Sonic The Hedgehog: Ultimate Guide

Posted by Jono 16 FEBRUARY 2016

Ultimate Guide to Sonic the Hedgehog - The Amazing History to One of Gaming's Biggest Icons

by: Jono Dixon 

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‘The Blue Blur’, ‘The Fastest Thing Alive’, ‘The Hedgehog with Attitude’… These are just some of the titles that one of gaming’s most enduring characters carries. We are of course talking about SEGA’s principle mascot: Sonic the Hedgehog.

2016 heralds Sonic’s silver anniversary. He’s blue, he’s blisteringly fast and throughout his 25 years on our screens, there’s not much Sonic hasn’t appeared on: Video games and arcade games alike, television shows, action figures, air hockey tables, cans of shaped spaghetti just to name a few. Sonic has not stopped for anything on his globetrotting adventures, (apart from maybe the odd chilli dog or diabolical plot hatched by his arch-nemesis Dr. Eggman) So here’s Home Leisure Direct’s ultimate guide to Sonic:

The Basics:

Name: Sonic the Hedgehog

First Appearance: Rad Mobile (cameo: January 1991)

First Game: Sonic the Hedgehog (featured game: June 1991)

In-Game Age: 15

Enjoys: running, speed, a challenge, chilli dogs.

Dislikes: injustice, waiting around, water

Top Running Speed: 768 mph (Mach 1)

Notable Allies: Miles ‘Tails’ Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose

Notable Enemies: Dr. Ivo ‘Eggman’ Robotnik, Metal Sonic

Total Games Sold: Over 85 million

Fun Fact: Sonic can’t swim.

Sonic’s ‘Genesis’

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Let’s paint a picture briefly: If you were to look at home based video gaming during the 80s, Nintendo held a pretty convincing grasp on the market. The excellent Nintendo Entertainment System was already a firm mainstay in many homes, and series such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and of course the iconic Super Mario were already household names. SEGA were dead set on changing this.

Having introduced the Mega Drive (or ‘Genesis’ in American regions) to replace the Master System in 1988, SEGA needed a new piece of killer software that could show just what this new ‘powerhouse’ of a console could do. After limited success with their Master System mascot Alex Kidd, SEGA’s solution was a brand new mascot in the shape of Sonic: A super speedy blue hedgehog who fights for the freedom of the land as well as his friends against the flamboyant megalomaniac scientist Dr. Eggman, who is intent on conquering Sonic’s world, and enslaving all of its inhabitants for his own gain. 

Originally the result of an internal company competition at SEGA to create a new mascot for the company, Sonic’s’s first ever sketch was on a napkin by character designer Naoto Oshima. Designed as an edgy, and in-your-face character, Sonic was intentionally designed to be able to compete with the likes of Mario directly. After pairing with the programming prowess of self-confessed speed fanatic Yuji Naka, Sonic was finally brought to the screens of gamers around the globe in June of 1991. The race was on…

The Classic Era

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Most of Sonic’s history of course, lies in his earliest years. In the early 90s, Sonic was simply everywhere, but how did Sonic come to have this incredible rise to fame?

Sonic’s first ever outing on the Mega Drive made quite the splash, and shook up the gaming industry as we knew it. Suddenly, Sonic was the new kid on the block, and he meant business. Sonic’s first colourful adventure saw him speeding through loops, dodging obstacles and dispatching Dr. Eggman’s creations one diabolical machine at a time, by curling into a ball and launching himself at them. Sonic the Hedgehog presented something the gaming industry had never seen before: It was bold, fast, and it had a definite personality that no other game of the time could touch.

The effects of Sonic the Hedgehog were massive, and were felt by the industry as a whole too, and ignited what many veterans of the industry call the ‘console war’: A heated battle for supremacy between industry veterans Nintendo with Mario, and the new upstarts SEGA and Sonic the Hedgehog. This back-and-forth battle for control went on for years, and is still talked about today. Even a book has been published and a film covering this time in gaming’s history is currently in production.

