Sonic the Hedgehog (character)
Sonic the Hedgehog is the protagonist of the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series released by Sega, as well as numerous spin-off comics, animations, and other media. Sonic is a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds and curl into a ball, primarily to attack enemies. In most games, Sonic must race through levels, collecting power-up rings and avoiding obstacles and enemies.
|Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Sonic the Hedgehog character|
Modern and Classic Sonic designs as they appear in Sonic Generations
|First appearance||Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)|
|Last appearance||Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (2019)|
|Designed by||Naoto Ohshima (1991–1997)|
Yuji Uekawa (1998–present)
Most of the games are developed by Sonic Team. Programmer Yuji Naka and artist Naoto Ohshima are generally credited with his creation. The original Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) was released to provide Sega with a mascot to rival Nintendo's flagship character Mario in June 1991. Sonic was redesigned by Yuji Uekawa for Sonic Adventure (1998), with a more mature look designed to appeal to older players.
Sonic is one of the world's best-known video game characters and a gaming icon. His series had sold more than 80 million copies by 2011. In 2005, Sonic was one of the first game character inductees into the Walk of Game alongside Mario and Link.
Origins and history
While Sega was seeking a flagship series to compete with Nintendo's Mario series with a character to replace Alex Kidd as the company's mascot, several character designs were submitted by its research and development department. Many results came forth from their experiments with character design, including an armadillo (who was later developed into Mighty the Armadillo), a dog, a Theodore Roosevelt look-alike in pajamas (who would later be the basis of Dr. Robotnik/Eggman's design), and a rabbit (who would use its extendable ears to collect objects, an aspect later incorporated in Ristar). Naoto Ohshima took some of these internal designs with him on a trip to New York City and sought feedback by asking random passersby at Central Park their opinions; of the designs, the spiky teal hedgehog, initially codenamed "Mr. Needlemouse", led this informal poll, followed by Eggman and the dog character. Ohshima felt that people selected it because it "transcends race and gender and things like that". On return to Japan, Ohshima pitched this to the department, and the hedgehog was ultimately selected as the new mascot.
The detailed design of Sonic was aimed to be something that could be easily drawn by children and be familiar, as well as exhibit a "cool" attitude, representative of the United States at the time. Sonic's blue pigmentation was chosen to match Sega's cobalt blue logo, and his shoes evolved from a design inspired by Michael Jackson's boots with the addition of the color red, which was inspired by both Santa Claus and the contrast of those colors on Jackson's 1987 album Bad; his personality was based on then-presidential candidate and later President of the United States Bill Clinton's "Get it done" attitude during the 1992 presidential campaign. To help sell the idea to Sega's higher-ups, Ohshima pitched the concept framed by a fictional fighter pilot that had earned the named "Hedgehog" due to his spiky hair, and had decorated his plane with images of Sonic. When this pilot retired, he married a children's book author, who wrote stories about the Sonic character, the first which became the plot for the first Sonic game; Ohshima stated that this influence can be seen in the logo of the game, which features Sonic in a pilot's wing emblem.
The origins of Sonic can be traced farther back to a tech demo created by Yuji Naka, who had developed an algorithm that allowed a sprite to move smoothly on a curve by determining its position with a dot matrix. Naka's original prototype was a platform game that involved a fast-moving character rolling in a ball through a long winding tube, and this concept was subsequently fleshed out with Oshima's character design and levels conceived by designer Hirokazu Yasuhara.
Sonic was created without the ability to swim because of a mistaken assumption by Yuji Naka that all hedgehogs could not do so. A group of fifteen people started working on the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, and renamed themselves Sonic Team. The game's soundtrack was composed by Masato Nakamura of the band Dreams Come True. Sega sponsored the group's "Wonder 3" tour, painting Sonic on the tour bus, distributing pamphlets advertising the game, and having footage of the game broadcast above stage prior to its release. The original concepts gave Sonic fangs and put him in a band with a human girlfriend named Madonna. However, a team from Sega of America, led by Madeline Schroeder, who calls herself "Sonic's mother", "softened" the character up for an American audience by removing those elements. This sparked a heated issue with Sonic Team. Naka later admitted that it was probably for the best.
