What happens when you throw an anniversary party, but the honoree doesn’t show up?
The last decade or so hasn’t been kind to SEGA’s franchise hedgehog, as a series of lackluster game releases (not to mention SEGA’s own decline from premier console maker to mediocre game studio) have tarnished Sonic’s legacy to the point where he is now considered the third-fastest creature in blue, stuck behind Rainbow Dash and Jimmie “Seven-Time” Johnson. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the Mario & Sonic at the Olympics series, I’d have forgotten that the blue blur existed at all.
2016, however, marked the 25th anniversary of Sonic’s debut, and SEGA promised us all that this year would be different. The year would be a celebration of all things Sonic, and would remind us all of why we fell in love with the franchise in the first place. Sure, they didn’t specifically say that there would be an awesome new Sonic game coming out, but come on, how else could you celebrate one of the top-five most iconic characters in gaming history?
Unless something crazy happens in the next few weeks, I’m declaring Sonic’s 25th anniversary a complete and utter flop. SEGA had a chance to really move the needle on their iconic franchise, and as much as I’d like to say they fell flat on their face, that would imply that they actually tried to do something. Instead, they did something worse: Nothing.
But Kyle, I hear you say, we DID get a Sonic game this year! That’s true, and to be fair, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice did get some okay reviews (though I didn’t play it myself). But this was supposed to be the year Sonic exploded back onto the scene, forcing everyone to pay attention and marvel at the brilliance of the series. Measured against those expectations, “okay” just doesn’t cut the mustard. For as little as Fire & Ice moved the needle in gaming circles, SEGA might as well have released nothing at all.
But Kyle, you continue, we ARE getting some epic Sonic games! Sonic Mania and Sonic 2017 were announced for next year! Exactly: The mind-blowing Sonic titles we were all expecting, including the official 25th anniversary game, are coming next freaking year. Either the jokers at SEGA can’t count, or they sold us all a bad bill of goods for 2016.
But Kyle, you finally say, SEGA’s pronouncements for 2016 were intentionally vague on the gaming front. Is it their fault that we read too much into their announcements and created unrealistic expectations for them? Actually, I would argue that it is their fault, because had SEGA not loudly announced that this year would be Sonic’s 25th anniversary, a lot of gamers (myself included) would have never noticed. Instead, they went ahead with the celebration knowing full well that they wouldn’t have anything besides Sonic Boom ready before 2017. (That may explain why SEGA went all out on things like toys and trains—they knew they needed something to fill the hole left by the lack of a awe-inspiring game.) In short, SEGA brought this on themselves, and they deserve to be called out for it.
Thankfully, SEGA has set themselves up for one heck of a 26th anniversary celebration of Sonic, and for their sake, it had better be a real doozy. It’s one thing to throw yourself a party and have nobody else show up; it’s even worse to throw one and not bother to show up yourself.