A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!
On multiple occasions, I have stated that Sonic the Hedgehog is my favourite gaming franchise out there. Even though I am not as obsessed with it anymore as I used to be back in the day, I still return to it often–even if my massive backlog of games are begging me to be played instead. But while I can state over and over again that this franchise is my favourite… I’ve never truly thought about why this franchise in particular is my favourite.
It is hard to deny that the franchise has met multiple hurdles over the course of its lifespan; even I won’t defend some of the absolute low points of the franchise. My experience with a vast amount of different games has also grown massively in the last two decades. While I won’t get credited for it because I’m not a well-known content creator or anything amongst those lines, I feel like I played a major part in getting the Nihon Falcom games to be more recognized in the west due to the serious amount of people I introduced to their franchises. From a personal objective standpoint, I definitely consider their The Legend of Heroes franchise to be the best out there in terms of quality games. Yet, it is not my favourite franchise, so what gives?
While I can give a few reasons as to why, I have never really been able to construct these arguments well enough for them to actually mean more than just ”Yeah I like this and that”. So not only is this going to be an article where I will explain to you why I love the franchise so much, but to an extent also understanding it better myself. And since today is Sonic’s 30th birthday, there is no better time to talk about it than now. So join me today as I will tell you the story about my history with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise!
The Early Years
The most important thing to note about my start with the franchise is that I am not a Sega kid. The Sega line-up of systems was never really that popular in the Netherlands–or at least, not on this side of our small country. I grew up with the Super Nintendo, and then the PlayStation consoles right after. This meant that I couldn’t really play any Sonic game until either the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, or the PlayStation 2. I mention both because I can’t honestly recall what my first game in the franchise was: Sonic Advance, or Sonic Heroes.
But frankly, I don’t even know if this is where I truly started with the franchise. My then best friend had a Dreamcast where we played Sonic Adventure, and if it wasn’t that game, my first experience would probably be with the Sonic X anime or Ultimate Sonic Flash, which I discussed in ”In Memoriam: Adobe Flash”. I bring this specific flash game up for a reason, as I spent a lot of time on our home computer instead of on our consoles. So as stupid as it may sound, most of my experience with Sonic in the early years has been with fanmade games.
I won’t go too much into detail regarding Flash games as I pretty much described everything in my Adobe Flash post (hint hint), but it does bring me to the first point as to why I love the franchise more than others: the dedication fans go through. I already mentioned Flash games, but I also spent quite a lot of time on other fangames such as Sonic FGX, fan animations like Super Mario Bros. Z, and of course: the original characters.
This is actually quite a funny part about the fanbase because they declare themselves fan, yet trash everything Sonic-related–especially the original characters. Never really understood this part because there is no shame in embracing your past, even if you aren’t the proudest of it. I also made an original character myself, Luna the Lunarian, and gave her an entire backstory. She lived on, you guessed it, the moon, where she protected the seven Lunar Emeralds that she could use to go Super Luna. I unfortunately don’t have a drawing anymore since they’re most likely hidden far away, but I remember her looking like a mix between Tikal and Cream but with a cyan colour and a tiara that had a crescent moon-shaped emblem. Yeah I know, I wasn’t very creative. I could probably draw her all over again quite easily, but that’s maybe for another day. Also, good thing I hadn’t played Sonic Adventure 2 before making that character otherwise I would have been sad.
But yeah, I genuinely enjoyed being part of this community and see what other creations people came up with. Some of the before-mentioned Flash animations- and games also technically had a lot of original characters, such as Nazo and Seelkadoom. The former was kind of a canceled character for the Sonic X anime but hey, Chakra-X still gave him a character. Honestly, if I wasn’t playing actual Sonic games, I would probably be spending my time somewhere on the internet with the fandom. And someday, maybe I’ll make Nepiki into a Hedgehog or something. We’ll see!
