Sonic the Hedgehog (2006 video game)
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Sonic the Hedgehog[a] is a 2006 platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. A reboot of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the game was produced in commemoration of the series' fifteenth anniversary, and was the first in the franchise released for seventh generation video game consoles. The story follows three hedgehogs—Sonic, Shadow, and Silver—who battle Solaris, an ancient evil pursued by Doctor Eggman. Gameplay is split into three separate campaigns for the hedgehogs, each of whom have their own unique abilities and must complete a series of levels to advance the story.
The game faced a difficult production cycle. Development began in 2004, following the completion of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (2003). The game was designed to relaunch the franchise for the seventh generation, and the team was initially led by Sonic co-creator Yuji Naka, but Naka resigned to form his own company, Prope. The team then split to work on the Wii game Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007). These problems resulted in the game being rushed to market in time for the holiday season, and versions for the Wii and Microsoft Windows were canceled. The game is often referred to with colloquial terms that reference its year of release, such as Sonic '06.
Despite receiving praise in pre-release showings, Sonic the Hedgehog was released to notably negative reception. Criticism was directed at a perceived lack of polish, with reviewers citing long and frequent loading times, a poor camera system, gameplay glitches, a complicated plot, and imprecise control. It has been considered among the worst games not only in the Sonic series but also in the video game medium. Sega delisted the game from retailers in 2010, following its decision to remove all Sonic games with below-average Metacritic scores to increase the value of the brand due to positive pre-release responses to Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a 3D platformer with action-adventure and role-playing elements. The main playable characters are three hedgehogs: Sonic, Shadow, and Silver, who feature in separate campaigns titled "stories". A bonus "Last Story", which involves all three hedgehogs and concludes the storyline, is unlocked upon completing the first three. Sonic's story focuses on the speed-based platforming seen in previous Sonic games, with some sections having him run at full speed while dodging obstacles or riding a snowboard. Another character, Princess Elise, must be escorted in some stages, and she can use a special barrier to guard Sonic.:13 Shadow's sections are similarly speedy, albeit more combat-oriented, with some segments having him ride vehicles. In contrast, Silver's levels are slower and revolve around his use of telekinesis to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. In certain areas, control is switched to one of several friend characters,[b] with their own abilities.
In each story, the player navigates through open-ended hub worlds known as "Town Stages", where they can converse with townspeople and perform missions to advance the story. The main gameplay takes place in linear levels called "Action Stages" that become accessible as the game progresses. Although each character traverses the same levels, their unique abilities allow the player to access different areas of each stage and prevent them from accessing certain items. Scattered through each level are golden rings, which serve as a form of health. The rings can protect a character from a single hit by an enemy or obstacle, at which point they will be scattered and blink before disappearing. The game begins with Sonic, Shadow, and Silver each assigned a limited number of lives. These lives are successively lost whenever, with no rings in their possession, the characters are hit by an enemy or obstacle or encounter other fatal hazard. The game ends when the player exhausts the characters' lives. Every few levels, players will encounter a boss stage; in order to proceed, players must defeat the boss by depleting its health meter.
Upon completion of a level or mission, players are given a grade depending on their performance, with an "S" rank being the best and a "D" rank being the worst. Players are given money for completing missions; more money is given to higher ranks. This money can be used to buy upgrades for the player character. Certain upgrades are required to complete the game.:8—11 The game also features two multiplayer modes: "Tag", a cooperative mode where two players must work together to clear levels and collect Chaos Emeralds, and "Battle", a player versus player mode where two players race against each other.
In the land of Soleanna, Sonic and his sidekick Tails protect Princess Elise from her kidnapper Doctor Eggman. Meanwhile, Shadow and his fellow agent Rouge accidentally release an evil spirit, Mephiles. The spirit transports them to a post-apocalyptic future ravaged by a devilish monster, Iblis. When Mephiles meets survivors Silver and Blaze, he fools them into thinking Sonic is the cause of this destruction and sends them to the present to kill him.
Though at first Silver stalks Sonic and impedes his attempts to save Elise, Shadow reveals to him that Sonic is not the cause of his world's suffering but rather Mephiles, who is trying to erase the past for his own evil purposes. Throughout the story, Sonic and friends travel between the past, present, and future in their efforts to stop Mephiles and Iblis and protect Elise from Doctor Eggman. They learn that Mephiles seeks to bond with Iblis, as they are the two halves of Soleanna's omnipotent god, Solaris. Mephiles succeeds, but Sonic, Shadow, and Silver use the power of the Chaos Emeralds to transform into their super forms and defeat Solaris.
Sonic Team began development on Sonic the Hedgehog in 2004, after the completion of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (2003). The team was considering working on an original non-Sonic project, with a realistic look and feel and an advanced physics engine. When they were reassigned to work on the new Sonic game, they decided to retain the realistic approach for the new game. Series co-creator and team lead Yuji Naka envisioned the next-generation Sonic game as a reboot of the franchise, and wanted to mimic the success of superhero films such as Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Batman Begins (2005). It was decided to use the same title as the original 1991 game that had launched the franchise to indicate that it would be a major advance from the previous games. The Havok physics engine, previously used in their PlayStation 2 game Astro Boy (2004), allowed them to create expansive levels previously impossible on earlier sixth generation consoles, and experiment with multiple play-styles. Game director Shun Nakamura demonstrated the engine during their stage shows at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show.
