When people first saw images of Sonic Forces the fans saw an opportunity for the blue hedgehog. The game looked good, there was a character creator and the music featured in the trailers hearkened back to the Sonic Adventure 2 classic, City Escape, the best song in video games. But everyone knew to temper their expectations, after all, Sonic doesn’t have a great track record these days.
Sure enough, Sonic Forces is mediocre. It is a poorly written, buggy, lazily designed, mess of a game, which learns nothing from the mistakes of Sonic Boom. 3D Sonic games have been bad for a long time and each new entry in the series seems to completely forget the mistakes of the last game.
But I think it’s important to ask ourselves, as gamers, a very important question. Were 3D Sonic games ever good? Sonic Blast introduced the issues 3D Sonic games would be plagued by to this day. The repetition, lack of speed, and poor controls are standard fare for the series even today. Sonic Colors has been the only game to escape these issues but Team Sonic seems to have abandoned all the design choices that made it good. In short, 3D Sonic games are bad and widely despised but they weren’t always.
When people think about a good 3D Sonic game two titles probably come to mind, Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. People remember these games very fondly, myself included. From the catchy soundtrack to the variety of playable characters, Sonic Adventures and Adventures 2 are beloved classics. But in retrospect, both games suffered from lackluster combat, wonky control sensitivity, and repetitiveness the same as any other Sonic game. But we forgave them. Why?
Because of the Chao Garden. The Chao are a small, rotund, bipedal species in the Sonic universe. In a rather random addition to Sonic Adventure, there was a mini-game where players could raise these Chao and train them to compete in various competitions. Raising them required that players played the main game to collect different types of fruits and animals that, if given to a Chao, would alter their stats. Then players would need to strategize about what kind of Chao they wanted and raise them accordingly. It was a decent diversion.
The Chao Garden quickly became something that people loved and put a lot of time into. After beating the game, people kept with it. They checked on their Chaos and worked on breeding even better ones. The Chao Garden was the heart and soul of these games. While the gameplay itself was a disappointment, people still grinded out levels so they could power up their sweet boi chaos. Some of the most rewarding moments in my early gaming career were when I finally saw one of my Chao learned to do something new. These experiences made two mediocre games actually fun. And then, Team Sonic never included anything like it ever again. Chao Gardens are dead everywhere but, in the hopeful hearts of Sonic fans.
Team Sonic doesn’t make good games and their attempts at 3D games are just terrible. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make enjoyable games. Sonic Forces is a bad game in nearly every imaginable way but, more offensive than that, is that it’s not even enjoyable. There are about a million ways that this could have been different but, most have to do with good design choices, which I don’t think they are capable of. But one thing I know is if Sonic Forces had a Chao Garden, it’d be much more positively received. While it’s nice, that Sega listened, momentarily, to the Sonic fanbase, long enough to impliment a character creator, perhaps it’s time they bring the chao garden back.
But until then, there's a fanmade Chao game named, Chao Resort Island, which is great. And you don't have to play through a poorly made game to enjoy it so Team Sonic can do whatever they want.