Friday, February 21, 2014

Inquiring About The Public's Opinion Of SEGA (Part 2 With Sonic) ...


This is a part two of a rant about irrelevant and stupid Sega is.  I left off talking about how Sega and Sonic are one of the same.  If you're in doubt, the best example of Sonic's dominion over Sega is the Sumo Digital line of games.  First was "Sega Superstars Tennis," a game that, despite the nostalgia, was okay at best and didn't sell well.  Then comes "Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing," a better game with more Sega nostalgia, but they put Sonic's name in the title for good measure because "Sega" is a dirty word that doesn't get the fans buzzing.  Finally, they release "Sonic All-Stars Racing: Transformed," the best of the three games but they completely removed Sega from the title altogether.

This is as embarrassing as having a Christmas display without the word "Christmas."  Casual fans mocked the game as being "another shitty sonic game" while Sonic fans (yes, the dreadful always-whining fanbase you love to hate) tried to assert dominion over it, even going as far as to complain "why is sanic driving a car???"  They all completely missed the point and that is this was a SEGA game, not a SONIC game, but people can't shut the fuck up about Sonic when it comes to Sega, can they?  Sonic already has three series of racing games dedicated to him (Sonic R, Sonic Drift, Sonic Riders) so why can't they go muck those up and leave All-Stars Racing to the Sega fans as a whole???  (yes, I did go on this spiel multiple times already, but it's one that needs to be drilled into your friggin heads).


Now look.  I do like Sonic the Hedgehog though I wouldn't call myself a diehard fan of the franchise.  If Sonic keeled over and died, I'd fear more for Sega's well-being more than anything.  To me, Sonic 3 and Sonic Adventure 2 will be the pinnacles of Sonic games in terms of fun and storytelling and they haven't been surpassed yet.  To me, those games were "cool."  The new Sonic games aren't and I'd probably feel embarrassed to tell my friends if I did play them.  Hell, the Internet loves to make a mockery of Sonic and I can't blame them.  Here's two reasons I came up with for Sonic's ineptitude.  They're rather common sense, but I'll explain it the best way I can.

1. There's no consistency left with these games.  Every single new title tries to reinvent the wheel.  Of the post-SA2 era, Sonic Generations seems to be the one people like the "most" but still, you get complainers anyway.  Case is, there will never be a "good" Sonic game for a long, long time.  And even if you get that "good" game of yours, Sega will mix things up again the next time!  It's like that Twitch Plays Pokemon experiment in which 60,000+ users are constantly kicking a ball around in the general vicinity of where it should go but in a manner that pisses everyone off.  The fans want way too much input and usually get it, even if it reveals new flaws in the process.  More 2D!  More 3D!  More speed sections!  More puzzles!  Only Sonic and Eggman!  More new characters!  More old characters!  Less melee sections!  Easier!  Harder!  Hand the game over to Nintendo!  Let Dimps do it!  Get Yuji Naka back!  It's like before every Sonic game, you must be given an index card with all the game's problems and nuances.  They don't call the Sonic fanbase the worst fanbase on the Internet for no good reason.  Then again, when your fanbase was exposed to the radioactive waste that was Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog, of course that's going to leave a permanent mark.

Also, who the hell is buying Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games?  The first one was intriguing--mini games featuring Mario and Sonic characters!  Cool, it's worth a shot!  Now we are on the FOURTH title???  Is this some psychological experiment to see how far Sonic fans will go to support the series???

2. I really don't know how to say this without ruffling a few feathers so here goes.  Post-SA2, the Sonic cast of characters has become entirely unlikable.  If SA2 was a movie, I could potentially sit down and watch it all the way through.  Sonic 06 and Shadow, as inept as they were, had okay stories that kept me interested enough to beat the game.  After that, sayonara Sonic, because your storytelling has degraded to shit.  The characters have become predictable: Sonic is a smartass who is never threatened by anything and always wins by himself, Tails is a useless nerd, Knuckles is braindead, Amy is a psychopath, and Robotnik is an idiot who's just a speedbump to Sonic's awesomeness.  It's so cheesy and incoherent it reaches to Zelda CD-i levels of bad.  I don't care if it's Sega of Japan or the tag-team duo of Warren Graff and Ken Pontac (of f**king Happy Tree Friends, for God's sake) writing the plots, they can't do this shit anymore.  I did watch part of that "Sonic Dissected" series again, especially the part on humor and Sonic Colors, and it's really eye opening how much potential they missed out on these games.

