Turn Based #7: Dari’s Advocate – A New Venture

SNES Master KI: Hello, and welcome to another installment of Turn Based! We’re going to be doing something a little different this time. Dari will be joining us again, but instead of a focus group we will be doing a debate in the style I have with Professor Icepick. But since there are three people and only two sides, I will be acting as support for Dari, since he’s new to the cut throat world of Retronaissance debates. Today’s topic will be Sonic Adventure 3. Should it be made? Icepick says yes, Dari says no, and I don’t really care but will be arguing for Dari’s side. Icepick will begin the discussion, followed by Dari’s counter and my support, before repeating that order. Let’s begin!

Professor Icepick: It’s been argued lately that there are three major sub-series within the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. The most obvious is “Classic” Sonic, the 2D games that were made during the heyday of the Genesis or later titles that attempted to recapture the magic of the age when Sonic was considered at his peak. There’s also the more modern style of gameplay, which I’ll refer to as “Boost”-style games. These games have a tendency of shifting between 2D and 3D perspectives, focusing on speed above all else, especially in the 3D segments.

However, the third — and as of right now, most obscure — sub-franchise are the “Adventure” games. It’s difficult to even categorize which games exist within that branch of Sonic history (aside from the ones with the name in their titles), but they still have a fairly dedicated fanbase, an ever-increasingly loud faction that continues to cry out for a new game in this particular style. The Adventure games probably did the most heavy lifting when it came to defining Sonic’s setting and any and all characters outside of the Blue Blur himself; his best friend, Miles “Tails” Prower; Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic’s friendly rival and the devious Dr. Ivo Robotnik, better known by his nickname “Dr. Eggman”. While I was first introduced to Sonic during the 16-bit era, I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Sonic Adventure and, to a far lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. So I believe that, considering Sega’s current strategy of trying to appease fans of both Classic and Boost Sonic, that they may as well make a legitimate attempt at revisiting the Adventure formula.

Dariwan: Aside from world building, there isn’t really much else there is to an Adventure game. I personally feel like it’s the red-headed stepchild of the Sonic series and it’s a side series that should be noted for what it did but it shouldn’t continue. The Boost Sonic era has soured itself, and the Classic Sonic, as Sonic Mania has obviously shown us, that Classic Sonic will never die. I still remember playing Sonic 2 on my cousin’s Genesis and being amazed and having SO much fun going fast. Adventure didn’t do that for me at all. As the saying goes, (that I’ve edited a bit) “Sonic Adventure games should be seen not heard.”

KI: The issue with trying to bring Sonic Adventure back is that it never works. Sega made a quite significant attempt to revive it at one point with a little game known as Sonic 2006. Then, almost a decade later, we got something initially promoted as another attempt: Sonic Boom on Wii U. The fact is that the Adventure game style really doesn’t seem to work without built in nostalgia.

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This is Sonic Adventure 3. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

To expand on Dari’s point, the things people like most about the Adventure style games (story, music, character development) don’t actually require something that plays like them. There’s no reason they couldn’t be added to a game that played like Sonic Generations or even Sonic Mania, imagine a game that played like Sonic Mania but had a story told in the style of the animated shorts that Sega is making based on SM.

Icepick: The problem with attempting to inject story into Classic style gameplay is that it would likely be met with resistance from the die-hard fans. In-game cutscenes using the game’s own art assets are one thing, but outright breaking away from the in-game engine itself seems like too risky of a strategy.

As for your point about the previous two attempts of revitalizing the Adventure being disastrous, I have to acknowledge your point. However, considering the two games in question were a game that was rushed out the door in order to meet some arbitrary anniversary deadline — something Sega’s been avoiding these days — and a game being developed by an unknown developer that clearly didn’t live up to its supposed pedigree, I don’t think the Adventure style has been given a fair shake since the death of the Dreamcast.

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Yes, dear readers, believe it or not, this was a Sonic game.

