2015 – A Year In Supersonic Review

2015 – A Year In Supersonic Review

by December 28, 2015

2015.

2015. That, believe it or not, sums up the year. Silence. It was the most peaceful year SEGA has had in a long time. A year defined on your cell phones, on Cartoon Network, and with surprises. SEGA has not been this quiet before in years. Outside of the reveal of Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice there was not a single console Sonic release (if you don’t count the 3DS version of Sonic 2 released, anyway). Sonic Lost World was ported to Steam with little fanfare. SEGA attended E3 with little fanfare. But, more importantly, the SEGA that we knew this time 12 months ago is very different from the SEGA we know today.

The ironic thing is despite all the silence there is still lots to say about this year. Before I begin, though, let me reintroduce you to what this article is all about. Welcome to a yearly project I’ve been doing since 2010 over at Sonic Paradox and since last year on TSSZ. At the end of every year I reflect on SEGA and Sonic‘s year and predict what the new year will bring. If you are curious on my opinion on certain matters I tend to express them in these articles and let loose.

If you wish to read up on past years here’s every installment so far:

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014

So let’s get started, shall we? It is time to, once again, look back at the top 10 Sonic/SEGA news stories of the year.

Top 10 Sonic/SEGA News Stories of 2015

10) Nazo Explained – One positive aspect of this year that had continued from 2014: significant developments with mysteries of Sonic’s past. The entity that is Nazo was finally explained after 10 years of “existence”. While this didn’t draw as much attention as others (for example a certain musician’s involvement in Sonic 3) it was an aspect of Sonic’s history largely ignored. So ignored that speculation is the only thing that could be done prior to Iizuka’s explanation.

09) Sonic In Super Mario Maker – With each passing mascot collaboration with Nintendo and SEGA it seemed more and more outrageous at how much of a complete 180 had been made by the former business rivals in the past 10-15 years. Hell froze over big time when the 16-bit sprite of Sonic was confirmed to be appearing in a Mario game for the first time, thanks to Amiibos. The console wars truly are over.

08) Sonic Boom Season 2 Confirmed – The Sonic Boom cartoon dominated the headlines for SEGA this year. When we weren’t reporting on ratings data we were informing you of premieres in countries and/or regions. Then came the big one. Season two of Sonic Boom was confirmed after lots of speculation via a trade show from the people who distribute the cartoon in the majority of the world. Currently the show has moved over to Boomerang and doesn’t even air on Cartoon Network anymore, the channel that fans grew to tune to almost every Saturday in 2015 to watch the antics of Sonic and friends. But the cartoon’s days may be far from numbered.

07) Sonic Arcade Game Discoveries – With all the silence that SEGA has given this year it left a vacuum of data. In fact one could say that the fanbase was our primary source of info for 2015 because the community quickly filled in a large portion of this vacuum with discoveries and news tips. And the Sonic hacking community made two big discoveries within just a month. Two of the three obscure Sonic arcade titles were dumped and could now be seen for the first time by many fans. After the shocker of Sonic X-Treme last year to see yet even more of the obscure side of Sonic be realized is always a treat to see.

06) SEGA’s Interviews of Remorse – As fall arrived at long last it seemed SEGA was beginning to emerge from their silence and interviews about the company’s future began to surface. Three high-ranking employees at SEGA participated in separate interviews, all of which had the same message: the company was going to regain trust, to do what made them great again. While it has fallen on deaf ears due to the desire to see actions speak louder than words it is our only real indicator at just what 2016 holds for SEGA. We have absolutely nothing else to go by other than SEGA’s history. And after what has happened this year, the pattern has been broken.

06) The Sonic PR Social Media Antics – There’s no question that the most positive buzz that Sonic has generated this year came not from the Sonic Boom cartoon but from the meme-infested ramblings made by Aaron “RubyEclipse” Webber on the various social media accounts that the official Sonic franchise has, primarily on Twitter. It started in June and just went on from there. The buzz became so strong that entire forum threads have been made dedicated to only the tidbits made on these accounts. It’s just the PR stunt SEGA needed to make up for the lack of news while getting things back on track following the crash and burn of the 2014 Sonic Boom games. No doubt will there be more of this in the coming year.

