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Sonic's character design and aesthetic

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by High Fidelity, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. MarkeyJester

    MarkeyJester

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    Maybe the monitor's broken state might help shed light onto the subject, I know it's difficult to see given its fragmentation, but who knows. There's also the fact that Sonic can stand effortlessly on the monitor without showing the balancing animation, when his balancing animation tends to be quite delicate on the edge of ledges, I know that doesn't "confirm" the objects shape, but we are getting into philosophical territories, and I figured; "why not?".

    It's an excellent point though, no white CRT monitors I knew were box like...

    I think Sonic's grin and the way he talks contributes to a more "cocky little shit" rather than "some cool dude with an attitude", mario there looks like he means business, there's no grin, no obvious blatent "showing off", and THAT is cool.
     
  2. Loving this discussion. Was obviously on people's minds for some time, but we never really got round to it like this...

    Call it extreme, but I'd completely disregard anything post S2/CD moving forwards. Keep it pure. As if the public has never seen a Sonic game before. Rip it up and start again. Revolutionary change. Start with that visual board I posted then get the team inspired again to make it all fresh. Take them on trips to see cool JP art exhibitions, get them drunk and see wicked new techno bands, inspire them, take notes & brainstorm like crazy.

    Sonic's art gets so convoluted after that 'golden era', I fear it would end up being a cluster fuck of ideas just to keep everyone happy with a core vision lost. Last thing I'd want is game design by committee and focus groups! Risky yes, but all the greatest artists, designers & musicians take risks...

    Damn I wish I could make games, I'd absolutely love to give this a crack!!
     
  3. Mr Lange

    Mr Lange

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    Sonic's aesthetics peaked in many ways after Sonic 2. Sonic's design (as far as I'm concerned) was perfected near the end of the classic era. Sonic got to see much more rich musical themes with Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic 3D Blast. Sonic's world was expanded greatly with games like Triple Trouble and Knuckles Chaotix. All of these are very in line with each other artistically and serve to enhance what the first couple of games established, and what I just mentioned there is the tip of the iceberg. I absolutely would not ignore those games, they're fantastic and did a great job evolving Sonic's aesthetics. There's also other games in the family of media from that era such as Ristar and Ecco the Tides of Time that are great sources of inspiration for Sonic.
     
  4. Of course, you are right there's some great stuff in those games! But I think to push this future Sonic concept forwards we'd (well the team) would have to trim the fat so to speak and be a bit more narrow minded & selfish to create a solid identity. Those later games where built off a simpler concept after all, so which game would you end at? This is kinda what I mean about keeping everyone happy, it's just not really productive!

    This is just my vision, there would be many different ways to approach this :)
     
  5. Mr Lange

    Mr Lange

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    If there were to be any trimming of fat, I'd say stick to pruning the games that don't really belong. Sonic Blast (not 3D Blast, but the Game Gear game), Mean Bean Machine, Sonic the Fighters, probably Sonic Spinball, Sonic Labyrinth, I'm sure I could list more.
    Work from the main games and best additions that enhance the series. Games like Chaos and Triple Trouble, Chaotix, 3D Blast, these are all great to keep around for the ways they add to Sonic's world and aesthetics, even if they just remain in the background for the most part. These are definitely not "fat". Sonic 3 & Knuckles is the furthest thing from.
    So, the game to "end at" would be whatever is the last game that isn't trimmed fat.
     
  6. amphobius

    amphobius

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    As for keeping everyone happy, I'd like to produce a counterpoint.

    One thing I've noticed in this thread is an extreme bias to Sonic as he was when he was new, what is "cool", what is "rad". I can see these points and understand them but I want to ask a better question to that end, and ask "What is Sonic to you?"

    That's where I can't really agree on the whole attitude or "cool" thing. Sonic to me has always been a friendly but cocky little shit, rather than this image of being cool. I turned 20 this year, so my main image of Sonic growing up wasn't the old classic design, but the art coming out of the Adventure era. That is what Sonic is to me, and that's why I prefer seeing a modern design. A 90s aesthetic would seem like moving back, rather than moving forward. Moving forward doesn't necessarily mean stagnation, or wild experimentation like Boom, but figuring out what makes Sonic, well, Sonic.

