Sonic the Hedgehog: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know (And More)
Let’s go over all of the ups and downs of everything Sonic the Hedgehog, including the time he was kissed by human woman while he was dead.
The Blue Blur has had a chaotic history, pun intended. But despite his ups and many, many, many downs, myself and others still unrelentingly love this weird little Mr. Needlemouse. So, today we’re taking a deep dive into Sonic the Hedgehog; his history, his impact on media, and how he (with no hyperbole) changed the entire world.
Let’s Get Rolling
Before we get too deep into it, I think it’s important for me to establish myself as a subject matter expert. How do you know that I’m not some sort of faker? A fair question.
That wee lad is me at what I didn’t realize would be the beginning of my end. From an early age, I was very into Sonic the Hedgehog. I had the all the games, I watched both of the TV shows, and I collected the comics.
A lot of comics.
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Nowadays, I own every accessible Sonic game. I read the IDW comics, which are actually really good. I’ve seen all the shows. I cry evreytime during the finale of the 30th anniversary orchestral special. My roller derby nickname combines my two favorite things, Sonic and ska music.
I own the Sonic board game. And I dragged my now ex-girlfriend to the Paramount movie opening night on Valentine’s Day. I pretend the breakup was unrelated, but we all know the truth. And of course, I convinced the editors to let me write this piece.
So with that… Follow me.
Why Sonic the Hedgehog Exists
In case you’re not a pogchamp gamer like myself, you may not have heard of this little indie dev studio called Nintendo. Back in the 80’s they were pretty big, with a whopping 90% market share. Studios like Atari, Namco, Caleco, and others were competing to make better games. But Nintendo was too powerful.
Then everything changed when a slot machine company attacked. Sega decided to go after Nintendo in a different way. Nintendo was so recognizable because of a mustachioed plumber with mad ups that they named after their landlord. And so in 1990, Sega decided to create their own mascot to rival the Jumpman.
Naoto Ohshima submitted a spiky blue hedgehog who would eventually adapt the name Sonic. Mario had always been a wholesome, helpful guy. He’s kind and dependable, and would never make fun of your lack of athletic ability.
Sonic, on the other hand, was the culmination of everything that was totally radical about the early 90’s. He had attitude. He was impatient. He would taunt his enemies and he wasn’t afraid of breaking a few rules. Sonic was a counter-culture mascot that kids could easily cling to. But most important of all: he was fast.
Sonic’s gameplay was derived from Sonic’s lead programmer, Yuji Naka’s desire to get through Super Mario Bros. level 1-1 as quickly as possible. Adventure games in 1991 were mostly careful and methodical. In Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past or Super Mario World, you had to be careful in order to succeed.
But Sonic the Hedgehog was the F-Zero of platform games. There was no time for guessing. You just had to keep moving ahead. It was a complete and total departure from what platform games were at the time.
Sonic the Hedgehog Game Beginnings
Currently, there are officially about 100 Sonic the Hedgehog games. This includes the 2D games and 3D games, as well as compilations and spin(ball)-offs. There’s no way we can discuss them all. But, it’s worth taking a look at the overall journey from start to finish.
As we all know, Sonic started in 2 dimensions. He thrived there and flourished, jumping and smashing badniks to his heart’s content. But as technology improved and consoles starting making the move into the third dimension, things got a little dicey for Sonic, even from the very start.
However, in 1999 Sega released a game that would kick off a series of unfortunate games. It all began with Sonic Adventure. Sonic Adventure, even to this day, is a pretty divisive game. It has adamant fans and rabid haters.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion of it, it was a far step away from all the Sonic games that had come before it. It began a tradition of games that were filled with questionable mechanics, poor graphics, weird and confusing storylines, and bugs. Lots of bugs.
We’ve Got Ourselves a Situation
Even if you can get past the bugs, the game itself has lots of ups and downs. But the most notable departure from traditional Sonic was the addition of a deep story. Prior to Sonic Adventure, the story of any Sonic game had been no more than “Stop Robotnik”. Easy, simple, straightforward.
But Sonic Adventure‘s story is a 6-part interwoven multi-perspective tale of an ancient prophecy, time travel, portents of global destruction, an evaluation of sentience and understanding of oneself, and maddening frog fishing. It’s absolutely wild.
The following games don’t stray too far from this path. In fact, every Sonic game from this period is what some might call “bonkers”. There are plenty of examples of this, but consider this an amuse-bouche of Sonic games’ lore. Here are some notable spoilery examples:
- Sonic Adventure 2 (2001) – Sonic must clear a case of stolen identity by battling an artificially created ultimate life form with amnesia.
- Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) – An evil spirit from the future tricks a psychic from the future to travel back in time to kill Sonic and succeeds. But Sonic is resurrected by true love’s kiss, then he kills god.
- Sonic Unleashed (2008) – Eggman uses a giant space laser and the chaos emeralds to summon a planet-sized beast who tears the planet apart. Also somehow, Sonic turns into a werewolf.
- Sonic and the Black Knight (2009) – The daughter of Merlin summons Sonic to her realm to defeat a corrupted King Arthur. Sonic gains a talking sword friend.
- Sonic Lost World (2013) – Eggman brainwashes a group of aliens using a magic conch shell, who betray Eggman and turn Tails into a robot. Eggman falls into lava.
But even from his very start, Sonic would spindash from games into any other form of media that would have him.
Do You Know The Way?
Sega knew they had something big and they were going to boost Sonic into the limelight as much as they could. In 1993 Sonic the Hedgehog got not one, but two TV shows. They were airing at the same time and boy was that confusing for little ol’ me.
