Sonic the Hedgehog (2006 video game)
|Sonic the Hedgehog|
North American cover art
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2006 platform video game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles. It was produced in commemoration of the series' fifteenth anniversary, and is the first in the series released for seventh generation home consoles. To avoid confusion with the original 1991 video game of the same name, the game is often referred to with colloquial names that reference its year of release, such as Sonic '06.
Sonic the Hedgehog follows Sonic's quest to protect Princess Elise after she is kidnapped by his archenemy Dr. Eggman, while Shadow the Hedgehog faces a supernatural entity and Silver the Hedgehog tries to protect the world from a forthcoming cataclysmic event. Gameplay is similar to previous installments in the franchise; players control the three in separate campaigns, though each character's abilities allow them to access different parts of a series of levels. To advance the game's plot, players must explore open-ended hub worlds and perform missions to unlock new levels and areas. Each character is assisted by a cast of supporting characters, who play a major role both to the story and gameplay.
Development of the title began after the completion of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (2003). The game was conceived as a separate intellectual property from the Sonic series before being reworked as a reboot to relaunch the Sonic franchise for the seventh generation. Anticipation was high; however, the game faced multiple issues during development, resulting in Sonic Team rushing the product for its targeted Christmas 2006 release despite existing bugs. Versions for the Wii and Microsoft Windows were planned but cancelled. Sonic the Hedgehog became notable for receiving negative reception upon release, being criticized for long loading times, a poor camera system, gameplay glitches, a complicated plot, and imprecise control. Sega de-listed the title from retailers in 2010, following its decision to remove all Sonic titles with sub-average Metacritic scores to increase the value of the brand.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a three-dimensional platform game with action-adventure and role-playing elements. The main player characters are the titular Sonic the Hedgehog, Silver the Hedgehog and Shadow the Hedgehog, but others are available for short periods. The main three characters are controlled in separate campaigns titled "stories". Sonic's levels generally focus on speed-based platforming similar to that of previous Sonic games, with some sections having him run at full speed while dodging obstacles; others see him escorting Princess Elise, who can guard him with a special barrier. Shadow's sections are similarly speedy albeit more combat oriented, though some segments see him riding vehicles, such as a motorcycle. In contrast, Silver's levels move at a slower pace, and revolve around his use of telekinesis to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. In certain areas, control is switched to a friend character (Miles "Tails" Prower or Knuckles the Echidna for Sonic, Rouge the Bat or E-123 Omega for Shadow, and Amy Rose or Blaze the Cat for Silver), each with their own abilities.
In each story, the player navigates through open-ended hub worlds known as "Town Stages", where they can converse with townspeople and perform missions to progress the story. The main gameplay takes place in linear levels called "Action Stages" that become accessible as the game progresses. Although every character plays the same levels, each character's unique abilities allow the player to access different areas of each stage and deny the player from accessing certain items. Scattered throughout each level are golden rings, which serve as a form of health: the rings can protect a character from a single hit by an enemy or obstacle (but not pits or other instant-death obstacles), although they will be scattered and blink before disappearing. Sonic, Shadow, and Silver will lose a life when they are hit by an enemy or obstacle with no rings in their possession or suffer any other type of damage. The game ends when the player runs out of lives. Every several levels, players will encounter a boss stage; in order to proceed, players must defeat the boss by depleting its health meter.
The game features two multiplayer modes: "Tag", a co-op mode where two players must work together to clear levels and collect Chaos Emeralds; and "Battle", a player versus player mode where two players race against each other. Several downloadable extensions have been released that add features to single-player gameplay. These include "Very Hard" mode, a more difficult version of the game; "Boss Attack" modes, which allow a playable character to engage in continuous battles with all of the game's bosses; and "Team Attack Amigo" mode, which sends players through a multitude of levels in a set order, changing to a different "amigo" character every two or three levels, culminating in a boss fight.
In Soleanna, the Festival of the Sun's opening ceremony is disrupted by the arrival of Doctor Eggman, who seeks the "Flames of Disaster" from Princess Elise. Sonic the Hedgehog arrives and attempts to save her, but fails when he is attacked by Eggman's robots. Before being taken away, Elise gives Sonic a Chaos Emerald. The next day, Sonic meets his friend Miles "Tails" Prower in the city; the two chase Eggman throughout Soleanna before rescuing Elise in the desert. Meanwhile, Shadow the Hedgehog saves Rouge the Bat from Eggman's base. Rouge drops a relic she stole from the Doctor called the Scepter of Darkness, causing it to release Mephiles the Dark, a supernatural entity in Shadow's image who says Shadow sealed him within the scepter ten years ago. Mephiles opens a wormhole which transports him, Shadow, and Rouge to the future: a post-apocalyptic world that is caused by Iblis, the physical embodiment of the Flames of Disaster.