I don’t disagree that Classic Sonic should remain a thing: as a matter of fact, I love that Sega has apparently decided to break off Classic Sonic into his own timeline. But Dari betrays his own argument: I’ve never been particularly fond of the Boost formula. In fact, my favorite 3D Sonic game was the unfairly maligned Lost World, which was as far from the Boost gameplay as humanly possible. The Boost gameplay may appeal to speed freaks like Dari, who simply… if you’ll excuse my terminology… “gotta go fast”. But Classic Sonic was about more than just holding right to win and the Boost formula only serves to represent a shallow parody of the Sonic formula in general.

Dari: Well now you see, I’d put Lost World in its own little section by itself with Colors as they were their own games with new things that have their own fanbases, as the Sonic Advance and the Rush games. So I wouldn’t say that they have suffered from the “Boost Curse” but I digress. I think that it would be best to inject story into another Sonic Generations game. and I don’t count Sonic Forces as anything related to the Generations thing even if they had the different sonics in it…that game is as trash as the Adventure series is to me but again I’m digressing.

There’s more to classic Sonic than just going fast. there’s puzzles and boss fights to conquer, even if the game is simplistic in nature, there’s a layer of complexity that isn’t appreciated by enough people…which makes me think that’s why Adventure exists and why it’s just so…bad.

KI: The only non-DIMPS boost game that focused on speed to the point of not having platforming was Sonic Unleashed. Colors, Generations, and yes, Forces all managed to do platforming as well as the Adventure games. And it’s not like the Adventure games didn’t have parts focused on speed and nothing else, compare the truck chase in Sonic Adventure 2 to the one in Sonic Generations, Generations’ is much more interactive. I’d also say Lost World is much closer to Sonic Colors than to the Sonic Adventure games, it had the same story style and level layout, wisps, and only one playable character.

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Not exactly “hold boost to win.”

Icepick: I’d have to agree with you on Lost World being its own beast, Dari. That’s why I brought it up in the first place. Colors, on the other hand, was clearly built from the Boost mold that was originated by Unleashed, for better or worse. It’s probably the best example of that particular format, but only just so.

However, you missed the point of my argument regarding the Classic games. I know that they had puzzle solving, platforming and boss fights. The problem is that many Sonic fans only focus on the “gotta go fast” meme, to the extent where — as KI has harped on in the past — Boost fans had to invent a new slur in “block platforming” to bash the game because they couldn’t simply hold right to win and had to…you know, navigate platforms. In a platformer, no less. What a public relations nightmare!

Circling back to the argument that the failures of Sonic ’06 and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric should nail Adventure’s coffin shut once and for all, that argument seems a bit reductive. By that logic, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 should have made it impossible for Sonic Mania to exist. Likewise, the mixed reactions toward Sonic Force should likely spell doom for the Boost formula under the same.

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Behold: the pinnacle of interactivity.

But I’ve spent far too long on the defensive, time to make my strike. If anything, the existence of Sonic Mania has seemed to emboldened the Adventure fanbase’s demand for a new game in that style. Sonic Mania took what worked from the Classic games and fixed various elements that didn’t. For example, even Sonic 2 — generally heralded as the series’ apex — was filled with death traps that had to be memorized to be avoided. Sonic Mania opted for smarter level design, avoiding the unfair difficulty of the Genesis glory days. In the process, they ended up with a game that relied on more than muscle memorization and it paid off for them, with many proclaiming Mania as the best game in the series.

By that logic, isn’t it possible that a developer with a similar affinity for the Adventure games could rehabilitate the engine into something that could be enjoyed by modern audiences? Take what worked from the Adventure games — the multiple play-styles, the overarching storyline woven into gameplay and the exploration — and simply drop what didn’t? Or better yet, even fix the clunkier elements with modern gameplay concepts? Why is that so impossible?

