Sega have a lot to answer for really. Without their little blue mascot character I would not be sat at this keyboard at all. True story.
I loved to game but the Sonic games gave me my first encounter with a franchise that I would support for over a quarter of a century.
When Sonic Mania was first revealed to be in development I was sat in my partner’s kitchen and Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) could be heard on the wind. I was astonished that Sega had finally opted to listen to the fans – and sort of hire them – in allowing a sprite-based 2D (no 2.5 here, no sir) game to be unleashed.
Skip forward to EGX 2016 and Sonic Mania is located in a far flung corner on an unassuming display area. Four machines set up with two levels to choose from.
Was a hugely tiring queue with no atmosphere or enjoyment to be had – as well as anti-1984 signage ruining any chance for constructive queuing. In all honesty I wanted to walk away at one point, despite desperately wanting to go ‘hands-on’ with the little blue mammal. I had Hamhock attempting to subvert the entire queue with his negativity and all I could do was watch on in abject horror as people did Sonic wrong. It isn’t too difficult really, Hell even the control guide sheet was more basic than a very basic bitch.
It’s hardly open to interpretation is it?
I saw people younger than Sonic seemingly confused by the lack of a third dimension, as well as seeing older gamers struggle to just do anything.
The queue was getting longer and I was getting more manic. Excitement was failing me and instead I projected by anger towards a weirdly unnecessary ‘Modern Sonic’ statue that completely contradicted the classic ‘Chubby Sonic’ stylings of the game. Like Sega wanted to draw people who grew up post Sonic Adventure towards this archaic piece of retro crap.
As I edged closer to the gameplay area I ended up feeling like how I imaging an ant feels when it realises that the hive mind mentality is pointless, while other ants tear it limb from limb, feasting on the contents of its split thorax.
I was finding the whole experience tiring and infuriating. Surrounded by people who were seemingly queuing for nothing more than morbid curiosity, stopping me from playing Sonic Mania. How was SONIC MANIA more popular than Dawn of War III? How was I queuing for longer than I did to play PSVR??
I got to the front of the queue where a woman in a bomber jacket was in charge of the barrier between myself and the game. I looked at the empty seat, title screen titliating me like an Amsterdam window whore, before looking back at the bomber jacket woman who was facing away from the queue. So not only was Sega exhibiting Sonic wrong, people playing Sonic wrong and now the queue boss was doing queuing systems wrong. Suddenly she turned, saw the empty space and ambled… AMBLED!! back over to the queue and released the barrier letting me through without a word. I left the other useless people in the queue (Negative Zone Hock included) behind and sat down.
I pressed start.
I was in Green Hill Zone.
I pressed right and hit jump.
I was off.
I was essentially eleven again.
One minute and forty-eight seconds later I was done.
I stood up and vacated the seat.
Half an hour queuing for less than two minutes of action.
My partner says that she sympathises.
The game was everything I wanted but as I stood next to this weird cabinet full of random merchandise that you couldn’t necessarily buy, I looked over at Hamhock who was playing his game. He took AGES. To be fair it always takes AGES to be SEGA.
He was on there for about ten minutes.
Ten minutes of less than feverish gaming.
He said it was ok. Didn’t set his world on fire.
I bet he enjoyed the queue.
I didn’t enjoy much of it, but the game was worth the insanity inducing moments.
Why Sega buried such a gem – chaos emerald – in such a lacklustre spot will always confound me, but in a show that didn’t have a Mario game ANYWHERE outside of the retro zone I can safely say that Sega won EGX in terms of mascot presentation.
When Sonic Mania comes out next year you really do need to get on it, providing that Sega don’t go down the Jonathon Blow route of releasing games at double their actual value.