My Ideal 3D Sonic the Hedgehog Game
I truly feel old by saying that this year, our favourite blue hedgehog will already turn 30 years old. From starting as a competitor against Mario and the mascot from Sega, to becoming a true gaming legend; it’s no secret that Sonic the Hedgehog is my favourite gaming franchise out there for multiple reasons that I might go into another day. The games may not always be up to the quality we desire, but I can still get a lot of fun out of pretty much every Sonic game, and that’s what matters to me.
Since 2021 is Sonic’s 30th anniversary, it’s very likely that we’ll end up with a brand new Sonic game this year. Every 5-year anniversary before this one had a new game after all. I think it’s very likely that said game will be another 3D game, though getting a 2D sequel to Mania alongside the new 3D game would make for an awesome anniversary for sure. So today, I wanted to take a look at how my ideal 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game would look!
Before I start, it’s good to keep a few rules in mind:
- This is how my ideal Sonic game would look like, which probably doesn’t apply to you. And if it does then great, you’re a connoisseur of 3D Sonic games just like I am!
- I’m not going to take technical limitations into account. If I want a first-person MMO with 15th gen graphics, then I want a first-person MMO with 15th gen graphics. That said, I’ll still be realistic of course.
- I’m going under the assumption that this game will be made by Sonic Team. There may be outside help from other studios such as DIMPS, but the main development studio will most likely be Sonic Team.
With all that said, let’s move on to the first point!
Multiple characters or just Sonic?
I wanted to start with the most difficult point first as I am still undecided about this even after writing this. I do genuinely enjoy playing as multiple characters, but Sonic Team has a tendency to be… experimental. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with experimenting, but it leads to the games not being consistent in quality as a result. Sonic Unleashed is definitely one of, if not my favourite games in the series, but given how many people are decisive on the Werehog’s inclusion, that should say enough. Sonic Adventure is another one I love, but Big’s gameplay there is just atrocious.
One thing that I am sure about however, is that Classic Sonic should not return unless the game is specifically made to be Sonic Generations 2. His inclusion in Sonic Forces was completely irrelevant which was the first red flag, but the gameplay was also butchered. And especially now that we have Sonic Mania, I think it’s for the best to keep Classic Sonic for the (hopefully) 2D series of games while the main series can focus on complete 3D which it should.
That leaves us with another oddball who recently entered the ring: the customizable avatar. I do genuinely like the avatar to the point where I’d say they should be given their own game, but for the sake of my ideal 3D Sonic game, I think it’s best to leave them out as well. I think it would be too distracting for what I personally have in mind.
Which brings me to the main cast: Tails, Knuckles, Shadow, Silver etc. I would like nothing more than for these characters to return as playable characters, but with a big asterisk which leads back to Sonic Team being very experimental. I didn’t dislike Knuckles’ gameplay for example in the Adventure games, but I did dislike Tails’ gameplay in Sonic Adventure 2. If those characters do return, I’d say it’s for the best they all share the same core gameplay and have unique abilities for each character. Silver should be just as fast as Sonic in terms of gameplay but unlike our main protagonist, he can take alternative routes thanks to his psychokinesis. Making one character the default (Sonic) and building off of him for different characters would definitely be something I can see working, and they can still give Sonic unique gameplay as well such as the Wisps. It’s basically how the Sonic 2D games have handled the characters: Tails is just as fast as Sonic, and he can also fly.
Of course, I’d want them to be different enough to actually warrant playing as them, but not too radically different that we get another case of massively dividing opinions. If that requirement can’t be met, I think it’s best to just stick to Sonic and perfect his gameplay instead. Which brings me to…
Boost formula? Adventure gameplay?
Since Sonic Unleashed, the main gameplay for Sonic has been the boost formula with the exception of Sonic Lost World. Everything before that is often dubbed as the “Adventure gameplay”, where speed was still prevalent but there was also a bigger emphasis on platforming. The boost formula often gets criticized for being too much ”Hold X to win”, having less distinct platforming and also having a lot of 2D sections. I can agree to some of these criticisms, especially there being a lot of 2D sections because it doesn’t allow the 3D gameplay to flourish as much as it should. So, what would I prefer?