On a social media platform exclusive to our country, I was actually part of an active Sonic community as well. To this day, I still have no idea if Sega themselves officially hosted it but hey, there were a lot of people I met through there–of which I still speak to some. Even took part in a contest there which resulted in a beautiful Sonic hat. Dang straight do I want to get seen with this outside, who wouldn’t want to?
There wasn’t much else to my early years that is mention-worthy though. I just kept playing games and that’s about it. Fun fact: I accidentally spent about 70 euros to get all digital Sonic games on the Xbox 360 because there wasn’t a confirmation screen before purchase. I was still a not-so-young-but-still-dumb kid after all. But hey, I had all the Sonic games that were available on there back then, including all the DLC for Sonic the Hedgehog 2006… of which I only played one. Due to me being a not-so-young-but-still-dumb kid, I… didn’t dislike playing that game initially. It was just the loading screens that annoyed me greatly, and I kept dying on the first level at the very end due to glitches.
The Scanf Years
I can hear you thinking dear reader: what the hell is a ”Scanf”? …Good question, I have no idea. But it must be massive enough that I’m dedicating an entire section to it right?
Scanf stands for ”Sonic City: A New Fan”, which is an acronym for a bad translation result. Regardless, Sonic Scanf is actually the name for one of the biggest Sonic fansites in Russia. Since I don’t speak Russian, I was glad for it to have an English counterpart. But what makes this fansite so special when compared to other sites dedicated exclusively to our favourite hedgehog?
As you may or may not know, Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest-running video game comic ever. But I could not read them since well, Archie is an American-based company. We may have gotten some comics, but Sonic the Hedgehog was not part of them. And given that it holds a Guinness World Record for longest-running, you can imagine that I was not interested in importing every single issue. Sonic Scanf is a fansite that scanned- and hosted every single issue for us Europeans to read. It was illegal and the scans are not available on Sonic Scanf anymore, but am I glad that I was able to read all of them.
Of course, Sonic Scanf also had a community where I ended up becoming an Administrator as well as the main news reporter, and I’ve also met quite a lot of people here. I would like to go more in-depth on how much this community meant to me during my teen years, but it would mostly just be a repeat of the fanbase part of this article. For now, I want to focus on the comics and how genuinely good they were.
It’s been a while since I read all the comics, so let me start off by saying how much I love that the games tend to have an edgier/cheesy story. I think we can all agree that the story of games such as Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Sonic Forces aren’t very good, but I can’t help but love how cheesy they are. In what other platformer series do you see an edgy black hedgehog take on an alien race hellbent on killing everyone on the planet? Or having the moon get blown up with a space colony crashing into the earth? The stories aren’t good, but I truly enjoy them regardless.
The comics take this a step further: having darker-toned stories, but with actual good writing and a dozen of great characters to back them up. There are no limits here; characters die, tragic events happen and Dr. Robotnik is an unstoppable tyrant. Every so-many issues has Sonic and his friends face-to-face with new and dangerous villains, such as Enerjak, the chaos demigod of the Echidna tribe, or Scourge the Hedgehog, who is the anti-Sonic that gained powers after sampling the Master Emerald from Sonic’s dimension. But the comic didn’t just have great villains, but the protagonists had also gained some new friends exclusive to the comics, such as Julie-Su and Mina Mongoose.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I really enjoy the world of Sonic the Hedgehog, and the many shapes it has gone through over the years. The Archie comics unfortunately ended as writer Ken Penders went on a self-destruct spree that left damage too big to recover from, with Ian Flynn taking up the mantle and making the most out of what was left. Fortunately, the comics continued under publisher IDW, and Ian went along to continue writing. Ian is a genuinely great writer, and I would love to see him be the writer for the main games as well as they have been lacking quite hard on that front, especially in the past few years. I still have to read the IDW comics, but the Archie comics have been a massive reason as to why I love the franchise.
