You may have seen Next Generation's editorial regarding the fall of mascot-driven video gaming in which the author, Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh, holds up Sonic the Hedgehog has an example of gaming mascots gone wrong. Essentially, the argument is that Sonic was created as a metaphor for the Sega of the early 1990s: fast, friendly, and blue. Then Sega imploded from within and suddenly the focus behind the hedgehog changed, making him a metaphor for nothing in particular. I was all set to explain just how Sonic has strayed from his roots into a bad place when I found that someone from Slashdot by the name of "27,000" had already said it for me as a part of the discussion of Sega's poor management decisions.
Since Knuckles' Chaotix, when they started loading in additional characters, piling on fluff at the expense of gameplay, the franchise has been struggling. Sonic Adventure 1 and later continued that theme while adding DESU SUGOI KAWAII SUPER RADICAL AMERICAN ATTITUDE ^___________^ without realizing that in America, the fad had thankfully disappeared in the mid 90's. It's grown more popular in Japan, at the cost of losing North America and European audiences. Now, even as Sega's only household franchise, Sega's made no efforts to save it. A run of OMG ATTITUDE games with poor controls and poor quality, Battle, Heroes, Shadow, has pretty much eclipsed what fond memories American gamers had for the series.
It's true. After the amazing greatness that was Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, Sonic changed. Sega began sticking him in all kinds of games he wasn't suited for, such as the slow-by-design Sonic Labyrinth and the !eXtreme! Sonic Riders. It's as if the management didn't understand the character or really know what to do with him. Slapping some sunglasses and a radical attitude on him didn't help matters either. Sonic doesn't need a reinvention to something new, he needs a reversion back to what originally made him great: speed, action, and a limited supporting cast. The series still brings in money, yes, but where's the prestige and creative warmth? Game mascots such as Sonic that get an "upgrade" to the current pop culture fad of the moment risk becoming creatively bankrupt with (pardon the pun) super-speed.