Nightwatcher's Patrol #8
Sonic The Hedgehog - The Blue Blur Hits 20!
Surprise! Welcome retrojunkers to my Sonic The Hedgehog 20th Anniversary bash! It's almost hard to believe that Sonic has been kicking robot butt for that long already, but it's true. It all started back in 1991 with the original title Sonic The Hedgehog, but we'll get to that in just a few moments. First I would like to introduce our little blue buddy and his friends (and enemies) for those who are not to familiar with the series yet.
Maurice "Sonic" The Hedgehog
Age - 15
He's the fastest thing on two feet and the main hero of Mobius (the series' home planet). He loves to scramble (pun intended) Dr. Eggman's plans as he usually thinks of it as a party. Sonic also enjoys running across the glob at the speed of sound (hence his name) and scarfing chili dogs. There are only two things he hates: seeing his little animal friends suffer inside of Eggman's robots and, of course, standing still. "Time to crack that Eggman wide open! Yeah, let's party"!
Miles "Tails" Prower
Age - 8
Tails is Sonic's best buddy and sort of a cute kid brother to him. He is also a seasoned inventor and mechanic who's intelligence could rival even that of Eggman! Tails' prized vehicle is his plane, the "Tornado", which can fly almost as fast as Sonic can run. Tails uses his name sake, his uniqe twin tails, as a propellar to both fly and push himself along while on foot. The other kids used to make fun of him because of his above features, until those same features came in handy when helping Sonic. No more mock and ridicule here.
Knuckles The Echidna
Age - 16
Charged with guarding the Master Emerald and the Floating Island (currently known as Angel Island), Knuckles is, for the most part, a loner. He usually travels alone, likes to go on treasure hunts (esspecially when the treasure in question is a Chaos Emerald, more on those later), and only calls on Sonic and company if he really needs to. As an Echidna, Knuckles is very noble and would never attack anyone who he would think of as a friend, although he has been known to rumble with Sonic sometimes. Knuckles uses his big, spiked fists to smash through weekened barriers and enemy robots and to climb walls. He can also spread his dreadlock-like quills like wings to glide. His favorite food is fruit, esspecially grapes (they're also one of mine).
Amy Rose (aka Rosey The Rascal)
Age - 12
Amy is head over heels in love with Sonic (annoyingly so) and likes to think of herself as his girlfriend...even though she's not. She is usually very cute and sweet, but don't get on her bad side or you will find yourself at the receiving end of her Piko-Piko hammer (a nasty blow indeed). Besides making eyes at Sonic, Amy also loves soft serve ice cream (Mmmm, soft serve). Amy has also had the most physical changes out of all the characters.
Age - N/A (Robots don't age, they rust)
"Metal" was built to be Sonic's dark, nickel plated twin complete with most of Sonic's moves and abilities programmed in. As such, Metal now thinks that he is the one true Sonic and wishes to prove it to the world. Infact, he almost took over the world after aquiring his own advanced form, Neo Metal Sonic. After being defeated by Super Sonic (with help from Tails and Knuckles this time), Metal was reformatted by Dr. Eggman so that he will never disobey his master again. Despite this, Metal remains the most popular villain in the series (even more so than his boss!) and is widely reguarded as "Robotnik's coolest creation". He's definately my favorite Sonic villain. He's also the one character to have gone through the least changes, save for longer, more articulated fingers and an extended torso giving him a twistable waist. He's a robot. He's evil. He looks like Sonic. What's not to like? "There-can only be-ONE-Sonic"!
Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik
Age - Old as dirt
Dr. Eggman wants nothing more than to rule the world with an iron fist (so to speak) by building his so-called "Eggman Empire". His I.Q. is about 300 which is shown phisically in his oversized girth (for some reason his belly grew with intelligence instead of his head). He likes to use poor helpless little animals as power sources for his robots by sticking them inside. He also likes to use Mobius as his personal dumping ground. His only redeeming quality is that he is quite the gentleman. Eggman gets his name from the shape of his body and sounds like an evil version of Santa when he laughs "Wo, ho, ho, ho"! His prized vehicle is his trademark "Eggmobile" aka Eggomatic Hover Device or E.H.D. which doubles as his primary weapon of choice as he can fit it with all kinds of deadly gadgets like the iconic (and now legendary) wrecking ball.