As the hardware of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was more powerful compared to the prior generation's consoles, the design team was able to create a more realistic setting than in previous Sonic games. Sonic and Doctor Eggman were redesigned to better suit this updated environment: Sonic was made taller, with longer quills, and Eggman was made slimmer and given a more realistic appearance. At one point, Sonic Team considered giving Sonic realistic fur and rubber textures. Silver the Hedgehog's gameplay style was born out of the desire to take advantage of the Havok engine's realistic physics capabilities. The first design concept for Silver's character was an orange mink; he attained his final hedgehog look after over fifty design iterations. In designing Shadow's gameplay, the developers abandoned the concept of firearms previously used in Shadow the Hedgehog (2005) in favor of combat elements to differentiate him from the other characters. The game also features several CGI animated cutscenes produced by Blur Studio.
After the game was announced, the development faced serious problems, starting with Naka's resignation as head of Sonic Team to form his own company, Prope. With his departure, "the heart and soul of Sonic" was gone, according to former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske. Sonic the Hedgehog was originally intended for release on all major seventh generation consoles as well as Microsoft Windows, but when presented with development kits for Nintendo's less powerful Wii console, the team was split in two. Nakamura led one team to finish Sonic the Hedgehog for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 while producer Yojiro Ogawa led the other half to begin work on Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii. The split left an unusually small development team to work on Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega began pressuring the team to release the game by Christmas 2006, so with the deadline quickly approaching, Sonic Team rushed the final stages of development, ignoring existing bugs and control problems. Various planned features were dropped, such as a time of day and night mechanic similar to the one later implemented in Sonic Unleashed (2008), and additional multiplayer components.:19—20
In retrospect, Ogawa noted that the final period proved to be a large challenge for the team. Not only was the Xbox 360 release imminent, but the PlayStation 3 launch was scheduled not long afterwards. This put tremendous pressure on the team to develop for both systems. Similarly, series producer Takashi Iizuka recalled, "we didn't have any time to polish and we were just churning out content as quick as we could."
The cast of the Sonic X anime series reprised their voice roles for Sonic the Hedgehog, and actress Lacey Chabert supplied the voice of series newcomer and damsel in distress, Princess Elise. The musical score for the game was composed by Hideaki Kobayashi, Tomoya Ohtani, Mariko Nanba, Taihei Sato, and Takahito Eguchi. The main theme for the game, the fantasy/rap song "His World", was performed by Ali Tabatabaee and Matty Lewis of the band Zebrahead. R&B artist Akon performed a remix of the Dreams Come True song "Sweet Sweet Sweet", a song previously used as the ending theme to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992). Two official soundtrack albums were released on January 10, 2007, under the Wave Master label, Sonic the Hedgehog Vocal Traxx: Several Wills and Sonic the Hedgehog Original Soundtrack.
Sonic the Hedgehog was first announced in a closed-doors presentation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) convention in May 2005. Later that year, at the Tokyo Game Show in September, Naka revealed the game's title and said its release would correspond with the series' fifteenth anniversary. A demo version of the game was playable at E3 2006. A second demo, featuring a short section of Sonic's gameplay, was released via Xbox Live in September 2006. Sega released several packages of desktop wallpaper featuring characters from the game, and American publisher Prima Games published an official strategy guide, written by Fletcher Black. Sega also made a deal with Microsoft to run advertisements for the game in Windows Live Messenger.
The Xbox 360 version of Sonic the Hedgehog was released in North America on November 14, 2006, followed by a European release on November 24, 2006. Both versions were released in Japan on December 21, 2006. The PlayStation 3 version was released in North America on January 30, 2007, and in Europe on March 23, 2007. The game is often referred to by critics and fans with colloquial terms that reference its year of release, such as Sonic 2006 or Sonic '06. The game was also made available digitally via the Xbox Live Marketplace on April 15, 2010. In September of that year, various Sonic games with average or below average Metacritic ratings, including Sonic the Hedgehog, were delisted from retailers in order to increase the value of the brand, following the positive pre-release reception to Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Sonic Colors (both 2010).
Shortly after the game's launch in 2007, Sega released several packages of downloadable content that added features to single-player gameplay. These include a more difficult single-player mode and a continuous battle mode with all of the game's bosses back-to-back. One downloadable addition, "Team Attack Amigo" mode, sends players through a multitude of levels, changing to a different character every two or three levels and culminating in a boss fight. The PlayStation 3 version was delayed to allow more time to incorporate the downloadable content, and was thus launched alongside it.
