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The History of Sonic the Hedgehog: The Revival Era

Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television, and games.

"Sonic Generations" Promotional Artwork

"Sonic Generations" Promotional Artwork

Recap

I think it's safe to say that the rest of the 2000s hadn't been treating the Sonic franchise fairly. Ever since Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) became a massive disappointment and Yuji Naka quit Sega, the company hasn't felt like itself. Sonic Team tried experimenting with several spin-offs that would attempt to return Sonic back to his former glory. They started out with the "Storybook" series where Sonic entered the magical world of the Arabian Nights. Sonic Rush, Riders, and Rivals had sequels that improved some of the issues of their predecessors. An outsider developer produced an official RPG spin-off for the DS that unfortunately led to controversy and legal trouble from a former comic writer. Occasionally, Sonic had his moment in the spotlight when he competed against his former rival Mario in the Olympic Games and was the second third-party character to officially join Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Things were starting to get better when Sonic Team unveiled their latest mainline 3D game Sonic Unleashed. They reinvigorated the gameplay where Sonic would have a sense of boost that wowed everyone old and new. Although, others weren't keen on the concept of turning into a slow, clobbering werewolf at night. The second "Storybook" entry Sonic and the Black Knight also improved what Secret Rings lacked with more content and better production values. These two games even eventually became cult favorites.

However, even if most of the games turn back a profit, Sega noticed that none of these games were critically praised as the Genesis or early 3D titles. Sure, Sonic Rush Adventure and Sonic Unleashed (PS2/Wii) were the closest to being solid. Everything else was called "average", "mediocre", or "forgettable."

Now, that the 2010s decade and the franchise's 20th anniversary are coming, some changes and clean-up work had to be done. Akinori Nishiyama, who took over as producer since Naka's departure, was promoted to general manager for Sega titles. Longtime developer Takashi Iizuka took over as the new head of Sonic Team and main producer for the series. First order of business: Sega removed any Sonic title that was given a mixed reception or average scores posted on Metacritic. Second, Naka felt that the franchise was struggling due to a "lack of unified direction." So, they decided to reshift focus more on traditional side-scrolling elements and fast-paced gameplay. Their first assignment was a collaboration with a longtime friend to bring Sonic back to his beginnings but with a modern twist. This was the start of a "continuation" of the Genesis era known as Sonic the Hedgehog 4...Episode I.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. Please do not harass anyone associated with Sega mentioned in this article, and please respect their privacy, especially if anything mentioned here is something they do not wish to talk about.

"Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I" Artwork

"Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I" Artwork

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (2010)

After the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, a vengeful Dr. Eggman returns by recreating his past inventions and mechs against his arch-nemesis. Now, Sonic must stop Eggman and collect all seven Chaos Emeralds the old-fashioned way.

The concept began all the way back in January 2009 when development would commence four months later and took about a year and a half to complete. Brand manager Ken Balough said that the idea originated from fan requests for returning classic Sonic gameplay.

In a GameSpot interview, Balough said:

Old-school Sonic fans have long asked to see Sonic return to a more 2D style of gameplay. Many liked the daytime stages in Unleashed but wanted to see a game that plays purely similar to the early games of the Genesis. Project Needlemouse is that critical first step that brings Sonic back to his 2D roots.

Ken Balough, Sega Brand Manager

Speaking of the working title, "Project Needlemouse" was a reference to Sonic's original name during the first game's development, Mr. Needlemouse (Mr. Hedgehog). It was originally intended as a smartphone spin-off title since smartphone games were all the range around that time, and its other working title was called "Sonic the Portable." Ultimately, it was officially named "Sonic 4" by Sega's American branch and made into a multiplatform release. Despite the change, the planned title can still be found on signs in one of the final product's levels. It was also the first episode of a planned series as an attempt to capitalize on companies making episodic video games. Balough did not confirm how many episodes were there but reassured these episodes will make up "a larger game" and an overall story arc that lives up to the "epic nature" of the Genesis games.

Sonic Team knew exactly the right developer for the job and Dimps was more than happy to help. If you have been following these articles, then you may remember that Dimps was the same development studio that was passionate about the series and made the gameplay parallel to the Genesis era, with the Sonic Advance trilogy for the GameBoy Advance, and the Sonic Rush games for the Nintendo DS. Like before, Dimps would get some assistance from Sonic Team, with Iizuka as producer and Toshiyuki Nagahara as his directorial debut. Nagahara previously worked at Intelligent Systems Co, Ltd. as assistant director on Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and graphic support on Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.

During development, Iizuka noted that the Sonic franchise puts emphasis on speed since Sonic Adventure, yet is aware that are fans that still enjoy the classic Genesis games after the surging popularity of digital distribution platforms. His goal was to return to the classic style but with modern technological twists. For instance, the team relied on a simplified control scheme and level design that highlighted platforming and momentum-based gameplay. There was also no voice acting in order to stay faithful to the Genesis games.

The only addition to the gameplay was Sonic's homing attack from Adventure. Iizuka said it was included because the team wanted to make performing continuous attacks "exciting" and provide a new means of exploring "sky" alternate paths. While the Sonic 4 content remained the same in all versions, two levels from the mobile version were changed in the console releases. Based on the original plan, the game was designed around the use of smartphone gyroscope controls. One level consisted of controlling Sonic on a minecart level and the Special Stages from Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) involve turning the stage itself rather than Sonic. Ironically, the latter was based on the prototype control scheme during the first game's development. Unfortunately, the team believed gyroscope controls wouldn't translate well on consoles.

On a side note, this marks the first time since Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles that Super Sonic is playable in regular stages after obtaining all the Chaos Emeralds, instead for story purposes and final boss battles.

Speaking of the original Genesis games, you may have noticed that the level aesthetics and Badniks were taken straight out of both Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2 with minor differences. Not to mention that Sonic has his Adventure design and he is the only playable character. If any, this game looked more like a remake than a continuation. Aside from the prototype version and leaked footage showed months before the official release, the game was immediately faced with backlash from the fans and the project had to be delayed for added polish.

Addressing the issues, Iizuka confirmed that Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is not a remake. A major reason why many level themes, enemies, and bosses were reused is to understand the "nostalgia factor" and wanted audiences to recognize the game as a continuation of the Genesis era. Now granted, reusing level assets has been intentional by Dimps since Sonic Pocket Adventure where the majority of the level elements were blended from each representative game while maintaining its own identity. The same applies to levels from the Sonic Advance trilogy yet still managed to stand out on their own creative merit.

