How Sonic Adventure nailed Sonic's characterization.

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by khabastos, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. khabastos

    khabastos

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    With Sonic Adventure, Sonic Team expanded the scope of their games massively. The usual small island inhabited by animals is still at stake, but now there's a whole city full of actual people on top of that. Naturally, the narrative had to evolve. Because of this, making Sonic talk was a good move, in my opinion. As far as I know, that's not a common opinion and some will tell you that he should have stayed a silent protagonist. Sonic Mania Adventures is a great example of how that can work, but the setting there fits with this decision.

    Surprisingly, I also don't have a problem with Sonic Adventure's writing. In fact, I'm about to praise it. Sure, "Ah yeah! This is happenin'!" is not a great opening line and doesn't tell you much about Sonic's personality, but everything that comes after does. He notices the police cars and instead of the snarky remark about "checking it out" you'd expect nowadays, he calmly whispers to himself "What's up?". This is the first glimpse of something I like a lot: Sonic is curious. Throughout his entire story in Adventure, he's shown to be curious about what he sees and doesn't rush into things like certain games would have you believe (I'm looking at you, Sonic Lost World). This is also shown when he meets Chaos again and quietly comments "Oh no, isn't that the same monster I saw the other day...".

    One thing I will say is that the writing does feel a bit dated, like "ya big drip". I don't feel like Sonic's delivery of these lines is as bad as some might say, but I think they try to force too much the idea that he's "cool". He's a blue hedgehog running fast and destroying robots effortlessly, I don't need anything more than that.

    The other thing Sonic Adventure does really well is showing how Sonic cares about not only his friends, but people in general. The infamous "Watch out! You're gonna crash! Ahhhh!" line (that is admittedly bad) overshadows the next one: "Tails... What am I gonna do with you?". I'm going to be honest, I don't know exactly how to explain it, but it feels way more genuine than if he was like "Oh my god, I gotta save Tails!". Later on in the game, after the Tornado crashes and he's separated from Tails, Sonic says "Oh, I wonder if he's okay?". It works on multiple levels for me: he shows respect for Tails by not acting as if he's defenseless alone and he sounds like an actual person who's really worried, but has to carry on, and so keeps it to himself (especially since right after this he has to deal with Amy). It's relatable, y'know? He also shows respect for Knuckles by letting him do his own thing even though it's technically his fault that Sonic lost 2 Chaos Emeralds. Finally, in the Egg Carrier, right before fighting Chaos 6, he offers to help Big get Froggy back! Station Square is on the verge of being destroyed and Sonic bothers to help a big cat rescue his friend.

    Sonic in Adventure had the benefit of not being meme'd to death yet and so feels more like an honest version of the character. Later games would double down on the snarky remarks, the friendship theme and the "cool" factor in spite of the more human aspects. I don't want Sonic to give me a complex story, but I'm never going to be engaged by the usual monster of the week or Eggman taking over the world ordeal if the characters aren't entertaining, and being relatable helps. Sonic in Forces feels like a robot, made to crack jokes and lecture kids. He never shows fear, worry, hate, nothing (remember when Eggaman fled from the Egg Carrier as it was crashing and Sonic falls on the Mystic Ruins, only to rant "Aarrgh! I hate Eggman!"? It's the simple stuff).

    This might not be as relevant for you as it is for me, but even games that are praised for their version of Sonic, like Unleashed (a game which I love), feel like they have a shallower version of the character. It's not like they're going to read this, but I also feel it's important to say it as Sonic Team may believe that Sonic's core traits are the problem when people criticize the writing.
     
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  2. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

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    Probably my favourite moment from all cutscenes in 3D games is that moment above the Egg Carrier when Sonic tries to make a joke or act cool (I don't remember the dialogue) as he looks at Tails, and he totally fails, so when Tails looks him back his face is like "Seriously Sonic? I really admire you but right now you're making really hard for me to keep doing so".

    So, in other words, it was good they showed Sonic as an imperfect character but even better that other in-game character acknowledged that. I'm not sure if that's happened again in later games, but I'm quite sure it's never felt more authentic than in that scene.
     
