Why We Still Love Sonic the Hedgehog «

If you’re up on your video game zoology, then you know that the fastest mammal in the digital realm is the Erinaceus mobiaeus caeruleus, more commonly identified as the blue Mobian hedgehog. The most notable member of the species is Sonic the Hedgehog, a hardy little ‘hog who’s been running, jumping, and rolling on game consoles, PC, and even the iOS since his birth on Sega’s Mega Drive in 1991.

As might be expected from any long-lived animal, Sonic’s journey through life has been a little rough at times. For the most part, his games have provided us with fun, magic, a sense of speed, and adventures in a surreal world, but he has undeniably bumped over a few potholes, blazed through a few plate glass windows, and run over one or two of those severe tire damage spike strips.

But through thick and thin, Sonic’s fans have stuck with him like grapes on quills — and there are a lot of fans out there. The internet collective has opinions on why Sonic has maintained such a strong fanbase through the bad times and the good. Guesses include “Sonic fans are weirdos,” “they’re furries,” and, “they’re simply masochistic.” While there might be a little truth behind that reasoning (as much as it’s true for any Internet-based fandom), the reasons for Sonic’s enduring fame are surprisingly layered. That’s because the Sonic franchise goes beyond video games and stories about rescuing little animals trapped inside of robots.

Our First Run with Sonic

 

There’s a simple reason why Sonic grabbed our attention so thoroughly back in 1991: his game was unlike anything that had ever been on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The depth, speed, music, and bright graphics of the original Sonic the Hedgehog jumped out at us from minute one, and clung pretty hard to that secret part of our brain that loves side-scrolling adventures.

Moreover, Sonic the Hedgehog blended its novel gameplay with some of the most iconic aesthetics in game history. Regardless of what you think about Sonic here and now, you probably still love breezing through Green Hill Zone Act 1, and do so whenever you have a chance. The level’s easy-going platforming pairs up beautifully with its gentle, rolling hills and the wide waterfalls in its background.

“There’s so many things [I like about Sonic the Hedgehog],” says Joshua, 18, from Virginia. “When I was a kid it was the crazy speed and awesome things I could do like go through loop-de-loops. And of course there’s the fun platforming I’ve always loved.”

Joshua makes special note of one of the Sonic series’ ongoing strengths: Its soundtrack. “The music has grown on me a lot as well,” he says. “Sonic games use such a wide variety of genres; whether it’s the pop-infused chiptunes of Sonic 3 or the rocking beats of Adventure or even the big band orchestra of Colors.”

“[My first Sonic games were] the original along with Sonic 2 and Mean Bean Machine, and a few other Sega Genesis games,” recalls George, 20, from Houston, Texas. “[They] were my very first video gaming experiences when I was living in England at the age of three to five years old. Sonic was huge in England back then.

One of the features that attracted George to Sonic’s earliest games went on to become one of the series’ trademarks: The fabulous checkerboard motif that Sonic’s home planet appears to subscribe to, at least in the sprite-based games.

“[The] Surrealism is something that just draws me in [to the Sonic series], George says. “Dancing flowers, perfectly checkered dirt, loop-de-loops that only someone like Sonic could ever make use of; it all adds up to a unique experience. The level designs themselves are competently created as well. The early developers knew that — while Sonic is about speed — his potential lies not in 2D racetracks as has been the idea since Sonic Advance 2, but in cleverly planned level design. They’re simply memorable.”

 

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