When Sega teased the logo with a silhouetted character in early 2010, they began a countdown list of discounted potential playable characters. Every time fans answered trivia questions, the list got narrowed to eventually revealing Sonic as the only playable character. Reducing the cast was not just returning to the series' roots, but Iizuka said that having Sonic going solo was because the team wanted both old and new fans to be able to enjoy the game. Even so, there is a cutscene where Sonic chases after Dr. Eggman by riding a rocket made by Tails and a post-credits scene teasing the return of Metal Sonic for the upcoming Episode II.

Sound director Jun Senoue was in charge of all music and sound effects. One of the team's challenges was to replicate the Genesis-style music where they wanted to make it feel like a "genuine extension" of the classics. Senoue tried to compose the tracks as authentically using fewer notes as possible. He had no luck finding a Genesis development kit and did not use any FM sound tapes. Following Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2's music, Senoue attempted to create music "with a similar beat or similar tempo" similar to those games. Although Senoue ultimately had fun working on Episode I with the first level's music as his favorite, Nagahara hated it and convinced Senoue to change it. Eggman's battle theme from Sonic 3D Blast was recorded, but it was unused in the final product.

Reception & Legacy

After delaying and changing the game, Sonic's first episodic classic adventure was finally released worldwide on IOS on October 10, the Wii the day after, the PS3 after that, and so on for the Xbox 360. With all that build-up, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I turned out to be...good but as nowhere as iconic as the Genesis titles. While the physics engine was criticized as "inferior" and the playthrough felt too quick to complete, reviewers called Episode I a "satisfying return" to classic Sonic gameplay with a "sense of nostalgia." Besides giving it an 8/10 score, IGN even earned Episode I an "Editor's Choice Award." It was also a commercial success selling over a million copies worldwide, as of 2011.

In April 2016, the iOS version was updated and modernized for newer devices (i.e. widescreen support, refined character models & textures) and the Xbox 360 version was later backward compatible with the Xbox One.

Respectively, some fans would compare Episode I (and II) to another 2D mainline Sonic entry released years later and deem that Episode I did not age well or live up to the Genesis titles' quality. When removing the weird physics and short length from the equation, Sonic Team and Dimps made a noble start to bring Sonic back to his fundamentals. They revisited older levels, whether it was purposeful or not, and added Sonic's current elements to keep the pace going. It would be a matter of time before Episode II would deliver next and how "large" the story would become. Regardless of your thoughts on the game, it was the first positively received Sonic game after such a long decade of negativity and mediocrity, and it was the beginning of Sonic's comeback for a new era.

Months later, two Sonic games were developed and released in the same month of November. While the next 3D Sonic game was almost done, Sega pulled out a surprise entry in the Riders series first, but this time with a new voice cast and an experimental control style. In actuality: you don't need a controller; just you alone to play the game. It's time to freely move Sonic and his friends around on Extreme Gear with Sonic Free Riders.

"Sonic Free Riders' Cover Art

"Sonic Free Riders' Cover Art

Sonic Free Riders (2010)

While Sonic and his friends race against their rivals in a new World Grand Prix, Dr. Eggman secretly plans to copy data from his enemies and feed it into his robots.

Going back to the Wii's history for a moment, Nintendo's latest home console revolutionized gaming with motion-based controls using the Wii Remote/Nunchuck. So, other major video game companies tried to compete and replicate with their own motion-controlled devices for their current consoles. During the year 2010, Sony and Microsoft developed and released their own new motion controllers. While Sony unveiled its copycat of a motion controller known as the Playstation Move, Microsoft went beyond with a more innovative device. Instead of a controller, they created a motion-sensor add-on that would allow players to control using real-time gesture recognition, body skeletal detection, and speech interactivity. That device was known as the Kinect.

To date this article, there are no confirmed development facts about Sonic Team's involvement with the Kinect. Sonic Free Riders was basically an exclusive title for the Xbox 360 system and a launch title for the Kinect itself. As for the development team, Kenjiro Morimoto reprised his role as director and producer for the Riders series,

Many gameplay elements from the previous Riders games are present: hoverboard-style racing, character classes, specific shortcuts, collecting rings to level up, performing tricks for boosting speed, and alternative bikes. However, the shop and guest characters don't return while additional Extreme Gear (including Super Sonic) can only be unlocked by earning the highest ranks in every mission.

With the Kinect as the main attraction, players must rely on their bodies to feel like racing with Sonic and the others. They have to bend to steer, kick to increase speed, and jump in order to perform tricks. One major addition to the gameplay is the use of power-ups and special moves akin to the Mario Kart series. Players would throw missiles like footballs or boost by shaking and riding a giant soda can. Sometimes, they would have to react to environmental levels hazards, such as wiping off the steam fogging the screen.

For multiplayer modes, they consist of Tag Mode where two players race together with synchronized coordination to perform tricks, and Relay Mode where up to four players would swap places after each lap.

As for the story mode, outside the CGI opening, Sonic Free Riders goes for a more arcade-style approach to its storytelling with static character images and short dialogue exchanges before each race. Instead of the "Hero" and "Babylon" campaigns, each scenario centers around character teams ala Sonic Heroes. Come to think of it: the plot acts more like a watered-down version of Sonic Heroes, including having Metal Sonic as the true antagonist.

These teams consist of:

  • Team Sonic (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles)
  • Team Babylon (Jet, Wave, and Storm)
  • Team Rose (Amy, Cream, and Vector)
  • Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge, and E-10000B)

This is also the first and only Riders game where Shadow, Rouge, and Cream have story roles and Vector makes his only appearance in the trilogy.

In addition to rebranding the Sonic franchise, this marks the first game where the 4Kids cast got recast with new actors. Technically speaking, the last game the 4Kids actors provided the characters' voices after Black Knight was Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing but it simply archived recordings from previous games, with the exception of Big the Cat's actor Oliver Wyman.

