound and determined to avoid any sonics at all costs, you can use the gene's official symbol, the almost equally evocative SHH.
-Dating advice from the real Sonic the Hedgehog by Anthony John Agnello [Games Radar]
What should folks do to get that first date? How do you actually ask someone out?
Surprisingly, this one is relatively easy - all you have to do is save the world once or twice. Prevent all of life from certain destruction, and suddenly, bam: you’re just cruising through Palmtree Panic Zone one day and pink hedgehogs are all over you. Of course, just keep in mind that being popular also means you’ll attract some attention you may not want. And the fan art? Oh, let’s never talk about the fan art, please.
- DJ Sonikku hijacks Sega sound chips to make Sonic-inspired house. [Fact Mag]
After becoming enamoured with one game in particular – Sonic The Hedgehog – it felt natural for him to name himself after the Japanese version, and as DJ Sonikku, Donson uses the Sega Mega Drive’s Yamaha YM2612 sound chip to make 16-bit house tracks with a distinct ‘80s slant. Donson is from Derby in the Midlands but, he says, “nothing really happened there,” so in 2012 he decided that it was time to relocate and come to London, where he started building the foundations for his current musical project. With the sound chip and certain ‘80s influences (notably Janet Jackson and Madonna) in tow, Donson put together his debut EP, Secret Island, recently released on Lobster Theremin sublabel Distant Hawaii. Using vintage drum machines (Roland’s TR-707, 727 and 909 to be exact), he punctuates the tracks’ breezy, aquatic atmosphere with dusty, lo-fi percussion.
- Dream Casting: Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie - A Happy Madison Production [Destructoid]
Sonic the Hedgehog - Adam Sandler
Miles "Tails" Prower - David Spade
Dr. Robotnik - Kevin James
Amy Rose - Melissa McCarthy
Knuckles the Echidna - Damon Wayans
Metal Sonic - Christopher Walken
Big the Cat - Suge Knight
Froggy - Rob Schneider
Shadow the Hedgehog - Adam Lambert
Scratch & Grounder - Nick Swardson & Josh Gad
- A Sonic the Hedgehog Sprite History [NFG Games]
- Sonic the Hedgehog by Honest Game Trailer [YouTube]
- Sonic Green Hill Zone keytar jamming. by Rush Coil [YouTube]
- Sonic the Hedgehog in Real Life by Mashable Watercooler [YouTube]
- Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (OVA that was originally released in 1996 and dubbed in English for 1999.)[YouTube]

posted by Fizz (48 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be hard pressed to explain why I loved Sonic 3 so much and why I struggled with the other games afterward. Moving him to a 3d environment made the series lose a lot of it's charm, and gave me wicked motion sickness. I always loved that there was more to explore in each of his levels then you could ever manage to find in the time limit. I feel like that's what was different between Sonic and Mario.
posted by INFJ at 8:29 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Independant of the games, it's been fascinating to see Sonic's enduring appeal as a character for children, even as Sega has slowly dissolved into nothingness. Every so often I'll see a kid with a Sonic t-shirt and think, "really?"

Yuji Naka gets a lot of credit for the early Sonic games (and internalizing that may have been a big mistake on Sega's part) but whoever did the character design might be responsible for Sega still existing at this point.
posted by selfnoise at 8:37 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I loved Sonic the Hedgehog the original SEGA game as well as Sonic the Hedgehog 2. But after Sonic and Knuckles, I lost interest. All of a sudden there were too many new characters, lost its focus. I agree that moving him to a 3D environment felt like a step backwards. Though others might have a different perspective. I never properly dug into games like Heroes or Unleashed, mostly because I didn't have access to those console systems.

I still love the original.. There's something very simple and pure about its gameplay. The sounds, the speed, everything about it just worked. No need to mess with that recipe.
posted by Fizz at 8:38 AM on March 4, 2016

The handling of the Sonic franchise is baffling to me because there are still lots of long-term fans; people who want to see the series succeed and play good Sonic games. And so with every new Sonic title, there's a chance at redemption for the franchise, because every new Sonic title is a game the fans want the best from. All these fans really want Sega to do is publish just one triple-A Sonic game; one Sonic game that could plausibly be a candidate for Game of the Year.

