Sonic and the Secret Rings revisited
Although itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been almost four months since Sonic made his debut on the Wii (barring VC releases!), IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m still a little surprised at the reaction of fans on both sides. Those that enjoyed the game described how they loved the sense of speed the game brought, the challenge it possessed (that a good majority of modern games donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t), and what felt like a return to form for everyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s favorite hedgehog. From what I could tell, strangely, dissenters had complaints about the same exact aspects: the game lacked speed, was too difficult at points, and lacked the elements that brought us to love Sonic in the first place. I attempted to address that last issue on the various message boards I frequent, but anyone thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a forum-goer knows that forums are the last place you should try to discuss anything intelligently.
Make Believe Reborn
It all started when Casamassina (of IGN fame) started a tidal wave with an in-game example he brought up of what he saw as poor game mechanics. He mentioned how in different levels he would zipping around a corner, only to be stopped, dead in his tracks by a log laying in the path. Just ahead was a pit that the log prevented the player from falling into. He explained that he felt an improved camera wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve fixed the issue. MattÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lapdogÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ate up the example and proclaimed it across the internet, most of the time without ever playing the game. If Casamassina thought it was a poor decision on the developerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s part, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fine, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m okay with that. This isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t an article asserting that if you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like the game, you are bad at life. What bothered me is that a vast majority cried that this wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t true to Sonic. I can only respond with: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the most ridiculous comment IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever heard.Ã¢â‚¬?
Myths and Minds Reformed
Anyone whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spent anytime with Sonic knows that half of the game is having no clue where youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going. Almost every 2d iteration of the game had countless moments of barreling forward without any foreknowledge of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coming, hoping that death isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t imminent, only to breath a sigh of relief when slamming into that red springing platform thingy, and slowing moving onto the next stretch of could-be-death.
Furthermore, if Sega was trying to recreate the original 2d Sonic in faithful 3d form, Sonic and the Secret Rings is spot-on. Putting the game on rails, while limiting free roam, ironically brought more freedom to developers as it allowed them to create an insane sense of speed on levels like Dino Jungle. This game convinced me that Sonic was never meant to go in every direction, like Mario was. The basic 2d platforming elements of Mario translated perfectly into a 3d world, but Sonic relied on limited paths that allowed for speed and acrobatics. Exploration and speed work against each other, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re counter-intuitive. Sonic was never meant to take his time!
Question All ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Known
Another complaint was that it was near impossible to complete a mission successfully (besides the straight-forward ones) on the first run through. I feel my age on comments like these, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m only 23. Most people who started playing video games on the NES or SNES know that part of gaming is/was learning the level/failing/learning the level some more/failing againÃ¢â‚¬Â¦until finally completing your objective. Too many younger gamers expect to be able to play through a game, and not die/fail once. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not putting the blame on the youth, but on developers. Games are easier these days. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not an entirely bad thing, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve played Bayou Billy, you know what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m talking about. BUT gamers almost get offended when they find a game more challenging than they think it should be, resulting in backlash sometimes. I loved this aspect of SatSR as well. Playing a level over and over to memorize/find the best way to get through it carried a sense of nostalgia with it. Sonic had this aspect in 2d as well. Finding the best/right/only path through a level was an exercise in trial-and-error if there ever was one.
Legends Blurred and Torn
Despite decent reviews, I really think SatSR got slightly snubbed. Was the game flawless? Hardly. The music was absurd, though I have to admit I have a fondness for Cheese Rock (Dynasty Warriors, anyone?). Sometimes the controls were extremely frustrating, and I agree with others that some of the skills you obtained, shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been included from the start. However, with an average of 69 on Metacritic, I personally think that we saw a bad case of reviewer-itis with IGN getting a review out quickly, and others letting Cassamasina influence their review process. It might not be worth putting so much thought into, but, whether we like or not, reviews/review scores greatly influence how a product does in this industry, and I think more than few people miss more than a few great games because of them. Revisit the game, enjoy the speed, and know that this is one of the best experiences you can have with Sonic, period.