Hot off of the original game’s success, a bigger and better sequel was soon put into production, and released in 1992 on ‘Sonic 2’s Day’: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 boasted bigger levels, better visuals, more gameplay features, a two player mode and introduced a new character who has remained a staple of the series to this day: Miles ‘Tails’ Prower, a childlike fox who follows Sonic wherever he goes, and even has the ability to fly by spinning his two tails around like a helicopter rotor. The game also introduced the ‘spin dash’ manoeuvre, a move that allows Sonic to rev up like a turbo engine, before spinning away in a spiky ball in a burst of speed, taking out any robot unfortunate enough to find themselves in the way.

Sonic 2 proved to be an incredible success, being the second-best selling Mega Drive game of all time, beaten only by its predecessor, selling over 6 million units across its time on the shelves, but the Sonic’s classic career wasn’t over there. Two years later on ‘Hedgehog Day’, SEGA brought us the prologue for what was to become the biggest classic Sonic the Hedgehog game ever: Sonic the Hedgehog 3. 

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SEGA wanted Sonic 3 to be enormous, and enormous it was. Even series programmer Yuji Naka expressed that the prospect of making such a big game was a daunting prospect. The final product came to a whopping 34 megabits: A bit of a major problem when regular Mega Drive cartridges typically only held up to 16 megabits. To combat this, the game was effectively sliced down the middle, and released in two halves: The first half being Sonic 3, the second being the awesome ‘Sonic and Knuckles’. Sonic & Knuckles used a special cartridge that offered a revolutionary new idea: The idea of combining two games together to make something bigger, and better.

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Combining Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles results in the amazing ‘Sonic 3 and Knuckles’: What many fans of the series consider the ‘true’ Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Sonic 3 and Knuckles boasted a mind-blowing 25 enormous stages to run through and explore, even more robots to destroy and an even bigger adventure to have. Sonic 3 and Knuckles has proven to be one of Sonic’s most prolific 2D adventures of all time. Ask any aficionado of the classic Sonic games, and they’ll tell you that this is Sonic’s 2D renaissance.

The Dreamcast Period

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As 2D games began to be seen as old hat by the gaming industry, Sonic needed to move on and into new territory: The 3D space!

Whilst Sonic had a limited career on the SEGA Saturn, Sonic’s 3D career really got up to speed with the introduction of SEGA’s Dreamcast console: A revolutionary new system that promised to leave everything at the time in the dust. 

Sonic made his debut on this bold new system with Sonic Adventure. Sporting a sleek new look, Sonic Adventure was SEGA’s answer to bringing the Sonic formula bang up to date. Sonic brought his trademark attitude and speed to run through 12 diverse and rich stages, and five additional characters to join him on his travels made up of a roster of characters both old and new. Unlike any other Sonic game previous, Sonic Adventure created an entire world for Sonic to run around in. Three big connected worlds (or ‘Adventure Fields’) served as the hub to connect every stage in the game, bringing the Sonic series into what felt like a more believable and real world: A world populated with people, featuring landmarks and stages based on real world locations (some levels even featured activities that the Sonic Team themselves had personally seen on a worldwide trip to research ideas for the game!). 

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Sonic Adventure quickly became the best selling Dreamcast game of all time, topping out at 2.5 million games sold, and the success of  the game paved way for a direct sequel two years later: Enter Sonic Adventure 2. Sonic Adventure 2 is often fondly remembered by Sonic fans as one of their first introductions to the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The game was once again filled with 6 playable characters, and even allowed players to play as series villain Dr. Eggman for the first time ever!

Sonic Adventure 2 unfortunately didn’t enjoy the same success that it’s predecessor did, due to SEGA’s Dreamcast console unfortunately discontinuing production in early 2001. Whilst SEGA was down and out of the console business, Sonic was far from being done…


Post-Dreamcast and recent history

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After the unfortunate demise of SEGA’s last home console, Sonic was able to find a new home on other systems, including consoles by Sony, Microsoft, and even long-term rivals Nintendo. This reach brought the Sonic series to an entirely new wave of fans who soon found awesome titles to enjoy, such as the acclaimed Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the Game Cube, and the fantastic celebration of Sonic’s history that was Sonic Generations.

