2021. It wasn’t as bad as 2020.
It still wasn’t a good year though. For example, the pandemic is still going on. It is obvious that the impacts of 2020 did not go away simply because the year changed. 2021 feels, in many ways, like the aftershock of an earthquake. For Sonic, however…2021 was the earthquake. It wasn’t without warning, though. 2021 was Sonic’s 30th anniversary, and there were plenty of signs that SEGA had things in store for the Blue Blur this year. Nevertheless, it ended up being a big year for Sonic. And 2022 is looking to be even bigger. But more on that in a moment.
First things first, welcome to a yearly tradition of mine! For 11 years now, I’ve been reviewing the old year that was and predicting the new year. It started in 2010 on Sonic Paradox, moved to TSSZ in 2014, and has now been on Last Minute Continue since 2020. It is hard to believe what has happened with SEGA and the Sonic franchise in the 11 years that I have been doing this, but this year marked the beginning of a new era for Sonic, in ways that we haven’t seen since the days of Sonic Unleashed. That said, if you want to catch up on previous instalments of “A Year In Supersonic Review”, here’s a list:
This time last year, I had just moved into a new home. In fact, I had only been in the new home for a week at the time I published last year’s instalment. While I’m still not settled in yet, me not having to worry about moving anymore means that I’m able to work on this throughout the month once again, instead of doing it all in a day or two like last year. IRL, it wasn’t a good year for me. But as a Sonic fan, I don’t think I’ve been this optimistic for Sonic in a long time. Uncertainty that lasted for years has finally given way to optimism. But that’s just me. There are some Sonic fans that, understandably, haven’t seen enough for optimism yet. But, it’s getting there. So, why the sudden mood change about Sonic? Just last year, things were still uncertain. Very uncertain. Well, twelve months have passed since then and some big things have happened. Let’s rewind the clock and take a look at what the top 10 Sonic and SEGA news stories were this year.
Top 10 Sonic/SEGA News Stories of 2021
10) Sonic Returns To The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returned to its usual format after the pandemic forced the parade to go a more socially-distanced route last year, just in time for Sonic to make a return of his own. The little blue hedgehog hasn’t been at the parade in over half a decade, but with 2021 being an anniversary year, it was all the reason for the Sonic balloon to come back once more.
09) The Little Sonic Concert That Didn’t – Why this happened, I’ll never know. But it did. If you ask a Sonic fan why this failed so badly, you’ll likely hear that the person SEGA collaborated with for this concert is a supporter of NFTs, This is the main reason, but it’s not the only one. Very few songs were played, with only one of them even being a Sonic song. And despite this “Sonic” concert going for nearly an hour, it was barely even Sonic-related. The only Sonic vibe you would’ve gotten is the poor animation, which included the usage of assets from 10 years ago. In other words, even if you do support NFTs and/or had no issue watching this, you probably wouldn’t have liked what you saw anyway. It pleased no one.
08) Sonic & Tails In Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania – Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, a remaster of content from Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2, had a lot of crossover characters. Among them were Classic Sonic, back from his appearance in Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, and the Super Monkey Ball debut of Classic Tails. Unfortunately, you cannot play as either character in the party games, which still annoys me even months later. But they are playable in the main game.
07) Another Sonic Classic Era Collection – In hindsight, I should’ve seen Sonic Origins coming. There’s always a collection of Sonic games that appears around an anniversary year. And, well, this was an anniversary year. What is also unsurprising: the collection has Classic era games. Sonic 1, 2, 3&K, and CD are all here. Again. The good news is that this collection won’t be just mere emulated ports. Takashi Iizuka already confirmed that they won’t be emulated, and there will be some extra features. But we haven’t heard anything about Sonic Origins since May.
06) Blast Processing On Nintendo Switch Online – This, however, I don’t think anyone could’ve seen coming. People expected more Nintendo-related consoles to see libraries on Nintendo Switch Online, as well as its Expansion Pass. But then it was confirmed that SEGA Genesis games would be coming to the subscription service as well as a Nintendo Switch Online member exclusive SEGA Genesis Pro Controller, It was the biggest surprise of this busy year.
05) Sonic Colors Ultimate – Well, there’s a lot that could be said about this. It was the only Sonic release for this year, and boy was it a messy one. Sonic Colors was finally coming to PC…but only on the Epic Game Store for now. The game could’ve gotten a massive graphics boost due to this generation of consoles being more powerful…but for the most part, it didn’t. And unfortunately, even though it has been a few months since the game released and the game is in a more stable state now, Blind Squirrel and SEGA are still spending post-launch time on fixing glitches and crashes that, even today, are still in the game. Nevertheless, if you loved Sonic Colors, then Sonic Colors Ultimate probably didn’t ruin the original experience you had all that much. In fact, with the added features, the experience might have even been enhanced.
