Go ahead and disagree. After all, I can't prove this theory. Sonic Team certainly has a lot to answer for themselves. Also, do not think that I am attempting to invalidate complaining as a whole, because I generally think that complaining is a wonderful, useful thing.
Still, the complaints have to be intelligent, especially if they risk being heard. I say this because I fear that in this case, the complaints were rash, poorly-concieved, and detrimental, and as the title says, I'm beginning to think maybe we should have kept our mouths shut. Not for forever, mind you. Today's Sonic Team really is a stupid wreck of a company that deserves a lot of vitriol. Yet I think that part of the reason it got so damned pathetic was in response to the bitching the Adventure series got.
First the facts. It is true that SEGA never had the competence in their 3-D debut as they had in the Genesis era, nor did they have the competence Nintendo displayed with SM64. However, SEGA DID possess one thing akin to both of those: heart. The Adventure games were ambitious projects with loads of replay value offered, many levels, fairly-epic plots, and good production values. It is true that the actual GAMEPLAY was hit-and-miss, but the fact is, SEGA worked so hard on the Adventure titles, that the gameplay hit ENOUGH. Nor was the Adventure series, despite its initial faults, the downward spiral that the series became known for from Heroes onward. SA2 did fix some of the problems with the first title; the camera wasn't QUITE as bad; the gameplay was definitely more-challenging, and Big was gone, though some other unsavory elements weren't. After playing Sonic Adventure 2, despite having to suffer through a bit of pain in Security Hall, I was left with a feeling that the series had nowhere to go but up.
So what happened? I think that part of it has to be written off to the players and their bitching. All of this constant bit about the Adventure series being untrue to its roots was thrown at Sonic Team ad-nauseum. I have long made the case that Sonic Adventure was in fact far more similar to the Genesis series than Super Mario 64 was to Super Mario Bros, and despite not being a better game, and despite criticism from Nate, I rest my case. If quality is the only thing considered when determining how true a game is to its roots, then logically, you could conclude that Super Mario 64 is an excellent 3-D adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog.
First for all, the view that the Adventure series wasn't "fast" enough is 90% crap. The 10% that is valid is the Big levels, but that was taken out in the second title. With regard to the bitching about Amy's levels, and the shooting stages, it is groundless. Nobody is getting mad at players for liking the speedy gameplay better; indeed, I myself share that opinion. However, that these slower stages somehow betrayed the series roots on the Genesis is not opinion; that is pure folly. If you think that Amy's stage where she had to find and activate switces to proceed was unfaithful, go and replay Labyrinth Zone right now, and you'll see that this sort of thing was present in the first-ever Sonic game. If you think that Sand Ocean's use of patiently waiting to jump between moving platforms was unfaithful, replay Marble Zone or Chemical Plant Zone. I could go on and on. The point is that the old games were about far more than senseless speed and had plenty of slow levels; hence, the only way the slow levels on the Dreamcast could be MORE faithful, would be to have them be played by reduntantly-fast characters.
Certainly, the Adventure series was not a completely-flawless recreation of older games, but now that I can also compare it to what came next, I hold that it's still by-far the closest we've ever come, particularly SA2. Simply-put, SA2's levels understood what the Genesis level-designers did, and the ones for Heroes didn't: variety is needed. Heroes was created to pacify the speed-adicts, thus, its levels involved little MORE than speed, and what more they did involve, the clunky combat rounds, was repeated endlessly. By contrast, SA2 divided multiple gimmicks throughout the game in such a way that each level had its unique feel, which is more in line with the Genesis games, which, again, were not all about speed. One would be about running, the next about grinding, another about switches, etc. That's what Sonic games SHOULD be, and what they've yet to be again.
Then, there were those simpleton phillistine imbecile boobs who went and criticized the aspects of the game that had nothing to do with gameplay, like the plot, the atmosphere, the characters, etc. Somehow they let their rose-tinted memories of the Genesis games convince them that they were better precisely BECAUSE they didn't have plots, extra characters, and large worlds to explore. Again, not only is that not the reason the Genesis games were better, but it also isn't even TRUE. The Genesis games indeed had plots; the reason there weren't cut-scenes on the level of the later games is limits in technologies, and they still had cutscenes of a sort. They also added at least one new character with every game after the first, and often more. As to the plot of the Adventure games, it far from overcomplicated a thing; it merely explained and elaborated a lot of what had already been established on the Genesis, like the fact that Tails idolized Sonic and that Knux was the remnant of a Maya-like civilization. As to the notion of checkered landscapes, rather than Earth-like environments, being a vital part of the old games, sorry but those were a small MINORITY of zones, same with levels possessing loops and being based around speed.
Despite these sentiments being rash myths, however, somehow, the whiners kept at them enough to convince Sonic Team otherwise. Essentially, the message that was sent to SEGA, from bitching about games as deep and ambitious as the Adventure games, was that MORE is LESS, and LESS is MORE. SEGA was convinced that the Genesis games' success lay in their being more minimalistic, shallower, and with less frills (and again, that's hardly even TRUE of the Genesis games, but they were fooled), and we got Heroes and the Advance series based around the less is more concept. Though glaring failures at recapturing the feel of the Genesis series, arguably being even further from it than the Adventure series was, the media had, by this time, been polluted by the mythical memories of the Genesis as well, and so hailed games as a return to form when they were little more than hotwheels tracks paying cosmetic lip-service to the Genesis era.
Afterwards, as Adventure fans came out of the woodwork and launched their own bitchfest, the pendulum did swing the other way with Shadow and PS360, and now with the two new Wii games as well, but the damage had been done from Sonic Team being overrated for their new work ethic introduced with Heroes; that is, games shouldn't be deep and ambitious; they should be spun around gimmicks everyone thinks is cool. So that's what Adventure fans got. Just as Heroes and Advance were shallow games with cosmetic gimmicks to fool people into thinking they were similar to the Genesis games (unfortunately, with some success), Shadow and PS360 were games that used a few cosmetic elements from the Adventure series to fool fans into thinking they were a return to THAT kind of game. Though decidedly-different approaches from the Heroes brand of game design, it suffered from the same flaw: Regardless of what players ask for, Sonic Team threw BONES at players, but little MEAT any more, because they had, from the slamming the Adventure series recieved and the praise Heroes and Advance got, become convinced that Meat is BAD, and that it is better to make simple games based around narrowly-defined concepts.
So the vicious cycle to hell continues. Sometimes we'll get a game that attempts to elicit memories of the Genesis titles, and sometimes one that claims to be in the vein of the Adventure series, but we are not likely to get one as good as either game ever again; rather, the quality of Sonic games will probably only CONTINUE to deteriorate, and I set forth the bold claim that what started this ball rolling was the bitchfest Sonic Team recieved for games that they truly put a lot of elbow-grease into. Back then, they adherred to Einstein's doctrine that success was more perspiration than inspiration; when they got slammed for it, Sonic Team began believing that the opposite was true; having been convinced by simpletons that there existed a magic pill of game-design, that would spare a developer from doing a lot of work. They're dead-wrong, but they just don't realize it. Every time Sonic Team fails at making a good game, instead of coming to the conclusion that you can't make a game just by basing it around an idea and then skimping on that idea's excecution, they assume that they simply used the WRONG idea, and so they spend a good portion of game development reinventing the wheel each time, negating any chance of ever improving upon themselves, and often setting themselves up for new failures. Despite all this, the back-to-roots myth continues, and as Sonic Team tries to chase this wild-goose to death, so does the plummet in quality.