And That’s No Good
For two shows that drew from the same source material, they could not be more different. If you’ve never seen Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, I don’t even know how to describe it to you.
It’s an absolute fever dream of a TV show. It was entirely episodic and bizarre from beginning to end. Each episode was a self-contained story of slapstick and goofy shenanigans. But, to its credit, it did end every episode with an educational segment titled Sonic Says, which was the style at the time. It offered some actually useful insight and genuinely valuable lessons wrapped in highly-memeable content.
But even as a kid I was disappointed by the whole show. It was too weird. Too strange. If only there was some way they could control that chaos into something cooler…
Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM by fans) was and is way past cool. It was exciting, dramatic, dark, mysterious, and did the environmental message more subtly than some other of our heroes did. The show had 2 full seasons but ended on a cliffhanger that I would have loved to see play out. But we’ll loop back to the frustrating conclusion of that story in a little bit. Other, more recent shows like Sonic X and Sonic Boom took a slightly different approach.
However, both SatAM and its Ayahuasca-infused partner were both influences in the comic book series, which is full of its own twists and turns, in-universe and in real life.
The Sonic the Hedgehog comics were originally published by Archie Comics starting in 1993. The early issues were tonally much more in line with Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, but still had underlying lore that leaned more towards SatAM, even from the start.
Around issue 25 or so, there’s a pretty noticeable shift in tone. We started getting insight into the history of the world of Mobius. Some of the plot threads got, frankly, pretty dark and depressing. We learn the origins of Dr. Robotnik, see the creation of Metal Sonic, and follow tons of spin-off series about Knuckles, Tails, and even Sally.
Now, if you’re a casual Sonic fan, you might be wondering, “Sally? Who’s Sally?” Well…
We Don’t Talk About Penders
When discussing Sonic comics, the story of Ken Penders is a long, but unavoidable, story. He was an artist and writer for a lot of the Archie Sonic comics. He created a lot of characters that were integral to the Sonic canon.
But between 2009 and 2015, Ken started being a real dink. So, in an effort to scrub themselves of Penders for good, Archie Comics reset the entire Sonic canon, just to avoid having to deal with him or any characters he’d touched. So, that’s why Sally doesn’t exist anymore. She was the main love interest and easily the most important main character behind Sonic and Tails and just *POOF!* gone.
But, not to be ousted so easily, Penders kept up his effort to be a super big weirdo and make everyone super duper uncomfortable in the process.
In 2002, Penders was head writer for Sonic comics and was consulted on the idea of making a continuation of the SatAM TV show, either as a third season or a movie. But Penders decided to scrap that brain zone, and instead pitch his original movie idea, Sonic Armageddon.
I’m not here to poke fun at the quality of the animation of the pitch. For what it is, it’s fine. But the fact that Penders ruined a potential third season of SatAM for this is just a bad idea in all regards. There’s so much more horror to unpack regarding Penders, but it’s making me upset. So let’s move on. What about the movies?
I Love The Way You Make Them
Not many people know this but Sonic had an anime-style movie. It’s got decent animation and overall a fun and goofy time. Plus, Knuckles in a cowboy hat for reasons I’m certainly not going to question.
But, the main course is the Paramount movie. Which, like everything about Sonic the Hedgehog, had a pretty rough start.
It’s easy (and fun!) to tear into how awful the original design was for Sonic. With his tender, supple legs and perfect shining teeth, it took everyone by surprise in a very bad way.
But, like with Frankenstein’s creature, we can learn a valuable lesson. That lesson is that fans can drive change. The backlash was so awful that the movie was delayed for months, costing them millions of dollars in order to create a better design.
There is a conspiracy theory that this was all a PR stunt, considering no living person could look upon this wretch and see any glint of goodness within. Is that true?
But it does make some sense. I’m just asking questions.
Like with any good fandom, there are arguments and conflicts within. Some people love Sonic Adventure. Others hate it. Some prefer the 2D games, some prefer the 3D. But despite all that, there is one thing we can all agree on.
The music in Sonic the Hedgehog games is legendary. In fact, Sonic tunes made their way into the Tokyo Olympics. But even the chiptunes, from the first opening arpeggio of Green Hill Zone to the absolute ripper of Ice Cap Zone, Sonic music rarely disappoints. Still, as the games and technology have evolved, so too has the music.
As much as I desperately want to add another 1,000 words to this article that is already far too long in order to discuss Sonic music, instead, here’s a bulleted list of a just 5 songs because I had to limit myself somehow.
- “Reach For The Stars” by Jean Paul Makhlouf of Cash Cash – Sonic Colors
- “Endless Possibilities” by Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup – Sonic Unleashed
- “Live & Learn” by Crush 40 – Sonic Adventure 2
- “Escape From The City” by Ted Poley and Tony Harnell – Sonic Adventure 2
- “His World” by Zebrahead – Sonic ’06
They are all absolute bangers and sound like just normal album-released music. But remember, these are video game soundtrack songs. Sonic music knows how to set the tone better than any other franchise. Don’t @ me, I’m not willing to fight you on that. I’m very passive.
And so we’ve reached the end. What a journey. If you’ve made it this far, congratulate yourself. You certainly didn’t need to, but I’m glad you did. Sonic means a lot to me for reasons I still can’t fully understand. But for as long as I’m alive, I’ll love this little ball of super energy, in an extremely handsome package.
Like I said back at the start, Sonic has as a lot of ups and downs over the decades. But, the upcoming Sonic movie sequel seems really fun. There’s a new Netflix show coming soon. And a new game on the horizon. So I’m hopeful for the future. But, who knows? Maybe they will be a disappointment. Regardless, I’m gonna find my own way and take a chance on today. Because the possibilities are never ending.