The SONIC franchise was as popular and well respected as the MARIO series in the 16-bit era. But the Sonic, Tails and company fell on hard times as they tried to make the jump to 3D. Meanwhile, Mario's two titles were both critically acclaimed. Something had to change.
The biggest complaint about the two SONIC ADVENTURE games was the fact that about only a fifth of the game revolved around Sonic speeding through levels. The rest was some twisted exploration game with a bad set of camera angles to boot. None of them really caught on like the previous games.
To remedy this, the Sonic Team has done away without levels including Sonic for their new game SONIC HEROES. Sonic is now a part of all the levels but Tails and Knuckles are along for the ride. The way this works is that the three run together through the level. At all points you have a team "leader". This leader represents one of three things, Speed, Flight, or Power. The leader can be switched on the fly based on what you need for that circumstance.
A typical level might have Sonic running through loops, switching to Tails to fly up a tall wall, and finally using Knuckles to break through a barrier and fight the enemies on the other side. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. The levels can last more than six or seven minutes apiece, which seems like an eternity for a Sonic game.
There are parts of this game that are absolutely brilliant, stunning, and will amaze you. And you're stuck in these sequences of battle or flight between the excellent speed sequences. They're like a cage almost, a cage you want to break out of and then be able to run free through the loops and corkscrews.
Still this is a step forward from the SONIC ADVENTURE games. It's actually enjoyable to completely play through believe it or not. You do have to trudge through the crappy levels. But in the end you get to do some incredibly wicked moments with Sonic.
Here's what needs to happen with this franchise. All pre-conceived notions about exploration or battle need to be thrown out. Take the game, create a bunch of new environments to go along with the typical island, snow and casino zones. Create multiple pathways through these environments, and then let gamers speed through them. Stop trying to just update the classic franchise and create something new!
It's just my vision for the series. The graphics are good, use them to create something new; the 80s music is endearing in its own way but the voice-actors should go. Create something new and exciting and let us enjoy the thrill of speeding through a SONIC game again.
SONIC HEROES will suffice until something new comes along. But ultimately, SONIC fans will yearn for more.