Sonic the Hedgehog may be one of the most well-known video game franchises after Super Mario. Despite that popularity, Sonic has seen much more mixed success than his plumber competition. The Genesis games were acclaimed, but after that era, many fans argue the franchise went downhill. Everyone knows the story of 2006's widely-panned Sonic iteration, the lowest-rated main title in the series. Since that game, SEGA has tried desperately to put the franchise back on track. Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations were received well enough. But then you had titles like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and the Black Knight, games many fans wish to forget. The Sonic Boom spin-off series was also a massive failure. However, there was one game in recent times that was highly acclaimed.
Sonic Mania released in 2017 to widespread acclaim. Many appreciated how well the game captured the Genesis era. Sadly, that same year also saw the release of Sonic Forces. This game sought to be the next big 3D adventure but ended up being one of the worst-rated in the series. This year saw the release of Team Sonic Racing. Unfortunately, it received mixed reception. On top of all this, Sonic is getting a movie, which has been gathering almost nothing but negative buzz. So, where can the series go after the movie releases?
Sonic's Movie Reception
The Sonic movie was originally scheduled to come out this November, but it was delayed to February, 2020. Interestingly, this delay is in response to the overwhelmingly negative feedback of Sonic's design in the film. To say fans were not pleased when the trailer was released in April is an understatement. It remains to be seen how faithful the redesign is going to be, but based on producer Tim Miller's comments, fans should be happy with the new design. Time will tell if that's the case.
The Franchise After The Movie
One thing fans are wondering is where the series will go after the film's release. According to Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka, the next mainline Sonic game is already in development. Will it be another Mania nostalgia trip or the next 3D installment? SEGA probably wants to replicate the success of Sonic Mania, so it is largely possible the company is working on something similar. However, it isn't likely that SEGA has stopped making 3D games. The company should be well aware of what works by now. If SEGA can replicate what made the first two Adventure titles fun to play, and combine with the passion of Sonic Mania, the company will instantly see a hit. The next mainline game is likely to be a 3D title with gameplay reminiscent of Sonic Colors, minus the gimmicky Wisp abilities.
Will The Sonic Movie Help Or Hurt The Series?
In theory, a film adaption of something should bring bigger brand awareness. However, when a film is criticized and sees scant commercial success, the opposite can happen; it can drive the respective franchise into a coma. With how much negative publicity the Sonic movie is getting, is it possible that it will bury the series for a time? Anything is possible, but this isn't likely to happen.
Even if the Sonic film is really awful, it shouldn't negatively affect video game sales. Super Mario Bros. and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation were heavily criticized movies, but they didn't affect the games. The large fanbase of a popular video game series is going to buy the games despite the movie bombing. Sure, if the Sonic movie is a failure, it could potentially hurt newcomers joining the series. However, the movie shouldn't affect the series going forward. Plus, if the film turns out to be successful, then the brand could actually be nudged in the direction of broader appeal.
Should Sonic Continue?
With how badly received Sonic Forces was, and likewise how mediocre Team Sonic Racing was received, some may wonder if fans are even interested in another Sonic game. As we saw with Sonic Mania, fans of the franchise are clamoring for quality titles. There will always be a place for Sonic in the video game realm, given his decades-long history. The problem is that SEGA is fighting an uphill battle. The company needs to re-establish the series as something defined by quality. If SEGA can do that, then Sonic should unquestionably continue.
The Sonic franchise has seen plenty of ups and downs. Sadly, the series is more associated with the mediocre than the acclaimed. SEGA bounced back with Sonic Mania, but the release of Sonic Forces slightly diminished that triumphant return. Despite that, SEGA is still going forward with the franchise. The hope for the next game is that it will retain what fans loved about Mania, and it will incorporate what has worked for the 3D games. The Sonic movie could help bring in newcomers, or it could scare them away if it's no good. The movie itself won't stop the franchise, however. If the next game is well received, the series will continue the revitalization set by Sonic Mania.