Since 2010, the Sonic characters are currently voiced by professional anime actors under Studiopolis in Los Angeles with direction by Jack Fletcher. These replacements include:

*deep breath*

  • Roger Craig Smith as Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Kate Higgins as Miles "Tails" Prower & Wave the Swallow
  • Cindy Robinson as Amy Rose
  • Travis Willingham as Knuckles the Echidna & Storm the Albatross
  • Kyle Hebert as Big the Cat
  • Kirk Thornton as Shadow the Hedgehog
  • Karen Strassman as Rouge the Bat
  • Michelle Ruff as Cream the Rabbit
  • Troy Baker as Espio the Chameleon
  • Colleen O'Shaughnessy as Charmy Bee
  • Keith Silverstein as Vector the Crocodile
  • Quinton Flynn as Silver the Hedgehog
  • Laura Bailey as Blaze the Cat & Omochao
  • Vic Mignogna as E-123 Omega
  • and Michael Yurchak as Jet the Hawk

*heavy panting*

The only 4Kids actor that remains intact among the newcomers to this day is Mike Pollock as Dr. Eggman. Pollock has been widely regarded by the community as the most consistent and entertaining actor since Sonic X. Unfortunately, the game doesn't feature an option to change either the English and Japanese languages due to the system's regional settings, despite having both languages on the disc.

Lastly, Tomonori Sawada was the only returning composer for the soundtrack with Koji Sakurai helping out with some tracks and arrangements. Oddly enough, the main theme song "Free" had Jun Senoue writing the music, and Johnny Gioeli writing the lyrics, yet Crush 40 themselves never performed it. Instead, "Free" was performed by English singer Chris Madin. Thankfully, Crush 40 sang an additional cover for "Free" on the game's official soundtrack.

Reception & Legacy

When both Free Riders and the Kinect launched on November 4 in North America, six days later in Europe, and two weeks later in Japan....perhaps this YouTube video would answer it for me.

WARNING: The following hyperlinked video contains strong language not suitable for younger viewers.

If content creator SomeCallMeJohnny wasn't clear enough, everyone had the same reaction: the Kinect doesn't work for this game. While the graphics, story, music, content, and multiplayer options were commended, the root of the game's failure was the heavy unresponsive motion controls and voice commands. The new voice cast also received a mixed reception. Some found the new actors to be fitting replacements while others criticized Cindy Robinson's performance as Amy sounding too much like Minnie Mouse (ironic, isn't it?) and Michael Yurchak as Jet more annoying than Jason Griffith. Granted, Cindy Robinson does gradually improve her acting as Amy in subsequent games.

On the bright side, Sonic Free Riders did commercially fine with 1.05 million copies worldwide, as of June 2015.

This was the final Sonic project to be developed by Morimoto as he left Sega in 2017 and established his own company, Curio Studio. Despite leaving, he did express interest in creating another Sonic Riders installment. However, the damage was already done as there were currently no plans for a sequel, and with good reason. Fans not only called Sonic Free Riders one of the weakest of the trilogy, but also one of the worst Sonic games of all time. Yes, the previous two Riders games weren't critically as successful as they were intended. But, at least, there was some innovation. At least, it had its own racing identity. And, at least, the controls were somewhat traditionally comprehensible, besides their flaws. In fact, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity was the closest to being decent for improving much easier and optional the control scheme was for fans and newcomers alike. But, because of following up with an add-on that doesn't provide any control whatsoever, it was a huge step backward in quality. There have been minority groups out there that would use the game alone as a weight-loss exercise regimen with decent results. Yet, casual players wouldn't recommend others as a racing game.

While the Kinect did continue to become an add-on for the Xbox One system, the Sonic Riders trilogy ended on a disappointing note. It began as an extreme sports racing game that built a cult following and had a sequel that fixed some issues that almost made the series worth playing. However, both Microsoft and Sega tried to cash in on the Kinect's capabilities and experimented with it on a racing game that literally stops dead in its tracks. The concept of Sonic racing games remained alive, but Sonic Free Riders was everything but free.

A couple of weeks later, the next mainline Sonic game was released. Sonic Team has now taken a shot at rebranding Sonic on what they achieved previously and added new gameplay mechanics fun enough for anyone to play. Travel to the speed of sound with colors all around you with Sonic Colors.

"Sonic Colors" North American Cover Art

"Sonic Colors" North American Cover Art

Sonic Colors (2010)

When Dr. Eggman captures aliens known as Wisps to harness energy for his Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park, Sonic and Tails must travel to each planet and rescue the Wisps before it's too late.

Development began after Sonic Unleashed was completed and Sonic Team was listening to feedback and criticisms of their past games. The team decided to include most of Unleashed's core gameplay of both 2.5D and 3D level designs and make Sonic the only playable character while removing "gimmick" themes, especially the sword gameplay from Sonic and the Black Knight. With Sonic Team and frequent collaborator Dimps involved, they decided to create a new mainline game for both the Nintendo Wii and DS, in hopes of expanding audiences after the successful Mario & Sonic crossover games. Both versions have similarities yet differences at the same time. The Wii version was directed by Morio Kishimoto, who previously worked as a game designer for the Storybook series, and the DS version was directed by game designer Takao Hirabayashi.

The newly developed Sonic Colors was designed to appeal to a casual audience, particularly children and fans of the Mario series.

In an interview with VideoGamer, producer Takashi Iizuka said:

From a general game design perspective, in recent years we've been able to introduce Sonic to new fans, a lot of the Nintendo/Mario fans, and because of that, we've made changes to the design, and we've designed things in Sonic Colors that we think will really appeal to people who are unfamiliar with the Sonic brand and the Sonic gameplay.

— Takashi Iizuka, producer of Sonic Colors

From what Iizuka has stated, some believed it was "impossible" to please all Sonic fans initially alienating those who had enjoyed Unleashed and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I. But, Sega brand manager Judy Gilbertson later explained that they're making a game that is accessible to both younger gamers and hardcore fans.

One of the first ideas was an amusement park setting where Sonic Team realized that "any sort of terrestrial amusement park would be too small to contain Sonic's adventures." So, they developed into an interplanetary park in order to allow more creative and variant gameplay possibilities. In fact, the levels' aesthetics was visually influenced by Disneyland.

In order to return to the "simpler, and fun" roots of the classic 2D games, Sega hired two writers Ken Pontac and Warren Graff for the English localization of the story. These two are interesting cases due to their past experiences and resumes. Ken Pontac started out writing for several children's television series, including Reboot, Mucha Lucha!, and LazyTown, while he later collaborated with Warren on two projects. They wrote for the positively received yet flopped video game MadWorld and the controversial animated web series Happy Tree Friends. The latter is nothing more subtle than cute and colorful animal characters being graphically violent with each other. Back to Colors, the duo went for a more Saturday morning cartoon-like direction for "both kids and adults would enjoy" with cheesy dialogue and recurring jokes. In actuality, both Pontac and Graff had no experience playing Sonic characters and had to study the characters by watching past Sonic game cutscenes. Sounds like the perfect guys for the job.

