Speed back to the past with Sonic the Hedgehog!!

Happy New Year, J1 Fans!

Your old pal DevilDriver1313 (or D132) is back and ready to welcome you “On the NXT LVL!” It has been a while since I talked about the good old days of gaming and with older movie and game franchises being given new life, so shall our journey back to yesteryear. By now, we all are aware of the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Many of us are happy to see the Blue Blur finally get his time on the big screen. So, let’s take this look back into video game’s past while I tell you how Sonic came to be.

Way back in the days of hair bands and 99 red balloons, Sega needed a way to fight back against the mustachioed juggernaut known as Super Mario. Sega president Hayao Nakayama wanted a character as iconic as Mickey Mouse. At the time, Alex Kidd already held the position as Sega’s mascot, but Sega felt that he was too similar to Mario. A new mascot was needed, one that people would never forget. The in-house studio team ran through several ideas. Development emphasized speed, so Sega eliminated character designs not associated with fast animals, as well as fast creatures like kangaroos and squirrels. One idea, a rabbit able to grasp objects with prehensile ears, showed promise at first but was too complex for the available hardware. The team narrowed its search to animals that can roll into a ball, their idea for an attacking move. Designers then realized that this would not seem aggressive enough, so they focused on two animals with spikes: armadillos and hedgehogs. No doubt who the clear winner is. Naoto Oshima, who pitched the hedgehog idea, created Sonic by combining Felix the Cat with Mickey Mouse. The team originally wanted to name the character “Mr. Needlemouse” before choosing “Sonic” in order to represent the speed factor. Oshima is also responsible for the creation of several characters including Dr. Eggman. With part one done, it time for Sega to move onto part two: game development.

Created by Naoto Oshima, Sonic’s design is the result of Oshima combining Felix the Cat with Mickey Mouse.

During the development of Sonic the Hedgehog, the Sonic Team was faced with a few problems – namely emphasizing the game’s speed. Yuji Naka, who had worked on Phantasy Star, was brought in to help with the game. Tests were run using the Genesis’ tool library, and problems such as flickering, slow frame rates, and shaky animation soon became apparent. Increasing Sonic’s speed caused animation problems. Naka solved the problem by developing an algorithm that enabled the animation to retain fluidity. Sonic was able to cross levels quickly without the animation slowing down, and all that was left was the optimization of the game’s speed to adhere to the staff’s expectations. However, everyone had a different perception of speed. The result: Sonic’s speed was slowed down. Naka, Ohshima, and Yasuhara worked 19 hours a day on the project for several months. Due to the need to demonstrate the Genesis’ technological prowess, the game underwent extensive testing and redesign, which took over six months. According to Naka, the game had the fastest-ever character speed in a video game and a rotation effect in the special stages that had been considered impossible on the console. The bugs had been worked out. Now, time to make a game.

Green Hill zone is one of the most recognized stages in the Sonic game series.

Sonic the Hedgehog launched on the Sega Genesis in June 1991. Inspired by Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the game created to be the perfect rival for Nintendo’s mushroom chomping plumber. Sonic boasted faster gameplay and more challenging levels. The game was well received by critics who praised its visuals, gameplay and audio. Sega had created a hit title and it put them in competition with Nintendo’s Mario and the company’s Super Nintendo system. Sonic’s success has led to several follow up games in the series, clone titles, a successful franchise and adaptions into other media including two US animated series and a Japanese anime series. Sonic would grow in popularity, establishing himself as an icon alongside Mario. More characters would be created including Sonic’s sidekick Miles “Tails” Prower, friend and rival Knuckles the Echidna and Amy Rose, Sonic’s personal stalker.

Sonic the Hedgehog was adapted into two animated series. Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog was more comic oriented while Sonic the Hedgehog (title card pictured above) had a more serious tone.

Sonic the Hedgehog would establish himself in pop culture, inspiring a comic book series featuring him alongside his friends as they go on adventures. He would also appear in several animated series, three of which would become well known. The speedy hedgehog appeared in two American television series. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is a fast paced, gag-driven adventure series created by DiC animation and Bohbot Entertainment which ran during the fall of 1993 for 65 episodes. DiC also produced a second series “Sonic the Hedgehog” which had a more serious tone compared to its comedic counterpart. The series aired for two seasons from September 1993 to December 1994. The series was canceled after the second season leaving the show with a cliffhanger. Still, the fan following elevated the series to become a cult hit. Family Matters star Jaleel White voiced Sonic in both series. Sonic would appear in the Japanese anime series “Sonic X”, which follows Sonic, Tail, Knuckles and other characters from the game series who are accidently teleported to Earth after attempting to save one of their friends from Dr. Eggman. Produced by TMS Entertainment and directed by Hajime Kamegaki, Sonic X aired for 52 episodes on TV Tokyo from April 2003 to March 2004. A further 26 episodes aired in specific regions such as North America, Europe and the Middle East from 2005 to 2006. 4Kids Entertainment, known for airing Yu-Gi-Oh!, handled the American localization of the series. Saban Brands acquired the rights in 2012 before losing them to Discotek Media in 2015.

Gathering 50 rings or more makes a large gold ring appear at the end of a stage which Sonic can enter and retrieve a Chaos Emerald.

It has been nearly thirty years since Sega brought Sonic into the lives of gamers and so much has happened during that time. For starters, the rivalry with Nintendo ended after Sega left the console market in 2005 following the decline of the Dreamcast system, the last game console developed by the company. Sega shook hand with Nintendo and brought their iconic mascots together in several titles including the “Smash Bros” series and “Mario and Sonic” series. Like the hedgehog himself, Sonic’s popularity has not slowed down. Paramount Pictures announced a live action/CG hybrid movie in 2017. The film was slated for release in 2019 but was pushed back due to the severe backlash from its teaser trailer released in April 2019. Paramount removed the old trailer and replaced with a new one that pleased the fans and critics. With Sega’s Blue Blur finally making it to the bigtime in his own feature film, Sonic the Hedgehog most certainly has come a long way and will only continue to grow in the future. As for the original game, it has sold 15 million copies as of February 2009 and the mobile version had 8 million downloads in 2008. Sonic the Hedgehog has been established as one the greatest selling game of all time.

Sonic the Hedgehog 1991 commercial

Intro to all Sonic the Hedgehog animated series (Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground and Sonic X)

Welcome to the new year and until next time, I’ll see you “On the NXT LVL!!”