Thanks Sega, this kusoge was exactly what I wanted
It may sound strange, but I don't necessarily pick games for this column and don't expect to hate them. Spelunker, for example, legitimately appeals to me, despite its reputation. So I went into Sonic the Hedgehog '06 with a bit of history with the title. I figured I'd choose it primarily for its mediocrity; a disappointing release for the new generation of consoles. I'd probably scoff at Sonic's typically dumb plot.
But after sitting with the game for a little while, I had this feeling of betrayal. I was warned, of course, but someone should have intervened. The person who sold it to me should have requested a psychological evaluation beforehand. My PS3 should have erased the disc. Why doesn't anyone care that I do this to myself?
What I'm saying is that Sonic '06 is terribly bad. I thought I knew what I wanted to do and I was wrong.
My first experience with Sonic 2022 was back in 2022. My best friend in college was a huge Sonic fan. Massive. Sonic Riders, Shadow the Hedgehog, he ate it all. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't completely blind to the series' declining quality. Its good. At the time, I was still in love with Star Fox, and we were able to comfort each other as the coffins of our favorite franchises slowly descended into the ground.
He kept the faith, though, so he picked up Sonic the Hedgehog when he came out. Oh, he knew it was a bad game. He played it a bit, but was quick to show me his flaws. The one I remember best was a level that had Sonic start on a grind rail, but each time the level loaded, the blue blur would become blurry beyond the rail and awaiting death below. All. Time. Later, he finally came back and told me what the problem was: he was pressing a direction on the stick when the level was loaded, and apparently you weren't supposed to.
I don't remember if I ever touched the game at that time; I don't think I did. I've never been a big Sonic fan. Maybe as a kid I had some appreciation for the titles I would play on my cousin's Genesis, but the Sonic Adventure games had me scratching my head to see the appeal. Oh, Chao Garden? Yeah, he's a genius.
The problems with Sonic '06 are apparent the moment you start playing it. The camera is locked inverted on the X and Y axes and there is no way to change it. Alright, I can get used to it. The framerate drops frequently, but things don't get jerky, the whole game completely slows down. The game is controlled like a shopping cart that has just gained in sensitivity and become aware of the horror of its existence. Loading screens are freezing, and if you fail a task, you have to go through four to try again.
Just grabbing rings in the first stage is a pain. When the blue blur is at maximum speed, it looks like it's completely ignoring the controls. It's at its worst when there are mics in front of you or the little dunce starts leaning dangerously towards the edge of a loop. The camera doesn't give up fucking either. It constantly gets stuck behind the scenes, unsuccessfully trying to keep up with the action, and sometimes preoccupied with showing you something cool happening in the background rather than what's directly in front of you.
The best parts are when you can take one hand off the controller. Grind rails, increase sections, little wall hopping things; they all give you a chance to reach out and pet your dog (or cat, if you like that sort of thing). They look cool I guess, they're just a bit superficial and unnecessary.
The story is a sickening, disconnected mess. It's all about Princess Elise, who Dr. Eggman wants for her connection to the Flames of Disaster, which will allow her to rule the world or something. Most of the plot is that Elise gets kidnapped again and Sonic tries to get her back. Constantly. Oh my God, constantly. Sonic turns his back on her for a second and, wow, she's gone.
There's time travel, the Chaos Emeralds do what they do (what the writer wants), and the story even includes interspecies romance. Even though the plot was actually cohesive, we still had to put up with tasteless lines like, “If you have time to worry, run.” At least the cutscenes look good for a 2022 title.
You can also play as Shadow the Edgehog and Silver, who is also a hedgehog, but from the future. In honor of the game, each character's chapter has their own playstyle, with Shadow driving shitty vehicles and Silver throwing things around. They each tell their own side of the story, and honestly, I almost started loving Silver's gameplay. The framerate chugs like a train submerged in molasses, but throwing stuff - when it's really working properly - is satisfying and its platforming is generally harmless. Physics-based attacks were so popular in 2022. Just look at Half-Life 2 and this expansion for Doom 3.
Sonic '06 is absolutely atrocious to play. It seems like every few minutes it comes up with new ways to break and screw the drive, but there's some sort of reason why it fails.
Sega wanted this big, new, next-gen Sonic the Hedgehog to revitalize the franchise and celebrate the series' 15th anniversary. All hands were on deck until Sega decided they wanted Sonic on the next Wii as well, and Sonic '06 wasn't going to match his specs. So, in its infinite wisdom, Sega cut the team in half - with half staying on the PS3/360 version, and the other half working on what would become Sonic and the Secret Rings. Around the same time, series co-creator Yuji Naka dropped out of Sega and took off with 10 top staff members.
Normally, you'd expect a publisher to extend development time or replenish their developer's ranks so they can meet their deadline, but no. Sega insisted that this title be released by the end of 2022 to celebrate the birthday of their beloved mascot. This would result in the video game equivalent of smothering someone with their own birthday cake.
The team had to rush to make a complete game, which meant they had to forego the typical banter of bug testing and polish, and it never shows. Most of Sonic '06's problems boil down to things that should have been fixed in the final product. I think if the team had really had a chance, they could have found something reasonable together. The pieces are there, they've just been put together with a glitter glue stick. I still doubt I'll like the end result - as I mentioned, I'm not much of a Sonic fan - but I probably wouldn't talk about it as if it came out of my toilet.
But even though we absolve the dev team of sin, Sega still decided to release it at full price. He even had the nerve to release DLC for the game. Paid DLC for an unfinished game. Class. It was her attempt to establish the series on a new generation of hardware, and instead cemented it like a laughing stock.
The Sonic franchise and Sega itself have had their ups and downs since then. Behind every Sonic and Sonic Mania generation, there seems to be a Sonic Boom: Rise of the Lyric and Sonic Forces, but even those games don't reach the nadir of Sonic '06. I suppose. Don't force me to play them.
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