In the future, Silver the Hedgehog and Blaze the Cat, two survivors trying to fend off the creature, meet Mephiles, who says Sonic is the "Iblis Trigger" and sends the two back in time using a Chaos Emerald. Silver and Blaze are separated upon arrival, with Silver witnessing Eggman's attack on Soleanna. He meets Amy Rose, who accompanies him to find Sonic but defends him when they find him, while Eggman recaptures Elise. After being defeated in a fight with Silver, Sonic flees and meets with Tails and Knuckles the Echidna, before Eggman lures them into a trap and sends them to the future. There, Shadow and Rouge unite with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. After finding two Chaos Emeralds and fighting Iblis, Sonic, Tails, Rouge, and Knuckles return to the present, and Rouge sends E-123 Omega to the future to assist Shadow. The two face Mephiles, who reveals that in the future Shadow was imprisoned after being falsely accused of causing the destruction. After defeating him, Shadow and Omega return to the present-day.
In the present, Sonic chases Eggman and Elise at a train terminal before being attacked again by Silver; however, Shadow intervenes. Shadow and Silver travel ten years into the past and learn Iblis and Mephiles are parts of the Duke of Soleanna's project to harness the power of the city's god Solaris. After an explosion sets the two free, the Duke gives Shadow the Scepter of Darkness, which he uses to seal Mephiles, while Silver and the Duke seal Iblis into a young Elise's tears using a Chaos Emerald. The Duke reveals to Silver that Elise's tears will release Iblis, and comforts his daughter before dying due to injuries sustained in the explosion. In the present, Eggman's ship is damaged and explodes, killing Elise and rendering the release of Iblis inevitable. However, Silver returns and sends Sonic back in time, thus enabling him to defeat Eggman and save Elise. While Shadow, Rouge and Omega confront Mephiles in the desert, Silver and Blaze stop Iblis in the future by sealing the creature in Blaze's soul, who then uses the Chaos Emeralds to seal herself in an alternate dimension.
After surviving Shadow's attack, Mephiles uses a Chaos Emerald and seemingly kills Sonic with an energy blade, causing Elise to cry and unleash Iblis. Mephiles bonds with Iblis, recreating Solaris and ripping the time-space continuum apart. As everyone mourns Sonic's apparent death, Elise senses that Sonic may still be alive and Silver realizes that the Chaos Emeralds can revive him. After Tails, Knuckles, Silver, Shadow, Rouge, Amy and Omega gather the emeralds, Elise gives Sonic a kiss, which allows him to transform into his super form. Sonic transfers some of his power to Shadow and Silver, and together they defeat Solaris. Sonic and Elise go back in time, finding Solaris' original form as a single white flame. Elise blows out the candle to erase Solaris from existence, thus rebooting the timeline. Sonic watches Elise in the festival show; the two display signs of faintly recalling their friendship.
Sonic the Hedgehog had a troubled development, and multiple frequently discussed features were scrapped before the game was released. The game began development after the completion of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (2003) and was conceived as a separate title from the Sonic series. However, the project was reworked into a next-generation Sonic title as the developers believed the project's realistic tone combined with the world of Sonic would allow them to create large and expansive worlds and levels previously impossible on earlier sixth generation consoles. The game was first announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo convention in May 2005. At the 2005 Tokyo Game Show convention, head of Sonic Team and Sonic series co-creator Yuji Naka revealed the game's official title, Sonic the Hedgehog, and also announced that the game would celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. In an interview with GameSpy, Naka additionally confirmed that the game would use the Havok engine, previously used in Sega's PlayStation 2 Astro Boy video game. Game director Shun Nakamura demonstrated the game's use of the engine during Sega's stage shows as well.
Sonic the Hedgehog was designed as a reboot to relaunch the Sonic series for the seventh generation, as well as give the series a more realistic setting. For this reason, human characters are given a photorealistic design, while Sonic, Doctor Eggman, and the series' robot antagonists were redesigned to better suit the game's environment. Various planned features were dropped during development, such as a time of day mechanic similar to the one later implemented in Sonic Unleashed (2008), multiple endings, and additional multiplayer components. At one point in development, Sonic Team even considered giving Sonic realistic fur and rubber textures. Silver the Hedgehog's gameplay style was born out of the desire to take advantage of the Havok engine's realistic physics capabilities. The character of Silver went through more than fifty concepts, conceived as a mink before being redesigned as a hedgehog. The game features several CGI animated cutscenes, which were produced by Blur Studio. In addition to the cast of the Sonic X anime series reprising their voice roles for the game, actress Lacey Chabert (known for her roles in Mean Girls and Family Guy) supplied the voice of series newcomer Princess Elise, who serves the role of damsel in distress.
