An irritating contrarian post about Sonic the Hedgehog

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2017 by 87th

Everyone gets a bit silly whenever there’s word of a good new Sonic game, and Sonic Mania is definitely a good new Sonic game. There’s a deep understanding of what makes Sonic work. Something that Sega have lacked for decades. But it’s also obnoxious and dorky, full of meta-humour and references to Game Gear tripe.

I don’t think Sonic Mania’s really the game its developers wanted to make. Who wants another Sonic best-of already? Probably the out of touch bigwigs at Sega, right? I don’t think Sonic Mania gains much from its use of old levels, enemies and stage gimmicks. Nobody’s excited to see Green Hill Zone again, and it’s a sad situation when Chemical Plant is starting to outwear its welcome. The most interesting use the game makes of old ideas is when it plays around with them, but even that can be annoying. You play in a role reversal of the Hydrocity Zone boss, with Robotnik in the water and you controlling his ship. It’s fun the first time you see it, but then it’s just a big unskippable joke forever until the end of time, and it gets less funny each time you have to sit through it. It’s not something that’s in there because of what it adds to the gameplay. That’s what I take issue with.

God only knows how far reaching and diverse the appeal of the Sonic franchise is, but when I think of the what I value in the original games, its optimistic, naive and pure-hearted. The edgy “attitude” angle was something Sega of America pushed because it was profitable, but Mega Drive Sonic is about blue skies and wide eyes. Platform games rely on charm more than any other genre, and old Sonic has bags of it. I know nostalgia has likely clouded my evaluation somewhat, but few games combine visuals and music to celebrate their level designs in such a positive way as Sonic 1. Starlight Zone will forever be tied the days when I first became fascinated with the night sky as a child, and the music still makes me emotional in the same way that other people might feel about Pinocchio. There’s heart and sincerity in the original games. It’s why they mean so much to the people who grew up with them, and it’s something Sonic Mania has almost went out of its way to avoid in case the cool kids make fun of it.

It’s a little embarrassing how many of Sonic Mania’s references I got. From the SegaSonic Popcorn Shop to Silver Sonic from Master System Sonic 2 to the level completion poses from early in Sonic 1’s production. A couple of these nods were cute, but it got old fast (“Gotta go fast!” Haha! You love that, don’t you, internet?). What’s curious is that I lapped this stuff up in Sonic Generations, which was a much worse, much less tonally consistent game. The difference is sincerity, and who’s making the reference. When Sonic Mania brings up something obscure, it’s born out of a hundred mocking internet forum jokes. When Generations made a new arrangement of some music from Chaotix or matched a pose from old promotional artwork, it felt like something that was done out of a loving attachment to the work. Maybe it was something a developer at Sega was proud of, but was dragged down by being associated with a sub-standard sequel, or maybe it was a nod to old friends who had left the company. Maybe Mania’s references could be interpreted as a similarly well-intentioned shout out to the fan forums where its developers first met and worked together, but it’s still a detached and coldly ironic kind of tribute.

There’s a lot of Sonic Mania that does come off really well. The animation in particular is terrific and full of personality, both in-game and in the brilliantly energetic and charming FMV sequences. A great amount of attention was put into making it feel like a Saturn game, and anyone who’s played a lot of 2D games on the platform should be able to appreciate how that has paid off in how the game looks and sounds. The original levels add new tropes to the series that don’t feel out of place, and the more creative Act 2 versions of the old zones play around with level themes in fun ways. It’s a really impressive project that’s admirable in ways that are increasingly uncommon in modern games, but I can’t get on board with the notion that it’s one of the series’ best. If it was, it would create something of its own identity, instead of just poking at the sillier bits of less self-aware games like some kind of insecure teenager.

But that’s where I have hope. Sonic Mania’s critical and commercial reception has been incredible, and I have a lot of faith in its team. I expect they’ll be given the opportunity to work on something similar that’s less of a tribute to old games, and more of its own thing. I hope it’s something that appeals to kids more than bearded geeks in their thirties.


Breath of the Wild versus Ocarina of Time

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2017 by 87th

[WARNING – Breath of the Wild is a fantastic experience full of rich discoveries that feel uniquely personal. While I won’t discuss specific story or location details in this, I recommend avoiding any and all spoilers – no matter how light – until you’ve finished the game.]

Sorry. I want to discuss this.
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Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2017 by 87th

I’ve been considering ways to make myself interested in my writing again. I remember when I first started doing this, and how I’d challenge myself to try completely new things, unsure whether or not they’d have any value. I remember being much more open and honest in my writing. I’d like to get back to that uncomfortable territory. The deeper you dig, the more uncomfortable it becomes, but maybe that’s how you stop yourself from becoming stale and soft. And fuck it. What do I have to lose? I don’t care about my popularity. I just want to write things I think have value. But it’s difficult to find inspiration for that kind of thing if you deny it when it’s uncomfortable.

I woke up at 3am and I can’t get back to sleep. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own insecurities and concerns and whether or not they’re justified. I’ve been thinking about who I am, the values I have and the qualities I respect.

I think it boils down to not being a competitive person, and not knowing what’s bad about that. In professional terms, terms of personal relationships and in terms of mental and physical health, I don’t think I’m keeping up. I think there are a lot of aspects of my life that, if challenged on, I’d have little to defend myself with.

But why should I defend myself on those aspects? I’m honest and kind, and I try to do as little harm to the world as possible. I take my own responsibilities seriously, and if I ever owe something to someone else, I work diligently to repay them with interest. In my own trivial, unspectacular way, I think I’m making my immediate sphere of influence at least a little better. Should I be ashamed of being unspectacular when the most fascinating people are making the world so much worse? I’m not sure I’m really going anywhere in life, but if I’m basically happy and comfortable, and I can maintain that, is there any good in pushing to change that? Most people in the world don’t have the privilege of comfort and happiness. Wouldn’t it be terribly ungrateful for me to mess around with these aspects of my life because I didn’t think they were fucking “interesting” enough?

I think this is why I like animals so much. Animals don’t have any understanding of status. They just respond positively to kindness and negatively to cruelty. I tend to get along well with kids and animals, but if I’m placed in a situation with an unfamiliar adult, I really don’t know what to do. Like, it would be arrogant to even attempt to interest them. I’m immediately relieved when those situations end, and I can return to people I feel confident already like me.

For the sake of the friends I already have, I find it’s crucial to have shared interests. Something to deflect to. My personal life is terribly boring, so I have to be able to discuss something that I’m actually passionate about. Isn’t that why art exists? People are mundane, so we have to see something else explore the extreme highs and lows of the world while not leaving our comfort zones? Isn’t the point of social drinking to bring everybody down to the same basic, impulsive level, so we can actually relate to other people for a while? Isn’t this why depression is much more common now? Because we’re ashamed of how unspectacular we are, and we don’t really know why we’re doing what we’re doing? Isn’t that the source of a lot of modern problems? People are generally aware of much more interesting things now, and anyone can become a celebrity, so they feel they have to push to become as interesting as possible. Weren’t we all a lot happier when we didn’t deny how boring we were?

That’s probably like games, or something.


Game of the Year 2016 – The Last Guardian

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2017 by 87th

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GOTY 2016 – Number 2 – Pocket Card Jockey

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2017 by 87th

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OLD GAME OF THE YEAR 2016 – Burning Rangers

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2017 by 87th

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GOTY 2016 – Number 3 – Final Fantasy XV

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2017 by 87th

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