By 1990 Nintendo was the king of the video game industry, controlling 90% of the market. Both the NES and Mario were household names. The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive had released in 1989 and while the tech was vastly superior to the NES, it did little to stop Nintendo's momentum. SEGA was tired of being second string and while they had their own mascot in Alex Kidd, it became increasingly apparent that they needed a stronger character to compete with the red & blue overalls-wearing plumber and the soon to launch SNES.
|Dreams Come True 1990 tour|
poster, giving gamers their first
look at Sonic.
A contest was held inside the offices of SEGA to produce a mascot to rival Mario and show off what the Genesis could do. A plethora of entries were submitted but when all was said and done, it was the humble Naoto Ohshima's illustrations that set everyone abuzz. These drawings included a rabbit, an armadillo, and a man with a thick mustache resembling President Theodore Roosevelt. But the image that really got everyone talking was that of a hedgehog. Initially called Mr. Needlemouse, the character that became the face of SEGA was later given the name Sonic the Hedgehog.
|Hey there, Sonic! SEGA's arcade racer Rad|
Mobile was released before Sonic the
Hedgehog, making Rad Mobile the first
game Sonic appeared in.
Twenty one years ago on this very day, Sonic the Hedgehog was released for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in the United States and Europe. Like Super Mario Bros., the impact Sonic the Hedgehog had on gaming was quite significant. The game helped SEGA gain greater recognition and it allowed them to take the number one spot from Nintendo. Better still, it was with Sonic's first game that a fierce rivalry between the two companies and their mascots was born. The 16-bit console war is fondly remembered as one of the highest points in gaming's history as a result.
21 years. That's a long time when you think about. I've been a fan of Sonic fan for nearly as long as Sonic has been around. Some believe that Sonic's head day has long since past. It's no secret that Sonic's 3D outings haven't been all that grand. But it isn't like every 3D Sonic game has been awful. Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 were actually pretty good games. 2010's Sonic Colors ended up being one of the best games in Sonic's history and last year's Sonic Generations was praised for it's wonderful blend of 2D and 3D gameplay, and was an exceptional way to celebrate Sonic's 20th birthday.
|American Ad for Sonic the Hedgehog.|
So why is Sonic still around after all these years? Well, in my humble opinion, Sonic is a pretty cool dude. He's fast and confident, and has just enough attitude (which made a welcome comeback in game form in Sonic Colors) but not to the extent that he's an annoying character. For better or for worse, Sonic also has one of the largest cast of supporting characters for a video game icon. Not all of them should stick around (Amy) and more of them really need to come back (Mighty and Ray). Lastly, Sonic owes a great deal of his success to the fans, even if the fanbase is one of the most unpleasable in existence. Just like non-fictional stars, Sonic wouldn't be anything without his fans.
|The game that started it all.|
|Sonic Generations, giving fans the best of|
It hasn't been a completely smooth ride but I'm more than happy that I've stuck with Sonic for most of his life. Fans may be sharply divided on the success of his 3D adventures but since Sonic's still around, I have to concur with the tagline SEGA used for the 20th anniversary wallpapers and promos: Sonic is still unstoppable after all these years. Happy birthday, Sonic. Don't ever stop running.