Sonic’s modern era saw Sonic’s games go in all manner of different directions. Games such as Sonic Unleashed ushered in the greatest speeds the series had ever seen, transitioning between high-velocity 2D and 3D segments with breathtaking visuals, whilst games such as Sonic and the Black Knight opted for a more unique experience, dropping Sonic directly into the Arthurian legend as he battled against the knights of the round table.

With so many different games, some fans have gone on to say that the series may have lost its way a few times, but despite the number of new things that the series tries, fans of Sonic have remained loyal to this now huge franchise, and every new release in the series is always hotly anticipated. At the time of writing, the next big Sonic game remains shrouded in mystery, but the year of Sonic’s 25th anniversary promises something big. What exactly it promises remains to be seen, but we’re excited!


That age old question…

If you knew about Sonic during the 90s, the following question is sure to be familiar to you: “Who would win in a fight? Sonic or Mario?” Would Sonic’s unparalleled speed and athletic ability be a match for Mario’s precision control and line up of power ups?


It’s a question that’s as old as the Sonic series itself. After all, it’s not a bad question either given that Sonic was created by SEGA to compete directly with Mario. It’s a question that’s a subject of heated debate between fans of both franchises. Essays have been written, and even fantasy fights have been staged that have garnered millions of views.

Well, it appears that this age old question can finally be settled! In 2007, the unthinkable happened: Sonic and Mario appeared together in the same game! The game titled ‘Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games’ brought the fierce rivals together for the first time ever for a healthy bit of Olympic competition. The game saw characters from both series competing in all the major Olympic events, be it swimming (Sonic would was forced to wear armbands due to his aforementioned problem of not being able to swim!), throwing the javelin, or of course the 100m sprint.

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Or, if you’re more about resorting to fisticuffs to solve this age-old dispute, then the Super Smash Brothers series has you covered. Both Mario and Sonic bring their signature moves to the table to see once and for all who would have the upper hand in combat… Who would your money be on?

It’s not just Games…

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Sonic’s fame hasn’t just gotten him into numerous games, but virtually everything else imaginable.

If having Sonic in a game isn’t enough for you, there’s a great deal of Sonic the Hedgehog merchandise available, from action figures to lunch boxes. Beyond this, there’s a great deal of limited edition Sonic items that fans have actively sought out over the years, such as rare plush toys, and even high-end hand-painted collectible statues! Amazingly, some of the more rare Sonic pieces (such as a limited edition wineglass signed by the series creators) have been bought by die-hard Sonic fans for as much as over £1700 at auction!

Sonic has starred in 5 different Sonic inspired television series, and has made several cameos in other media across both TV AND film. See if you can spot Sonic in films like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996), or even walking around Game Central Station Disney’s ‘Wreck it Ralph’ (2012).

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You may have even seen Sonic floating down New York City’s Main Street for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! Sonic currently holds the honour of being the first ever video game character to be represented as a balloon in the parade!

Wherever you go, you can be sure that Sonic won’t be far behind. You could see him in people’s display cabinets one day, and advertising insurance to you the next…


What about Sonic Today?

Today, Sonic the Hedgehog is still reaching out to new audiences and finding new fans all the time. Going into his 25th year, the Blue Blur has it all: An incredibly diverse repertoire of games, an enviable amount of merchandise, a roller coaster theme park attraction based off of him, his own range of arcade machines, a fanbase as dedicated as they come and even conventions run by devoted fans dedicated to celebrating this awesome series. Sonic is definitely here to stay, and we hope to see even more of him and games in the years to come!

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Additional Reading

The Sonic Stadium: Up to date Sonic the Hedgehog news website. Run by fans of the series!

Weston Super Sonic: UK based fan convention held every January in Weston super Mare, England.

First 4 Figures: Producers of high-end Sonic the Hedgehog collectibles

Home Leisure Direct Arcades: Check out our collection of Sonic the Hedgehog themed arcade machines!

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