After its debut, the game's development team began to face several serious problems, starting with Naka's resignation as the head of Sonic Team partway through development. Sonic the Hedgehog was originally intended for release on all major seventh generation consoles as well as Microsoft Windows, but when presented with development kits for Nintendo's less powerful Wii console, it was decided that Sonic the Hedgehog's staff would be split in two, with Shun Nakamura finishing the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, while Yojiro Ogawa would use the other half of Sonic Team to begin work on a new Sonic game — later revealed to be Sonic and the Secret Rings— for the new Nintendo platform. Due to the split, the staff was left with an unusually small development team to work on Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sega had made a deal with Microsoft to have the game released by Christmas 2006. The staff was also unfamiliar with the newer and more advanced hardware of the Xbox 360 and PS3. In order to release the game in time for the Christmas season, Sonic Team rushed the development period, ignoring existing bugs and control issues.
In a February 2007 interview for Kikizo magazine, Sonic Team producer Yojiro Ogawa was asked to comment on the game's glitches, control problems and loading times:
The reason why we probably ended up with what we see today, involves a lot of reasons. One is that we did want to launch the title around Christmas, and we had the PS3 launch coming up, but we had to develop for Microsoft's 360 at the same time and the team had an awful lot of pressure on them. It was very hard for the team to try and see how we were going to come out with both versions together with just the one team. It was a big challenge.— Yojiro Ogawa
The musical score for Sonic the Hedgehog was composed by Hideaki Kobayashi, Tomoya Ohtani, Mariko Nanba, Taihei Sato, and Takahito Eguchi, and comprises of various genres such as classical, electronic, and rock. The main theme for the game, "His World", was written by Ohtani and performed by Ali Tabatabaee and Matty Lewis of the band Zebrahead. R&B artist Akon performed a remix of the Dreams Come True song "Sweet Sweet Sweet", a song originally from their 1992 album The Swinging Star, and was also used as the ending theme to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Rock band Crush 40 performed Shadow's theme, titled "All Hail Shadow", which was also used in the video game Shadow the Hedgehog (2005). Silver's theme, "Dreams of An Absolution", was performed by singer Lee Brotheron. Two official soundtrack albums were released for the game, both on January 10, 2007. Sonic the Hedgehog Vocal Traxx: Several Wills contains seven vocal tracks from the game. The game's complete soundtrack, titled Sonic the Hedgehog Original Soundtrack, features over 90 songs and covers three audio CDs.
A demo version of the game, featuring a short section of gameplay for Sonic, was released via Xbox Live in September 2006. The Xbox 360 version of Sonic the Hedgehog was first released in North America on November 14, 2006, followed by a European release on November 24, 2006. Both versions were released in Japan on December 21, 2006. The PlayStation 3 version was released in North America on January 30, 2007, and in Europe on March 23, 2007. To help promote the game's release, Sega created and distributed an Adobe Flash browser game titled Sonic the Hedgehog: Chaos Crush, a Breakout-style game with Sonic elements.
The game was also made available on the Xbox Live Marketplace service on April 15, 2010. However, in September of that year, various Sonic games with average or below average Metacritic ratings, including Sonic the Hedgehog, were de-listed from retailers in order to increase the value of the brand, following the positive reception to Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Sonic Colors.
Pre-release reactions to Sonic the Hedgehog were positive. Reception to prior entries in the series, namely Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog, had been lukewarm, and a number of well-received showings and demos led to high anticipation; some felt the game to be a possible return to the series' roots. Ricardo Torres of GameSpot claimed the game "showed a considerable amount of promise" after its showing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2006. In 2008, Brett Elston of GamesRadar lamented that Sonic the Hedgehog looked "amazing" before its release.
Post-release, Sonic the Hedgehog became notable for gaining negative reception, with aggregating review website Metacritic assigning the Xbox 360 version a 46/100, and the PS3 version a 43/100. It remained the lowest-rated original Sonic game on the site until 2014, when it was surpassed by Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Despite selling well enough to earn a Platinum Hits label for the Xbox 360, poor reviews and word-of-mouth contributed to the game's overall sales being significantly lower compared to past Sonic titles; the game only sold 850,000 units within the first six months of its release.
Reviewers heavily criticized the game's camera system, extensive loading times, poor controls, and several gameplay glitches; Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot labeled Sonic the Hedgehog as "a mess from top to bottom". Juan Castro of IGN said that the game had several redeeming qualities, but "none of this helps the game recover from a catastrophic loss in control". GameTrailers ranked the game #9 in their countdown of the "Top Ten Most Disappointing Games of the Decade." In 2009, GamesTM ranked it #1 on their top ten "Video Game Franchises That Lost Their Way." Elston claimed Sonic the Hedgehog was "dead on arrival" when it was released.
