In Part 1 we took a look at Sonic's humble beginnings, the beginnings that never were, and the ones that could have been. Unfortunately for Sega, the costs of manufacturing the Sega Dreamcast were becoming too much for the company to handle. As a result, on March 31, 2001 production of the Dreamcast was officially discontinued and future Sega titles (including Sonic) had to be released on other consoles such as the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube.
Post Sega-era Games
After the discontinuation of Sega hardware, Sonic was now a free hedgehog to roam about on any console he pleases. Between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, many of his more major adventures were released on Sony and Microsoft consoles with a few games being exclusive to Nintendo consoles. These next batch of games will just be quick rundowns of all of his more major titles.
Sonic Heroes was released on January 27, 2004 for the PS2, Gamecube, Xbox and PC making it the first new Sonic game to be released on a non-Sega console. While not explicitly stated, the game is meant to take place after the events of Sonic Adventure 2.
The gameplay consists of 4 teams of 3 playable characters consisting of a Sonic team, Dark team, Rose team, and Chaotix team. Each character has a specific ability used for speed, flight, and power to get through each of the 14 levels with 2 acts plus a boss battle per level. Special Stages and collecting the 7 Chaos Emeralds return, which when after collecting all 7 and completing all four teams levels will unlock the final story of the game, much like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2.
Shadow the Hedgehog
Shadow the Hedgehog became Sonic Team’s first and only side-story in which Sonic was not the main protagonist of the game. The game was released on November 15, 2005 and was met with lots of criticism from fans for being too far away from the standard Sonic universe in terms of the mood and environment. The darker storyline and Shadow’s use of guns and other weaponry and vehicles made the game feel more like an everyday action game than a Sonic game. It is being considered as one of the worst games in the franchise.
Shadow the Hedgehog contains a total of 22 stages and 10 different endings, however which stages you visit and which ending you get is all determined by missions that you complete throughout the game. These can range from Hero, Neutral, and Dark Missions, and you have complete control in which mission you’d like to complete in each stage. There are over 300 different ways you can complete the game and reach all 10 endings. Chaos Emeralds also take part in this game, and will also contribute to the Last Story, which like previous modern Sonic games, is only unlocked once you’ve seen all 10 endings of the game.
Released on February 21, 2006 for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube, Sonic Riders returns to the racing genre as a hoverboard racing game and would be Yuji Naka’s final Sonic game that he worked on before moving on to other projects. While it wasn’t the greatest racing game in the series, it also wasn’t the worst.
You have the choice of playing one of 16 characters, each having a special advantage of either being a Speed, Flight, or Power racer. Characters race on hoverboards (or Extreme Gear), and have an Air meter that depletes as the race progresses. There are a few ways to regenerate Air such as performing tricks, riding an air turbulence left by racers ahead of you, or stopping at a Pit Stop. Rings are scattered throughout each course and serve as currency to buy more powerful Extreme Gear, as well as level up your performance temporarily during a race.
Three new characters are introduced forming the Babylon Rogues (Jet the Hawk, Wave the Swallow, and Storm the Albatross), as well as the E-10000 series robots. Ulala (Space Channel 5), Nights (Nights into Dreams), and Aiai (Super Monkey Ball) are also playable characters. There are a total of 16 tracks playable in the game including 6 Hero courses, 7 Babylon Courses, and 3 Extra Courses.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
To celebrate Sonic’s 15th anniversary Sonic Team released “Sonic the Hedgehog” for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on November 14, 2006. It was Sonic’s first game on next-gen consoles with improved graphics and visuals...however, execution was anything but improved. It was yet another game seen to fans as the worst game in the franchise, and the many negative reviews will reflect this.
The idea for the game was to take elements from the Adventure games and bring Sonic back to his roots and bring about a reboot to the series after mediocre responses to games like Sonic Heroes, and Sonic Riders. It was meant to be released on consoles as well as PC. Yuji Naka revealed the game at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show with Game director Shun Nakamura demonstrating the game’s Havok Physics engine.
So how did the game turn out so bad? After its debut, the development team faced a number of problems, the first of which happened in May of 2006 when Yuji Naka left Sega to create his own game studio “Prope”. When development kits arrived for the Wii, it was decided that the staff would be split in two teams (does this sound a little familiar?). Director Shun Nakamura would head one team in finishing the game for the PS3 and 360, and another team, overlooked by Yojiro Ogawa, would begin work on another Sonic game for the Wii, rather than build up a Sonic 06 port for the Wii.
