Let’s get this out of the way early: Sonic games haven’t been good for a long time. There are a few exceptions (Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS is pretty awesome), but for the most part, any Sonic game made after the days of the Sega Genesis just kind of suck.
But this review isn’t about the games. It’s about the character. This character:
Sonic was designed from the bottom up to be the polar opposite of Mario. Mario was (probably) middle aged. Sonic was a teenager. Mario’s platforming was careful and deliberate. Sonic was about running to the right as fast as you could.
Sega did everything they could to make Sonic cool. And really, the succeeded. Damn, Sonic is cool. Still is really. He’s a cool shade of blue, he runs really fast (which is cool), and he’s spiky (which is cool). And look at that attitude, waggling that finger like he knows some secret about you but he’s not gonna tell because he’s cool, y’know?
“Best regards, Sonic”
Being the big star that he was, Sonic started to appear everywhere. Merchandise, comics, and in 1993, two different cartoon series. Since Sonic is the epitome of cool, they hired the coolest person to voice his character in both shows: Jaleel White
I… umm…. what? And it’s not like Jaleel White was trying to sound cool while voicing Sonic. He was in full-on Urkel mode. Because nothing says cool like Urkel.
So, that’s the voice that I associate with Sonic, now and forever. And unfortunately, it makes Sonic less cool. Mario had the voice of professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano. Sonic got tv’s most annoying neighbor. What the hell?
Do the Mario!
In the late 90′s, Sonic’s design was modified to make him look “cooler”. He was given longer legs, droopier quills, and green eyes. I… I don’t know how any of those make him cooler. Sure, the original Sonic art was kind of pudgy, but he still looks a ton cooler than this:
So this is what trying too hard looks like
Silly voice, terrible design… what’s next? Making him slower than Mario? Oh wait, Sega did that too. In Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, Sonic can race against Mario. And lose. Is Sonic drugged? Did Mario slip him a roofie in an effort to slow him down? What the hell?
Despite their best efforts, Sonic is still cool. Sure, his modern design is shitty and he has the voice of Urkel… he’s still cool. Hedgehogs are cool animals, the color blue is cool, and outside of the Olympic games, Sonic is still pretty damn fast. And running fast is a cool ability (see also The Flash).
So I love Sonic. It’s probably mostly (or all) nostalgia at this point, but I still smile everytime I see him. Hell, when Sonic was announced as a playable character in Smash Bros Brawl, I pretty much had a joygasm right at my computer.
Ummm… I need to change my pants. Don’t ask why.
Final Verdict: Sega is doing everything they can to make Sonic not cool anymore. It’s a testament to the strength of their original design that he still is cool. Also, every pet hedgehog for the past 20 years has been named Sonic. That’s got to count for something.