An Open Letter Concerning “Retro Fans” in Light of Eurogamer’s Iizuka Interview

So, I’m definitely in the “More Excited for Sonic Colors than Sonic 4” camp the more we’ve seen revealed about Colours–check out SPoNG’s recent interview with Takashi Iizuka for proof that there’s at least been some thought and care being put into one of the titles being pumped out right now. It’s rather heartening. However, there was another interview today–and one that for the most part is more illuminating in the things I tend to be concerned about–Eurogamer’s The Colour of Sonic interview with Iizuka. In it, some great things are revealed: the minimization of motion controls, the role of Dimps in level design of Sonic 4, a plug for PlaySega (because who doesn’t like that level editor?) I must say, though, that I was a bit taken aback when I was reading and I came across:

Eurogamer: How do you feel when you read old-school Sonic fans slagging off the Sonic franchise and what it’s become?

Takashi Iizuka: The fundamentals of both games, the 3D Sonic or the 2D side-scrolling games, are the same. Sonic is all about the speed and the platforming. It just comes down to how the gameplay differs when you’re playing in 3D and 2D side-scrolling.

I understand there are differences in the ways users interpret the 3D side than the fans who particularly like the 2D classic side of the game.

This is why we’re releasing two different types of Sonic games this year – to please the 2D classic fans who have been playing from the Genesis [Mega Drive]. Sonic 4 is more for those fans. There are also fans who like the 3D Sonic games which have been released in the past couple of years. Sonic Colours is probably more for the users who appreciate the 3D side of Sonic.

There comes a moment when you realize “oh wait, they’re talking in a roundabout way about people like me and my site.” And then it becomes personal. So I would like to address this particular part of the conversation.

I like 2D Sonic games. I like them…quite a bit, you could say. I enjoy them because they are well-executed games with solid foundations in physics, ease of control, graphical presentation and audio. I enjoy them because they use unique play mechanics in the form of speed combined with platforming and that they use a variety of ideas in level design. I enjoy them because they had the necessary polish and attention to detail that separates a good game from a truly great game.

I like 3D games. Big fan of games like Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure, Bayonetta, Team Fortress 2 and, just like Iizuka, Super Mario Galaxy 2. Why do I like those games?

I enjoy them because they are well-executed games with solid foundations in physics, ease of control, graphical presentation and audio. I enjoy them because they use unique play mechanics in the form of speed combined with platforming and that they use a variety of ideas in level design. I enjoy them because they had the necessary polish and attention to detail that separates a good game from a truly great game.

Notice how I just repeated myself there?

To say that there are a section of games who hate on modern Sonic games because they aren’t 2D is patently false. Maybe there are those who hold that position, but they are in a serious minority. The majority of nay-sayers are a little more concerned with a game being up to the bar of excellence set with the classic Sonic games. Saying that 2D is the issue in what determines a good Sonic game is like saying making sure there are no termites in your front garden will stop the wood foundation of your house from crumbling before you. It’s a cosmetic preference at best and something to distract from a much larger issue at worst.

Moreover, there have been 2D Sonic games in the recent past: the Advance series, the Rush series, cellphone-exclusive games. It’s not as though people have been worshiping Sonic Advance 2 and saying “make this for home consoles! Yes, this is what we want!” We want those titles also lack: well-executed physics, control, gameplay with great aesthetics and unique ideas.

What I want from Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors and every Sonic game is, at the end of the day, a well-made game that can truly sit next to a game shown the level of passion like Super Mario Galaxy 2. And frankly, I’d trade the five titles in development now’s relative mediocrity for one critically acclaimed title. There is a way to make that just as economically feasible, Sega.

Without resorting to “lol games journalism,” I do think that it’s the imperative of games journalism industry to act as more than a glorified PR function for video game developers and publishers without moving into New Games Journalism territory, and a large part of that is being able to ask questions in a tough but fair matter that accurately represent the criticism put forward from consumers. Canned responses concerning those criticisms should not be accepted and people need to be probed to make sure that they understand the criticism, but it is also upon the interviewer to make sure they understand that as well. So the next time something like this comes up, it should not be accepted as the definitive answer.

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  • Reply

    Wow, this is very well written. You covered my exact sentiments about this interview.

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    I concur. Well written, Scared Sun!