Sonic's appearance varies greatly depending on the medium and the style in which he is drawn. In the video games, Sonic's original design by Oshima was short and round, with short quills, a round body, and no visible irises. Artwork featuring this design and drawn by Akira Watanabe was displayed on the package artwork for Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic's proportions would change for the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Mega Drive; Sonic's head to height ratio was changed from 1:2 to 1:2.5. For the 1998 release of Sonic Adventure, Sonic was redesigned by Yuji Uekawa as a character with longer legs and a less spherical body, longer and more drooping quills, and green-colored irises. For the 2006 game, Sonic was redesigned to make him look adult-like and taller to appeal to the next generation players. This was also done because Sonic would interact with humans more often and his design was supposed to fit. An alternative "Werehog" form was introduced in Sonic Unleashed, placing more emphasis on Sonic's melee skills rather than speed. Although Tetsu Katano acknowledged the large negative fan response to the Werehog, he believes it could return in a future game.
Bob Raffei, CEO of Sonic Boom developer Big Red Button, stated that Sonic Boom's Sonic is "very different ... both in tone and art direction".
Different actors have provided Sonic's voice in his game appearances. Sonic originally had a few voice samples in Sonic CD, with designer Masato Nishimura providing the voice. Sonic's first true voice actor was Takeshi Kusao for the arcade game SegaSonic the Hedgehog, with Junichi Kanemaru continually voicing the role beginning with the release of Sonic Adventure. In Sonic Unleashed, Sonic was voiced by Tomokazu Seki while in Werehog form.
In English, Sonic was cast to Jason Griffith starting from Sonic X. Griffith was later replaced by Roger Craig Smith, starting with Sonic Free Riders and Sonic Colors in November 2010. Actor Jaleel White voiced the character in all of the DiC-produced animated series: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic SatAM, and Sonic Underground as well as the Christmas special, Sonic Christmas Blast. In Underground, White also voiced Sonic's brother and sister, Manic and Sonia. Actor Ben Schwartz will voice the character in the Paramount Pictures feature film, which is set for release on February 14, 2020.
Sonic's first shown appearance in a video game was in the 1991 arcade racing game Rad Mobile, as a decorative ornament hanging from a rearview mirror. Sonic's first playable appearance was in the platform game Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, which also introduced his nemesis Dr. Robotnik. His two-tailed fox friend Tails joined him in the game's 1992 sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Sonic CD, released in 1993, introduced Sonic's self-appointed girlfriend Amy Rose and recurring robotic doppelgänger Metal Sonic as Sonic traveled through time to ensure a good future for the world. Sonic 3 and its direct sequel Sonic & Knuckles, both released in 1994, saw Sonic and Tails battle Robotnik again, with the additional threat of Knuckles, who is tricked by Robotnik into thinking Sonic is a threat. Sonic 4 (2010–2012) continues where the story of Sonic 3 left off, reducing Sonic to the only playable character and releasing in episodic installments. The second episode sees the return of both Tails as Sonic's sidekick and Metal Sonic as a recurring enemy.
Other two-dimensional platformers starring Sonic include Sonic Chaos (1993), Sonic Triple Trouble (1994), Sonic Blast (1996), Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (1999), Sonic Advance (2001), Sonic Advance 2 (2002), Sonic Advance 3 (2004), Sonic Rush (2005), Sonic Rush Adventure (2007), Sonic Colors (2010), and Sonic Generations (2011), all in which were released for handheld consoles.
