The Sonic the Hedgehog series is one of the oldest modern gaming franchises out there. With the first game coming out in 1991, Sonic has been around for over a quarter century. Aside from Nintendo’s Mario, Sonic is one of the most well-recognized mascots out there. At the epitome of his success in the 90s, he was everywhere. Games, comics, TV shows; you name it. The visually pleasing design and addictive nature of his games made the series a staple in any gamer’s library. Sonic is one of gaming’s oldest mascots and thus has a very large following. But one could argue that the series’ glory days are long gone and they have been for a while.
The Sonic games over the last ten years have not been great, to say the least. If the inane plot isn’t souring the experience, then the buggy gameplay and game-breaking glitches are certainly digging the hole. It just might be that Sonic was never meant to transition from being a 2D platformer, as the 3D environments jut might never fit that well with a Sonic game. While he’s certainly had his share of troubles in recent years, let’s take a look at some things that make Sonic stand out from other game mascots. These are 15 things you didn’t know about Sonic the Hedgehog.
15 The Sonic the Hedgehog Comics Have Broken Records
When we think of Sonic the Hedgehog, we immediately jump to video games. The Sonic games were – for most fans – their first exposure to the character and his world. However like many other popular games of the 90s, Sonic has branched out and become a large transmedia franchise. Several Sonic cartoons have come and gone over the years, the most popular being Sonic the Hedgehog – a Saturday morning cartoon that followed Sonic and friends on their adventures. The comic book spin-off though surpassed the source material. It’s the longest running comic book based on a video game character. The series has managed to keep fans interested on a consistent basis for years. Another interesting landmark is its having past over 275 issues. While other comic books sometimes reboot to keep things fresh, Sonic’s comic book iteration has had no problems in that regard.
14 His First Appearance Wasn’t in Sonic the Hedgehog
It’s a little unorthodox sure, but true nonetheless. Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t make his initial debut in 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog. While his debut did come that year, Sonic was first spotted in SEGA’s racing game Rad Mobile – a game otherwise lost in time if not for this odd tidbit of trivia. While it’s not a prominent appearance, Sonic hangs on the player’s rear-view mirror as a small charm. It kind of makes sense in a way. You’ve got a mascot character you want to familiarize your fan base with as soon as you possibly can and his entire shtick is that he’s ridiculously fast, so why not put him in a racing game? Shortly after, Sonic 1 came out and the rest is history.
13 He Was Based on a Ton of Famous People
While it’s true that reality is often stranger than fiction, and that the former often inspires the latter, this next fact still might take a while to process. Since Sonic was created as a mascot character, SEGA really wanted to embody what they felt they represented as a company. Everything from looks, attitude and color scheme had to be perfect. So here’s the rundown; Sonic’s boots were inspired by the boots worn in Michael Jackson’s Bad music video. The buckles and straps were added in later to make him more recognizable. The color scheme came from Santa Claus, with the white and red color scheme transitioning to the aforementioned boots. Finally, his attitude was based on then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton and his “can-do attitude.” A weird but evidentially successful combination.
12 Sega Ran an In-house Competition to Find a New Mascot
While scrambling to find a mascot character that could compete with Nintendo’s Mario, SEGA held an in-house competition to determine what the company could throw together as a face of the franchise. Numerous entries were submitted and some are still available online with a little bit of research. Among the rejected ideas was the standout critter we’d all get to know and love. Naoto Oshima’s Sonic was chosen to sell the SEGA brand – effectively throwing Sonic in the-then competitive arena that Nintendo had already made their name in. Though his concept design is somewhat cruder than what we’re used to seeing, everything that makes Sonic “Sonic” is there. It’s funny to think that the answer to SEGA’s mascot problem was right under their noses, waiting for an opportunity.
11 Michael Jackson Might’ve Contributed Music to Sonic 3
This one’s just a rumor, but not all too farfetched of a theory, as, unlike a lot of internet rumors, there’s actually some stuff to back it up. While the late King of Pop was best known for his contributions to the mainstream music world, Michael Jackson might’ve very well dabbled in the world of video game music as well. SEGA apparently contacted Jackson wondering if he’d compose the music for their upcoming Sonic game. Though he was initially thrilled to have received the opportunity, things started to hit a snag in the road soon after. Jackson grew tired of the limitations of the Genesis’ sound chip and eventually left the project – asking to remain uncredited. The probable reason SEGA never acknowledged his contributions might have something to do with the negative press surrounding him throughout his later years.
10 Sonic CD’s Creepy Hidden Message
The Sonic games have always been a kid friendly franchise. They always have, always will be. But as we’ve seen with other child oriented games, sometimes the content developers sneak in isn’t so child friendly. It could be information the player casually stumbles upon or some kind of easter egg. In this case it’s a very scary easter egg. In Sonic CD the player can initiate a very creepy looking screen by performing a sound test. By selecting FM No. 46, PCM No. 12, and DA No. 25, and then pressing start, the player is presented with an eerie blue screen – fully equipped with distorted 8-bit synths and grotesque renditions of everyone’s favourite hedgehog. The Japanese text on screen translates to “Infinite Fun. Sega Enterprises. Image by Majin." Majin by the way is Japanese for devil. Yeah.
