Saturday, November 19, 2005

An Open Letter To Sega

Dear Sega,

Back in the late 80’s you released a game entitled ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. It was a milestone in the then fledgling Games Industry.

Sonic became synonymous with Sega, and quite frankly, it was an excellent game, loved by anyone who played it. I remember fondly the playground arguments as to which game was better, Sonic or Mario. (I was strictly in the Sega Camp. Sonic was faster, cooler and all around better than that Italian Plumber with the mushroom fixation.)

I think you will agree, it was a much more innocent age in the Games Industry. Back then games where designed for children. An adult gamer was pretty rare.

If you remember, Sonic featured a cuddly blue hedgehog with ‘attitude’. Later he was joined by an even cuddlier Fox sidekick, by the name of Miles Prower. Slightly later he was joined by the slightly edgier red hedgehog, by the name of ‘Knuckles’.

You were in no doubt that you were playing the ‘good guy’.

The point of this game was to save all the fluffy forest creatures from the evil Doctor Robotnik. The formula was simple. Sonic Good, Robotnik Bad. Also, as was common with the children’s cartoons of the day, the only bad guys you killed where robots. Even the boss battles with Dr. Robotnik had you only destroying the craft he was in, before he escaped.

In short, the game was 100% completely bloodless and the only violence was against obviously evil robots.

Well, unfortunately, Sega’s time at the top of the gaming food chain is over. With the complete and total failure of the Dreamcast, Sega went from industry leader to an obscure console-less company, relegated to producing the odd game for other systems. You scrape a living now by releasing your classic games for the handhelds and the occasional console budget title. Basically, Sony’s PlayStation kicked the Dreamcast’s ass.

You see, every console needs a ‘Killer App’, a game that makes everyone want the console. You figured that Sonic in 3D would be enough. Unfortunately, the PlayStation had Metal Gear Solid. A brand new, excellent game, with an intriguing main character and a gripping storyline.

Basically, brand new will blow a re-hash of an old game with better graphics out of the water every single time.

In short, you where at the top of your field, and suddenly found yourself on the bottom.

Suffice it to say, I can understand your desire to be back on top.

Now, the hardcore gamer, such as myself, was part of what is now known as the ‘Nintendo Generation’.

We where there at the start, before 3D graphics, before environmental audio, before ESRB Ratings…the age of the 8-bit platformer and scrolling shoot ‘em up. Innocent games where you played the good guy fighting against the obviously evil bad guy.

This wasn’t the time for morally ambiguous anti-heros, blood or gore…this was the time of the sliver spaceship shooting the insect looking things, this was the time of the White Knight fighting the Ghosts and Goblins…and most of all it was the time of the Blue Hedgehog running super-fast and smashing evil robots with its spines.

Nowadays, the ‘Nintendo Generation’ has grown up. The same kids that begged their parents for a Sega Master System or the Nintendo Entertainment System now have kids of their own, mini-vans and mortgages. However, we never lost our love of games. Our tastes may have changed, but we’ll always remember Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd.

Times change. There’s nothing we can do about it, we can only adapt... However, you chose not to.

So today, Sonic the Hedgehog has fallen to the side to make way for the First Person Shooter. As adults, we now want adult games. Your Grand Theft Autos, your Halos and your Burnouts.

If you’ll pardon the pun, we can tell, and understand completely, that you want back in the game. E for Everyone games don’t sell too well. Mature games sell well, so you’ve decided to go ‘edgy’.

Unfortunately you’ve followed your recent form and have missed the point entirely.

Rather than start a new franchise, you’re desperate to cling on to what little name-recognition you have left.

I’m talking, of course, about ‘Shadow the Hedgehog’.

Let’s not attempt to fool ourselves, you simply took Sonic, painted him a dark red, and put a gun in his hand.

“Look everyone, it’s Sonic! Remember Sonic?” You say. “Only look! Now he’s ‘edgy’ and has a gun! You can play Sonic again, but satisfy your craving for more mature titles as well!”

Don’t you realize what you’ve done?

It’s the equivalent of watching Lion-o grab Mum-ra, push a gun in his face, slit his throat and stomp on his head. It’s like hearing Optimus Prime tell Galvatron to go fuck his mother…but most of all, it’s like watching Elmo take a dump in Oscar’s trash can, before calling him a whore, and setting him on fire.

You tattooed a swastika on Mother Teresa.

Sonic was my introduction to gaming, and it’s a game that I hold very dear to my heart. Watching you piss all over it, in an attempt to be ‘edgy’, whatever that means, is like being bitch-slapped by Santa.

If you want to connect with the current generation of gamers, you create a new franchise. You don’t take a beloved character, and make him into a gun wielding Gordon Freeman wannabe.

Yes, I know Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. A fighting game based on the Mario franchise, but even that was done in a fun and cartoony way. Mario Kart could be called violent, but you shoot turtle shells at the other Karts, which simply make them stop and spin around. That’s acceptable. They aren’t throwing grenades, and shooting automatic weapons at eachother.

You completely missed the point. As adult ‘first generation’ gamers, we do want more violent and controversial titles instead of the cuddly, family friendly titles. However, what we don’t want to see is a beloved iconic character being transformed from He-Man into Scarface.

If you’d left Sonic alone, he would have been remembered forever as one of the best first generation platformers of all time. Instead, you decided to absolutely ruin Sonic by forcing a game that just doesn’t fit the franchise. Would it have been so hard to make this game with a new main character? How about Shadow the Swamp-rat?

If a game is good, people will buy it. If a game is crap, people won’t. You can’t create sales by forcing an already known character (or at least a slightly changed version of one), into a new genre, especially one that is diametrically opposed to what we already know of him. People aren’t going to buy this because it’s ‘edgy sonic’, they’re going to avoid it because they don’t like seeing sonic turned into a marketing whore. Why didn’t you go all the way, and have him collecting crack rocks instead of gold rings?

Learn from your competitors. Link will never be a hard-edged anti hero. Mario will never be ‘gangsta’ and Donkey Kong will never rip people’s heads off and shit down their neck.

…and if the gaming community had its way, Sonic would never gun down the opposition with an over-sized Uzi.

In short, I would appreciate it if you recalled this game, and re-marketed it with it’s true, full title:

Shadow The Hedgehog : Fuck your childhood!

Many Thanks,


1 comment:

rayray said...

amen brother........amen