04) Introducing Sonic Prime – That Sonic Netflix series that I poked fun at in last year’s “Supersonic Year In Review” article finally got a name back in February. We know the general plot of the series, and we’ve seen some concept art. But that’s basically it. It’s still slated to premiere in 2022, but they’re still hiring people for the show’s production as recently as late November. So, that’s not giving me much hope.
03) The Sonic Symphony Orchestra – What also stinks about that Sonic “concert” I mentioned earlier is that it didn’t even need to happen. SEGA already had a Sonic musical performance event planned for June, and it was better in pretty much every way. Sonic fans are still talking about this. It was intended to be a giant love letter to the franchise to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and that’s exactly what it ended up being. Mission accomplished!
02) Knuckles’ Cinematic Debut – The first major Sonic news event was the Sonic Central video presentation in May that announced Sonic Colors Ultimate and Sonic Origins, and teased what would later be named Sonic Frontiers. The second major Sonic news event was The Game Awards. Sonic Frontiers got its name here, but it wasn’t the only thing Sonic fans got to see. After months of production, we finally got to see our first look at Sonic Movie 2. Tails, the Master Emerald, Robotnik’s return, it was all here. But the highlight of the trailer was the appearance of Knuckles, in what may have been the most bad ass moment in the Sonic franchise in years. Sonic Movie 2 is receiving more hype than the first one did, and all you have to do is watch the trailer to understand why.
01) Sonic Frontiers – Sonic has branched out into all forms of media now, but at its core, Sonic is still a video gaming franchise. So, it’s not surprising that the next major main series Sonic game got the top spot here. And one thing is for sure. This game is nothing like Sonic Forces. Oh yeah, and Ian Flynn is the writer for the game, signaling the end of the Pontac and Graff era of Sonic story writing. And for the first time, Sonic’s going to be in an open-world game, although SEGA’s been calling it “open-zone”. We know a lot about the game now, but there’s still no gameplay footage yet. Despite that, this new direction has resulted in a lot of buzz about this game. And it’s only going to grow once gameplay is shown for the first time.
Honorable Mentions: SEGA’s “Thank You” Video To Sonic Fans
Next up is those very strange Sonic and SEGA news stories. Every year, you can count on one happening. Sometimes it’s a weird business decision by SEGA, other times it’s some fan activity that makes you go “WTF”. So let’s take a look:
Sonic/SEGA 2021 News Story Oddities
Sonic 1 On Tesla Cars – At this point, Sonic 1 is getting into Skyrim-meme status for the amount of platforms it is available on. But hey, you will soon be able to play it on your Tesla car! Because…I have no idea. It’s Sonic 1. It’s available everywhere. So go play it on a car, I guess? Thankfully, you can only do so if the car’s parked. But still. You’re playing it on a car.
Next up, we look back at the year’s releases, followed by an (opinionated) report card on how SEGA did this year. My “negative/mixed/positive” ratings for the year’s Sonic releases are based on the initial reception that a Sonic game receives from the fanbase and gaming media reviewers when that game releases. What the reception is now will more than likely change in a few years. I only look at the initial reception, however, as that influences a game’s sales and will ultimately dictate the direction Sonic Team decides to go for their next release. As for the ratings themselves, here’s what they mean:
Mostly Negative – The Sonic game is all but unanimously considered bad at release. Games such as Sonic 06 and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric fall into this category.
Negative – The Sonic game is considered bad by a majority at release, but there’s still a sizable minority that enjoyed the game. Games such as Sonic Forces fall into this category.
Mixed – The Sonic game has no clear consensus on what people think of its quality at release. It’s a divisive game. Games such as Sonic Lost World and Team Sonic Racing fall into this category.
Positive – The Sonic game is considered good by a majority at release, but there’s still a sizable minority that disliked the game. Games such as Sonic Colors (the original 2010 version) belong here.
Mostly Positive – The Sonic game is all but unanimously considered good at release. Games such as Sonic Mania/Sonic Mania Plus and Sonic 3 & Knuckles go here.