9 He Originally Had a Band
You can call Sonic a lot of things, hero, Olympic Athlete, but musician? That might be a somewhat newer concept to even the oldest Sonic fan, but the speedy little hedgehog actually had a band back in the day. We just never got the chance to see them in action. It all has to do with the iconic – but brief – “SE-GA” sound you hear at the beginning of nearly every Sonic the Hedgehog game. The song was essentially a very short theme song for SEGA, popularized during the Sonic days. But in order to include that seven second clip at the beginning of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, SEGA had to cut out some content. The version that appears in the game actually takes up 1/8th of the cartridge space. This meant that any unnecessary fluff had to be removed. That fluff just so happened to be a scene where Sonic kicked it old school with his band. Sorry guys.
8 Why So Blue?
It’s no secret that Naoto Oshima took some liberties when designing Sonic back in the day. Hedgehogs aren’t blue. Well, they don’t talk or wear gloves and sneakers either. But have you ever found yourself wondering why Sonic was made to be blue? Was it aesthetic? Was it just a random color that stuck? Well yes and no, the answer really lies somewhere in the middle. See, the SEGA logo is blue, yeah? And Sonic was designed to be the company mascot. So simply put, SEGA’s primary color was blue and so they wanted Sonic to be blue as well, so that he’d be more easily representative of the company. The color blue also represents peace, furthering Sonic’s image as the hero.
7 Sonic the Hedgehog Was Released In the West First
Most games follow the same set of rules when it comes to distribution and it’s been like that for a long while. Gamers in the West with niche tastes often have to wait a good while before getting their hands on any Japanese games. The same thing goes for Gamers in Asian markets wanting to get their hands on the latest AAA blockbuster out of North America. But the very first Sonic game bent those rules a little bit. Sonic the Hedgehog was released on June 23rd, 1991 – a whole month before Japanese audiences got their hands on it. The reasoning behind this was that Sonic was “softened” in order to appeal to a greater American audience – so SEGA thought they’d test out the waters in the foreign market right away.
6 Eggman Was Almost the Hero in His Own Game
As we’ve already discussed, SEGA tried out a number of different mascot designs before finally settling on Sonic. Among the many applicants was a pudgy man with round glasses, a wild moustache and pyjamas. This concept was the most direct in SEGA’s challenge to a certain Italian plumber. Though the mascot position was handed to someone else, this design would come in handy later on – albeit altered extensively upon its reuse. Doctor Eggman soon found himself as the main baddie in the Sonic universe. Rather than being thrust into the spotlight as the hero in his own game, Eggman was forever doomed to be the antagonist of SEGA’s new brainchild.
5 His Original Name Was Mr. Needlemouse
Sonic the Hedgehod kind of rolls off the tongue, despite the somewhat wordy nature of the moniker. Back in the earliest days of his conception, Sonic went by a completely different name. With the hopes of creating SEGA’s own Mickey Mouse, Naoto Oshima gave his mascot a similar sounding name in Mr. Needlemouse. If you were to glance at that bit of information, it would seem that SEGA was borrowing a little bit from the American mass media giant. But the actual reason makes a lot more sense. See in Japanese, hedgehog literally translates to needlemouse. Mr. Needlemouse was just an alternate translation of Mr. Hedgehog. Thankfully they ended up going with the Sonic moniker instead, though Mr. Needlemouse isn’t too bad of a name all things considered.
4 He was the First Video Game Character to Have a Balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Video games have come a long way in the eyes of conventional media. While they were initially treated as little more than an effective way to kill time, most people are recognizing the legitimacy of video games as an art form – rather than just focusing on the entertainment aspect they bring along. Sonic was a pioneer in this regard, as he was the first video game character to be featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The balloon debuted back in 1993 at the peak of the character's popularity. Funny enough, he’s also the first video game character to have his balloon pop in the parade. All’s well and good though, as a new balloon debuted in 2011.
3 The Reason He Can’t Swim
It’s not entirely common nowadays, but older games used to put way more restrictions on which parts of the map players could interact with. It made sense as smaller cartridges put restrictions on how big the environments could be – effectively limiting where the player could go. One of the most frustrating things about the first Sonic game is his inability to navigate underwater levels. He moves much slower, sinks like a stone and has to reach out to air bubbles to get more oxygen. But these tiresome obstacles were actually based on a mistake. Yup, the reason he can’t swim is actually due to mistaken info about real hedgehogs. The game’s director, Yuji Naka, thought that real world hedgehogs couldn’t make it in the water – so he decided to incorporate that into the game mechanics. Of course, he was wrong. But what are you going to do?
2 He Originally Had a Girlfriend Named Madonna
When we think of Sonic’s “girlfriend” our thoughts immediately go to Amy Rose. Though he’s only (canonically) 15, Sonic has had his share of romantic sub plots throughout his many games, comics and shows. While it might seem weird to imagine a children’s game character sporting a piece of arm candy, that was almost made a reality by SEGA. Originally, the team wanted to give Sonic a girlfriend named Madonna. She was a Jessica Rabbit counterpart with short blonde hair and a short red dress. Not too much is known about her seeing as she was cut out of the original game while she was still just concept art. SEGA would revisit giving Sonic an interspecies lover over a decade later in Sonic ’06 which didn’t fly over all that well with fans.
1 Feel the Rabbit
Among the many characters that were tried out as potential SEGA mascots, Sonic was undoubtedly the most consumer friendly. But if you look back at some of the other characters that made it to light, some look like they might’ve been decent alternatives. We’ve already seen Eggman’s early concept design, but now let’s look at an entirely different character. Rather than a hedgehog, Sonic was almost a rabbit named Feel. The idea behind Feel was that he’d grab objects with his ears and throw them at his enemies. This mechanic was entirely different than what any other game was doing at the time. However SEGA eventually decided to go a different direction, opting for a speedy hedgehog instead. The rest is history.