One of my favorite game series is the Sonic series. I became a fan of them maybe four years ago, which means I got into the hype after Sonic started showing up on Nintendo consoles (Not counting the portable consoles, he began on the GameCube, correct me if I'm wrong). First were Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut, then Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, then another game that compiled all the older Sonic games from the Sega consoles era. Again, not counting the protable consoles, like those Sonic games on the Game Boy Advance, on the Nintendo DS...
And then, Sonic appeared on the Wii. It's not exaggerated to say that he became very popular among the Wii players, what with his world colliding with Mario's at the Olympic Games (with a fourth game coming up in 2014), and his many adventures: Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic Unleashed... after those three titles, Sonic seemed to be back and running thanks to Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, both of which received great praise. Also, Sonic 4 on the Wiiware, a game I swear I'll buy and review someday here. A game is coming out soon for the Wii U, Sonic Lost World. And though I will probably be unable to play it, I'm sure it's going to be a fun one.
But after this little history, there are other facts to take into account: Many of those games divided the Sonic fandom, to the point that now, whatever gets released by the Sonic Team will get bashed somewhere on the Internet. Can the Sonic series be saved?
The fact is that Sonic has always had only two gimmicks: He runs incredibly fast, and he can aim at enemies while he's jumping. Games based on those two abilities alone would quickly get boring, which is why the development teams tried to incorporate new elements, new mechanics, new gimmicks. Sonic Adventure 1 would make us play with six different characters, one of which... is a cat who goes fishing for his frog pal in all of his levels. Needless to say, this wasn't welcome too well. Then, Sonic Adventure 2 brought us the idea of choosing between the good guys and the bad guys, and as a result we got Shadow, who's a fan favorite, and Rouge, who is... um... controversial. I'll just put it that way. Then, on the Wii, Sonic got new gimmicks, and showed up in plots that were weirder than usual. Sucked into the Arabian Nights by a genie and forced to save her world from a power-hungry genie? Check. Being sucked into the legends of King Arthur and fighting WITH A SWORD? Check. Turning into a werewolf form, kinda, and having to travel through a world blown up? Check, check. Those three games further divided the fan base.
And it's not just the stories that divided the fan base, either. The Sonic cast kept growing, and growing, and not each addition was welcomed. People are still angry at Big the Cat; Shadow is closer to a Gary-Stu, and though he's a fan favorite, some don't like the fact that he's overpowered; Rouge is too sexualized; Shahra and Erazor Djinn didn't receive much of a warm welcome; and neither did Chip, known as Light Gaia. However, some characters found their place in this strange world: Silver and Blaze from Sonic '06 are the best example.
But as a result, the Sonic fandom divided into smaller groups each time, all of which had an opinion on each new game coming out, and with so many questionable games being released, the fans were not really happy. Especially with the growing cast. That's why Sonic Colors, Sonic 4 and Generations were a saving throw; Colors had only Sonic and Tails, and Generations had mostly Sonic (and his younger self), while the others from his cast barely had a supporting role. Sonic 4 had only Sonic as main character.
But in the end, can the Sonic series be saved? Sadly, when a fanbase gets fractured this much, there will always be some to complain. It's normal, fandoms are composed of people, each with its own preferences. So, no matter what Sonic Team releases, there will ALWAYS be someone complaining. Just look at Sonic 4. A lot of people wanted a 2D game, they got one, but then other people started whining thae it was too similar to the older games.
So, can the Sonic series be saved? Officially, it can't be saved entirely, as no matter what comes out, there are people who'll whine and bash the new game. But the Sonic Team may be on its way to succeeding, as Colors and Generations proved. Oh, it won't be easy, and they will need to release many more critically-acclaimed games to "save" the Sonic series. But there's hope to at least bring back together a big part of the fan base (again, not entirely), and the eternally-optimistic guy I am likes to think that it's possible to do so.
Read you soon!
(And happy birthday to me! Just saying.)