Before his awful live-action attempt, before he played the Olympic Games with Mario, before he was even rendered into 3-D, Sonic the Hedgehog was the king of Sega’s platformers. Though he’s had a makeover or two since he first premiered in 1991, we’ve never forgotten the quality of his original title.
Sonic was the gaming icon of the ’90s. He was cool, he had flair, and he was the fastest thing alive. While some gamers were jumping on Koopas, others were racking up rings. But what lies behind those blue spikes? Time to strap in as we speed through 10 facts about the original Sonic.
10 Replacing Robotnik
Before Sonic the Hedgehog was even in the works, Sega was looking for a platformer character that could compete with Nintendo’s Super Mario. Originally, an Eggman/Robotnik-like character was supposed to be the hero of the series. Designed to replace Alex Kidd as Sega’s mascot, this character was a far cry away from what the company needed.
When Sonic came onto the scene, the egg-shaped character was repurposed and given a new set of clothes to become the infamous Dr. Robotnik. Could he have it in for Sonic after being replaced? It’s a fun little theory, isn’t it?
9 Don’t Rain on My Parade
Sonic made a milestone not just in 16-bit gaming, but in the real world as well. In 1995, Sonic was the first video game character in history to receive his own Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Balloon. This might just sound like a fact to impress your friends at parties, but it’s more than a bag of hot air.
The introduction of Sonic into the parade paved the way for characters like Pikachu and even Mario himself. Their presence in the parade reflects on gaming’s place in American culture. Thanks to Sonic, gaming culture has floated up to the mainstream media.
8 I’m Blue For You
Today, Sonic’s blue quills are as familiar and recognizable as Mario’s hat, Link’s sword and shield, or Pac-Man’s munching mouth. His blue hue really stands out amongst his fellow gaming stars, but his palate wasn’t used to promote him, but his company.
Sega’s choice to make Sonic blue was simply to match the color of their logo. It’s not exactly the most thrilling of backstory, but it’s possibly a secret genius marketing move. If it weren’t for the familiar “Se-gaaaa” chime at the beginning of the game, their brand would have a hard time catching on. What better way to make a name for yourself than with a memorable mascot?
7 Running on the West Side
Mario has the Mushroom Kingdom, Link has Hyrule, and Kirby has Dreamland. So, where does Sonic hang his sneakers? Before he was shipped to the planet Mobius, the original game took some real-life inspiration from the American West Coast.
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The Green Hill Zone of Sonic’s opening levels is said to be directly based off of the Californian coastline. With its palm trees, sandy beaches, and sunny skies, we can understand the colorful aesthetic choice for our spiky friend. Though evil robots might be less of a problem for the real thing.
6 Selling It for Sega
Until the Blue Blur made the scene in 1991, Nintendo was practically the face of the video game industry. With consoles like the Gameboy, NES, and of course the popular SNES competing against companies like Atari, the house that Mario built was at the top of the heap.
In a battle of Red vs. Blue, Sonic helped Sega’s Master System beat out the SNES in 1991 with the release of his original game. It could be said that with Sonic’s introduction to the industry, so began the console wars we know today. Pretty impressive for a collection of pixels.
5 Lady Madonna
Before Sonic was being pursued by the pink and persistent Amy Rose, the developers originally wanted to give Sonic a human love interest. Acting on the popular damsel in distress archetype, a la Donkey Kong, Sonic’s Girlfriend, Madonna, was to be the object of his, and possibly the gamer’s, desires.
Obviously inspired by Jessica Rabbit and a certain similarly-named pop star, Madonna was created to be the “ultimate male fantasy” but didn’t stay in the picture for long. She was cut from the game to make the title more kid-friendly and to do away with the cliche Nintendo had perfected.
4 MJ and the Mouse
When designing your company’s mascot, you have to consider what features will make them stand out. Sonic’s got his blue quills, his stylish sneakers, his white gloves, and his smart-alecky attitude, but only parts of his design are original. His inspiration actually came from two American icons.
A great part of Sonic’s personality and style came from the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, who would later develop the music for Sonic 2. The other half came from the leader of the club that’s made for you and me, Mickey Mouse. Take Mickey’s round body, large shoes and white gloves, put them with Jackson’s star power and you’ve got Sonic the Hedgehog.
3 Why a Hedgehog?
Think about it, does “Sonic the Dog,” “Sonic the Bunny,” or “Sonic the Mouse” sound like the name of a popular video game icon? Sonic went through several different species in his early conception days, but hedgehog was the last creature to be considered.
The reason the creators settled on hedgehog was the matter of mobility and defense. A hedgehog can curl up into a ball, inspiring Sonic’s Spin-Dash attack, and quickly roll away. This concept stuck and the rest is history. As interesting as it would be to see sonic as a dog, a rabbit, or whatever, there’s probably an ocean of fan art that would make us reconsider.
2 Sega Does What Ninten-don’t
At one point, Mario was the undisputed king of the video game culture. He did everything from platformers, sports games, and typing lessons. But like all great heroes, he needed a rival to contend with. Enter Sonic the Hedgehog.
One of Sonic’s biggest goals was to compete with Nintendo’s portly plumber, and nearly every element of his character is the antithesis of Mario. Sonic is blue where Mario is red, Sonic is fast and agile where Mario is slow and floaty, the list goes on. When his game first released, he put the plumber in second place, starting the rivalry we know today.
1 Sonic’s Sneakers
What would you say if we told you that Sonic wasn’t as fast as you thought he was? What if he’s actually been getting a little performance enhancement to outrun the competition? It’s not steroids, pills, or other illegal stimulants that make Sonic so speedy, it’s his shoes.
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According to the original game’s lore, Sonic draws his lightning-fast power from his aptly-named Power Sneakers. Without them, he’s just your average garden-variety blue hedgehog. Inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” cover art, these killer kicks are what makes Sonic who he is. So much for the fastest thing alive…