Reviewers were more divided on the game's presentation. Castro called the game's graphics, audio, and replay value "decent", and felt its interface and menu system worked fine though it lacked polish. Gerstmann, on the other hand, felt that the game's graphics, while colorful, were bland and only a small improvement from previous sixth generation titles; this statement was echoed by Shane Bettenhausen of 1UP.com. Dave Halverson of Play Magazine initially gave Sonic the Hedgehog a 9.5/10 score for the Xbox 360 version, praising each character's controls and abilities and calling it the best 3D Sonic game yet. In the following issue, however, Halverson reassessed it as 8.5/10, citing that he was incorrectly told that the load times and glitches in his review copy would not be in the final version of the game. In a later review for the PS3, Halverson was frustrated with the glitches and load times not being improved upon, as well as how the game ran marginally worse despite the extra development time; Halverson gave the PS3 version a 5.5/10.
The game's overall gameplay was criticized as well, with its level design being described as "faulty" by Castro. In a one out of five star review, Bobbi Dempsey of Common Sense Media criticized the game's "atrocious" design problems and the "quirky" control system, asserting that it's "not even a renter." Gerstmann claimed the level design was made worse by the game's poor camera system, which he described as frustrating. Some additionally criticized how the majority of the game was not spent playing as Sonic; Gerstmann claimed playing as Tails instantly made a level boring. Rob Fahey of Eurogamer found that the supporting cast often annoyed, rather than fleshing the game out. Bettenhausen, however, felt that despite the control issues and level design, the title still played like a Sonic game.
The game's plot was a major point of criticism; reviewers felt it to be overly dark and unfitting for a Sonic game. GamesRadar called the story "ridiculously overwrought" and "conceptually challenged". Some unfavorably compared the plot to that of an anime or Final Fantasy. Game Informer felt the story was "ridiculous" and "outlandish and nonsensical at first", though opining that it eventually gets "cool" and "incorporates an interesting mix of interweaving time travel, pathos, and all-star teamwork to defeat an ancient evil." The implied romance between Sonic and the human Princess Elise was especially criticized; GamesTM stated "...Sonic's relationship and kiss with Princess Elise truly marked the point the [Sonic] series had veered off into absolute nonsense." When asked during an interview whether anyone might accuse the game of supporting bestiality, actress Lacey Chabert, who provides Elise's voice in the game, stated, "Ha! No, you're just being silly. It's not an inappropriate relationship. Let's just say Sonic and Princess Elise have an attraction for each other."
Retrospective reception has been similarly negative. In 2015, Patrick Klepek of Kotaku jokingly called the relationship between Sonic and Elise a nod to the series' "erotica community". The same year, Dave Meikleham of GamesRadar listed Sonic and Elise's relationship as one of the "8 wrongest romances in video games", exclaiming, "Dear lord, just NO". Patrick Arellano of Blasting News felt the game to be uninspired and stupid, calling it the "worst game I've ever beaten", while Patrick Lee of The A.V. Club joked the game to be a "perverse legend" due to its poor quality and named it the worst entry in the Sonic franchise. In 2015, the staff of GamesRadar declared Sonic the Hedgehog to be among the worst video games of all time.
The critical failure of Sonic the Hedgehog is said to have led to a rethinking of the direction of the series. As noted by Blasting News, later titles in the series have featured only Sonic as a playable character, simpler and more humorous plots, and a larger focus on platforming.
Most characters introduced in the game have made no further appearances in the Sonic series; Elise's only appearance outside Sonic the Hedgehog was a minor cameo in Sonic Rivals 2 (2007). Silver, however, has appeared as a playable character in both Sonic Rivals (2006) and its sequel, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (2007), and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and its sequels, and was a minor supporting character in the Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors (2010).
To celebrate the Sonic franchise's 20th anniversary, Sega released Sonic Generations (2011), a game that remade aspects of various past games from the franchise. The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC version contain a remake of Sonic the Hedgehog's "Crisis City" level. Additionally, every version of the game, including the Nintendo 3DS version, contains a remake of the boss battle with Silver, and various musical tracks from the game appear as unlockable extras. The decision to include Sonic the Hedgehog stages and bosses in Sonic Generations was controversial; Jim Sterling of Destructoid referred to the Silver boss fight as the "catch" of the game.
An unofficial fan-made remake of Sonic the Hedgehog is currently under development for Microsoft Windows, being made in the Unity framework by an ensemble of fans known as Gistix. A demo version featuring a brief gameplay segment for Sonic was released in 2017. Unlike the original game, the demo has been positively received by gaming journalists, who have claimed it to be more polished than the 2006 game.
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The game is simply titled Sonic the Hedgehog, but it's often referred to as Sonic '06.
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