Sonic the Hedgehog (????·?·??????, Sonikku za Hejjihoggu?), trademarked Sonic The Hedgehog, is a video game character and the protagonist of the eponymous video game series released by Sega, as well as in numerous spin-off comics, cartoons and books. The first game in the franchise was released on June 23, 1991, in order to provide Sega with a mascot to rival Nintendo’s flagship character Mario (see 1991 in video gaming). Since then, Sonic has become one of the world’s best-known video game characters, with his series having sold 50 million copies. In 2005, Sonic was one of the first game character inductees into the Walk of Game, alongside Mario and Link.
Artist Naoto Oshima, designer Hirokazu Yasuhara and programmer Yuji Naka are generally credited with the creation of the character, a blue-haired, mostly blue-skinned 15-year-old anthropomorphic hedgehog, who has the ability to run faster than the speed of sound and the ability to curl up into a ball, primarily to attack enemies. This is a major part of the gameplay of the series.
Conception and creation
Sonic’s original design from Sonic the Hedgehog (1991).
Sega wanted a game capable of selling over one million copies and a character to replace Alex Kidd as the company’s mascot. Several character designs were submitted by its AM8 research & development department, including an armadillo (which then developed into Mighty the Armadillo), a dog, a Theodore Roosevelt look-alike in pajamas (which would later be the basis of Eggman’s design), and a rabbit (intended to use its extendible ears to collect objects; these aspects were later incorporated into Ristar). Eventually, Naoto Oshima’s spiky teal hedgehog, initially codenamed “Mr Needlemouse”, was chosen as the new mascot. Sonic’s blue pigmentation was chosen to match Sega’s blue logo, his shoes were a concept evolved from a design inspired by Michael Jackson’s boots with the addition of the color red, which was inspired by Santa Claus and his personality was based on Bill Clinton’s fast reaction to trouble. The character was created without the ability to swim because of a mistaken assumption by Yuji Naka that all hedgehogs couldn’t. A group of fifteen people started working on Sonic the Hedgehog, and renamed themselves Sonic Team. The game’s soundtrack was composed by Masato Nakamura of the band Dreams Come True. Sega sponsored the group’s “Wonder 3” tour, painting Sonic on the tour bus, distributing pamphlets advertising the game, and having footage of the game broadcast above stage prior to its release.
The original concepts had Sonic with fangs and in a band with a human girlfriend named Madonna, however Sega of America “softened” the character up for an American audience by removing these, sparking a heated issue with Sonic Team, although Naka later admitted it was probably for the best. Sonic’s appearance varies greatly depending on the medium and the style in which he is drawn. In the video games, Sonic’s original design by Oshima was quite short and round, with short quills, a round body and no visible irises (see artwork at left). Artwork featuring this design and drawn by Akira Watanabe was displayed on the package artwork for Sonic the Hedgehog, and most subsequent Sonic video games featured similar designs.
When Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Mega Drive appeared, Sonic’s proportions changed. The original 1:2 head to height ratio became 1:2.5.
Beginning with Sonic Adventure in 1998, Sonic was redesigned by Yuji Uekawa as a taller character with longer legs and a less spherical body, longer and more drooping quills, the addition of shoe buckles, and green-colored irises. Further subtle changes to the character’s design have been made in subsequent games. Spin-off media such as comics and cartoons have featured variations on all these video game designs, with restrictions set by the standardized model sheets.
Quite a number of different actors have provided the voice for Sonic in his game appearances. Sonic’s first voice actor was Takeshi Kusao for SegaSonic the Hedgehog, with Junichi Kanemaru continually voicing the role beginning with the release of Sonic Adventure. Sonic’s first English game voice was provided by Ryan Drummond beginning with Sonic Adventure, a role he continued until 2004, when he was replaced by Jason Anthony Griffith, who previously voiced the character in the American dub of the anime series Sonic X.
