Why We Needed Sonic '06
Sonic 06 was a horrid, yet necessary step in Sonic's continuing journey as a franchise. Despite the fact that many of us would like to forget it, there is something to appreciate in that it helped SEGA realize that rushing incomplete games to shelves isn't the best approach.
The title may have you a bit stumbled. Everyone remembers Sonic 06, though I'm sure most wish they didn't. It was an abomination of code that was meant to revive Sonic as a franchise and bring him back as a mainstay title. Irony is cruel when a game that had A LOT of potential got rushed to a release to end up being the worst in the series. Forgive me if I seem to ramble a lot in this article as it really is my first blog on the topic. Also, I'd like to apologize for the placement of the pictures. This is a recycled post from another blog of mine I feel they are necessary to further illustrate the point I aim to make but despite how I try to orient them they refuse to do what I want and I feel the overall quality of the blog suffers for it. I'm open to ideas on how to fix this issue, but trying to float them to one side just isn't working (does in the preview, not in the final post). Moving on.....
So, again, why the title? What do you mean "Why we needed Sonic 06"?
I'm referring to a series of rushed games and shortcuts taken by SEGA and Sonic Team to meet deadlines. Sonic 06 wasn't the first, just the most known due to how obvious of a rush job it was. If I named other titles that lost a lot of content over a rushed release date you might be surprised. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (aka the best selling Genesis/Mega Drive game), Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and even Sonic Adventure all had content cuts.
But those games were GOOD. What could possibly have been added to make them better?
Yes, a good point. Those games were all known for their good quality (yes that includes Adventure). That doesn't mean that they were what they were MEANT to be. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 suffered the loss of levels and even some story concepts. Concepts for the story ended up being used in Sonic CD (time travel) but the levels never saw the light of day with an official release. The most famous of the levels among the more knowledgeable fans is obviously Hidden Palace Zone.
Hidden Palace was in....
No. Not Sonic 3's version. And yes I'll get to that statement before you bite my head off with S&K. Hidden Palace Zone was actually more akin to Ice Cap Zone in appearance, being the first to feature the glowing bridges and the bright textures. The level looked a lot more like a ruin, and was shown off in magazine pictures and was one of the most anticipated levels to be played due to it's aesthetic appeal as well as dinosaur themed badniks. That level never made the final cut because of time constraints. Thanks to some of the prototypes that made their way onto the internet, it's possible to actually play this level to an extent. The level ends abruptly in the builds with an impossible hill leading to what might possibly have been the end of the level. What's interesting is the speculation that could be made from here. The hill was actually very similar to the hills you scale in Marble Garden Zone in Sonic 3, meaning it might have had a mountain climbing gimmick. Otherwise it would have likely had a moving platform. At the top was a water slide similar to Labyrinth Zone. I digress.
Other levels missing include Wood Zone, Genocide City Zone (yes, that's real), Dust Hill Zone, Winter Zone, and Rock Zone. Some names more original (and in Genocide City's case, disturbing) than others. Wood Zone was simple enough, a jungle themed level with some conveyors and hollowed out trees as well as some of its own unique enemies. Dust Hill was to be the first desert themed level in the main titles. Winter Zone was to be a palette swap of Dust Hill to make it, you guessed it, covered in snow. Rock Zone was meant to be mountainous and to be quite honest I have no idea what Genocide City was going to be. Now think about what it would have been like to have played those levels in the game, extending the difficulty and replayability? Fine, maybe you can't but I sure as hell could. 6 extra stages to an already nice and lengthy game would have been outstanding but the game still managed to be a huge hit. Thankfully some of the clever Sonic hacking community members have made their own versions of these levels, which can be found at Sonic Retro.
Sonic 3 wasn't as severe due to the fact that they eventually did release the game in its entirety.... kind of. Sonic 3 was originally supposed to be the combined game of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Due to, you guess it, time constraints, half the game was cut to meet deadlines. This made it a bit obvious in segments like Angel Island and Ice Cap where players can see pathways that can only be taken with debug mode. These were made for Knuckles, a character who wasn't playable. Accessing the sound test gave players access to music not used in the game (stage music from Sonic & Knuckles that never was taken out of the game) and even let them see the names of stages not in the game. The game was rushed for a Holiday release and ultimately they had to cut out half the intended game. They were then going to release a "Collector's Edition" but instead ended up with Sonic & Knuckles with its Lock-On technology.
Sonic Adventure saw some content withheld as well, but not nearly as well known as the above items due to the fact that a good bit of it was discovered after the game's release. 3 stages named didn't appear in the game at all, and many stages were so heavily edited that they almost didn't resemble what video montages from Sonic Team put out. Due to some nice glitches, you can find sections of levels that characters shouldn't have been able to reach. This is very apparent when Knuckles can access Sonic's portion of Lost World and find that some of the enemy spawns are different. There was even a two headed dragon boss that never made it into the final release, but was left in the coding to be found by the Sonic hacking community.It was also originally going to give players the option to manually transform into Super Sonic during stages. All in all, a highly successful game with features left out that would likely have added soooo much to the game.
Now that brings us to Sonic 06. While I don't excuse the lack of hit detection in some areas, a completely botched physics engine, the automated segments literally throwing you to your death, and the fact that Sonic runs at roughly half the speed of the DEMO of the game. Hell, did you know that if you read the booklet it talks about the typical Shield that appears in every game as a power up? Now think about that when you notice that there are NO shields in the game. Yes Sonic 06 had content left out (a LOT of it) and people like to complain about that at times, but what made this game truly horrid was the huge list of glitches and loading screens.
Now what does this have to do with the other games? We all know Sonic 06 was bad for how it played.
Well this is what brings us full circle to the title of my blog today. Sonic 06 was the game that got caught. SEGA was notorious for their reputation at rushing development. They even fully cancelled a Sonic game because it couldn't meet deadlines (Sonic X-Treme, and there's a huge story behind that too).They've made it more and more apparent that deadlines were more important than content and quality and because of that it finally reached a point where the consumers had to draw a line. Sure, the newer Sonic games haven't exactly been what many wanted (I don't like holding the Boost button and scarcely platforming), but they are refined and completed games. The only issues that appear these days for Sonic are in design and not through a rushed release date.
So, despite this being a huge rambling of thoughts bunched loosely under a single idea, Sonic 06 was a game necessary for the improvement of the franchise. Without the release and utter failure of this game, we'd still be seeing incomplete Sonic titles being released today. Fact is with each new title they're getting closer to pleasing the fanbase with a Sonic game that feels a little closer to home. I, for one, enjoyed a good bit of Sonic Generations for its progress with Modern Sonic gameplay (though I could rant at the horrid "Classic Sonic" gameplay). Sonic 06 was a painful, enduring, long loading screen experience but one that was necessary for the franchise. I'd like you all to remember this next time the nightmares of this game refresh themselves in your mind, especially if you like where the franchise has started going ever since.