Daily Archives

08/02/2010

Miscellaneous

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.