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Published on June 23rd, 2011 | by Cameron Woolsey

GAMINGtruth Celebrates Sonic’s 20-Year Anniversary

A lot of the staff here at GAMINGtruth remembers their first time speeding through colorful environments in Sonic the Hedgehog. A few of them decided to share their thoughts of Sonic turning 20, a big milestone for their speedy blue friend. We hope you enjoy reading about our experiences playing Sonic for the first time, and our thoughts on the future of the franchise.

Kyle:

I was never a heavy gamer in my younger days. I played a lot outside, played sports and shot my brother in the ass with pellet guns for fun. Sure I played Mario on NES, and Super NES, loved Ninja Gaiden and Double Dragon, but it wasn’t until I went to a friend’s house and saw an awesome looking black box with the word SEGA written on the front of it. I remember asking him “What is that?” His response will be something that I will forever take with me anywhere I go, “It will change lives.” I remember my first reaction was “Is this guy crazy?” However he was right in some instances. We played through Sonic the Hedgehog that whole day, and actually made plans every week to go back to his house to play it again and again.

It wasn’t until my parents broke down, after weeks and weeks of begging, and got me my very own “Black Box”, what we all know as the Sega Genesis. Obviously Sonic was with it, and was the only game that held my attention until Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came out. Of course I played Mortal Kombat, Aladdin and Battletoads, but it was the fast game play, and awesome music of Sonic that kept pulling me back. This little blue hedgehog was becoming more of an icon that Mario was to me. My first handheld was Game Gear and what did I have on it? SONIC! Sonic on the go? That was unbelievable to me.

Over the years I saw Sonic being mishandled, and being thrown together with that fat little plumber and his friends. Sonic has made generation leaps and is still continuing today, but I speak for all avid Sonic fans out there. We want our old little Blue hog back in his true form. No more “Unleashed“, no more “Black Knight“, and please no more of him and Mario at the Olympics. Just good ol’ Sonic the way that god intended. Sega is starting to get back into that motion, and with the release of the episodic Sonic games, this could shine a bright light on the series. Happy anniversary you quick little blue bugger!

Louis:

There’s just so much history — both good and bad — about Sonic that it’s hard to write about just one aspect. I was there for his debut on the Sega Genesis; my friends and I played every Sonic game to come out for the system and even played the ones that released on Sega’s handheld systems and ill-conceived add-ons like the 32X.

I read the Sonic comics. I pre-ordered the last Wii game to get the Sonic hat. I still have an old Halloween costume upstairs that lets me (almost) look like Sonic when I manage to squeeze into it. My room is a shrine to nerd — video games are dominant. Among the Nintendo posters and collectibles are Sonic, Knuckes, Tails and every other character from the series in poster form, action figure form or anything else I could get my hands on.

I love Sonic.

Sure, he’s fallen since those glory days, and his last great console game is still considered to have been on the Dreamcast, but I always have a place in my heart for the blue blur. Sometimes it’s a fool’s game where nothing comes of it, but sometimes we are rewarded with good sonic games.

Now if only BioWare would make another Sonic RPG…

Greg:

Growing up, my parents didn’t really have a lot of money. So, when it came to video games, well, they took a back seat to clothing, food and everything else that was regarded as necessity. I know, right? Can you believe that? Anyways, any chance of playing other consoles other than my NES, and later SNES, that were at the house had to be done at friend’s or relative’s houses.

My aunt and uncle housed a foreign exchange student from Japan that was attending college in my home town. This also happens to be where my first SNES came from. Hideuki, the foreign exchange student, said that the games for it were too easy. What did he have in mind? That of course was the other most important cargo that he brought with him to the States, a Sega Genesis and a copy of Sonic of the Hedgehog. This was the first time that I ever really played Sonic, or knew what it was like to be other protagonists outside of the Nintendo character realm.

The first time ever picking up the controller for Green Hill Zone is still one of the fondest memories of being impressed by the speed of the game and the little blue spiky dude on screen. This was the early age of Sonic and where my interest in video games began to culture.

As time moved on, my parents got better jobs and I began to foster a pretty solid work ethic. This meant mowing lawns in the 110-degree weather, well aware of my allergy of fresh cut grass, just to afford my own Sega Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure. The whole summer before 9.9.99 was spent counting change and KB’s as my dial-up almost fried just trying to watch the latest from E3. It was well worth the wait as launch day arrived and the tube TV displayed my new 128-bit console. One of the best sequences to this day is the giant whale breaking down the path behind as Sonic makes a break for dry land.

Thank you Hideuki for bringing your Genesis with you.

Derek:

I grew up with the Sonic franchise and the Sega Genesis like many others of my generation. I remember not being too enthusiastic about the first Sonic game, but when Sonic 2 came out I was all about it. When I got to the oil stage I remember being so excited, every new stage bringing new wonders and features to explore. Ever since Sonic 2, I was hooked.