When comparing the stories between both versions, they are mostly the same with significant differences. The Wii version is a straightforward plot of only Sonic and Tails stopping Dr. Eggman while the DS version features many of Sonic's friends where they would offer missions for Sonic to complete, along with an exclusive final boss battle using Super Sonic.

Sonic Colors also introduces two new characters that were based on non-recurring elements in past Sonic media: Dr. Eggman's robotic henchmen. For those who grow up watching Sonic television shows, Dr. Eggman always had two robotic henchmen as comic reliefs. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog had Scratch and Grounder and the Sonic X anime featured Bocoe, Decoe, and Bokkun.

For this game, his new henchmen are Orbot and Cubot. Orbot actually made his debut in Sonic Unleashed as a prototype character named SA-55 who was Eggman's dry and witty assistant. But here, the character was retooled with a new color scheme, which gave him a loyal personality towards Eggman with a hint of his predecessor's sarcastic behavior. Another robot added to the cast was the easygoing Cubot, in which the plot involves a recurring gag of him having a broken voice chip and speaking in a variety of accents throughout. Their inclusion was mainly due to having a "real fun and joyous aspect to the story" as well.

For the voice acting, Orbot was voiced by Kirk Thornton in English and Mitsuo Iwata in Japanese, while Cubot was voiced by Wally Wingert in English and Wataru Takagi in Japanese.

However, when talking about Colors, the gameplay and Wisps are the meat of the product. As mentioned before, Sonic's boost-style gameplay from Unleashed has returned, with a major difference being that the levels are easier and traditionally mapped out without using a hub area in between. Graphically speaking, the Wii version was built with an updated Physx game engine and continued the optional control usage with the Wii Remote, Nunchuck, Wii Classic Controller, and Nintendo GameCube controller. Since Dimps was in charge of the DS version, it was made under their updated game engine from the Rush games where it is presented as a 2.5-D side-scroller, like their previous games, and uses touchscreen controls. Some fans believe that version was the "third installment" of the Rush trilogy.

On the subject of the interplanetary setting, Sonic Team created alien characters known as Wisps to strengthen and expand the gameplay without "forcing players to switch to other playable characters." Because of their unique powers and abilities, the Wisps would allow players more replay value on revisiting completed levels with added segments to inaccessible areas in their preceding appearances.

Emphasizing the "color" in Colors, each Wisp grants Sonic a different power to process through levels. The common White Wisps would fill up Sonic's boost gauge instead of collecting rings. The Cyan Wisp transforms Sonic into a laser that would zip through enemies and reach specific areas. The Orange Wisp would turn Sonic into a high-launching rocket. The Yellow Wisp makes Sonic literally drill underground for shortcuts, defeating enemies, and finding hidden goodies. The Pink Wisp helps Sonic stick to wall surfaces yet oddly uses his Spin Dash ability for a high-speed thrill. The Green Wisp can make Sonic hover in the air for a limited time, but also uses the Light Speed Dash from Adventure through a trail of rings for faster travel. The Blue Wisp would simultaneously change blue cubes for puzzle and platforming purposes. The Purple Wisp transforms Sonic into a rampaging purple head in a "feeding frenzy" through enemies and obstacles. In the DS version, there are two exclusive Wisps: the Red Wisp which would allow Sonic to jump higher in mid-air through bursting flames and the Violet Wisp turns Sonic into a living black hole that can draw in and consume both enemies and obstacles from a distance.

Continuing the "collect-a-thon" theming, Sonic Colors was the first game to include new collectibles known as Red Star Rings. Collecting a certain amount would allow players to access Special Stages in the Wii Version called "Sonic Simulator." They are geometrically structured and modeled after arcade games with 8-bit music renditions of each respective planet. The Sonic Simulator also provided a co-op multiplayer mode where players control either Sonic-modelled robots or their Mii avatars through a series of levels. Completing three acts of each level would reward the player with a Chaos Emerald. Gathering all seven Chaos Emeralds would give the player the option to replay the stages as Super Sonic. This is officially the first 3D Sonic game where Super Sonic is playable in regular stages inspired by the Genesis era.

For the DS version, players easily and traditionally reach Special Stages at the end of each level with at least 50 rings and are designed as the half-pipe Special Stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Unlike the Wii version, as stated earlier, Super Sonic is only playable during the unlockable final boss section after collecting all the emeralds.

Tomoya Ohtani once again composed the soundtrack among other veteran Sonic musicians including Fumie Kumatani, Kenichi Tokoi, Hideaki Kobayashi, and more. Similarly to Unleashed, the musical score was orchestrated this time by the Amsterdam Session Orchestra.

In an interview with Nintendo Power, Iizuka described:

Since the game has an amusement-park setting and a more fantastical visual style, they're trying to expand the usual "cool" Sonic sound and focus on making fun, up-tempo music that will really get players' blood pumping.

— Takashi Iizuka, producer of Sonic Colors

The game's main theme song "Reach for the Stars" was performed by lead singer Jean Paul Makhlouf from the band Cash Cash. The lyrics were originally written by Zachary Jacob Lawrence and submitted for a contest, but they were slightly changed in the final version. Makhlouf also sang the credits song "Speak with Your Heart" with his brother/keyboardist Alex. There are two interesting factors for "Speak with Your Heart". The first is that the credits play out like a 2D level where Sonic can freely destroy the letters for rings and Wisps. Second, the song's music and sound are a reference to Tails progressively communicating with Yacker throughout the Wii version's story. The audio starts out distorted, but it gradually becomes less distorted and sounds more clear as the song goes on.

Reception & Legacy

As Sonic and Tails traverse through the colorful wonders of space on November 11 in Europe, five days later in North America, and two days afterward in Japan, it turned out to be one of Sonic's best comebacks in such a long time. Critics adored the "beautiful" and "gorgeous" graphics, the "elegant and cohesive" gameplay and replay value, and the "jazzy, high-energy" music. However, others felt the multiplayer mode was "weak", the difficulty level "high", and "repetitive" boss fights. Nonetheless, it was anonymously called one of the best Sonic entries as a whole.