Of course, in the context of the "cool" theme I was going with before, these Sonic game cutscenes CAN be enjoyable...but from a storytelling perspective, does it even compare with the dialogue from more respected game franchises like Halo, Mass Effect, Fallout, etc.?  No.  If I told people I played Fallout recently, I'd get pats on the back.  On the other hand, if I told people I played Sonic Colors recently, I'd get my ass kicked.

Also I'll go ahead and say this.  Fuck Jason Griffith's voice.  I can't stand him as Sonic.  His voice is so damn boisterous it just accentuates all the things I dislike about this new Sonic.  There, I said it and I mean it.  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in thinking this.

Two more links to click on that I read.  Here and here.  Now that Sonic is officially part of the Nintendo family, you get Sonic: Lost World which is basically Sonic with Nintendo's greasy fingers all over it.  The gameplay is "meh" all over again and it doesn't strike me as memorable or good like previous entries.  All I see is the Yoshi's Island DLC and that anti-climatic ending (compliments of geniuses Graff & Pontac), both of which make me want to punch a baby.  I think the less said about this game, the better.  Why Sega is still riding the sinking Nintendo fail-boat, I dunno.

So what's next for the blue blur?  Sonic Boom.

Oy vey, this is tricky.  Especially Knuckles, MAH GAWD, KNUCKLES, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU???  Sega is on record saying the game is not canon, which is codeword for, "if this game sucks, we'll pretend it never existed."  While I do commend Sega for allowing Big Red Button Entertainment (a Western studio formed from some Naughty Dog guys) to come up with their own interpretation on the franchise, I'm afraid if this game/cartoon/toy combo (yes, Sega is going all in with this new style) is a success then hey, guess what--maybe Sonic Boom will be a permanent rebranding on the Sonic franchise for the new generation of gamers!  That...really doesn't make me happy considering how much squandered potential they had over the last 10 years of Sonic that they're sealing with concrete.  I mean I kinda liked Sonic with the Soap shoes and without the duct tape.  But hell, like I said, I don't give a damn what they do with Sonic, just as long as Sega gets money, right??? :D :D :D

UPDATE: So yeah, Sega released a behind-the-scenes for the game and TV show.  It looks nice (albeit somewhat generic) but the characters and plot sound a Westernized Sonic Heroes (bad) with juvenile Sonic Colors humor (terri-bad).  Sonic dresses like Nathan Drake because Naughty Dog devs think this is Sonic's ultimate "adventure," okay, because the last decade of games weren't adventures at all.  The VA's and jokes still piss me off.  I'm not too optimistic but it sounds like the game devs had a lick of sense to what they were saying and doing so I'm not going to denounce it just yet...

You know, back to what my original point about Sega being cool, here's what I'd do about it.  And frankly, it's not going to work without talented, dedicated individuals, but here goes!  My bullet points:

> DO SOME HOUSE CLEANING!!!  I have a hunch Sega is swimming with inept employees.  Get 'em out of here.  I want to see skilled employees at Sega who are emotionally invested in the company and actually like the games they make.  Employees who are willing to take a bullet for Sega.  Okay, maybe not that far but you get the message.

> START ADVERTISING BLUE-SKY GAMES AS COOL AGAIN!  Grow some balls.  As a gamer, I'm sick and tired of being trampled by the grey-sky, realistic, doom & gloom games.  Start making colors fashionable again.  Come out and say, "so-and-so game is cool" and actually mean it.  Aim for that 18-35 year demographic.  Steal the cool baton back!

