2016 – A Year In Supersonic Review

2016 – A Year In Supersonic Review

by December 20, 2016

*Deep breath*

2016. A year that broke the peace established by SEGA in 2015. A year that broke the peace established by everything in 2015. Never before have I ever seen a year so topsy-turvy, overflowing with negativity and hate, demoralized with death, confused with quirks, and destroyed with mayhem. And yet, it was also Sonic’s 25th anniversary. Somehow, in the mist of a world that will be entering 2017 very different from the world that entered 2016, SEGA was a guiding light through the darkness that many may see as a horrible year. How? 2016.

A Sonic fanbase simmering with tension has hope again. It didn’t enter 2016 on a positive note. In fact, our TSSZ poll revealed that 59% of our readers felt Sonic had a bad 2015. But it’s certainly ending on a more promising note than expected. And 2017 looks to be the busiest that Sonic has had in years. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain what this is all about.

Welcome to the 7th annual installment of the “Year In Supersonic Review” series! Every year, we take a moment to look back at the year that was and look towards the year that will be for SEGA and Sonic. I reflect on SEGA and Sonic’s year and predict what the new year will bring. As some of you may know, depending on how long you have been reading on TSSZ, I have been doing this for a few years now on TSSZ, and I began the series as a whole on Sonic Paradox in 2010. Normally, this is where I let loose with my opinions and go wild. But as 2016 has been telling us all year long, expect the unexpected and interpret the abnormal as the new normal. For some reason.

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

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015

That said, it is time to get started. Let us begin by taking a look back at the top 10 Sonic/SEGA news stories of the year.

Top 10 Sonic/SEGA News Stories of 2016

10) Donnie Day – This may be a biased thing to start off with, but my god. I had never seen the Sonic community so…united. And all for an April Fool’s prank that I was completely unaware of! The day was the most chaotic day I have ever had in my 8 years of being in the Sonic community. Many Sonic sites took part, including TSSZ, many Twitter users became “Donnie clones”, and news reporter chao sprouted like weeds all day long. It took off so much that it very nearly trended on Twitter, and threatened to overshadow SEGA’s April Fools plans. But most importantly, it proved to me that the Sonic community can put aside its differences and unite, even if that union is to make me shut up.

9) 2016 Begins With News At Last – Two days. That’s all the year needed before we finally got some big Sonic news. TWO. DAYS. On January 2nd, Johnny Gioeli accidentally mentioned that the band might be working on a Sonic anniversary game. He also confirmed that there would be a few performances, which we now know ended up being the case. The post was later deleted, but this is how the Sonic 25th anniversary news machine began. It was also the start where the fanbase really got that feeling of curiosity at just what in the world SEGA was planning.

8) Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice Releases Quietly – In 2015, it was pretty clear that Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice was not getting that much love from fans, after Sonic Boom saturated the franchise for a year already. In 2016, that didn’t change. But the game would finally release after a delay shoved it back to September. And yet, we heard next to nothing about it. Outside of the game’s release date announcement at SEGA’s SXSW panel (more on that later), SEGA has said next to nothing about the game. The reviews, meanwhile, have been average. It’s not out of the question that this may very well be the last Sonic Boom game that SEGA releases, and we may very well be seeing the beginning of the end for the Boom branch as a whole. In a year where SEGA seemed to be pulling all the right strings, Sonic Boom was the one string that was pulled wrong.

7) SEGA Endorses ROM Hacks – Before we were shocked about LEGO Dimensions, we were downright amazed at this. Remember when SEGA introduced their revamped SEGA & Mega Drive Classics on Steam, complete with a new hub area? And remember when SEGA put up a Steam Workshop that actually allowed people to upload their ROM hacks to it, of which SEGA did not mind? This was another thing that none of us saw coming.

6) SXSW Gets The Party Started – While the road to SEGA revealing their Sonic plans began for us in January, it began for SEGA themselves in March with their SXSW panel. They had a “special reveal” there, which turned out to be an announcement of the Sonic 25th party that would be happening in July.

5) Sonic Boom Cartoon Rises Again – As we were pondering just what SEGA was doing and what the deal was with the teasers, then what they were doing with Sonic Mania and Project 2017, the Sonic Boom cartoon made us ponder just what was going on with the management. Although we (somehow) broke news of a potential season two of Sonic Boom in October of 2015, the road truly began in February of this year, when it was confirmed at a trade show. That would begin a series of speculation and debate on when SEGA themselves would announce it. They eventually did. In July, five months later. And we are still talking about the show’s promotion, channel, ratings, and time slot problems today.

