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The Sonic the Hedgehog Storytelling Thread of Themes and Plot

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Sonic5993, Oct 15, 2023.

  1. Seeing how the Frontiers thread had like a whole week's worth of discussion in regards to storytelling in Sonic, may as well use this thread to talk about it. And to clarify and make this thread distinct from the Continuity and Headcanon threads;

    What this thread is about:

    + Discussion in regards to the theming and plotting within any part of the franchise; Comics, Games, Movies, etc etc

    What this thread isn't about (Not that I can't prevent people from going off-topic):

    + Personal headcanons that don't align with what's officially been established
    + The canonicity or lack thereof of certain products.
     
  2. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    It's always funny to me when people say that Pontac and Graff not being familiar with the property is a detriment. It is far from uncommon for writers who take on contract work for a franchise to not be very invested in it, and Shiro Maekawa openly disliked how Sonic had been written previously:
    I don't think Pontac and Graff's writing was ever amazing (Colors was their best, and even that was kinda middle of the road: passable at best, slightly annoying at worst) but them not being invested in the franchise previously is kind of a dumb reason to take issue with their writing in my opinion, especially when you could say the same exact thing about Maekawa.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2023
  3. Chimes

    Chimes

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    Whoever came up with Sonic liking chili dogs irreversibly changed a whole American generation regarding how hot dogs are eaten.
     
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  4. Taylor

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    Maekawa gets forgiven because he worked on the franchise at a time in which Sonic Team as a whole was more willing to keep continuity, eg the return of the Chaotix in Heroes. That's not really because of Maekawa of course, but the association doesn't go away. That's the rub about video game writing, it's generally constrained by the gameplay. But yeah, having superfans like Flynn write tends to be a novelty.

    Speaking of writers who didn't care for Sonic: Ken Penders. There's an interesting article that analyzes the themes of Penders' work. It's a bit long, so I'll just quote a small bit:

     
  5. Zephyr

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    I mean, being unfamiliar with something and disliking it are two different things. You have to be familiar with something, for instance, in order to know that it doesn't suit your tastes.
     
  6. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    Not really? I know plenty of people who despise things like Sonic, Star Wars, etc. despite having never played a single game or watched a single movie.

    Also, on the topic of Pontac and Graff - people vastly exaggerate how much influence they really had over the stories. Lost World was the only game they had an actual say in story events. Colors, Generations, and Forces' stories were all done in Japanese by Sonic Team. They were more localizers than anything else.
     
  7. Zephyr

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    My point is that Pontac and Graff's lack of familiarity with Sonic isn't like Maekawa's dislike of (classic) Sonic. Even if both resulted in some change in direction, the former results in it out of ignorance, while the latter out of informed deliberate change. People can be perfectly justified in taking more issue with the former than the latter.
     
  8. KaiGCS

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    Personally, I take way more issue with the latter. Maekawa deciding, "I don't like Sonic, so I'll just turn it into something different," is basically patient zero for how fans got so divided. If you liked what Sonic was, it was a betrayal of what you had known. If you didn't like it or had never heard of Sonic before, it gave you a completely different idea of what it was about.

    "I don't like Sonic, but I've been hired to write for it, so I'd better do my research and try to make it accurate," is more what a professional writer in that position should do.
     
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  9. Zephyr

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    Yeah, neither are ideal. Though I'd hesitate to put the blame squarely on Maekawa's shoulders for fans being as divided as they are; Sonic had a completely different art direction (on merch and boxarts) and lore in different parts of the world before SA1, because it was taken for granted that kids outside of Japan wouldn't have liked Sonic as he was. While SA1 did away with most of them on the game side of things, some of the comics continued to chug along with their own separate versions of characters and events and the world. He may have caused more fractures, but the damage was done before he was penning stories.
     
  10. Starduster

    Starduster

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    Feel like I'm being subtweeted a lil', what with me saying something in that ballpark the other day, so I'll clarify a little:

    Pontac and Graff didn't need to be fans of the franchise to be good writers for it. Hell, they didn't even need to have picked up a Sonic game prior to getting the gig. But once they got the gig, I think they ought to have done thorough research on the franchise to capture the characters better if nothing else. Maybe they did that, but if they did then it doesn't really show. Their take on Sonic is skin-deep and his friends were reduced to cheerleaders. They did get a lot of comedic mileage out of Eggman (especially with the tannoy announcements in Colours, something I think brilliantly plays to their strengths), but I didn't really buy his threat that had been missing since...god, SA2, even if his competence as the man in charge was back in full force.

    In my mind, the best showing Eggman has ever had was in his fight against Snively and the Iron Queen in Sonic Universe's Scrambled story. He's cunning, full of guile, uses his enemy's expectations against them and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Granted, Ponatc and Graff did get some of that, particularly in Lost World, and he's definitely the character who consistently has the strongest showing under their pen, but I don't think they really display his callousness within the main stories. Like sure he does some cruel things to the Wisps and was going to drop a simulated sun on everybody in Forces, but he never really did any twisting of the knife in a personal sense to Sonic and co., something I feel could've been accommodated if Pontac and Graff had a better grasp on the history of the setting and its characters.
     
