I first knew him in 1991. By way of the mighty power of television commercials, magazine articles and a Toys R Us display, a blue blur named Sonic The Hedgehog caught by eye.
Sonic was the brainchild of the big cheeses at Sega, who were looking to establish a signature mascot that could compete with a certain plumber from Nintendo. After the people at Sega went over several possible characters, including a dog, a rabbit, and an armadillo, Sonic won the job.
Over the past couple of months, there has been a lot of talk for the all new game, Sonic Generations. This, combined with seeing the new Sonic balloon on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this past year, inspired me to bring my thoughts here. So, here we go, my memories of this high speed hedgehog, and his perpetual fight against Dr. Ivo Robotnik.
Just about every Toys R Us had game displays similar to this. I had heard people in passing mention Sonic, and also saw TV spots as I mentioned above. But it was ultimately thanks to a display such as this, that I was finally able to give the original Sonic The Hedgehog a try.
I was instantly dazzled. Having grown up over the years prior with the NES, I was blown away by how sharp the graphics were, the different music for each level, and of course how FAST the game was. At the time, it had to be the most ultra-responsive game control I had ever seen. Alas, it was only a display with a line forming of other kids who wanted to give it a whirl, so my time playing it early was limited. Later, a neighbor friend got a Genesis for Christmas, and so I made it a point to drop by as often as I could to continue learning this newfangled device and game. This blue blur had made an instant impression on me, and I hoped he would have a successful video game life.
Sometime later, news broke that a sequel was on the way! Sure enough, in 1992, there it was...
Could it get better than the original, the one that dazzled me so much? I thought so. I remember that I first tried this game at a Kay Bee toy store. I found the graphics to be much sharper, and the gameplay a lot faster than it's predecessor. Heck, I even caught that Sonic himself looked different that he did in the original. Perhaps to make him look a little older, more mature maybe?
With the addition of Tails, my imagination went into overdrive. My young mind pondered what Sonic and his new friend they could be talking about during this adventure, and also what kind of smack talk Sonic might be throwing out when facing off against Robotnik. I think imagination was a major key during this gaming era, something kids today are severely lacking in games.
It was sometime after this, I forget exactly when, but it was right in the middle of the Genesis heyday, that I finally got a console of my own! Sonic 2 was packaged with it, so it actually ended up being the first game in the Sonic series that I beat. Although, I thought having to face the Death Egg battle suit with NO MAGIC RINGS was pretty cruel at the time.
I remember when as Sonic, I dealt the final blow to the suit, it collapsed and the facility began to explode. I screamed out "I BEAT THE DEATH EGG!!!!" My parents came running in, and actually congratulated me on this accomplishment. I felt very proud.
Then lo and behold, the adventure continued.
With Sonic 3, once again I gave it my first try at the old reliable Toys R Us display. I remember really being intrigued when I found out that this game, was going to continue the Death Egg story!
The first thing I noticed was Sonic again, looked different than the previous game! This time, I was convinced he was aging. My second thought was "Who's the red guy?" The red guy of course, meant this guy:
How odd that Robotnik would have a new ally that isn't a bot. Knuckles the Echidna soon became a fan favorite. That Christmas, I got the game for my very own. I liked it, but felt the game was a little too short. Yeah, the original game had only six levels, but each one had three acts, so it seemed longer. Just a minor gripe from the time, but largely I enjoyed the game. We soon found out that Sega wasn't done yet!
This is probably my favorite game of the whole legacy. Some people around me at the time, unofficially called this game "Sonic 4". I recall a pretty eager anticipation for Sonic & Knuckles, not only because of it being the next game, but for the "lock on technology" that it would feature.
Sonic & Knuckles is great as a stand alone game, as it concludes the Death Egg saga..and it wasn't until this game that I caught on Robotnik's ship looks very similar to the Death Star...
...but when I plugged Sonic 3 into the top, the possibilities seemed endless. In doing so, you can track down the seven Super Emeralds, in addition to the seven Chaos, and become Super Sonic, Hyper Knuckles..and even Super Tails! Chasing down the master emerald proved to be quite a challenge, but it brought me a satisfying end.
Plugging in the Sonic 2 cart, thus playing as Knuckles in the Sonic 2 levels was quite a treat too. After that, I really didn't know where they would go. With the three dimensional age soon to make itself known, Sega got a jump on things with the release of Sonic 3D Blast.