Also I remember Sonic Spinball–that arcade-styled Sonic-themed pinball game that came out. I wasn’t so good at it at first, but I kept on trucking, and eventually beat it. To this day I own Sonic 2 in my XBLA Library and have still yet to beat it because I’m at the second-to-last ring stage, you know the  mini-game where you’re running down the seemingly endless tube in a third-person view, trying desperately to grasp every ring so you can get the Chaos Emerald at the end.

To this day I’ve still yet to completely beat Sonic 2 or to get all the Chaos Emeralds–but I’m still trying!

Sonic & Knuckles was great, too–I remember the first time I hooked S&K up to Sonic 2, laughing as I collected all the hidden extra-lives as I glided across the screen with the red echidna, grasping onto walls and ledges alike to explore secret areas. I actually enjoyed the Sonic 2 playthroughs with Knuckles more than the whole S&K game itself, heh.

Cam:

Now for my contribution. I wrote a lot so to save my colleague’s write-ups from being utterly destroyed by its fatness I put this at the bottom. It’s a detailed account of my experience with Sonic and how the Genesis put me down a gaming path I didn’t expect but fully welcomed. It is a bit to read but it stems from my support of the franchise and explains the reason why I go to gaming events wearing a Sega Genesis t-shirt.

For many years now my peers have often referred to me as the “SEGA guy.” I have a ton of SEGA merchandise including clothing, posters, games and more. For quite a few months my Facebook picture featured me standing in front of a giant glowing SEGA logo from E3 2010. To this day I still collect classic SEGA games for the Genesis, Master System and CD. But when did this all start? Well it may come as a surprise that I was never really into SEGA or the Genesis back when it launched. My parents didn’t have the endless funds to fuel my gaming habit so my brother and I had to make do playing our old NES for many hours. Granted, we had a great time with that old machine and I still own even today. We played Mario games and Battletoads late into the night for a long time and I had no real desire to try out this new “Genesis” console, even though I was aware of its graphical prowess at the time. No, I loved the NES and when I wasn’t playing it I was outside doing what normal kids do such as riding bikes or crashing bikes into trees. I didn’t have much grace as a child.

It wasn’t until the day I went over to a friend’s house for the first time. In his room sat a little black console that I recognized as a SEGA Genesis. He asked if I wanted to try it out and, well, I couldn’t deny that I was curious to see what the machine had in store. I didn’t believe at the time that it could distract me from my love of Mario and crashing into things, but as he grabbed a game from the stack and slammed it home, I couldn’t help but feel excited for what lay in store. That game that I played for the first time on SEGA’s 16-bit machine? Why, none other than Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I was stunned. The graphics, the sound, the speed, holy crap the speed! We spent the entire day just playing Genesis games. One after the other I fell more and more in love with the console I was denying for a plumber and something so needless as fresh air and sunshine. How foolish (Kidding, I still love Mario games…but I won’t go outside).

Not long after that I began saving all the money I possibly could. I needed to taste that sweet, sweet blast processing once more. Eventually my brother and I saved up $50 and bought a used console plus two controllers and a copy of Mortal Kombat off of a neighbor. Fatalities were all fun and good, but I needed to get my hands on the game that made me want to leave Mario in the dust. Through chores and Christmas money, I eventually bought Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for myself and played it for hours. For my birthday that year in 1994 I received Sonic and Knuckles, which used lock-on technology with Sonic 3 to unlock the game in its entirety. And I ravaged that game. My brother and I went on a quest like no other and managed to complete the game 100%. Now, it sounds odd to people who think that Sonic games are mostly contrived of running right and jumping from time to time to hear of a completion rate. Well there was once and we maxed it out. We played as every character available and unlocked the hidden Hyper Emeralds for each (including Sonic by himself) unlocking Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles and Hyper Tails. Though I loved Sonic 2 and still do to this day, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles stands as my favorite Sonic game of all time. I was also a big fan of the cartoon, Sonic the Hedgehog which is now referred to by fans as Sonic SatAM to separate it from its awful counterpart.

This is where it began. My first Genesis and copy of Sonic 2.

As the years went by I still popped that game in from here and there, but as the 3D takeover of gaming came looming in, I looked forward to seeing Sonic displayed in modern-age glory. Sonic 3D Blast just didn’t cut it. I bought the Dreamcast at launch and a copy of Sonic Adventure. I loved the game and played it for many weeks, trying to find every last hidden secret and emblem. While nostalgia has since taught me that the game was a buggy mess and could not stand the test of time, back then it was all I needed to make my purchase of the Dreamcast worth every penny. In 2001 I eagerly picked up a copy of Sonic Adventure 2. At this age I had started becoming more jaded and I picked up on the game’s flaws quickly. However, I still found a lot of enjoyment out of it. The graphics were better and the storyline had a more mature edge to it that my older self really appreciated.