    And considering the image of what Sonic really is has been inconsistent ever since the beginning, with how cute and smooth Sonic looked in Japan wheras we got assface Sonic in the west, I don't think it's an easy thing to find something everyone's going to be happy with.

    (Regarding the Item Box discussion before, I've always only seen it as a cube as well, rather than an actual CRT)
     
  7. LordOfSquad

    LordOfSquad

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    Whatever's next for Sonic, I'd like to see them stop trying to make him cool. That's not really how being "cool" works. I know some of the newer games have tried to hang a lampshade over that by blatantly making him a smarmy, cocksure douche that the other characters react negatively to, by having Tails roll his eyes at him or whatever other shit, but that still doesn't really make him relatable, likable, or a good character. Not like character development is what I want from Sonic anyway, but I'd at least like to be able to, y'know, not actively hate the main character.

    Designwise, there's not much more to say that others haven't already. I'm not of the opinion that they should necessarily roll back to the classic design, but that's preferable when the present alternative is a blue anime tentacleheaded fursuit. And I'm not of the opinion that the series NEEDS to be drenched in 90s graphic design trappings, but that would be cool as hell when no game in the series thus far has taken that aesthetic and pushed it entirely as far as it could go. Something like Sonic CD on *insert drug of choice* made with today's technology would be glorious to behold. Then again, so would any modern Sonic game that took a hard design stance that isn't "generic CGI".
     
  8. Jen

    Jen

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    YES, this is literally what I've been thinking for a very long time but felt unable to properly put into words. Thanks for that.

    What is Sonic to me? He's my childhood hero and an icon of the 90s. I've grown up with Sonic really, and I always come back to the Mega Drive games. I've played literally hundreds of games in my life, but Sonic 3 & Knuckles is still my absolute favourite video game of all time.

    Classic Sonic, to me, is basically perfect and ticks almost every single box when it comes to things that I like in characters. When I first saw him as a child, my reaction was simply "he's so CUTE!". He's a pint-sized thing that you could pick up and hug - but, at the same time, he has an attitude. Look how he stares right at you with that angry face if you leave him standing in the early games, completely impatiently tapping his foot at you. I really, really like characters who have a certain irritability about them like that (probably because they remind me of myself =P). He wasn't a cheesy "I'm a perfect, cheery, cool dude that's always happy and outgoing" type, he was a silent badass on a mission. His design has a certain timelessness to it, reminding me of classic cartoons - it doesn't scream "90s!!" at you or anything, it could fit into any era.

    Design aside for a second, I really think that giving Sonic a voice is one of the things that killed the character for me. His constant wise-cracking and corny expressions just make me cringe at times - I'd be rich if I was given a quid for every time I told Sonic to shut the fuck up in the modern games =P I was very relieved when Classic was silent in Generations. Although in retrospect I actually think Generations totally missed the point of Classic Sonic, focusing too much on the cuteness (and almost making him seem a little incompetent at times, annoyingly) and not at all on the attitude. I only saw the badass Classic Sonic come through once, if memory serves, and that was the scene with the mirror - when Classic hears Robotnik and goes racing off to confront him with that look on his face... that's the Classic Sonic I remember. Modern Sonic runs through the games with a grin, whereas Classic ran through the games with a scowl. That's important to me, because I literally can't bloody stand goody two-shoes perfect characters, it's cliched and horrible. Give me an irritable and/or slightly more serious character any day of the week ;P

    I always think of Sonic as being someone is generally good-natured, who acts on instinct, stands up for others, and will always fight for what he thinks is right, always focusing on the task at hand and taking stopping Robotnik extremely seriously. In essence, he's a hero, but he's also somewhat flawed - being very impatient, irritable, and one-track minded at times. We don't see enough of this with Modern Sonic, in my opinion.

