SEGA finally lifted the lid on Sonic Boom, a new game and 3D animated cartoon show, coming as a surprise to many. One of the big talking points on the day of the reveal was the new look given to Sonic and co. Amid all the controversies and jokes you’ll find on the web, it can be tough to separate fact from fiction and criticism from crying. Here’s everything you need to know – the good, bad and the ugly.
It’s being developed in the US by notable developers
The first trailer for Sonic Boom revealed that the developer for the Wii U version of the game is Big Red Button Entertainment, a studio formed in 2008 by Bob Rafei. Bob Rafei was one of the first Naughty Dog employees, and was employed at the legendary studio for over a decade. Rafei was a key player in the creation of Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and the first Uncharted title.
Another developer whose name might be a mystery to some of you, but whom Sonic fans might know is Chris Senn. Chris Senn worked on the ill-fated Sonic Xtreme for Sega Saturn, which was infamously cancelled in 1996. Now it appears he gets the chance to right some of those wrongs with Sonic Boom.
People have been clawing at the possibility of a non-Sonic Team game since time immemorial, so now they get the chance to see how another developer would interpret the series.
It’s built using CryEngine 3
Eagle-eyed Sonic fans have seen the locales shown in the trailer before. In a Crytek video from GDC in March 2013 showcasing the different environments from CryEngine projects, one of the sizzle reels shows locations from Sonic Boom. Especially for a Wii U game, the game looks very good graphically, with all sorts of lighting and particle effects. What this also means is that Sonic Boom might actually not contain a ton of annoying and intrusive bugs, which have been known to hinder Sonic games in the past.
Big Red Button confirmed in an interview with CVG that they worked closely with Crytek to produce dual splitscreen on the Wii U Gamepad and the TV simultaneously. This is designed to be one of the games that show off the capability of the Wii U.
It’s a spinoff
This should come as good news to some of you. Sonic Boom is not a “reboot”. It’s an offshoot of the Sonic universe, existing with its own canon. The easiest comparison to make would be Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, which features different character back stories and designs, while not affecting the main series. If Sonic Boom goes pear-shaped, it won’t affect whatever it is Sonic Team are working on. The main series, in which Sonic doesn’t wear a scarf and listen to Skrillex, will still continue separately.
Sonic and crew’s in-game look
The character designs may not look that different from their original counterparts in the concept art, but the in-game models of the team look hideous. You would expect a Jak and Daxter vibe from the creator of Jak and Daxter, after all, but these character models look like they could come straight out of the Jak games. Sonic looks far better in the also-revealed TV show so far.
What happened here? Knuckles looks hilariously out of place next his friends, having been practically doubled in size and with a ridiculous set of proportions. He was always supposed to be the “strong” character, but the developers took this idea and ran with it a little too far. The other character changes are mostly inoffensive – a scarf here, a tool belt there – but Knuckles’ design is the most drastic. It’s probably too late to change it, so it looks like we’re stuck with it for now. They really dropped the ball here, but a simple change would be to shrink him to be the same height as Sonic.
The ugly truth here is that none of the above actually means anything. There will be many whose opinion on the game will be formed by the negativity surrounding the series, rather than the game itself. Even if Sonic Boom manages to make a dent in some of the hyperbolic sentiments on the modern series’ perceived quality, it would only be for a little while. After a quiet release on the unhealthy Wii U, normal service will resume and the internet can get on with hating the series again.
This is a shame because Sonic Boom represents a different angle on SEGA’s part. It feels like we’re finally seeing an actual attempt to change the perception of the series that was so brutally destroyed in 2006. SEGA are billing 2014 as a year in which we’ll see a “renaissance” for Sonic. It just feels like that if a renaissance were to occur, it would go by unnoticed. If a disaster were to occur, it would be front-page news.