Okay, now that we've met the main cast of characters let's take a look at the history of this land mark video game series.
It all started here...
For the second half of the 1980's Nintendo ruled the home video game market with their original flagship system the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) which was captained by a certain mushroom eating Italian plumber in red overalls.
However, someone was about to give them a run for their money. Believe it or not, Sega has actually been in buisiness since 1940, but it wasn't until 1983 that they would make their first foot step in home gaming with the SG (Sega Game) 1000. Sonic would make his initial debut on the Sega Master System which was first released in 1989. He wouldn't become popular though, until the release of the Sega Genisis/Mega Drive in 1991.
Bursting with 16-bit power that greatly surpassed NES's current 8-bit engine and boasting an ever inreasing library of games which, unlike NES, included some titles that were actually some what mature, Sega had finally made it's big splash with Sonic leading the way (quite rapidly of course). Sonic was created by Yuji Naka and his group Sonic Team to be the new system's mascot although he wasn't always going to be a hedgehog. The original plan was to make him a rabbit who would collect the gold rings with his ears. Beleive it or not, Dr. Eggman was also in line to become the game's main hero. It would appear that the game's final conformity went like this: the rabbit was replaced with the hedgehog, the rings stayed and the doctor was turned into the villain. It was perfect, but not the end.
I remember when I got my first hands on with this game. It was at my friend's house (the same place where I got my first look at Fantasia, see Nightwatcher's Patrol #6), and I was hooked from the start. Brite and colorful graphics, collecting rings, smashing evil robots to free cute little animals and great music to boot. This was awsome! But there was more to come.
The first sequel was released in North America and Europe on Tuesday November 24th 1992 (aka "Sonic 2's Day, get it? Yuk, yuk!) I remember when I found out about it I was like - "Wait, they made another one?!?! YES, let me at it!!" I was not disapointed. Robotnik had created his very own Death Star rip off called the Death Egg and Sonic had to destroy it - with help from his new pal Tails this time. It had the same beautiful graphics, great game play and catchy music. It also had two things that the first one didn't: 3D special stages and Super Sonic. Not bad, now you had even more reason to collect the Chaos Emeralds.
It wasn't over yet. The final chapter to the story was so big that it had to be released in two parts! Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles made up the grand finale...and man was it epic!
When Sonic 3 came out I was stoked, not just to be playing another installment, but to be introduced to another new character. Knuckles The Echidna, guardean of the Floating Island, was duped into helping Robotnik fight Sonic and Tails. Luckily the two heroes eventually convinced Knuckles of Robotnik's lie and they finally joined forces to save the emeralds and the Floating Island. The two halves of the game could be played individually or together via the new "lock on technology" which allowed Sonic 3 to be attached to the top of Sonic And Knuckles to make one giant sized game. As an added treat Sonic 2 was also compatible so that players could use Knuckles in the levels of Sonic 2 to reach places that were otherwise inaccessable.
Sega also had a portable system called the Game Gear, you may remember it. Those of you who had one may also remember how it used up battery power so quickly. As it turnes out, this was because of the back light for the screen. It was so powerful that it would suck the juice out of six AA batteries in less than two hours and at four and a quarter by eight inches it wasn't exactly pocket sized, not to mention that you needed a magnifying glass to see the screen. But all faults aside it had some pretty good Sonic titles including it's own versions of Sonics 1 and 2 as well as original titles such as Sonic Chaos and Sonic Labyrinth. But my favorite, and I know alot of you will agree, had to be Sonic Triple Trouble. It acted as the Game Gear's version of Sonic 3 and introduced another new character: Nack The Weasel. Or was it Fang The Sniper? Hmmm... Anyway Nack was a wolf/weasel hybrid and a treasure hunter who had an eye for the Chaos Emeralds (a role that is currently filled by Rouge The Bat). This makes Triple Trouble the first and only game in the series (at least that I know of) to pit you against a mini boss in the special stages. Unfortunately Fang/Nack has gotten the least recognition of all the characters so far, but I think he's kind of cool.