05) 25th Anniversary Foreshadowing – Sonic’s anniversary is coming up in 2016 and SEGA seemed to be slowly building up suspicion and curiosity. At almost every expo or event they went to a Sonic 25th anniversary logo would be lurking somewhere in their booth to be captured in a lucky photo. And if we weren’t getting that we’d see merchandise related to it. Even up until the past few days SEGA did not stop with foreshadowing things. We may not have long to wait as it seems this is getting to be more frequent with each month.

04) Sonic Runners – This game was SEGA’s primary Sonic game. Not since Sonic 4: Episode 1 did a Sonic game get such attention from SEGA.  Every few days it seemed there was an announcement about an upcoming character, event, companion, or collaboration. And that doesn’t even count the updates themselves! Even when the game was still in its soft launch phase for the first half of the year they were heavily investing in it. They still are and are showing no signs of stopping even with Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom having been released.

03) Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice – There was a point in 2015 where SEGA wasn’t so silent. It was the week before E3, when they announced Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice. However that activity they created immediately evaporated within a month and by fall the lack of news on the game was worrying. The game was eventually confirmed to be delayed to 2016 and we, yet again, have not heard a thing about it since. It was the smoking gun evidence that SEGA was just trying to get all their ducks in a row first.

02) Shenmue 3 Revealed – Perhaps the biggest SEGA-related shocker in years. Shenmue 3, arguably the equivalent of Valve’s Half Life 3, was happening. And SEGA had little to even do with this other than say “you can do this”! The announcement was just one of a series of crazy announcements made at Sony’s E3 press conference and the entire gaming community could not believe it. And yet it wasn’t the first time Kickstarter created miracles for SEGA gamers. It was a year where IPs that SEGA used to support had gone off and done their own thing. ToeJam & Earl did a similar move earlier in the year. But Shenmue 3 stood out among all others. Not only did it break records but it proved that any game is possible if you have the faith and patience.

01) SEGA Announces Restructure – There’s a reason why this and not Shenmue 3 made number one. All of SEGA’s actions this year can all be traced back to January 30th, when the company announced layoffs and an internal restructure that is still ongoing even today. For SEGA, it defined the year. It was the year. The game delays, the silence, the lackluster E3 appearance, no official fan conventions happening, SEGA Sammy’s financial forecast problems, and more all happened because SEGA has been busy dealing with the restructure. This set the stage for 2015. SEGA would emerge from this a completely changed company. Its divisions have been heavily reorganized and some even renamed, its plans for the future have taken a different route, and SEGA of America has been migrating to a brand new location. But most importantly, they focused on that restructure. This meant that a lot of games were delayed to 2016 and they kept a low profile, showing up at E3 with a whimper, not announcing much, barely promoting anything, and not holding any official fan conventions for the first time in almost 10 years. There’s no telling when exactly SEGA will be changing gears from the restructure back to the games but the wait isn’t for much longer. I’ll elaborate more later in the article.

Honorable Mentions: Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom, Fan Site SoaH Rises Again

Now we get to the “lowlights” of Sonic/SEGA stories. The ones that were just very strange or wrong, so much so that you can’t simply ignore them.

Sonic/SEGA 2015 News Stories That Were Off

Sonic Dreams Collection – Quite possibly the most awkward fan creation to come out in a long while was this absurd series of “Sonic Adventure prototype” mini games that surfaced in August leaving the Sonic community either baffled, creeped out, or just annoyed. It has since become a running gag, a joke for anything absurd or low-quality among the community. Perhaps what it is being remembered rather what is in it is a good thing.