Dari: Yes, the things Sonic Mania did really help the series and made Classic stand out for what it was when it got the problems fixed that plagued it for decades. But what exactly does that mean for the Adventure series? Aside from some cheaply made minigames almost reminiscent of the Pokémon Stadium games or something that’d be easily thrown together as a mobile game or some really shoddy episodic play reminiscent of the multiple play styles — that they tried and failed with Sonic 4 no less — I really don’t see why this needs to be done. The only way I can see this working now is through a mobile game that cheapens sonic to nothing more than a Mario clone with different Sonic characters doing mediocre platforming throwing the story to the wayside as something even simpler than even the Sonic Mania story to try and pass off as something canon. And I refuse to have something like that just for you to have your Adventure trip.

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This is what I expect Sonic Adventure Mobile to be.

KI: While it’s certainly possible for someone to come in and make a good Adventure style game, there’s a difference between that hypothetical game and Mania that you’re missing. I think you’re underselling the Genesis Sonic games, Sonic 2 really didn’t have many cheap traps as long as you didn’t gotta go fast at every opportunity, approach it like a platformer and it’s very manageable. Sonic Mania worked so well because a solid base was established, the Genesis Sonic games. Sonic Adventure 3 would have to make far more alterations if it was to reach the quality of Mania, and have a much higher budget. A few dedicated fans aren’t going to be able to make a AAA (which is what Sonic Adventure would translate into when you adjust for inflation) game the way they made Sonic Mania. A Sonic Adventure revival comes with higher risks and greater obstacles than classic Sonic ever did.

Icepick: Perhaps, but your citations for why an Adventure game is misguided clearly had much more pressing issues working against them that simply being an attempt to revitalizing that style of gameplay. On top of that, Forces’ mediocre reception seems to be implying that the Boost formula is beginning to wear out its welcome. Also, I feel like you’re being extremely disingenuous when you think I’m expecting a full-on 1:1 remake of the previous Adventure titles. Taking what worked from them and applying them to modern gaming sensibilities seems much more likely.

Plus, I think we’re all ignoring the elephant in the room. The sheer antipathy the Sonic fanbase has felt toward “Sonic’s dumb friends” has all but evaporated in recent years. Sonic Mania proves that the floodgates can be relaxed, as the return of everyone’s favorite two-tailed fox and knuckle-head were met with nothing but applause. Likewise, the recent reveals of both Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel as playable characters in Sonic Mania Plus have been well-met. In fact, I think the only criticism I saw in relation to those two returning was from people who wanted other characters instead, particularly Sonic’s abhorrent admirer, Amy Rose.

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Adventure 1 had whack-a-mole, for crying out loud! How can you not love this?

If there’s one thing the Adventure series excelled at, it was using playable characters besides Sonic, particularly ones that played nothing like him. Considering how big Sonic’s cast of characters was even before Adventure hit the scene, making an Adventure 3 would be a great excuse to revisit more forgotten characters, especially the ones that were left behind for no reason.

Dari: Yes, but a lot of Sonic’s friends were left in the dust, Looking at you Blaze the Cat, and a few others that most people don’t even know exist. (Wave the Swallow? and seriously who thought of that name…) I think if you’re gonna talk about a new Adventure game and all of Sonic’s friends, EVERYONE should be included. And I personally don’t think Sega’s gonna even try to do that so let’s go to a different topic that may even be feasible. Trying to make a Sonic Adventure game fun for modern gamers. In the age of PUBG and Fortnite, do you really think that anyone’s gonna even care about a bunch of animals running across platforms to get rid of some scientist with some overarching story that no one’s gonna care about except people who remember the Adventure series…it’s almost as bad as the new cartoon remakes that are coming out these days.

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Wave the Swallow….WTF is this? This hurts me!

