Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback


Gaming's favourite blue hedgehog reaches the grand old age of 20, and boy has he aged. Time to take a lookback over Sonic's golden years; when Sonic was the king of platformers...and was a little chubbier.

Hitting The Box

Following the success of the Sonic videogames, an animated TV series was created and was aired throughout 1993 much to the delight of young fans like myself. Titled “The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog”, the series followed the exploits of Sonic and Tails as Dr. Robotnik tries to ruin life on Mobius on a daily basis. Much more light-hearted than the games, the series took liberties with the limited storylines and turned the Doctor into a bumbling nincompoop with incompetent henchmen.

I recall watching the series whenever it was on TV on my parent’s twelve inch colour television with my Sonic and Tails plushies (with my face pushed right up to the screen to make out the characters). Sonic was given a somewhat irritating voice to match his impatient attitude, but was likeable enough and always got the job done in style. Eventually the series was cancelled to make way for a somewhat darker animated show to come later that year.

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback

The Second Series

The first episode of Sonic’s new television series aired on September 18th 1993. Named simply “Sonic the Hedgehog”, fans affectionately dubbed it “Sonic SatAM” (Saturday A.M.) as the show often went out on Saturday mornings and fans wanted to differentiate it from “The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog”. This time the show was about Sonic and a rebel group of woodland creatures rising up against Dr. Robotnik’s evil rule of the now-transformed planet Mobius.

The story goes that Robotnik successfully overtook Mobius, transforming the inhabitants into an evil robot army. In an attempt to liberate their planet a band of freedom fighters, led by Princess Sally Acorn, joined forces with Sonic and utilized the secret power of the iconic “gold rings”. As mentioned beforehand, Sonic SatAM has a much darker feel than the previous series. Many characters throughout the story are “roboticized” by Robotnik, stripping them of their humanity (for lack of a better word) much to the despair of their loved ones. Areas under the control of Robotnik’s oppressive regime are polluted, industrial metropolises with dark, earthy colour schemes.

The result was a series with a great amount of symbolism and depth that actually felt very close to the games on many levels. The story was told with a respect towards the characters and handled its subject matter sensitively, and besides, the necessary comic relief moments (it was a cartoon after all), were quite sinister. Personally I think Sonic SatAM was/is Sonic’s best animated work as subsequent works went the light-hearted route that did not quite fit with the rest of the Sonic universe.

The Magic Number

February 24th 1994 saw Sonic and Tails battle against both Dr. Robotnik and a new antagonist: Knuckles the Echidna in the latest instalment of the hit franchise, Sonic 3. The story goes that Robotnik tricked Knuckles into thinking that Sonic and Tails were planning on stealing the Master Emerald from Knuckles’ home Angel Island, causing it to cease floating above the surface of Mobius and crash into the planet. Obviously, that was not the case as Knuckles and Sonic join forces in the next title, but we will come back to that.

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback

Sonic 3 was by far the best looking Sonic game so far and finally allowed players to control Tails throughout the single player mode, offering players the advantage of his flying abilities and giving the little orange dude some well-deserved time in the limelight. I was especially pleased at this as on top of the return of Super Sonic, you could collect all the Chaos Emeralds and unlock Super Tails (who was totally badass, invulnerable and could fly at ridiculous speeds).

Players were also treated to new “shield” items that granted special powers. The bubble shield allowed underwater breathing, the fire shield allows the player to blast forwards at high speed and walk through flames, and finally the electric shield automatically pulls rings towards the player and allows a second mid-air jump to get to hard to reach places. A multiplayer mode was present again as it was in Sonic 2, but in this mode players got a glimpse of what playing like Knuckles would be like. Multiplayer games always ended up in a fistfight as everyone always wanted to be Knuckles; it seemed appropriate that the one who got to play as Knuckles was the person who was better at swinging their knuckles around. It was not surprising that players were finally able to get their hands on Knuckles properly in the next title in the series.