Characterization in the Sonic Franchise

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Beamer the Meep, Apr 2, 2021.

What style of characterization do you prefer?

  1. Classic Era Characterization

    59 vote(s)
  2. Adventure Era (SA1 - SH) Characterization

    54 vote(s)
  3. Dark Era (ShTH - SU) Characterization

    13 vote(s)
  4. Modern Era (SC - SF) Characterization

    13 vote(s)
  5. Other

    12 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Yea, that's pretty much what it came down to. Look how many people noted how Shadow effectively is both Knuckles and Metal Sonic wrapped into a single character, or how Blaze is eerily similar to Knuckles in terms of personality and role.

    So because of that, Knuckles' own personality got severely diluted and reduced to typical muscled dumb guy comic relief.

    I actually asked this question on reddit, and people agreed the cast aren't exactly three dimensional, and that they don't have to be.

    I think people just want them to be entertaining to watch, as opposed to just being caricatures of themselves.

    Of course, what people consider "entertaining" varies greatly as well.
  2. Vertekins


    Wants to know everything about Sonic Member
    Midlands, England, UK, over there in Europe.
    Translating whatever Sonic info I get my hands on.
    (ShTH - SU) Characterization for me. Though I include Black Knight in that given it's exclusion from the next choice.

    This era had my fave portrayals of Shadow ('06) and Sonic (Storybook games, Unleashed) in particular. Despite '06's massive flaws, I can give it one thing aside from it's OST - It actually portrayed Shadow really well, sticking to his character development in that he refuses to be goaded by Mephiles even after having his misanthropic side stroked by him. That and his obvious regard for his camaraderie with Rouge and Omega, valuing the former when she vows to stand by his side even if the world turned against him.

    Whilst the Storybook games have my absolute favorite portrayal of Sonic franchise-wide, something still not matched for me even 12 years (14 in Secret Rings' case) after Black Knight's release. Practically everything about Sonic's writing in SatBK in particular feels completely true to practically every official summarization of the character's personality in official materials. I also have a huge soft spot for his portrayal in Unleashed too. I mean, the line "Do I need a reason to help out a friend?" is one of my favourite all-time Sonic lines. The way he's shown in that gobsmacking opening sequence is also worthy of high praise, decimating Dr Eggman's fleet like a hot knife through butter and yet without even a single trying too hard cheesy one-liner.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2021
  3. Sid Starkiller

    Sid Starkiller

    Virginia, USA
    Paying off student loans
    Mostly concerned with Sonic specifically, but Classic and Modern. From Adventure 1 all the way to Black Knight, Sonic was much more "generic hero" than "mascot with attitude". Heroes to Unleashed was the worst of it IMO. Rhythm Raccoon hit the nail on the head with the "pulling character traits for existing characters to give to new ones" thing. Shadow was the "hedgehog with attitude", so Sonic didn't need attitude anymore. Much as I still have a nostalgic fondness for him, not using Shadow anymore is probably really good for Sonic's characterization. Even in Adventure 1 Sonic was kinda toothless. The idle animation says it all: in Adventure, Sonic's idle animation was stretching his legs, and saying to himself "Welp, better get going!" In the classics, Sonic's idle animation was getting pissed at not moving, as if to say to the player "HEY! Get. MOVING!!!" He was still confident in Adventure, but he was cocky in the classics. Staring with Colors Sonic no longer had to share his attitude with such massive casts, and got his teeth back. While the quality of his one-liners under Pontaff sucks, having one-liners at all brings him back to how he once was. He still has lines showing that he's genuinely heroic, and Lost World shows he can recognize when he screws up, so it's like the complete Sonic from the classics was finally reassembled. Amy underwent something similar when Cream showed up. Amy was originally a sweet and caring, but hot-headed girl obsessed with Sonic. Cream took the "sweet and caring" parts for herself, and Amy became just hot-headed and rather abrasive. Battle was the worst in that regard. As popular as some of the supporting cast are, the series might benefit from paring back to a minimum (Sonic/Tails/Knuckles/Amy/Eggman/Metal Sonic).