  3. SystemsReady

    SystemsReady

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    hahahahaha it's that Tails is wowed by the Egg Carrier transforming and Sonic looks over at him annoyed before exclaiming that it means it'll take them longer to get to the bridge, to which tails responds "I hate it when he doesn't listen..."

    I disagree with this, Sonic is a thrillseeker who likes the big city lights...until actual trouble happens that is, and he drops it entirely go to help out. Think about it, why is he on a roof? He likes running around like a lunatic for the rush, BUT ALSO him doing skyscraper-hopping means he doesn't cause any trouble for people like he would running at Mach 20 while on the ground.

    EDIT:
    Ah, I just remembered also:

    The line Ryan Drummond has before that one, where he tells the kid "you're not who I'm looking for" is still to this day one of my favorite line deliveries of his. He just fell out of the sky and spent the past few minutes headfirst in sand, and the game has already characterized him as somewhat hot-blooded, yet the way he talks to the kid staring at him is with gentleness before he runs off with a similar gentle concern about Tails.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  4. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

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    Yeah, I checked after loggin' out and had to come back to edit, but you got here first. Foggy memories, it seems. Still, comical enough to be my favourite, and Sonic not listening still counts as imperfect Sonic. I just wonder now if Sonic looked at Tails that way because he was pointing something obvious or because he was amazed by their enemy's technology.

    Oh, and he is still too reckless, he jumps from Egg Carrier to follow fleeing Eggman. Luckily for him, that didn't count as a botttomless pit and he ended up on Mystic Ruins.
     
  5. khabastos

    khabastos

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    Haha, it's all good, I knew what scene you were talking about immediately, I also find it very charming! Nowadays, the friendship between Sonic and Tails feels so void. Sonic Lost World kind of tried to give depth to their relationship, but it was all wrong. They don't need conflict, just little moments like what you described to make them feel real. Sonic doesn't really care if the Egg Carrier is impressive or not, he just wants to blow it up, so it makes sense he'd be annoyed by Tails being in awe.

    I suppose you're right. I personally dislike it, but the fact that you can describe so much of his personality from that scene alone shows that it has at least some value.

    Very good point! I glossed over that but I completely agree with you! I really miss this side of Sonic. Another moment I like a lot is from Sonic Heroes, even though that game is the beginning of the "power of friendship" thing. After beating Eggman, Sonic admits to being scared (like, when does he ever do that now?!) and thanks Tails and Knuckles for helping him. Their reactions are just icing on the cake.
     
  6. Stink Terios

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    I dunno, Sonic's characterization in Adventure always painted him to me as a lame tryhard that stays up at night cringing about the things he said during the day.
     
  7. SuperSnoopy

    SuperSnoopy

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    I might be a bit biais since this is the version of the character I grew up with, but the Sonic from Adventure 1 and 2 (the latter especially), combined with Sonic X that aired on TV at the time is my favorite version of Sonic.

    Tails is great in these games too, btw. A lot of characters had very consistent characterization in the Adventures games and that resulted in some solid interactions.
    Everything feels a bit more... fake nowadays? I dunno, Pontac and Graff's writing is hot garbage but one thing they screwed up especially imo is the way the characters talk to each other. Feels like they just exist to bounce lame jokes off each other. That used to be Sonic's job, but now everybody is a jokester. Boring.
     
  8. Stink Terios

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    Oh, absolutely. What we had with Adventure wasn't very good overrall, but what we have today is lazy and cynical. I think anyone can agree current Sonic desperately needs passion behind it, because it's not getting any in the games themselves.
     
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  9. Frostav

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    My favorite bit of characterization from him in the Series is the Crazy Gadget > Artificial Emerald Fakeout. Sonic actually comes off as a legitimate hero who cares about his friends in that sequence and not a smarmy toolbag.
     
  10. Sid Starkiller

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    Yeah, both the actual line and "Oh my god, I gotta save Tails!" convey caring, but the actual line adds in a touch of good-natured ribbing. That's how friends actually interact. Sometimes I feel like children's media tends to shy away from things like that, thinking it's "mean" or whatever, but this kind of interaction makes the characters relatable.