…Why not both?
The boost formula definitely has flaws, but it also has untapped potential. I would like for them to start from scratch and rethink what actually makes the boost formula work, and not just copypaste it and call it a day because yet again, it didn’t work that well in Sonic Forces. But while starting from scratch, they should also pick the best parts of the Adventure gameplay. Give us the boost, but also give us the spin dash for example. Have the level designs incorporate more hills and slopes so we can roll down and gain speed like the 2D games allow us to. Maybe adjust the boost so that it only gives you a short temporary boost, and that you can build up speed yourself afterwards. And of course, actual platforming would be appreciated as well.
I’m going to say something heretical here, but I think two games in particular tried this approach; it just so happens that those games weren’t well-received, so they ditched the gameplay from these games immediately. Of course, the games I’m talking about are Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 and Sonic Lost World. The former tried to combine speedy gameplay with platforming and it wasn’t a bad attempt–the game was just so bugged that nobody really noticed it, and Sonic played very slow whenever he wasn’t using boosters. It also had a specific section of a stage dedicated to mach-speed, which would work very well with the boost formula. Sonic Lost World is on the opposite side of the spectrum, trying to mimic the moveset of 2D Sonic in a 3D space, with new mechanics such as parkouring on walls. The problem with that game was that the controls felt awkward at times (particularly when it comes to parkouring) but the core idea here wasn’t bad.
But what if we go for a gameplay style that Sonic hasn’t really done in 3D yet? I’m mostly referring to fangames such as Sonic Utopia, Sonic GT and Sonic GDK here. They feel like open sandboxes, or rather playgrounds where you can roll around and move at blinding speeds wherever you want, whenever you want. This would definitely be an approach I would like to see Sonic Team take over time but for now, I’d rather put my trust in a combination of boost- and adventure gameplay.
The setting and story
I’m mostly indifferent to the setting and story, as long as one thing doesn’t happen: if I see Green Hill Zone one more time, I will personally fly over to Sega, infiltrate their headquarters and politely… tell them that we don’t want Green Hill Zone anymore. Almost lost my family-friendly content there.
Joking aside, what I want most is for them to leave the past behind for now. I love fanservice like any other person, but there hasn’t been a Sonic game past Sonic Colours without some form of throwback to older games–especially Green Hill Zone. What I absolutely love about Sonic games is the variety of environments we travel to. Some of my absolute favourite zones are Kingdom Valley from Sonic the Hedgehog, Pirate Island from Sonic Rush Adventure and Starlight Carnival from Sonic Colours. And that’s only just scraping the bottom of the barrel, as there is so much more. But this definitely shows that they can establish a lot of creativity in their stage designs. Water levels aren’t just normal water levels; there are pirate islands, a palace, an underwater Japanese-themed aquarium and the list goes on.
The Sonic game that combined environment with the story setting the best is Sonic Unleashed for me. After all, we travel the world so we go to cities inspired by ones on our own planet. And I frankly also think that Sonic Unleashed has the most fitting story in the franchise for our blue hedgehog. We’ve always had demigods of death and destruction and edgy storylines, but Sonic Unleashed took that aspect and made it look a lot less serious by adding a dose of cartoony humour. The non-serious cartoon aspect really fits Sonic in my opinion, and it didn’t ditch the edgy side of him either.
But where do we go from here? We’ve been around the world, to space amusement parks and to… virtual reality? Kinda? I wouldn’t mind if we went to space again, but there’s one setting that I would like above all: Mobius. Which is funny because Sonic’s world is called Mobius, but it hasn’t felt like Mobius in ages. I’m looking for the Mobius from the Sonic Archie comics and the SatAM show. Knothole and the like, since the games have never really portrayed Sonic’s actual home unless we’re talking about… Green Hill Zone. Ugh.