And Sonic game after Sonic game comes out, with Sega steadfastly putting less and less polish on each one. Sonic 2006 was rubbish; Sonic Boom may have been worse.

Shame, really.
posted by LSK at 8:47 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

My kids and I played the hell out of Sonic 1, 2 and 3. They came at just the right time for both them and myself. Even their mom, who is not a gamer in any sense, tried her hand at the games. Great franchise. At first, anyway.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:50 AM on March 4, 2016

Sonic 1 was the first time I encountered a game that was a totally coherent world you could get lost in. Also the music was great. I've long wanted to form a band specifically to cover it.
posted by Grangousier at 8:59 AM on March 4, 2016

I don't know if I really think sonic 1-3 were great games, in retrospect. The games want you to play fast and move fast, but also to carefully pick your way through the maps and find secrets (which I think you might have actually needed for story reasons in at least some of the games.) I really hate it when games try to force these two opposed objectives at once - if you are going to have a fast game with flow, drop the stupid secret scavenger hunt.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:59 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sega should make a 2D Sonic game in the mold of 1, 2, and 3. Nintendo is doing just fine with 2D Mario games.

Sonic would also be a good candidate for a Mario Maker-style game.
posted by jedicus at 9:00 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sega should make a 2D Sonic game in the mold of 1, 2, and 3. Nintendo is doing just fine with 2D Mario games.

They did this; it was called Sonic 4 and it was... ok.

They also did 2D levels in Sonic Generations among other games and they were... ok.

I don't know if I really think sonic 1-3 were great games, in retrospect.

I agree. The tech was very impressive at the time and they had great character design, flavor, and music (that music!) but the gameplay is kind of eh. Certainly if you compare the Sonic games to Super Mario World Nintendo had a much stronger basis from which to build.
posted by selfnoise at 9:04 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I always thought the problem with the Sonic games is that they were built around speed, but a lot of the difficulty was because of sometimes fiddly platforming that worked better when you went slower. Also there's only so much you can do with a character whose big power is being fast. Mario, on the other hand, can transform into like 50 different things depending on the powerup, so there's more variety. Also it means that Mario made the transition to 3d well, whereas Sonic didn't because once you're running really fast it's a 2d game anyway.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:09 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't find a good summary of the whole story with Ken Penders and the Sonic comic book but the short version is that Sega basically ignored the comic for years, allowing the guy making it to dive deep down the rabbit hole of batshittery until lawsuits resulted. Hilarity ensued.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:09 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know it's sort of crazy, but after playing open-world driving games I've sort of been thinking that an open-world Sonic game like Crackdown or Prototype would actually be really fun. Going fast is super fun. Running up buildings is really fun. Smashing into things and making them explode is really fun.

Sega will never have the budget for that, though. And after the Sonic Adventure games (which were... ok) they probably shouldn't try anyway.
posted by selfnoise at 9:13 AM on March 4, 2016

Every so often I'll see a kid with a Sonic t-shirt and think, "really?"

My GF's 16-year-old daughter has a Sonic backpack that we found in a japanese market... she was soooooooo excited when she found that thing, and she bought it with her own money, which she's very careful about spending.
posted by Huck500 at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2016

I have a lot of fond memories around Sonic Adventure 2, but I went back and replayed it recently and it really doesn't hold up. Shame.

Also someone here should mention the official Sonic Twitter account, which is a work of genius.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:38 AM on March 4, 2016

I'd be hard pressed to explain why I loved Sonic 3 so much and why I struggled with the other games afterward.

Sonic Adventure was the next big release, and while the 3D was a poor fit with the gameplay and the extra characters were no good, I think it's the fact that they gave Sonic a voice that really killed the character. It's similar to what happened to Mickey Mouse. They were both charming little rascals when silent, but once voiced, they were each given a new personality to fit the voice. Mickey became neutered; Sonic was Poochified. Now he feels like the lead singer of a Blink-182 cover band, and they've never been able to roll that back.

Mario escaped the problem by basically staying a non-speaking character.
posted by painquale at 9:46 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

When I borrowed my friend's Genesis for a weekend, it bothered me that I managed to finish the game the second time I played it, and I got all the Chaos Emeralds the third time I played it. Said to myself, "That's it?" and gave him back the Genesis. I didn't feel that underwhelmed about another good platformer until I played Bonk's Adventure.

