The day has come! Let's go Plus Ultra and start discussing My Hero Academia!

November 9, 2017

Sonic Forces is…Uhhhhhhhhhh?

Wait, didn’t I just do a post on a Sonic game a few weeks back?  Haven’t I met my quota for the year?

Yes, probably.  On the other hand, I’m pretty sure everybody’s already standing by the proverbial barrel.  So I guess I’ll grab my magnum, join in, and play a winning game of Russian roulette with some swimming little fish sticks in the making.

To be honest, though, I never thought I’d have to make this post.  I was already sated by Sonic Mania, so I had no need to hunker down with Sonic Forces -- least of all because I’ve still got a cascade of games splashing over me on a daily basis.  And beyond that?  I wasn’t really interested in Sonic Forces.  I respect it for what it’s trying to do -- and for the fact that it simply exists -- but I didn’t really want to play it.  Plus, I assumed that it would be good.  It’s been years since the last full-fledged game in the franchise (not counting Sonic Boom, naturally), so I figured that with a little under a half-decade as a gap, Sonic Team would come back at it with some fresh ideas and new talent.  And beyond that?   Even if there’s the meme of “3D Sonic games don’t work”, let’s not forget Colors and Generations.  (And Lost World, albeit to a lesser extent.) 

The blue blur and his puppeteers aren’t destined to fail by default.  I mean it.  The only surefire way for a Sonic game to fail is for the developers to make a string of horrible decisions during the process.  Or maybe even before that; if the proper talent isn’t lined up, then it doesn’t matter how much time or money you put in.  But what’s even worse is if you put the fans’ trust and goodwill at risk by withholding information from them -- say, review copies so that gamers either have to go in blind or wait until the iron is ice cold.  Or, alternatively, drop a demo whose format is so bafflingly limited that it raises suspicions instead of hype.  Oh, and as if all of that wasn’t enough, the devs would have to welcome a maelstrom of cringe and derision by catering to the mockery the fans and franchise have endured for years.

But hey.  There’s no way that any of that could happen, right?

Maybe not.  But it looks as if there’s a way for ALL OF THAT to happen.

Okay, for starters?  I hope that video game companies from here on out realize that withholding review copies and/or issuing embargoes isn’t exactly the pinnacle of business acumen.  Doom 2016 got really lucky with it, but Assassin’s Creed Unity didn’t -- so even if name recognition trumped logic and moderation, I’d think that people were miffed when the information that could’ve saved them 60 bones was forcibly held back.  Now we’ve got Sonic Forces doing something similar, because…I don’t know.  Not enough faith in their product?  Fear of repercussion?  Guys, you’re trying to strong-arm gamers into buying your product almost sight unseen.  There are already repercussions.

What was the rationale there?  What was the rationale behind a slew of such bad decisions?  Why would you release a demo that only lets you play a level for exactly 60 seconds?  Why would you leave the level design up to a team of three, two of which haven’t even worked on a Sonic game before?  Why would you boast about the game being from the guys that brought us Colors and Generations and then not properly add them to one of the divisions where they were needed most?  Why would you not use the groundwork laid by earlier games -- games people liked -- to build up a brand new title?  Why would you refuse to take lessons from Sonic Mania, given that you apparently gave them your blessing and they did solid work to repair the mascot’s name?  Why this?  Why that?  Why anything?

Cards on the table: I haven’t played Sonic Forces myself, so don’t take anything I say here as the gospel.  But despite Sega’s best attempts to stem the tide, the truth has come out.  Thus far, the game is reviewing poorly; the first one I saw gave it a 5 out of 10.  I saw a 2 out of 5 elsewhere, and a 4 out of 10 somewhere else.  Destructoid pegged it at a 5.5 out of ten, and the label of “mediocre”.  We’ll see how stuff like the Metacritic score fares in the next couple of days.

Honestly, I think that the held-back reviews irritate me more than the quality of the game; even if the tactic is going to translate into more sales by way of putting duct tape on mouths, they’re still just delaying the inevitable.  And they might not have even delayed it by that much.  Streamers and YouTube personalities and the like have had time with it, and have probably picked the game to the bone by the time you read this.  How much of an impact do you think they’ll have, no matter how much the conversation has been shifted?  Or tried to, at least.  Even in the best case scenario, captive review copies and embargoes try to keep consumers from making informed decisions -- and whether it’s by muting reviewers’ opinions and expressions or gamers’ ability to choose (based on that, ideally), it’s still a way to impose on the free will of others.

So Sega and anyone else who would dare try it?  Cut that shit out.

 But I digress.

