Sonic the Hedgehog is like some creature from a horror movie: He won’t stay dead. No matter how many mediocre or even outright bad Sonic games come out, Sega always gives him another chance. And that’s cool! Thanks to his best outings, the blue speedster has enriched the lives of many gamers. So when Sega announces that a new Sonic game is in the works — as it did when the mascot recently turned 25 — there’s reason to be optimistic.
But there’s also reason to be cautious. Here’s what we want to see in the new Sonic game, set to launch in 2017.
1. A reason for it to exist in the first place
Do we really need a new Sonic game? No, we don’t. The Sega mascot has appeared in over 80 games in the past 25 years, many of which were not very fun to play. The poor quality of the games has cost Sega a good deal of respect and gamer confidence. By contrast, when a new Mario game is announced, fans get excited because almost all of the Mario games released over the decades have been exceptional. With Sonic, Sega has conditioned fans not to get too excited when new games are announced because there’s a very good chance fans will be disappointed.
What we could really use is a good new Sonic game. That’s what fans have been mostly missing since the series’s heyday in the ‘90s.
2. Sonic should be all about speed
With that in mind, if Sega wants to make the character relevant again, it needs to get back to what made those first few games so great. On the most basic level, Sonic is about running fast, jumping, and dashing. Speed is key, so any new game, whether it’s a side-scrolling platformer like the classics, or a 3D platformer like 1999’s Sonic Adventure, should focus on keeping Sonic moving fast.
3. Don’t worry about the story
When it comes to blue hedgehogs, we don’t need much of a story. The games that put the story front and center, like the abysmal 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game, are rarely successful. Instead of focusing on story, Sega should design the new effort around gameplay first and foremost. If we’re not controlling the action onscreen, we’re not having fun. We don’t need some epic tale about the battle between a hedgehog and Dr. Eggman. Just have Eggman threaten some wildlife and send our blue hero after him. Vim vam voom.
4. Expand the gameplay in interesting ways
In order for Sega to avoid repeating itself — as it did with the bland 2010 game Sonic the Hedgehog 4, which added virtually nothing to the series — the company needs to push Sonic forward somehow. It needs to come up with at least one new idea to make the game feel fresh. The classic Sonic games are great, but we don’t need yet another retread of those.
5. Be more like Mario
In the ‘90s, both Sega and Nintendo played up the competition between Mario and Sonic. Over the years, Mario has gone on to become an essential series that pushes the entire industry forward. Meanwhile, Sonic has struggled to remain even semi-relevant. Nintendo has reinvented Mario time and again across the decades, creating a consistent set of incredible games along the way. Sega has released a few good Sonic games alongside a whole heap of garbage. Consistency is not Sonic’s strong suit.
How did Nintendo pull off this feat? By gathering a team of top-tier developers and giving them the resources they need to put their creativity to use. Since recent Sonic games have been plagued with bugs and bad controls, it’s clear Sega isn’t doing the same for the makers of Sonic games. It’s time to turn that around.
Well-designed levels in platformer games are fun to explore, so Sega should seed each one with plenty of collectibles. Give players who want to search every inch of a stage a reason to do so by hiding power-ups or other items that have an effect on the gameplay. This helps create worlds players want to explore.
7. Great bosses
One of the best things about the good Sonic games is the boss variety. You never know what new kind of robot Dr. Eggman will whip up to fight against Sonic and his friends. If the new Sonic game can give us a series of unique, enjoyable boss battles, it will be a much better game for it.
8. Don’t be afraid to borrow from the past
While a new Sonic game needs fresh ideas, it should borrow freely from the ideas that have worked in games past. The developers should look to good titles like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations for inspiration. Take what worked, scrap what didn’t, and you’re on your way to making a good Sonic game.
9. Tails and friends
Sonic is a fine, big-footed character, but we’ve come to love his friends, too. Bring on Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and any other fan favorites from the older games. Letting us play as them, and giving them unique abilities would be nice, if not for a change of pace, at least for a simple change of color scheme.
10. Don’t rush it
Making any great game takes time. So let’s take our foot off the gas and let the makers of the new Sonic game make the best game they can. And since over 80 Sonic games have launched since the character’s introduction 25 years ago, for the love of all that’s holy, give it a few years before releasing a sequel.