    The Classic Sonic design itself is something I'd like to see us go back to, if I'm honest. I'm not really a fan of Modern - I can't put a finger on exactly what it is, but I find his design to be extremely unappealing. He looks quite disproportionate with those great long spikes, and he's literally lost all the "cute" AND all of the "badass" of his Classic self. He just comes across as a massive cheeseball, for want of a better word =P

    The 90s aesthetic itself doesn't necessarily have to be re-used, but a part of me thinks it'd actually be a really good time to go back to it now - as others have said, the 90s have come back around again and 90s stuff has become trendy (yay!), so it does make sense to try and capitalise on that. But as long as it's colourful and surreal, it's "Sonic" to me. The gritty realism is best left well in the past, because it simply doesn't fit a series about a bright blue cartoon hedgehog.
     
  9. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!! Sounds amazing.

    @Jen I'm totally with you on the cute Sonic & voice acting thing. I always wondered why the hell people liked Jaleel White and other voice actors. Like nails on a chalkboard for me. Just kills any sense of mystery. All the best action movie heroes I can think of have minimal dialogue. There's a reason for that!

    Loving everyone's getting inspired
     
  10. Endgame

    Endgame

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    Just a bit of an FYI on modern Sonic's design changes. I couldn't find a more comprehensive comparison on Google than these, but you can see the changes in design between games:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Azookara

    Azookara

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    This is a lot of what I've been arguing in the first place.

    I'm in my early-mid 20s, so I grew up during a time where I was taking in the classic games and the Adventure games at the exact same time. Whether anyone sees that as nostalgia blurring my line between the two styles is up to them, though I could just as well argue that someone growing up in an era before the Adventures and then experiencing that sharp mid-2000s quality drop just after their happening could've just as easily warped their perception to the point of looking at modern Sonic and seeing something completely different. Not that that's anyone's fault but Sega's, but I digress.

    Sonic isn't a character I've ever seen as a silent, or even Kirby-esque type. Sure he's got the badass/cute dynamic but I always thought he had a bit more sapience and depth than that, even in things that came out during the classic era (such as the Sonic OVA). Most of the cringe I've ever had from Sonic's speaking has never been because he speaks, but what he says and how he says it. Instead of blaming it on him being talkative, I'd moreso blame it on writing that tries too hard to emphasize the cool, and tries to little to make an interesting character.

    But that also doesn't mean I think Sonic's portrayal in the Adventures was bad, SA1 in particular. Sure he had some cheesy badly-aged one liners, but Sonic's irritability, determination, kindness and even laziness stood out in that game. We ended up getting a more generic (but still kinda in-character) Sonic for SA2, the mid-2000s made him a generic shonen hero, and recent writing made him a 90s radical self-parody, but I once again don't think that's an attribute to being "modern Sonic" as much as just having a shoddy writing department.

    And as for Sonic's design.. yes I love classic Sonic to pieces. And that Sonic R artwork posted earlier gave me those goosebumps remembering the times when Sonic had heart. But never have I thought "classic Sonic = with heart" or "modern Sonic = heartless", since I thought Adventure, the Advance/Rush series, and even Unleashed had loads of heart and that Sonic-y spirit. Sure, it's come by rarely for us considering Sega's poor treatment of the franchise, but I never have seen this passion as synonymous only with one era.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Plus I'm still not seeing what's wrong with his current in-game look so I'm just gonna go with "yall are picky" ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
     
  12. Cyberguy

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    I think the biggest sticking issue is that there's a fine line between arrogance and "coolness" and modern Sonic crosses the line far more often then classic Sonic ever did.

    That's not to say that classic Sonic is perfect. I utterly loathe the SatAM incarnation of Sonic for being an arrogant little prick who constantly puts down his "friends" and brute forces his way through every challenge he faces and always wins because he's "just that cool." Being cool isn't about being a show off, it's about being stylish, capable, but above all, low-key and casual. When you try to "force" coolness, you end up with a showboating tryhard of a character who's always tooting their own horn. A truely cool character treats everything casually, and doesn't make a big deal about it.

