How to Save Sonic the Hedgehog

How to Save Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog hit the big 2-0 on June 23, 2011. Unlike more responsible and down-to-earth game mascots like, say, Super Mario, Sega’s spiky rodent has gone through an adolescence that’s rougher than the buzzsaw on his back.

Sonic’s fast-moving games catapulted the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive above and beyond the Nintendo Entertainment System in the early ’90s. Opinions are mixed on how Sonic spent the money he earned as child star, but whatever he did with his newfound wealth caused him to space out through the 32-bit era wherein he only made one troubled half-showing on the Sega Saturn.

Sonic regained some of his dignity on the Dreamcast with the Sonic Adventure games, though he needed the support of his many friends to prop him up until Sega’s real estate tanked. Sonic took his new adventures to the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 around the unfortunate time he hit 15. The hedgehog’s famous “attitude” spiked in his 2006 3D adventure to the point that he disregarded the laws of God, Nature and gravity and went running through walls and careening into black voids. Shortly thereafter, Sonic suffered sobering bout of lycanthropy.

But who among us can deny experiencing a reckless youth? Sonic has survived. He’s lived and learned. He won’t ever recapture those first furious, fiery years following his birth, but that’s the way things should be. After all, 20 is a good age: Your field of vision begins to widen, and your shoulders broaden to let you take on the responsibilities of adulthood. From this point on, Sonic is going to be okay.

Even if Sonic’s games haven’t been mind-blowing over the past couple of years, most of them have at least been reasonable. The Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games line is solid and extremely profitable, if not a little bizarre for simply existing: Kids who grew up fantasizing about a death match between Mario and Sonic probably didn’t expect for their rivalry to climax at an international tournament that’s meant to sow friendship and goodwill. Nevertheless, here we are.

At the end of 2010, Sonic even spread his hands in defeat and said, “Look guys, I’m going back to 2D, I swear to God,” and indeed he knocked out one dimension with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, a downloadable game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, WiiWare, and iOS. It was a decent title, even if the price coupled with the sub-header “Episode 1” made folks wary. Sonic decided it’d be best to lie low in the second dimension for a little longer, which is how he came to perform in Sonic Colors for the Wii and the Nintendo DS.

2010’s Sonic Colors marked an important moment for Sonic, as he learned a few lessons about what made him so compelling in the first place. Namely, sometimes you just gotta run. On your own. Through well-designed levels. While taking in a script that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

And sometimes the best way to learn from your past moments of glory is to distort space and time until you’re capable of re-living those moments. Sonic Generations, due for release later this year on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo 3DS, will revisit Sonic’s best moments in his previous games. Mind, the duty is being split up between the modern Sonic we know today, and his chubbier ’90s counterpart; modern Sonic’s back ain’t what it used to be (his spines used to be more flexible).

It’s going to take some time for Sonic to receive a full pardon for some of the stunts he pulled as a teenager, but at least he’s on the road to recovery. Sonic Generations will be a pretty telling title: If it’s a critical success, we might just end up taking Sonic seriously again. After so many years of poking at him and laughing, that’s strange to even comprehend.

Either way, Happy Birthday Sonic! Avoid going on further benders if you’re not ashamed of the idea of reaching middle age.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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