Even then, I wasn't really impressed with the game. I found the controls to be a little harder, and Sonic's attack position during boss fights more difficult to gauge. It was alright, but I started thinking we might be seeing the end of the blue blur with the next gaming age upon us.
Now, even to this day I have never played Sonic CD. I'm often still shocked at realizing this. I never had the Sega CD, and never had a Gamecube to play it on the Sonic Gems collection. It's on my to-do list, so it will happen someday. As for the Game Gear carts, I never had it either, but I recall occasionally playing the Sonic 2 release at a friend's place. I liked it ok, but never got to play it much. I assume this was largely because the Game Gear was such a battery-eater. I have played some of Sonic Chaos on the Sonic Mega Collection for PlayStation 2, but some of the others like Triple Trouble, I've never played at all.
Sonic definitely got an image overhaul with 1999's Sonic Adventure, released on Dreamcast.
The Dreamcast's life was short of course, but Sonic's games on it were well done and quite fun to play.
Other memories include Sonic comics, published by Archie Comics beginning in 1993. The series still runs today, and has actually set a Guinness World Record for longest running comic book series based on a video game.
I read and subscribed to the comics for the greater part of the 90's, reading so many of the ongoing stories. The early issues were largely comedy based, but as they went on, the stories got more serious. Many issues paid tribute to some of the specific games, such as #13 was where they met Knuckles for the first time, but most of the game inspired issues were released as 48-page specials.
These were the likes of Triple Trouble, Sonic Blast, and so on. Even the Death Egg adventure from the games were written as a three part series titled Sonic Quest.
Hey, that looks familiar...
There was even a time when the unthinkable occurred. Issue #39 saw the capture, and roboticization of Sonic!
This comic ended on a cliffhanger, and carried over to another 48-page special called Mecha Madness, with the final part of this story in issue #40.
In the early times of Sonic comics, there was a lot of hope and talk among readers that the blue blur would find his way to the small screen as an animated series. In September of 1993, he did just that the ABC series, simply titled Sonic The Hedgehog.
I loved this show. I remember seeing the issue where the editors confirmed that the show would be airing in the fall. I was instantly impressed. The characters, design and overall tone of the show were taken mostly from the comics, although some of the elements from the games were brought in at times. I recall readers telling the comics that they were pleased with the show, and stayed with it as it ran for two seasons on ABC. The second season ended on a cliffhanger, and I remember being quite pumped for more to come in year three. Unfortunately, it would never happen. Despite the producers' plans for continuing the show, ABC canned Sonic for whatever reason. I've heard everything to the network being unable to find a decent time slot, to fierce viewer wars with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I have also heard, that with the cancelling of the show, Archie Comics saw a tremendous gain readers who didn't want the the Sonic comics to end as well.
There was also another Sonic cartoon series going on at the same time, called Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog. This series ran weekdays on the USA network, focused solely on Sonic and Tails, and was infinitely more comedic than the ABC cartoon.
I admit it is kind of neat they applied the original game theme music into this show, but I never liked this show. Maybe I was just a purist, believing the original show on ABC was the "real" Sonic cartoon. I preferred a more serious show with deep adventures, as opposed to a show with Robotnik being an idiot, and Sonic being a hyperactive, master of disguise. With two shows featuring the same character being on at the same time, it was bound to create a lot of confusion, especially among parents. It didn't help things that Jaleel White (Family Matters) voiced Sonic on both shows. Thus, fans came to call the ABC version "Sonic SatAM"...obviously because it ran Saturday mornings...to help others tell the difference.
The USA show had more episodes than the ABC, but that doesn't seem to help it's memory. The SatAM show however, still maintains a cult following. In recent years, there have been animated series called Sonic Underground, and Sonic X, but I have yet to check them out.
Sonic remains a favorite character of mine, though I like many believe he has jumped the shark with the pairing up of Mario, and also with the release of games that began to get away from what made him great to start with. However, Sonic Generations has reborn hope that maybe he has some greater days ahead, and will get back to his original adventure style. I certainly hope so.
Even today, I still enjoy setting up the old Sega Genesis at times, playing the old games, remembering this blue rodent that made my glory days of video games so special. So now I think I'll whip up some chili dogs, and revisit said games for the millionth time.