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Who invented "classic Sonic"?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Palas, Jun 15, 2023.

  1. Palas

    Palas

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    Ever since I joined the Brazilian Sonic community around 2005, I've seen and used the term "Sonic clássico". I never really paid it any mind, and everyone intuitively understood its meaning. You'd think terms would change once the language barrier was crossed, but "classic Sonic" was as accepted a term in English as it was in Portuguese. Still, SEGA's quasi-official position was that there was only one, continuous Sonic, more or less until Sonic 4 was created. "Classic Sonic" is an official term ever since, being used almost ad nauseam -- including in Superstars' tagline "New thrills, classic feels".

    But I've come to ask: when did the term "classic Sonic" originate, and what did it mean? Surely, it's a retroactive perception, and can only be created in opposition to something else, right? And surely it didn't originate from the games, since as far as I know, SEGA didn't separate the period quite as neatly before Generations. So, it could only have originated in the community and have been made popular over the years, right? So what was the origin of the term, and why specifically "Classic Sonic" instead of "Old Sonic", "Original Sonic", "Legacy Sonic" or any other term?

    Longtime members can draw something from memory, and I couldn't find much from Retro due to its search system, but what I've found so far is interesting. It turns out the term is almost as old as Sonic itself, describes more or less what it describes today, but it was born for all the reasons we don't use it today.

    So the earliest instances I could find of its usage are:
    Now, there are three main things I find interesting here:
    • The term "classic Sonic", as a term unto itself, already existed when Sonic wasn't even 10 years old. There is a difference between "Classic [Sonic gameplay]" and "[Classic Sonic] gameplay", and while all the other instances here could go either way, the Eurogamer preview of SA2 puts "classic Sonic" between quotes, indicating there could be a sense of meaning beyond just "these old games we all like". It's a little weird to think of 2013 games as classics: The Last of Us is now considered a classic, of course, but generally in terms of "an oldish game that everyone liked", not "a certain tradition in gameplay that could, and in fact probably should, be brought back". There are a lot of factors at play here, which I won't discuss, but it's noteworthy that "classic Sonic" meaning a "lost tradition" has kind of always been the case.
    • The usage of "classic" varies, not as concise as it means today. It doesn't mean one thing across all instances. The review refers to "classic Sonic tunes" like we would refer to "classic indie rock" -- not necessarily an aesthetic but a collection from a certain time. The coloring page in Archie #82 already refers to "classic Sonic" in opposition to the green-eyed "Adventure Sonic", probably. It's hard to imagine the Amazon listing for the Sonic Action Pack to refer to Sonic R as "a classic Sonic game" the way we'd do today ("a game from Sonic's classic period, i.e.: before Sonic Adventure"), as Sonic R was only 2 or 3 years old back then. But maybe that's the case? Maybe Sonic Adventure was, that loud and clear, a paradigm shift?
    • It probably wasn't, though, because both the TSS review of Sonic Adventure and Eurogamer's Sonic Adventure 2 preview see Sonic Adventure and 2 as near-perfect translations of Sonic's gameplay in Mega Drive. Which is almost baffling, seeing how especially SA2's gameplay is seen today compared to classic Sonic. In fact, it seems Eurogamer praises SA2 for focusing on that "classic Sonic" where Sonic Adventure didn't, that is, alternate styles. And I won't assume Dreadknux meant "classic Sonic gameplay" in opposition to anything else, but it's important to note that the idea that a "classic Sonic gameplay" could exist was already there, and was something that needed "translation".
    So when did this perception start to change?

    Once again, TSS gives us clues. As soon as 2002, the SAGE interviews have fan developers specifying what "classic Sonic" is to them. The interview with TLS PRWR is especially enlightening, because he explains that he thinks his game is basically "Classic Sonic", although it doesn't play or look like it. It's an abstraction, and as he further explains:

    What "Classic Sonic" means is more or less "platform mover", which is slightly different from the "action" described by Eurogamer. Sure enough, this doesn't mean much, and I might be reading too much into it, and in any case it's just one fan. But The point here is that this is very early, around the time Sonic Advance was launched, and before Sonic Heroes (so before we had anything different in any way from the Adventure formula). It's possible that hackers and the more technical side of the community kind of always understood "classic Sonic" as a thing in itself, with its own aesthetic, syntax and style, simply because of the gargantuan difference between working with 2D and 3D outside an industrial environment (and even within its boundaries). But even if that's the case, and more sources from Retro could definitely help, it doesn't explain when the perception of what is "classic Sonic" started to exist, and shift towards the official read on the term we have today, for the community at large. So this is what I'd like to understand better.
     