It became a race against time to meet the holiday 2006 deadline to release Sonic 06 with only half of a development team. To make matters worse, a sacrifice had to be made to save time and meet the deadline...Sonic Team ignored Quality Assurance Tester bug reports. As a result, Sonic Team knew very well the game they released was going to be flooded with bugs and problems.
Thanks to the Sonic fan game community, a user by the name ChaosX has been hard at work in recreating Sonic 06 from the ground up entirely in Unity and the results couldn’t be more refreshing. While the current demo only has Sonic as a playable character for the moment, many bug fixes are being found and ironed out with each new release. The game is called “Sonic Project 06” and it is essentially Sonic 06 on PC, with very few bugs, and lightning fast load times (a standard load time of Sonic 06 lasts between 15-30 seconds).
Known as Sonic World Adventure in Japan, Sonic Unleashed was released on November 18 2008 for the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. The game was released with two different versions, one for next gen consoles, and another for the weaker powered consoles, PS2 and Wii. The game was rendered using a newly developed “Hedgehog Engine”, which would be used for future Sonic games to come.
The game features a set of Day and Night levels, which have very different playstyles with the introduction of Sonic transforming into a “Werehog”. This happened through the awakening of dark energy from within the Chaos Emeralds after Eggman shot a laser into the Earth, splitting it into pieces and awakening a beast known as Dark Gaia.
Day levels are all about the typical speedy blue hedgehog blazing through levels as quickly as possible. The night levels transform Sonic into a Werehog and gameplay turns into a slower-paced, beat’em up game. Both Day and Night levels have you collecting medals, which will unlock more levels and progress the story further.
While both the PS3/360 and PS2/Wii versions play roughly the same, they both run off different engines. As well as a number of different changes and content were removed in order for the PS2/Wii versions to run efficiently.
Thankfully, the game received much favorable reviews and was much more successful than Sonic 06 due to the smarter decisions keeping the team together, and even bringing in some more support to ensure the game exceeds expectations.
The Sonic Storybook Series (Sonic and the Secret Rings; Sonic and the Black Knight)
Sonic and the Secret Rings was originally titled Sonic Wildfire and before that was to be the Wii port of Sonic 06, but was reworked into the first installment of the Sonic Storybook Series, released on February 20, 2007. It is the first 3D Sonic game where Sonic is the sole character you play as.
The game’s inspiration for the Arabian Nights setting was influenced by a few games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia, and God of War. Sonic’s arsenal of skills and abilities has tremendously rose to 104, which can all be performed using the Wii Remote motion controls.
Sonic and the Secret Rings transports Sonic into the tale of Arabian Nights where an evil genie named Erazor Djinn is erasing pages from the book. Sonic, as the “Legendary Blue Hedgehog” is the only one who can stop Erazor.
Other Sonic characters make appearances and take on characters within the story. For example, Tails plays the role of Ali Baba, Eggman takes the role of King Shahryar, and Knuckles takes the role of Sinbad the Sailor. Big the Cat also makes various cameo appearances as himself through each level if you stop Sonic’s movement for a few seconds in certain spots.
Sonic and the Black Knight was released on March 10, 2009 for the Wii and is the sequel to Sonic and the Secret Rings. The game takes place in the story of King Arthur, where Merlina, Marlin’s granddaughter, is being pursued by King Arthur, who has been corrupted by the power of the Scabbard of Excalibur, transforming him into The Black Knight. There is more to the story, but why spoil it all here?
The game introduces a sword fighting system using the Wii remote motion sensor similar to the Legend of Zelda games on the Wii (Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword). Gameplay is mainly played in 3D, though there are some parts where the camera will shift into a 2D perspective.
Unlike Secret Rings where Sonic was the only playable character, Black Knight offers 4 playable characters, including Sonic. The others being Sir Lancelot (played by Shadow), Sir Gawain (Played by Knuckles), and Sir Percival (Played by Blaze).
The “Sonic Storybook Series” name was only used on the US cover of the Black Knight boxart. In 2009, Sega ran a Facebook poll to see where fans wanted Sonic to travel to for his next storybook adventure. Options included Film Noir, Greek Mythology, Horror, Sci-Fi, and Western. Greek Mythology won the poll, however nothing has been announced as for the future of the Storybook Series since.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4
The long awaited true sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles had finally arrived in the form of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 in the form of 2 episodic adventures, rightully named Episode I and Episode II, released in 2010, and 2012 respectfully. The game was marketed as being a return to Sonic’s roots in classic 2D platforming action.
