Summer Game Bang Preview: Sonic Central 30th Anniversary Celebration

This morning I was sitting on my couch, waiting for the Sonic Central 30th Anniversary Celebration stream to begin, and I found myself reflecting on what exactly I wanted or expected from the presentation. Another Sonic Mania is top my wishlist, of course, but I’d accept any manner of new game announcement. But what I really wanted was the kind of cheesy-bordering-on-truly-awful nonsense displayed at Sonic’s 25th anniversary. Cringey musical performances, poor production quality, and bizarre sponsorships (*cough* Totino’s *cough*). In other words, the exact kind of trash that gets memed on social media, Sonic’s specialty in recent years.

Before I can wax too philosophical about what Sonic is in 2021, the stream begins. Ivo Gerscovich, Sonic’s global chief brand officer, and Takashi Iizuka, Sonic’s creative officer, begin with a brief introduction and messages of appreciation for fan’s continued support. There are already disclaimers being made that there will be more news later, outside of this stream that hasn’t really begun yet. Mr. Gerscovich then implores me to watch until the end, spoiling that there will be a “one more thing”-style closing announcement.

The first news is a special symphonic performance of Sonic the Hedgehog music on June 23, 2021. The performance will be streamed online for free. As the details are given, a preview is shown of a symphony of real human beings playing a less-than-iconic Sonic song. Before I can start to wonder how the musicians feel about playing video games for internet memelords, Crush 40, Sonic’s famous buttrock band extraordinaire, is announced as a guest to the performance. This is the sort of crassification I’m here to see.

A Sonic DLC costume for the Tokyo 2020 video game is shown next. Sonic, looking like a mascot that escaped from a theme park, is shown jumping over hurdles. Sonic then blasts a home run in baseball and raises a fist in the air as he rounds third base, taunting his opponents. His work unfinished, Sonic then does a long jump, humiliates a woman at ping-pong, and makes a fool of an entire basketball team. Sonic readies a flaming swing at a tennis ball, but his victim is not shown out of respect for the deceased. As his appetite for glory reaches dangerous levels, Sonic scores a goal in soccer after imbuing the ball with what I can only describe as dark magic. Sonic celebrates by looking skyward while extending his arms outward to taunt the so-called god that cannot stop him. The hammer throw, a footrace, and beach volleyball are next, but no one can match Sonic’s unrestrained, flaming power. Events turn grisly as Sonic loses the little control he has left and slams a woman to the ground, then launches a man into the air with a fiery uppercut. The preview is cut off. It’s time to move on.

Sonic commits a murder at the Tokyo Olympics.

Two Point Hospital is next. Before my reeling mind can begin to ruminate on what this could possibly mean, my half-formed questions are answered. It appears that a doctor is wearing a Sonic hat, blue scrubs, and Sonic’s shoes, but the voiceover confirms that this is, in fact, Sonic himself. “Sonic will be visiting patients in need”, the announcer says as Sonic is shown sitting behind a desk, likely informing a patient his condition is terminal. Delivering grim news doesn’t keep our blue hero down for long, as in the next shot Sonic is strutting past the hospital’s numerous arcade machines, over a chili dog-shaped rug, into what I sincerely hope is a food court. Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails are then shown playing video games and playing darts in rooms with special Sonic-themed décor. Amy Rose is, in a disappointing move, shown to be working the counter in the cafeteria before Sonic and Tails eat hamburgers before committing more malpractice.

I need a break, I need time to process the things I’ve seen, the crimes I’ve just witnessed. My prayers are answered, the next announcements are mercifully simple. I breathe in. Sonic the Fighters will be playable as an arcade cabinet in the upcoming Lost Judgement. I breathe out. A Minecraft collaboration is teased. The much-needed respite has served its purpose, and I am ready to receive more Sonic information.

Sonic Colors Ultimate is revealed. I feel good about this one, I liked Sonic Colors well enough on the Wii. I would certainly call it one of the better 3D Sonic games. The trailer isn’t very informative, outside of confirming that the game exists at all and will release September 7, 2021. No specific information is given regarding any enhancements or what makes this the “ultimate” version of Sonic Colors. What is shown is the grotesque “Baby Sonic” keychain and other “Sonic movie content”. More information is promised in the coming weeks. I begin to relax as the distance between me and Sonic’s crimes grows.

Roger Craig Smith, the recently re-hired voice of Sonic, is on my screen now. Mr. Smith is here to tell me about Sonic Colors: Rise of the Wisps, a two-part animation. Rise of the Wisps is the beginning of a series of new short-form Sonic animation projects in a similar vein to the much-loved Sonic Mania Adventures. A preview is shown, and the visuals are colorful and appealing, but the animation does look a bit cheaper than Sonic Mania Adventures. Episode 1 of Sonic Colors: Rise of the Wisps will be released this summer.

Sonic fondly remembers that time he killed someone at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A new compilation of classic Sonic games titled Sonic Origins is next. Sonic Origins promises to bring Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic CD to “the latest platforms”. New features and added content are promised, but no details are given. Sonic Origins is slated for next year, and I can’t help but wonder what could possibly take so long when porting Genesis games to modern hardware. Maybe they’ll answer my question when more information is given “later this year”.

 We have officially entered the “filler” portion of the presentation at this point. Sonic Mania, Sonic Forces, and Team Sonic Racing are coming to PlayStation Now in June. Amazon Luna is leaving Sonic Forces in the trash where it belongs, and is only getting Sonic Mania and Team Sonic Racing. Special events for the various Sonic mobile games are announced, and I can’t help but let my mind wander back to that poor woman Sonic slammed into the ground in Tokyo 2020. Is she ok? Is she even still alive? I don’t have time to dwell on it, more news is coming.

Perhaps “news” is too generous. Joe Kelly talks about Sonic Prime, a new show for Netflix. There will be 24 episodes, and apparently the show will involve a “redemption”. What has Sonic done this time? What chaos has he unleashed in his quest for speed and chili dogs? How many times can he bring devastation and still find forgiveness? I’ll have to wait until 2022 to find out, that’s when Sonic Prime will make its debut.

Time to plug some products! A pretty-darn cool Sonic 2 playset is coming this year, featuring a balled-up Sonic you launch at an Eggman Robot via catapult. A series of large necklaces from King Ice featuring the heads of Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and Shadow are coming for “fans dialed in to hip-hop culture”. The Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia promises to provide a wealth of knowledge for internet trolls to scour for inaccuracies. A series of special coins from Apmex will also be coming, and I imagine they will cost entirely too much. If you have questions, don’t worry, there’s a special Sonic 30th Anniversary website with more information.

Wait…what?

Ivo is back, and pretends like it’s time to say goodbye. BUT WAIT, there’s one more thing (you know, like Ivo promised back at the beginning of the presentation)! Sonic ran through a forest and traced out a weird symbol that can’t possibly mean anything to anyone at this point. Sonic Team is making it and it has a release window of “2022”. That’s it. The Sega logo comes up and the Sonic Central is over. A pretty underwhelming “one more thing”, in my opinion, but perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Nintendo Directs.

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