Sonic's Story: From Pet to Promotional Item

Sonic's Story: From Pet to Promotional Item

Sonic's Story

Few things are as fascinating as the tragicomic world of video game mascots. In the eighties and, above all, in the nineties, videogame companies loved (trying to) create characters that represented their brand. An important requirement was necessary: ​​the aforementioned figures had to first appear in a video game that was to the liking of the public. If for the good Mario it was relatively immediate (after all it was one of the main vehicles for Nintendo's videogame success) the story is different for Sega. Ahead of the release of Sonic Frontiers, let's retrace the history of Sonic to understand how it came to entrust the strength of its brand to a blue hedgehog. In this first part, we go from the origins of the series to the acclaimed Sonic Adventure for Dreamcast.

Finish as fast as possible

Yuji Naka, Sonic the Hedgehog's father In thinking to the gameplay of Sonic, its author Yuji Naka decided to start from his preference, in platformers, to finish the levels as quickly as possible. From there, Sonic's well-known feature: he ... gotta go fast, he has to go fast. It is useless to dwell too much on the original 1991 title, because so much has already been said, but it is certainly easy to appreciate even today an exquisite design of the levels that allows, yes, to face them in a frenetic way but also to have to think to overcome obstacles. The evil scientist to be defeated, Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman, as he will be known later), was also recovered from one of Oshima's proposals.

Evolution of Sonic from the first sketches to the final version Unlike Enchanted Castle, Alex Kidd's only Mega Drive title (and the last in the series), Sonic's debut was a worldwide success that contributed to a remarkable way to the sales of Sega's 16-bit console, which started under not fully favorable auspices. From there, the blue hedgehog began to invade the advertising and marketing of the Japanese company, going well beyond the video game and arriving on all kinds of products: backpacks, cereals, snacks, etc. Not least Italy, which apparently was the first country to decide to animate the character and give him a voice. To draw and animate it, for the advertisements of Giochi Preziosi, was Riccardo Mazzoli, whom many know today as a brilliant cartoonist and who soon went on to lead, together with Giorgio Mastrota, the USA Today container broadcast, also dealing with video games. br>

This is one of the various advertisements with which Giochi Preziosi marketed exclusive Sega products for Italy.

A sequel between the USA and Japan

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 launch day is remembered as Sonic 2sday The success of Sonic's first title only increased Sega's desire to get out quickly with a sequel to match. But here the story takes a curious turn, because relations between Yuji Naka and the Japanese company become tense, apparently for economic reasons. Mark Cerny, at the time famous for being the genius programmer of Marble Madness, intervened to solve the situation. Cerny proposed to Sega to create a development team, in America, mixed between local and Japanese programmers. Named Sega Technical Institute, the team was born as a bridge between Japanese creativity and an American style, so as to create games for both nations.

Mark Cerny shows Michael Jackson the STI team working on Sonic 3. Things aren't going to go quite right, Naka later revealed that he didn't like this mixture of languages ​​and cultures, but the result leaves no room for doubt. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a sequel that, we might venture, improves upon the original in every respect, from design to longevity. Alongside Sonic, the fox with whirling tails, Miles Tails Prower, also made her debut from a shortlist of potential mascots proposed by graphic designers at the Technical Institute. The success of the second chapter was, of course, followed by a third title and with Sega again having to comply with Naka's requests.

The leader of the Sonic Team, as mentioned, not having liked the idea of ​​working with a mixed team, asked (and obtained) from Sega a significant economic increase and the guarantee of being able to develop with a Japanese team, without interference. But development ended up having several setbacks and a number of different ideas, with the result that two separate titles will be created: Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Deprived of a flagship title for Christmas 1993, Sega decided to hire Technical Institute, effectively the only team in the world to have worked with Sonic, to create a title to plug the holiday gap.

Meanwhile, Sega decided to bring Sonic to other platforms as well, Master System and Game Gear, with dedicated titles that, while sacrificing speed, are nonetheless confirmed as solid platforms that do not disfigure at all next to their older brothers. The discreet Sonic Chaos, released in 1993 on Master System and Game Gear, was the first 8-bit "stand-alone" title, made by Aspect Co., which was followed by Sonic Blast in 1996.

Sonic a commercial product

Sonic also appeared at a balloon festival Sonic Spinball, more of a pinball game than a platformer, marked a watershed in the history of the hedgehog. For the first time, the mascot appeared in a title detached from the "main" series and which, in short, was qualitatively not on par. Somehow, the company gave the impression of starting to let go of the mascot, which in fact came out of the exclusivity of the Sonic Team. Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, released in 1994, still managed to satisfy everyone, introducing a new character (the "bad" echidna Knuckles) and different powers for Sonic. On the third chapter, Michael Jackson, who has always been a great Sega fan, will work on the soundtrack, even if the artist claims not to be credited. After years of never ascertaining whether the artist's musical contribution remained in the game or not, it was recently confirmed by Naka that Jackson's songs were never removed.

One of the potential alternatives to Tails proposed by STI's graphic designers In the same period, Sega decided to take the character out of the world of video games, thus giving life to the cartoon Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, which was followed by Sonic the Hedgehog (known abroad like Sonic Sat-am, as it aired on Saturday mornings). Curiously, both were co-produced by Reteitalia (now Mediaset), in a funny connection with the original Giochi Preziosi cartoon. There was also the idea of ​​developing a 3D platformer inspired by the animated series, an idea born at the Sega Technical Institute with the name Sonic Mars, for the 32X. Due to internal company problems, it ended up never being finished and the idea was recycled for Sonic X-treme.

By the way, it's my impression or the initials of the cartoon of Sonic, clearly sung by the immortal Cristina D'Avena, does it use a sample from Simple Minds' I Travel at the very beginning? That connection between Sega and the new wave you didn't expect.

Losing and finding your way back

Sonic Mars, 32x title never released After 1994, and the release of the solid Sonic CD (developed by a team led by Naoto Oshima), the saga of the blue hedgehog seems to start to lose course, with several titles canceled by Sega and a continuous rethinking about what fate to give to their mascot. Perhaps due to the great economic importance it held for the company, we wanted to make sure we did not go out with some false step, but the waiting time for the fans began to lengthen. Somehow, the late nineties represented a difficult period for the blue hedgehog who, with the arrival of new, more "mature" mascots, such as Lara Croft and Duke Nukem, already seemed to belong to a bygone era.

After the mid-nineties, Sonic's fortunes, as well as Sega's, began to falter. With the reunited Sonic Team busy developing Nights Into Dreams on the new 32-bit console, Saturn, the only title to feature Sonic on it is the mediocre (walking) racing game Sonic R. The first real 3D adventure, Sonic X-treme, was canceled after several problems with the team and Naka's refusal to loan the Nights Into Dreams engine to the team. In 1996, as a title to celebrate the "death" of the Mega Drive, Sonic 3D Blast was released, an attempt to bring the mascot into an isometric dimension with a more reasoned gameplay, developed however by the British Traveller's Tales.

Very first concepts of Sonic Adventure The nineties ended with a flashback: the solid Sonic Adventure of 1998, the first fully 3D title and certainly one of the flagship titles of the ill-fated Dreamcast console. With Naka in production and Takashi Iizuka in charge, Adventure - albeit not a perfect platformer - will prove to be one of the best attempts to bring Sonic into a three-dimensional platformer. The sequel was less successful, albeit re-proposing some similar ideas, and will have the dubious honor of being the last title starring Sonic to be released on a Sega-branded console. To review the porcupine in 3D, we had to wait until 2003 ...

Have you noticed any errors?

Powered by Blogger.