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Should Sonic Have Friends?

This article is an opinion piece by one member of our staff and does not represent the views of the Source Gaming crew as a whole.

There is no denying that the cast of characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog series is exceptionally large for what is usually a platformer. Even ignoring everything outside of the video games, Sega and Sonic Team seem to have this desire to introduce a character of the week in almost every game. This goes all the way back to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and has continued as a trend in nearly every main-series game all the way up to Sonic Boom. For some fans this became a bit too much and an outcry was had to ‘return to form’ and only have Sonic and his closest companions: Tails, Knuckles and Amy. Sega took note of this outcry and so the last number of Sonic titles have tended to focus on a smaller cast with new characters having little presence or being confined to villains. While I am down for a game to want to focus on just Sonic and his confrontation with Dr. Eggman (the driving force behind the original game and basically the whole series) I would be lying if I said I did not miss the days of Sonic Adventure, Battle and Heroes where Sonic shared the spotlight with his friends and rivals.

The outcry from fans for a Sonic game with only a focus on Sonic came off of the heels of three games: Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and Sonic Unleashed. Looking at how the characters are presented in this game, it becomes obvious as to why people became sick of Sonic’s companions. For Shadow the Hedgehog, our hero Sonic was demoted to a side character while all the focus was put on our new angsty hero. This obviously upset fans of the blue blur and then to add insult to injury Shadow the Hedgehog basically ruined almost every other character in the series. Every stage had partner characters from Sonic’s cast and some of them (Charmy Bee and Amy make good examples) come off as incredibly annoying and in the way. It got to the point where players were questioning why they even liked these characters in previous games as they do nothing more than annoy this time around.


Next we have Sonic ‘06, a game that was bad for a large number of reasons that I really won’t get into now, but once again Sonic was no longer the focus. Yes, he had more of a focus in this game than in Shadow the Hedgehog but he shared the limelight with two other shades of Hedgehog, Shadow and Silver. This began to create a feeling among fans more and more that Sonic was no longer the hero of his own series, that it was being hijacked by lesser characters because Sega believed that this is what the fans wanted. To add to this, fans felt like Sonic’s portrayal in Sonic ‘06 was weird and atrocious. This is not the Sonic everyone remembered but all the worst parts about Dreamcast-era Sonic rolled into one ugly mess.

Finally we come to Unleashed. Hearing the outcry from previous titles, now we have a game that changed up the gameplay but also the characters. Gone were all of Sonic’s friends, with the exception of Amy,for a title focused on establishing how Sonic would should play in 3D. Unfortunately this still was not enough fans and the main issue of this comes from Chip, the newest addition to the Sonic roster who takes up far more screen-time than anyone could bare. The story became so focuses on Chip that Sonic felt more like a side addition and that’s what fans detested more than anything and the Werehog levels did not help.

So when we jump to the next two games in the series, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors, we see a ‘return to form’ from Sega as we get characters and a game hyped up to be a return to form. Sonic Colors on the Wii was focused on Sonic and Tails against Dr. Eggman. Any new characters (like the Wisps) were underplayed in the games narrative. As for Sonic the Hedgehog 4, that title was being promoted by the fact that it didn’t have anyone else but Sonic. ‘The focus will remain solely on one blue hedgehog’ Sega would say and the fans would eat it up.


Now Sonic Colors would turn out to be the better Sonic game in a long time but Sonic 4, a game being promoted as what the fans wanted, was not received as well. How can this be though? Surely it has everything the fans wanted? A return to the classic style and none of Sonic’s extended cast in sight. I am not going to sit here and dissect the issue with Sonic 4 but one thing is clear from it being that Sonic’s friends don’t necessarily ruin a game just by being there. Sonic Colors, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Lost world didn’t benefit from limiting its cast. If you look at the DS version of Sonic Colors we do see some of Sonic’s friends and it makes the missions slightly more interesting having them present. Sonic Generations also utilised Sonic’s pals but in this game it kind of had to. After all, a celebration of Sonic’s legacy required the appearances of those who ran alongside him.

So appearances from Sonic’s friends don’t harm a game in any meaningful way, but to be honest I think most fans know this. It’s when these characters are playable in games like Sonic Heroes and Sonic 06 that this became an issue. However, even then, I believe these were one off cases and not a precedent form something inherently bad. In my favour are the 2D titles. Starting in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the idea of one of Sonic’s friends with their own playstyle helped to vary up the gameplay and add replayability to each title. Tails and Knuckles in the classic series, Amy and Cream in the Advance games and Blaze in the Rush titles were all interesting and made a positive impact on the player’s experience. Not having them would not have ruined the game, but having them certainly makes it a better experience. This is why I hope the next Sonic title embraces this after being absent for so long.