See also: Sonic the Hedgehog (series) and List of games featuring Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic’s first appearance in the video game world was in the platform game Sonic the Hedgehog (sometimes referred to simply as Sonic 1) for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, which also introduced his nemesis Dr. Robotnik (more commonly known as Dr. Eggman). His two-tailed fox friend Miles “Tails” Prower joined him in the game’s 1992 sequel Sonic 2. Sonic CD, released in 1993, introduced Sonic’s self-proclaimed girlfriend Amy Rose and his robotic doppelgänger Metal Sonic (not to be confused with Mecha Sonic, an alternate model made later by Dr. Robotnik) as Sonic traveled through time to ensure a good future for the world. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and its direct sequel Sonic & Knuckles, both released in 1994, saw Sonic and Tails battle Dr. Robotnik again, with the additional threat of Knuckles the Echidna, tricked by Robotnik into thinking Sonic was a threat to his home.
Other two-dimensional platformers starring Sonic include Sonic Chaos (1993), Sonic Triple Trouble (1994), Sonic Blast (1996), Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (1999), Sonic Advance in (2001), Sonic Advance 2 (2002), Sonic Advance 3 (2004), Sonic Rush (2005), and Sonic Rush Adventure (2007).
Sonic Adventure (1998/1999) was Sonic Team’s return to the character for a major game. It featured Sonic returning from vacation to find the city of Station Square under attack by a new, very powerful foe named Chaos, under the control of Dr. Eggman. This was also the first Sonic game to have a complete voice-over. Sonic Adventure 2 (2001) placed Sonic on-the-run from the military (G.U.N) after being mistaken for a new enemy, Shadow the Hedgehog, the Ultimate Life Form. Sonic Heroes (2004) has Sonic teaming up with Tails and Knuckles (along with other characters) against the newly rebuilt Metal Sonic, who had betrayed his master. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) features Sonic in the city of water, “Soleanna”, where he must rescue Princess Elise from Dr. Eggman while trying to avoid a new threat to his own life, Silver the Hedgehog. He is the only playable character in Sonic Unleashed (2008), in which he unwillingly gains a new personality, “Sonic the Werehog;” the result of Sonic being fused with Dark Gaia’s power. He gains incredible strength and flexibility in exchange for his speed.
Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007) features Sonic in a story book world of the “Arabian Nights”. A Nintendo Power cover scan was released spoiling a new Sonic game titled Sonic and the Black Knight. Soon after, Sega confirmed that it was in fact real and was going to be the second title in the Sonic Storybook spinoff series, making Sonic and the Secret Rings the first.
Sonic has also been featured in games of many genres other than 2D and 3D platform games. The first of these was a pinball game, Sonic Spinball (1993), which expanded upon the pinball sequences in the first three platform games. Then, more spin-offs appeared like: Sonic Labyrinth (1995) and Sonic 3D Blast (1996), the racing games Sonic Drift (1994), Sonic Drift 2 (1995), Sonic R (1996), Sonic Riders (2006), Sonic Rivals (2006), Sonic Rivals 2 (2007) and Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (2008), the fighting games Sonic the Fighters (1996), Sonic Battle (2003), the mobile game Sonic Jump (2005) and has made an appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008). Sonic is the first playable character in his first role-playing game Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008).
Video games such as Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (1993), Knuckles Chaotix (1995), Tails’ Skypatrol (1995), Tails Adventure (1995), and Shadow the Hedgehog (2005) starred supporting characters of the Sonic series, although Sonic himself cameos in most of these titles.
Sonic has made many cameo appearances in different games. Most notably in other Sega games, such as being a power-up in Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, walking around the main hallway in Phantasy Star Universe on his birthday (June 23), and appearing in the 2008 remake of Samba De Amigo (he appears in the background for the songs “Low Rider”, “UN Aguardiants” and “Mambo #5”. He is also a playable character in Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams. Sonic has proved to be popular among other publishers as well, and he cameos in games like Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Art Alive, Shining Force II, Clockwork Knight 2 (in footage from a concept video for the main hero of the game in the background while in a toy plane), Crusader of Centy and Rad Mobile. He appears as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, being one of two third-party characters (the other being Solid Snake included in the game. Sonic cameos in the video game adaptation of the film Tom and Jerry: The Movie. He also appears on billboards around New York in the video game adaptation of The Incredible Hulk, which was produced by Sega. Sonic has also appeared in The Simpsons episodes, That 90’s Show and Marge Be Not Proud, as well as a brief, satirical appearance in The Simpsons Game. He has also appeared in the game Bug! during a bonus round where you appear to race him.
Sonic, as he appears in the anime series Sonic X.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog was the first animated series to feature Sonic, where he was voiced by Jaleel White. It had a very comical take on Sonic and Tails’s adventures and battles against Robotnik. Pierre De Celles, an animator who worked on Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, described the show as “fun and humorous.”