4) Aaron Webber’s Cryptic Teasers & SEGA’s Promises – If there’s one thing Aaron “RubyEclipse” Webber has been able to do since rejoining the Sonic PR team, it’s get people talking. And boy did he ever when the Sonic fanbase was starving for news and impatience was really starting to grow for people. If that wasn’t enough, Takashi Iizuka and other SEGA officials spent the first half of the year doing what they had been doing in the latter half of 2015, but at a greater frequency: promising a return to high-quality for Sonic and bringing trust in fans again. Both have yet to be 100% fulfilled, but they are getting there.

3) Sonic Runners Dies – It was pretty clear, going into 2016, that the success of Sonic Runners was questionable, despite the game dominating 2015. SEGA themselves confirmed it in February, by mentioning in a report that the game was a failure. The game was eventually taken offline later in May, and we have not heard of anything since. Nothing has replaced the game, either, so clearly SEGA’s taking a break from Sonic mobile gaming for now.

2) LEGO Dimensions Goes Fast – Admit it. Not a single one of you saw this coming. The little blue hedgehog was rumored to be in LEGO Dimensions for a while, but E3 sealed the deal. And people couldn’t believe it. Sonic was in the same game with Batman, the Simpsons, and more. 2016 seemed to be the year that just kept on giving for Sonic, and it’s so odd considering how everything else went this year.

1) Sonic Mania & Sonic Project 2017 Revealed – No question about it, this defined the year, especially the second half. At long last, we learned just what SEGA had been planning. Months of teasing led to that day, July 22nd, when Sonic Mania and Sonic Project 2017 were revealed to the world. Sonic Mania was a shocker on its own, confirming that Classic titles were coming back in what seems to be its own branch now. Then SEGA dropped an even bigger bombshell: Sonic Project 2017. A Modern title, but Classic Sonic would be in this too?! Well, since that big day, we’ve learned a lot more about Sonic Mania and a smidge more on Project 2017. It’s very likely that, one year from now, Mania will have released and Sonic Project 2017 will have a different name and be released too. But in the span of one night, everyone’s expectations for Sonic’s future was shattered.

Honorable Mentions: Summer of Sonic 2016, Sonic Revolution 2016, & Sonic Inducted Into The Video Game Hall Of Fame

So, we now return to that segment, where we look back at Sonic and SEGA news stories from the past year that were just odd or outright wrong. These oddities were so odd that you simply can’t look back at the year without these becoming some kind of topic of discussion. And here is where 2016 really showed itself. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many choices for this segment before.

Sonic/SEGA 2016 News Story Oddities

Sonic 4: Episode II Randomly Returns To iOS – This happened only a month into the year, but…it was a strange one. In 2015, the game mysteriously vanished from the App Store. Then, for no apparent reason, it came back. In fact, not only did it come back, but SEGA treated it like it had been there the whole time. There was even a patch where “bug fixes for iOS 7, 8, and 9” were made and they even “fixed crash at boot”. That’s all we know.

SEGASonic Bros Is A Thing – Yep. This was something that was actually being worked on. It didn’t stay that way, but for us to have gotten as much as we did on this project is quite a shocker.

Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3 – It was only a matter of time before I brought this up somewhere in this article, but Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3 became the dominating fan project of 2016, despite being announced on April 1st. All over a purple cat. And endorsement from SEGA. The game is still in the works, believe it or not, and the full game will be coming out soon.

The Sonic Community Rise As One Because Of TSSZ Articles – What started as a project where I just wanted to compare Sonic’s 25th and 20th anniversaries turned into a series unlike any other. I didn’t start calling it In-Depth immediately, but boy did you guys have a lot to say about them nevertheless. It was the strangest thing I ever expected, mainly because the articles got the attention of the Sonic community in a way I never would’ve anticipated. The amount of heartfelt responses I got to the Happy Birthday Sonic and Sonic In Mainstream Media articles were shocking. The latter even managed to blow up at places such as 4chan, NeoGAF, and Reddit. Big time. You guys really seemed to enjoy them, and after everything that has happened to me this year, I always look back to things like this to keep my head held high. Thank you.

Now it’s time to look back at SEGA’s Sonic releases this year, and how well they did.

2016 Review For The Sonic Franchise

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice (3DS)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Mixed

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U/3DS)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Mixed

LEGO Dimensions Sonic Pack (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One/Wii U)
CRITICAL RECEPTION: Very Positive

So what’s the final grade for SEGA this year? Read on!