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    You’re tottaly right, dude. We don’t want a 2D Sonic game or a 3D Sonic game. All we fans want is a GOOD Sonic game. Sonic Adventure 1 is a good Sonic game for me and it’s 3D. Sonic & Knuckles is a good game for me and it’s 2D. We all know what we dont’ want here. New Werehog craps as excuses for make the game longer.

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    All this shows is how inept the developer is if he doesn’t realize his stewardship with the franchise has not produced a single definitive Sonic title in either 2D or 3D. There have been utter failures ranging up to mixed bags (some like them, some don’t.)

    However, Iizuka seems to be missing or trying to pin blame elsewhere that it’s the old crusted Sonic fans that hate everything about the new games and not that he and Sonic Team are doing a terrible job even capturing what a Sonic game even means. Sonic 4 still lacks this sharply, but it looks like something’s magically clicking with Sonic Colors.

    Swallow your pride and accept your shortcomings, sir. The brand’s image has been in the can for the better part of seven years and each game is always met with a chuckle, a roll of the eyes, and the obligatory posting of the Sonic Cycle which, sadly, does hold some water… a beaten girlfriend syndrome, if you will. The fans want to love the game, but something invariably happens that kills the Sonic feel and we wind up with Shitty Platformer #3 for WiiStation360.

    Iizuka and all the PR monkeys trying to feel around the community should at least understand this concept and their own situation before trying to play the blame game because blaming self-inflicted wounds on someone else usually just makes the blamer look like a dumb ass.

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    And with this, ScarredSun should be given some high-ranking position in the sonic franchise… because she knows that quality, and significant monetary investment is the only thing that can save a sinking ship when it comes to a video game franchise, not cheaping out and trying to rake in every demographic possible.

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    It’s silly really. To be honest, journalists for games are generally no different to the gamers in terms of their construction in topics and arguments. It’s become a generalisation that people “don’t like 3D Sonic”, and before I became a member of the Sonic web community back in 2005, I had no inkling that people even thought or believed that the styles of games determined their status. I’d happily play any Sonic game, as long as it’s decent and similar to what Sonic is and was to me as a child consumer. Marion isn’t exactly the same in 3D, but is universally accepted because of quality, which unfortunately games like Shadow and ’06 tarnished for Sonic. We’re getting back on track this decade, but it will take a lot to stop this negative stereotyping of opinions.

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    I applaud this post. Thanks for making this point so clear and presenting it so well.

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    I totally agree with this. It shares my sentiments about the recent Sonic games as a whole, and the presentation of this makes the point clearer.

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    Wery well written.

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    Thank you Scarred Sun! Now, I typically do prefer Sonic in 2D, because the original series, which thus far holds the best the franchise has to offer, is in 2D, but if they were to do some re-thinking, and were to make a good 3D game, I wouldn’t scoff! Now, from what I’ve heard, SEGA does look in on this site. Hopefully they’ll see what you said, and all of the positive response, though I have a feeling they’ll ignore us…

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      They do read us, this is no surprise given we’re usually the top hit on google and, statistically #2 to Sega in regards to Sonic traffic. (/useless PR info) I don’t know if they’ll take much of anything written as an incentive to really restructure things to some extent, but in our past encounters with them, it’s more like they give us a little sugar cube to make an announcement… which through incompetence on the European branch was released early. Whoops!

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    I don’t think that anyone has ever been so spot on on the stance SEGA has taken on the 2D/3D platforming issue, and your article here might be able to make a difference!

    All you need to do now is translate your response into Japanese and send it to the executives at SEGA…

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    uh…your smart…

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    Was a response to him really required? While I agree with your sentiments, I can’t shake the feeling that the bigwigs will never understand what we feel is fundamentally wrong with recent sonic ventures, and will always generalize or summarize our views. In short…your response is going to mean, to him, what he already said. That is, if he ever reads it.

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      I was actually more concerned with the Eurogamer journalist’s handling of the situation than anything having to do with Iizuka, actually.

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        Ah, I see. Yes, games journalism has taken a turn for the worse. There was a time when I only trusted Edge magazine, but I don’t even know if they’re safe anymore!

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    ….sigh. Oh Sonic fandom, how you take -everything- out of context just to be pissed off.

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