Sonic also managed to make intergalactic numbers by selling 2.18 million copies worldwide, as of March 2011. In terms of awards, IGN gave Sonic Colors a "Quick Fix Award" in their "Best of 2010" awards and later ranked it number five on their "Ten Best Sonic Games" list. Nintendo Power had also awarded the game "Best Wii Graphics" and "Best Wii Game of the Year."

The Wisps themselves received a mixed response. Some characterized these aliens as cute, interesting, and potentially "plush" for profitable merchandising while being "big additions" to the gameplay. Others felt their controls and pacing were "a complete dud" and "don't really feel like they belong." Even so, these aliens became staple power-up characters in subsequent Sonic games. Orbot and Cubot have also become recurring characters and appeared in any Sonic media.


In 2021, Sega released a remastered version of the Wii version called Sonic Colors Ultimate for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. The game was outsourced by Blind Squirrel Games, known for their works on the BioShock and Mass Effect compilations. Iizuka explained that the game was remastered due to both increase in younger fans and the success of the 2020 film, along with reintroducing Sonic to these newcomers. It was also made by the staff at home during the COVID-19 pandemic where it took them a few weeks to work on those changes.

This updated version included enhanced visuals, a higher frame rate, multiple languages, and a remixed soundtrack. New features added to the game include "Tails Save" where Tails could lift and save Sonic from falling on the stages, the Jade Ghost Wisp from Team Sonic Racing which helps Sonic pass through solid objects and access new pathways, a "Rival Mode" where Sonic could race against Metal Sonic, and cosmetic customization options where players can find Park Tokens to unlock many gloves, shoes, and skins for Sonic, including a texture based on the 2020 movie.

To promote the game, Sega also launched a two-episode animated miniseries called "Sonic Colors: Rise of the Wisps" where Kate Higgins returned to reprise her Tails for both the series and the game alone.

In comparison, Sonic Colors Ultimate received mixed-to-positive reviews than the original version did. While fans and critics found the port remained "faithful" to the original, they believed the new content didn't add anything much and a few of the original issues, such as "wooden physics" weren't fixed. However, the biggest criticism that drew many fans upon its release was several bugs and glitches. In fact, the Nintendo Switch version suffered the worst technical issues, though the other versions had lesser problems, with longer load times and flashing lights that could potentially cause seizures. Talk about "the colors feel so bright." Not to mention, it was reported that Blind Squirrel Games rushed the game during development and did not credit their game engine, resulting in these problems. Thankfully, the game has been patched, and fixed most of the issues.

In the end, whatever version you prefer, the core of Sonic Colors remains a return to form for the series. It took Sonic Team a long time to get Sonic back on top since the mid-2000s. They maintained what people enjoyed about the previous entries and gave a new gameplay mechanic that felt fresh and distinctive. It didn't have to be dark or complex, just a simple, lighthearted adventure akin to the Genesis games. Sadly, it was the last game to be released on both the Wii and Nintendo DS. Yet, that still proves the new rebranding age of Sonic has just begun. It has been a difficult run, but in the end, Colors has shown us that Sonic reached for the stars.

Now that 2010 is over, the next year was going to be a challenge. It has been officially twenty years since the franchise started and fans have been anxious to see what would happen next. Sega and Sonic Team have thought it over and suggested an appropriate approach to celebrate the series' twentieth anniversary. They surprised audiences with a teaser with gameplay that would feature Sonic from both the present and the past. Two Sonics for the price of one. Relive through Sonic's iconic moments in history with Sonic Generations.

"Sonic Generations" Cover Art

"Sonic Generations" Cover Art

Sonic Generations (2011)

While Sonic and his friends celebrate his birthday party, a mysterious being sends them across time and space into White Space. Now, Sonic must team up with his past self, speed through past levels, and save his friends through historic proportions.

Like Colors, development for the game began after the completion of Unleashed yet Takashi Iizuka realized there was no anniversary title planned yet. After discussing possible ideas with Sonic Team for Sonic's twentieth anniversary, Iizuka decided to create a game that would feature the best of Sonic's history, and offer more replay value than the other games. To execute this concept, the gameplay would split into two different styles: one representing the classic, side-scrolling from the Genesis era, and the other representing the concurrent 3D/2.5-D perspective gameplay from the recently released games. At the same time, Sonic Generations was designed for fans rather than casual gamers during Color's development.

Another similarity that Colors shares with this title are two different versions of the game being made by two separate teams. Sonic Team took charge of making a high-definition version for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. Elsewhere, Dimps was ready to take their production values to the next level by developing a handheld version of the newly released Nintendo 3DS, a handheld system capable of displaying stereoscopic 3D effects. The major difference between Colors and Generations' production was that game designer Hiroshi Miyamoto was the director of both versions. A Wii version was also planned but got abandoned due to hardware limitations.

In addition to bringing back traditional side-scrolling gameplay, this also marked the return of Sonic using his original Genesis-era design. He was also appropriately called "Classic Sonic." As you may remember during Sonic Adventure's development, the programmers had a difficult time designing and rendering the original characters' designs into the hardware due to their round shapes and proportions. Hence, the reason why Sonic and the others had to be redesigned to who they are today. Considering how technology has evolved since then, the programmers were able to create Classic Sonic from scratch in the third dimension while staying true to Naoto Ohshima's illustrations.

Another faithful aspect of Classic Sonic is not having him speak, which was a similar approach that the Sonic Team used during the production of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, and would only communicate through pantomiming while maintaining his cocky yet heroic personality. The only other past versions of the characters that appear in the game are Tails and Dr. Eggman. In contrast to Classic Sonic, they talk. It was most likely that making them silent would've restricted a lot of interactivity and dialogue options from their modern equivalents' perspectives. It was rumored that Jaleel White, who voiced Sonic from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog television series, was going to voice Classic Sonic, but White later revealed that Sega never contacted him.

There was also a third playable Sonic planned to represent the Dreamcast era, and Ryan Drummond almost had the opportunity in reprising his role as Sonic. However, he declined after disliking what his agent told him about the company's demands for the job.

