Friday, 7 February 2014

On Sonic Boom

So because I'm not very fond of gaming journalism I apparently managed to miss all the teasers about the new Sonic the Hedgehog related animated series and its prequel game Sonic Boom until the teaser trailer and character reveals popped up yesterday on social media. So let's have a quick look.

On Sonic Boom
Quick Thoughts on the Redesign.

Okay, why the bandages everywhere? Are their shoes in danger of getting wounded? What does Sonic need with a scarf? Why is Knuckles a steroid giant now?

Apparently they decided to make this separate from the main franchise, so even if it ultimately isn't very good, at least we'll still have the questionable quality of mainstream Sonic games rather than a complete departure from previous entries in the series (I'm looking at you, Tomb Raider). Known hells are better than uncertain heavens, right?

I was a big Sonic fan when I was a child and I still have a certain fondness for the series, but I also maintain a certain lack of expectations since we've been burned so many times since the Mega Drive days. Overall it doesn't look bad though. The setting looks inspired by classic Sonic the Hedgehog games. Amy and Tails look nice. Sonic looks okay in the trailers (looks like a bit of a conehead with spikes in the concept art). Only Knuckles is way too oversized for my taste. I'm also glad to see Amy bumped up to a more dignified position in the main team now and she has a lot of potential because of it, although we'll have to wait and see if she'll manage to live up to it.

Sonic Generations (2011)

Aside from a few annoying tendencies and a couple of games handling her badly, I always liked Amy Rose as a character. The only thing I really have a problem with in current Amy as a concept is that she rarely ever got the chance to stretch her legs beyond her obsession with Sonic. I hope they at least tone down that aspect of her personality.

Anyway, here's the reveal trailer for the video game.

What has me curious is a quick shot between 0:36 and 0:38. Screencapped below for your convenience.

All of our heroes fall through the floor of some kind of ruins. The guys fall flat on their faces (in Sonic's case literally), the girl lands on her feet and has a certain "look what a badass I am" on her face. Now that could just be the manifestation of Amy's new-found agility, which is awesome. However based on previous experiences I fear this might be the sign of a female character who has a chip on her shoulder about being a female in a group of male characters, which is when it gets annoying. After all, the goal is to put the girl on equal terms with the guys, not highlighting the difference by making it an obviously gendered issue.

In an interview with Polygon(1), Big Red Button team leader Bob Rafei revealed that Amy's redesign and inclusion was to make her a more capable character in her own right to make her more interesting for female audiences, and not just as a character designed by a bunch of men. That's of course a noble endeavor but historically that approach usually misses the point. After all, Sonic the Hedgehog has been a capable character in his franchise for 23 years and he's lying there with his face firmly planted in the ground.
Does moving Amy out of Sonic's shadow mean constantly having to show him up? Because that usually translates into an overall not very interesting character who has to do with token gestures of "capability" while the others still do all the meaningful work in the story. A truly badass character can afford to fall on their face occasionally because they don't need such token gestures of "empowerment". They simply are such because of their nature.

A real badass can get tossed around a bit.

So please, have Amy Rose be a badass on her own terms and not as a token portrayal for the sake of gender politics. She has had to wait long enough for a day in the spotlight.


- Sonic Generations
- Avatar: The Last Airbender