Ken Penders Tweets – I honestly didn’t expect a month of this. But many articles would be made of the Archie Comics-related tweets made by Ken Penders as he foreshadowed another round of legal matters against Archie. It eventually developed into something more than just Penders Vs. Archie, where it was suggested that he’s not the only freelancer behind it and it revealed some aspects of Archie Comics’ past with Sonic not known before.

Sonic Central App – Every year there is always that one story that reveals something that just never happened. This year we have SEGA’s announcement of the Sonic Central App. After it was unveiled it was silenced, never to be heard from again. Ironically it was a Sonic franchise information app which sounds like it aimed to provide news. It did for only a brief moment. No one except SEGA knows if that will change.

It may not seem like it but there were some Sonic titles released. The catch is that they were small-scale titles: mobile games or mere ports of older games. So what were they, what platforms were they on, and what was the reception? Keep reading because it’s time to see how the Sonic franchise did this year!

2015 Review For The Sonic Franchise

Sonic Lost World (Steam)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Slightly Positive

Sonic Runners (Mobile)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Has varied between Slightly Positive and Negative with each update

Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom (Mobile)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Neutral

3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (3DS)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Positive

Remember that Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice nor Mario & Sonic Rio 2016 have released yet so neither are included here. If you wish to know however reactions to the news of both so far has been negative.

So how did SEGA do ultimately? Here’s what I feel is their report card.

2015 SEGA Report Card

Summary: One thing can be said about SEGA. Outside of an awkward Tembo the Badass Elephant launch there were no disasters compared to the year before. Another thing that can be said about SEGA: their PR has picked up over the course of the year with a SEGA Europe’s PR back from the dead and SEGA America’s PR going meme crazy with the return of Aaron Webber. But it doesn’t solve the more prominent issues at hand. Nothing has been done to address and mend the broken pieces after Rise of Lyric’s failure and the Sonic community is still in a post-Rise of Lyric state. A lot of the activity from SEGA has been largely exclusive to Japan. Things are still in a state of uncertainty, tension, worry, and reluctance. People still do not have faith in SEGA. Their parent company, SEGA Sammy, has had some financial losses due to the lack of activity with their pachinko/pachislot division. It was overall a better year for SEGA but not by much. There’s more unanswered questions now than 12 months ago.
Grade: C

So now we get to the fun part. Every year I make predictions about what to expect in the coming year. But before I do I look back at the previous year’s predictions and see how things turned out. With how the restructure basically threw a lot of people’s expectations out the window I wasn’t expecting good results.

What To Expect In 2016…

January will likely be another quiet one excluding one thing: more details on the recently announced Sonic Runners mobile game. I think February will once again be the month where the next Sonic game will be announced: a main game for the Xbox One and Playstation 4 that will dominate 2015 and release in November. We’ll probably find out more on the Sonic movie that same month. We might see a trailer later in the year. The Sonic Boom cartoon will likely return with new episodes sometime between late January and early February. E3 will be a decent one for SEGA. The Sonic Boom convention will return at a different location and occur in October. The Sonic Amiibo will sell. Big time. As for the Sonic Boom games? I think SEGA will move on. No patch, no DLC, nothing. As for other games I think Yakuza 5 will do well when it releases next year and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Alien game was announced late in 2015. A new Hatsune Miku game should be announced later in the year for the main consoles while Project Mirai 2 releases on 3DS sometime in mid to late 2015.

These were my predictions for 2015. I went into this section when writing this article convinced that all my predictions were wrong. In reality the majority of my predictions were either right or very damn close.