“But Nantendo” I hear you say, “those are all 2D games. It’s the 3D ones where they always fail and that’s what this new game will surely be!” And to that I say phooey. Everything I said about the 2D games applies to the 3D ones as well. While the 3D games never always improve by having more characters it is how they are utilised that make the problems. In the Adventure series it is not the addition of characters that is the issue but it’s how poorly designed part of the game that comes with them. Rouge and Big are not objectively bad characters but the levels they come with are poorly designed and don’t feel in place within a Sonic game. Sonic Heroes is criticised for having too many characters to play as but this issue comes more because each character is identical along with every stage. If Team Sonic and Dark had some major differences between the two rather than just the difficulty then it might have been more acceptable. Finally in regards to Sonic 06, the whole game is the reason it’s bad – not the inclusion of the main side characters, playable or otherwise.

Before I wrap this up however I do want to bring focus to one other argument for why the focus should be on only Sonic and that is thanks to characters like Chip and Elise: the character of the week. The thing is, Sega always introduces new characters in every Sonic game with the exception of Sonic 4 and Generations, both of which due to the fact that they were designed with nostalgia in mind so sticking to the established was the point. Even in the games where the focus is on Sonic alone we still have new characters, usually foes like the Deadly Six and, Orbot and Cubot. Unless this new game is another Generations title then I would expect a new character to appear. What I want is not new characters but for some of my favourite side characters to return and be useable once more.

No one should have to be alone. Not even Sonic. It’s not like they can’t keep up and it’s not like he is a loser. Sega and Sonic Team, this time let some of the pressure off the blue blur and hand it over to his friends. At least some of it, we don’t want another Shadow the Hedgehog game after all.


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  1. I think the simplest answer here is that new characters are fine, just don’t change what makes a Sonic game a Sonic game when you include them.

    For example, as much as people hate Big the Cat, they probably wouldn’t if he was tied to a bunch of fishing related missions.

    The problem with the older games with Sonic’s friends wasn’t that they included them, but that they decided to put in two million genres just to ‘make them play in a unique way’. If they’d just done what say, Super Mario Bros 2 or Super Mario 3D World did with Mario and made them all normal characters in a traditional platformer, they would have been fine.

    CM30 on July 17 |
    • THIS.

      The problem with Sonic’s friends only occurs when they are mishandled, which tends to happen in the 3D games. New characters should not be introduced to push gameplay styles that are unfit for a speed-based platformer. No one minded when new playable characters were introduced in the 2D games, because they all used the same style of speedy platforming that Sonic uses.

      I think it’s time for Sonic Team to stop relying on the nostalgia card so heavily, which includes having Sonic as the sole playable character. They could’ve totally had Tails playable in Lost World since the boost was gone, but they opted to play it safe with just Sonic.

      Nintendrone on July 17 |
  2. very well said, I agree

    having another sonic character (new or old) in the next installment would add some spice to the game instead of only making sonic prominent. I guess it is overdue and it would not hurt. The sonic fan-base is split, so having only sonic would be similar like any other modern in main series but who know Sonic Team can pull it off creating something unique to the franchise.

    I agree sonic should have friends for design, pacing and story with a possibility of having chance of being playable.

    KeyTree2 on July 17 |
  3. I really do agree, Sonic games can use the supporting cast to great affects, like the Adventure games’ story, or the 2d titles replayability.

    It just another stem from the Sonic attack bandwagon, which, while due and expected, doesn’t work when the hatred of certain mechanics aren’t explained and the people who attack know little of the actual series.

    Sonic even outside the games as used supporting cast well. I think it lines in their portrayal. Blaze and most of Sonic’s reoccurring friends work from being interesting in their own right and having interesting relationships with Sonic, the center of the universe.

    Sonic Team just needs to find characters that could work, how to make them work, and characters (aka Shadow) that just don’t work anymore.

    aguchamp33 on July 17 |
  4. Um, Tails was in Unleashed too.

    I do think that other characters can help. Did they go overboard? Probably, but the adventures still turned out well. For the record, I also like Shadow alright, even if he is bogged down by the reputation as the “edgehog.”

    Arthur 97 on July 17 |
    • Was he? I don’t remember him in it at all. Then again I only played the Wii one.

      Nantendo on July 18 |
      • Yes, he’s right. Tails was in all versions of the game, but in the Xbox 360 version there were even Sky Chase-esque missions where you fly on the back of the Tornado.

        the 101 on July 20 |
    • You know, Shadow was genuinely liked before his titular game and Sonic ’06. I feel his his character and backstory became bloated in those titles.

      the 101 on July 20 |
  5. When it comes to making alternate characters playable in a 3D Sonic game, none did it better than Black Knight, Although that game wasn’t very good it was the one thing it got so right. The characters all had their unique abilities to make traversing stages different every time, they weren’t forced and were only mandatory to play as once and after that you could ignore them or go back and play every stage with them.

    Alternatively, the way 06 handled them wasn’t bad either, they were all extensions of Sonic, and they had Sonic-like stages rather than treasure hunting or mech shooting, in that case they just weren’t programmed very well.

