The internet has been characteristically aghast this week at potential revelation of Sonic’s look in his upcoming movie. This is the latest surge in a steady stream of Sonic-related scepticism; the widespread belief that Sonic’s new movie is going to be embarrassingly bad. Its still early days for Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s not even been a trailer yet. So why are fans so quick to join in the pessimism surrounding the project?
Let’s begin with an overview of the images revealed this week. Sonic’s trademark look has certainly been warped. The most apparent tweaks are his ‘realistic’ furry body. It definitely makes for difficult looking. But, hey, Detective Pikachu is essentially doing the same thing and there’s not nearly the same level of hating on that. Despite how terrifying some of Detective Pikachu‘s ‘realistic’ Pokemon designs look they are accurate to the games and anime. A realistic Jigglypuff might be a horror, but its a horror fans recognise and can learn to accept. This new, blue-armed, athletic-toned Sonic might be more plausible but it doesn’t really even look like Sonic anymore. So why bother?
The uncanny effect of seeing Sonic the hedgehog as a small hairy man aside, there’s also other changes that are tell-tale of a lack of fan-service. Another image presents particularly strong example is the shoes: plain red trainers with a real-life branding on the side. To keep the character’s iconic shoe-colouring would have proved no technical challenge. Its a small detail that’s indicative of a wider disregard for the character’s roots – apparently a concern secondary to product placement. In contrast, strangely Sonic’s hands seem to have been kept white despite appearing gloveless. Tom Marks, a Reviews Editor at IGN, drew focus to this lack of fidelity with a comparison image created for twitter. The re-introduction of the singular big eye back into Sonic the hedgehog immediately makes the image look a lot more like the beloved Sega mascot.
So why are fans so willing to panic over the details of Sonic the Hedgehog? They’ve been here before. More than once. 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog has become infamous in its own right for its uncanny mixing of anthropomorphic critters and human characters (to say nothing of its awful, broken gameplay). Then there was the redesign of the characters for Sonic Boom. Equally maligned, and also leading to at least one video game with some very broken gameplay. Despite this lack of critical success Sonic the Hedgehog has clung to life as a franchise, occasionally managing to produce a game popular enough to justify a sequel. Sonic Mania was a rare high point, perhaps in part because it listened to what fans wanted and let the characters look like themselves. Maybe Sonic the Hedgehog will turn out to be unexpectedly good, but you can certainly see why fans are worried this could be the bomb that sinks the franchise for the foreseeable future.