Why I love the games
So far I’ve talked about the fanbase and what they do to the franchise in terms of creations, and how much the world of Sonic the Hedgehog entices me. But of course, in a video game franchise, the most important part will always be the video games. Let me attempt to answer why the games specifically mean so much to me.
The main appeal for me is definitely going at a high speed and to a further extend, speedrunning the games. Although I’m an old man now, I used to speedrun games quite a lot when I was younger. I even hold a World Record for Sonic 4: Episode 2 on some levels. And while these games obviously aren’t the only ones that are partially designed with speedrunners in mind, I feel they are definitely some of the more encouraging ones, be it through emblems, leaderboards, or anything amongst those lines. It’s basically the same reason why I love racing games so much: trying over and over again until the fastest time has been met.
And since I brought up racing games, another parallel that I like between both is the environments I’m going through. Out of pretty much every platformer out there, I feel Sonic probably has the most thematically distinct level design out there. To name a few examples of my favourites:
- Starlight Carnival, a space-themed light show between multiple ships.
- Dragon Road, a stage that takes a lot of inspiration from ancient Chinese myths.
- Pirate Island, a beautiful city that reminds me a lot of Venice.
- Toy Kingdom, an entire level filled to the brim with toys.
I could go on for quite a long while but yeah, I absolutely love the level designs. In pretty much every (platformer) review I make, I mention how important I consider the variety in level themes to be. Having an ice level and a fire level is cool and all, but it could be extended to far beyond that with gimmicks and enemies. It’s also why I far more easily remember levels from Sonic games over other, arguably better platformers.
But I guess I keep avoiding the main topic: what do I think of the games? This is a tough topic to talk about because, as big as a fan I am, it’s undeniable that Sonic’s track record tends to be similar to the stock market after Elon Musk throws out another tweet regarding Doge Coin. I am very much aware that Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is a broken glitchfest, that Shadow the Hedgehog has awkward level goals and forces the player to play through the game ten times, and that Sonic Forces is a mediocre game with awful level design. Of course, I won’t deny that Sonic has made a lot of wrong steps in his life. But even then, the number of bad games doesn’t come close to the number of good games.
And the other thing is: I play games to have fun. There’s a reason why all of the games I review have a fun score next to the actual game score itself. All of the arguably worst games of the franchise, I still had some form of fun with. Abusing the glitches in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 to my advantage was fun, Shadow the Hedgehog has the most cheesy edgy storyline ever, and Sonic Forces has a legitimately good character creation tool. There is more to games for me than just the quality, and that speaks true for the Sonic franchise more than probably any other. And at this point, I haven’t even mentioned some of my favourite games. Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations are all very high up on my list of favourite games.
So that’s my final conclusion, isn’t it? The fanbase is one that I enjoy being in, the fan creations are awesome and the vastly different views on the world of Sonic are something I love to indulge in, and I just really enjoy the games. The speedrunning nature appeals to me very much, and I have fun with almost every single game in the franchise. I won’t deny that some games lack in quality and I also won’t defend them, but having fun is the most important thing for me
I know I tend to be an optimistic person and frankly, I would love for more people to be like that in the current day. Everything regarding gaming is always viewed so negatively. Games don’t have the best graphics. Games lack originality. There are bugs all over the place. While sure, some of these can be grave issues… overall, it’s not something I can relate to. I want to look forward to playing games, talking about them with other people, and not bash on games because that’s the next cool thing to do. And for Sonic the Hedgehog… whatever may happen, I will always look optimistically forward to the next game.
Thank you for reading! Didn’t expect to end this article on such a motivational speech but oh well, it just suddenly popped up. I hope you enjoyed my endless babbling and my pretty unsurprising conclusion but yeah, I really wanted to write about my love for the franchise today. After all, it’s the 23rd of June. I couldn’t dedicate a more fitting piece to the birthday of our favourite hedgehog now, could I?
Happy birthday Sonic! Here’s to 30 more years!