2021 Review For The Sonic Franchise
Sonic Colors Ultimate
INITIAL CRITICAL RECEPTION: Mixed
2021 SEGA Report Card
Summary: There’s a lot to be said about SEGA’s 2021, and no, it isn’t just because of Sonic. It is worth noting that Sonic the Hedgehog was not the only SEGA franchise celebrating an anniversary this year. So was Super Monkey Ball, and SEGA celebrated with the release of Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. There was also, finally, the release of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game. The game had launched in Japan in July of 2019, but a worldwide release had to be delayed due to the pandemic. Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown released on the PlayStation 4, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis released, and a remaster of Total War: Rome launched as well. Of course, Sonic Colors Ultimate also released. And a library of SEGA Genesis games becoming a part of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription was a major surprise. It was a busy year for SEGA, and the majority of it was successful. What could’ve been a great grade for SEGA, however, got severely brought down by controversy. Sonic Colors Ultimate was full of business practices that concerned fans, such as its “early access” pre-order bonus and Epic Game Store timed exclusivity. And then it released as a buggy mess anyway. But SEGA received the most flack from their approach to NFTs. It’s no secret that they’re not very liked, due to its effects on the environment, it being a scam, and more. But SEGA hasn’t actually launched their own NFTs…yet. But it probably won’t stay that way. They’ve begun a Japanese partnership with Double Jump. Tokyo and even put an investment into the company, and a Sonic collaboration concert with a known NFT supporter that took place earlier this month. Just the fact that they’ve openly stated in a financial report a couple of months ago that they’re considering it has (understandably) pissed off a lot of people. It was one of those years where SEGA was very…SEGA. It’s a company that either does very well or does very badly. And we saw both of those extremes from SEGA this year.
Next up is that part of the article where I address predictions. Every year, I make predictions for the coming year for Sonic and SEGA. But before I do, I always take a look back at the predictions I made last year. It’s my favorite thing to do in these articles. I would not recommend that you expect my predictions to be accurate though. So, let’s see how I did with predicting 2021:
Reviewing Last Year’s Predictions…
Sonic – If all goes well, and normality begins to return in March, we could see SXSW happen, and it’ll have the big unveiling of Sonic’s anniversary plans. If normality returns a little later than that, then E3’s close by and they’ll likely do it there. I think, no doubt about it, we’ll know by late-June. I still think there’s going to be 2 games, one of them being Sonic Mania 2 for multiple platforms, including the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Sonic Mania 2 will release around the middle of the year, maybe June. The next Modern game will release in November. I think there’s going to be a proper reveal of the Netflix series at the same time that the pair of games are revealed. Another IDW Sonic mini-series could start late in the year, and maybe there’s another character added to the cast. I think Sonic’s anniversary is going to dominate the vast majority of the year’s news cycle. The only exception to this is going to be when production of Sonic Movie 2 begins, resulting in a little back-and-forth between the two. Overall, Sonic’s 2021 starts as a continuation of 2020 until March, then rapidly picks up momentum and steam as normality returns and the anniversary approaches. By the end of the year, I think we’ll feel like Sonic’s 2021 had been a busy one.
SEGA – SEGA’s 2021 should have the same activity as this year had, if not a little more quiet. I think there should be something Yakuza-related and something Persona-related getting releases on consoles at some point. For once, I don’t think an IP is going to be revived, but if there is, it could be a Jet Set Radio-related title or a new Super Monkey Ball game. Nevertheless, their main PR thing of the year is going to be Sonic’s anniversary. Nothing Hatsune Miku-related for the time being, maaaaybe a DLC at most. The Phantasy Star Online 2 DLC should release as planned. I think Tokyo Game Show will be able to return in its normal form, allowing SEGA to make some announcements there.
Well, at least I can say that I did much better than last year! I approached my predictions last year with the uncertainty of where the pandemic would be, and I’m glad I did. Because…we’re still dealing with the pandemic, even 12 months later. But, because I considered that as a possibility, I dodged a few bullets.
Because the pandemic is still happening, the optimistic scenario I gave for a March Sonic unveiling didn’t happen, and neither did SXSW. But, the other scenario I gave, where Sonic reveals happened closer to E3, did happen. And indeed, we knew their Sonic anniversary plans by late-June. On the other hand, while Sonic Prime info was provided at the same time as the game reveals, the Netflix series itself was revealed in February, before SEGA even confirmed when the game reveals would occur. Speaking of the game reveals…obviously, Sonic Mania 2 didn’t happen. And “the next Modern Sonic game”, which would eventually be named Sonic Frontiers, didn’t even release this year, let alone in November. And for some reason, I didn’t expect a Sonic collection to be announced either, so we got more than 2 games. As for IDW, I was almost on the money here! Another IDW Sonic mini-series, “Imposter Syndrome”, was announced in August, and the first issue was published in November. And we didn’t just get 1 character added to the cast, but 2: Surge the Tenrec and Kit the Fennec, so it was more than just “another character”, which was my prediction. But I was very accurate about the Sonic news cycle. Sonic’s anniversary was pretty much the bulk of the year’s news cycle, and as I predicted, Sonic Movie 2 production beginning resulted in a back-and-forth news cycle between the two. And Sonic’s 2021 had, indeed, turned out to be a busy one. The only major thing I got wrong here was that Sonic’s 2021 remained a continuation of 2020 until May, not March. That said, while Sonic’s 2021 did rapidly pick up momentum and steam, it was mainly because of the anniversary approaching and not because of the pandemic ending.