    As for Tails and Knuckles, Tails laying on the technobabble seems more like an attempt to actually make him seem like the supergenius he's supposed to be. In Japan he was a genius all the way back to 92, but all we ever saw him do was fly an airplane. He wasn't "Sonic's supergenius sidekick", he was "Sonic's sidekick who had a plane". Colors and Lost World let that genius really shine. Giving him a tool belt and welding goggles was something Boom actually did right. For Knuckles, I admit I don't remember the cutscenes from Lost World or Forces that well (not that he had much screentime in LW), but how much of the "Knuckles is a fucking moron" stuff comes from the games versus from Boom (lumping the Boom games in the Boom umbrella for this question)? The reason Eggman's trick worked in 3K is because Knuckles was isolated and had never heard of Sonic before Eggman showed up. He wasn't supposed to be stupid. Adventure didn't help, though. That one was him being stupid.
  4. You know what, while I understand this and even agree with it to an extent. I don't find it to be a problem at all. While I like Sonic's attitude as a whole, I generally prefer his dynamic with Shadow with their different temperaments towards their actions. While that does rob Sonic of some grit, it does help highlight his better qualities.

    I get that the cast is too large, but I don't think parring them down to the bare minimum is the solution, because you are losing a lot with that method.

    We've had Sonic, Tails and Eggman as the only major characters for ten years, and its led to some of the least exciting and boring games imaginable.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021
  5. Shade Vortex

    Shade Vortex

    The Black Vortex Member
    USA, WA.
    Twitch Streams
    My answer is both the Classic characterization (what we saw of them in S3&K specifically), and the Adventure Era- or at least specifically, the two Adventure games because Heroes' characterization was bad IMO. Although I feel Sonic Storybook games were probably the actual best, I don't know where it really fits in the poll, so I also voted Other. I absolutely hate the Modern era characterization. Almost everyone got ruined in some way- Sonic's the too-perfect, joke-obsessed hero (who can't pull it off anywhere near as well as Spiderman or Deadpool), Tails is.... uh, yeah, the less said about that the better. Knux is like other people said, just a dumb meathead. Perhaps the only character to see any improvement is Amy, who was starting to show good traits in properties like Boom.
  6. The way the characters have devolved reminds me of something...

    I once heard someone say that when Sonic got roboticized in the archie comics, the way they handled mecha sonic was interesting, as they took all of sonic's key character traits and twisted them around a bit, but in a way you can still feel Sonic's personality emanating from within.

    >his usual determination got turned into unrelenting drive

    >his cocky attitude got turned into outright arrogance

    >his strong friendships got shifted into an undying loyalty for robotnik (which he successfully broke through)

    The current cast feels like the same thing happened to them in a way. Sega Roboticized Sonic and his friends for our amusement. D:

    Edit: my tired brain completely forgot a part. Sega unfortunately hasn't left the old characters shining from within imo. They're completely lost under the hollow robotic personalities
  7. Brainulator


    Regular garden-variety member Member
    Exactly what I was thinking of with this:
    I also think I like Shadow's portrayal in Forces: cold, but caring; willing to help others and showing concern over Rouge and Omega, but having a no-nonsense attitude as he smacks down Infinite and his Phantom Ruby-created clone (the former I particularly enjoy).
  8. BadBehavior


    You know what, divorced from the game (especially his downloadable afterthought of a story) he's in, I'd agree.
    Its like the one part of the entire modern era thats better than the IDW comic where hes just this "who needs friends" lameass.
  9. Beamer the Meep

    Beamer the Meep

    Better than Sonic Genesis... Member
    I've been seeing quite a bit of discussion of Shadow's characterization following his portrayal in recent spinoff media like the IDW comics and Overdrive. In those he's a needless jerk, and in J's Reviews' Why Shadow the Hedgehog Was a Failure he attributes this to how brooding and unnuanced he was written to be in ShtH by Izuka-San. Honestly, he's my two cents about him.

    While Sonic was always been the embodiment on 90's era "coolness", Shadow seems to have been an attempt to create an embodiment of 2000's "edginess". He was a Dark counterpart to Sonic, a dark reflection if you will, and their answer was to tap into the grunge culture of the early 2000s. That being said, I would argue it was never meant to be to the extent it is now since the Japanese portrayal of Shadow was that of a cold, reserved servant (I'm sure everyone has heard about his use of "boku" and the theme of wishes in SA2 by now). Maybe that's the Japanese version of 2000s edginess?

    The arrogance and jerk-like attitude do come across just a bit in Humphrey's portrayal in the English dub and its possible people latched onto it. Izuka's response was to lean more into those traits for his own game. When Maekawa came back for 06, I think he attempted to build off of the good aspects of SHTh'S story (namely the moving on from his troubled past) by showing how he has moved on. He's no longer in a position where Mephiles can tempt him, he's actively helping humanity rather than destroying it, and while he can be cold and calculating, he does care about the other characters such as Team Dark (another group Maekawa established incidentally).

