Looking back on over 30 years of Sonic the Hedgehog is quite a story. You start with this new mascot from a company that wanted to take down their rival who just revitalized the home video game industry in North America and show that they too a force to be reckoned with. Said character becomes a smash hit and not only becomes a huge star in the video game world, but in the pop culture zeitgeist of the 90’s as well. Cartoons were made, a world record comic book run started, the popsicle was created, and more games were set to come out. Things were looking great for Sonic up until 1994. Unfortunately what brought down Sonic wasn’t his rival in red, but his own parent company, SEGA. Disputes and infighting lead to poor decisions and the inevitable crumbling of SEGA’s home console division. Things would go from bad to worse as a slew of bad to mediocre games turned Sonic into a bit of a joke in the gaming world. However this didn’t stop Sonic or SEGA from pressing forward and eventually get the recognition he deserved. It took some time but some quality games would be released, the comic was still going strong, and one game in 2016 reminded the world how much fun Sonic games really are. I can tell ya, being around for all of it has been one wild ride.
Being a Sonic fan for over 30 years has definitely had its ups and downs. From getting poked fun at by my friends or getting my hopes and dreams crushed when a game didn’t live up to the hype is easily the biggest disappointment. Yet when things go well you get this sense of elation and even a little bit of validation that this thing you loved for over 30 years doesn’t totally suck. Now to be clear as much as I love the Sonic franchise, I can tell you not everything is perfect. There have been some major bumps in the road to get to where we are today. No real Sonic game on the Saturn, Sonic ’06, the Wii games, the problems with the Archie comic books, but even with these hiccups I see more good in Sonic than bad.
The good of course being the games and not just the original Genesis games either. Sonic CD, Sonic Adventure 1+2, Generations and Mania are all titles that to me are really great games and deserve to be in the spotlight with the Genesis titles. CD of course being my favorite Sonic game since it was the first one I every owned but not the first one I played. Sonic 2 was the first game I played but I could only play it when I would go to my friend’s house next door. It became harder to play games with him when I moved away so CD on the Windows 95 was the only way I could play any Sonic game. Because CD was my only game I became enamored with it. Everyday I would come home from school and finish my homework in a hurry so I could play Sonic CD. It even got to a point t where my parent’s taught me how to turn the PC on and off correctly because they got tired of me asking them to do it for me. Eventually I would get another Sonic game and that would be the Sonic & Knuckles Collection for the PC. This came with Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles and it was also 2 player. Meaning my little brother could play it with me as well. We spent hours playing Sonic 3 and getting stuck on that one damn barrel in Carnival Night Zone. You know the one and if you don’t, play Sonic 3 and find out. I absolutely loved playing Sonic Adventure 1+2 and enjoyed Sonic Heroes for the most part. I would miss a few titles like Colors but I didn’t miss Generations. Generations was like a shot of adrenaline for me since the previous games weren’t the best. Of course it all came to a head when Sonic Mania was announced and just like that my love for Sonic games was renewed.
Oddly enough it wasn’t just the games that got me into Sonic. Yes the games had a big part of it but it was also the comics that got me hook, line, and sinker. My very first Sonic comic that I got was issue 29 of the Archie run where Princess Sally turns into a robot. The best part is where I found this book, it wasn’t in a comic shop, but on the magazine rack in a gas station in the backwoods of Montana. I couldn’t believe that my favorite character had his own comic book. Of course my Dad buys it for me, tells me what the character’s names are (I was just learning how to read when we got the book) and I get enamored in this world. Soon after my grandmother buys me a year long subscription to the book and down the rabbit hole I go. Best part is that I still have my original copy of the comic. Sad part is that it’s practically destroyed and barely readable with all the pages it’s missing. As a comic collector now I cringe at how badly I took care of my books but that just means I consistently read them over and over again.
Over the years I would buy the comics on and off again but one thing remained consistent, is that the comic was in it’s own little world and the games just added to it. Whenever a new Sonic game would come out the writers had to incorporate that game into the books and sometimes it worked well, and sometimes it was a bit of a stretch. The Archie line of books would run to over 290 issues until unceremoniously getting canceled and the rights going to IDW. Pictured to the left is only a fraction of the amount of books I own. The reason being that SEGA’s contract with Archie ended and they decided to go elsewhere. Even though the Archie comics had internal problems (lawsuits from a former writer being the main cause of characters disappearing in the books) the books had their own neat world and characters that I would’ve loved to see in the games. The new line of books is also really well done and captures the spirit of Sonic just like the Archie line did. While I’m sad the Archie line is done and won’t tie up the loose ends it left, I’m glad that the IDW books are here.
While Sonic has had his bumps in the road over the past 30 years I am still reminded why I love this character in the first place. The games are just plain fun and always a treat to go back to, the comics are fun to pick up and flip through, and if you have them some of the TV shows were really well made (Sonic SatAm being the best one in my opinion). I’ve written a lot about Sonic on this website and I’ll probably still find more to write about him in the future. For now, as I look back at all the fun I had, I can’t wait to see what will happen next. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the games that I’ve been playing and loving for the past 30 years.