Episode I takes a similar form to Sonic 1 in terms of gameplay and level design. Sonic is the only playable character with Dr. Eggman being the sole antagonist. Special stages represent a similar take on the Sonic 1 stages. You can still transform into Super Sonic after collecting all 7 of the Chaos Emeralds (unlike in Sonic 1). The game features 5 levels representing similarities to Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 environments.
Episode II is more in tune with an updated feel of Sonic 2. Sonic and Tails are both playable characters, however only through local or online co-op can you play as Tails. There is no way to have either Sonic or Tails play through the game alone (unlike in Sonic 2 where you had the choice). Eggman makes his return and brings with him Metal Sonic to take place of Sonic 2’s “Mecha Sonic”. 5 levels along with the Special Stages all bare resemblance to the original Sonic 2 but with heavily updated graphics and art.
If players purchased both Episode I and II (on the same console), they will unlock a special “Episode Metal” version of Sonic 4, which allows players to play as Metal Sonic and learn of his backstory before entering Episode II. Episode Metal only has 4 Acts, each taking place in an Episode I level, but with the improved physics of Episode II.
Sonic Team had plans to create an Episode III of the series, most likely representing environments and characters from Sonic 3. However in 2015 the plans were officially canceled without any explanation as to why. Some feel the backlash from Episode I and II being not as loyal to the original Genesis/Mega Drive games both graphically and gameplay-wise were to blame. Sonic’s homing attack was included, and the physics were not the same as the original games.
Released on November 12, 2010, Sonic Colors was another Nintendo exclusive title released on the Wii and Nintendo DS. While both games shared the same concept of “Wisps” to give Sonic unique abilities, both games had very different play styles. The Wii version played much similar to the 3D gameplay of Sonic Unleashed while the DS version relied more 2D gameplay similar to Sonic Rush.
There are a total of 10 differently colored Wisps (6 in the DS version) that Sonic can collect and use to give him unique powers that allow him to pass various obsticles and access different areas. Sonic can turn into a laser, drill, rocket, a balloon, and many more. These transformations happen for a short while, so Sonic will need to act quickly to clear the troubling obstacles ahead.
Sonic Colors is the first 3D game where Super Sonic is fully playable in all of the main stages of the game. By collecting Special Rings throughout the normal stages, you’ll be unlocking levels in “Game Land”, which is sort of like an extended special stage type of world where you can play 3 acts per level, and at the end of each level you earn a Chaos Emerald. Clearing all 7 levels and collecting the Chaos Emeralds will unlock Super Sonic for use in normal play with the exception of boss battles.
On May 27, 2021 Sega announced a remastered version of Sonic Colors titled Sonic Colors: Ultimate during its Sonic Central 30th Anniversary event. This remastered version will have enhanced visuals, refined controls, multiple language voiced dialogue including French, Italian, German, and Spanish (along with English and Japanese), a many other new features. The game will be released on Spetember 7, 2021 for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and the Epic Games Store on PC.
2011 marked Sonic’s 20th Anniversary and to celebrate, Sonic Team got together to create Sonic Generations, the first Sonic game where a clash between the retro-styled Sonic and modern Sonic get together for an adventure through the 20 years of Sonic’s battles with Dr. Eggman and saving the world. This time Sonic is up against the “Time Eater”, which randomly appeared and sent Sonic and his friends into another dimension of pure white nothingness.
Different aspects of Sonic’s time represent levels from previous Sonic games and era’s. Games such as the classic trilogy, Sonic Adventure, Sonic Heroes, Sonic ‘06, Sonic Unleashed, and Sonic Colors are all represented in this game. There are 2 acts to each level, the first act plays completely in 2D using the retro-styled Sonic, while the second act plays in modern 3D with the modern Sonic. Each completed level will save one of Sonic’s friends who are frozen in time and turned to stone.
The game received positive reviews, while not exactly game of the year standards, it was certainly a step up from Sonic Unleashed and about on par with Sonic Colors. Things were looking up for Sonic fans as decently good games were making a return after the use of the Hedgehog Engine.
Sonic Lost World
Sonic Lost World is the next installment released exclusively first to Nintnedo’s Wii U and 3DS handheld in October 18, 2013 to European territories. It wasn’t until one week later on October 24th that it would be released in Japan and the 29th in the US. It was later released on PC 2 years later on November 2, 2015.