    The point about his portrayal in Forces isn't something I considered, but it is kinda surprising how relatively inoffensive he seems to be compared to his later appearances. I believe there was some disparity in the American and Japanese characterizations of Shadow in TSR as well, so perhaps the issue here is more about which market to appeal to?
  10. With Shadow, it feels like a case of regions having their own specific interpretations and a lot nuance from the original audio being lost in translation.

    A native Japanese speaker I conversed with was that Shadow's speech patterns and demeanor are meant to convey his professional and straightlaced attitude compared to Sonic's laid-back and cocky attitude. You mentioned Shadow using "boku" which contrasts with Sonic's use of the much more masculine and self assured "ore". He's not really arrogant, but so much just assured about how his superiority. Its not a matter of taunting others, but knowing for a fact that he's perfect.

    That however can very easily be seen as arrogance and haughtiness from an American perspective, and Shadow's game was geared towards American audiences and they played up this attitude way more.

    So I think what it comes down to with Shadow is that he's interpreted very differently depending on who's writing the script; when Japan writes him, he's a no nonsense enforcer who is only interested in getting the job done, while American writes him as confrontational with a need to constantly prove his superiority over others, namely against Sonic.

    Its the same problem a lot of the cast have, but its really pronounced with Shadow because he's had almost as much prominence as the Classic cast since his debut. Two different interpretations that don't really mesh together.

    Its like when people note when Sonic is either too much of a generic good guy or has "too much attitude"
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  11. Forte


    I speak better after three beers Member
    I voted for Classic and Adventure Era because the characterization of the characters seems consistent (it stays consistent as far as Unleashed I'd say).

    It's post 2010, that the awfull Pontac and Graff writing destroys everything I love about Sonic Universe.
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  12. My favourite era of Sonic is undoubtedly Classic, and for the sake of this thread I won't stretch the definition of it. Regardless of where I place the original Sonic Adventure, my second favourite era is the Dreamcast/early modern period. My opinion of (non-modded) Generations has gone down in the past couple years, so Adventure 1 proudly sits on the throne as the best 3D entry in my eyes. I love all the Advance games, and despite some major gripes with Adventure 2 I do still love it. So I suppose it doesn't matter that I find Heroes to be hot trash and still refuse to try 06, as Adventure 1 can carry their dead weight.

    While I'm glad that Sonic Team decided to produce a sequel, I feel like they could have proudly stopped with Sonic Adventure as it was their swan song. It was just-about everything they had wanted to accomplish in a sequel since they had begun storyboarding for Sonic 2. Technical aspects aside, this is broadly the game with the epic story they would've told had Sega not been so absurdly demanding with rushing release dates.

    While unconfirmed, Yasuhara’s maps for Sonic 2 made it seem to me that a traversable overworld map was in the cards at some stage in the development or brainstorming process. I assume it would’ve looked gorgeous in all its 16bit glory, or downright magnificent had they gotten the ball rolling on a sequel for the Saturn. At least Sonic Team went back to their magical design documents for Sonic Adventure, gracing us all with that humongous hub world. Having to roam around, fight the occasional boss, unlock entrances, and conversate with all the anthropomorphic denizens made the world standout as practically its own character. Well, it enabled the world to exude character. I will forever hold some resentment toward Sonic Team for dropping the hub world from SA2. I could list a slew of other changes that could have strengthened my appreciation for and enjoyment of that game, but the lack of a hub is hands-down my biggest gripe.
    Now with all my gushing over Sonic Adventure, you’d probably figure it was my favourite entry in the series overall. That crown goes to Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Always locked-on of course, even though it means missing out on the MJ bops. Most crucially in excluding what me is and always has been the definitive theme of Knuckles. It had this mysterious and mildly aggressive quality to it that was perfect for introducing us to Knuckles. The trifecta of his MJ-produced theme, his pre/mid/post-zone cutscenes, and his squaring off against all those Eggrobos make him the best characterized of all the classics.
    Eggman was probably the second best established prior to Adventure, with his menacing yet slightly goofy battle themes. Of course he was known to turn his wickedness up to eleven for such battles as the Doomsday. Eggman showed off his eccentricities with his badnik design of course, and most narcissistically with his Death Egg Robo and his Egg Robos too. So unfortunate that these quirky designs began getting phased out in SA2, but I suppose Sonic Team had many more ways to reflect his personality by then.
    Sonic pretty much relied on his idle animations for his characterization. Luckily they really put his cool attitude on display, and I still emulate his toe-tapping when people are moving too damn slowly. The music certainly emphasized his personality too, having him come across as this chill blue hedgehog who would never be denied entry to the club. While I enjoy much of Jun Senoue’s music, I’ve always felt that once his tunes began taking up the bulk of the soundtrack that it was a clear indication that Sonic’s character had drastically changed. I still feel like the orchestral stuff that has balanced out many of the more recent soundtracks really has no place in the series, but of course outside of Jun not many of the Genesis/Saturn/Dreamcast composers are even around anymore.
    So Sonic, Knuckles, and Eggman all received, to my ears at least, ample characterization by way of bangin’ soundwaves. Even Metal Sonic did with the proper soundtrack on. Tails sadly had no such luck until the whole cast received vocal themes for Adventure, wherein he had the best. Prior to ‘98 we basically had to rely on the manuals, which were rubbish unless you sourced a Japanese copy and could read the language.