In a 2012 interview, Drummond recalled:

So I went and they were very pleased to have me back and they actually said they were going to have me back and it was going to be this great reunion. Then when the actual offer came to my agent, it was a complete joke. They asked me to leave my union (which is how I make a living), do all kinds of work for no compensation, etc. It was a real slap in the face. I really don't see it ever happening. Sega is a huge corporation with zillions of dollars and they don't see any need to change the way they do things.

— Ryan Drummond, voice of Sonic the Hedgehog (1999-2004)

Even though Kate Higgins and Ryō Hirohashi voiced Tails in their respective languages, Classic Tails' Japanese voice was supplied by Takuto Yoshinaga while Higgins provided the English dub.

Since the game is made to commemorate Sonic's twentieth anniversary, its story and levels are filled with callbacks and references to past titles. In this above video, for example, Tails feels "nervous" about the purple liquid in Chemical Plant. That is a reference to the infamous section in Chemical Plant Act 2 from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with the player trying to escape the rising water and slow, moving cube platforms before they drown. When Modern Sonic performs his finishing combo Tick Action pose, it mirrors his pose from the Sonic Adventure cover art. There is also attention to detail in the levels' backgrounds that players could spot. These could range from the various streets and stores named after certain characters in Speed Highway to the "wanted" posters of Mighty, Ray, Bean, Bark, and Fang in City Escape.

The story in both versions is the same involving both Sonics traveling through time, defeating old enemies, and collecting the Chaos Emeralds. The main difference is that Sonic's friends only appear in the console version while the handheld version focuses only on Sonic and Tails during their adventure through the White Space. Consider this a reversed-story direction when compared to Colors. Speaking of Colors, Generations is the first 3D Sonic title, since the Genesis era, where the story directly continues after the previous game, which involves Doctor Eggman escaping outer space and leaving Orobt and Cubot behind after his defeat.

Outside the story, the biggest contrast between both versions is the levels and boss fights. To figure out which levels from past games would be featured, Sega posted a Facebook survey to fans in 2009 where they expressed and polled for their favorite levels from each major game, including spin-offs. Among all the levels chosen in the final product, the only stage that both versions share is Green Hill Zone from Sonic the hedgehog (1991).

With the console version, Sonic Team re-imagined the levels and previous gameplay aspects using high-quality graphics and the Hedgehog Engine, which was previously used in Unleashed. Though Modern Sonic's gameplay remains intact, recreating the "classic-style" gameplay was proven to be challenging for Sonic Team since the Hedgehog Engine was specifically made for 3D gameplay. The team was ensured not to use older assets or level designs and some levels were given a new dynamic visual element. The most evidential factor to Classic Sonic's gameplay is the physics not feeling the same as the Genesis games because they were re-estimated to fit the modern engine, thus refurbishing the original physics "impossible." The Spin Dash ability was also made quicker to help new and unfamiliar players.

Each set of levels that both Sonics traverse represents a certain era in Sonic's history: Genesis, Dreamcast, and Modern. In the Genesis era for the console version, we have Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant, and Sky Sanctuary from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles.

Elsewhere, Sega and Dimps were considered making a port of the console version for the Nintendo 3DS. But, they decided to make it from scratch and intended it as a celebration of Sonic's portable history instead. When brainstorming levels, the development team wanted to include levels from the GameBoy Advance and DS games rather than Game Gear titles due to their past experience working on those titles. Unfortunately, most of the finalized levels were from Sonic's main titles, with the only exceptions being Water Palace from Sonic Rush and Tropical Resort from Sonic Colors on the DS. Iizuka claimed that making the 3DS version was more difficult to work on since they had little experience with the system's technicalities and limitations. While Modern Sonic's 2.5D gameplay remains true to previous Dimps titles, Classic Sonic controls differently. His gameplay physics feels closer to the Mega Drive era and would later unlock the Homing Attack as one of his main attacks (though in the console version, it is an optional unlockable move after collecting all the Red Star Rings) during the story.

Exclusively representing the Genesis era, besides Green Hill Zone, is Casino Night Zone from Sonic 2 and Mushroom Hill Zone from Sonic & Knuckles. Uniquely enough, Casno Night Zone also appears in the console version as a pre-order DLC bonus where it is presented as a pinball minigame instead being a stage.

In the console's Dreamcast era, we have Speed Highway from Sonic Adventure, City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2, and Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes. Both City Escape levels involve a scenario of being chased by a giant truck. Classic Sonic would carefully time his speed and platforming to avoid the truck while Modern Sonic must outrun the rampaging truck that now uses buzzsaws for an extra challenge. As for the 3DS version, there is only Emerald Coast and Radical Highway stages from both Adventure titles, which the latter was designed and regarded as one of Shadow's famous stages.

Lastly, the Modern era features Crisis City from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Rooftop Run from Sonic Unleashed, and Planet Wisp from Sonic Colors in the console version. The 3DS version has the aforementioned Water Palace and Tropical Resort. In terms of Wisps power-ups, Classic Sonic uses the Pink Wisp to accommodate his Spin Dash, and Modern Sonic uses the Orange Wisp to rocket upwards on Planet Wisp. In Tropical Resort, Classic Sonic uses the Burst Wisp for continuous jumps while Modern Sonic uses the Cyan Wisp for higher routes.

In between their progression, both Sonics would face off against their respective rivals through a series of races. In the Genesis era, Classic Sonic fights against Metal Sonic, who is explicitly designed smaller to represent his classic appearance, on Stardust Speedway from Sonic CD or Casino Night in the 3DS version.

For the Dreamcast era, Modern Sonic faces off against Shadow in a race in Final Rush from Sonic Adventure 2 (or Radical Highway in the 3DS version) where he must collect enough energy to attack and knock him out. As for the Modern era, Sonic challenges Silver in a radically different battle where Sonic must avoid Silver's telekinesis powers and reach him through Crisis City (or Tropical Resort in the 3DS version).

However, when it comes to the main boss battles, each one received a reimagined update when comparing their original fights. Similarly to Unleashed, both Sonics must collect keys by completing stages and would use them to unlock Boss Gates in order to fight them.

In the Genesis era, Classic Sonic fights the Death Egg Robot from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 where he must attack it from behind instead of carefully hitting the center without touching the arms, and strategically immobilize it, run up the arm, and hit its head. For the 3DS version, Classic Sonic would battle the Big Arms robot from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 that mostly remains the same but also aims and strikes a punch on the ground as well.