I can’t (or shouldn’t) talk about a game that I haven’t played in full.  So if you’re looking for an in-depth analysis of Sonic Forces, look elsewhere.  I’m not the guy you want.  Even so, what does it say about me and this situation when I’m so apathetic toward one of gaming’s biggest icons?  It’s especially troubling since I’m still fresh off of Sonic Mania.  The blue hedgehog has a nook carved out in my brain, but the sheer lack of care I have for Forces means he’s seconds away from eviction.  And right now I’m sitting here asking: “Why don’t I care?”

I don’t know.  I guess that even though this is a new 3D Sonic on the eighth-gen consoles (which means it’s been hit by “the same but less” mentality that nearly everyone else has run into), there’s nothing about it that’s truly exciting.  Metal Sonic, Shadow, Chaos, and…Lost World monster guy…team up with Eggman and a new villain?  Can’t bring myself to say anything more than “Huh, okay.”  Classic Sonic is back?  Not impressed, given that A) he’s already been back, B) 3D Sonic games have already edged in 2D content, and C) there’s a hell of a high standard thanks to Mania.  Custom avatars are here, so now you can make your very own heroezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

I have done a little reading about the game’s content (i.e. what’s in the story) and so far I can’t see much of a reason to be excited.  So if I had to put it as superficially as possible, it seems as if Forces has a lot of things, but the sheer number of things can’t make up for the quality of those things.  Is there a cohesive core they’re wrapped around?  Is there a creative vision in mind?  I can’t judge for myself with such a bare-bones understanding, but based on what I know, my answer is a resounding “probably not”.  It all just seems like the devs caved to the jokes about the franchise instead of trying to find a brand new path.  Well, inasmuch as Sonic can have a new path; Mania banked hard on nostalgia, and gamers all over lapped it up.

It’s like…it feels as though Infinite, the edginess, the baddies all lined up together, the heroes facing their greatest threat ever, and the tone of the story (such as it is) are all there so that gamers can laugh.  Sonic Team -- or whoever they pulled from the mean streets of Japan -- to work on this game tried to be meta and in on all the jokes; their plan was to steer into the skid and make a game where we were allowed, if not encouraged to laugh at Sonic.  But I don’t want to laugh at Sonic.  I want to laugh with Sonic.  I don’t want to be forced to enjoy everything that comes from his franchise solely in an ironic, too-coo-for-school, so-bad-it’s-good light.  I want to be able to enjoy a story, and a game, with a sense of dignity.  Pride, even.

I mean, sure.  I like the lightheartedness of Colors.  But you guys remember Adventure 2, right?

Here in 2017 Land, the visuals are outdated, the voice acting is hokey, and the sound mixing is bizarre, to put it kindly.  And of course, the game juxtaposed insanity-driven genocide with a majority cast of pants-free manimals.  But damn it, at least they tried.  At least they had ambitions and aspirations -- a will to take Sonic in a new direction.  What happened to those days?

Well, I guess Shadow the Hedgehog happened.  And Sonic ’06 happened.  But you know what?  Those games tried, too.  They may have failed, but I didn’t want the devs to stop just because of some bungles.  They just needed to focus and refine.  No, scratch that; they need to focus and refine today.  Again, they could have and should have built off of the groundwork of previous games -- or maybe pull inspiration from Mania.  I hear Lost World was rough around the edges, but that’s exactly why it’s perfectly viable to sand down those edges and create a polished product.  How is this so hard?

Better question: how is this so hard when Sega, Sonic Team, and everyone involved had as many as four years to figure out what the needed to do?  Because as it stands, it seems like Forces is the equivalent of a major gaming company waiting until the night before to start their ten-page essay.

I don’t want to write Sonic off.  More importantly, I don’t think that it’s time to write Sonic off.  He just needs steady, capable hands to guide him toward a fresh slate of gaming accolades.  Mania proved that not too long ago, and assuming that it doesn’t face a C&D takedown, Sonic Utopia is going to be in the same boat (as long as its handlers keep working on it).   This is not some Sisyphean task we’re talking about here.  Really, it boils down to common sense.  “We had good things in the past, so we should build on them.”  And “This didn’t work, so we need to fix it.”

I’ve seen comments on Destructoid and elsewhere calling for Sonic Team to get the boot.  I can understand that, and there’s a part of me that agrees.  On the other hand, I’m the Eternal Optimist; I’d say that the devs can stay where they are, with the franchise locked tight between their fingers, if they can prove themselves worthy of the name.  The fact that they haven’t -- that they stumbled so mightily after years of turning up empty-handed -- is a signal that something needs to change.  And ultimately, I hope it does.

Sonic deserves better.  So do we.  And that’s all there is to it.

I really like that song…but “Masters of the Desert” is real good too, tho.

Okay, let’s be fair here.  I bet Forces has some good tracks, too.  Let’s have a look and see what --


Shit, I’m gonna end up watching a full LP now, aren’t I?

No comments:

Post a Comment