But I would totally be fine with a “Sonic Unleashed 2”, as in stages being inspired by places from our world. A medieval age would also be cool but Sonic and the Black Knight already covered that. Honestly, I’m not a story writer and I also have no inspiration to come up with something. I love myself a pirate theme but yet again, that has also been covered. Space or dimensions would probably be my best bet, as long as the stages are as unique as they are in Sonic Colours and Sonic Unleashed. Sonic Lost World does have a good amount of variety to their stages but at their core, they were basic elemental levels and I don’t want that to happen at least.
Other things I would like (or not like) to see
I figured that, for my final wishes, I would look at what I loved- and hated from all previous Sonic games the most, and combine them together. None of these really need a section on their own as they are pretty self-explanatory. It’s also more of a bullet-list than anything, but it makes my points come across easily.
I first decided to grab my favourite elements from the classic Sega Genesis and GBA/DS games, and the first things that came to mind were the Chaos Emeralds and Super Sonic. This goes hand-in-hand with the plot basically, but I do like how Sonic 3 & Knuckles and the DS games handled them: get all the Chaos Emeralds and you fight the true final boss, with the former also allowing you to use the Super and Hyper forms in regular stages. That’s all I want, but that leaves us with the matter of how to obtain the Chaos Emeralds. I’m fine with special stages still, but I prefer for it to be original and not the half-pipe again.
Having many bosses was also very nice, with there being a different one at the end of each stage. Sonic 3 & Knuckles took it a step further and also added minibosses to the end of every single act, which I would like to see return.
Sonic Adventure was the next game on the list, and I feel like I’m one of the few people who enjoys the HUB worlds quite a lot. It just felt so much fun walking around these without a worry in the world, and unlocking new parts of them through story progression. There’s so much you can do with HUB worlds as other 3D Platformers have shown. Combine them with the mission system from Sonic Unleashed and Generations, add some collectables in there and we got a fine HUB world.
The Adventure series also brings me to the first point that I don’t want to see: the Chao Garden. I honestly can’t understand why people like this so much, but good for them. I’m not objected to it returning since it has always been optional but let’s be honest: is the quality of a Sonic game truly determined by whether there’s a Chao Garden or not? People keep begging for the Chao Garden to return, but it’s not magically going to make the game better. It has nothing to do with the main gameplay of Sonic to begin with.
I’m going to combine two ideas into one now as we are nearing the end. The Adventure series has the Emblem system, while Unleashed and Generations have missions. The mission system from Generations is the odd one out though and while I genuinely liked most of them, there were also some seriously obnoxious missions–particularly the ones starring Sonic’s friends. What they all have in common though, is that they use previous stages or assets from them to create completely new content. In my opinion, that’s a genuinely easy and fun way to extend gameplay time. The emblems also work this way and even gave you a reward at the end. Unleashed’s missions were more based around time trials which were fine too, but I prefer the system from Generations combined with emblems.
Finally, that brings us to the infamous collectables that started with the Sun/Moon medals and ultimately the Red Rings. What I liked most about the latter is that they were usually designed to encourage players to check for alternate routes. The Sun/Moon medals took it a bit further because the stages in Unleashed had a lot of places that you could just go to if you wanted. Apotos has a lot of houses and you can go on their balcony’s or even inside them if you wanted to. Does it serve any purpose aside from the occasional medal? No, not really, but I had fun exploring the stages this way. It depends on what gameplay the Sonic games go for, but encouraging people to take alternate paths or even mess around with the environment through these collectables is something I like.
So to sum it up, what would my ideal 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game look like? I would like to have multiple characters as long as they aren’t fundamentally different like the Adventure games, a combination of the Adventure- and Boost formula and a setting that plays to both of Sonic’s strengths: ”edgy” and comedy. It’s basically a ”take all the good stuff from past Sonic games and combined them into one”, which is a strategy the team unfortunately very rarely takes. My biggest problem with Sonic games is that they invent something cool, just to ditch it in the next game or copypaste it and somehow make it worse.
But those are just some ideas I figured I’d throw out there. Some of these are probably unpopular, but I’m looking forward to see what other people love most about the 3D Sonic games! So be sure to let me know down below what you like- or disliked about my ideas, and share your own ideas as well!