Sonic the Hedgehog is a franchise of video games released by Sega starring their mascot character Sonic the Hedgehog. The series began in 1991 with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis. An 8-bit version of the game was also released for the Master System and Game Gear formats (see History for more information on this). Sonic was responsible for turning Sega into a leading video game company early in the 16-bit era, and his first game soon replaced Altered Beast as the default pack-in game for the Genesis in North America and Europe.
While sale estimates vary (see Reception below), the Sonic franchise has undoubtedly become a huge commercial success since its inception: as of 2013, the franchise had sold more than 140 million units, making the series the 5th best-selling videogame franchise of all time.
Most games in the series are developed by Sonic Team, except some spin-offs that were independently developed by Sega of America. The chief programmer for the first game was Yuji Naka, who would later become head of the Sonic Team division, and the game planner was Hirokazu Yasuhara but stopped producing games for the franchise. The music of the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Mega Drive / Genesis were composed by Masato Nakamura of the Japanese band Dreams Come True.
Yuji Naka, Hirokazu Yasuhara, and Naoto Ohshima soon stopped producing games for Sonic. Yuji Naka became the head of his own company, Prope. Ohshima joined the company Artoon, and Yasuhara moved to Namco, another gaming company. Currently, Takashi Iizuka is the head of Sonic Team and has been involved in several Sonic games. Most of the music is done by Sega's Sound Team or Crush 40.
Most games in the series feature a blue, heroic anthropomorphic hedgehog named Sonic as the central player character and protagonist. The games feature Sonic's attempts to save his planet from various threats, primarily the evil genius called Dr. Eggman in Japan, and Dr. Ivo Robotnik in Western regions, although he is usually called the former as of Sonic Adventure, with the latter rarely mentioned afterwards but still recognized as his true name. The main antagonist throughout the series, Robotnik's aim is to rule the planet and establish the Eggman Empire or Eggmanland (which he succeeded in doing in Sonic Unleashed); and to achieve this, he usually attempts to eliminate Sonic and acquire the powerful Chaos Emeralds, but his goals are always foiled by Sonic, who is often joined by some of his friends, such as Tails, Amy, and Knuckles.
Two-dimensional (2D) Sonic titles are sidescrolling-platform videogames viewed from a side-on perspective. Their controls are fairly basic and do not deviate much from the genre standard; the selling point of the series is the incredible speed of the playable characters, who usually have the ability to run uphill, walls and even ceilings. Golden, bracelet-like Rings are the main health system for the characters. Holding them, even one, prevents players from losing a life, and gaining a hundred of them generally grants a 1-Up. They also feature various momentum-based elements, such as roller coaster-like loops and corkscrews. Giant pinball machines with flippers and bumpers, which knock the characters around as concussive balls, are also common. Springboards, objects that launch characters towards a certain direction (up, left, or right) are regular objects through the franchise too. The stages have several sequences which involve a character being thrown along preset paths with little input from the player. However, there are also numerous sections involving precise jumping between platforms and avoiding of hazards (e.g. Spikes and bottomless pits), although these are certainly more lenient than other games of its genre. The enemies are normally robots created by Dr. Robotnik ("Badniks") and are destroyed by simply jumping/rolling onto them. Items and power-ups (such as Shields and bursts of speed) are contained in television monitors and can be obtained by breaking them open. The levels themselves are divided in two to three "Acts", depending on the game, and are named "Zones" ("rounds" in Sonic the Hedgehog CD). Star Posts normally (Lampposts in the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic CD) act as checkpoints once a life is lost (8-bit Sonic games feature a variation of the Star Posts in the form of Arrow monitors), which often allow access to the Bonus Stages after getting a predetermined number of Rings. Goal Plates usually signal the end of an act, always showing a picture of Dr. Robotnik at first, then spinning and changing to one of the playing character once he/she touches it; in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Mania, these panels also fall from the top of the screen at the end of the first Act, in which case the characters can hit upwards to gain extra score points and getting it to fall in a certain place might also pop up monitor power-ups/items from the floor. Special Stages are another common feature in Sonic games, being dimensions far from the games' setting which allow the player to gain Chaos Emeralds, extra lives, and Continues, usually entered through Giant Rings. A boss, an enemy with much higher HP, is often fought in the final Act of a Zone/round, generally Dr. Eggman in his many machines; also in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Mania, a mini-boss is fought in the first Act, which players have to defeat in a similar fashion to normal bosses in the second/third Act. After defeating the boss, the player has to destroy a Capsule in order to free the captured animal friends (which act as a power source for Dr. Robotnik's Badnik army), thus ending the level.
Three-dimensional (3D) Sonic entries do not restrict movement as much, controls are slightly more advanced, and the frequency of automated events is increased. These games, while sharing several of the same components with their 2D counterparts, also modify some of those concepts to accomodate them into the 3D perspective; they also put a greater emphasis on the game's plot and character development.
While several people have been involved in the creation of Sonic, the artist Naoto Ohshima, programmer Yuji Naka and designer Hirokazu Yasuhara are generally credited with the creation of the character.
