Sonic is a joke.
That’s what happens when something crafted by market research to be “cool” stumbles along for 25 years. But it’s not just the irritating “Gotta go fast! Chili dogs!” attitude that Sonic is supposed to convey that makes him an unsympathetic relic to the worst parts of the 90s. The franchise itself has painted itself into a corner of uncoolness, as this video from Innuendo Studios explains.
Over the course of his existence, Sonic has been the subject of several comics, TV shows, anime, and at least five game series. Each of those has its own timeline, many of which last a short while before being reconned out of existence. Ideas that attempt to reboot Sonic into a new paradigm of coolness are tested, then cast aside when they fail.
The game’s mechanics, in Innuendo’s mind, are a similar conundrum. In 2D Sonic games each zone presents a new mechanic. After that zone is complete, the mechanic is abandoned, meaning the designers of Sonic games have to throw so much metaphorical shit at the parallax-scrolling wall that nothing ever has time to coalesce into an identifiable experience. And since the early days, those mechanics have ballooned to include freerunning, 3D on-rails running, open-world exploration, or (and lets all try to forget this one) hand-to-hand combat. Fans of all ages have “their” version of Sonic, and Sega has been trying for a long time to please all of them at once.
Sonic tries. He tries so very hard. And trying to be cool, as we all know, is antithetical to being cool.
While Innuendo makes some strong points about the illusion of authenticity and Sonic as a reflection of ourselves in the age of personal brands, all his video really reminds me of is how long this awful character has been allowed to continue running on the legacy of a handful of classic titles. You’re the old guy at the party Sonic. If you ever were cool, you certainly aren’t now.