In the darker and more serious series Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic was again voiced by Jaleel White. In this universe, he lives on Planet Mobius in Knothole Village, where he belongs to a band of Freedom Fighters that fight to free their world from the literally iron-fisted rule of the evil dictator Dr. Robotnik.
Sonic Underground featured the introductions of Sonic’s siblings Sonia the Hedgehog and Manic the Hedgehog, as well as his mother Queen Aleena, the four of whom were destined to defeat Robotnik and rule Mobius as the “Council of Four”. Jaleel White returned to voice Sonic for the third time as well as voicing Sonic’s siblings, with Samuel Vincent providing Sonic’s singing voice.
Additionally, there was a Sonic the Hedgehog anime OVA in Japan, which featured Sonic, Tails, Robotnik, Knuckles and Metal Sonic. Sonic was voiced by Masami Kikuchi in Japan, and Martin Burke in the United States.
Sonic X, was an anime in which Sonic is teleported to Earth by Chaos Control, caused by the Chaos Emeralds. In this series, he is voiced by Jun’ichi Kanemaru in the Japanese version, and by Jason Griffith in the English version.
Main article: List of Sonic the Hedgehog printed media
Sonic’s first comic appearance was in a promotional comic printed in Disney Adventures magazine (which was also given away as a free pull-out with a copy of “Mean Machines” magazine), which established an origin for Sonic involving the transformation of kindly scientist Doctor Ovi Kintobor into the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik. Numerous British publications, including “Sega handbook” Stay Sonic (1993), four novels published by Virgin Books (1993–1994) and the comic book Sonic the Comic (1993–2001) used this premise as their basis.
The American comics published by Archie Comics, Sonic the Hedgehog (1993–), Sonic X (2005–2008) and Sonic Universe (2009-) are based on the settings established by earlier animated TV series, the ABC “SatAM” cartoon, the Sonic X anime and an expansion to the series respectively. The former series is currently the second longest-running licensed comic series in the history of American comic books, second only to Marvel’s Conan series (first issue released in 1970). In France two comic books named “Sonic Adventures” were published by Sirène in 1994.
Sonic has also been featured in two different manga. One series was simply called Sonic the Hedgehog, and featured a story about a normal boy named Nicky Parlouzer who can change into Sonic. The other series was a compilation of short stories and was separated into two volumes, the first being called Dash and Spin, and the other called Super Fast Sonic!!.
Super Sonic’s character design from Sonic Advance 3 onward.
According to various official materials from Sega, Sonic is described as a character who is “like the wind”: a drifter who lives as he wants, and makes life a series of events and adventures. Sonic hates oppression and staunchly defends freedom. Although he is mostly easy-going he has a short temper and is often impatient with slower things. Sonic is a habitual daredevil who is honest, loyal to friends, keeps his promises, and dislikes tears. He took the young Tails under his wing like a little brother, but appears to be uninterested in the marital proposals from Amy Rose. In times of crisis, he focuses intensely on the challenge as if his personality had undergone an astonishing change.
Sonic is known as the world’s fastest hedgehog. Sonic’s greatest strength is his running speed, which is faster than the speed of sound. Many of his abilities are variations on the tendency for hedgehogs to roll into tight balls for protection with the addition of spinning his body. Since his introduction in 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic’s primary offensive maneuver is the basic “Spin Attack” (or “Sonic Spin Attack”). Later games in the series expanded on this basic attack and two of these enhancements have become mainstays of his: the Spin Dash which was introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and involves Sonic spinning on the spot before blasting off at full speed, and the Homing Attack, officially introduced in Sonic Adventure, in which Sonic dashes in midair toward a target. However, Sonic’s weakness is that he can’t swim.
When seven Chaos Emeralds are collected in most Sonic games, Sonic can initiate a super transformation into Super Sonic, a faster and invulnerable version of himself that can fly. In the 2D games, he enters Super Sonic mode after collecting an additional 50 Rings; in the 3D games where Super Sonic is playable, he starts off in the form with additional 50 Rings. While transformed, Sonic slowly loses Rings during the time he is in the form and returns to normal when all Rings are used up; the player can collect more Rings during this time to keep him as Super Sonic.
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