In April 1990, Sega requested a game capable of selling more than 1,000,000 copies; a character who could compete against Nintendo's popular Super Mario, and a character to replace Alex Kidd as the company's mascot. Several character designs were submitted by its AM8 research and development department. These included an armadillo (who was later developed into Mighty the Armadillo), a dog, a Theodore Roosevelt look-alike in pajamas (who was later used as the basis of the design of the main antagonist Dr. Eggman) and a rabbit (who would use its extendable ears to collect objects, an idea that was later used for a separate Sega character, Ristar). Eventually, the mascot they selected was Naoto Ohshima's submission, a spiky teal hedgehog codenamed "Mr. Needlemouse", later renamed Sonic. Sonic's color was based on the Sega logo, his shoe buckles based on Michael Jackson, his shoe color based on Santa Claus, and his personality was inspired by future-President Bill Clinton's "get it done" attitude, who Ōhshima felt embodied a modern sensibility of wanting to get things done right away, righting wrongs as they presented themselves instead of letting them linger. According to Yuji Naka, Sonic's color also serves to symbolize peace, trust, and coolness (which are the attributes of Sonic's character). His trademark speed is based on Super Mario Bros. World 1-1, with Sonic creator Yuji Naka stating in issue 260 of Nintendo Power that "I always tried to get through the level as fast as I could," which inspired the initial concept for Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic was created without the ability to swim because of a mistaken assumption by Yuji Naka that all hedgehogs could not do so.
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 gave Sonic fangs and put him in a band with a human girlfriend named Madonna. However, a team from Sega of America, led by Madeline Schroeder, "softened" the character up for an American audience by removing these elements. This sparked a heated issue with Sonic Team. Naka later admitted that it was probably for the best. Sonic's precise age, weight, height and other physical characteristics vary depending on the continuity in which he appears and the style in which he is drawn. In the video games, Sonic's original design by Naoto Ohshima was with short spikes, a round body, and no visible irises. 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 changed to 1:2.5.
Sonic the Hedgehog, the launch title for what would become the Sonic series, was released in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive to critical acclaim and far exceeding Sega's commercial expectations, becoming one of the best-selling games in history, and, at the time, giving a huge popularity boost for Sega, enough so that the company could directly compete with Nintendo. The game was soon ported to Sega's 8-bit platforms: the Master System and the handheld Game Gear; this version had similar Zone themes and regular enemies, but entirely different level layouts and bosses; this version notably omitted the use of the iconic shuttle loops, and was also well-received by critics, who cited it as a decent effort in porting the original game's complex engine into the less powerful Game Gear/Master System.
After the first game's success, a sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, soon followed, introducing Sonic's then-new sidekick and best friend, Miles "Tails" Prower. Unlike the original Sonic the Hedgehog, it was developed by the Sega Technical Institute rather than Sonic Team. Released in November 1992, the gameplay and story remained largely the same as the previous game: having to rescue the animal friends and defeat Dr. Robotnik. The game also introduced a new ability for Sonic to use: the Spin Dash. While its Mega Drive iteration is more widely known, the game was first released for the Master System and Game Gear, having little to no connection with its 16-bit counterpart aside the name. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a commercial success, and was released to critical acclaim in all of its versions.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD was released the following year, developed by a different team in Japan headed by Naoto Ohshima. While this game was supposed to be the same as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, during development, it eventually became its own project. Sonic the Hedgehog CD was released for the Mega CD, a special addon for the Mega Drive; due to this, it featured higher-quality sprites and soundtrack in comparison to previous Sonic games; the latter differed between the American and European/Japanese versions of the game. It quickly became a commercial success, receiving acclam from videogame reviewers and magazines. It was later ported to Microsoft Windows in CD-ROM format in 1996, becoming the first Sonic title to be officially available on PC, with noticeable improvements over the original version. It introduced the soon-to-be recurring characters Amy Rose, Sonic's self-proclaimed girlfriend, and Metal Sonic, Sonic's robotic doppelganger created by Dr. Robotnik and first true rival. This game also marked the debut of the Super Peel Out.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, the first spin-off title in the series, was released in 1993 for the Sega Mega Drive, Sega Master System, and the Sega Game Gear. It largely followed the concept of Sonic bouncing around as the ball on a giant pinball table that had been used in both Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. While it was commercially successful, the game received mixed reception.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, the second spin-off game in the franchise, released in 1993 for the Mega Drive, Master System, and Game Gear, was one of the few entries in the series in which Sonic did not make any appearance, not even in a cameo. The game, however, was set in the universe of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, the first Sonic TV show, which was produced by DiC Entertainment and featured that cartoon's version of Dr. Eggman, alongside several of his lackeys such as Scratch, Grounder, and Coconuts. The game branched the series into the puzzle genre for the first time, and was a port for Western regions of Japan's Puyo Puyo, receiving positive reception.
SegaSonic the Hedgehog, also released in 1993, was the first installment in the Sonic series to be released in arcade systems, and introduced new characters to the franchise: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel. It distinguished itself from other Sonic games at the time by presenting a isometric, pseudo-3D perspective in comparison to the traditional 2D fast-paced platforming the series was known for. It was well-received by video game magazines and got positive scores.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3, released in 1994, continued where Sonic the Hedgehog 2 left, and saw Sonic and Tails venture into Angel Island, after hearing unusual activity coming from the place. It introduced another character to the series: Knuckles the Echidna, who, while an enemy to Sonic and Tails in this game, would become one of their best friends later on. During development, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was split in half, having a direct sequel, Sonic & Knuckles, released later that year, which included the leftover content from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The two were built on the same engine and sold well, receiving positive feedback from videogame critics. Sonic & Knuckles also included "Lock-on" technology, which allowed the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge to be connected to an older game to the cartridge's pass-through port to unlock bonuses: If connected to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the game becomes Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (which is what the developers intended to achieve with the standalone Sonic the Hedgehog 3 cartridge), while if it is conected to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is unlocked, which allows players to select Knuckles as their character in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, although Sonic and Tails are removed in this version; connecting the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge to any other Sega Mega Drive cartridge, including the original Sonic the Hedgehog, unlocks a full version of the Blue Sphere Special Stages. Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and the complete Sonic 3 & Knuckles would later be ported to Microsoft Windows in 1997 as a compilation named Sonic & Knuckles Collection.
