Like most Sonic the Hedgehog fans, I'd been anticipating yesterday's event. After Sega announced they'd be laying out 30th anniversary plans during Sonic Central, speculation flared up as to what comes next. After all, his 25th brought us news of both Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces.
Ultimately, the event itself was quite short, though it certainly didn't lack for announcements. Outside of merch, TV shows and smaller crossovers, we had three gaming reveals. First up was Sonic Origins, a fresh retro compilation bringing us five of his original adventures: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic CD.
As A Long Term Sonic The Hedgehog Fan, I'm Hopeful But Ready To Be Disappointed Again
Then, we had Sonic Colours: Ultimate, a remaster of the 2010 Wii entry, arriving this September. Finally, they ended by teasing his next main entry. While we don't have an official name for it yet - though Sonic Rangers is heavily rumoured - this tease was... well, exactly that. We saw Sonic running through a forest, a mysterious symbol and a 2022 release date.
Now, we've seen details about a "Sonic Rangers" game before, and fair warning, there are potential gameplay spoilers ahead in these next two paragraphs. Back in January, rumours spread across 4Chan as they often do, offering some specific details. I won't link the original post (Screencaps are on Twitter), but Sega allegedly carried out a focus test, which "revealed" Rangers as an open-world entry, taking inspiration from Breath of the Wild. Specifically, that'll feature a skill tree, puzzles, challenges and "cyberspace levels", similar to Sonic Generations.
While those two commentators weren't particularly impressed, they acknowledged it was an early build and on paper, I'm interested to see the end result. This wouldn't be the first time Sega's toyed with an open premise, considering Sonic Adventure used open-ended hub worlds called "Adventure Fields", but like many Sonic fans, I'm braced for potential disappointment.
Any fan will tell you that Sonic's history in 3D has been undeniably turbulent. While Adventure and Adventure 2: Battle are still nostalgic favourites - and I'll defend Heroes to the death - things quickly spiralled from there. After that baffling decision to give Shadow the Hedgehog a third-person shooter, Sonic '06 was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
It should've been a (then) next-gen showpiece for the Xbox 360 and PS3, but rushed development left it a complete mess, yet I still beat it twice (I didn't have many games then, leave me be). Bad camerawork, long load times, an awful story that aimed for realism and numerous glitches wrecked this experience. Realising how badly they'd messed up, Sega began rethinking their approach.
Slowly but surely, Sonic's return to form was on the cards. Eventually delivering Unleashed, it was arguably held back by the Werehog sections, but daytime sections showed promise. Colors came next - a game I'd consider one of Sonic's best 3D outings - and by celebrating the series' wider history, Generations also put in a strong effort. Sonic was on the up once more, but like all good things, they just don't last.
Lost World was the first sign. Sure, that wasn't a terrible game, but several gameplay aspects left many feeling not especially fond, either. As for Boom: Rise Of Lyric... well, it's a good thing we can class that as a spin-off. To this day, I've never seen anyone throw a physical disc at the ceiling, but that's exactly what happened I played with several friends. Put simply, Boom was beyond poor and unsurprisingly, we didn't complete it. Eventually, I gave it to a friend for no charge.
That finally leaves us with Sonic Forces, a game I have mixed feelings towards. On one hand, it was a significant improvement on Boom, using a similar approach to Generations by mixing Classic 2D Sonic with Modern 3D Sonic. I enjoyed the modern gameplay, character creation was nice and seeing all the supporting characters again was a nostalgic thrill. But Classic Sonic's levels ruined that momentum and I beat it within several hours. There wasn't much to keep me coming back.
As a combined effort, it's why I'm so on the fence about a new entry. While I like the new game's rumoured concept, there's no guarantee "Rangers" won't turn out exactly as it has before. I'm hopeful that Sonic Team gets it right on this occasion, but when I've been disappointed this many times before, I'm certainly not banking on it. Until then though, I'm looking forward to revisiting Colors.