Sonic Adventure (1998) was Sonic Team's return to the character for a major game. It featured Sonic returning from vacation to find the city of Station Square under attack by a new foe named Chaos, under the control of Dr. Robotnik (now known as Dr. Eggman). It was also the first Sonic game to feature a complete voice-over. Sonic Adventure 2 (2001) placed Sonic on-the-run from the military (G.U.N.) after being mistaken for Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic Heroes (2003) featured Sonic teaming up with Tails and Knuckles, along with other character teams like Team Rose and Chaotix, against the newly rebuilt Metal Sonic, who had betrayed his master with intentions of world domination. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) features Sonic in the city of water, "Soleanna," where he must rescue Princess Elise from Dr. Eggman while trying to avoid a new threat to his own life, Silver the Hedgehog. He is the only playable character in Sonic Unleashed (2008), in which he unwillingly gains a new personality, "Sonic the Werehog," the result of Sonic being fused with Dark Gaia's power. He gains strength and flexibility in exchange for his speed, and new friends including a strange creature named Chip who helps him along the way. In Sonic Colors (2010), Eggman tries to harness the energy of alien beings known as "Wisps" for a mind-control beam. The anniversary title Sonic Generations (2011) features two playable incarnations of Sonic: the younger "classic" Sonic, whose gameplay is presented in a style reminiscent of the Mega Drive/Genesis titles, and present-day "modern" Sonic, who uses the gameplay style present in Unleashed and Colors, going through stages from past games to save their friends. Sonic Generations features various theme songs including modern and retro versions that are able to be selected from throughout Sonic's twenty-year history. In April 2013, Sega announced that Sonic Lost World would launch in October 2013 for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007) features Sonic in the storybook world of One Thousand and One Nights. A sequel, titled Sonic and the Black Knight (2009), continued the storybook theme, this time taking place within the realm of the Arthurian legend.
Sonic has also been featured in other games of many genres other than 2D and 3D platform games. These include Sonic Spinball, Sonic Labyrinth (1995), the racing games Sonic Drift (1994), Sonic Drift 2 (1995), Sonic R (1996), Sonic Riders (2006), Sonic Rivals (2006), Sonic Rivals 2 (2007), Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (2008), and Sonic Free Riders (2010), the fighting games Sonic the Fighters (1996) and Sonic Battle (2003), the mobile game Sonic Jump (2005), and the role-playing video game Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008).
Video games such as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (1993), Knuckles' Chaotix (1995), Tails' Skypatrol (1995), Tails Adventure (1995), and Shadow the Hedgehog (2005) starred supporting characters of the Sonic series, although Sonic himself cameos in most of these titles.
Sonic has made many cameo appearances in different games, most notably in other Sega games, such as being a power-up in Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, walking around the main hallway in Phantasy Star Universe on the anniversary of his first game's release (June 23), and appearing in the 2008 remake of Samba de Amigo. He is also a playable character in Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams. Nintendo, Sega's former rival, made reference to Sonic in Donkey Kong Country 2, by showing Sonic's shoes next to a trash can that reads "No Hopers" on the Cranky's Video Game Heroes screen.
Sonic has appeared in several crossover titles, including playable appearances in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008), Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014), and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018). He appears in the crossover party game Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games and in its sequels Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the upcoming Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Sonic is also a playable character in all three Sega Superstars titles.
The first animated series, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, aired in 1993. It was a comical take on Sonic and Tails' adventures battling Robotnik, filled with slapstick humor and loosely based upon the plot of the games. Pierre De Celles, an animator who worked on Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, described the show as "fun and humorous." Also premiering in 1993 was Sonic the Hedgehog. It was a more dramatic series which portrayed Sonic as a member of a band of Freedom Fighters that fight to free their world from the evil dictator, Dr. Robotnik.
A separate third series was released under the title Sonic Underground in 1999. It featured the introductions of Sonic's siblings, Sonia the Hedgehog and Manic the Hedgehog, and Sonic's mother, Queen Aleena, who must defeat Robotnik and rule Mobius as the "Council of Four". The show ran for one season in syndication on the Bohbot Kids Network block before it was cancelled.
A new series titled Sonic X began airing in 2003. The 78-episode anime series detailed Sonic's struggle to protect the Chaos Emeralds from Eggman and new villains. Featuring a cross-world and interstellar journey, Sonic X depicted Sonic and his friend Chris Thorndyke in quests to save the world. Sonic: Night of the Werehog is a short film produced by Sega's VE Animation Studio, released to coincide with the release of Sonic Unleashed. In the film, Sonic and Chip enter a haunted house, and must deal with two ghosts trying to scare them. Sonic also makes multiple cameo appearances in the Disney films, Wreck-It Ralph and its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet.