Knuckles' Chaotix, released in 1995 for the Sega 32X Mega Drive-addon, saw Knuckles the Echidna in the role of protagonist instead of the titular character Sonic (who only makes a cameo in the good ending of the game alongside Tails), and introduced the team that would later be known as the Team Chaotix, including Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile, and Charmy Bee, alongside a returning Mighty the Armadillo. Similar to Sonic the Hedgehog CD years earlier, Knuckles' Chaotix featured higher-quality graphics and OST than preceding entries. While it was the best-selling title for the 32X, it is largely considered a commercial failure and received mixed reviews overall, with its presentation dividing critics.
Sonic 3D, named Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island in Europe and Japan, and Sonic 3D Blast in North America, was released as a "swan-song" for the Mega Drive in December 1996, and was the last Sonic game released for the console. This game, similar to SegaSonic the Hedgehog, was also played from an isometric perspective. Although it shared elements with the 2D platform Sonic installments, it stood out by introducing a new gameplay mechanic, which was to collect Flickies (one of the many animal friends that are captured regularly to power Dr. Robotnik's Badnik army) after rescuing the birds from the robots and then, as a method of progress, the player had to warp them into Giant Rings to get through the stages. Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows ports followed to cover the hole of the cancellation of Sonic X-treme. The Saturn/PC version featured enhanced graphics and a different soundtrack, composed by Richard Jacques. While it was a commercially prosperous, Sonic 3D Blast received mixed reception from critics and fans alike, with the Saturn/PC version getting slightly more positive scores. The game was developed by Traveler's Tales, although Sonic Team worked on the Special Stages in the Saturn/PC version.
In 1997, a compilation entitled Sonic Jam was released for the Saturn and Game.com. In addition to containing Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, it also included a "Sonic World" mode. This allowed the player to control Sonic in a small 3D-world similar to Green Hill Zone from the original game; it contained no enemies and was mainly a means of accessing the disc's multimedia features such as BGM's, illustrations and commercials. While the original version of Sonic Jam was well-received by reviewers and performed decently in commercial terms, its Game.com counterpart was critically panned and sold poorly.
Alongside the 16-bit games, during this time there were also several 8-bit entries developed for the Game Gear and Master System exclusive to those platforms, such as Sonic Chaos in 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble in 1994, and Sonic Blast in 1996/1997, each with varying degrees of success and following a similar formula to their 16-bit counterparts. Unlike the Genesis games, those titles were developed by a different entity, Ancient, with Sega as the publisher.
Beginning with Sonic Adventure in 1998, Sonic was redesigned by Yuji Uekawa as a fifteen-year-old character, with longer legs and a less spherical body, longer and more drooping spikes, and emerald green-colored eyes. Further changes to the character's design were made in subsequent games, namely in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and Sonic Unleashed, adding visible fur, a more realistic design for a human world, and making him a bit lankier. Spin-off media such as comics and cartoons have featured variations on all these videogame designs, with restrictions set by the standardized model sheets.
To create unique Sonic products in various markets, Sega initially developed two major regional backstories for the instruction booklets; the original Japanese version and a localized version for most other regions, which was the version built upon by the Archie Comics, the Sonic the Hedgehog television series, and other media. While sometimes the storyline would have minute differences, other times the storyline would be very different. With the launch of the Sega Dreamcast, the series' storyline took a unified approach and this practice diminished.
Although Sonic R was the first 3D Sonic game, the full leap into 3D platforming was made with Sonic Adventure, a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast console. On 7 June 2001 in North America (23 June in Japan and Europe; the 10th anniversary of the US release of Sonic the Hedgehog), Sonic Adventure 2 was launched. Both of the Adventure titles were later ported to the Nintendo GameCube (under the titles of Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut and Sonic Adventure 2 Battle) when Sega dropped out of the hardware market. Sonic Adventure DX was also released on Microsoft Windows in 2003.
The first Sonic game to release simultaneously on multiple consoles, Sonic Heroes, was released on the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in December 2003 in Japan, with American and European releases in 2004 and a PC version during the following November. The platforming was largely similar to that of the Adventure titles, although the player now controlled the lead character in a team of three characters, with the other two following closely behind. The player could switch to a new leader at any time to make use of each character's unique skills. While it was a commercial success, opinions among both reviewers and fans of the Sonic series were mostly mixed.
Shadow the Hedgehog was released in the United States in November 2005. It was commercially successful, but as with Sonic Heroes, received mixed reviews from critics. Example sites such as IGN and GameSpot panned the game. Nintendo Power and Gametrailers, however, both rated it above 8 out of 10, praising the replay value. Controversies revolving around this game included the gun play and the over-use of minor profanity and the fact that Sega had decided to switch to the 4Kids Entertainment voice actors from the English version of Sonic X.
A highly faithful two-part port of Sonic the Hedgehog made for mobile phones has been a huge hit in Europe, introducing the game to a new generation of preteen gamers, with respected handheld specialist Pocket Gamer awarding Sonic the Hedgehog Part Two a 9 out of 10 review score.
Other gameplay styles
The Sonic series has also seen installments in another genres and gameplay styles aside the standard platforming it is known for. The first of these was the already mentioned Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, soon followed by Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, both in 1993.
Several racing games starring Sonic characters have been developed. In Sonic Drift and Sonic Drift 2, characters drive go-karts (kart circuits were later included in the two Sonic Adventure games). In Sonic R (1998), most characters ran on foot (with Eggman riding his Eggmobile and Amy driving a car), while in the Sonic Riders series (2006), they race on hoverboards known as "Extreme Gears." With games such as Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, Sonic characters returned to racing in vehicles, alongside other Sega characters.
