Sonic games, in the past few years, have been universally acknowledged as not good. They’re notorious for ridiculously confusing plotlines, poorly-rendered, buggy cutscenes, and dialogue so corny it would make an after-school special shudder. It’s a wonder how the legacy of a little blue dude who runs speedily has managed to stay intact this long.
But sometimes you gotta dig in to the cringe to pull out anything of quality. Like a chaos emerald in the rough, a project emerged that would breathe some much-needed life into a franchise dying from lack of self-awareness.
Penny Parker, a voice actress and video producer, is known for her gaming YouTube channel SnapCube, dedicated to Let’s Plays and general uplifting gaming content. But a recent series of hers has been gaining wider popularity for its combination of stellar improv comedy and lovingly dunking on the worst that the Sonic franchise has to offer.
The series, titled Real-Time Fandub Games, is essentially the Mystery Science Theater 3000 of the gaming community. The episodes consist of a group of voice actors dubbing over cutscenes from various video games — one take, no script, zero rehearsal. The most recent, and most popular take, happens to be for the epic failure of a game, Sonic the Hedgehog (most often known as Sonic ’06).
The show is actually a spin-off of a co-created production with Charley Marlowe, aka PopeLickVA. Originally titled Real-Time Fandub, it started with voice actors dubbing Gravity Falls episodes on a livestream to celebrate the show’s anniversary. It covered various movies and TV shows, before Parker pitched her own video game-themed spin-off, and decided to test the idea with another Sonic flop, Sonic Adventure 2.
“Sonic games are notorious for being, in a lot of cases, pretty ridiculous,” Parker told Mashable. “I’m a big Sonic fan, but it’d be very ignorant for me to deny that a game like Sonic ’06 is an absolute disaster to watch and supports our style of humor quite well. There’s definitely a very unique energy to the character dynamics and setpieces that make Sonic games really special to dub!”
How hilarious you’ll think the whole dub will be is directly proportional to how personal you take jabs at the “gamer community.”
The most recent dub Sonic ’06 dub really does show off the best the series has to offer. As a viewer going in, you’re not required to know the plot of the game (if it has any plot at all, let’s be real) to enjoy the nonsensical running jokes and gags. It’s arguably even funnier if you don’t know anything about the Sonic the Hedgehog game series, as clearly even the game devs themselves didn’t. The most quotable moments need little to no context, and as with most improv comedy, there’s rarely any context anyways.
This bit turns the whole mini-movie into a ton of in-jokes about gamers. How hilarious you’ll think the whole dub will be is directly proportional to how personal you take jabs at the “gamer community.”
Eggman’s plan loosely involves becoming Todd Howard and turning all the “epic gamers” (Sonic and the gang) into “Minecraft PS4s.” Or put them in Fortnite. There’s a subplot about how Sonic’s rapping and “fire” mixtape will destroy the world. Shadow marries Sonic, but only because Shadow thinks Sonic is Mephiles. Then Mephiles dumps him when Omega the robot shows up and professes his love for Shadow. It turns very quickly into a host of jabs at Fortnite. The chaos emeralds are now “gamer gems.” The plot gets a little hazy.
But supposed plot continuity matters less when the jokes, and more so their delivery, are just so damn funny.
“People often remark that some of their favorite moments are when cast members audibly react out of character to something on screen that they didn’t know was going to happen (such as when one actor, Alfred broke character to comment “This game is awful”), and not many things are quite as good at doing that as Sonic the Hedgehog games are.” But Parker also added that a lot of intention and structure goes in to the dubbing style, and the legitimate rules of improv are at the core of their success.
According to Parker, the dubs are made with all the actors gathering in a group chat/call room on Discord with the footage cut and prepared in advance. Everyone records their audio remotely, with Parker currently doing all the post-production work (audio editing, visual gags, music, etc) herself, as well as providing her incredible voice talent for the OG, Sonic. It’s an incredible feat, but she says the fan reaction has made it all worthwhile.
“One thing I’ve noticed that actually has warmed my heart is that die-hard Sonic fans, for the most part, are responding really enthusiastically to the Sonic dubs, and that’s not a coincidence. We’ve approached these dubs as passion projects first and foremost. Yeah we poke fun at some of the sillier aspects, but nowadays a good amount of fans are pretty turned off by the mean-spirited and cynical nature of a lot of Sonic-centric comedy.”
Parker says she likes to think that the series brings something different to the table by not implying that liking the Sonicgame series is inherently cringe-worthy or ignorant.
That heartfor the source material is what sets Real-Time Fandub Games apart from other gaming comedy channels and parodies. Because nobody knows how to roast a piece of media like the people who adore it the most.