The most prominent feeling I get out of watching the first trailer for Sonic Generations, however, is something that approximates an epiphany. It's all too easy to go back and look at old promo artwork for Sonic in the early days of his existence and think it looks dated, which, for the most part, it really does. It's quite another to imagine taking the hedgehog's classic look at rendering it in modern-tech 3D, which is exactly what Sonic Team did. The revelation isn't the disparity between old and older Sonic models, though—it's that I would have loved it if fat Sonic had never even gone away. I'm not saying that an aesthetic discrepancy is to blame for more than a decade's worth of bad game design that's too often been overshadowed by its gimmicks. Far from it. What I am saying is that maybe if fat Sonic—and moreover the gameplay truisms that were synonymous with early games in the series—had been allowed to evolve more naturally, Sega might not have made quite as many bad or downright embarrassing decisions with the series. Perhaps with more stability in mind, they wouldn't have felt the need to take so many risks, or always be trying things out that were new.
Interestingly, when you look back on it, Sonic didn't exactly start off on the right foot, at least not compared to the kind of game he would become known for. In the original game, the little guy couldn't even do his trademark spin-dash. Each Zone had three full stages, with a boss battle following at the end of the last one, making for really long levels. There was less of an emphasis on speed, with level designs that often forced Sonic to stop for some actual platforming. Sega was clearly still trying to find its footing in a post-Super Mario Bros. world; the real speed aspect would come a little bit later.
It's hard for any true Sonic fan to look back on the last ten years and not feel disappointed or even discouraged about where the hedgehog has been forced to go. You might say Sega inadvertently started using the series as a battery for unspeakable laboratory experimentation, like an annoying sitcom side-character whose wacky inventions always make you question what the writers could possibly have been thinking when said character was created. One could also easily accuse Sega of assuming the position as Sonic's pimp, ready at a moment's notice to whore him out in whatever ridiculous getup they forced him into on any given day. Regardless, though, it seems that fat Sonic is the solution to a problem that's been plaguing the series for years—a problem I personally couldn't have even picked up on until a comparison like the one Sega has so blatantly presented was staring me square in the face. Fat Sonic never should have left, and if Sonic Team can actually pull off Generations without a hitch, maybe it will herald this pudgier and ultimately more loveable hedgehog's triumphant return in the realm of 2D gaming.
Re-introducing familiar iconography into a well-known series to this degree is a huge risk, and beloved imagery is inherently loaded with years of accumulated nostalgia—it's not just the look, but rather the associations with it that come with heavy expectations. Sega has been inching closer and closer to a purely retro revival of the series, which it looks like Generations pays homage to nicely. Should Sega revive fat Sonic (and his associated sensibilities) for this game only, just to bring back current Sonic back after Generations has run its course, they may be in for a rude awakening, and if Generations fails, it may be the last semblance of a soul—or a fanbase—poor Sonic ever sees.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*