Still, I liked being able to play Sonic with my Atari 2600 joystick.
posted by parliboy at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

For those that loved the music from Sonic 3 and Knuckles (the best of the series, if not of the entire console generation), Project Chaos is a fabulous set of covers that I highly recommend.
posted by WCWedin at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sonic, the character, often leans too hard on being cool and not being a character. (See also: Bart Simpson.) When 90's ended, the stuff that was cool then stopped being cool as well.

Each attempt at revitalizing the series ends up dumping more and more stuff on it, instead of recognizing that they accomplished so much with so little before. Sonic's impatient animation if you were idle for too long in the original games said more than enough. No words were needed.
posted by queeroid at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just from the title, I thought this was an obituary post.
posted by happyroach at 10:44 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

That's correct, Sonic died this morning in a car crash in Australia.
posted by selfnoise at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2016 [14 favorites]

Mario escaped the problem by basically staying a non-speaking character.

HL3 was secretly cancelled after noticing they hired Gilbert Gottfried to do Gordon's voice. Once the introductory cutscene was over, Gabe told the team to destroy everything, and never speak of it again.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:55 AM on March 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Of course they destroy the version of Half Life 3 I would have actually played and enjoyed.

I just hope they at least did their homework and replace Gottfried with Danny DeVito.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:02 AM on March 4, 2016

Sonic also inspired remarkable fan art such as Sonichu and its spinoffs / parodies.
posted by theorique at 11:41 AM on March 4, 2016

I just remember Sonic CD being awesome. Just look at the disk!
posted by BungaDunga at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Back when I was owner of Alt.fan.Sonic-Hedgehog I would have defended him to my dying breath, but now I agree that the Sonic gameplay doesn't stack up in the long run, just look at Super Mario Maker and think what Sonic Maker would be like. The appeal of Sonic was the art and music, the ever-changing colorful worlds, not the actual running and jumping.

That said, my 4.5 year old son loves his tablet version of Sonic CD, and digs Sonic as a character. I do think there's merit inherent in Sonic's gameplay and level design, how both going fast and slowly exploring are rewarded. In the original 2D sonic games missing a jump usually means you end up on a new path, not plummeting to your doom. There are countless secrets and shortcuts hidden away in the levels, and lots of replay value (believe me, I've checked).

Sonic reminds me of another 16 but character that missed the jump, Earthworm Jim. They both had games lauded for their imaginative art and compelling character design, but go back and try playing a Earthworm Jim game now. They're... Not good. Sorry.

I doubt Sega has the capacity to make a good sonic game, or a good Sonic decision. Those games were so much a product of their time, and relied so much on the high quality of art employed in the level designs, that only a labor of love could make a worthy Sonic successor.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:38 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Someone pointed me at Freedom Planet, which is Sonic-inspired and quite good. It's worth giving a go- there's a demo.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:08 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh oh, I have opinions.

Sonic is pinball. There has to be a lost piece of paper with that scrawled on it shoved between the floorboards of an old Sega office, or some sort of curse of silence on the old guard, because all of the new dev teams seem to get an email that says "Sonic's blue and fast. Go make a game." So they crank the FOV up and throw new gameplay elements at the thing when what they need to do is hire a couple of table designers and work on the levels. If anything, it should be easier to make a 3D Sonic.

The original zones are like giant tables. Every one has a different gimmick, there are moments of barely in control careering and sudden pitfalls, there's the pause where you assess and then try to hit a target, bumpers, flippers, lanes, kickouts and hidden paths. One of them straight has a pinball table in it.