Sonic and Tails crash land in a world known as the “Lost Hex” during their pursuit of Dr. Eggman. As they explore the world they discover that Eggman has recruited the aid of the Deadly Six by using a magical conch to keep them under his command. Fortunately, Sonic knocks the conch out of his hands, and the Deadly Six turn on Eggman and take control of his ever-growing robot army. The unlikely team of Sonic, Tails, and Eggman join forces to stop the Deadly Six from taking over the world.
Sonic’s moveset has changed to a more parkour-style movement for the game. With the use of speed and momentum, Sonic will be able to run up walls, and doing flying kicks to take out enemies in his path. Sonic’s running ability is now mapped to a button to hold on the controller rather than being the default speed of movement. The wisps from Colors make a return and bring along new colors and powers for Sonic to take advantage of.
Christian Whitehead takes center stage once again as the developer for the release of Sonic Mania on August 15, 2017 to celebrate Sonic’s 25th Anniversary. With help from Headcannon and PagodaWest Games, Sonic Mania brings Sonic back to his absolute true 2D pixelated roots in a brand new adventure filled with re-imagined zones from the classic Sonic games as well as brand new zones to add to the mix.
The game features a countless number of references and nods to a variety of different Sonic games and Sega hardware throughout the 90’s as well as bringing back the blue sphere special stages as bonus stages, and creating a brand new special stage that plays similarly in style of the Sonic CD special stages mixed with collecting blue spheres instead of destroying UFO’s.
On July 17th 2018, Sonic Mania Plus was released as an expansion DLC to Sonic Mania adding Mighty and Ray as playable characters, 4-player Competition Mode, and an Encore Mode which is an entire rearrangement of the games level design as well as the ability to play multiple characters at once almost similarly to Knuckles Chaotix but without the bungee cord between characters.
Sonic Mania became one of the highest rated Sonic games since his departure from the Sega Dreamcast and gave fans exactly what they were looking for in a Sonic game. The nostalgia hit hard, and the presentation of the game was immaculate to the classic Sonic games of the 90’s. It was a huge breath of fresh air from the mediocre games that fans have been used to in the years leading up to the game’s release.
Sonic Forces continues the celebration of Sonic’s 25th Anniversary with a brand new modern 2D-3D adventure releasing just a few months after Sonic Mania on November 17, 2017. The game brings the return of the retro Sonic and modern Sonic duo from Sonic Generations, but this time with entirely new worlds and levels to explore. This is the first game to use the newly developed “Hedgehog Engine 2”.
A third character is also introduced as a playable character known as the Avatar. This is the customization character that players can create to enter into the Sonic world and play as. Players have the choice of choosing one of 7 animal species as the character’s base attribute. These species each have their own unique ability that the character posses such as blowing enemies away, perform a double jump, automatically draw rings and collectibles, keeping one ring after getting hit, and more. Of course you can also customize the Avatar’s look with headgear, gloves, shoes, accessories, and more.
Three pieces of DLC were later released for Sonic Forces including an Episode starring Shadow the Hedgehog which serves as a prequel to the game’s story. It was also surprisingly the first time Shadow has been a playable character since Sonic Adventure 2. Another piece of DLC was the add-on of Super Sonic being playable in the game. Both Modern and Classic Sonic can transform outside of boss battles with this DLC pack. The last piece of DLC was for a T-shirt with the Sanic image meme on the front because why the hell not?
Sonic Forces was seen as a disappointment after the overwhelming success of Sonic Mania. There was some hope for the game after Sonic Mania’s release, but after reality hit with the reputation that 3D Sonic games have been getting over the years, fans were sad to see the game only be just as mediocre, if not less-so than previous games in the series.
During the Sonic Central 30th Anniversary Event, a brand new Sonic game was announced to the public. It is speculated to be titled “Sonic Rangers” according to metadata as well as the word “marza” which may suggest that Marza Animation Planet could also be involved in the production of the game. The game is scheduled to release some time in 2022 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Sonic the Hedgehog has had an explosive entrance to the gaming scene, and while throughout his career he’s had his ups and downs, he still has his share of loyal fans that will follow him for years to come. Of course with every famous mascot comes an ever growing bunch of haters who will do anything to throw as much shade of negativity as they possibly can whenever his name is brought up.
Throughout his career he has not only released a huge number of console and handheld games (I’ve only covered the mainline games here), but also has a wide array of comic books, TV shows, music albums, action figures, board games, and other memorabilia. There is no stopping this blue hedgehog from running forward towards the unknown future that awaits him and his fans.