Among all of the games that make up Sonic’s twenty-five-year history, there is no game more infamous than Sonic the Hedgehog (the one released for the Xbox 360 in the winter of 2006. In no way to be confused with the actually good first game). Sonic 2006, as I will be calling it for the rest of this retrospective, is a game I have borderline traumatic memories of.
I remember a twelve-year-old me bugging his mum for that Xbox for Christmas just so he could play the new Sonic game he desperately wanted. I still remember that E3 trailer. The lush green forest vistas littered with crumbling ruins, the burning skyscrapers of a post-apocalyptic city, tornadoes of fire ripping it to shreds. And, in HD, it all looked so beautiful. And the speed. It was safe to say that I had my socks thoroughly knocked off. After updating the 360 and downloading what was probably a massive patch for the game (concepts completely alien to me at the time), twelve-year-old me was met with, without a doubt, the worst game he has ever played. The disappointment was crushing.
But enough with what I thought the game was going to be, and instead let’s talk more about what it was. What it was, was a completely broken, blatantly unfinished game rushed out to meet a Christmas deadline. Sonic 2006 is as stable as wet Weetabix. I’d challenge anyone to play the game for more than ten minutes without something breaking. Sonic can walk up sheer cliff faces, and back up around loop-de-loops. Sonic can fall through the world. Sonic can go to space by spin kicking in place on top of a box. This is not even close to the tip of the iceberg. The camera jerks around endlessly, like an ever-moving shark scared of drowning. Trying to control Sonic is like controlling a sixteenth century Spanish galleon, with a broken rudder, while drunk at the wheel. The framerate drops whenever anything taxing happens – like breaking a box, killing an enemy or moving at all. And the “mach-speed” sections I can’t even write words about without getting excessively angry.
“Trying to control Sonic is like controlling a sixteenth century Spanish galleon, with a broken rudder, while drunk at the wheel”
Sonic 2006 tried to have a plot. But the plot is the work of a madman; a madman trapped in a padded room with nothing but the crib notes of a rejected Final Fantasy game. The story follows three characters, Sonic, his lord edginess Shadow and blatant Trunks clone Silver (a new psychokinetic hedgehog, because why not). Sonic travels to the city of Soleanna to rescue Princess Elise from the clutches of nemesis Dr. Eggman (this time looking creepily realistic). Shadow accidentally unleashes a mysterious evil being called Mephiles and spends his campaign trying to fix his fuck up and driving things for some reason. Silver comes from a future where the world was destroyed by bland Lavos-wannabe Iblis, and must travel back in time to kill Sonic, the “Iblis Trigger”, in an attempt to undo the badness. Shit happens (and by shit I mean crap boss fights and dialogue that would make the worst of Tumblr role-plays cringe) and evil must be stopped by gathering the chaos emeralds and Elise kisses Sonic and oh god.
Despite all of this, I somehow don’t entirely hate Sonic 2006. It’s unbelievably shit, but I’ve come to realise that it’s earnest in its shittiness. I’ve finished the game twice and had something near resembling fun at times, times usually being when Shadow clips his hovercraft through the world and aimlessly floats through the endless void. Silver screams “it’s no use!” while throwing Sonic to the moon and it’s funny. One of my favourite memories was playing the co-op (yes there’s co-op) while tipsy at a party and beating my mate in a race by twerking through a wall. The soundtrack is amazing and it doesn’t look terrible either. The lessons to take away from Sonic 2006 are: don’t fire literally all your game testers (yes, this happened) and don’t release broken games. Thank God that doesn’t happen anymore.