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  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    You're reading waaaay too much into this. Time + change = "classic" and "new".
     
  3. Palas

    Palas

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    Yes, but the point is -- it wasn't always like this, and not all franchises use the term. This kind of thing doesn't grow on trees. There's historicity to the term is what I'm saying.

    And very critically, "classic Sonic gameplay" did encompass SA and SA2 at some point. At some other point, it no longer did. What changes, and at what time, brought us here?
     
  4. HEDGESMFG

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    The frustrating thing with the "Classic Sonic" branding is that it focuses almost exclusively on his look in 1991-1992, when the character's look was actually constantly evolving up to the adventure era (and beyond, too).

    Sonic 1
    [​IMG]

    Sonic 3
    [​IMG]

    3D Blast
    [​IMG]

    Sonic Mania
    [​IMG]

    Generations Classic Sonic
    [​IMG]

    Now, Generations certainly did get the essence of the character's early look right. It's not as if all these designs are radically different to the untrained eye, of course, but I've always been annoyed that they go back to the 1991-1992 look and didn't give him the taller look he had throughout nearly all of his mid 90s media. The variation in the length of Sonic's leg heights throughout his career is pretty funny to look at. He was never meant to look so short back in the mid 90s.

    I know this isn't the point of your topic, but it's more of a rant talking about how odd the evolution of the "classic" branding has always been. I grew up with the way he looked in the mid 90s art and it always struck me as odd how they'd ignore that just to make him look so cute and Chibi compared to modern Sonic.
     
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  5. Palas

    Palas

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    No, it very much relates to the point of the topic because it's not by coincidence that when SEGA decided to make "classic Sonic" a thing, it put the whole brand out as something more innocent and static than Modern Sonic, and that perception also changed over the years. So now we have a whole new model and attitude from classic Sonic. On the other hand, the classic stories were indeed viewed as simpler and more lighthearted than (say) Shadow the Hedgehog-- but then this doesn't mean it was always like that. The changes in the term's usage and connotations aren't a given! They're a collective construction.
     
  6. HEDGESMFG

    HEDGESMFG

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    That's why to me, Mania Sonic is more of the Sonic I knew than Generations/Forces Classic Sonic, as the art skews much closer to his mid 90s look, where he was pretty much just modern Sonic with shorter spines and black/brown eyes, rather than a chibified child version of the character.

    It kind of works in the case of Generations, since that's a time travel story that plucked Classic Sonic from around Sonic 2's time period when you could more easily say "Oh yeah, he did look like that back then", but it gets odd when Forces turned his Mania self into the exact same design.

    Superstars is the first step we're seeing towards blending all the styles of the 90s together, and I approve, but it will still never quite be the same version of the character I grew up with... of which I considered his Sonic 3/Screensaver/R look to be more or less definitive.

    Naturally, I'm not trying to make a big stink about all this. All of those 90s Sonic designs are clearly meant to be the exact same character... but it's just always bugged me how the rebranding worked.

    Then throw in curve-balls like OVA Sonic and those 90s inconsistencies gets really wild, and that's without ever touching his looks in the west:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    It wouldn't be that hard to pass off the first design as Classic Sonic's big brother or something, just based on the differences.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2023
  7. Linkabel

    Linkabel

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    I'll need to check this out, but I remember I saw the term "Classic Sonic" in a Sonic Adventure preview, but I don't know which magazine it was.

    But you're right, this is interesting because it is funny how it's something that stuck that even Sega started using in an official capacity.

    For example, Disney brands the first iterations of Mickey Mouse under classic, original, or black & white Mickey. And only gets more specific when it's something like Steamboat or Sorcerer Mickey.

    But Classic Sonic just won over terms like Genesis/Mega Drive Sonic.

    If I'm remembering correctly, Modern Sonic was actually "Legacy" Sonic for a bit when Boom came out, but they dropped that quickly.