Sonic Shuffle was a virtual board game/party game for the Dreamcast. Edutainment video games starring Sonic and Tails have also been released, such as Sonic the Hedgehog's Gameworld and Tails and the Music Maker for the Sega Pico, and the PC title Sonic's Schoolhouse.
2009's Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood brought Sonic into the genre of role-playing games (RPGs) for the first time, mixing turn-based strategic combat and storytelling with traditional Sonic elements.
These are elements present in most Sonic videogames since its creation.
A variety of the normal Rings, the Giant Rings are hidden in the games' stages and designed to be jumped through, which would transport the character to a Special Stage, where the character could collect one of the Chaos Emeralds or, in certain circumstances, Super Emeralds. They were used for this purpose in Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog CD and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 used the Star Posts instead. In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, if all the Emeralds had already been found, these Rings could be collected as a normal one, granting 50 normal Rings each, allowing the characters to tap into the power of the Chaos Emeralds (usually becoming Super, or Hyper in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles if the player has collected all the Super Emeralds as well). Since Sonic Adventure 2, they have taken the place of the old Goal Plates as the end level marker and touching it would end the stage.
Shuttle loops are circular loop-de-loops of unknown origin that the player runs through as part of the main path during a stage. While the player will often be required to input quick acceleration to get through them in the 2D games, this is often not the case in 3D installments, as the character will usually be launched into them with a set speed once they get near the structure, generally not allowing to backtrack the level.
The Chaos Emeralds are seven emeralds with mystical powers which are a recurring feature in Sonic games. They are the basic in most of the games' plots, and the player is frequently required to collect them all to fully defeat Dr. Eggman and achieve the games' "good endings", Super forms, or both. The method used to acquire the Emeralds differs between titles in the series. Most early games require the player to find them in Special Stages. In some games, such as Sonic R and the 8-bit versions of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, they can be found in hidden locations within the main levels. In later games, the Chaos Emeralds are found by the characters throughout the games' story modes and do not need to be "found" by the player.
A counterpart to the Chaos Emeralds, known as the Sol Emeralds, appear in the Sonic Rush series.
The Master Emerald resides in a shrine on Angel Island and is guarded by Knuckles the Echidna; it contains an infinite amount of power, much greater than the seven Chaos Emeralds, and is used to keep the Angel Island afloat in the sky. The Emerald also has the power to fully control everything that the Chaos Emeralds do, including the ability to negate the energy of the Chaos Emeralds, as seen in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, or empower them, as seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. The Master Emerald can also be used to power mechanical devices, and has been coveted by Dr. Robotnik since his discovery of it. During Knuckles' final boss fight in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Mecha Sonic powers up using the Master Emerald into a Super State. In earlier materials, the Master Emerald was sometimes called an eighth Chaos Emerald, but this association has been lessened in later games, making it a separate but related entity.
While it was featured prominently in earlier games, more recent entries have diminished the number of appearances of the Master Emerald.
Usually, a Chaos Emerald may be earned in a Special Stage or Special Zone. Special Stages usually take place in surreal environments and features alternate gameplay mechanics to the standard platforming of the main levels: the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog consisted of a giant rotating maze (which many considered a major technical achievement); Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Heroes and Sonic Rush featured "in your face" segments with the hedgehog running along a long tunnel, with a variant of this used for Knuckles' Chaotix, Sonic Advance, and Sonic Advance 3; 3D "collect items" levels, as in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, which used the same perspective but had Sonic collecting all the blue-colored orbs on the surface of a giant sphere and a different version, the 3D ring-collecting Special Stage, used in Sonic Advance 2. Sonic Chaos (Sonic & Tails in Japan) utilized a variety of gimmicks for its levels.
Some games include Special Stages, but not as a means of collecting Chaos Emeralds. As the Emeralds of the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog were hidden in the main stages, the game's spring-filled Special Stages were used to obtain 1-Ups and Continues. Similarly, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, in addition to their main Special Stages, featured entirely optional Bonus Stages, one of which combined the rotating maze of the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog with the pinball gambling of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic Heroes had an alternate Special Stage for earning lots of extra lives, very much like the one in which Chaos Emeralds are collected, but with the objective being to get to the Goal Ring before time ran out, rather than catching up to the Chaos Emerald at the end of the tunnel.
Just as the design of the Special Stages has changed, so has the means of accessing them. In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Giant Rings were hidden in levels to take the player to the Stages, but most other titles involve the collection of a certain number of rings, usually fifty. In both the 8 and 16-bit versions of Sonic the Hedgehog, they were reached by finishing a level with more than fifty Rings; the player would then have to jump inside the giant ring that would appear just after the goal post. In the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog 2, reaching a Star Post when they held this number would create a warp of stars which would take a player to the Special Stage when jumped through. Sonic 3D Blast required the player to deliver rings to Knuckles and Tails, who could be found within each level. Sonic Chaos changed the figure, with access to a Special Stage being the reward for collecting a hundred Rings, although only when playing as Sonic.
Since the 16-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic has had the ability to transform into the faster and practically invulnerable Super Sonic once all seven Chaos Emeralds are collected. After that, Super Sonic can be used in any of the following levels once fifty rings have been collected, although one ring is lost for every second Sonic remains in this form.
In the Sonic Adventure titles, the Special Stages were omitted entirely and Chaos Emeralds were collected in non-interactive cutscenes as part of the story, with Super Sonic only appearing in the climactic final boss fight. This dismayed many fans, who appreciated the additional replay value offered by retrying a game's levels with Super Sonic's additional abilities. Despite several games since returning to the emerald-collecting of the 2D platform titles (including the Advance series, Heroes, and Rush), Super Sonic was again only playable at the end of the game.
However, Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World returned the ability to access a super transformation in normal levels. They were also some of the few recent games to omit a Super transformation from the final boss battle.
Other characters have also been able to utilize the super transformation. In Sonic & Knuckles, Knuckles the Echidna could also transform into Super Knuckles. By locking-on Sonic & Knuckles to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Hyper Sonic, Super Tails and Hyper Knuckles also become available, by collecting all seven Super Emeralds in addition to the seven Chaos Emeralds. In Sonic Adventure 2, Super Shadow also appeared at the end of the Last Story, who fought alongside Super Sonic to destroy the Biolizard. In Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure, Burning Blaze appears for the extra boss, similar to the end of Sonic Adventure 2. She uses the term "Burning" instead of "Super" as she uses the Sol Emeralds instead of the Chaos Emeralds. In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Super Silver appears along with Super Sonic and Super Shadow.
A feature unique to Sonic is his ability to use super transformations using different sources of power other than the Chaos Emeralds, each with its own unique abilities. For Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic used the World Rings to become Darkspine Sonic. In Sonic Unleashed, Sonic had the ability to turn into Sonic the Werehog from the power of Dark Gaia. In Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic transforms into Excalibur Sonic using the power of the sacred swords.
Sky, Space and Water
Many games feature or focus on sky and water on their title screens and many later stages are set in either in the sky or space, with many first stages having a heavy focus on water as either an obstacle or in the background.
Since Sonic's first appearance in 1991, many more characters have appeared and most of them have been added to the main cast. Many of these characters have garnered steady fanbases since their inclusion into the franchise, while other longtime fans have criticized them for allegedly taking the gameplay focus off Sonic:
|Sonic the Hedgehog||Sonic is the fastest thing alive and the eponymous protagonist of the series who possesses incredible super speed and numerous other abilities that are known to be based on breakdancing. He uses these skills to save the world from Dr. Eggman. He is impatient, laid-back, confident, cool-headed and always on the lookout for an adventure as well as to help anyone in need of rescuing.|
|Miles "Tails" Prower||Sonic's best friend. He is a young two-tailed fox who can fly for a limited time by spinning his tails rapidly, and has most of Sonic's abilities, including his supersonic speed. He is a skilled mechanic and often takes care of Sonic's biplane, the Tornado.|
|Dr. Eggman||Real name Dr. Ivo Robotnik, Eggman is Sonic's arch nemesis and the series' main villain. He is extremely intelligent, pompous, bad-tempered, egg-shaped, and has a giant red-brown mustache. Eggman is an expert in robotics with an IQ of 300 whose goal is to conquer the world and build the Eggman Empire. However, Sonic and his friends always stand in his way. In many cases, he is ironically outdone by his own plans.|
|Knuckles the Echidna||The last living echidna and Sonic's hotheaded friend and rival. Knuckles resides on Angel Island, where he guards the Master Emerald, the source of the island's ability to float in the sky. Knuckles is very strong; his spiked fists are capable of smashing through boulders as well as allowing him to climb walls. The nature of his echidna dreadlocks allows him to glide in the air for periods of time.|
|Amy Rose||A young pink hedgehog who has become Sonic's self-appointed girlfriend, first seen in Sonic the Hedgehog CD. Ever since Sonic and Amy met, she has been in love with Sonic and she now wants him to marry her. Amy is quite strong and smashes enemy forces down with her trusty Piko Piko Hammer.|
|Shadow the Hedgehog||Shadow is a mysterious black hedgehog resembling Sonic in appearance and skills, making him Sonic's biggest arch-rival. He is the Ultimate Life Form created by Gerald Robotnik with Black Doom's DNA on the Space Colony ARK over five decades ago. He recently suffered from amnesia but has regained all of his memories since then. He can use Chaos Control to distort time and space.|
|Cream the Rabbit & Cheese||A naive young rabbit who lives with her mother, Vanilla. Cream's best friend is a Chao called Cheese (which she uses as missile). Because Cream has been brought up like a princess, she does not like being involved in other peoples' affairs. She can fly using her large ears.|
|Rouge the Bat||Rouge is a sassy female bat treasure hunter who's goal is to make all the gems in the world hers and also works as a spy for GUN. She is full of feminine charm and can be very manipulative. She is Knuckles' rival.|
|Big the Cat||A big purple tabby cat who loves fishing. His best friend is a frog named Froggy, whom he constantly keeps losing. Big lives with his buddy in a peaceful hut in the Mystic Ruins.|
|Chao||Chao are a brittle, fleeting and very lovable life form with no defined evolutionary direction. They primarily inhabit clear watersides. By interacting with other living things, they can incorporate their natures and change themselves to adapt to the environment and survive. They are known for their very loving behavior.|
|Team Chaotix||A team of misfits who have started their own detective agency. The Chaotix consists of Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon and Charmy Bee, with Vector being their leader. They met for the first time when they fought against Dr. Robotnik in Knuckles' Chaotix, along with Mighty the Armadillo and Knuckles The Echidna, both of which haven't appeared with them since.|
|E-123 Omega||The last of the E-100 series of robots created by Eggman and seeks revenge on his master for shutting him down, not being able to realize his potential. Rouge accidentally activated him when trying to free Shadow from Eggman's base. Since then, he has became good friends with both of them.|
