For all of you 1990s kids, it’s time to start feeling old. Sonic the Hedgehog, the game that taught us to run fast with reckless abandon is turning 25 years old today! On June 23, 1991 Sega released Sonic on the Genesis and for a time there, the hedgehog was just as popular as Mario. While time hasn’t been too kind to Sonic, we still should celebrate his moments in the sun and enjoy our history with the blue blur. Sonic was all the rage in the 1990s, he had two mega-hit t.v. shows, tons of toys, and some brilliant games. I want to explore Sonic for what he was, a trailblazer for the animal mascot games that would bombard us for the entire decade. Without characters like Sonic I gather that we would have never met: Rocket Knight, Bubsy, Crash Bandicoot, Daxter, or Ratchet. We can also thank Sonic Team for creating one of my absolute FAVORITE video game villains, Dr. Robotnik. Thanks Sonic!
Best Sideckick: Knuckles (Sonic the Hedgehog 3)
While Knuckles the Echidna (look it up like we all did in the 1990s or get some Zoobooks), first erupted onto the scene as a villain in Sonic 3, he has slowly become a fan favorite over the years. He’s like Piccolo to Sonic’s Goku. What’s most appealing about Knuckles, other than his ability to glide and stick to walls, is that he represents a different flavor of gameplay. Knuckles promotes more exploration than the other Sonic characters as he’s a slower and more methodical character. While is stages in 3D Sonic games can get a little tedious, it’s cool to take a break from Sonic’s nonstop dash and take in the scenery for a little while. He also has a great theme song.
Best Boss Fight: Death Egg Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
This boss fight infuriates me. It’s one of the most tedious and challenging fights I think I’ve ever played. What also gets me every time, is that you typically die in one hit from this fight. Dr. Robotnik’s giant Egg Robot takes up almost the entire screen and is relentless. Like all classic games, he does have a pattern and once you master it, he’s beatable. It’s just a slow process. What’s cool about this boss fight is that it forces Sonic to be precise, and cut down on his speeding antics. It’s a real challenge as you spend the entire game running as fast as you can to only have to slow down and focus your attacks. It’s a great change of pace. Despite its merits…I still hate this guy.
Best Classic Song: Green Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
No songs represent Sonic quite as well as the theme to Green Hill Zone. It may be more recognizable than the Sonic theme itself. The music from Green Hill Zone captures everything that is Sonic. It’s quick and bounces around, but also offers a cool, playful openness. It’s a great tune.
Best Modern Song: City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2)
I find myself singing this song a bit too frequently. I’m not ashamed of it, or maybe I am, but It’s just so catchy! In the modern Sonic era, there was a lot of music used that contained traditional instrumentals, vocals, and some wacky rock and roll. Few things feel as cool as Sonic rolling around to the speed of sound, as the song states clearly. City Escape may not have won “best modern stage”, but it’s real close. Sonic snowboards around a faux San Francisco while rocking out to this jam. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced.
Best Classic Stage: Stardust Speedway, Bad Future (Sonic CD)
Sonic CD is a treasure. It’s a bit of a lost title as many people did not own a Sega CD to play it. What Sonic CD brings us is the most unique way to play a Sonic game. You travel both forward and backwards through time to save the future from Dr. Robotnik. It’s pretty awesome. The best stage comes six zones in, Stardust Speedway. Sonic CD has the esteemed privilege of introducing we, the players, to Metal Sonic. Metal Sonic has continued to be a constant antagonist to the blue furball, and is possibly Robotnik’s greatest invention. In Stardust Speedway you get to race against Metal Sonic in a white knuckle foot-race with the most intimidating character in the Sonic series. Video games need to create tension and need to push the player to hunker down and focus. I love a good boss fight, but nothing gets the blood pumping than a good race. This is what happens when you combine the two. I still have nightmares about Stardust Speedway.
Best Modern Stage: Emerald Cost (Sonic Adventure)
Emerald Cost was a complete shock when I first fired up my Dreamcast. I may be a bit smitten with this stage, as it was the first experience I had with 128bit gaming, but Sonic Adventure brought it! Right from the beginning Sega was showing us things we had not seen before. The Dreamcast looked miles better than the PSX and N64. Sadly the console completely flopped, but it created a generation of gamers that will champion its merit for the rest of time. It all started with Emerald Cost, a fun Sonic stage that gave birth to speed in 3D. It’s the perfect mix of beach and jungle and it feels like Sonic! Also…I mean…That whale!
Best Game: Sonic CD (Sega CD)
Sonic may have waned in quality over the years, but Sonic CD is a true testament to game design. It’s a very unique Sonic game and forces the player to move backwards and forwards to solve the puzzle. To play the game completely you must use time travel to save the future from being a dark, evil place run by Robotnik and his evil army of robots. The CD quality graphics and audio also added a great deal to the production value of Sonic CD. It’s the pinnacle of 2D Sonic. Sonic CD is also much darker than it’s brethren. We’re typically used to the playful nature of Sonic’s relationship with Dr. Robotnik (Robuttnik), but CD gives us something more sinister from the villain. To explain it in layman’s terms, Sonic CD was much more like the darker Saturday Morning ABC Cartoon, than the silly “Adventures of Sonic” cartoon. They both have their place, but it’s cool to have a more mature Sonic to shake up things a bit. Sonic CD is a necessary platformer for any gamer to play. Also the US soundtrack is better!
25 years of Sonic, and I remember the day I first played the original game. I’m getting old, but It’s nice to see the blue guy is still around!