    Might be hard to pinpoint when the term was used. Perhaps it would be easier to find out when Sega first used it in an official capacity. I imagine it might've been around late 2010-Generations reveal when they were revealing the 20th anniversary festivities. It was the first year were there clear distinctions in merchandise as well.
     
  8. kazz

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    I think early on "classic Sonic" was mostly just a flat reference to the most successful 2D titles, not necessarily an indication of some big gameplay difference between it and the very new modern games of the time. Though yeah I could see how SA2 planted the seeds with its gameplay changes. The dubious, gimmicky quality of the Gamecube era probably made it easier and easier to make the distinction, and by Sonic 06 and 4 it got so bad it became an easy crutch for fans to blame the bad quality of the games on it having the lankier Sonic with the green eyes in it. Which gave Sega the perfect opportunity to pander to them without having to actually fix anything. Not to mention all those casual consumers out there who only know of Sonic 2 and didn't buy Unleashed. Probably doesn't answer your question but that's my perception of how it evolved and came to be such a common term.

    Personally I'm 100% with HEDGES in that Sonic's design was always somewhat amorphous and so there isn't one specific "classic Sonic" model to go with anyway, which is probably why what we got in Generations/Forces was so unsatisfactory. They seem to be remedying this somewhat which is nice but Sonic's sprite in 2 still looks like twice as tall as Sonic in Superstars to me. Of course that would be more similar-looking to Modern Sonic but that's not a bad thing and oh shit this is just becoming another diatribe about how much I think the split shouldn't exist
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2023
  9. Zephyr

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    I think another sense of the word "classic" worth keeping in mind is the way in which some new thing comes out and is so good that it is proclaimed to be "an instant classic", thus connoting something of quality rather than age. I also think of things like "Classical Antiquity", or "classical music" (to go along with the aforementioned "classic rock"), which seem to connote both age and quality, perhaps in the sense of a "golden age", or "the good old days".

    It might also be worth considering terms which are usually treated as synonymous with "classic", such as "retro" and maybe even "vintage". A 2002 SAGE interview indicates that Christian Whitehead had been calling his fangame "Retro Sonic" since at least 2000; he also uses the term "classic-style gameplay". Within this website's own tangled history, it appears that the name "Sonic Classic" was used as early as 2002 or 2003 (named after an unspecifically-older website), and "Sonic Retro" as early as 2006?
     
  10. Actually, it is really interesting that the Classic Sonic in the 90's we're like "growing up naturally" until it became the design of Sonic Adventure.
     
  11. Laura

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    From my own memory I remember people using terms like classic and retro around the time of Sonic Adventure in 2000. Lining up with what you have said. And I never ever remember anyone saying it in regards to Sonic's character design. There were numerous reasons why.

    From my experience, people used it largely because Sonic had not had a game for several years. Five years between entries in the UK. Keep in mind that far more people played Sonic 2 than Sonic 3. So for a lot of people, it was really a seven year gap. Sonic Adventure was kind of like a comeback album. Even today, a lot of people would call something like Persona 5 and Nier Automata classics. Seems silly to me but its not uncommon. Think about how quickly Dark Souls became a classic.

    There was also a significant change in technology. I remember people saying Rayman was a classic game even though it was new simply because it was a 2D game on the PS1. So I think the transition from 2D to 3D was a big motivating factor. In some respects, I think people used the term 'classic' as a signifier of old (and perhaps even outdated) game design.

    There's also the fact that PlayStation had pretty much replaced Nintendo and SEGA at this point. SEGA games in general were considered classic simply because they were associated with an older gaming world with very different design philosophies.

    When I was a kid I never would have admitted to playing games in the first place because it was highly unpopular. But I especially would not have talked about Sonic. It was considered far too childish of course, but also kind of lame and outdated. In a way that GTA Vice City and the Getaway were not. Those games were cool and the future.
     
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  12. raphael_fc

    raphael_fc

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    Well in absolutely every media or even every real life many-years thing, we use "classic" to refer to the original concept. Like, Star Wars classic trilogy, or classic football (soccer) as opposed to modern.

    So I would say that the very concept of Classic Sonic must have come since the design change in SA1. That evolved to include gameplay style and physics, but the asthetics change probably came first.
     
  13. Zephyr

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    For what it's worth, I usually see "original trilogy" with reference to the first three Star Wars films.
     