    To recap: the major players had much of their characterization handled by the music and the quirks in their animations. For a young kid in the 90’s this worked just fine, so that even when later games were able to feature much more direct characterization via voice-acting and ridiculous plotlines, I still generally prefer the methods of the classics.
  13. sittingouttheweekend


    Tails’ tails still don’t make sense. Member
    Oh, heavens, please this. I dream for the day we get a 3D Sonic game that handles its story as simply and elegantly as S3&K; like, if we could get a game where cutscenes were handled chiefly with character and little bursts of dialogue, I would be much more on-board with that than a sudden unplayable section of the game that effectively says “Sorry, man, gotta talk at you for a couple minutes.”
  14. XAndrew


    Well I guess like most said here. I gotta go with BOTH the Classic era and Adventure era in terms of Sonic characterization. I believe they really didn't change THAT much anyway. The only thing that REALLY changed between the two era's were designs.
  15. Even then, their designs only barely shifted. It was mostly just an art style shift, and everyone back in the day apparently couldn't handle it lol
  16. Any time a series undergoes a major art style and tone shift, its gonna ruffle some feathers I've noticed.
  17. Josh


    For sure. I came across a Usenet thread from the summer of '98 where Sonic's new design was first teased, and the first reaction was DENIAL. People were saying he looked too "evil" to really be Sonic, and speculated that it might be a new character, or an upgraded form of Metal.

    That's kind of mean. :( The fact that SA changed things enough that it got ^that reaction out of people should be enough to tell you that there was SOMETHING to it. The demand for "Classic Sonic" that grew and grew over the following decade and change didn't come from nothing. But if you got into Sonic after 1999, you never had to get used to those changes, y'know? You don't have to see it the same way, but I wish you guys would try to see where a lot of us were coming from. I mean, I got a Dreamcast on launch and LOVED Sonic Adventure, but it (and SA2) really was in my eyes a pretty radical change from what Sonic had been to that point.

    I've probably said this before, but most of us still probably remember all the controversy over the Boom designs, right? Imagine if that just WAS the mainline series from now on, complete with a different setting, overhauled characterizations, and different lore. Or heck, look at how many fans NOW see Colors as a differentiation. Even this thread's poll uses it as the start of the modern era! I've even seen people argue that Sonic pre-Colors and post-Colors is a different universe entirely, and wishing they'd retcon everything that's happened since. I disagree, but I can empathize, because that's pretty much how the Adventure split came across, too.
  18. Laura


    Brightened Eyes Member
    Honestly I think the way everyone spends so much time on Sonic's redesign in Adventure is misleading. Were people that bothered about it? Some hardcore fans were, but I don't think critics and the general pubic were bothered or even noticed. When I first played Adventure I recognised that he had green eyes and that was it.

    When people in the mid 2000s talked about Sonic changing in Adventure they were primarily talking about the drastic change in gameplay, shift to realism, and the dominant rock music. I think the complaints about the music of Sonic from Adventure onwards have actually died out. Most people are in agreement now that the OST of the games are cheesy but still great. But that was way more of a complaint than Sonic's redesign for the last two decades.

    I think that the 'controversy' around the cast's redesign in Sonic Adventure is a tedious topic because it's just a strawman. Hardly anyone cared about it and very few do now.

    In fact, when the green eyes complaint popped up in Sonic 4, everyone took the piss out of it not simply because it's so absurd, but because no one had a clue ahyone in the fanbase even took issue with the minor changes in character design from Sonic 3 to SA1.
  19. Azookara


    yup Member
    Agreed with Laura. Also, just because some people felt it at the time doesn’t mean I have to empathize with it.

    I mean, here’s some old UseNet posts ragging on Sonic 3. If we’re willing to ignore common reception at the time for a few angry fan takes on SA1 then we might as well do the same here.
  20. RDNexus


    I'm probably in the minority here.
    When I first saw SA1's designs, I never felt bothered or weirded out by them.
    They actually clicked with me. I loved them and never changed my mind ^^"
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