2016 SEGA Report Card

Summary: SEGA’s 2016 was what the company needed. SEGA Sammy is profiting again. SEGA has finally settled down from its restructure, and the company is churning out titles again. They acquired Amplitude Studios, and have started to get Sonic back on track again. Sonic’s PR continues to entertain and keep people interested, with the team now doing occasional live streams. But there was one disaster this year. Sonic Boom. Again. The cartoon is struggling due to a joint effort in Cartoon Network’s mismanagement and SEGA’s lack of promotion, and Sonic’s main release for 2016, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, went out in a whisper. Sonic Runners blew up in the company’s face and died. But the big problem that destroyed SEGA’s grade at the end of 2015 was the many unanswered questions and leaving the Sonic community in a post-Rise of Lyric state, even a year after it came out. Now, one year later? That is no longer the case. Sonic is active again. We have finally gone over the hump. Outside of some questions about Sonic Project 2017, including what the game is, SEGA now has a Sonic fanbase that is more optimistic than it was this time 12 months ago, and overall the company saw a sharp positive increase, a nice sign from the slight positive increase it made for 2015. 2017 looks to be the busiest SEGA has been since 2012, in a good way. Overall, the death of Sonic Runners and sputtering of Sonic Boom, the latter of which may very well be on the verge of being done, was vastly overshadowed by all the good SEGA has done. It’s a major step in the right direction. Two years after I gave SEGA its lowest grade (D+, 2014, for obvious reasons) in the history of these Year In Review articles, the company is getting the second-highest grade from me for 2016 (the highest is an A, 2011). That is impressive.
Grade: B+

And now the fun truly begins. It’s that time of the article once again where we look towards the future and what things will be like for Sonic. But before we do, let’s take a look at the predictions I made for 2016 one year ago. Spoiler alert: 2016 did not like people predicting anything. Let alone Sonic.

Reviewing Last Year’s 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.

Alright, where do I start with this? Well, for one, I was right about January. For the most part it was quiet. But not as quiet as I was expecting. And things did begin to heat up in February or March. In fact, it was March when we began to pay attention due to the SXSW panel. However, this is where SEGA’s silence on its plan began to show and it really shows just how unsure we were about things last year. And it also shows just how wacky 2016 was.

We didn’t learn about the Sonic anniversary main series title in March or April, and it wasn’t even technically a single title. We got two, Mania and Project 2017, that were announced. We did, however, find out when we would learn about it. I don’t think any of us anticipated that SEGA was planning a giant Sonic 25th party of its own to come out with all those announcements. That was something SEGA had never done before, at least in recent memory, so this was a surprise to me. There was not four to five titles either. A Sonic title was not ported to Steam, and there were no new Sonic mobile games, so my “new mobile game coming mid-2016” prediction also went up in smoke. Not to mention neither Sonic Mania nor Sonic Project 2017, SEGA’s “anniversary titles”, released this year. I was half-right in my predictions on what the “anniversary game” would be like. Both Project 2017 and Mania have classic era influence, but it’s not looking like Project 2017 will have Adventure-like elements at all. The LEGO Dimensions Sonic pack, ironically, did. Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice released in September, not November. As I said, we got no Sonic game ported to Steam, so my “Sonic Colors” nominee and “October or November” release date predictions failed. I was right about two more things, though. The year was the exact opposite of 2015, as predicted. It was also a very busy year for news, although it didn’t do so as soon as anticipated. And the Sonic movie? I said it was “hard to say” how to predict that. Well, it’s hard to say how accurate I was with this. We still haven’t seen our first look at the movie, but we still managed to hear quite a bit more on it, including a release year (2018) and some more folks joining the production team. It was right up in the middle. Sonic Boom, meanwhile, did continue. And a new season of the cartoon did in fact show up this year, premiering in November. The branch’s merchandise was not expanded, though.

My predictions for the rest of SEGA were a bit more accurate.  Yakuza and Hatsune Miku did, in fact, help enhance 2016. Project X Zone 2, not as much. Hatsune Miku Project Diva X did come to the West, but it released sooner than I predicted. Indeed, SEGA hasn’t delayed anything this year. Summer of Sonic did return, and Sonic Boom returned under the premise of the Sonic 25th party (according to Aaron Webber). SEGA did return to E3 and other significant game conventions/expos again, but not necessarily in full force. Sonic didn’t have as much of presence there as anticipated, and SEGA’s booth was more so Atlus’. They didn’t really have much to show overall, either. SEGA didn’t really announce that many new non-Sonic titles, outside of SEGA 3D Classic Collection, and there was no PC ports, to be honest.

I think I did…okay. I predicted 2016 more accurately than I expected when I went into writing this article, but it could have been even better. But 2016 was just that kind of year where things just weren’t adding up. And my predictions definitely feel like an example of this.

So there’s only one segment left. It is time to make a new set of predictions for the next 12 months. 2017. What will happen? Let’s do this.