> STOP DROPPING THE SONIC FRANCHISE ON ITS HEAD!  Again, Sega lives or dies by the Sonic franchise.  What can be done about it?  Well, find that niche again between speed and platforming.  Cut down on the bland storytelling and bad jokes.  Bring in other characters that actually serve roles rather than stand there and act stupid/clueless.  And most importantly, give Sonic WEAKNESSES because an invincible protagonist is BORING.  Again, read the thousands of other Sonic articles out there for hints on how to improve Sonic! :)

> STOP PUBLISHING BAD GAMES!  Stick with Football Manager and Total War.  Kill the Aliens franchise, I don't want Gearbox taking any more of your money.  Speaking of which, stop using publishing as a crutch.  You should do this...

> START PROTOTYPING GAMES AGAIN!  What's beautiful about a lot of Sega arcade games is that they're small yet concentrated experiences.  Daytona USA only had two cars and three tracks but it's one of the most memorable racing games ever.  Sega needs to start churning out small in-house games, maybe posting them as online arcade or mobile titles, see what works, and then expand upon them if they are successful.  This allows you to get publicity, revive old IPs, and experiment with things that work.  Genius, right?

> RELEASE SHENMUE 3!  Oh, what's that?  You might've lost the Shenmue trademark because of inactivity?  Well get it back and make it anyway!  Help old man Yu Suzuki out!!!  He's the man that made Sega the ex-superpower that it was, you should return the favor to him and the stalwart Sega fans! Cheers!

Come on Sega, I know you can do it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Inquiring About The Public's Opinion Of SEGA...

As I sit here mulling over the bowl of cereal I don't have because my family forgot to buy some, I got to thinking about our dear friend SEGA once again.  You see, brand recognition and popularity is what helps keep companies in business.  So this leads me to ask this vital question...

Do you think Sega is "cool" anymore?

Where does Sega go on the Cool Wall?
Top Gear, telling you how it is since 2002.

Now.  Some of you will say, "Well of course Sega is cool!  They made some kickass games!  Who cares what people think of Sega?"  You're sorta right.  Us Sega hipsters got this little circlejerk going on and screw what anyone else thinks!  But it is IMPORTANT what other people think of Sega.  Sega cannot survive alone cause of a couple of fanboys on the Internet, they need a portion of the Average Joe gamer demographic to run out and invest in their stuff too.

See, that's what I mean about being "cool."  The term "cool" as in "genuinely interested in their products."  Being cool is important--it's how crap pop music, TV, movies, and video games manage to be relevant despite lacking any original content or substance at all.  Being "cool" is neither a good or bad thing--it's like handing off the baton or being "King of the Hill."  You gotta reach out and grab it somehow.  Sega was cool back in the 90's!  Sonic the Hedgehog!  Game consoles!  Arcades!  Kickass!  People loved that stuff.  But nowadays, everyone has written off Sega as a decayed corpse as they flock around the Western developers--FPS, RTS, adventure, MMO's with "realistic/grungy/shockingly depressing" hi-res graphics.  In other words, the complete antithesis of Sega! :(

This whole "cool" topic came about reading this compelling article about Nintendo and violent games' places in the marketplace.  Basically how the concept of "family entertainment" that Nintendo has relied on for so long has eroded over the last decade.  Think about it....what are the most popular games these days?  Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Gears of War.  Games with copious profanity, violence, and (some) sexual content.  They sell Halo and GoW toys in kids/family stores though MS/Epic shrug at the thought of directly advertising violence to kids.  Case in point, these games have claimed the "cool" mantle.  Realistic, gritty games are in vogue, clean happy games are out.

How did this happen?  You can name many reasons.  Kids look up to teens/young adults for what is cool--adults play violent games, so do kids.  The concept of a "family" has diminished--we spend less time face-to-face and have high numbers of single parent households therefore.  We've conditioned ourselves to violence and the "Jackass generation" that we hardly flinch at the idea at our of kids disrespecting each other.  I'm not a sociologist so I won't pursue the issue longer but look at this point mentioned in the article--55-60% of parents do not check nor do they even care about ESRB/PEGI ratings.  This is ridiculous.