|Babylon Rogues||A group of professional Extreme Gear riders that searches for treasure for their benefits. The leader is Jet the Hawk who is the most talented of Extreme Gear riding, being known as the Legendary Wind Master and shares a rivalry with Sonic in speed. Wave the Swallow, a brilliant and intelligent mechanic, and Storm the Albatross, physically strong in arms but somewhat clumsy, follow Jet's leadership.|
|Blaze the Cat||A female, pyrokinetic lavender cat from a parallel universe. As guardian of the Sol Emeralds, it is her duty to prevent anyone from taking them away from her. She is somewhat shy and tends to conceal her real feelings.|
|Silver the Hedgehog||Silver is a mysterious, white-colored hedgehog from the future. He traveled through time to stop Sonic, who he believed to be the Iblis Trigger causing his time to be ruined. Unlike Sonic, Silver utilizes psychokinesis that allows him to lift objects with his mind and throw them at foes.|
|Chaos||Chao is an ancient, mutated Chao with high intelligent and god-like powers. With a peaceful temperament, it used the power it gained from the seven Chaos Emeralds to keep the waters around its altar clean and protect its family from enemies. However, when the Knuckles Clan sacrificed its fellow Chao to steal the Chaos Emeralds, Chaos was consumed by anger and used the seven Emeralds to become Perfect Chaos. It then caused a flood and tried to destroy the world until it was sealed in the Master Emerald. Thanks to Sonic though, it has now found peace.|
|E-102 Gamma||Eggman's shooting robot and the second model in the E-100 Series. Much like Eggman's Badniks, Gamma relied on an animal as a source of bioenergy. After encountering Amy, it began to doubt its allegiance. Eventually, it broke free from Eggman's control to "save" its other brethren from the E-100 Series by setting their animal power sources free. It was destroyed after saving E-101 Mark II.|
|Tikal||The daughter of the chief of the ancient Knuckles Clan, Pachacamac. Tikal is kind and gentle with a peaceful temperament. She can also communicate with Chaos who was originally feared as a foreign object. She was critical of her father's warmongering and constantly opposed his violent raids of other countries. After Chaos went out of control when Pachacamac invaded its altar, Tikal sealed herself and Chaos in the Master Emerald. When Chaos resurrected in the modern day, Tikal's soul emerged as a orb to stop Chaos by guiding Sonic and his allies.|
|Emerl||A mysterious robot from the Nocturnus Clan with the ability to learn skills from others and copy them for himself. He was identified as the legendary "Gizoid", the ultimate combat weapon from 4,000 years ago, by Professor Gerald Robotnik, after the professor discovered him and awoke him during an experiment with the Chaos Emerald. In the end, Sonic destroyed Emerl when he went on a rampage. His name "Emerl" is derived from his affinity with the Chaos Emeralds.|
|Metal Sonic||The robotic counterpart of Sonic the Hedgehog, created by Dr. Robotnik who possesses many of Sonic's abilities including his super speed. He seems to believe that he is in fact the real Sonic and that Sonic is his copy. In Sonic Heroes he betrayed his creator, and took the task of trying to achieve world domination into his own claws.|
|Marine the Raccoon||A spirited and talkative raccoon girl (who is surprisingly also a neat freak). Active and behavioral, she has a strong longing for adventure. When she encounters something new, she gets so caught up in it that she ignores the surroundings. Her reckless attitude is a frustration to many, but after her adventures with Sonic, she has sworn to grow up.|
|Chip||An ancient deity from the beginning of time and the incarnation of light, day and rebirth. He got his name from Sonic after the hedgehog noticed Chip's affection for the Sundae Supreme ice cream. He is a tremendous glutton and always hides chocolate somewhere on him. He is bright and friendly, but also a bit goofy. While easily frightened, he possesses enormous powers.|
|Sticks the Badger||A crazy and paranoid badger girl from the Sonic Boom franchise who has appeared in a couple of Sonic the Hedgehog mainstream medias. She lives at the edge of the forest. Because she has lived in the wild since early age, Sticks is feral and without common sense. However, she is a skilled hunter and an expert at using boomerangs. She is also a good friend of Amy.|
|Eggman Nega||The opposite but equally evil Dr. Eggman known as Eggman Nega. Like Silver the Hedgehog, Nega is from the distant future, and is Eggman's descendant. Similar to his ancestor, he tries to steal the mystic gems of his world to rule the universe. He is cunning, cold-hearted and a genius, just like the true mad scientist. However, he can easily be seen as a different doctor by his deep shades, nasal voice and gray mustache.|
|Orbot & Cubot||Dr. Eggman's robots, who he made for the purpose of aiding him. The round one is Orbot and the square one is Cubot—together they are a duo.
Orbot is the brains and more serious and firmer one. Although he carries out his master's orders with devotion and he completes his work diligently, his spiteful sarcasm sometimes angers Dr. Eggman. He is the straight man to Cubot’s funny man.
Cubot is a good-hearted and easy-going robot. Even though he is supposed to be built with the same CPU as Orbot's, he is somehow slow on the uptake. He admires Dr. Eggman, but his behavior is like a sloth that cannot be bothered to be woken up, so he does nothing but upset him. Cubot is the funny man to Orbot’s straight man.
The music of the Sonic series is considered one of the aspects that make the series popular. Sonic games have featured tunes composed by a variety of people; Masato Nakamura of J-pop band Dreams Come True was responsible for the music of the first two 16-bit games. Ys/Streets of Rage composer Yuzo Koshiro composed the music for the first 8-bit title, barring what was taken from the 16-bit title. Sega's in-house music company, Wavemaster, did the majority of the music in later titles. One Wave Master employee, Jun Senoue, is part of the band Crush 40, and through his ties to the band they have played the main theme tunes of the two Sonic Adventure games, Sonic Heroes, and Shadow the Hedgehog. Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog also featured other bands, such as Julien-K. Richard Jacques, a frequent composer of music for Sega's games, contributed to the soundtracks of Sonic R and the Saturn/PC version of Sonic 3D Blast.
