Welcome, one and all, to the first edition of “Let’s try to fix…” The idea of this is series is to take something iconically bad and attempt to find a way to fix it. The only rule that I’ve set for myself is that I cannot fundamentally change what happens. For example: Let’s say there’s a film where a character being shot to death was famously badly done, and the way it played out had a negative effect on the story progression. My aim would be to identify what exactly was done poorly and come up with a way that we reach the same end result – in this example a character being shot to death – but without the same negative connotations.
So, since we’re in the spooky Halloween season, I thought I’d make my first entry into this series something that people generally find to be…well…horrifying. As such, I’m looking at the infamous kiss between Sonic the Hedgehog and Princess Elise in Sonic 06.
Before I get into the aforementioned scene, I want to talk a little about the game itself. Sonic 06, aka simply Sonic the Hedgehog, was released in 2006 on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game is universally loathed, and in all honesty, it’s the only game in the franchise that I’ve played and am not super hyped about.
As you may expect, I don’t view it as a complete loss. Despite the criticisms levied at the overall plot of the game, I personally enjoyed it. I liked the new characters, and I enjoyed the time travel shenanigans. Sure, I can understand why some didn’t like it, but for me, it was fine. Plus, Blaze the Cat is one of my favourites among the extended cast, so seeing her here was really nice. I also thought that the game mostly looked really good for the era. The in-game graphics looked decent, and say what you like about the games themselves, but modern Sonic titles have some epic cutscenes, and this was no exception.
However…the game is undeniably broken. The controls don’t work the way they should, the camera is terrible, load times are poor and moves glitch out partway through, resulting in death. The result is that it borders on unplayable. Even when you look at the faults in earlier 3D titles like Sonic Adventure, you do have to wonder how we ended up with this. While I’m not certain on the exact reasons, I do think that it essentially comes down to the game being an ambitious project that simply got rushed. It was slated for a holiday release, and even the combo of Sonic co-creator Yuji Naka leaving the project and the team being split to create two games at once wasn’t going to stop that.
Could it have been better? I believe it could have. If you look at the Crisis City level and Silver the Hedgehog boss battle in Sonic Generations on the same systems, you can see where some polish could have helped the game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Perhaps the fan remake on PC will fix that.
Anyway, to the scene in question. The general idea is that, throughout the game, there’s been a pseudo-romantic subplot going on between Sonic and Elise. Sonic dies and, after the rest of his friends gather the Chaos Emeralds, Elise is able to revive him with a kiss. If you haven’t seen it before, you can here:
Generally speaking, people are absolutely horrified by this scene. That reaction is entirely because Sonic is an anthropomorphic hedgehog, and Princess Elise is a human. From a personal standpoint, I don’t think the romance was really needed in the game at all. Maybe a little nudge towards Sonic and Amy would have been fine, but Sonic and Elise felt really off in the context of the universe. All I really want from a Sonic game myself is the ability to play as multiple characters and go really, really fast during an epic battle with evil. So, there’s no need for it.
However, under my own rules, I need to fix this without preventing it from happening. Can it be done? I think it can. And, actually, it would be fairly simple.
This is far from the first time we’ve seen humans and anthropomorphic characters kiss in a mainstream release. For starters, there’s Jessica and Roger Rabbit in the Bob Hoskin’s classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? You can also add in the antics of Bugs Bunny, who has been kissing the likes of Elmer Fudd on many occasions.
So, why are these scenes generally thought of as okay, but people look at Sonic 06 and say, ‘kill it with fire’? No, it’s not because the two examples mentioned above feature rabbits, and that somehow makes it okay. If that was your first thought, then it’s worth considering that this isn’t the first time Sonic has kissed a human either. In the early 90’s cartoon The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic actually plants a kiss on Dr. Robotnik’s lips. While they’re getting married. Again, there was no backlash.
If it’s not the type of anthropomorphic animal involved, perhaps it’s the tone of things that make the difference? Well, to a point, perhaps. In both the Looney Tunes and AoStH example, the scenes were played for laughs. When it comes to Roger Rabbit though, the pair share a little kiss after Eddie Valiant saves their lives. It’s sweet rather than funny.
No, while it no doubt comes into play for some, I don’t think the tone is the key issue here. I think it’s the visual style. When you look at all of the examples I’ve listed, it’s quite clear that both the anthropomorphic animal and the human character are both cartoons. The over the top styles of each means that it doesn’t even really register that it’s an interspecies kiss that’s happening.
Now, picture humans in previous Sonic the Hedgehog games. In the older titles, we only really see Robotnik/Eggman, who is drawn to be cartoony. The same can be said for the G.U.N. Commander in the Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood game. If you look at the 3D games that preceded Sonic 06, humans are depicted in a caricature style with exaggerated features. Even the 90’s OVA sees humans drawn in a style that clearly marks them as cartoons.
With Sonic 06 though, the decision was made to go for a more realistic style. Objectively speaking, the characters are well done. Hell, they’d fit in nicely with cut scenes from the Final Fantasy games of the time. It does make the scene look odd though. If the whole thing was redone with Princess Elsie and the other humans in a similar style to the other games in the universe, I honestly think it would have been brushed off. Even more so if the kiss was moved to the forehead rather than the lips, like in the picture below by SonicAngel948. At worst, people may have had a surprised reaction, but certainly not the hate that the release did get.
Of course, that won’t solve the problem for everyone. There will still be the argument that the kiss is interspecies in nature. In that regard, it is worth thinking of it from the context of popular fiction. There are plenty of tales of humans having romantic entanglements with elves, yokai, and aliens for example. Such stories rarely get the same reaction, even though it’s essentially the same thing. On top of that, the world is full of human x vampire romance tales. Vampires, technically speaking, are dead. That creates a similar issue to the Sonic x human kiss. So, if you’re fine with fantasy romances, or vampiric romances, is this all that different?
It still wouldn’t fix the game as a whole though.
Well, that’s the best I can do. But what do you think? Would a change in art style make the scene less controversial, or easier to watch? Do you think it didn’t need changing in the first place? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you have any other iconic moments in pop culture that you’d like me to try fixing? Let me know those too!
In the meantime, have a happy Halloween everyone!