But don't get me wrong...I'm not blaming violent games for society's problems, nor am I saying you can't enjoy these games yourself.  But these kind of games are adverse to Sega's M.O., plus don't you get tired of people realistically shooting, stabbing, blowing each other up?  Why is it that whenever anyone unveils a non-violent, colorful game, it's a cringe-inducing kids title, a shameful freemium game, or both?  Also would you let this kid play Call of Duty?  There's thousands of kids like this every day.  Boy, violence is good for them!

EDIT: This YouTube video makes another good point about game popularity--YouTube Let's Plays.  Nintendo has been vigilant in the past about taking down any YouTube gameplay videos.  Other companies, notsomuch.  I'm not a Let's Play watcher but I can see what they're getting at here--YouTube clips are basically free advertising and Nintendo better accept that soon.

And what does Nintendo, Sega's last ally in the war against gray skies, do about it?  SUCK AT EVERYTHING!  The Wii was a success cause they advertised it to that core young-adult demographic and did a great job with the motion control stuff.  Now the Wii U gives us some awkward gaming pad and is advertising itself to...little kids?  I swear, I saw a Toys R Us commercial last Christmas with little kids harping on a Wii U sales deal.  Is THIS the game console that the mainstream demographic (18-35 year olds) going to buy?  Especially with its outdated graphics and same old games from last generation?  I'm not a graphics junkie but at least Sega's new releases were top-notch technology (i.e. Scud Race/Daytona 2 being years ahead of the N64/Playstation).  Seriously, the 3DS is the only thing keeping Nintendo alive.  I still don't know how Pokemon remains relevant as ever these days, especially since all I hear from Pokemon nostalgists is bitching about how perfect Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow was (news flash--there were "bad" Pokemon in that game too) but shit, if it makes Nintendo money, then great.

Nintendo is a company I, NEED to succeed in order to establish "balance" against Sony and Microsoft.  Now they are throwing their arms up and open for acquisitions or mergers?  RED FLAG!!  The fact Sega has hooked its anchor to Nintendo's sinking ship (in the form of Sonic games exclusive for the Wii U) is suicidal.

You want a kids console?  Buy a V-Tech.

Now, time for a pop quiz!  Get out a sheet of paper and writing utensil.  Write down up to five things that you think Sega has done that was "cool" at any time in its history.  You have thirty seconds, now....GO!


Time's up!  Compare your list to mine.  If you're like me, you've probably written down a list of things like this:

1. Sonic the Hedgehog!
2. Expertise in home consoles!
3. Expertise in arcades!
4. A backlog of vibrant blue-sky games that made fun the primary focus!
5. A brash, edgy marketing campaign!

Now, let's run through this list and compare them to the Sega of today.  Home consoles?  Sorry, Sega put the kaibosh on that in 2001 so let's cross that out.  Arcades?  Those are dead in the West and the only stuff we see are mediocre and never live up to the 90's so cross that out too.  Blue-sky games?  HA, please spare me, Sega does the bare minimum to keep their legacy from eating dust by releasing sparse, straight ports of their games to cash in on nostalgia from the fanboys so let's cross that one out.  Brash?  Edgy?  Name for me ONE bold thing that Sega has said or done.  No "Sega does what Nintendon't" or Sega screams.  Almost all of Sega's official advertising is done through their online blog site as they cut and run like a scared puppy.  So cross that one out as well.  So what does our list look like now?

1. Sonic the Hedgehog!
2. Expertise in home consoles!
3. Expertise in arcades!
4. A backlog of vibrant blue-sky games that made fun the primary focus!
5. A brash, edgy marketing campaign!

Yes, it's true, love it or hate it, Sonic IS Sega.  Sonic is the only thing that Sega has going for it...the only thing Sega hasn't given up on in the last 22 years, even dragging the franchise through the horse shit that was the post-SA2 era.  Seriously, just listen to the first forty seconds of this Giant Bomb video and you'll see what I mean.  "Sonic" = "Sega"  I'll probably talk about this in a Part 2 next time cause I'm tired and have gone on for too long, good night all.