Sonic Month: Day 31

31 October, 2011 - 12:01 am by

Sonic the Hedgehog is not just a mascot of a company. To myself and many others he is a symbol. Personally speaking he represents childhood, adventure and memories of a happy, carefree upbringing. To others he maybe a cocky hedgehog who only participates in bad 3D games. But weather its one extreme or another Sonic will always hold a special place in this gamer’s heart. Since 1991, when I was only knee-high to a grasshopper my family and I have been enjoying SEGA’s cool, blue hedgehog with attitude.

That’s 20 years. 20 years of fun. It is safe to say that Sonic is an institution in the video game world and an icon as recognisable as Mario or Link. In this article I will look at why this is, what makes Sonic tick and why people love him so much. So as with any good story, sit down, relax and let me start at the beginning.

In 1991, SEGA was a company in trouble. It was fighting the console wars on not one but two fronts. The 8-bit era was drawing to a close and the 16-bit was just starting. Their problem – Nintendo. They had a fat Itallian plumber and a guy in green wearing tights. SEGA had… well Alex Kidd and Shinobi. That’s about it. It was losing ground and needed something to rescue it quick. Tasking a small team of developers called then AM-8, SEGA wanted a mascot to rival Mario, and the result was Sonic. They set about developing the game around this newly conceived hedgehog, and once released AM-8 became Sonic Team.

The time, effort, and dedication paid off because in 1991’s holiday season the Mega Drive outstripped the SNES by a factor of 2:1! The following year SEGA had succeeded in overtaking Nintendo and lead the console war – the first time since 1985. I was one of those in the 2:1, after Father Christmas shunned the Super Nintendo Entertainment System for a more sort after – cooler console, the SEGA Mega Drive. My family always loved Sonic from the word go. There was just an air of magic around him.

The game may have been run from left to right, but the charm and artistic design of the levels made me play it over and over again. The same with my Mother and Sister. We all got into it, and the evidence is clear – during the Mega Drive era we owned Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & the awesome add-on, Sonic & Knuckles and not forgetting Flickies’ Island. We also has Sonic 1, 2 & Chaos for the Master System, we went nuts for Sonic, and SEGA.

Then, as we grew up a strange thing happened, Sonic just faded. Not completely, but enough to realise the good old happy days of the Mega Drive was ending. As Sonic wasn’t a prime focus with the Saturn, with a re-release of Flickies’ Island and Knuckles Choatix, fans became disinterested and we as a unit moved back to Nintendo with its groundbreaking N64 console. It was a shame, if SEGA kept the momentum going, who knows where Sonic could have taken them.

A resurgence for the hedgehog happened in the year 1998, SEGA’s announcement of their 128 bit console – the Dreamcast. A swirly logo, funny looking controller and Sonic’s first full 3D Adventure entitled Sonic Adventure proved, like Mario, he can evolve to the land of three dimensions. My interest was sparked but after playing a buggy, temperamental game that infuriates me even to this day I had given up. And so did the rest of the gaming world. The Dreamcast only lasted just over 2 years and it ended SEGA’s career in consoles.

As an early teen, I dedicated my life to Nintendo consoles. My GameBoy never let me down and Pokémon was the new cool thing to have. Focusing on the up and coming GameBoy Advance and GameCube combo to see us through the next console war. My heart was saddened to hear that Dreamcast was pulled and Sonic was no-more. But toward the end of 2001 the best news ever was announced. Something no SEGA or Nintendo fan would have predicted. Sonic was on his way to the GameBoy… In 2D! But this was not a remake of Sonic The Hedgehog (although that would later make an appearance on the Nintendo DS), it was a brand spanking new game, Sonic Advance. It was a return to form that rekindled my love for the game. All that nostalgia of 10 years ago came flooding back. I remember buying this game on release day and having a time trail on the first level to see who could do it fastest. We got our times to around the 9 second mark.

From then onwards I swore to never leave Sonic’s side. Although it has tested me to breaking point these last 10 years. I bought Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for the GameCube and almost threw it away because of the idiotic Rouge the Bat levels and the high pitched Amy Rose voice. But the Sonic/Shadow levels were worth saving. Joy was a plenty when the Sonic Mega Collection made it’s way onto the Cube with all the “& Knuckles” extras in tact. Sonic Rush for the Nintendo DS was a great game too bringing the classic Sonic feeling back to my hands.

However, 2006 had brought problems with Sonic once again as SEGA tried to push the 3D games back down our throats. Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Nintendo Wii was an improvement on previous titles and looked great. Controls and always stopping and starting made this a average game. The Xbox 360 was celebrating the 15th year of Sonic with Sonic The Hedgehog (2006). This was more of a loading screen than game and was super hard from the get go. Then there was Sonic And The Black Knight a game I will not comment on. Ever.

From Sonic Unleashed, brought a glimmer of hope. Taking out the werehog levels – the game wasn’t actually bad. SEGA seemed to have the 3D levels down and what they created was a fast, slick running game. While they were on a hot streak and taking feedback from fans and critics alike they set about creating something special and in October 2010 we got something we were never expecting: Sonic 4 Episode 1! Sonic 4 was a follow up and direct sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles. It was a 2D old school game with up-to-date High Definition graphics had the feel of the Mega Drive games.

A truly amazing game – if a tad short in length but with it being labelled episode 1, we have more to look forward too. Episode 2 is underway and should surface in 2012/13. Following on from Sonic 4, SEGA gave us Sonic Colours for the Nintendo Wii and DS, again a superb 3D game and proving once again that Sonic is back, and although he is late to the party is really stepping up to give other games a run for their money.

So after 20 years of the blue hedgehog it’s fair to say that we’ve had some good, bad and fantastic times but Sonic is like a brother, I will still stand by him no matter what he does. Although he has been in many spin off games and the 3D titles never really nailed perfection (although Sonic Colours came mighty close), it’s more the idea that the next Sonic game will be great that keeps the faith for me.

The release of Sonic Generations shows that SEGA is trying to appeal to older fans like myself and incorporate new comers to the series and say this is what Sonic was like and this is him now. With future projects such as Sonic 4 Episode 2 means that is once again an exciting time for Sonic the Hedgehog and his fans.

Happy Birthday Sonic, and thank you SEGA.