So last week, I discovered a new form of torture inadvertedly. And all on a whim.
I decided late one Saturday night “You know what? I should sit down and watch all the Sonic 2006 cutscenes”.
So what did I learn from watching them, aside from a bad way to waste time? Well, they taught some very important storytelling lessons just on account of how badly they handled said elements themselves:
1. A game that is trying to act like a Final Fantasy game is not easy if traditionally you’re nothing like one. Seriously, it’s trying to tell a serious story, with realistic characters and robots and situations…. and giant animals whose artstyle is completely different from the realistic humans. Nobody pays any heed, either, to the handful of anthropomorphic animals walking around.
Now, to be fair, the Sonic franchise is not the only one to pull this off, and in fact there’s a good example of how to do it. Namely, the Dragonball franchise. Though downplayed moreso in DBZ onwards, there’s a LARGE contingent of sentient animals mixed into the general population. As they’re a common enough occurence, nobody thinks anything of them. Heck – the king of the world is a dog!
Compare this to Sonic 2006, where the only anthropomorphic animals we EVER see are the main Sonic cast. And nobody bats an eyelid. Heck – Elise even falls for one of them and doesn’t see anything wrong with it!
2. Dragging on…..and on….and onnnnnnnnnnnn. The game’s pacing is atrocious. VERY atrocious. People say stuff, then take a while to do something, all the while stuff goes slowly UNLESS the really nice musical score kicks in fleetingly.
What sums it up is a moment where E-123 Omega is handed a Chaos Emerald. It’s probably a 10-20 second sequence of him taking the emerald and putting it in his chest.
There is no need to show something that tedious.
And overall, there’s about 30-40 minutes of cutscenes PER PLAYABLE CHARACTER, and then the Final Story cutscenes, making this whole mess something that Hideo Kojima would drool over. Again, for a franchise whose core gameplay element is based on SPEED, and GOING FAST, taking the time with cutscenes is unbearable.
To make a quick comparison, take Sonic Colors or Sonic Generations. Short and to the point with cutscenes. Even Unleashed is pretty good because it has PACING. Nothing drags on superlong – I think the longest cutscenes are the Eggman-only ones, and those are genuinely entertaining because Mike Pollock can act.
Really, in the end, it all comes down to one thing:
3. KNOW YOUR MATERIAL.
If I buy a Sonic game, I want something with fast speed. I don’t want to have to sit around forever through cutscenes waiting for the next level – yes, I know I can always skip that sort of thing in theory, but as a lore junkie I don’t do that kind of thing in the game, and I should not be punished for it.
For something like the MGS series, which I admittedly have not played, story’s a big part of the games. Plus, the games are stealth-based to boot, and have a pacing/theme that lends itself to storytelling/cutscenes. But with Sonic?
The 2006 game is an attempt to Final Fantasify the Sonic franchise, and it fails pretty spectacularly. Clashing art direction and ponderously slow cutscenes which needed a new director or editor drag down the cinematic aspect of the game. I have nothing against putting an epic story in Sonic – I love the Archie books – but if you can’t tell your story very well, good can become mediocre and mediocre crap.
And as a final note, when your game RETCONS ITSELF OUT OF EXISTENCE due to time travel, it means that the entire ordeal of cutscenes was nothing but a colossal waste of time.