Sonic Rush was great though, and that weird RPG on the DS was pretty nice. I'll go rtfa now.
posted by lucidium at 2:27 PM on March 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

They actually did make a pinball game! It was..... ok.
posted by selfnoise at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lucidium is bang on. The SUPER FAST ADRENALINE, oops slow sloww slowwwww really tricky move, SUPER FAST ADRENALINE, flashy flashy lights etc. gear crunching pacing was way more compelling to me than Mario ever managed, but then I liked pinball. And speed.
posted by merocet at 2:40 PM on March 4, 2016

Aw, I liked Sonic Spinball. I played the absolute hell out of it, but I've only ever completed it twice. Once as a kid and once in college. That last level is hard.
posted by lucidium at 2:41 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I bought sonic 2 through my Wii years back but I still can't remember what to do to "breathe" in the air bubbles whilst underwater and avoid drowning :(
posted by wats at 2:51 PM on March 4, 2016

You just stand where the bubbles are coming out, and when a big juicy one pops out you jump into it.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:42 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sonic was always darker and more, I dunno, melancholy than other platformers, in spite of the bright colors and gold rings and stuff

Dang it now I have to play through the sonic games, thanks mefi
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2016

You just stand where the bubbles are coming out, and when a big juicy one pops out you jump into it.

No, you jerk your d-pad back and forth in a blind panic, waiting for the big bubble that never comes, while the clock ticks down and the music gets faster and pinpricks of cold sweat bead on your forehead and you piss yourself and cry and your mom makes you step away from the Genesis for a while.

Fucking underwater levels.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:25 PM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

