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Before the now-pulled mobile game Sonic Runners was officially released, somebody hacked it and revealed that Tikal would be a playable character. Sonic fans were absolutely ecstatic to hear the news and immediately took to YouTube to upload videos with her leaked artwork and gameplay.
Aside from being the series' very first guide in Sonic Adventure (her role also got carried over to the Tiny Chao Garden on the Gameboy Advance for a mini game), the only time she was ever made playable was in Adventure 2: Battle's multiplayer. Since then, she got relegated to easter egg status in nearly every single Sonic-related title until Runners. Thus, this must've been a pleasant surprise for longtime fans of the series, as a good portion of them were rather fond of her — myself included — when she made her debut in Adventure.
Unfortunately, because Sega shut down Runner's servers, we no longer have the opportunity to play as the lovely oracle. What does this mean for her relevance in future games?
For nearly a decade, people have been on forums debating whether Tikal should make a proper return to the series. Sure, she's made appearances in the comics and Sonic X, but those are completely separate universes from the actual games. Here, we're talking about the core, main-console games — though we can even throw spinoffs in the mix — and if she could make a contribution plot-wise or as an extra feature.
I've wanted to say my piece on the matter for quite some time now regardless of its significance at this point, because I also want to simultaneously discuss the inclusion of many Sonic characters in general, as well.
The fandom seems more or less mixed on the idea of bringing Tikal back, and as much as I adore the character, I'm afraid I'll have to side with the people who are against it — with some exceptions. But I'll get there.
For starters, the people who are for it need to understand that the current Sonic Team is mostly comprised of members who weren't around during the Dreamcast era, a time that Tikal was very much a product of. Tikal was created as a context-specific character, as Adventure is essentially her story interwoven through the lives and goals of several characters. The franchise has also gone past the point of introducing, using, and re-using characters in their games that new and younger developers likely wouldn't understand her story or know what to do with her.
Aside from crossovers, Sonic Boom and whatnot, the main Sonic games in recent years have done away with incorporating a whole plethora of characters, except for Sonic Generations, although in that game it worked because it involved revisiting the previous titles in a way. Your major lineup includes Sonic, Tails, Dr. Robotnik, and whatever one-and-done type baddies and allies — and that's pretty much it.
Tikal, too, was a character with a specific purpose, and the problem with bringing her back as the chief component of a story is that none of the games Sonic Team releases now have anything to do with her. Chaos — both the initial protector of the Master Emerald and the little creatures — the M.E. itself, and Knuckles' backstory have all been practically written out of Sonic's continuity at this point. Even Knuckles' role has been sadly downgraded to nothing more than the comic relief whenever he makes an appearance.
On top of all that, Sonic's timeline is nonexistent. So many ideas have been thrown around in every single game, with nearly each one being a self-contained story in some out-there scenario that bears no apparent relevance to the last.
But surely she could just be a guide like in Adventure, you might say. I'd love nothing more, but again, because she was conceived for a particular circumstance, she'd need a reason related to it in order to play the part in place of any other guide that could readily fit the context of the game in question.
There are only two ways her return would make sense — and no, before you ask, I'm not going to suggest remaking Adventure. Rather, if Sonic Team really wanted to bring her back, they'd have to dedicate a game to Knuckles and his backstory either during or after the events of Adventure, which would also mean reaching back for his characterization in that game given how drastically he's changed (more like botched up...). There would have to be some level of maturity put into that game, meaning it would basically be a game for older Sonic fans. Let's face it, hardly any younger Sonic fan will remember or even know what Knuckles was supposed to be like and what his whole deal was — which is not something Sonic Team will do as they aim to make games for both demographics.
But anyway, they could only accomplish this by addressing what exactly happened to Tikal and Chaos after the events of Adventure. There has been speculation on whether they remained bound to the M.E. or ascended to the other world. I would say the former, but then the sequel doesn't seem to support that theory as they don't appear when Knuckles breaks the M.E.
Again, the new team probably haven't the slightest idea as to what sort of vision the developers had intended for them, and really, who's going to reach that far back now? There's no sense of continuity in these games, anyway. Even if this is technically a plausible way to make Tikal's comeback a thing, there doesn't seem to be an incentive for it. I also don't really see Knuckles getting his own game anytime soon, if at all...
The other way to go about it, which is honestly the safest way to go, is to make her playable in some spin-off games (fighting, sports, party, you name it) and/or multiplayer again as pure fan service. Now that is something I can get behind 100 percent. This also applies to all the other characters Sega threw at us over the years. Unless they can come up with a narrative like Sonic Generations that justifies including all these characters, I really don't see a reason to unnecessarily shoehorn characters in these games, only to have what initially made them great and unique severely butchered. It's better to have a clear and simple focus that can allow for Sonic's world to be fleshed out, than to overwhelm it with half-baked fodder.
But that's just my opinion! What's yours? Can you think of a way to bring Tikal back?