Happy Birthday Sonic!

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the famed blue hedgehog who helped SEGA keep up with Nintendo back in the glory days of 16bit consoles.

When SEGA set out to create a character to rival Nintendo’s Mario who’d have thought a speedy hedgehog would be the outcome. While Mario was slow, Italian, after coins, out to save the princess…Sonic on the other hand was quick, had attitude issues, liked rings and was defined as ‘cool’.

Both characters grew into household names, gained sequels/spinoffs and of course an ensemble of supporting characters. Sonic is iconic, even those who don’t follow or dislike videogames could probably still name him.

Some of the more recent Sonic games haven’t performed as well as hoped, and the production values aren’t what they used to be. Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 both did well on the SEGA Dreamcast, but the subsequent ‘3D’ titles did not. It was hoped Sonic 3D would help save the Saturn, but ultimately the Saturn would be SEGA’s last venture into videogame hardware.

Below par 360/PS3/Wii titles haven’t helped Sonic’s cause:

Unleashed had good ideas, but what was with the Werewolf levels? 
The Black Knight..Sonic with a sword…really?
How many supporting characters does he need?! Throwaway characters such as Silver, Jet and Princess Elise aren’t required

SEGA have since gone back to their roots with Sonic 4 Episode 1, returning him to his side-scrolling roots with some success. Dodgy physics and questionable level design (not to mention Robotnik battles we’d seen before) stopped it from being a must purchase. Since it’s release their have been no news on Episode 2 (although in a moment you may see why). So what now for our once loved mascot?

Sonic Generations, a game that allows you to play as ‘Classic’ Sonic, and the ‘New’ Sonic. Side-Scrolling action and the 3D levels similar to those seen in the Adventure games and the decent bits of Unleashed. Re-visiting past locations with the classic tunes we remember. And as a special treat, you can download the demo from the Xbox Marketplace right now! (and PSN later today).

I’ve just had a go, and I’m quite happy. The demo only consists of one level, but it is classic Sonic’s Green Hill Zone. Colourful, designed well, original music, physics more in line with the Megadrive Sonic titles…in fact the only thing I disliked was its frame rate with it at times being a little jittery. It’s only available for 20 days, so get it downloaded. I wish I could say more, but the demo is only for one level. The menu at the start of the game does also have an option for 3D, although I don’t own a 3D TV so can’t say how well that works.

From screenshots, videos and now the demo…I’m quietly excited about this new Sonic title. He’s a fantastic character, he saved the Megadrive and has a number of great games, albeit mixed in with some not so great titles. He deserves a game worthy enough to be compared to Mario’s Galaxy series on current gen formats, and while Generations may not be that game (due to it re-using Sonic’s past and not original levels and ideas), it’s a step in the right direction.

I never originally owned a Megadrive, but have played the ‘classic Sonic titles on many various formats (as downloadables etc). If you haven’t, and own a Playstation 3, then your in luck as SEGA are releasing a bundle complete with the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 4 Ep 1 and Sonic Adventure (not to mention an XMB theme) for £13.99 to celebrate his landmark.

Sonic was part of my childhood and I can see him having his say on the videogame industry for many years to come. I’ve grown up with him, through all his troubles and triumphs. I’ve seen the impact he has had on the industry as a whole.

I’m going to play some Sonic 2 today, and raise a glass of Pepsi to the blue spiky one.  

Happy Birthday!! From all of us at BlastProcess.com! (Especially PJ)

Note: I used the word Sonic 21 times in this article. Oh heck…


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