Today at LMC we’re looking back with fondness at ten years of Sonic Wrecks, the site which preceded us. As such we’re taking the opportunity to look back not only at the history of the site but the history of another that has just celebrated a birthday. 23 years to be precise.
‘Sonic The Hedgehog has had a rough time lately’ – is what you’re probably expecting me to write here, mainly because whenever anyone with a keyboard writes an article for a website they usually start with that. Before following it up with the usual parade of items: Sonic Cycle. Sonic kissed a girl in 2006. Sonic fans are terrible because how dare they like the series still. Etc, etc. Well that’s hogwash (which is somewhat appropriate I guess), Sonic’s NOT been having a rough time of it lately – at least not in the game sense. For quality and entertainment Sonic Team’s been knocking it out of the park in recent years. Arguably ever since Sonic Colours, which almost took people by surprise as to how good it was. Then you had Sonic Generations, Sonic’s 20th anniversary game which was a love note to the series’ past and also an effective swan song for the Sonic of the past decade.
Sonic Lost World may not have set the world alight in terms of sales (*cough*Wii U*cough*) but it was still a good game chock-a-block full of story, fun levels, classic design nods and character development. Even setting up a new set of villains that, whilst inevitably stupid, actually have the upper hand for most of the way through against both Sonic and Dr. Eggman. Their evil plan, it is strongly implied, KILLS Amy and Knuckles at one point. Think about that for a moment.
SEGA are also taking a very brave step with a new redesign of the characters for their new TV and game project Sonic Boom. Admittedly Knuckles looks stupid – and now apparently is stupid as opposed to being too trusting. But this is a big thing. Sonic’s sticking around and for those fans that are older there are plenty of things over the past 23 years that have given us great joy, not just from the games either but from the plethora of other Sonic media like the music, the cartoons and the comics. So the LMC staff sat down, munched on a chili dog or two and looked back at our own personal Top 5 Sonic The Hedgehog moments!
The standout high-watermark for the annual Sonic fan convention was the 2011 edition, inline with the 20th anniversary of brand. It was a huge step up in size and scope, it featured performances from Sonic series musicians Jun Senoue and Julien-K, Q&A’s and signings with head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka and ‘father of Sonic’ Yuji Naka. Mike Pollock (voice of Dr. Eggman) was even kicking around the place just as a visitor, a brilliant time all-round.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT ARCS – ADVENTURE ERA
One of my favourite items was actually the character development between games. This was especially true between Sonic Adventure 1, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes and Shadow The Hedgehog. The characters experiencing development in their personality and skills – their own personal arcs in the main story. Although bizarrely Sonic was not one of these characters – unless you count him becoming more annoying.
Amy, Tails and Shadow are definitely characters that benefitted here. Tails developed his own rivalry with Eggman and the idea that there were this other battle – the battle of the brains against the battle of brawn between Eggman and Sonic was really appealing. It actually built up the characters. Unfortunately after 2006 apart from a couple of hangover gags that interesting development fell not just by the wayside but was pretty much forgotten altogether. That’s why it doesn’t chart here. (And no I don’t count Tails’ development of a bit of a smart mouth as character development. Having your character be sassy is not development.)
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 3 & KNUCKLES: DOOMSDAY ZONE
Whilst the original games, for me, aren’t very important in the great scheme of things, even I have to tip my hat to the pinnacle of the era. It seems as the years have gone by the battle for the Master Emerald amongst an asteroid field between Dr. Robotnik and Super Sonic has gained even more importance. Or maybe it just seems that way… A hectic finale to perhaps the greatest game in the era.
SONIC: NIGHT OF THE WEREHOG
If the above was my nod to the past consider this my nod to the future, people didn’t perhaps realise at the time but this Sonic The Hedgehog short film really was the prototype for what is to come. To see if the character could move into a slightly different field. SEGA’s VE Animation which would become Marza Animation Planet do a fantastic job of creating a short which not only promoted Unleashed but could also be viewed standalone. It was slick, cheesy in the places a cartoon like that should be cheesy and was really enjoyable. In a way its a pity we’ve not had anything similar since but make no mistake it was this that started the pathway towards the new Sonic Boom cartoon.
