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Author Topic: Why Mario is "cool" and Sonic is not...  (Read 3484 times)
Prime Mover
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« on: May 03, 2007, 05:15:55 PM »

My appologies for the crappy title of this thread, but I couldn't think of anything better.

I'm not here to discuss the relative quality of either game character, or even comment on any recent games. What I am more interested in is understanding why Mario has had such incredible staying power, while the current reception to Sonic's character is a bit dubious at best. See if your thoughts echo mine in anyway.

My basic thesis is that Sonic's character personality and style of games have been developed around current pop-culture trends. Any dialog the games have are riddled with slang, gestures, and attitudes that or only prevolent in a limited section of society, and for a limited period of time. This makes him inexccessable to people outside a very specific age range, and of particular cultural experience. Unfortunately, these cultural iconisizations change and grow old very quickly, so immediately, everything is culturally dated within months, and all that's left is the obvious pandering.

On the flipside, you have the very antithesis of Sonic, Mario, who is pictured as a middle-aged, overweight, unattractive italian plumber who never began as a "hip" (I think the term "flip" was first used to describe Sonic) cultural icon. In fact, he is adored pricesely because he defies cultural trend... his character would probably seen as no more "hip" in the 1950s as he would be today. Similarly, Mickey Mouse became a cultural icon against all pretense (when, ever, would a gangally, black mouse with red shorts and suspenders be considered "cool"). Both Mickey and Mario are freed from the imprissonment of the "trend of the week" image.

Unfortunately, Sonic could have been this... and he sorta was. The original games didn't include much in the way of trying to jump on any contemporary bandwagons. I guess the only thing that could be said was sonic's basic presentation and gestures very midly reflected the "hip" image at the time, but let's face it, we're talking 16-bit sprites here. I think the downfall started with the various cartoon-shows (some of which were actually, quite good as a whole) which had him mouthing-off up a storm, and generally acting like a mid-90s pre-teen. The games were able to stay away from that... until the series hit 3D, in which we got dialog, more facial expressions, gestures, and various pop-culture references, which just dated the whole series.

Mario is a concern as well, as of late. I'm greatly enjoying Super Paper Mario. But it's obvious that the dialog deffinitely has some areas that tie the game down to 2007 contemporary culture. I think the way that Mario's handlers (be they Miyamoto or whoever is playing God to him at the time) deal is by maintaining him as a silent protagonist. Even if characters around him were to fall out of style, Mario himself can remain timeless and disconnected from the rest. In many ways, it's Lugi's allowence to be able to speak that has been his biggest downfall. Silent protagonists are always far more trusted than mouthy ones.
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2007, 06:08:43 PM »

What...the...fuck?
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2007, 06:14:43 PM »

I think it's much simpler than that.

Sonic isn't cool because Sonic Team has yet to make a single game that comes close to being as good as the original trio on the Sega Genesis. Instead, they completely ran the name into the ground, to the point where even dedicated fanboys cringe at the thought of a new Sonic title.


Mario is cool because Nintendo has manged to continuously improve on the Mario formula, with games like Dr. Mario, Mario 64, Mario Kart, SSB, and Paper Mario, all the while significantly expanding their appeal. Mario still has casual gamers coming back for more.

Is it really any surprise that nobody gives two shits about Sonic anymore?
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2007, 07:37:41 PM »

While I totally agree, and I do think this is a large part of it. I think both these things are signs of a greater problem: a lack of truly creative developement, or probably more accurately, a lack of confidence in their creativity (since they obviously WERE very creative in the beginning). I think the key is that instead of making truly good games (I do think that Secret Rings shows signs of at least an attempt at quality... even if it fails in many areas), they fell to pandering to fans instead of evolving the series naturally. I think the two are very connected.
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2007, 08:07:22 PM »

I'd take a crazy rocker blue hedgehog over a fat italian plummer any day.... unfortunately, Mario seems to be in the better games.
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2007, 09:15:09 PM »

HERE's the problem.

Jaleel White, AKA "Urkel" from Family Matters, was the voice to Sonic in the early 90s cartoons.

That killed my image of the blue furball mighty quick.

Ramza

EDIT - in seriousness, Prime Mover's opening post has a lot of merit to it, if you study the sociological factors that go into each character's level of "marketability." Mario's timeless, at least among the modern world, but Sonic is stuck in the early 90s.
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2007, 01:25:07 AM »

There's two other factors at work. One, Mario is a human being. That brings him a touch closer to us as a figure. Two, Mario doesn't have an attitude beyond being friendly. Sonic is trying to exude "cool", but cool changes quickly, and for that reason it can be outdated. It also feels deeply pretentious, which alienates many people right at the door.
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2007, 02:14:21 PM »

Quote from: "Hidoshi"
There's two other factors at work. One, Mario is a human being. That brings him a touch closer to us as a figure. Two, Mario doesn't have an attitude beyond being friendly. Sonic is trying to exude "cool", but cool changes quickly, and for that reason it can be outdated. It also feels deeply pretentious, which alienates many people right at the door.


Well, Mickey Mouse wasn't human, and he indeared himself to people for generations (maybe a little dated now, but only in the last 20 years or so). I don't think human/non-human has much to do with it. But we're on the same page as far as sonic's attitude is concerned. I see what you mean by "pretentious", although I don't know if that word fits... usually I think of "pretentious" in terms of trying to possition yourself as more intelligent or sophisticated than you really are... but I guess technically, "pretense" can also refer to pretending to be young, hip, and angsty.