The Dreamcast era's boss is Perfect Chaos from Sonic Adventure with his design visually represents what Sonic Team had envisioned during Adventure's development, but couldn't pull off due to technological restrictions at that time. Instead of becoming Super Sonic, Sonic relies more on his boost gameplay to defeat Chaos this time. In the 3DS version, Sonic fights the Biolizard from Sonic Adventure 2, despite the fight being meant for Shadow, to begin with.

The Egg Dragoon from Sonic Unleashed was retooled as the Modern era boss with a newly built model and faster weapons where Sonic would easily chase after it rather than facing it arena-style as the Werehog. The Egg Emperor from Sonic Heroes is the Modern boss in the 3DS version as Sonic would instead deliberately fight it alone in a circular arena without Tails and Knuckles' help this time.


The console version offers more content than just nostalgically revisiting levels and bosses. Once Sonic rescues his friends, there will be missions that would involve either their assistance or a friendly competition with the player. Depending on which Sonic you play as these missions are distinctively designed that would benefit the gameplay style or the characters' abilities. Some missions are simple as racing to the finish or Tails carrying you across large gaps when playing as Classic Sonic. Modern Sonic's missions add a little more variety with co-op teamwork on selective characters. Amy would use her hammer to make Sonic jump higher ala Sonic Advance, Knuckles dig up medals for Sonic within a time limit, Blaze clears up flames to make Sonic pass through, etc.

Completing these missions would reward the player with skill points and many collectibles, such as artwork and musical tracks. The tracks are a special case because they give players the option to customize any stage's music to their liking. With the White Space being a simple hub area, it allows Sonic to traverse and platform certain areas in order to advance the story. There is also a Skill Shop located in the hub area where players would buy and equip customizable skills for both Sonics. Classic Sonic can use his elemental shields from the Genesis era with additional augmentations to his gameplay. Modern Sonic having an additional boost at the start of levels and improved abilities are fewer examples of his skillset. When completing the story, players would be able to unlock a skill to becoming Super Sonic during regular gameplay. Additionally, there is a secret room hidden where players would unlock statues of many Sonic characters, enemies, or items by entering special codes. Most of the character statues resemble their original artwork from past games.

When collecting the Chaos Emeralds, the console version straightforwardly earns the player each one by completing either rival or boss battles. In the 3DS version, players must play as Modern Sonic by earning a certain amount of rings in each Act and going through Special Stages based on Sonic Heroes to earn them.

Although Ryan Drummond missed his mark for a reunion, the music department makes up for it. Jun Senoue once again was in charge of the majority of the soundtrack with several remixes of past tracks and new material for the game.

However, he did not work on it alone. As a celebration of Sonic's twentieth anniversary, many composers and singers from past Sonic titles have collaborated in reworking the songs. Veteran composer Naofumi Hataya provided the Act 1 music for Green Hill, Casino Night, Mushroom Hill, and the rival battle against Metal Sonic. Richard Jacques co-arranged music for Sky Sanctuary and composed the Silver, Biolizard, Egg Dragoon, and Time Eater bosses. His remix of "Super Sonic Racing" had the band Cash Cash providing the vocals and using voice samples for the Sega Saturn promo. Cash Cash also worked on the "Classic" renditions of Speed Highway and City Escape, along with Radical Highway, a "Modern" rendition of Water Palace and the Big Arms boss for the 3DS. Cash Cash keyboardist Alex Makhlouf additionally wrote the Sonic CD U.S. version of the Metal Sonic battle. Hideki Naganuma, Kenichi Tokoi, and Tomoya Ohtani have respectively redone some music from their past works on Rush, '06, Unleashed, and Colors.

Tony Harnell & Ted Poley reprised their roles for "Escape from the City" in City Escape Act 2. Crush 40 returned with a remix of "Open Your Heart", and short versions of "Live & Learn" and "I Am...All of Me" with assistance from music group Circuit Freq. With so much work done, the soundtrack was given a total of 90 tracks, historically having the highest number of songs...until Frontiers recently outnumbered it with 150 songs.

Reception & Legacy

With all the promotion and anticipation for this commemoration, Sonic Generations was finally released on November 1 in North America, three days later in Europe, and a month later in Japan. The 3DS version was launched on November 22 in North America, and likewise with its European and Japanese releases.

Ultimately, playing as both Classic and Modern Sonic turned out to be a celebratory milestone in Sonic's history. Critics loved the presentation with the detailed, recreated visuals and the variety of "spot on" remixes. The gameplay was also highly appraised for its level design and replay value where the overall experience was characterized as "addictive." Minor criticisms included the "weak" storyline, Classic Sonic's "floaty" physics, Modern Sonic's "over-reliance" on speed, and the occasional framerate issues. Flaws aside, many agreed that Generations was a worthy tribute to the franchise.

Now, that critical reception is towards the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. The 3DS version, on the other hand, was deemed "mixed or average" in contrast. While the visuals and reinvented classic Sonic moments were great, critics and fans felt that the 3DS version was a "short and unambitious" rushed tie-in. They criticized the lack of content, replay value, and inconsistent level design. To make matters worse, they even unfavorably compared it to Nintendo's Super Mario 3D Land, which was released around the same time. Overall, while it is not "bad" by all means, the 3DS version was found to be one of the weaker Dimps titles. It is truly sad coming from the same development team that helped redefined Sonic gameplay since the early 2000s, yet personally not the blame for how it game came out. If Sega would've allowed Dimps to make their version the way they wanted their game to be, then it would've been decent on its own merit.

Other than that, Sonic received some big money for his birthday when Sonic Generations successfully sold a total of 1.85 million copies worldwide, as of May 2012. His other birthday presents were a couple of accolades with IGN earning Generations an "Editor's Choice" award and winning "Best Presentation" at GameZone's Game of the Year Awards. Years later, the game remained a stronger seller for Sega and was recently backward compatible for the Xbox One and Xbox Series X systems, with the latter having a higher framerate and 4K visuals.

Today, many fans have not only found Sonic Generations one of the best of the decade, but also one of the best Sonic games of all time. In 2017, GamesRadar ranked Sonic Generations as the seventh-best game of the Sonic series, USGamer named it the tenth-best in the following year, and IGN recently placed it number one on their "Top 10 Best Sonic Games" list. So much so, the Sonic modding community took the daytime stages from Unleashed and repurposed them to suit Modern Sonic's gameplay much better.