    Being mostly mute certainly helps Classic to seem less like a jerk, but I agree that it's not the make-or-break trait. I think Sonic Adventure era Sonic did a great job making him feel like a real person by just letting him roll (pun not intended) with the punches of the adventure. He could show a wide range of emotions, from irritation, to exasperation, to concern, to disgust, to joy, to anger, etc, and they were all natural reactions to what was happening to him. Amy wants him to bodyguard a silly bird? "No way!" Tails crashed his plane? "What am I going to do with you?" Knuckles screwed up again? "Smooth move, Knucklehead." Jumping from building to building? "Aw yeah! This is happening'!" Big is worried about Froggy? "I'll help save your friend!" Eggman got away again? "I hate that Eggman!"

    But through it all, what's the one trait that makes Sonic feel cool? He treats adventure and life-or-death situations as a game. It's not about showing off, it's about having fun! And if he can put jerks like Eggman in their place while doing it, all the better! When he goes from "Doing it for the thrill of it" to "Doing it because I'm better than you." THAT'S when Sonic stops being cool, and starts being annoying.

    This is part of why I don't consider the Adventure games to be part of the "Modern" sonic era, because I still see most of the charm and pleasant personality that the classics had, even if it's expressed slightly differently.
     
  13. VectorCNC

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    I am by no means trying to contour our conversation, but I just want to remind everyone that so far as speculating about possible futures for the series, we should remember that Sega is a business and Sonic is a mechanism for generating profit. To illustrate my point, while we may think Sonic was more “rad” when he didn't speak, there is basically no serious argument to be had for removing his speech. In the games themselves maybe, but Sega wants to generate as much money as possible. This means Sonic is going to speak on tv and maybe even movies one day soon. After all, the Sonic Boom tv show has been very successful, as have past incarnations on tv and various print media. It is worthwhile to discuss how we would like Sonic to be portrayed, but no speaking is a nonstarter as far as Sega is concerned. My vision for the series has always conceded to these various aspects of Sonic as a product.

    This next bit will sounds convoluted, but follow me… I would like to differentiate between the way Sonic was in the 90s and Sonic being an artifact of the 90s. 98% of what Sonic was in the 90s has nothing to do with him being a product of the 90s. Sonic could regain the same aesthetics and music style, etc, and this would not be equivalent to remaining a 90s artifact incongruent with what is contemporary. Electronic music, and art-deco proportions, etc. etc. are not 90s artifacts. Sonic can return to this successful formula and it can be just as fresh and relevant today as it was then. I've noticed people repeatedly talking about this as though both are bound together, when they are not. 8 year olds today would not reject Sonic because he seems “too 90s”. On the contrary, a lot of adults (who have money) will recognize this return to formula as familiar and experience warm heart fuzzies from nostalgia, while children will experience a solid character just as we did as children.

    If you personally didn't like Sonic in the 90s that is one thing, but returning to this successful formula, which was also the most consistent Sonic has ever been, is not a regression.
     
  14. Azookara

    Azookara

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    Not that I disagree in wanting a lot of classic elements to come back, because I too think a lot of the aesthetics of classic-era Sonic was awesome. Art deco, the musical styles, the amount of imaginative environments, the core simplicity and well-rounded tone, the style of vehicles and machinery (don't ever think I disagreed with that because boy do I love that stuff lmao), all of those were great and definitely were standout traits of what Sonic was in that era.

    But I also don't think it means we can completely disregard elements introduced later in the series that have made it's mainstay. Things like environments nudged closer towards realism, occasional presence of human characters, main characters post-1997, and even the modern designs can't really be ignored when you're wanting to round out the best traits of the series, because then it reads less like wanting to hone on the series' best qualities and make everything to fit together better, and more like wanting to wipe the slate clean past a specific era just so it can go back to "the way it should be".

    I'm not saying everyone in this discussion shares that opinion to the tee, but I can tell the sentiment is there.

    And we can go on all day about how stuff in the entertainment industry is actually a cog in a business regime, but it's kinda boring because it applies to everything in cartoons, video games, movies, comics and et cetera. While ultimately corporate hands do have a part in what happens and why it happens, that doesn't mean all products of their hand are soulless. That's just the way business works, and not even the classic era was exempt from it (far from it actually).
     