As someone above suggested, Sonic the Hedgehog should return to being a 2D series, like Mario. But:
  1. They should hire people to make sure to get the physics right. The original game's physics are the little-mentioned key to what made them great, and no Sonic game since the Genesis originals has been nearly as good at it. (The Genesis Sonic games' engine is a marvel, in general.) Without those physics and the engine that enables them, Sonic just doesn't feel right.
  2. They should go back to the classic games' multi-route, hidden-path focused gameplay. They excelled at rewarding curiosity, hiding powerups and extra lives in hard-to-reach places, putting invisible holes in walls high up walls, and generally forcing players to find ways to build up speed to reach secret passages. 3D Sonic games do tend to have alternate routes, but they're usually hidden in places requiring basic platforming to find, often using camera tricks to hide them, instead of building up speed and adjusting your angle. It's much harder to allow the player to make good use of a character's physics in a 3D world, that extra degree of freedom tends to be too much.
  3. This is important, because it's the solution to the classic games' worst failing. One thing that current systems can do that the Genesis couldn't hack is dynamic scaling. As Sonic's speed increases, they can pull the camera back and reveal more of the world in front of him, giving the player more reaction time. It is fun to zoom along at maximum speed, but it's less fun to then smack into an enemy who was off-screen three frames earlier.
posted by JHarris at 4:41 PM on March 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm sure if I went back and played the original Genesis Sonic games again now I'd find that the gameplay hasn't aged well, but when I think back to what made them so great at the time, I think it comes down to a couple of things:
  1. The atmosphere. A few people have touched on this in a few different ways in the thread, but you can't point to just one thing or another that contributed to the feel of those games. Super Mario World came out a year before Sonic 1 and the contrast is really interesting. SMW had all these levels based on these shiny, abstract elements like big oblong pill shapes or flat-shaded geometric rocks or fluffy forests, whereas the Sonic level design just had this totally different feel. The background design made the worlds feel less static and more alive to me - the giant waterfalls and twinkling seas in Green Hill Zone, the refineries belching fire in Scrap Brain Zone, etc. And the level themes were just kind of... grittier somehow, you know? Marble Zone and Labyrinth Zone felt like these ruins of old civilizations filled with Indiana Jones-style spike and fire traps that would kill you, if you didn't run out of air and drown underwater. (I see you wats!) Star Light Zone was basically the industrial zone of some city at night - you could see a downtown under the twinkling stars but where you were had these construction roadblocks and streetlights and unfinished scaffolding. And Scrap Brain Zone was basically low-palette Blade Runner. NOT TO MENTION the lowkey hallucinatory special stages with morphing Escher backgrounds constantly spinning around you and fucking with your sense of gravity. And all this is just Sonic 1! The sequels had floating air fortresses, a literal casino, an oil refinery in the foreground, and on and on. Plus the later games had even cooler inter-level scenarios, like the Mushroom Hill Zone Act 2 in Sonic & Knuckles where there's a weather control machine, so that you start out in basically the summer, then Knuckles pulls a lever and a gust of wind blows you away while the palette changes and it's autumn, then you blast through another wall and it's winter, then you blow up some device at the end of the stage and everything returns to normal. Or Sonic CD, where you could travel in time within each level, back to an idyllic past and forward to a dystopian future unless you did... something (I never had that one so I don't remember as well) to fix the past mistakes and make the future better. Oh right, that's another aspect of the atmosphere - the bad guy's whole M.O. is building machines to fuck with nature including enslaving little bunnies and chickens and whatever to power his spike insect robots that putt around emitting diesel exhaust clouds. You finish the first typically green tropical level in Sonic 3 and then a robot floats in and carpet bombs the entire place, and the second act has you running through a burning jungle with wavy heat distortion in the background. And on and on. Plus the New Jack Swing-tinged soundtrack just had a rougher edge than the stuff in Mario games. And yes, the main character who would basically get pissed at you if you didn't make him run around. Sure, all this stuff looks dated to a very specific point in the early 90s now, but at the time it felt so different and cool (to someone my very young age)
  2. The gameplay feel. Okay, so this wasn't without its downsides, as people have noted that a lot of times you could be speeding along and have essentially no time to react and do something to avoid hitting an enemy and dying. True. BUT. When you were on a good run and you weren't dying, it was so fun. It could be like a rollercoaster, with swoopy curves and ramps and loop-the-loops like I hadn't ever seen before, all at super high speed. And it was pretty forgiving! Even if you DID hit some unforeseen enemy, if you had some rings, you wouldn't die, you'd just kill him, pick your rings up again and keep going. Or if you missed some jump, you'd just end up on a lower pathway that still ended up in the same place. Some of the levels were more linear than others, but some of them had three or four parallel pathways, and all kinds of secrets you could find when you went back and replayed over and over. And as the games went on, the designers would add more and more zone-specific ways to interact, like the pinball flippers and slot machines, screw-type lifts you would have to spin dash on to make them go, switches to flip gravity upside down, all manner of tubes that spin you around and poles you can swing and jump off of at specific angles and whatever else. So the running around feel was solid, but every few minutes you'd have to figure out how to interact with some new complication, but it made sense in the context of the game's physics and control parameters so after a few seconds you'd be like "oh cool, that's how this works" and you would have a little sense of accomplishment and you would know a little more about how that world worked.
Anyway, once they made the transition to Dreamcast, there were still some interesting level designs, but the control feel was fucking awful, they added a bunch of boring characters and stupid dialogue and bad voice acting and cutscenes and a slow ass hub world and blah blah blah and it just didn't have the same atmosphere or feel. And I haven't played any of the ones after SA2 but from the reviews I read, I hear they're terrible and that they even messed up the control feel in the more recent 2D levels/games. But games have moved on since 1991, and I don't think if you released these games again today they'd make the same kind of splash. It's like what people were wearing in the late 80s and early 90s. They were of the time, and I think they were great at that time, and it's nice to look back from a distance and appreciate that, but at this point I wish Sonic Team would stop cranking out shitty games and dragging what's left of the franchise goodwill through the dirt. It's like if they were still cranking out episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air today. (Or, more to the point, the Simpsons)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:19 PM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, the environments in those first few games were amazing, and the limited cutscenes they were able to do work so much better than the modern, film aping ones. Things like the ancient mural in SnK foreshadowing the final boss fight. I read or watched something recently (probably posted here) which pointed out that whenever Tolkien explained or revealed something, he would make sure to mention some new thing in an off hand way, so you never hit the edge of the world. I think the way the games implied all of this lore without every really explaining it went a long way towards producing the atmosphere they have.

The level transitions were so cool, and the contraptions that came with each level were like an early version of the abandon with which Super Mario Galaxy introduces and discards new ideas.