2017 SEGA/Sonic Predictions

Sonic: If 2016 was the launch of the space shuttle that is SEGA, then 2017 is the flight to space itself. 2017 will see the outcome of 2016’s Sonic announcements. January and February will be quiet for SEGA, but with one exception: Sonic Mania will get a release date, and the game will come out in March or April. Sonic Project 2017’s official name announcement will depend on how much SEGA is involved with the upcoming Nintendo Switch event in January. If they’re involved, we’ll get an announcement then. If not, we’ll probably have to wait until February at the earliest. Either way, the official name will come in the form of a new trailer were we will get our first true look at the game. The game itself will release in November. Sonic Boom will survive, but the cartoon will be the only pillar of the branch remaining. The games did not sell well, and merchandising sales have dropped. Because of this, the cartoon will finish season 2 next fall. However, sale failures will prompt SEGA to move on from the vast majority of Boom and, unfortunately, continue low promotion of the cartoon. With the Boom branch’s significance diminished, Sonic’s state will serve as a Classic branch and a Modern branch from 2017 onwards. As for new Sonic announcements, maybe a PC port. It’s still possible that Colors could be ported, and with Sonic’s 25th anniversary in the books, SEGA can move on to other things. Summer of Sonic won’t happen in 2017, but the Sonic Boom event may return in some form. A mobile Sonic title is not out of the question, with Runners now dead, but SEGA will be focusing more so on other franchises for the time being. But most importantly, we should get more information on the Sonic movie. In fact, it’s possible that we could get a trailer of some kind late in 2017, as the movie will release in just a year’s time by that point. Regardless of SEGA’s non-Sonic IP activity, Sonic will likely have an even busier year that 2016 with both Mania and especially Project 2017 releasing, with the latter driving the reigns of 2017 after Mania’s release.

SEGA: Expect a lot of games from SEGA, if SEGA Sammy’s reports have been anything to go by. Hatsune Miku and Yakuza will once again be the non-Sonic franchises that dominate the year. The former may see a new title announced sometime in mid to late-2017. However, they’ll be getting some more help. SEGA will announce a few new titles, and two mobile games. Re-releases/reboots? I think one is possible. But I think feedback from surveys SEGA has been doing will result in an IP making a return in 2017. We may see a PC port or two from the company as a whole. E3 for SEGA will continue to be subdued, but SEGA’s convention/expo visits as a whole will continue to be high. Overall, SEGA will have another busy year, maybe even busier than last year.

Epilogue

There’s so, so much more I could say about 2016. Overall, the year was god awful. If it wasn’t personal lives having setbacks, it was the onslaught of celebrity deaths, or politics, or world events, or society as of late. But in the mist of all the hate and turmoil, gaming is about to make a grand slam and give people an escape with plenty of good games to have fun with. A lot of games are coming out in 2017, not just SEGA’s. But SEGA’s 2016 was a bright spot in the darkness, courtesy of a blue blur. Sonic is still in the critical state he was this time last year, but the tension is gone. Optimism is return again. For SEGA, 2015 was a year of uncertainty and tension. For SEGA, 2016 was a year of optimism and hope. SEGA still hasn’t proven that they’re 100% back yet, but they are well on their way to doing so. I asked for SEGA to make happy days be here again last year. They delivered. SEGA took a look at itself in the mirror in 2015, and 2016 was the fallout from that.

I also want to touch on one last thing in reaction to events that have occurred in 2016, and its my message to you, the Sonic fanbase, although it may be futile. I understand your concern. I understand your standards for what you think Sonic should be. I understand your passion and love for Sonic. I even understand your dislike for certain aspects of Sonic, such as Boom. But one thing I will never understand is why you choose to be hostile towards each other, with 2016 showing this more than ever. We’re a community. We all love Sonic. So why all the fighting and drama? I seek no competition, because there is none. I seek no disregard for the Sonic standards of others, just because it’s different from mine. I seek no drama, regardless of what my interactions on Twitter may or may not indicate, depending on your point of view. I give my all to make sure that my contributions with collaboration projects go swimmingly, provided my personal life doesn’t interfere. Why is that so hard? Why can’t we just get along? Why can’t we drop the disrespect, the entitlement, the lack of effort, and the hatred? You have proven time and time again that you’re more than capable of putting aside petty differences and enjoying each other’s company, regardless of opinions, just on the basis alone that you’re Sonic fans. So why can’t that remain? What’s stopping you? I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t feel the Sonic fanbase was a lost cause. I’d have left this fanbase ages ago if I felt like I was unwelcome. But I think a lot of fans feel like they are unwelcome, and that’s unfortunate. I don’t want them to go. I don’t want any of you to go. I beg of you. Let’s make peace. Drop the drama. Stop the hostility. Respect opinions. And for the love of god, let’s be friends. Agree to disagree. That’s my New Year’s resolution this year. I want to keep being friends with you. I know the Sonic fanbase is capable of accomplishing great things. Let’s do it together. That’s all I want. Please. I believe in you. Don’t let me down.

With that off my chest, I wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope you guys have enjoyed my content throughout the year, and I’m excited to bring you another year of content. I hope you enjoy that. For now, thank you for reading, and I will see you in 2017.

~Donnie