Fang/Nack, the only Sonic villain with two names and almost no fan club.
The Laser Disk Revolution
God forbid I leave out this little beauty. In 1993 we were givin, not only the last two chapters of the Genisis series, but also Sonic's first dive into the laser disk format. With the release of Sega CD a new door was opened to us, one that allowed us to play video games in a new way, we were actually able to control movies. Sadly this system was short lived do to people dissing it's limited memory but I thought it was pretty awsome and it did leave us with a lasting gem. We Sonic fans were pumped to get our hands on Sonic CD which had the best picture, music and gameplay of the series so far. This was also the introduction of Amy Rose and Metal Sonic. It was right up my ally too because I love a good time travel story (I'm a huge Back to the Future buff). This title was unique too because, in a way, when you first start out Robotnik has already won and you must now undo his damage. By collecting the seven Time Stones (not Chaos Emeralds this time), and destroying the rotund one's robot generators in the past you could change the future from Robotnik's polluted distopia to a brightly shining utopia. I made my own burn of the soundtrack that I listen to on my PSP/MP3 player. This remains my favorite title in the series. Also, it should be noted that this, not Sonic Adventure, was the first time that Sonic, Amy and Robotnik's voices were heard. "Yes!"
The End of a Decade
After a long hatius Sonic finally returned to end the 1990's and the twentieth century with a bang. The Sega Dreamcast was another short lived system with very few gems, although Sonic once again hit the right chord. Sonic Adventure, released in Japan in 1998 and here in the States in 1999, saw our favorite hedgehog enter the fully modeled 3D world as he and the rest of the usual cast were sent to a new planet, ours. In his first foray on our little Earth, Sonic was forced into battle with a water based monstrosity called Chaos which turned out to be the living force behind the Chaos Emeralds. Every time Dr. Eggman (ie Robotnik) feeds the creature an emerald it gets bigger and stronger and Sonic and company have to find a way to stop them and save their new home, Station Square, from certain destruction. This was the first time that all the characters, including Amy, were playable in an adventure title as well as the first time we heard them talk in complete sentences. It could have done without new comers Big the Cat and Froggy though. This was also what spawned the animated series Sonic-X which began airing in the U.S. in 2003. I have the entire series on two disk DVD sets. Believe it or not we actually got a toned down version of the show. Would you believe the original Japanese version was edited for it's U.S. and European release for scenes of, not only violence, but also profanity and blood? I know, shocking isn't it?
The Rest of the Crap
So far the 00's haven't been entirely kind to Sonic. With Sonic Adventure 2 hitting store shelves in 2001 we were treated to, what was so far, the last really good title in the series. The Sonic Advance (GBA) and Sonic Rush (DS) series are pretty good but it would seem that the hand helds are getting the premium treatment while the major consoles are getting the short end of the stick. A Sega Saturn title called Sonic X-treme was intended for a Christmas 1996 release but was quietly canceled for unknown reasons and let's not forget the non Sonic Team title Sonic 3D Blast. The Sonic Story Book series on Wii is pretty good, esspecially Sonic and the Black Knight which is also right up my ally since I'm mostly English myself. Sonic Heroes (multi platform, 2007) was okay but still not the best. Sonic The Hedgehog (the new one, 2006) And Sonic Unleased (2008) were jokes and Shadow The Hedgehog (2005) was kind of cool but a little to confusing. As you can see these games were so bad that I don't even care that they are out of chronological order. And don't get me started on the Sonic Riders series. Thankfully, Sega and Sonic team have finally taken a step back into the right direction with the downloadable episodic title Sonic The Hedgehog 4 (2010) which picks up where Sonic and Knuckles left off and brings the blue blur back to his 16-bit roots and also Sonic Colors (2010) with it's side scrolling game play and Mario-like power up system. This brings us up to the present day and the latest installment:
Sonic Generations - 2011
Old meets new. Nice!
Hopefully this is a good sign of things to come, keep your fingers crossed.
Well, that's it for another of my installments. Once again, I hope it wasn't to preachy. If I left out your favorite title please let me know. Until next time this is Nightwatcher signing off. Gotta juice!
Way Past Cool!!