When I think of Sonic one thing that has always made me smile is Dr. Eggman. To be honest down the years Sonic’s been a bit of a blank slate in comparison. But then again he is the straight man of the Sonic series double act as Dr. Eggman is, most of the time, a comedic figure.
A genius brought down by his own ego, lofty ambitions or incompetency – often the incompetence of those he surrounds himself with. It’s not so much the scripting but the delivery of the Dr. Eggman character that really brings forth a many layered character and the different angles each series takes him from. Be it comedic buffoon (Long John Baldry), deranged tyrant (Jim Cummings), cold conqueror (Gary Chalk), would-be megalomaniac (Deem Bristow) or deluded egotist (Mike Pollock) each iteration of Dr. Ivo Robotnik is a massive part of the world and each one brings their own brand of entertainment.
In terms of CG, Sonic’s always been pretty awesome. Nothing however quite stunned like the opening to Sonic Unleashed, a fantastic, full-flow battle in space. Arguably what we had, as Sonic danced under, over and through waves of badniks was the end to another Sonic adventure. An adventure and game we had not seen, or played, with this space battle it’s finale. This is Sonic at his in-game peak, powered-up, untouchable, using the Chaos Emeralds he goes Super Sonic, smashing the bejesus out of everything only for Eggman to turn the tables as part of an elaborate trap.
After 17 years Eggman turning the tables and ripping the Chaos Emerald energy OUT of Sonic was quite the twist and it really set the stage for an intriguing story. Sonic has actually lost and he needs to do something about that. Whether or not you feel that promise was delivered upon is of course your own opinion, but for an opening and a CG Sonic in action showcasing both fighting and a sense of speed it has yet to be topped for the series.
In Archie’s comic series a cycle tends to pan out, Eggman has a big victory, something/someone is lost, Sonic and friends battle back to regain an advantage, everything starts looking rosy. Eggman is defeated? HELL NO KABOOOOOM!!!!
It was this comic that really shook things up, it took the status quo and a lot of the infrastructure that Archie’s Sonic comic had relied upon for a decade, including some important SatAM cartoon hold-over and smashed it good and proper. Snively, Eggman’s lackey, launches a daring raid, picking off Sonic’s friends one-by-one until only Sonic himself remains to do battle with Dr. Eggman in a robotic suit complete with shield and giant chequer-ball (a’la Green Hill Zone’s boss) morningstar like weapon.
Sonic is rattled at the loss of his friends, he thinks they’re dead, Eggman then tells him that they’ve been teleported not killed and does battle with Sonic. All the time whilst fighting Sonic is on the back foot, whilst Eggman taunts and systematically deconstructs Sonic’s personality: The hero whose victories are not complete. The hero whose family he still hasn’t been able to save. Eggman even taunts Sonic about his history of failed relationships in the comic, he is the hero who is alone. Sonic is furious, beaten and eventually just snaps. Unleashing speed and ferocity that even scares Eggman in an all-out attack… that only dents the machine’s shield – and nothing more.
Sonic’s home and village are gone, the castle – symbol of the royal family – obliterated, and Knothole, the Freedom Fighters’ home and centre of resistance against Robotnik since day one is left as nothing but ashes. Sonic is beaten black and blue and Eggman could finish it there – instead he decides to make Sonic suffer more, knowing he cannot save his friends Eggman leaves him there with that knowledge. Leaves him there knowing he has truly beaten him and he could have killed him – but didn’t. It’s a heck of a powerful story and a really brave move for the series to change-up a lot of the dynamic, destroying the iconic location for the series in the process and leaving the hero not just with a bloody nose but utterly, totally beaten by the bad guy – and even in a clean fight.
Okay considering Sonic Wrecks started life as a sprite comic about Shadow the Hedgehog you’re probably calling bias at this point but put down the pitchforks a minute and let me explain. It’s my honest opinion that Shadow has had some of the best moments in the series.