Here is a list of the most notable Sonic games since the series' debut in 1991.
The Sonic video game franchise has led to a large number of spin-offs in other media, such as TV shows, films and comic series, starring Sonic. Each spin-off incorporates aspects from the games to varying degrees. With few exceptions, each production takes place in their own fictional universe, independent of the video games.
Sonic the Hedgehog (DiC/Cookie Jar/DHX franchise)
Three of the Western animated TV series based on Sonic are all produced by DiC Productions (now called DHX Media) with a collaboration with Sega of America, from 1993 to 1999.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (or AoStH for short) is an American animated television series that was first broadcast in September 1993 and has been running in cartoon syndication ever since. It follows the escapades of Sonic and Tails as they stop the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik and his array of vicious robots from taking over the planet Mobius. The plots very loosely followed the storyline of the video games series; at the time the Sonic games were still quite new and lacking much plot or character development, which was in turn filled in by the show's writers.
The animated television series simply called Sonic the Hedgehog originally aired from September 1993 to June 1995. While Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is known for its bright colors and whimsical humor, Sonic the Hedgehog featured darker stories which constituted a departure from the tone of the Sonic games of the time. To distinguish between the two series, fans typically refer to this series as SatAM because it was a Saturday morning cartoon while Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog aired on weekdays in syndication and using the show's full title would cause confusion in many situations because the show's title is the same as the character's name.
DiC's last Sonic cartoon Sonic Underground ran for only one season, 1998 to 1999; it bears little relation to other entries featuring Sonic (including previous games, comics and the other animated series) and shares few established characters. 65 episodes were originally produced and of those, only forty were released. Unlike its predecessor, SatAM, the heroes do not remain in a sanctuary-like refuge but instead travel around Mobius to battle Robotnik's forces on a global scale. The Mobian civilization featured in the series includes multiple cities, a poor underclass and an aristocracy for the heroes to interact with. Sonic Underground is the only animated series based on Sonic where Tails has not made an appearance.
Other Sonic the Hedgehog animation adaptations which are made by other animation studios.
A two-episode OVA film series based upon the game Sonic the Hedgehog CD and the video game series as a whole, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie was made in Japan in 1996 and released as a dub in North America in 2000. Unlike the games, the film takes place on a world named Planet Freedom that, as with many anime series, appears to be a crossbreed of a fairytale land and Earth. At the time of its creation, the anime did not differ as far from official canon as it does today; at this point, it could be considered to take place in an a different continuity than the games, just like other versions of Sonic from other media.
The anime series Sonic X is the longest-running and most successful animated series based on Sonic to date. Originally planned as a 52 episode series that would be inspired by the story lines of the Sonic Adventure series, Sonic X has now expanded to 78 episodes with the latest 26 episodes set primarily in outer space. Sonic X is also the only animated series to include Super Sonic. The main difference that sets this series from the other continuities is that Sonic and his friends originally came from an unnamed planet that is in parallel dimensions with Earth.
The CGI animated television series titled Sonic Boom features a comedic take on Sonic and his friends and their never-ending battles with Dr. Eggman as the main media of the Sonic Boom sub-franchise. More than one hundred episodes with a duration of eleven minutes each have aired.
A Sonic the Hedgehog CGI/Live Action film is in development by Sony.
Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog was an ongoing series of American comic books published by Archie Comics. All of Archie's Sonic-related series, miniseries and specials take place in the same fictional universe. This universe features a mixture of characters, settings and situations from the video games, the SatAM cartoon, the various other incarnations of Sonic, and many elements unique to the comic universe. The current status quo of the comic deals with a full-scale war between the Eggman Empire, ruled by Dr. Eggman, and the Freedom Fighters. However, it also features a variety of other villains and heroic characters whom Sonic and the other Sega characters interact with. The comics were cancelled in 2017.
Sonic X was a comic book series that is based on the anime series of the same name published by Archie Comics. It began in September 2005 and was originally meant to be a four-part series; due to the positive reaction to the series' announcement, it was extended to ongoing status before the first issue premiered. The comic is unique in that it is not directly based on the games; the comic is based on the television show and takes place in its expanded fictional universe. The comic borrows elements from the series first two seasons of the show, including Eggman's fortress, (which was destroyed in the first season of the series) and characters from the storyline of Sonic Adventure.
Sonic Universe was a spin-off comic book series published by Archie Comics to the main Sonic the Hedgehog comic series. It mainly featured characters that are less prominent in the main series but the two comic series frequently tied-in with each other.
IDW's Sonic the Hedgehog
The Sonic the Hedgehog comic series began their publishing by IDW Publishing on 4 April 2018. The announcement for the new comic series was made shortly after the termination of the Archie Comics partnership.
Non-Archie/IDW Sonic the Hedgehog comics
The Sonic the Hedgehog manga series, published in Shogakukan's Shogaku Yonensei (literally "fourth-year student") was written by Kenji Terada and it was illustrated by Sango Norimoto. The manga, which started in 1992, was about a hedgehog boy named Nicky who can turn into Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic fights Dr. Robotnik, with Tails tagging along to help him.