  11. Chimes

    Chimes

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    Don't you mean... subposted?
    :british:
     
  12. Overlord

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    THIS. This this this this this. Maekawa is the cause of most of my dislikes of what this franchise has done since.
     
  13. Taylor

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    Yeah, no matter who was doing the writing, SA1 would've divided the fanbase simply because it actually had a scripted story. The less room for ambiguity, the more room for contradicting people's interpretation of the characters. That being said, Maekawa didn't help by writing a story about AIDs-ridden children getting shot by the government, but I see that as accelerating the inevitable.

    Edit: Didn't realize this thread spawned from an argument over "anime" in the Frontiers thread. When people say Sonic is trying to be anime, they really just mean "style over substance" shonen anime like DBZ (the most obvious reference point) and Naruto. That's not fair to anime as a whole, but unfortunately that is a lot of the stuff that becomes popular overseas. It is a bit orientalist, because Hollywood blockbusters can often be just as shallow (in fact, Sonic 06 was explicitly influenced by stuff like Spider-Man 2 and other attempts at adapting American comic books to the big screen)
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2023
  14. Gestalt

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    I have no knowledge of what it takes to write a good story for a video game, but a down-to-earth story must be way harder to execute because of the excitement of gameplay. That's why I think Sonic Lost World succeeds. The two elements are in harmony. SA2, on the other hand, went bonkers in order to compliment its game-y nature. Worked for me too. Sonic Unleashed tried something different. Half the fun of this world adventure was getting to know the characters through side stories. This expanded the experience in a very positive way for me.

    I don't feel like there's a rule for good storytelling in video games. It's just that stupid games as interactive movie stigma thing.
     
  15. BlackHole

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    There's a couple of rules that I generally follow when writing:

    Cause and effect: something should be established to cause events, the rationale, and resulting in it effecting the story.

    There's motivation in any action, otherwise why do it? Everything follows the logical path of least resistance, so you need to have a rationale that would draw someone away from that. This should also be used to chain one cause and effect to a following cause and effect.

    For example: Robotnik wants to take over the world, so he builds the Death Egg. Sonic wants to stop this, so he fights Robotnik and downs the Death Egg. This chains to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, where the downed Death Egg hits Angel Island and drags Knuckles in, whereupon Robotnik tricks Knuckles, because he wants to delay Sonic as much as possible and distract Knuckles while he looks around for the giant mysterious Emerald reading he's seeing.

    Events or actions happening without rationale only results in confusing messes like Shadow the Hedgehog, such as Black Doom telling a Shadow who just took out a chunk of the Black Arms that he has another Chaos Emerald, while on another path he punishes Shadow for ignoring both sides and grabbing the Chaos Emerald.

    What is the rationale of Black Doom punishing Shadow on one path where he actively ignored both sides, thus posed no detriment to Black Doom at that point, as opposed to him outright telling him information that should be kept quiet to someone who just took out everyone of your forces in the area, while an established Hero who was also actively wrecking your forces is right beside him? The lack of rationale results in weak, baffling stories.

    Consistent characterisation: Characters should remain the same base, while any growth they have should be followed.

    All people have a base personality that we grow from, so the same should be seen with fictional characters. When we just have someone whose entire personality is a single character trait, or breaks the established growth, it causes annoyance as it's going backwards on the story told, thus rendering the story pointless.

    For example, lots of people are immensely annoyed by Tails, who took on Robotnik in his mech and won, whose entire growth in Sonic Adventure was growing to stand up for himself even without Sonic, only to then repeatedly flee from conflicts and cry out for Sonic, going back on his development in Sonic Adventure. So what's the point of his story in Sonic Adventure?

    We all know the other major example, but we'll move on so we don't cause a fight.

    There's a lot of failure to adhere to either of these, which is why I get so annoyed with certain entries in the series. Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW), for instance, fails in Cause and Effect: Shadow knows the Zombots are hazards to every living thing, so knows to not engage directly. His job is to get civilians out of there, so he... jumps into the middle of the Zombot swarm and starts swinging. Not use Chaos Spears to take out targets from a range, but actively physically attacking them when there's no point with Omega doing a good enough job and under no risk of infection. There's no rationale to this, he just hops into a swarm of highly infectious entities to pick a fight.

    It would have made sense for him to hop over the swarm and begin scanning the area for straggling survivors, clearing the way of Zombots from a distance with Chaos Spears. This establishes the rationale: he was trying to save as many as possible, per the mission he was on. As for him getting turned, there's a variety of options: Cheese and Chocola ambush him, a survivor is unknowingly infected and passes it onto him, etcetc, take your pick.
     
  16. But who decides how accurate it is?

    I find this line of thinking flawed because it runs on confirmation bias a bit. Especially since it's in relation to writer's own interpretations of things.

    You don't like all of the shit that SA2 started, well Maekawa is to blame. Same thing with Pontac and Graff in Colors, and Flynn etc etc.


    The second Sonic's canon diverged in the 90's and they soft rebooted the series with Sonic Adventure, is really when all of this started and even then, I wouldn't even put all of the blame on that.


    The biggest flaw I find with these writers and their interpretations is that they're either not interested in writing about Sonic and tend to focus on other aspects and characters besides him, and/or that they have a gross misunderstanding of what Sonic is. I think that's a criticism you can put towards any of them no matter what your preference is.