The state of some of the modern games is just bizarrely amateur in comparison. Complaints about the physics aren't just the voice of mad fans obsessed with replicating the feel of the originals. I mean, look at this. (Hell, listen to it.) I'm loathe to minimise the subtleties that platformer physics involve, but a ball in a 2D world is crazily basic stuff that they're somehow still managing to screw up.
posted by lucidium at 6:33 PM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Sonic was one time (well, a few months) when all the stars aligned for me. I'd just discovered weed, Nirvana and Soundgarden were the cool bands at the time, and my best buddy got a Sega Mega Drive (known as Genesis in other quarters) with Sonic (maybe Sonic 2?). Much fun was had.... If I recall correctly.
posted by Diag at 8:52 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sonic CD, where you could travel in time within each level, back to an idyllic past and forward to a dystopian future unless you did... something (I never had that one so I don't remember as well) to fix the past mistakes and make the future better

You had to go back in time, find a UFO, and kill it- the hard part was finding it. And going back in time could be hard, since it required going fast enough for long enough to warp. Super cool, though it was never clear what the Future levels were for other than having another palette.

But after you'd done that, you also had to end the level with 50 or more rings, and then jump through an extra Big Ring at the end of the level, and play through a godawful hard 3D Special Stage. Cool! 3D graphics! but to win that you need to kill 10 floating UFOs without running out of time- you have a minute, so it seems easy except every time you touch the water you lose ten seconds, and the controls are awful so it's incredibly difficult. If you pull it off, you get a Time Stone. If you get all the Time Stones- one for each level- you get the Good Ending. Otherwise, the bad ending.

I never got the good ending, but I think it was actually the first video game I ever beat.

I've always remained in awe of Sonic physics- getting Sonic physics to work, compared to Mario, is so much more work. There are curves, or at least things that look like curves.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:25 PM on March 4, 2016

Not just the curves, there are loops. Those are platform engine master class right there.
posted by JHarris at 12:52 AM on March 5, 2016

I think part of the problem with the physics of modern Sonic was listening to the whiners that Sonic was too hard to control in high speed, so they put all sorts of terrible workarounds to make it easier to control but that break the physics and ultimately the game itsef.

The best way they found to deal with this were the S&K powerups - the fire power made him invunerable to fire traps and allowed Sonic to fly/attack a small horizontal distance, the bubble to breather under water and immediately jump down and the electric attracted rings, protected from shock traps and allowed a double jump. For instance, in the Flying Battery (right on the second level), there were a number of traps you could just get past by with the right power up, and a death fall section where the fire and shock double jumps could be used for a last-second save.

S&K is perhaps the finest platformer of the 16-bit era. What makes it more frustrating was how it had a little bump with Sonic 3D and then the awful 3D games a whooping five years after S&K... and S3D, despite the inappropriate gameplay, had a neat concept with the Flickies. But Sonic is one of those games anyone watching a playthrough should be thinking "how the fuck did he do this, how did this happen", not "oh"
posted by lmfsilva at 3:45 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

this fpp reminded me of some videos i hadn't thought about in a few years, pelé the beloved dog
posted by p3on at 10:08 AM on March 5, 2016

The early games were probably helped by the fact that they'd get played over and over again. A blind spike pit that might feel like unfair design today felt more like "oh ha ha you got me" back then.
posted by lucidium at 4:22 PM on March 5, 2016

There actually weren't that many blind pits in the Sonic games. The only ones that really come to mind are in Mystic Cave zone in Sonic 2, and in the techno-base level in Sonic CD.

(Let me tell you, it really sucks to land in an inescapable spike pit when you're in Super Sonic mode. 50 rings takes nearly a minute to count down.)
posted by JHarris at 5:01 PM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure the problem is latency. More than a few 3D games are turning out to just have a lot of lag between input and rendering -- partially because smooth animation wants a lag, partially because the underlying game engine is a little more asynchronous than we're admitting, partially because we're playing games themselves on screens with undefined lag.

To some extent, Freedom Planet (the most Sonic game you've never played) lets you experience what you might be missing.
posted by effugas at 2:11 AM on March 6, 2016

Er, really? I don't mean to say that latency (especially with screens) isn't an issue, but is the last thing I'd think about applying to a 3D Sonic game, which, for their faults, I still seem to remember having pretty snappy response. And latency is going to be a problem with 2D games played on laggy screens, too.
posted by JHarris at 10:28 AM on March 6, 2016

3d games have more complicated engines than 2d games. I noticed extraordinary latency on both recent 2D Castlevanias and Strider.

Even laggy screens can be driven at much lower resolution for 2D gaming. 3D games seem to like their HD.
posted by effugas at 3:46 PM on March 6, 2016

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