Sonic the Comic, known to its many readers as STC, was a UK children's comic published by Fleetway Editions between 1993 and 2002. Although it was the UK's official Sega comic, Sonic the Comic established its identity and ongoing storyline and setting when Sonic, Tails and their friends were sent forward in time six months. During their absence, Doctor Robotnik successfully conquered the entire planet of Mobius, and Sonic's group were forced underground, operating as "freedom fighters" attempting to bring down Robotnik's rule of the planet. Due to an aggressive series of budget cuts on the part of Fleetway, the series went into full reprint by issue 184; the final story ended with a number of loose ends left untied. An online fan based comic, called STC-Online, has been set up to continue the STC story starting from where the original STC story left off and beginning with issue 224, due to STC being reprints from issues 185 to 223. It has received positive feedback from both fans and writers of the original STC.
Reception, sales, and criticism
The Sonic the Hedgehog series became an instant success, both commercially and critically, throughout the videogame industry. During its first decade of existance, it hit a mega-sensation and became one of the most popular media franchises worldwide, rivalling and drawing comparisons to Nintendo's Super Mario, which had made a similar impact in the 1980s. Sega, capitalizing on this success, also made Sonic venture outside video games and into other media, such as television shows, comic book series, films, and toys (see Spin-offs for more info on this). Sale estimates for the Sonic series range from 80 to 100+ million copies sold through the span of its history; this figure amounts to a total of 350 million when counting mobile downloads and purchases, reaching the list of best-selling video game series.
The Sonic franchise has been nominated and won several awards as well. It won "Outstanding Contribution" by the Golden Joystick, the first ever to win that prize. The franchise also got onto the Walk of Game, and has had several graphic, gameplay, sound, and "game of the year" accolades per year. It was awarded seven records by the Guinness World Records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. The records include "Best Selling Game on Sega Systems", "Longest Running Comic Based on a Video Game" and "Best Selling Retro Game Compilation" (for Sonic Mega Collection). In the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2010, the Sonic the Hedgehog series was listed number 15 out of the top 50 videogame franchises. In December 2006, IGN ranked Sonic the Hedgehog as the 19th greatest series of all time, claiming that "although recent 3D entries in the series have been somewhat lacking, there is no denying the power of this franchise."
Besides this praise, the Sonic the Hedgehog series has attracted criticism, specially in recent years. A common complaint has been that the variant gameplay styles found in recent three-dimensional titles have strayed from the original formula of the series. Specifically, the series' jump to 3D has been noted as a declining point. A strong point of controversy also hits the Sonic fanbase, claimed to be particularly "annoying" by several people. In late 2010, Sega delisted Sonic titles with "mixed" or "negative" scores in review aggregator Metacritic, such as the poorly received Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), in order to increase the value of the Sonic brand after positive reception for games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors. Some video game magazines and critics have also been very critical of the franchise.
Despite some of its more scathing contenders, the Sonic the Hedgehog series still maintains a global position in the gaming world, continuing to perform well commercially, and with a very supportive fanbase that has continued to run strong up to this day.
- According to Kevin Eva, the former Sega Europe community manager, the canon and continuity of the Sonic the Hedgehog games are somewhat in flux all the time. As such, certain plot elements are only valid whenever Sega wants or need them to be at the time, and can easily be changed later on.
Notes and references
- In addition to information taken from the Sonic the Hedgehog games themselves, the instruction booklets of the US and Japanese versions of the games were also used as references for this article.
- ↑ Kennedy, Sam. The Essential 50: Sonic the Hedgehog. 1up.com. Retrieved on 2006-06-03.
- ↑ Kellie (29 May 2014). Introducing Sticks to the Sonic Franchise. “Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared as a video game character in June 1991 and instantly became an icon for a generation of gamers. Defined by his super-fast speed and cool attitude, in the years since he first raced on to video game consoles Sonic has become a true global phenomenon with over 140 million video games sold or downloaded worldwide across consoles, PC’s, mobile phones and tablets.”
- ↑ Note that Sonic is not the central character in certain games, such as Shadow the Hedgehog, Knuckles' Chaotix, Tails Adventure, and Tails' Skypatrol, where Shadow the Hedgehog, Team Chaotix and Miles "Tails" Prower were the central characters, respectively.
- ↑ Although the manifestation of Dr. Robotnik's goal to conquer to world was left unnamed in pre-32-bit games, Sonic Adventure and games since then have heavily developed this aspect.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Sonic the Hedgehog GameTap Retrospective at YouTube
- ↑ Sega Visions Interview with Yuji Naka (October 1992). Retrieved on 2007-06-28.
- ↑ Kennedy, Sam. The Essential 50: Sonic the Hedgehog. 1up.com. Retrieved on 2006-06-03.
- ↑ Brandon Sheffield. Out of the Blue: Naoto Ohshima Speaks. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2009-12-13.
- ↑ Yahoo Playback. Yahoo Playback #94. Yahoo, Inc.. Retrieved on 2009-12-13.
- ↑ Brian Ashcraft. Sonic's Shoes Inspired by Michael Jackson. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-12-13.
- ↑ Revealed: Why Sonic can't swim (February 2009). Retrieved on 2009-02-27.
- ↑ Masato Nakamura interview (flash). Sonic Central. Retrieved on 2006-02-07.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Sega Video Game Illustrations. Nippon Shuppan Hanbai (Deutschland) GmbH. 1994. ISBN 3-910052-50-9.
- ↑ Sonic The Hedgehog Part 2 review. Pocket Gamer. Retrieved on 23 September 2006.
- ↑ Yuji Naka: "...the Mega Drive allowed this stunning demonstration of rotation during the bonus stages. This was said to be impossible on the hardware at the time." "The making of... Sonic The Hedgehog". Edge (101): pp. 121. September 2001.
- ↑ AAUK (Kevin Eva) (17 August 2015). Sega's Secret Sonic Bible that we'll probably never see "TO MARS!". Sonic Stadium Message Board. Retrieved on 20 August 2015.
- Fan made
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