Firstly yes the character is grr, serious and grr, angst, and grr….grr – however as a result of Shadow being so serious he not only gets to be the series badass and have both the cool and serious moments but because of that he actually gets to be quite a funny character too. From a ‘coolness’ standpoint you cannot ignore Shadow riding in on his motorcycle at the beginning of Shadow The Hedgehog, yes he could go faster running but FUCK THAT NOISE. I’m gonna ride a chopper into a war zone. Even the opening of Shadow’s story in Sonic 06, Shadow blasts through a bunch of advanced Eggman robots without blinking an eye, smashes into a base and then almost as afterthought thinks ‘oh yeah, stealth’ and hides.
The end of Shadow’s story sees bad guy Mephilies confront Shadow with a seemingly unstoppable army of clones. He tells him he is doomed to be hated, regardless of his success in the battle. Shadow responds calmly with a speech which says a lot about the character, all whilst slowly releasing the cuff rings that restrict his power for his own safety before leading Team Dark in an all out assault of chaos power. Then though you have Shadow where his seriousness results in humour, sometimes intentional, sometimes not.
For instance in the game Shadow The Hedgehog the Chaotix are trying to hack Eggman’s computer without success, partly because they are relying on ninja chameleon Espio to hack a computer when he has never used a computer before in his life. Shadow’s solution to get round the tricky firewall? Just smash the crap out of the thing. That’ll make it work – and it does. Then there is this moment from the comics – Sonic Universe #1 in fact – where Marine “Don’t Mention Sticks The Badger” The Raccoon has to inform him that she kind of destroyed Metal Sonic and Shadow’s only way back to his reality. The result, which has no dialogue, is naturally priceless.
Shadow is such a badass that other people fighting him bored him.
In Sonic X he teleports aboard Tails’ ship and the fox attacks him to defend Cosmo. Shadow counters this with a swift punch, only for Tails to leap on Shadow. Who pauses briefly, a blank look on his face yet clearly thinking a rather disdainful ‘really?’ Another punch and GTFO foxboy.
The best moment of this though, and one that would be good enough to nab second spot on this list for me on its own would be Shadow Vs Silver from Sonic 06. Shadow appears on the scene, actually saving Sonic’s bacon and allowing him to run off. Naturally the enraged Silver is all ‘you sunk my battleship!’ and attacks him in a sort of naive way. Shadow, being much older and having no time for this tantrum brings out a chaos emerald, uses chaos control and slows time. He then steps behind the time traveller and viciously roundhouse kicks him in the back of the head, sending him sprawling. It’s not intended to be funny, however it is, because Silver does whine endlessly and it is incredibly satisfying if you’ve played the game to have him be totally owned.
Kudos Shadow. Keep kicking things that need kicking. There are few Sonic levels that are truly iconic, and precious few that don’t have the word ‘hill’ in them. However, one of these, perhaps the most important of these, is City Escape.
The opening level of the Hero Side story for Sonic Adventure 2 does what, arguably Sonic Adventure failed to do and give you a truly rousing start to a 3D-era game that despite the location felt like a full Sonic experience. City Escape was fast and furious, with an immediately catchy song and mix of speed and platforming, starting off with a set-piece where an escaping Sonic jumps out of a military helicopter and skydives into a level based on San Francisco. Sonic must then use the board he ripped off the helicopter to grind down the streets, slaloming between cars and doing tricks along the way. At the bottom of the hill lies the beginning of a journey full of speed, acrobatics and even a callback to Speed Highway from Sonic Adventure, running down the side of a building. All of which leads up to a desperate chase-sequence as Sonic runs down a hill away from a rapidly approaching G.U.N truck which is always just a couple of metres behind you. A sequence so tense SEGA even upped the ante in Sonic Generations, adding an extra stage to the chase with the truck being given booster rockets and giant saw blades. Silly? Yes, but for a level – probably the one played more by fans than any other – a twist no one was expecting.
Make no mistake City Escape is glorious. It resonates with fans so much it was City Escape that SEGA chose to reveal at E3 2011 out of all their all-star Generations line-up. You could sit down, just play City Escape alone and be satisfied with your day’s gaming. Everyone remembers playing City Escape, and its there where many new Sonic fans were born and more still were reborn – myself included. I can’t think of any level in any game I would rather play. That’s why City Escape is my personal number one Sonic The Hedgehog moment.
Coming up later today are two additional parts, where the rest of the LMC staff will have their say – look out for those!