I picked up Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood a few months back with a lot of excitement. I was one of the doomed poor souls who had thrown all of their meager resources behind the Sega Genesis back during the 16 bit console wars of the mid ’90s, and seeing Sonic the Hedgehog get drug through the gutter over the past fifteen years was really painful to watch. How could the blue speed demon end up this way? He had so much promise, especially after the epic Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles chronicle that had more story than you’d expect in a game where the characters never speak a word.
Basically, who has whored out my childhood, put Sonic in drag and made him turn tricks in a scary, 3D environment?
So when I heard the rumors that Bioware was taking Sonic under their reliable and competent wing, I was overjoyed. Finally, maybe Sega’s former mascot could be given the respect he deserves, in a game that actually has gameplay value. Oh god I wanted it so badly.
So when I finally got my DS, Sonic was the first game I picked up. Almost immediately something soured me on the game, though it took me a while to figure out what it was.
Sonic the Hedgehog… creeps me right the fuck out.
At first I attributed the lurching feeling in the pit of my stomach to the fact that Sonic’s friends irritate me beyond any reasonable doubt, to the point of being physically ill. Bioware did a pretty good job with the dialogue between the characters in the game, but when you get right down to it, if you put a crappy, irritating, one-dimensional character in a suit and a tie, it’s still just a crappy, irritating, one-dimensional character. But I bypassed that, mostly, by sticking to characters I could tolerate, like Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Big the Cat was okay too, I guess, but that’s only because he is delightfully stupid. Like… shouldn’t be allowed to have sharp objects stupid.
But as I put away more and more hours into the game, I realized it was something else. Maybe it came when Tails gave a speech about working together as a team, or maybe when Knuckles threatened to pound Sonic into a pulp. None of them… were wearing pants.
I remember back in my innocent childhood days, seeing anthropomorphic animals going buck wild was just a part of life. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and numerous other video game mascots liked the, uh, freer side of life. And when I used to play the old Sonic games, the blue wonder’s hatred of pants was just not an issue. Well, maybe it makes sense in his case… gotta cut down on friction, I guess.
But to make matters more unsettling were the fact that all these characters still wore bright red shoes and gloves on their hands. They are aware that clothes exist and want nothing to do with them!
This realization hit me like a ton of bricks, when Tails took the crew to a new zone in his trusty airplane, the Tornado. The first thing I asked myself when they reached their destination was whether or not anyone had bothered to wipe down the seats afterwards. That was the very moment innocence died.
Actually, I guess innocence died quite some time ago for me. Lets be honest, there really wasn’t much of a furry movement back in the mid 1990s, which I now consider to be the good old days. I wonder if I had known exactly what that was back then, if I would have been able to play a Sonic game with a clear conscious and a settled stomach.
It’s a problem now, though. Through the game, normal Sonic-and-his-friends dialogue became wincingly awful, from Amy’s ham-handed attempts at romance to Tails’ insistence of referring to everyone as ‘team.’ I found myself hiding the game box under other DS games, so if I have any visitors they don’t think I’m some kind of secret furry. I haven’t touched the game in months. I can’t bring myself to re-enter that pantless, unsettlingly creepy world again.
Also: There are human characters in this game. The humans, thankfully, are wearing pants, but not a single one of them seems to think it odd that there are apparently only nine anthropomorphic animals in the world, and sometimes they hit on them. Oh god… they’re part of it too!
The whole game kind of feels like Sega and Bioware are well aware that Sonic has taken a few blows over the years both story wise, character wise, and due to real life, uh, social, movements. Instead of trying something basic, they hung signs up pointing at all of this, as if to say ‘look, Sonic’s still cool, right?’ when the sad truth is that sassy anthropomorphic animals haven’t really been cool or trendy since the Coke versus Pepsi battles of the late 1990s. In fact, they’re now just downright disturbing.
With a new 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game slated for release on Xbox Live and Playstation Network, I can feel the hope welling up in me again for an old school Sonic the Hedgehog game. But now, well, having Sonic the Hedgehog achievements may fill me with as much shame as those Viva Piniata achievements I meticulously farmed.
It might be time to reserve the blue blur a home in the retired creepy mascot’s home and to work on something new. But maybe, you know, we should get him some pants first. You know how those older folk can be.