I’m fairly sure that the question of ‘how to prevent the next Sonic the Hedgehog game from sucking’ is one that causes many sleepless nights in Tokyo, and indeed lots of flip-chart paper. And before anyone gets offended, when I talk about the next Sonic game I’m not referring to the upcoming Team Sonic Racing from Sumo Digital. I mean, yes it is technically a Sonic title, but I’m talking about releases of the more platforming ilk. Because, as any Sonic the Hedgehog fan will tell you, it’s a series that frequently polarises in quality, from the dizzy heights of Sonic 2 to the pit of hell and despair that is Sonic 2006; from the wisp-filled wonders of Sonic Colors to the, uhh, whatever the hell Sonic Boom is meant to be.

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Sonic Boom attempted to be different. And yes, it was certainly different…

Now, for a time there seemed to be a perception at Sonic HQ that the best way to ensure a hit amongst fans was to first make sure the infamous Green Hill Zone was shoe-horned in UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, together with a token amount of side-scrolling action for those pesky keyboard warriors who insist that every title since the Genesis era has been the video game equivalent of getting your pinkie caught in the blender. Unfortunately, this theory was blown out of the water when 2017’s Sonic Forces – which was was written very much to the Green Hill formula – died a horrible death within the blue blur fan community, at least when compared with the fangasmic response to the retro-inspired Sonic Mania.

It seems to me, therefore, that the developers of Sonic the Hedgehog‘s next big adventure are in desperate need of a new formula. After all, surely there are only so many Sonic Manias that you can pump out before the novelty starts to wear off?

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Sonic Mania won praise for… well, just about everything.

So first off, it’s clear that most people like ‘Classic Sonic’ and the traditional platforming elements of Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania. Okay, many gamers were frustrated with Forces, but arguably the majority of these grievances were targeted at the overly-simplified, bare-bones levels and the omission of any credible challenges. So, do a side-scroller but don’t mess with the physics system (as Sonic 4: Episode 1 taught us.) Mirror the platforming sequences of Mania and include lots of optional routes for those people who like to explore. It’s not a Sonic game unless you’re feeling the bite of the 10 minute time limit, oui?

Second, use the art style of Sonic Mania in the 3D sections. Because for one thing, it would look cool, and for another the white-knuckle ‘boost’ sections of Unleashed / Generations / Forces actually work, and people seem to like them. But how great would it be if the 3D parts of the new game – used sparingly – looked like a Megadrive title? A bit like the special stages of Sonic 3 but with some high-octane boosting goodness? Yeah boissss. Hashtag. (Okay I know Mania sort of had this, but I’d like some faster-moving action and some proper platforming. Basically, use all the best platforming elements of Unleashed and make them look a bit Genesis-y.)

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One of the 3D sections of Sonic Mania.

Third, have a storyline. I know Sonic 2 didn’t really have one and it’s probably the Greatest Game on the Planet, or whatever, but plenty of beloved Sonic titles are loaded with plot, and in my opinion they are all the better for it (I’m thinking Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Colorsand even Sonic Unleashed, which is an appalling game, but it has an interesting narrative. Well, it has a narrative.)

And please find an appropriate voice actor for Tails. If his voice gets any higher we will be into ultra-sonic and will have to rely solely on subtitles, or look to our dogs for translations. And not all of us have dogs. Rankoo.

Fifth, leave the newness to the narrative. For a long time, Sonic Team has been conscious of introducing a brand new element to its hedgehog releases, be it the controversial werehog in Unleashed or the ‘build-a-bear’ avatar in Sonic Forces. But I have yet to think of one that has made a lasting, positive impression on the surface of the internet – or indeed, has survived the deepest recesses of the YouTube comments section. I agree with the sentiment of not resting on one’s laurels and pushing the creative envelope, but maybe rein it in for the next iteration? At least until the blue mascot has found his feet and got his breath back. Make the story so spellbindingly interesting that no amount of werehogs or avatars are needed. And if you really, really feel the urge to rope in something ‘fresh,’ maybe look to Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Squirrel from Mania… They seemed to work great!

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And finally, make it all about Sonic. I think you’re already doing this anyway, but maybe resist the temptation to bring in large casts of exotic anthropomorphs. The only permissible exceptions – IMO – would be Metal Sonic, Shadow, and maaaaaybe Silver, at a push. Actually, a game that focused just on Sonic and Shadow – or at least a version of Shadow – would be sick bruh. Booyaka.

So there you are – do all these things and the next Sonic game will turn out fiiiiiiiiiiiiine. Ahem. Okay, I know we’re a famously difficult group of fans to please, and many of us will insist that the Sonic the Hedgehog series hasn’t been good since the first boss of Green Hill, but I still think it’s possible to get it “mostly right.” Personally, I would love to see a Sonic game along the lines of the above.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. And who knows, somebody in Tokyo might stumble across it and be inspired.

I’m waaaaaaaiting…

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