Readers, it is no shock to gamers that the Sonic franchise has had some real turds in it. Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (usually referred to as “Sonic 2006” to differentiate it from the original game), Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic and the Black Knight, and Sonic Unleashed are all games infamous for being terrible. I should, of course, note that bad Sonic games are by no means limited to these six, but I am only dealing with the platformer games and not the different-genre spinoffs (so Sonic Spinball is safe for now). Among these six games, I have played all but two: Unleashed and Black Knight. All of the remaining four are bad games, though for different reasons. This week, I would like to discuss just what it is that makes these four games so awful.
Released in 2003 for the Xbox, PS2, and GameCube, Sonic Heroes was, in my opinion, the first bad main series Sonic game. And what a game it was: the bad camera angles and glitchy terrain of the other 3D games was joined by a poorly implemented team system and one of the worst decisions in Sonic storytelling history. The storylines are split up by team, with the trio of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles forming one team and Shadow, Rouge, and Gamma forming another. But these two teams are not the problem, and neither is the return of Team Chaotix. No, the worst part of the Sonic Heroes story is “Team Rose”, a team comprised of three of the most annoying characters in Sonic history: Amy Rose, Cream, and Big the Cat. The horrible character team-up is made worse by the convoluted and utterly pointless story arcs; while each team has reason for their adventures, not a single team’s story is compelling, interesting, or worthwhile. Combined with the poor team system, bad controls, and mediocre level design, these story decisions lead to a decidedly bad gaming experience.
I must now make a terrible confession, readers: I do not hate Shadow the Hedgehog. I find the absolutely ridiculous story to be rather amusing, and the gameplay is not nearly as offensive as that of any of the other three games I am discussing in this article. On an objective level, however, it is hard to defend Shadow the Hedgehog. As the name suggests, the game follows the angsty Shadow as aliens invade the world and he must choose whether to side with Earth, the invaders, or nobody. Depending on which of the goals the player chooses to complete in a level, which stage is the next level will change, and the cutscenes that play out will also be different. The morality system of Shadow the Hedgehog, while not particularly compelling as a narrative tool, does add variety to playthroughs. The real problems with this game are twofold: one, as discussed already, is the absolutely ridiculous fanfiction-bad storyline. The other problem is the unnecessary addition of guns and other weapons; thankfully the guns at least are largely optional in combat. Of the four games in this article, Shadow the Hedgehog at least was one I could enjoy in a “so bad it is hilarious” sense. The next game in this article…not so much.
There is not much I can say about Sonic 2006 that has not already been said. The plot is legendarily bad, and the game amazingly even manages to retcon its own existence from the already extremely shaky Sonic canon. Remarkably, the gameplay is even worse: not only does the game have bad camera angles and controls, but the level design is horrendous and the maps extraordinarily glitchy. The characters, another element the franchise is infamous for, are even worse than usual. Elise, a human, and the new playable character Silver the Hedgehog are two of the worst characters in the franchise’s history. Given that this is the series that gave the world Omochao, Big the Cat, and Amy Rose, this is an impressive feat. While an argument could be made that Shadow the Hedgehog is at least enjoyable in some sense, Sonic 2006 is simply terrible. One final noteworthy aspect of Sonic 2006 is the game’s loading; the load times are simply atrocious. It is extremely difficult to think of something positive to say about Sonic 2006, so rather than strain myself trying I shall simply move on to the final game.
Sonic and the Secret Rings has one of the worst control systems ever devised. The already wonky waggle Wii controls are poorly implemented, making for a deadly combination of suck. The storytelling quality is at a massive low; the plot of Secret Rings is a complete butchery of The Arabian Nights. The stages are poorly designed, the boss fights are not fun, the story is awful, and even the music is horrendous. Much like Sonic 2006, there is really nothing to redeem Secret Rings from failure. The awful wagglemote controls and exceptionally bad storyline, paired with perhaps the worst soundtrack in the franchise’s history make for one awful experience.
Well readers, we have reached the end of this look into the low points of one of gaming’s most infamous franchises. I am not a Sonic hater by any means; the Genesis games were decent, as was Sonic Adventure 2, and Sonic Adventure is one of my favorite games despite the terrible Big storyline. Yet while I at least found Shadow amusing in its badness, the other three games-Heroes, Sonic 2006, and Secret Rings– are genuinely among the worst games I have ever played. I cannot speak for Black Knight, Unleashed, or any of the more recent entries in the series, but perhaps you have, readers. Let me know what you think of any of these games, or of the franchise in general, in the comments section, my dear readers!