It was in this time Sonic turned 10 and at this first major anniversary there began a transition. The two games started Sonic on a dark path filled with useless extra characters, bad gameplay designs and terrible decisions that turned a character that was once as popular as Mickey Mouse into gaming’s saddest punch line. When I picked up the disappointing Sonic Heroes on the Xbox, I hoped it was just a temporary fluke and SEGA would put their mascot back on the right path. What I didn’t realize at the time was that in 2001, Sonic’s tenth birthday, he began a nearly decade-long stumble that threatened to lose his closest fans, including myself. I watched in disbelief as Shadow the Hedgehog was given the green light and terrible racing games–the Sonic Riders series–rubbed more dirt onto the franchise. Finally, after five years of waiting the new Sonic game, oddly dubbed just Sonic the Hedgehog, was on the way and I couldn’t have been more excited. Sure the Sonic Advance series on the GBA helped, but I was starving for a true console release. It was one of the top games I had to get my hands on during E3 2006. I was still big on SEGA and I even got my picture taken with Yuji Naka, the original Sonic programmer and, at that time, ex-head of Sonic Team. I played the demo they had on display and I noticed quite a few things that put me off. I brushed the worries aside though, confident that Sonic Team wouldn’t let me down. They did. With a vengeance.

To put it lightly, the game was terrible. I couldn’t even finish it. I decided then it was about time to cash in my chips and focus on other games that wouldn’t disappoint me. Games like the Halo franchise (damn it). I ignored most Sonic games that came out afterwards. The releases on the Wii were garbage. When I played the demo for Sonic Unleashed I actually thought for a fleeting moment that SEGA figured it out, but then I saw the Werehog missions and a sourly walked away. As an adult I only focused on games that were worth focusing on, the Sonic series no longer fit the bill. But there was always a small part of me that wanted to see the blue blur finally come out of his slump. I figured if someone could do it, it probably wasn’t going to be Sonic Team.

Strangely enough, I was right. Well I was kind of right. When ‘Project Needlemouse’ was unveiled to the world as the “sequel” to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, I was thrilled to hear it was being made not by Sonic Team but by DIMPS, the team behind the fun Sonic Advance series and Sonic Rush on the DS. I had fun with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and my review of it from last year reflected that. However, while it was good, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. During the past year I was watching a little game on the Wii called Sonic Colors with growing interest (it was more than just the hat…really). Experience taught me to keep my hopes low, but I was shocked when the first reviews hit the scene sprinkled with scores as high as 9/10. Suddenly, after five years of bitter feelings, a Sonic game came out that I actually felt I had to have. The day a package from SEGA of America landed on my doorstep was the first day in nearly 10 years I played a true, modern Sonic game. And I loved every second of it.

I remembered what it was like to be a Sonic fan. I couldn’t believe that SEGA could finally make a Sonic game that, well, didn’t suck. While I’m still flabbergasted it had to take nearly a decade for them to figure it out, I’m glad they finally did. Now, only six months later we are waiting for another Sonic game, this time it will be for the powerhouse systems. And from what Greg, Ken and I played of it, there’s a strong possibility Sonic Generations will end up being the best Sonic title yet.

I’m older now and my taste in games has changed. I no longer am as obsessed with Sonic as I used to be. However, It’s been a long journey, we have shared ups and downs over the past decade, but I am still a “SEGA guy” and proud to be a Sonic fan. And I plan on being one for another ten years. I am being careful to withhold judgement of Generations until I play it, but I’m also confident that SEGA has finally managed to nail the right formula for a modern day Sonic. It’s good to see the franchise back to where it should have been many years ago, and it’s great to see Sonic treated with the respect he deserves. Not just a character in a game, but as a gaming icon and legend; the star of a franchise that helped form the gaming industry as we know it.

Happy 20-year anniversary my blue friend. Oh, and welcome back.

D’Juan

My first experience with Sonic was back in the Sega Genesis days. I’d had a Super Nintendo that ended up stolen, and was lucky enough to get a Genesis in condolences for my former system. The first two games I got were Sonic the Hedgehog and Eternal Champions. It’s a tough decision to play a game where you chase rings through stages versus a fighting game with warlocks and stage finishers, but there was something that clicked in me when I started up with Sonic.

It might have been the fact that the stages were made for speed. Sure, it was a platformer, but there was something about keeping hold of all the gold rings I’d grabbed that kept me coming back to grab more. A friend came over and told me to keep an eye out for hidden areas, then blew my mind by showing me one of the hidden areas I had no clue about… From then on, it was a near full-on tournament any time anyone came over. You couldn’t win unless you kept the most rings, got the best time, put the boot to Robotnik’s rear end and got to the all the hidden areas.

It’s crazy how this single player game gave me some of my favorite multiplayer gaming memories, but leave it to Sonic, right? That’s before Tails was playable, and before Knuckles. I could go on and on, but I can’t spell it out any better than everyone’s already done above!

Sonic rocks. ‘Nuff said. Thanks for all the memories, bud.

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About the Author

Video game journalist since 2006, and gaming since he was old enough to use an Atari joystick. Follow me: @Cam_is_16bit



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