  15. I don't think any of us are wanting a classic re-boot. But a classic re-imagining. I see it like this:

    Classic era
    Adventure era
    Shit era
    Future era (what we are discussing)

    The Sonic series kinda reminds me of what happened to MTV
     
  16. VectorCNC

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    I'm not advocating we completely disregard the later elements, or disregard later elements at all. It is not as though the series in its current form has disregarded it's past elements either, so why would this be when the other way around?
    I'm not clear on what you mean by “nudged toward realism”. The original games had elements of realism. They were also surreal, but so are elements in the series currently. Are Mario or Donkey Kong toward realism? I personally believe that realism works best for series’ that are (sort-of) plausible in realty, like Grand Theft Auto or Batman… But Sonic is very far removed from reality. Think about it, a talking Blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that can run as fast as sound, and wears red sneakers inspired by Santa. Is realism really suited best for the series? To me it just seems lazy or at least a lack of direction. Sonic was at his best in vibrant surreal worlds. Elements of reality, but turned on their head and juxtaposed with absurdity. Another loosely realistic setting is not going to set the series apart and as the last 2 decades have shown… it hasn't.
    Sonic always did have occasional humans from the beginning. Think Eggman. Think Sonic OVA.
    Not the way it “should be”, but rather the way it was considered at its best. It was OBJECTIVELY at its best in terms of sales, popularity and cultural relevancy.
    No one thinks the classic era games were exempt from business decisions. “That's just the way business works”, oh well then I guess that's it. Case closed. Treating Sonic as a corporate husk has been to the detriment of the brand. Some businesses handle their IPs with respect and are more prosperous for it. Sega treats Sonic like a whore and it is evident to anyone above the age of 12, and Sega's response has apparently been to write off everyone over the age of 12 (who have all the money) and focus on quantity over quality. This could ultimately destroy the IP, and nearly has. So in short, there in fact is nuance to business practices.
     
  17. ICEknight

    ICEknight

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    I'd be quite happy with a Classic-only series that disregarded everything after the Sega Saturn, to be honest.

    They've tried all sorts of crazy things already, changing the gameplay, the art style and even Sonic himself a few times, so why not try this crazy thing that is playing it conservative and not change any of those? It sure worked wonders for the Mega Drive games, which saw them building different levels and features around the same style, and with Chaotix illustrating their first mistake of trying to change the gameplay.

    So why not try for once? They know they already have an audience of oldbies and even young people now, thanks to Sonic Generations, the Taxman/Stealth remakes and the Classic Sonic apparel that's been in stores for some time now (and probably an even bigger audience thanks to the game mods that people are now uploading to the Steam Workshop).

    It's a much less risky endeavor than what they did with Sonic Boom, for example.
     
  18. Cyberguy

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    I think the problem is they genuinely don't understand what made the Genesis games work.

    Or what made the Adventure games work.

    Or what made the Advance games work.

    Or even what made the Rush games work....

    They don't understand the basics of Sonic, so we can't expect them to go back to them.
     
  19. ICEknight

    ICEknight

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    Maybe they should just read this topic then. :v:
     
  20. Mr Lange

    Mr Lange

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    That's what I don't get. Sonic worked great back then, and to this day the classics are widely loved. The only reason it started falling short is because of poorly managing the series, resulting in odd spinoff games instead of keeping the main series strong. I suspect Sega saw Sonic starting to decline and instead of recognizing it was a result of poorly handling the products, they assumed it was some kind of loss of relevancy, and felt the need to overhaul it. They seem blind to quality and specifics of reception and just think that any time Sonic is failing, it's because the brand isn't current or trendy enough and needs to be made FRESH with a new TWIST. Sonic was on its way to being perfected but they threw it out because marketing.
    I don't consider the Adventure reboot "moving forward". You could put a sombrero and springy eyeball glasses on Sonic and call it a redesign and say anyone who doesn't accept it is stuck in the past and needs to let Sonic evolve. The changes with Sonic are not an evolution, they're just a change, and in many ways a big compromise.