    And Eggman, too. He's repeatedly said to have an IQ of 300, but 99% of the time, all we ever see him do with it is build stuff. Impressive stuff, admittedly, but still. Throughout the Dark Story, we see him make plans to achieve his aims, deduce Sonic's plan to stop his superweapon, outwit Sonic & Tails, and almost kill Sonic. Literally, if Sonic hadn't thought to attempt Chaos Control with the fake Emerald, Eggman would've won (well, discounting the totally out-of-the-blue plan from his grandfather to kamikaze the ARK into Earth).
     
  11. Josh

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    I guess I'll be the voice of dissent, here.

    As far as I'm concerned, stories in voice-acted Sonic games have never risen higher than, say, a C+, maybe a B-. Some are a little better, some are a little worse, but they all hover around the same unremarkable average. They're almost universally written down to the level of kids in a way that many kids' shows AREN'T anymore. That might be fine if you ARE a kid, and it's bound to be nostalgic if you grew up with them (I still love Power Rangers, I know how it goes), but as someone who didn't... I don't think the writing of the more recent games is really much better OR worse than the writing of ~20 years ago.

    It's a little different, sure. Back then, it was cheesy, anime-esque stories full of obvious plot holes, kiddy contrivances, and one-note characterization. Now, it's cheesy, CARTOON-esque stories full of obvious plot holes, kiddy contrivances and one-note characterization, but (in keeping with the times) it's more SELF-AWARE. Truthfully, I find either approach to be a guilty pleasure, I think they're charming as heck, but trash that smells different from other trash is still trash.

    The stories are at least not SO over-the-top SRS BSNS nowadays that they're damaging Sonic's reputation anymore, so that's an improvement. But if they're going to keep putting so much time into having stories, I do wish they'd make 'em worthwhile for people older than, like, 12. You can write a kid-friendly story that's not JUST for kids, and there's no shortage of passionate, dedicated writers who grew up as Sonic fans.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  12. Overlord

    Overlord

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    And I agree with everything Josh said. Found Colours' story better than SA1/2, as much as the Adventure-raised ones will heartily disagree.
     
  13. SuperSnoopy

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    To each their own I guess.
    There's nothing wrong with trying something different, and I'll agree that the Adventure games' writing isn't amazing... but in my eyes, it achieve what it tries to do: being an over the top shonen anime with cool characters moments.

    The Pontac and Graff Sonic plots have one objective: being funny. And they never, NEVER manage to. It's almost sad how unfunny these dialogs are.
    I feel like the bar for self aware comedic writing has been raised a lot since the early to 2000's and what we have right now just isn't good enough.
    That being said, I've seen a lot of people say they think the plot of Colours is genuinely funny. So, as I said... to each their own.

    If they desperately want to keep going with the self aware comedy route, I wish they'd at least hire decent writers. The guys from Boom were good, especially season 2.
     
  14. Sid Starkiller

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    In a way I kinda feel like Adventure and Colors are quite similar: specifically that they marked a new era in the tone of Sonic stories, were pretty good in their own right, but showed signs of what would come to plague their respective eras. Adventure for the most part feels like it could kinda fit in with the classics tone-wise, but tends to take a swerve into the melodramatic when the backstory of Tikal/Chaos/the Echnida tribe shows up. Colors dispenses with the melodrama of the decade before it, but does have its overly-juvenile moments (BBBE? Come on). I wanna pick on one scene in particular: I believe it was near the end of Tropical Resort, and Eggman's explaining part of his plan to Orbot & Cubot (but really the audience) and declares "Nothing can stop me!" Then Sonic is revealed to have shown up at that moment, challenging Eggman with "Who you calling 'nothing'?" That as is, right there, was a great gag...and then Orbot spends a solid 30 seconds laboriously explaining the joke to Cubot, just in case the newborn infants in the audience didn't get it, thus RUINING the joke. I'm pretty sure if I showed that scene to my 4-year-old niece, she would perfectly understand without Orbot's lines.
     
  15. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    FWIW I think the best depiction of Sonic's character is in the 2020 movie.
     
