Sonic’s future is on rails

A quick confession: I don’t think I’ve played a Sonic title since the days of Game Gear. Well, strike that, I asked for Sonic Rush for Christmas in 2005, played it once and never progressed past the first stage.

Some may think that’s a act of gross negligence (Sonic is a gaming icon, right?), but I see it as a silver lining of sorts — by not playing Sonic for so long, I missed out on all those stinkers that have dropped in the blue hedgehog’s name over the past decade or so. This includes the painful transition from 2D to 3D; a transition, if you’ll remember, that has garnered some intense debate amongst Infendo writers and readers in the past month.

But now there’s this Wii title coming out, Sonic and the Secret Rings. What’s the secret? Might be that this is the first Sonic title in a while that will not go belly up on the poopsky meter. The reason, I think, is that this title represents what Sonic should have looked like when Sonic made the jump to 3D. It’s the rails. Early Sonic’s were on a 2D rail, and it worked. It allowed the game to progress at a lightning pace. It was simple. In my opinion, 3D fully explorable environments just mucked everything up (the plethora of crappy secondary playable characters didn’t help much either). Mario, on the other hand, works in 3D because he’s a slow, chubby little plumber with a bit more character (and a better development team). Sonic, for all his fans and titles, really is a character with a one track mind: race to the finish as fast as is humanly hedgehogly possible. Of course, this could lead into a similar, but different debate altogether: Do games in this day and age *need* to be 3D to succeed, or can the side scrolling days of old make a comeback? But I won’t go into that one today.

By putting the hedgehog back on rails in a pseudo 3D environment, I think Sonic Team might have a winner on its hands. What say you, too constrictive or just right?