Sometimes it's better to pull the plug than watch someone die a slow, agonizing death. It's hard on everyone: painful for the victim and heartbreaking for those around them. Nobody wants to see someone they care about fade away in an endless, degrading, excruciating fashion.
That's exactly what's happening with Sonic the Hedgehog, who continues to star in video games despite the fact that they're all awful and nobody cares. Sega is being cruel. Sonic needs to die.
The Sonic series is currently at its creative and financial nadir, and that's saying something. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, which launched late last year on the Wii U and 3DS, are now the worst-selling major Sonic releases ever. Across several months and two platforms, the games sold less than 500,000 copies. Rise of Lyric currently has a score of 32 on Metacritic. The 3DS version is so bad that Sonic fans have taken to giving the game 10 out of 10 user reviews, in an attempt to outweigh all the negative critical feedback. "It's just flawless," says one review. "That's all I have to say."
He was the reason to own a Sega Genesis
Those fans are deeply attached to the series for a reason. While there hasn't been an excellent Sonic game in at least a decade — racing games don't count — Sonic helped define the 16-bit era of video games. He was the reason to own a Sega Genesis. He was the antithesis of Mario: fast, cocky, and exciting. He had an actual personality. If you put down the controller for too long he would start tapping his foot, wondering when he'd finally get to start running again. Those original Sonic games may not hold up as well as Nintendo's classics, but Sonic's earliest adventures were some of the most important video games ever made, in part because they provided Nintendo with respectable competition. I'm not crazy enough to think the Genesis was a better console than the SNES, but watching commercials of Sonic blazing through the Green Hill Zone as a kid definitely made me jealous.
Fast forward to today, and it's hard to even care about a new Sonic release. He had a few moments after the Genesis era — the Sonic Adventure series for the ill-fated Dreamcast was great, and a trilogy of Game Boy Advance games proved that the formula still had merit. But things have only gotten worse since then. There have been spin-offs and reboots, big-budget console games and small mobile releases, but none have managed to capture the essence of what made the early games so charming. The new Sonic games feel more like those terrible movie tie-ins, shallow cash-ins on a name more than anything else. The best thing Sonic has done in recent years is a brief cameo in Wreck-it Ralph.
Sonic has been dying for a long time
People like to deride Nintendo for relying heavily on its big-name franchises. When a new Nintendo console comes out, you know you'll be playing Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda before long. But unlike Sega, Nintendo gets away with returning to the same well because it still treats its franchises with respect: the most recent Mario game is up there with the best, and the Wii U version of Zelda has me more excited than just about any other game this year. Sega, meanwhile, once made a Sonic spin-off where the characters had guns.
Sonic's long, slow, sad decline is akin to a great athlete that just doesn't know when to retire. It's hard to remember how great he once was when so much time has passed, and I have a hard time imagining what could be done to make the Sonic name relevant again. Unlike Mario, Sonic is a product of his time, a quintessentially '90s personality that just hasn't been able to figure out his place in the modern world. I don't think he ever will. He also still exists in other formats, including a cartoon series and some comics (fittingly, published by Archie Comics, another vestige of a time long gone), but really, we need to end it all. Maybe once enough time has passed, and we've all grieved for him, we can consider the notion of a reboot.
Sonic has been dying for a long time. He needs to be put out of his misery.