In October 2013, Sega announced that a new animated series, titled Sonic Boom, would be produced. The show ran for 104 11-minute episodes between 2014 and 2017 on Cartoon Network in the US and Canal J and Gulli in France. Sonic makes a guest appearance in the OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes episode "Let's Meet Sonic".
On June 10, 2014, a film based on the Sonic series was announced. Known as simply Sonic the Hedgehog, it is being produced by Neal Moritz on his Original Film banner alongside Takeshi Ito and Mie Onishi, Toby Ascher is executive producing, written by Evan Susser and Van Robichaux and produced as a joint venture between Paramount Pictures and Marza Animation Planet. The film is expected to be a live-action and CGI hybrid. The movie was filmed in 2018, with a release date initially set for November 8, 2019. Upon the release of the film's first trailer in late April of 2019, however, Sonic's appearance was heavily criticized, leading to the director, Jeff Fowler, to announce a redesign of him, pushing back the release date to February 14, 2020. The second trailer for the film was released on November 12, 2019, featuring the redesign, which drew in a far more positive response from both fans and critics alike.
Sonic's first comic appearance was in a promotional comic printed in Disney Adventures magazine (and also given away as a free pull-out with a copy of Mean Machines magazine), which established a backstory for the character involving the origin of his color and abilities and the transformation of kindly scientist Dr. Ovi Kintobor into the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik. Numerous British publications, including "Sega handbook" Stay Sonic (1993), four novels published by Virgin Books (1993–1994) and the comic book Sonic the Comic (1993–2001), published by Fleetway Publications/Egmont Publishing, used this premise as their basis.
The American comics published by Archie Comics, Sonic the Hedgehog (1993–2017), Sonic X (2005–2008), and Sonic Universe (2009–2017) are based on the settings established by earlier animated TV series, the ABC "SatAM" cartoon, the Sonic X anime, and an expansion to the series, respectively. The former series is currently the second longest-running licensed comic series in the history of American comic books, second only to Marvel's Conan series (first issue released in 1970). In France two comic books named "Sonic Adventures" were published by Sirène in 1994. Guinness World Records recognized Sonic comic as the longest-running comic based in a game. Archie Comics also released a twelve part crossover with Mega Man beginning in 2013.
Sonic has also been featured in two different manga. One series was simply called Sonic the Hedgehog, and featured a story about a normal hedgehog boy named Nicky Parlouzer who can change into Sonic. The other series was a compilation of short stories and was separated into two volumes, the first being called Dash and Spin, and the other called Super Fast Sonic!!.
According to various official materials from Sega, Sonic is described as a character who is "like the wind": a drifter who lives as he wants, and makes life a series of events and adventures. Sonic hates oppression and staunchly defends freedom. Although he is mostly quick-witted and easygoing, he has a short temper and is often impatient with slower things. Sonic is a habitual daredevil hedgehog who is honest, loyal to friends, keeps his promises, and dislikes tears. He took the young Tails under his wing like a little brother, and is uninterested in marital proposals from Amy Rose. In times of crisis, he focuses intensely on the challenge as if his personality had undergone an astonishing change.
Sonic's greatest strength is his running speed, being known in the game's universe as the world's fastest hedgehog. Many of his abilities are variations on the tendency for hedgehogs to roll into tight balls for protection with the addition of spinning his body. Since his introduction in 1991's Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic's primary offensive maneuver is the basic "Spin Attack" (or "Sonic Spin Attack"). Later games in the series expanded on this basic attack and two of these enhancements have become mainstays of his: the Spin Dash which was introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and involves Sonic spinning on the spot before blasting off at full speed, and the Homing Attack, officially introduced in Sonic Adventure, in which Sonic dashes toward a target in midair. Sonic's only weakness is that he cannot swim, sinking like a rock if plunged to a deep body of water. The only exception is that he can swim in the Sonic the Hedgehog Adventure Gamebooks. When the seven Chaos Emeralds are collected and used, Sonic transforms into "Super Sonic", a faster and invulnerable version of himself that can fly. In Super Sonic form, Sonic's irises turn red and his body becomes golden.