This current generation of gamers don’t care about story, they just wanna as you’ve claimed “go fast” and not have anything in their way. Unless they can see the story all at once and not have to do anything gameplay wise to see it. So we’ve hit a crossroads, either have a great sonic game with great gameplay, or a sonic that’s pretty much a story with little else aside from some small gameplay that really doesn’t amount to anything fun. You choose.

KI: Sonic’s friends are like the Koopalings. Remember when everyone wanted them back, then after a couple appearances people were shouting for their deaths? If we ever play as Big the Cat again, I promise you everyone will hate him twice as much as they originally did. While people obviously do want story in games, the massive layering of nostalgia the Sonic Adventure games had slathered on means that a new game in that style is likely to enrage most of the fanbase. I’m not saying you couldn’t make a good game in that style, but presenting it as Sonic Adventure just seems like a needless handicap. And like I said, it’s a bigger risk than sticking with either of the currently active Sonic formulas.

Icepick: I suppose it’s time to make our final arguments. The Sonic Adventure games, while flawed, aren’t even remotely anywhere near the worst games that have been associated with the series in general — even if you discount the various spin-offs. Likewise, these games have such a fan following that even after what’s steadily approaching two decades without any true successor — again, Sonic ’06 and the Sonic Boom game clearly don’t count.

I could go on about my personal affinity towards the original Sonic Adventure, and how I didn’t even hate using the characters that seem to make every other fan’s skin crawl: really looking forward to Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3, by the way. I could go over how much I detest the Boost formula and how shallow it seems overall.

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Seriously, I think I’m the only person on Earth who didn’t outright hate this.

But I think I’ll go with something that would probably hit closer to home to my opponents in this debate. If Sega were to make a Sonic Adventure 3, a game that has that title and recreates the various elements of the previous games to at least some degree, then the Adventure fanbase would finally shut up about it.

Let’s be honest here, Sega’s doing pretty well in terms of their finances lately and they’re not exactly hurting for money at this point. Likewise, the Sonic series has already endured several terrible games and yet its fanbase has yet to give up on that blue dude with the ‘tude. I just don’t see what Sega could lose from making a third Adventure game. I’m sure these days, the fans would expect a game with a budget on par with Sonic Generations at best, so it clearly wouldn’t be that big of a financial risk, there are clearly enough Sonic fans that would buy it based on its name alone to prevent it from doing any actual damage to the company, both in terms of their finances and reputation. At worst, the Adventure fanbase would no longer be able to clamor for an “Adventure 3”. That alone’s got to be considered a win for you two, right?

Dari: Even though Sega’s not hurting for money and it wouldn’t really hurt then to do it, I really am disparate to the “popular” opinion on this. I personally think if they did do a third Adventure game if it did more than break even we’d have another drought of terrible games and we’d not see anything else like Sonic mania for ANOTHER 5-10 years like we did when t the first atrocity came out. This is my fear of the Adventure series returning, we’ll get a bunch of really bad crappy side games that don’t even hold a candle to the original Sonic formula and we’ll have to see another crash of Sonic to see another game like Sonic Advance, Sonic Generations, or Sonic Mania again. Seeing something appear just to shut a fanbase up usually doesn’t work. All it truly does it open the floodgates for more inane things that people say they want but don’t realize the ramifications of what would be if it actually did happen. To close, I’ll use another famous saying. “Be careful what you wish for……you just might get it.”

KI: Like I said at the start, I’m really not that invested over whether this does or doesn’t happen. All I really care about is that Sonic can remain relatively stable, and whether that means Sonic Adventure 3/5 or not isn’t too important to me. As long as a Sonic game is playable and a platformer, I’ll usually manage.

Icepick: And thus concludes the first installment of Dari’s Advocate. I’m not sure just how well it went, but it was certainly an interesting experience. One I’d like to repeat in the not-too-distant future. But what say you, dear readers? Do you think I managed to upset the odds and argue that Sonic Adventure 3 deserves to exist or were the combined forces of KI and Dari just too much for me? And are there any other topics you’d like to see us discuss in this format? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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