BTW: Weren't there actually three different Sonic cartoons in the early 90s? I remember one that was really kiddy, where all the drawings were practically south park quality. There was one that was really dark, intense anime, had a lot of advanced CG effects, and had the Sally character as well as some french-speaking dush (that was actually one of my favorite late-childhood cartoons). Then I guess there was a third one made officially by Sega that was sorta cheary and featured Aimie, Cream, and the other obnoxious characters that would appear later in the games, but I never saw it (probably thankfully). Which one featured the voice-actor who played Ircle?
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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2007, 08:11:18 PM »

Quote from: "Prime Mover"

Well, Mickey Mouse wasn't human, and he indeared himself to people for generations (maybe a little dated now, but only in the last 20 years or so). I don't think human/non-human has much to do with it.


In my opinion, Mickey Mouse reminds me a hell of a lot like Mario. They both exude the friendly vibe, which is more important than the humanity thing.

Also I haven't played a Sonic game that didn't make me want to hurt someone since Sonic & Knuckles.
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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2007, 08:35:38 PM »

Quote from: "Prime Mover"
BTW: Weren't there actually three different Sonic cartoons in the early 90s? I remember one that was really kiddy, where all the drawings were practically south park quality. There was one that was really dark, intense anime, had a lot of advanced CG effects, and had the Sally character as well as some french-speaking dush (that was actually one of my favorite late-childhood cartoons). Then I guess there was a third one made officially by Sega that was sorta cheary and featured Aimie, Cream, and the other obnoxious characters that would appear later in the games, but I never saw it (probably thankfully). Which one featured the voice-actor who played Ircle?


There were two which were around in the early 90's.  The darker one and the really light hearted one(Which featured Jaleel White as Sonic...and was quite a bad show overall).  I forget all the titles, but the darker one was mildly entertaining.  The anime one is actually quite recent and it's called Sonic X.
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Jimmy
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« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2007, 10:44:32 PM »

Quote from: "Azrael"
Quote from: "Prime Mover"
BTW: Weren't there actually three different Sonic cartoons in the early 90s? I remember one that was really kiddy, where all the drawings were practically south park quality. There was one that was really dark, intense anime, had a lot of advanced CG effects, and had the Sally character as well as some french-speaking dush (that was actually one of my favorite late-childhood cartoons). Then I guess there was a third one made officially by Sega that was sorta cheary and featured Aimie, Cream, and the other obnoxious characters that would appear later in the games, but I never saw it (probably thankfully). Which one featured the voice-actor who played Ircle?


There were two which were around in the early 90's.  The darker one and the really light hearted one(Which featured Jaleel White as Sonic...and was quite a bad show overall).  I forget all the titles, but the darker one was mildly entertaining.  The anime one is actually quite recent and it's called Sonic X.

Actually, Jaleel White was the voice actor for Sonic in both Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (the "kiddy" one), and the more serious show which was just called Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog was a really cool series, and was just recently released on DVD.

And though you bring up an interesting point, I think the most important factor is, as Morwan stated, that Sonic Team has been incapable of making good Sonic games for some time now. When development was handed over to Dimps for Sonic Advance 2, they created what I would argue is the second best Sonic game ever produced, and that was eleven years after Sonic's debut.
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Dio
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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2007, 05:50:50 PM »

Icons of video games are not always the best to keep around forever and ever. Nintendo pretty much made me sick of Mario, with all the multiple spinoff games Nintendo made with Mario (Mario Kart, Mario Baseball, Mario Tennis, Mario Party, Mario Orgy, Dr. Mario, Mario Does Dallas... you get the idea). It just seems like they are creating these mediocre games and putting the Mario cast all over it... Kinda like how Nike can turn a $20 shoe into a $100+ shoe by adding their name or the SWOOSH on the shoe. It doesn't seem like anyone has talked about a Mario game in a big way, since Super Mario World (which is the last Mario game I played). Sonic is almost the same way. Although, I like the whole fast and furious feeling when he's blazing through game worlds in this games, but Sonic doesn't do much for anyone, these days. Maybe as Nintendo DS games, they'd be fun to fool around with, but I doubt I'd sit at home and actually play through a Mario game or Sonic game.

The only iconic names I look forward two from Nintendo these days, is Samus and Link. I don't know how Nintendo would have survived if it wasn't for the GBA, DS and the Wii, now.

EDIT: Okay, I do admit, Mario Kart is a fun racing game... but I doubt anyone cares if the cast of Mario was on it. They could have put the cast of Friends and it would've still been a fun racing game. :P
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« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2007, 06:05:52 PM »

Mario Orgy and Mario Does Dallas starring Ron Jeremy you say?  Dude, that'd be fucking great.  

In any case, screw the fat plumber and the Urkel hedgehog.  Alex Kidd is where it's at... or where it *was* at.  Alex Kidd for the win!  Alex Kidd was cooler than Mario and Sonic combined.  Even the shitty Alex Kidd games were not *too* bad.  

I'm still a petulant 8 (I turn 9 tomorrow) year old who'll keep throwing useless temper tantrums until Sega brings back Alex Kidd and does a remake of Panzer Dragoon Saga.
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2007, 07:05:01 PM »

Alex Kidd FTW Neal, Alex Kidd FTW.
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2007, 03:33:48 PM »

Quote from: "Dio"
Okay, I do admit, Mario Kart is a fun racing game... but I doubt anyone cares if the cast of Mario was on it. They could have put the cast of Friends and it would've still been a fun racing game. :P


**** SUPER ROSS KART 64 ****

Okay, wow, that brings up a few images I never expected to see. Hell, lets throw in the cast of Cheers while we're at it!
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