Pre-release reactions to Sonic the Hedgehog were positive. Reception to prior games Sonic Heroes (2003) and Shadow the Hedgehog (2005) had been mixed; after a number of well-received showings and demos, some felt Sonic the Hedgehog could be a return to the series' roots. GameSpot said the game "showed a considerable amount of promise" after playing a demo at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2006, and GameSpy praised its graphics and environments. In 2008 GamesRadar said that it had looked "amazing" before its release.
Despite this, the game was released to notably negative reception; according to aggregating review website Metacritic, both versions received "generally unfavorable reviews". Sega reported that the game sold strongly, with 870,000 units sold in the United States within six months. The Xbox 360 version was branded under the Platinum Hits budget line.
Critics were divided on the game's presentation. IGN called its graphics and audio "decent", and felt its interface and menu system worked well, though they lacked polish. GameSpot felt that the graphics, while colorful, were bland and only a small improvement over sixth-generation games, a sentiment echoed by 1UP.com. Game Informer and Eurogamer made note of several graphical glitches. The latter also criticized the decision to continue the Sonic Adventure (1998) style of gameplay, believing that Sonic Team had learned nothing from the criticisms of past games.
Reviewers found fault with the game's camera system, loading times, controls, level designs, and glitches. GameSpot claimed the level design was worsened by the frustrating camera system, and Game Informer noted the game's high difficulty, citing the camera as causing most deaths. Some reviewers were unhappy that the majority of the game was not spent playing as Sonic; playing as Tails, GameSpot wrote, made a level boring. Similar criticism was offered by Eurogamer, which found that the supporting cast annoyed rather than fleshed the game out, and considered the camera system to be the worst they had ever seen in a video game. 1UP felt that despite the control and level design problems, the game still played like a Sonic game.
The plot was considered confusing and inappropriately dark. GamesRadar considered it overwrought and "conceptually challenged", and Eurogamer found its voice acting painful and its cutscenes cringe-worthy. Some reviewers unfavorably compared the story to that of an anime or Final Fantasy. The romance between Sonic and the human Princess Elise was especially criticized; for GamesTM, it marked the point "the [Sonic] series had veered off into absolute nonsense."
"This ... is a mess from top to bottom", wrote GameSpot, that "only the most blindly reverent Sonic the Hedgehog fan could possibly squeeze any enjoyment out of". IGN said that the game had some redeeming qualities, with brief segments of gameplay that demonstrated how a next-generation Sonic game could work, but found it "rips them away as soon as it shows them" and concluded that the game failed to reinvent the series. Eurogamer believed that Sonic the Hedgehog's mistakes would have been noticed if the game had been released in 1996.
Despite the mostly negative reception, Game Informer and Dave Halverson of Play Magazine defended the game. Game Informer described it as ambitious and praised the graphics, story, amount of content, and replay value, though the publication still believed that only fans of the franchise would enjoy the game. Halverson initially gave the Xbox 360 version a 9.5/10, praising each character's controls and abilities and calling it the best 3D Sonic game yet. In the following issue, Halverson reassessed it as 8.5/10, writing that he had been told that the load times and glitches in his review copy would not be in the final version of the game. In a later review of the PlayStation 3 version, Halverson was frustrated that the problems had still not been corrected and that the performance was worse despite the extra development time; Halverson gave the PS3 version a 5.5/10.
GameTrailers and GamesRadar considered Sonic the Hedgehog one of the most disappointing games of 2006. GamesTM singled out the game when it ranked the Sonic franchise at the top of their list of "Video Game Franchises That Lost Their Way". The A.V. Club, Kotaku, Game Informer, and USgamer called the game the worst in the Sonic series, and the staff of GamesRadar named it among the worst video games of all time. The game remains popular for "Let's Play" walkthroughs, with players showing off its glitches. The official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account also mocks the game.
Sonic the Hedgehog introduced Silver the Hedgehog, Princess Elise, Mephiles, and Iblis to the franchise; most have made few appearances since. Silver is a playable character in Sonic Rivals (2006) and its sequel, in Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (2007), and in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and its sequels, and was a minor character in the Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors (2010) and Sonic Forces (2017). He also appeared in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series published by Archie Comics. The main theme of Sonic the Hedgehog, "His World", was sampled in Drake's 2017 song "KMT".
To celebrate the Sonic franchise's twentieth anniversary, Sega released Sonic Generations (2011), which remade aspects of Sonic games. The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC versions feature a remake of Sonic the Hedgehog's "Crisis City" level, and every version, including the Nintendo 3DS version, includes a re-imagined version of the boss battle with Silver. The decision to include Sonic the Hedgehog stages and bosses in Sonic Generations was criticized by critics and fans of the series; Jim Sterling of Destructoid referred to the Silver boss fight as the "catch" of the otherwise high-quality game.
A fan-made remake of the game for Microsoft Windows entered development in 2015, made in the Unity engine by an ensemble known as Gistix. A demo version, featuring a brief gameplay segment, was released in January 2017, and was positively received by journalists.
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- Miller, Daniel (January 10, 2017). "[Watch] Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 has been remade into a game that doesn't suck". GameZone. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2017.
- Official website (in Japanese)