  16. SuperSnoopy

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    And that right there is the big problem with the writing in Colours/Lost World. It's not an isolated case; so many jokes are overexplained just to make sure the audiences gets it... it's bit frustrating, because every joke with potential is ruined like this.
    The very overrated Eggman pa announcements are plagued with this. I wish you could turn them off. Maybe you can turn them off? It's been a while since I played Colours.
     
  17. khabastos

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    I agree that Sonic stories have never risen to a level above average, I honestly never expected them to do so. They're usually entertaining enough and provide a nice bit of motivation for the gameplay, not much else. I'm satisfied with that. Although my original stance might have given the idea that Sonic in Adventure is this well written, relatable character, all I did was cherry-pick some quotes that make this iteration of the cartoony character less exaggerated and more well-rounded.

    I didn't elaborate too much on that in my original post, but my main problem with the stories in the newer games is that Sonic is a vehicle for unfunny jokes (like SuperSnoopy explained) and self-parody. To give credit where credit is due, I enjoy Forces' narrative to an extent because it uses the self-awareness in a smarter way. Instead of making fun of itself, the game uses it to fuel core characters like the Avatar and Infinite. Sadly, they didn't do much with it, but it was an excellent idea in my opinion.

    The Adventure games achieve what they want to do pretty well and their aging is a natural consequence of being made in the late 90's and early 2000's. Forces has great concepts that could have given us the best Sonic narrative in the past decade, but it falls short due to its rushed development. Ultimately, Sonic is versatile and can work both in serious narratives like the Adventure games or more light-hearted ones like Forces (although the plot itself is darker, the writing isn't), it just needs to be done well.

    Didn't get a chance to see it but I've heard tidbits about the story and it does sound like a good, albeit different, portrayal.
     
  18. Beamer the Meep

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    I quite enjoyed the PA announcements from Eggman. For the most part you only catch bits of it as you're rushing through the stage so it's not that intrusive, but if you stop and listen to them most are pretty funny.

    Otherwise, I think the writing for Colors (and onwards) was a bit grating. Pontaff and Graff have vastly simplified the plot of the games and made it awfully grating with all those poorly executed jokes. Sonic in particular feels a lot more... flat under their tenure as writers for the franchise. Conversely, I feel Sonic was portrayed a bit over the top in Adventure in a similar but different way. Each felt like they were trying too hard for Sonic to be cool in different ways and both came across as incredibly cheesy. SA2 seemed to find a balance that worked, if because his reaction to the stakes of the plot made him seem less forced and a little more nuanced.

    I'm going to have to disagree that Color's plot is better than SA1/2's since the plot is incredibly thin compared to those two games. Colors focuses a lot more on jokes that don't land and a simple plot to save the planets that's only revealed to be a distraction from the main plot that doesn't get much screen time at all (the mind control canon). SA1 and SA2 otherwise build off of the lore that had been building up since the classic trilogy and expand on them in new directions with dramatic stakes yet light hearted moments, in SA2 especially. For similar reasons I like Sonic 3's story, it has stakes and tension despite a lack of dialogue and it works very well. SA1 could get a little corny here and there as well as SA2 to a lesser extent, but neither hold a candle to Colors. I like all 3 games' stories, but I prefer stories with more nuance and substance over self-parody and threadbare simplicity.
     
  19. Overlord

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    The fact it doesn't have huge amounts of plot is one of the reasons why it's good, but again, this isn't something someone raised on Adventure games will necessarily want, so...
     
  20. Pengi

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    It was only a small moment in SA1, but it's more interesting when Sonic can get annoyed by Tails, which was also an element of their relationship in the OVA. And that only works when Tails is plucky and earnest. Softening Sonic's character makes him bland and Tails being a snarky know-it-all makes him unappealing.

    Colours should probably have had even less """story""". In the Adventure games, cut scenes followed up on what the player had just done and lead into what the player would be doing next. In Colours, the characters just stood around in non-locations and traded quips and exposition, so they felt like unnecessary interruptions. The end game didn't even make sense with the initial premise - Eggman was pretending to go straight and about to open an amusement park, but his actual plan was to fire a mind control beam at the planet - which only works if everyone stays at home and doesn't visit his amusement park.