  6. As a Sonic fan, I don’t ever think anything wrong with any characters as I disagree its any character’s fault that the game wasn’t good. Characters are meant to be something that brings players an interest, whether how unique they can be as showing differences with Sonic. Every characters have their important role of doing whatever they can do in order to make the storyline exciting and interesting, such as helping Sonic as his new ally, or against Sonic as his new enemy or rival. Some people even want to play as that character in order to understand what they can do that Sonic don’t. To be honest, I’ve really wanted play Eggman’s robots, and Gamma’s appearance in Sonic Adventure made my curiosity come true and I really loved it! They’re not just there doing nothing as being a simple generic background character; they’re there to appeal how the game can be interesting with different features, and I do think that’s whats important to every video games out there.

    However, if I were to be honest to complain on who I pretty much disliked is…I’d rather say its the Deadly Six, because they somehow look like a Bowser and Koopalings rip-off. Other than that, I guess the description changes of certain characters in Sonic Boom. Sonic wasn’t meant to be a narcissist, Amy wasn’t meant to be lusty, and Knuckles wasn’t meant to be stupid and muscle freak. I don’t mind of Sticks as she’s pretty much acceptable, but I do felt Sonic Boom really ruined the original Sonic’s reputation due to their characteristic changes.

    But if people did complained that the reason of the series’ failure is because of adding new characters, then I don’t know why they don’t have the same complaint to the Mario series. Instead, I do hear people complaining Mario series lack new characters. Although there are new ones, but those are mainly common enemies which can be easily forgettable. People complained that Paper Mario series no longer provide new characters anymore, because Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to keep the game “safe”, which they no longer add any new characters and stages as they believe they’ll ruin the game’s reputation. Because of that, Paper Mario Sticker Stars had no new characters, as they turned every villagers to one generic Toads and others like Goombas and Koopa Troopas as common enemies. Paper Mario Color Splash is definitely having the same complaint too. Paper Mario wasn’t meant to be like this, and many fans are claiming the series to bring them back to form. I don’t know why this makes any differences with the Sonic series having right now.

    Sonic wasn’t meant to be alone, he wasn’t recalled as a loner. Although he is cool and fast, that doesn’t mean he can do anything and everything. He can run in super-sonic speed, but that doesn’t mean he’s an ultimate god. There are things that he can’t do, like swimming of course. Which is why he needs help with those characters who support them whenever he needs. Of course they won’t be there for the whole time; they can be like the Assist Trophy as appearing to help and stand by once they’re done.

    I don’t know how the new game will be like, but if there would be a new character, I’d definitely welcome them. However, there are times that I really like to see certain characters from the past come back. Although they’re still in contact in the comics, officials are said that their whereabouts are unknown in the actual game. I really like to see them come back if possible, like the fan favorite Fang the Sniper, former Chaotix Mighty the Armadillo, and his partner friend Ray the Flying Squirrel.

    zoniken on July 18 |
  7. Sonic 2 was my first Sonic game, and I ended up liking Tails a lot more than Sonic, so I’d be lying if I ever implied that I’d want a Sonic game with just Sonic. However, if Sega is going to use their huge and varied cast, I want them to use them right. Sonic Advance, Dash, and Chronicles are a few games that I feel got this right. In the Advance series, you can play as several different characters, though you go through the same stages. Each character feels different enough that it’s worth going through the game again with a different character to see how it makes you approach different obstacles. For instance, you could go through the entire game with Tails, bypassing all difficult platforming sections by flying over them, but then you play Sonic and you have to pay careful attention to your footing. Dash limited it to just two characters, but again, Sonic and Blaze are both unique enough that they’re both fun to play through the whole game with. Other characters do show up in the game, but only for story sections. While it’s been a while since I played the first Dash game, I at least remember liking the character interactions, especially between Blaze and Cream. Chronicles (Bioware please give me sequel) made each character have a unique role in battles, so there was a reason to switch up your party every now and then. Plus, the character interactions were made more interesting through dialogue options, though I feel that could have been expanded on even more, since in the end, the only ones that matters are your interactions with Amy.

    On the flipside, there are games where the characters feel like they’re just there to satisfy a quota or something. I’d say that Sonic Heroes and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal (never played Rise of Lyric so I won’t comment on it) are good examples of this. In Sonic Heroes, every team plays roughly the same, and the minor variations aren’t enough to make me feel like each one was justified. Essentially, the character select screen is just a fancy difficulty screen. In Shattered Crystal, each character has one thing they can do that the others can’t, but besides that, it makes absolutely no difference who you play. You might as well just stay on Sonic and only ever switch when you have to. The fact that all the race stages are restricted to Sonic only gives me more reason to think that the character switching mechanic was barely needed in that game, and by extension the other characters entirely. If they had specific levels that only Tails, Sticks, or Knuckles could complete, then maybe it would make more sense.

    Long story short, if other characters are going to be in the game, they either need to be there to support Sonic in the story, or have an appreciable effect on the gameplay in some manner.

    Spiral on July 18 |