How SEGA Can Fix Modern Sonic the Hedgehog

SEGA doesn't seem to know what Sonic fans actually want from the series anymore. Before things get even worse, let's think about what it is us Sonic fans actually want from a Sonic game. Here are some of my own thoughts on the topic.

How SEGA Can Fix Modern Sonic the Hedgehog
With every new addition to the catalogue of modern Sonic games, the dumpster fire just seems to be getting more and more fuel. This is an exaggeration, of course, but the truth of the matter is their games aren't quite up to the standard that we expect of them. As a belated present for the blue blur's 27th birthday, here are some ideas I had on improving his image. 
 

forget the story

Sonic Forces was the epitome of how ill-suited Sonic and friends are to darker and grittier stories. The writing and tone simply don't fit this cast of characters well. The next game should bring it back to a simpler story akin to something like Sonic Colours. The idea of enslaving aliens and using them as sources of energy is actually rather dark when you think of it, but this is best left unexplored. A light-hearted story sets the scene for a fun adventure in a bright and colourful world just begging to be traversed. I would also say to not worry about staying consistent to the timeline if it limits the potential of the project. And while I do actually like Sonic's friends, the gameplay should focus solely on the blue blur. Once they've proved themselves, we can consider multiple playable characters. In fact, this time SEGA can almost reimagine and redefine each character as they see fit. I always saw him as someone like Spider-Man or Nathan Drake; enjoys the thrill of the adventure but knows when to be serious. Capitalising on characterisation can make up for a simpler story. As for writing, the Sonic Boom TV show is actually a really good basis. It's genuinely funny and not just because of its wall-breaking glory, though I could definitely see that working in-game as well.

A concept I had for a possible Sonic game saw Eggman turning Sonic into a toddler and trapping him in his "Egg-Cot". The game then consists of him trying to break out. This would invite unique level design and gameplay opportunities.

make levels fun

This is a simple statement but many factors contribute to this. The levels should be unique and fun. Tropical Resort from Sonic Colours is nothing like every Green Hill Zone ripoff we've had in most other 3D games, thankfully. Each level in that game differ greatly and have certain aspects of the level design exclusive to their own levels. Going off of my idea, each level can have this childlike whimsy to boot. We could go through a playground or a library. These are ideas not really explored in Sonic games before, which is something I would like to see. The team should just have fun with it. 

how sonic should feel

Some people have problems with the boost gameplay due to how easy it makes the game. To a certain degree, it simplifies the game to push forward and boost to win. I do feel like the boost gameplay can be used to heighten the skill required if used in tandem to another gameplay aspect. Timing would be a key player here e.g 
Sonic is boosting and you have to time a jump at high speed to dunk a ball into a hoop to progress. As he would be a toddler in my idea, he might get tired at points. The levels should be designed so that the average player will tire Sonic out at a point where slower, more calculated platforming is required. This duality can change up the flow of the game similar to the shifts from 3D to 2D in Sonic ColoursI would advise SEGA to stay in the third dimension to show the fans that they have faith in their ability to craft a satisfying 3D experience. The biggest issue with this, assuming they've covered the previous points, is that the game would likely be a short game. This isn't innately bad but there are ways to combat this.


Exploration and experimentation

What I love about
Sonic Mania and Sonic Colours is the multiple ways to complete a level. It made me feel more free and made the world feel bigger. This should definitely come back in the next 3D game. One way to encourage experimentation is to make it so that red rings are scattered across each path, meaning that nobody can collect all 5 in only one run through of an act. My next idea is the one I'm most proud of, though. A good way to view an act is like a racetrack from Mario Kart. There are definitive beginning and end points with different shortcuts and whatnot for the more skilled or courageous to take a stab at. If you look at any track, you'll notice that the backgrounds are rather detailed to add to the scope. In multiple tracks, we can see Peach's Castle but we don't actually drive through it. Similarly, I'd say that an act could represent a mere fraction of what that level has to offer. Upon completing the level i.e beating the boss, the level should open up, maybe to the size of a mini-kingdom from Super Mario Odyssey. The player can explore the level to its fullest, finding things to do and being rewarded for exploring with added collectibles. This would be completely optional content, much like collecting more moons than needed is. But it would appease the complaint that levels are too linear while not ruining the fast pace of traditional Sonic gameplay. It's a win for both camps. 

What would be even easier is to simply have a modern 2D game. These had a tried and tested formula that was received quite well, actually. If none come to mind, think the DS games: RushRush Adventure and Colours. Sonic Rivals and Sonic Rivals 2 would also count. Surely, fans would be okay with a Sonic Rivals 3 as long as it plays well and whatnot. It could be like Rayman Legendsan excellent 2D platformer, with some combat additions. I know I would be fine with that, but with a fanbase as volatile as this one, why take the risk? Nobody liked it when Paper Mario became an action-adventure game. Just give the fans what they truly want; as uncertain as us fans may be, we clearly want a good 3D game.

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