Sonic Mania was a huge success when it came out, and the recent release of Sonic Mania Plus has been just as successful. Indeed, the “main” Sonic game to have been released just after Mania, Sonic Forces, has been all but completely overshadowed by the reaction to Sonic Mania.
If you’re reading this you probably have a bit of an idea of the story behind Sonic Mania and its Plus expansion, but if you don’t check out the below video from DidYouKnowGaming.
So, Sonic Mania was made by fans. Hugely talented fans who had years of experience developing 2D Sonic games and were hired by SEGA, sure, but fans nonetheless. The irony that the “highest rated Sonic game in 25 years” – a line SEGA itself has been using in its promotion of the game – was made by fans has not been lost on the wider Sonic community.
SEGA and Sonic Team’s output has been bemoaned by fans and critics alike pretty much since the start of the 3D era. While some titles have been praised, most notably the two Adventure titles, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations, and various “unpopular” titles have their proponents (I love Sonic Heroes myself,) for the most part 3D titles – which, for those that aren’t aware, feature Modern Sonic – are considered to be mediocre to god awful.
As I’ve mentioned previously, SEGA and Sonic Team have something of a history of being reactionary. Because Sonic Colours was successful, they decided to put the Wisps in to every game since, even when they didn’t really fit. Due to the acclaim of Generations, it was decided that Classic Sonic needed to be shoehorned into Sonic Forces. You get the idea.
So now with the success of the retro, classic call back that is Sonic Mania, how will SEGA approach the next mainline Modern Sonic game? Some fans, of course, have their own ideas.
While that’s obviously a bit extreme, it does illustrate at least some fans’ feelings toward Sonic Team. It’s understandable that fans would be frustrated as content produced by Sonic Team has often been a disappointment to many.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some restructuring of Sonic Team occurred. Maybe people will be moved about, perhaps their design philosophy will change (even though we’ve yet to see the fruit of SEGA’s apparent renewed focus on quality, not counting Mania of course).
However, it also would not surprise me if SEGA saw the success of Mania not as the result of a quality game, but rather as fans saying they wanted more Classic Sonic and, once again, pushing the 2D gameplay – be it as Modern Sonic on a 2D plane or Classic Sonic himself – in new titles.
While the 2D sections of Generations were undoubtedly fun (Forces not so much) this would be to completley miss the point, and the chance to prove that a 3D Sonic game can be of quality.
Sonic Team has all but perfected the control of Modern Sonic in fast 3D gameplay – there was a huge improvement over control from Generations to Forces – it’s just that the game that incorporated that control has not been up tp scratch.
The reliance on 2D sections and the huge amount of sections in which control was completely taken away from the player during Modern Sonic’s levels in Forces ruined the experience for many.
Sonic, at it’s heart, is a platforming game. Yes, it has the addition of speed, but really it’s the platforming that makes up the bulk of the gameplay. Platformers need to be easy to play but hard to master, and that is something that Forces lacked but Mania had. Sure, you can zip through Mania‘s levels easily enough, but if you want to see everything the game has to offer, to explore the levels and find all the cool runs, you need to build your skill.
Basically, everything around the idea of going fast has to be on point, or the speed doesn’t matter. Indeed, it can just exasperate a game’s shortcomings.
At the end of the day, the best result is that Sonic Mania‘s success pushed Sonic Team harder to make a quality 3D Sonic title. Get that core game play down pat, like in Generations, and forget about gimmicks like Wisps and Avatars. Take Sonic back to his roots and make sure you have that covered before adding other junk.
Despite what some fans will have you believe, Sonic Team does care about Sonic. Yes, you can argue they have lost their way somewhat, but they don’t actively set out to make a bad game.
One thing I strongly feel Sonic Team does need is more time to work on their titles. Nearly every poor Sonic game has been due to the development team being rushed to complete the project. Perhaps SEGA need to take a step back and adopt the “it’ll be done when it’s done” philosophy of other studios to ensure that time is taken to make the game the best it possibly can be.