Video game movies have a long and storied history of failing at almost every turn, but recent years have seen some surprising successes. One of those hits was so significant that it’s worth wondering if this iconic pillar of gaming history might be better suited to an art form without gameplay.
Sonic the Hedgehog was the star of one of the most controversial franchises of all time. Some fans ardently defend every project he’s involved in, and some critics say he’s never lent his name to anything of quality. Among the mountain of media bearing the face of this beloved blue creature, the 2020 film adaptation stands tall with near universal approval.
the sonic the hedgehog The franchise is not popular due to the quality of games it offers. It’s not liked because of the touching narrative of good-natured fun or environmental awareness. The games do not sell millions before the first trailer is released due to the well-established quality standard. Sonic, the franchise owes its enormous success and worldwide fame largely, if not entirely, to the unthinkable popularity of Sonic, the character. Consider all of the most well-known characters in video game history. Mario, Link, Gordon Freeman, Master Chief, Pac-Man, pale in comparison to Sonic the Hedgehog. There just isn’t the same kind of love for these characters, even though the games they play in are fantastic and well received. Love for the character is entirely inseparable from love for the game. The Blue Blur, outside of his games, has a higher level of popularity than any other video game character. In many ways, games set him back.
Sonic has a huge personality. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s the most ubiquitous hallmark of its presentation. Anyone exposed to more than a second or two of Sonic understands what he is and knows what kind of character he is. He is irreverent, confident, good-natured. He’s constantly joking around and cracking jokes, but he’s always ready to throw himself into the game to save the world. It is immediately identifiable; every aspect of her look, voice, movement, design, and animation sells her heroic, adrenaline-junkie persona. It’s much easier to understand Sonic’s personality traits than to piece together anything about the indescribable power that people keep obliquely declaring he possesses. Even in his worst game, the main character’s lovable personality keeps fans engaged and happy to return. He’s the draw, which is why his name is in every headline and his face is on every box. Fans will follow him everywhere, including on brand new media.
One of the most common complaints surrounding every Sonic is linked to the central trait of the character, his speed. Almost all the Sonic is a platform game, either in 2D or 3D. The platforms are based on precision jumps and races over obstacles. The speed at which Sonic generally moves makes much of the gameplay more difficult. The game is constantly fighting against itself. If this allows the player to run at full speed, there is no way to react to impending danger. If it requires slower movement, it fails to deliver on its promise, central premise and title. This core gameplay flaw has been overcome many times, perhaps best achieved by Sonic Mania, but these are the exception, not the rule. The gameplay most often gets in the way of Sonic, but the games also offer very little chance to dig deep into character.
Sonic games generally have simple plots, shaken on all sides by many forgettable lore. The characters don’t grow or change much, the monster of the week rises and is defeated, leaving everyone pretty much where they started. Games don’t allow much time to tell a story, mostly cutscenes and dialogues played during the game. This problem is not present in the middle of the movie. Sonic is allowed to grow, learn new lessons, and develop throughout and between entries. The games are usually very loosely related to each other, but the movies tell a cohesive narrative. Sonic’s effervescent personality isn’t served by limited presence in games, but a fuller story might give him a chance to shine.
Sonic the Hedgehog is popular in its own right, and its gameplay often holds it back more than it serves. In the cinema, Sonic can finally become a character in his own right. More than just a beloved personality, a three-dimensional figure that can change in fascinating new directions. Sonic is perhaps the only character designed for a video game, especially those from the early ’90s, who can have a brilliant second life in film. Sonic the Hedgehog fans will suffer from some of the worst games ever made, just to spend more time with their favorite character. The film franchise finally offers the opportunity to see Sonic in a new and improved light.
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