Reception and legacy
As Sega's mascot and one of the key reasons for the company's success during the 16-bit era of video game consoles, Sonic is one of the most famous video game characters in the world. In 1993, Sonic became the first video game character to have a balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 1996, Sonic was also the first video game character to be seen in a Rose Parade. Sonic was one of the three game characters inducted on the inaugural Walk of Game class in 2005, along with former rivals Mario and Link (both from Nintendo). One of a class of genes involved in fruit fly embryonic development, called hedgehog genes, has been named "sonic hedgehog" after him. He is also named in the song Abiura di me of the Italian rapper Caparezza.
On the other hand, Sonic's apparent romantic relationship with Princess Elise in the 2006 video game resulted in major criticism. Sonic's characterization and relationship with Eggman in Sonic Boom earned a positive response by Patrick Lee of The A.V. Club and Emily Ashby of Common Sense Media.
Sonic has also been used as a symbol for Sega's various sponsorships. Between 1993 and 1997, Sega sponsored the JEF United Ichihara Chiba football team, during which period Sonic appeared in the team's uniform. During the 1993 Formula One championship, Sega sponsored the Williams Grand Prix team, which won the Constructors' Championship that year, as well as the team's lead driver, Alain Prost, winning the Drivers' Championship. Sonic was featured in the cars, helmets, and their rivals McLaren used to paint a squashed hedgehog after winning races over Williams. The 1993 European Grand Prix featured a Sonic balloon and Sonic billboards. In 1992, according to Sega of America marketing director Al Nilsen, Sonic was found to be more recognizable than Mickey Mouse in the six-to eleven-year-old demographic, based on the character's respective Q Scores, although this claim could not be confirmed by Q Score developer Marketing Evaluations, Inc.
Nintendo Power listed Sonic as their sixth favorite hero, stating that while he was originally Mario's nemesis, he seems at home on Nintendo platforms. They added that he has remained as one of gaming's greatest icons. In 2004, the character won a Golden Joystick Award for "The Sun Ultimate Gaming Hero". The character's popularity declined in the mid-1990s, and Sonic failed to place in Electronic Gaming Monthly's Coolest Mascot of 1996 in either the editors' or readers' picks, being beaten out by not only competitors Mario and Crash Bandicoot, but Sega's own Nights; however, in a 2008 poll of 500 people, Sonic was voted the most popular video game character in the UK with a 24% vote while his old rival Mario came second with 21% of the vote. Later that year, Sonic was ranked as the most iconic video game character in an MSN rankings list. In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 14th greatest video game character. And he was voted 10th out of the top 50 video game characters of all time in Guinness World Records 2011 Gamers' Edition. Sonic ranked ninth on GameDaily's Top 10 Smash Bros characters list. GameDaily also listed his "next-generation stumble" in their list of video game characters' worst moments, using his relationship with a human female as one of the worst parts of it.
Ken Balough, Sega's former associate brand manager, said that Sonic's appeal endured because the character is "a gaming legend, first and foremost" who originated "from a series of games that defined a generation in gaming history, and his iconic personality was the epitome of speed in the early ‘90s, pushing the limits of what gamers knew and expected from high-speed action and platforming games."
A Japanese team developing the Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) instrumentation for the upcoming Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer spacecraft, to be launched by ESA and Airbus in 2022, was able to gain Sega's approval to use Sonic as the mascot for the device.
An Internet meme called "Sanic" has been used based on a poorly drawn Sonic; typically, the meme uses one of Sonic's catchphrases but with poor grammar. Sega's official Sonic Twitter account has made numerous references to it, and it appeared in official downloadable content for Sonic Forces on in-game shirts.
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