A question - can the idiom "beating a dead horse" apply to other animals as well? How horses got stuck with a bad wrap is beyond me, but in the video gaming realm, we need to change the saying. I have the perfect candidate too. "Beating a dead blue hedgehog," anyone?
Today we got the splendid announcement a new Sonic game will land on consoles later this year. Now I'm a huge fan of mascots for game companies (take your pick regarding Nintendo), but the one requirement for continually pumping out games is to actually make the games good. Through Mario Galaxy, Nintendo has pushed the boundaries of its beloved Italian plumber, sending him through space and making him magically good at every sport out there, but the games are still great. When there's an expectation a game in a franchise is to be good, then that studio knows what they are doing.
Being a young kid I loved playing the original Sonic the Hedgehog; I still wish we had our Sega Genesis. The same deal with the sequel. And even the threequel! For the first ten years, the franchise gave us stellar game after stellar game. Then Sonic Heroes was released, crapping on my childhood dreams. It fared well, but below the averages of other games, yet sales still persisted. Many say Heroes was a turning point, criticizing Sega's ability to cater to three-dimensional audiences without losing the nostalgic factor of the Genesis days.
The next showing really didn't help their cause. Sonic's first foray onto the current generation was a complete disaster. When a game dives into the messy world of bestiality, you know there's a problem. The most outrageous part of Sonic 2006 was the blossoming relationship between Sonic and Princess Elise, which lead to one of the most awkward romance scenes in gaming history. Even awkwarder than Dragon Age. The game got several awards (not the good kind), acquiring the mischievous title "Worst Game of the Decade" from several publications. Needless to say I was disappointed. The latest from Sega, Sonic Colors, was too pretty for its own good. Vibrant visuals and excellent music were overshadowed by terrible gameplay, and yet the game still sold well. Two million copies in two months is some serious dough.
The main thing I'm bewildered by is with a degrading reputation and consistent low scores, how do these games still sell? The fan base must be extremely stubborn, or the allure to the little gamer is still out there. Regardless, can the series sustain success given lower scores and the elevated role of Metacritic? The sales numbers will drop from game-to-game, and eventually Sega will give it the axe. Recently Sega has embarked on a more passive role with developing, and focusing on the publishing side of things - the professional relationship with Platinum Games certainly helped.
Shall we expect more of the same or will Sega answer our calls for a good game? We'll find out later this year.