As for SEGA’s 2021, there wasn’t really anything Yakuza-related game releases. There was, however, some Persona-related game releases with the worldwide launch of Persona 5 Strikers. As for the revival of an IP, it didn’t really happen. And, while a Super Monkey Ball game was released this year, it wasn’t exactly a “new game”, but a remaster of content from both Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2. Indeed, their main PR thing of the year was Sonic’s anniversary. But my prediction on Hatsune Miku is…complicated. No new Miku games were revealed this year, but a mobile game, Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage, did receive a worldwide release this year. The “Phantasy Star Online 2 DLC”, which is actually called New Genesis, did release as planned. As for the Tokyo Game Show, it did come back, but only in a virtual form. And SEGA did announce stuff there, but it was mainly mobile games.
So, what about next year? It’s time to make some new predictions!
2022 SEGA/Sonic Predictions
Sonic – Sonic’s 2022 will be, obviously, very busy. Sometime in February or March, I expect one more Sonic Movie 2 trailer before the movie releases in April, as planned. Overall, Sonic Movie 2 will be another success and make a lot of money at the box office. As for IDW Sonic, there may be another new character or 2 added to the cast sometime in 2022. As for another miniseries, since the “Imposter Syndrome” miniseries is still going for another 2-3 months, I expect the next miniseries to be announced later in 2022 than it was in 2021, likely in the fall. So, what about Sonic Prime, Sonic Origins, and Sonic Frontiers? We’ll likely hear more about them simultaneously. I think a Sonic Central video presentation in March or April is the most likely way that SEGA will do this, with a little more info coming out during E3 week. but a SXSW appearance isn’t out of the question either. Regardless of how they do it, we will finally learn more about what features that the games included in Sonic Origins will have. Gameplay of Sonic Frontiers will finally be revealed in a new trailer, along with a more specific release date. And Sonic Prime? It depends on how far along they are in production. If it’s still going slow, we may just get screenshots and that’s it. But if they’re moving along well, I think we’ll get a little sneak preview footage from the first episode. The premiere date, again, depends on how far along they are in production. More than likely, the premiere of Sonic Prime will be in the fall. In fact, it may premiere around the same time as the release of Sonic Frontiers, which I’m expecting to launch in November. Sonic Origins will release sooner than that, in mid-2022. I think the Sonic news cycle will be dominated by Sonic Movie 2 for the first few months of the year, before it shifts to a combination of Sonic Frontiers, Sonic Origins, and Sonic Prime news for the majority of the year. Meanwhile, I think a Sonic game or 2 will be added to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack’s SEGA Genesis library at some point in 2022.
SEGA – SEGA’s 2022 will be somewhat quieter, but not by much. A new Yakuza game will be announced, and I can see Atlus releasing a new game. I think Company of Heroes 3 and Two-Point Campus will release in 2022, as planned. I expect SEGA to announce a game for an IP that will be a remaster, and I think SEGA will also announce a couple of more mobile games too. Something related to Persona will happen, but it will likely be via crossover content in another game. Unfortunately, I’m also gearing up for SEGA to continue to look into NFTs, and there may even be an announcement related to the matter in 2022. And, yes, I expect that this, understandably, won’t go well with SEGA fans at all. NFTs or not, I think SEGA will have a decent E3, and a packed Tokyo Game Show. I also think SEGA will give their non-Sonic IPs a little more marketing and promotional PR now that Sonic’s anniversary is done.
And so, another of these articles have come to a close. It is now 11 years and counting that I’ve been doing these, and that still amazes me. What is not amusing to me, however, is that I’m getting old. In fact, I turn 30 next year. So that’s a thing. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed reading this year’s instalment, and I hope your 2021 had been a good one. It is hard to believe that we knew so little of Sonic’s future this time last year. And little did we know, it was going to be the beginning of a new era. 2022 is going to be a huge year for Sonic in multiple ways, and I can’t wait to see how it goes. I hope you feel the same way.
That all said, thank you so much for all of your support, for tolerating my tweets, and reading the articles I’ve done not just here, but all over the Sonic community this year! I appreciate it so very much! How 2022 goes is nothing more than a mystery, but here’s hoping that this damn pandemic finally comes to an end. But for now, there’s only one thing left to say. On behalf of everyone at Last Minute Continue, I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! I hope you all have a great 2022!