A Short Summary Of The 18 Year Downward Spiral Of Sonic The Hedgehog.
18 years ago yesterday, then big gun Sega published a game called Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega Megadrive (Genesis for you silly Americans). The company published Sonic Team’s debut effort in another attempt of combating the crazy popularity of Nintendo’s favourite posterboy Mario, after previous efforts such as the Liam Gallagher lookalike Alex Kidd failed to put a chink in Mario’s armour. The game was an overnight success and Sonic became the first character to put up a real fight against the juggernaut that was Mario and to arguably reach the same heights of popularity as the Italian plumber. Of course, you wouldn’t think that now but at the height of his popularity, Sonic was everywhere. So as MWN’s resident Ex-Sonic fan, let’s take a short look back of 18 years of the (allegedly) fastest thing alive.
1991: Sonic The Hedgehog is released on June 23rd and it becomes and instant success and increases the popularity of the Megadrive/Genesis, eventually replacing Altered Beast as the console’s bundle game. The game is later ported to the Game Gear/Master System (I say ported but it was actually a completely different game). Sonic also got his first spin offs with a two arcade games and a puzzle game, but both were obscure and only available in Japan.
1992: This year saw the release of what was arguably Sonic’s best game, Sonic The Hedgehog 2. Like the game before it, it was also ported to the Game Gear/Master System and likewise was a completely different game and definitely one of the hardest games in the series.
1993: It was a Sonic boom this year (pun clearly intended), starting with Sonic’s first comic book, published by Archie. It didn’t gain that much popularity outside of America although it is still running till this day. It was also the basis for the brilliant cartoon Sonic The Hedgehog, that came out in late 1993. Speaking of cartoons, Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog came out around the same time and was very different to the other cartoon. Back in the comicverse, we Brits got our taste of Sonic in comic book form with Fleetway’s Sonic The Comic, which was eventually cancelled but is now unofficially carried on online. As for games, there was SegaSonic The Hedgehog in the arcade, a Sonic spin off in the form of Sonic Spinball and two platforming games, Sonic Chaos for the Master System/Game Gear and Sonic CD, one of the Mega/Sega CD’s only good games.
1994: This year saw a true sequel to Sonic 2 and a quasi sequel as Sonic and Knuckles was really just the second part of Sonic 3. Sonic and Knuckles was also a lock on cartridge which allowed fans to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2 as well as play through Sonic 3 and Knuckles as one game. Sonic 3 and Knuckles would be the last main Sonic game until 1998. The 8-bit consoles saw yet another game, Sonic Triple Trouble as well as a shit Mario Kart clone called Sonic Drift.
1995: It was a quiet year for Sonic in 1995. It was spin-off ahoy with Knuckles Chaotix being released for the infamous Sega 32x as well as two spin-offs featuring Tails for the 8-bit consoles. The only games featuring Sonic were a compilation of previous Sonic games and a very bad spin off for the 8 bit consoles in the form of Sonic Labyrinth. A sign of things to come?
1996: 5 years since the first game and it was another quiet year for Sonic, with only Sonic 3D being anywhere near a Sonic game. There was also Sonic The Fighters, which was essentially a Sonic skin of Virtua Fighter and Sonic Blast, a bad 8-bit platformer.
1997: A horror that will be feared for years to come was brought into the world in 1997 with the release of Sonic R, yet another failed Mario Kart clone. As well as featuring most of the established cast, it introduced Metal Knuckles and the horror that is Tails Doll. Apart from that, Sonic Jam was released on the Sega Saturn. (fun fact: Sonic Jam is the only port of Sonic 1 that had the option of the spindash that wasn’t put in until Sonic 2)
1998: Although there were no other Sonic games that year, Sonic made his come back on the first 128-bit console, the Dreamcast, in Sonic Adventure. It is arguably still the best 3D Sonic game and at the time, people still had high hopes for Sonic’s future. On the other hand it started the trend of new, unneeded characters and Robotnik (now Dr.Eggman) being a bit part villain in comparison to the main villain, which is always some kind of monster.
1999: Nothing notable in 1999 with the only Sonic game being Sonic’s Pocket Adventure on the Neo Geo Pocket. That being said it was a pretty good game which drew heavy inspiration from the early Sonic games. There was however a short lived Sonic cartoon called Sonic Underground and an enjoyable (could be rose-tinted goggles) 1 hour movie called Sonic: The Movie.
2000: The new millenium was another quiet year with only Mario Party clone Sonic Shuffle coming out on the Dreamcast.
2001: Despite the release of Sonic Adventure 2, this was a dark year as the Dreamcast stopped being supported and Sega became a software publisher rather than both a software and hardware publisher. This also led to what many people never thought they’d see, a Sonic game on a Nintendo console. That console was the Game Boy Advance and the game was Sonic Advance, a 2D platformer that did a great job of replicating the older games.
2002: Sonic Advance 2 was the only new Sonic game of 2002 and was arguably inferior to Sonic Advance, choosing to go crazy over speed rather than to stick with what made the first Sonic Advance game so good. The other was another collection.
2003: Flawed but enjoyable, 2003 saw the release of Sonic’s first multiplatform game, Sonic Heroes. A second fighting game came out too on Game Boy Advance. It was called Sonic Battle and it was actually pretty fun. Sort of like Super Smash Bros. although without items but was isometric and had RPG elements. There was also the long running Sonic X series, which could have been good but just wasn’t.
2004: The Advance series had a slight return to form in 2004 with Sonic Advance 3, which was like a cross between Knuckles Chaotix and Sonic Advance. Apart from that, there were no other games.
2005: This year dawned the beginning of Sonic’s current slump in form with the horrible Shadow The Hedgehog. There was also yet another collection and Sonic’s first DS entry, Sonic Rush, which made good use of the DS’s dual screens but had little to no replay value.
2006: Things only got worse in 2006 with the terrible Sonic The Hedgehog, which was Sonic’s first entry into the current generation of consoles. The other consoles fared no better with Sonic Rivals on the PSP and Sonic Riders on the last generation of consoles.
2007: Another not so good year for Sonic here, starting with the first “storybook” game, Sonic And The Secret Rings, which was promising but too flawed to be enjoyed fully. Sonic Rivals and Rush both got sequels and then came embarrassment for Sonic at the end of the year with the first game ever featuring both Sonic and Mario, Sonic And Mario At The Olympic Games.
2008: Last year was another bad year for Sonic, with a sequel to Sonic Riders and Sonic Unleashed, which was so close yet so far. Even Bioware couldn’t too much for the blue hedgehog when they released Sonic Chronicles on the DS. Ironically, it was Nintendo who did the best job with Sonic when they included him in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
2009: Well this year has already brought another bad game, Sonic And The Black Knight, which was yet another storybook game. The only other Sonic game out this year is a sequel to Sonic And Mario At The Olympic Games, which focuses on the Winter Games this time around.
It’s funny looking back at the timeline of games. The 90s were great to Sonic because despite having a few dodgy games, Sonic had his first 3 games as well as Sonic Adventure and all of the 8-bit platforming games excluding Sonic Blast. The first half of the 2000s were not as kind, but it’s not as if Sonic had completely gone AWOL. However, looking from 2005 onwards, it’s horrible just to see how low things have gotten. While not every game was bad, Sonic’s reputation has been destroyed. Such a shame, but then you already hear me whine about that enough. Hope you enjoyed the somewhat retrospective.