The Evolution of Sonic the Hedgehog
Following on from Crash Bandicoot, this week we’re focusing on the Evolution of Sonic the Hedgehog.
The blue speedster has been through a whole host of changes throughout his 25-year history and, love him or hate him, it’s safe to say Sonic is one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time.
Sega’s New Mascot (1990)
In April 1990, SEGA challenged employees to come up with a mascot who, like Nintendo’s Mario, could sell over 1,000,000 copies of a game. Hundreds of potential character ideas were submitted – including this rabbit:
However, it was a drawing of a creature known as Mr. Needlemouse that eventually came out on top.
BONUS FACT: This Teddy Roosevelt inspired effort was a strong contender to win the competition; it would of course later go on to become Dr. Robotnik (Eggman); Sonic’s archenemy.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Mr. Needlemouse was soon renamed Sonic, and – after a cameo appearance as an air freshener in in Sega’s Rad Mobile Racing Game – made his official debut in 1991’s Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) title, Sonic the Hedgehog.
Small and pot-bellied, Sonic was coloured blue to match the SEGA logo. His shoes were inspired by the design of Santa Claus and, although he remains speechless throughout the game, his personality was based on that of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Attitude Problems (1992)
With the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in 1992, the already cocky Sonic took on an even smugger style. His once cheerful smile was replaced with a much more arrogant smirk, and official artwork often depicted him with slightly darker fur.
These changes were most likely made to help differentiate Sonic from his new, happy-go-lucky sidekick, Miles ‘Tails’ Prower.
Sonic CD (1993)
Sonic’s first attempt at a CD-ROM based adventure saw the creation of this unbelievably cool animated sequence; including one of the coolest songs I’ve ever heard in a video game.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 / Sonic and Knuckles (1993/1994)
Sonic and Knuckles’ rather crude title screen may look like nothing now, but back in the day this sort of 3D artwork was enough to send tingles of joy down a gamers’ spine.
Sonic the Fighters (1996)
What can I say? Polygonic Sonic (PolySonic?) looks pretty weird in this 1996 spin-off title.
BONUS FACT: In order to transform into Super Sonic during normal Sonic the Fighters gameplay, players must reach the second round against Metal Sonic without losing any previous rounds; many fans believe this is the most difficult transformation requirement in franchise history.
Sonic R (1997)
This is perhaps the only picture in which Doctor Robotnik is cuter than everybody else… just look at his little face, aw. Meanwhile, Sonic’s fur is looking spiker than ever.
Sonic Adventure (1999)
With the arrival of the much more powerful Sega Dreamcast came the chance for Sega to re-invent their flagship character; and my word did they take it.
Sonic was given the biggest redesign in his history, his legs stretched to around three times their original length and his feet (or at least his shoes) became much larger. His trademark spikes, which once ran all the way down his back, were edited to look more like hair, and his muzzle was made much smaller.
The Sonic vs Mario vs Crash Bandicoot battle was in full flow and you can’t say Sega didn’t put the effort in to make their character stand out from the crowd.
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (2002)
The GameCube release of Sonic Adventure’s saw this elongated design trend continue, only this time with even better in-game graphics.
Sonic Battle (2003)
Taking inspiration from games such as TLOZ’s The Wind Waker, artwork for 2003’s Gameboy Advance title Sonic Battle made use of cell-shading.
It’s a look which only tends to fit certain characters, however, I think it’s fair to say Sonic’s design lends itself to the style pretty well, and the outcome is some of the best-looking Sonic artwork to date.
Sonic Heroes (2003)
The years’ other major Sonic release saw the character return to a slightly more classic style. He was still a little taller than the original blue blur, but the crazy, oversized shoes from the Dreamcast era were binned in favour of some classics.
Sonic Riders (2005)
As fast as they were gone, the wild shoes were back for 2005’s Sonic Riders. The hedgehog also sported some green and white goggles for this jet-board themed spin-off.
Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007)
Official artwork for this Wii title depicted Sonic in a hand-painted style.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (2007)
Who’d have thought it? Mario and Sonic, perhaps gaming’s greatest rivals, pictured shaking hands.
Sonic Unleashed (2008)
The first Sonic game to blend old-style, side-scrolling sections with modern, behind-the-back 3D platforming sections, Sonic Unleashed presented us the idea of the Werehog; or Hairy-Scary Sonic as my brother used to call him.
Sonic Generations (2011)
For a long, long while, Sega had struggled to find a way of pleasing fans of their older 2D titles while still fulfilling the needs of modern 3D enthusiasts.
In the end, the solution to this conundrum was pretty damn simple; allow players to play as both ‘Classic Sonic’ and ‘Modern Sonic’ in the same game.
Hey presto, you’ve got one of the best Sonic games in franchise history… as well as some of the most nostalgia-inducing artwork I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.
Sonic Boom (2014)
The majority of the Sonic family got re-designs for 2014’s Boom television series and tie-in game. Sonic himself was given a pretty cool looking brown neckerchief, he also has white bandages (toilet roll?) wrapped around his ankles and shoes.
Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (2016)
Sonic’s next appearance will be in this years’ official Olympic tie-in game.
You can check out the rest of the Evolution series by clicking on ‘More From The Author’ below, or by clicking the ‘Articles’ tab at the top of the page. I’ve been Jay Michael, you can follow me on Twitter @Jayswriting. Thank you for reading and, until next time, peace.