It started out with Sonic Team having no idea how to celebrate its upcoming twentieth anniversary. But, through discussion and listening to the fanbase, they created an anniversary title that highlighted both the classic and modern side of Sonic. It was truly a challenge to create Classic Sonic and redesign the content from past games from scratch. Regardless of which version you prefer, it was still made by people that had passionate love and history with the Blue Blur. Compared to Sonic 4, there was much more detail and effort put into the product while retaining the sense of speed and platforming that made the franchise relevant. It was a bit concerning what direction would go afterward. While the results would later come out as mixed, fans would always go back and admire this tribute for many generations. To best way to sum this experience up is, no joke, an actual recording from fans at a Sonic event, that plays after the credits roll in the game: "Happy birthday Sonic!!!"

While they were busy working on Generations, Sonic Team and Dimps would continue their episodic return to Sonic's beginnings. Since they listened to the feedback, they upped their game by connecting closer to the Genesis days along with help from Sonic's flying best friend. Whether it was better or worse, it was only a matter of quality when they attempted to restore Sonic's glory days with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II.

"Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II" Cover Art

"Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II" Cover Art

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II (2012)

When Dr. Eggman captures Little Planet again to power up his new Death Egg station, Sonic and Tails must free the planetoid before all life ends.

In early 2011, Ken Balough confirmed that Episode II was in early development and said "the idea is to introduce new zones with things you haven't seen." Because the first episode was commercially successful, the sequel had a bigger budget with more production values thrown in. Balough also revealed that many ideas for Episode II were planned while the first episode was still in development. To help promote the game, Sega re-released Sonic CD programmed by Christian Whitehead to digital platforms in late 2011, where it acts as a "prequel" to Episode II. There was also a tie-in comic published by Archie Comics preceding the events of the games.

While Episode I combined elements from Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2, the sequel has bits of Sonic 2 but acts more connected to Sonic CD with Metal Sonic appearing as a secondary villain. Speaking of Metal Sonic, any owner of both episodes on the same system would unlock the free "Episode Metal" content which explains how Metal Sonic came to life after his defeat in Sonic CD. This episode would allow players to play him through all the stages from Episode I but controls exactly like Sonic under the original physics engine.

On a side note, cross-compatibility for cloud saving between the Xbox Live Arcade and Windows phone versions was planned but was rejected due to the Window version being canceled.

The 2.5-D gameplay is mostly similar and continues to be reminiscent of the Genesis titles yet with a couple of new mechanics and improvements from its predecessor.

This time, Sonic is accompanied by Tails, where the latter can be controlled by the computer or a second player via local or online co-op. Unfortunately, Tails cannot be played in single-player mode nor Sonic would be playable on his own. To compensate for this setback, Sonic and Tails would uniquely perform a few tag-team combination moves based on team mechanics from Sonic Advance 3. The first is the classic "Copter Combo" where Tails would help carry Sonic and reach higher platforms. The new "Rolling Combo" involves both Sonic and Tails rolling into a ball to perform a fast, powerful spin attack. The "Submarine Combo" acts similarly to the "Copter Combo" where Tails would lift Sonic underwater like a submarine. Occasionally, there is a power-up item called the "Special Combination" where Sonic and Tails would destroy all on-screen enemies.

One of the criticisms that the first episode received was the physics not feeling as authentic as in the classic era. Sonic now feels more fluid with his movements with enough speed and momentum. As for the visuals, the art direction was given a more detailed approach with both the character models and environments being 3D while still maintaining its 2D side-scrolling perspective.

Like last time, Sonic and Tails must play through three acts and would reach a boss battle against Eggman in the fourth act. Midway through the game, Sonic and Tails would fight Metal Sonic in White Park Zone and later as a penultimate boss alongside Eggman.

Special Stages also return where the player must collect enough rings at the end of each stage to access them. In order to collect each Chaos Emerald, Sonic and Tails have to complete challenges in a half-pipe format based on the Special Stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Having all seven will once again turn Sonic into Super Sonic during regular gameplay, yet would revert back to normal whenever he performs a Combo Move with Tails.

Reception & Legacy

As Sonic and Tails revisited Little Planet on May 15 worldwide on Windows, the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Android, and IOS afterward, there was some good news...and some bad news.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II was an improvement over the first with revamped visuals, fixed physics, and beneficial co-op gameplay. However, the level design felt "uninspired" and the boss fights were "repetitive." In fact, even if one manages to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds or 100%-ing the game with all the collectible Red Star Rings, there's something...empty about this follow-up. Since Little Planet was involved in the plot, there was absolutely no mention of the Time Stones or Amy appearing in the slightest.

To make matters worse: it didn't sell well as Episode I and earned only 30,000 units worldwide. When asked about the future of Episode 4, Iizuka said that Sega would look forward to user feedback and how it affects Episode II. The company would take "one Sonic game at a time" and would develop a third episode if Episode II sold well. After all, having an episodic continuation was planned to be part of a "larger story" that stays true to the Genesis classics.

But, because of the mixed reviews and flopping sales, Episode II was the second and final episode of Sonic 4. In 2015, Ken Balough answered via Facebook that Episode III was planned, but got scrapped. It was truly a disappointing turn of events after what the fans were promised. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I was praised as a hopeful return to his roots and Episode II fixed some of the previous issues but didn't satisfy their fans, especially after the release of Sonic Generations. Retrospectively, when Sonic Mania was released years later, fans found that both Episodes I & II did not live up to the quality of the classics and believed they were made to capitalize on nostalgia. Sure, Generations did the same thing, but that was intentional, given that was made to celebrate twenty years of the franchise. On the brighter side, Episode II is deemed as a decent stand-alone distraction for the co-op gameplay mechanics alone. Fans were more interested in playing the enhanced ports of the Genesis games than an official "continuation" of said games.

At the start of the 2010 decade, Sega and Sonic Team did a great start in restoring Sonic's reputation in the gaming industry. There were a couple of snags during the process but came out strong in the end. The question is: What's next for Sonic? With the age of the seventh-generation video game consoles now ending, new consoles were in development. Nintendo just so happened to unveil two new systems: the already-mentioned Nintendo 3DS and the Wii's successor, the Wii U. Seeing the potential of the system's capabilities, both Sega and Nintendo start to form an exclusive partnership to release any Sonic-related titles for the Wii U. But, little did they know, this new partnership would wind up with mixed results of polarizing experimentation.