  14. Palas

    Palas

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    This conflation of "old", "good" and "influential" into "classic" is interesting because it seems like the primordial soup from which a certain understanding of the games is born. What exact aesthetic parameters are drawn from that is the part that seems very inter-subjective and subject to a historic process, to the point Sonic Adventure might be referred to as a classic [Sonic game], but Sonic Superstars would be mentioned as a [classic Sonic] game, and quality wouldn't really be the point in the latter even though it may?? have started like that.

    What @Laura mentioned makes a lot of sense. TSS's Sonic Adventure review mentions the game as "the TRUE update to the classic Sonic games", and at that point a five-year gap between major, killer releases for a nine-year-old franchise would be a huge deal, especially since SEGA had been put in a less favorable position in the market. It could be said Sonic aged (relative to what would be considered the forefront of the industry at the time) very fast, and both "classic" and "retro" would be commonplace to refer as the Mega Drive games. This (sort of) blackout in the history seems to have been important to the idea that classic Sonic is a package, and what kind of package it is.

    There' something else on top of the sheer magnitude of the technological changes. Sure enough, the concept of retro or classic is always a dialogue between industry and audience. It's largely defined not by the age, but by the ability of a community to curate and replicate the mechanics and visual styles that appeared in a certain period. This means the distance in technological tools between the amateur community and the industry hinders or delays the creation of new "retro" aesthetics. I feel the distance wasn't that big back then. We don't consider Lost World, a 10 year old game, as retro, much less a classic -- and aprt of that, I think, is that there isn't and there won't be mass hacking and recreation of Lost World by the community.
     
  15. Gestalt

    Gestalt

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    To be honest, I don't know/can't remember.

    But I'm pretty sure it has already been "established" before Sonic Generations, because it struck me as odd they're using the term in-game.

    It must have been sometime between Sonic Unleashed (when "2D sections" were born) and Sonic 4. That's my best guess.
     
  16. LF222

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    I seem to remember it being used as early as heroes, because i was a kid who played sonic 3 pc all the time while my friends were already playing heroes/shadow
     
  17. Pengi

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    https://info.sonicretro.org/Sonic_art_assets_DVD

    This art assets DVD is from 2008. Assuming that the names of the directories on the wiki are identical to the disc, the two styles were identified as "Classic Sonic" and "GENERIC SONIC".

    I think this was the first time Sega revived the Classic Sonic design, I remember seeing merchandise a year or two before Generations came out and it felt like a big deal. Was there any Classic Sonic merchandise released between 1999-2007 (or 2008 even, since it would take licensees a while to make the products)? Excluding reprints of the comics and DVDs of the cartoons, that is.
     
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  18. Palas

    Palas

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    I can't remember any Classic Sonic merchandise released before 2008! In fact, as someone mentioned maybe somewhere else, they went so far as featuring Modern Sonic in the covers of Sonic Gems Collection and Mega Collection. So 2008 is around Unleashed's launch, but as @Gestalt mentioned, I do remember "classic Sonic" already meaning Genesis design and Genesis gameplay as something inextricably intertwined by then. So we can tentatively conclude SEGA acknowledged there was even such a thing as a Classic Sonic around that time, but the divide was already alive and well by then.
     
  19. Billy

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    Pretty much everything I was gonna say right here. There's a million more examples you could throw in like "classic cars", but more notably I'd throw in the debacle with "New Coke" and them switching back to the original formula with "Coca-Cola Classic". You could maybe make a similar comparison with the "new" (at the time) Sonic design and the "Classic" one, except the former was far from universally hated like New Coke was. Regardless it's another pop culture thing that'd potentially be on peoples' minds when choosing the word "classic" for Sonic.
     
  20. Azookara

    Azookara

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    I think referring to "classic Sonic" just started as shorthand for the original games in the early 00s, then starting with fandom discourse around the mid 00s meltdown became about discussing and dissertating the gameplay style (anyone remember that old "Sonic Science" site that broke down the gameplay mechanics?), then as tensions rose into the 2010s it became pretty explicitly about the original art style and character designs, which Sega has clung to as the official definition after our definitely-not-embarrassing displays during the S4E1 days / the introduction of Classic Sonic in Generations.

    In other words, it's true meaning has shifted several times.