Indeed January was another quiet one and indeed one thing would happen but it wasn’t Sonic Runners despite the fact that more details on the game began to surface just a few days into February. On January 30th we found out about the SEGA restructure. I was off on Sonic movie details by a month and we never got even a teaser image, let alone a trailer, but to be fair this prediction was influenced by official news that more on the movie would arrive in 2015 when ultimate there really wasn’t. However the Sonic Boom cartoon did return in January. E3 was lackluster and not decent. The Sonic Boom convention did not happen. We don’t know the fate of sales on the Sonic Amiibo at all. SEGA didn’t move on from the Sonic Boom games either. A patch was given to Rise of Lyric and another Sonic Boom game, Fire & Ice on 3DS, was announced in June. All we learned about the Alien games is that it will be long-term. The Miku predictions were right on the money. A new Hatsune Miku game, Hatsune Miku Project Diva X, was announced for main consoles at the Tokyo Game Show and Project Mirai 2, known as Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX outside of Japan, came out in September.

So now comes the question everyone wants to know. What of 2016? Just what will SEGA do? It wasn’t easy but here are what I predict for SEGA and Sonic in 2016. They are perhaps the most gutsy ones I’ve made yet.

2016 SEGA/Sonic Predictions

January will likely be, just as in 2015, a quiet one. It almost always is. However things should begin to heat up in February or March. I think by March or April we will have finally heard the news we have been waiting for: the Sonic 25th anniversary main series title. Sonic’s year will be four to five titles: the anniversary title, a new mobile game, the Mario & Sonic 2016 title, the release of Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, and a Steam port. The anniversary title will release in either June or November and it may have some Adventure-like elements, not exactly an Adventure game but perhaps an Adventure-like game such as Heroes, Shadow, or 06 but with higher quality compared to those titles due to the extended development time and evolved SEGA. The anniversary title may also have some classic era influence. A new mobile game may be announced in mid 2016. Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice may release in November and a Steam port of a Sonic game, the most likely candidate being Sonic Colors, coming out in October or November. Because of this the year should be the exact opposite of 2015. Between all the games SEGA has already combined with what will come in 2016 I expect a very busy year for news. As for the Sonic movie it’s hard to say but it’s all or nothing here. We either get our first look at the movie sometime in 2016 or we hear nothing at all about it, hinting that the project may have been discontinued or in development hell. Sonic Boom will continue, not just with Fire & Ice, but with a new season of the cartoon potentially getting teased some more with further details and a continuation of the expansion of the branch’s merchandise.

As for the rest of SEGA things should recover. The silence that has plagued this year, as I said, should finally depart for good and we should see things get much more active. Sonic‘s anniversary will be the driving force behind that but Yakuza, Hatsune Miku, Project X Zone 2, and more will serve to enhance it. We may get a confirmation of Hatsune Miku Project Diva X coming to the West with a release date either late 2016 or early 2017. Very few delays should happen now. Official fan conventions will return including Sonic Boom and even Summer of Sonic will make a grand return to help celebrate Sonic‘s anniversary. SEGA will return once more to E3 and other significant game conventions/expos but in full force, including the return of a booth, and they will likely be showing off a lot of games. 2015 was the calm before the storm but patience and time will finally pave the way for SEGA to make their move, regardless of how good or bad it is. We will likely learn of a few more non-Sonic related titles from SEGA along with a couple of non-Sonic PC ports. No doubt about it though, out of all of this Sonic will have a very busy year. SEGA has had a history of making Sonic anniversaries to be a year-long affair and their actions, especially coming out of the recent Sonic Appreciation Festival, suggest we’re in for a long but crazy ride.

So what is there left to say? Even now, a lot. 2015 was out of the ordinary. A year that left a company and a speedy blue franchise in the same critical state that entered it. A year that could be observed more on your phone than on your console. A year of bombshells. A year where people scratched their heads, crossed their fingers, and braced themselves. Perhaps, most of all, it was a year where SEGA took a gander at just who they are. The results from the low profile SEGA kept in 2015 are about to be seen. The ultimate question that remains is: will they be good? Because it has to be. A lot of people are considering moving on if things don’t get better.

You say to us you will regain our trust again, SEGA. You say to us you will return to being what made your fans love you. Well…let’s see it then. It’s your move, SEGA. We’re waiting. We just hope whatever you have in store for us in 2016, it will be good.

Let’s see happy days be here again.

For now, Happy New Year!