Closing out the 21st anniversary Sonic celebration, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the key moments in Sonic's history. By "key moments" I mean memories that stand out to me.
Running Through Green Hill Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
Easily the most iconic Zone out of the entire Sonic series, no gamer can forget what it felt like to speed through this zone. Sure, we can move at blistering speeds in today's games but in 1991, it was unfathomable.
Drowning - Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
I never said all the memories would be pleasant ones, now did I? If you thought Marble Zone slowed things to a crawl, being in Labyrinth Zone was akin to being frozen in a block of ice. Not only was the movement the slowest you'd seen in the game, not only could Sonic not swim, he also needed air bubbles. Every five seconds you'd hear a bell ding. After so many dings, numbers appear over Sonic's head and the joyful Labyrinth Zone theme is misplaced in favor of what can only be described as nightmare fuel incarnate. If you didn't get an air bubble before time ran out, you were subjected to the horror of seeing the world's most famous hedgehog drown. That may not sound too terrible and if it doesn't you're either A) a scumbag of a human being, or B) never witnessed Sonic drowning as a child or teenager. To this day, it still unnerves me and nearly drowning in any Sonic game causes me to panic.
Failing to Save Tails - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear, Master System)
You think the "bad" endings to Sonic 1-2 and even Sonic 3 & Knuckles are bad? Those are nothing compared to Sonic 2's bad ending on the Game Gear. If you want to rescue Tails and get the good ending you have to collect all the Chaos Emeralds. Unlike the Genesis games, the Chaos Emeralds are hidden in Act 2 of each Zone. Did I mention that Sonic 2 on the Game Gear is one of the most difficult Sonic games? Even by today's standards, the things this game does will make you want to break something. And if you don't get all the Chaos Emeralds? Well the game doesn't outright say it, but it's heavily implied that Robotnik killed Tails. There's a very sad song playing during the end credits and Sonic is seen running alone. Wow, Sonic, what's it like to have a screw up that colossal, failing to save your best friend who wanted only to be like you?
Transforming into Super Sonic - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)
Making it through those seven special stages was no cake-walk, especially if you didn't have anyone to play as Tails. But getting them was well worth the effort. Once you gather all seven Chaos Emeralds, Dr. Robotnik murders Tails right before Sonic's eyes. This sends our blue hedgehog into a fiery rage where he transforms into a Super Saiyan! OK, so that doesn't happen but Super Sonic is all kinds of awesome and he is based off one of the most powerful transformations to come out of anime. And if you couldn't get all the Chaos Emeralds, you could just cheat.
That Stupid Pit - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)
While not as infamous as a certain red and white object from Sonic 3 & Knuckles that I'll get to in a bit, this thing still irked a lot of players. In Mystic Cave Zone Act 2 there is a spike pit that is very easy to get stuck in if you aren't careful. Once you fall in, there's no way out so it may as well be a bottomless pit. Things are even worse if you fall in there as Super Sonic.
Sonic CD Anime Intro - Sonic CD (SCD, PSN, XBLA)
Whether it was You Can Do Anything or Sonic Boom you heard as you saw Sonic run in fully animated anime glory, Sonic CD's opening anime intro is still one of the coolest openings of any video game.
Racing Against Metal Sonic - Sonic CD (SCD, PSN, XBLA)
The most popular of all the robot Sonic knock-offs, Metal Sonic made his debut by kidnapping one of the most annoying members of the extended cast, Amy Rose. He already gets props for whisking away that bothersome girl, but he got even better with one of the best "boss" encounters of Sonic CD. While many of Sonic CD's bosses are ho-hum affairs, the fight with Metal Sonic isn't so much a fight as it is a race. You run along a obstacle course in Stardust Speedway as Robotnik trails behind you with an instant death beam.
The Barrel of Doom - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Genesis)
Picture this. You're cursing along Act 2 of Carnival Night Zone when all of a sudden, you get locked in a room with a barrel that prevents you from going any further. These days, getting unstuck on a puzzle that has us stumped is easy. When Sonic 3 & Knuckles was first released, GameFaqs wouldn't be invented for another three years. You'd think a simple white and red barrel would be easy to bypass and yeah, it is, actually. However, the means to advance beyond said barrel caused countless gamers across the globe headbanging frustration. By pressing up and down on the control pad, the barrel moves up and down, allowing you enough room to jump off and pass. A simple solution to a puzzle that drove gamers mad.
First Time Snowboarding - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Genesis)
You exit Carnival Knight Zone via canon and make your entrance to Icecap Zone by landing on a well-place snowboard to get down the mountain. These days it isn't unusual to see Sonic on a board of some sort but in 1994 it was quite the surprise. While the snowboarding segment was short, it was still sweet.
Stomping Knuckles - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Genesis)
Knuckles has been a pretty crappy host. The minute Sonic and Tails arrive on his floating continent, he steals the Chaos Emeralds. After that he spends most of the game, making their trip on Angle Island one of misery by pulling switches to activate trap doors, tossing bombs to blow them up or trying to kill them with boulders. Yeah, Knuckles has been a grade A jerk. So when it finally comes time to throw down in Act 2 of Hidden Palace Zone, well, the fight is pretty anti-climatic. But, seeing as how he caused me no end of grief throughout most of the game, I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of mopping the floor with him.
The Doomsday Zone - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Genesis)
Collect all the Chaos Emeralds and Sonic is treated to one of the most memorable final battles in all Sonic history. Super Sonic flies over the planet, chasing Dr. Robotnik as he flees with the Master Emerald. You have to collect rings to keep your Super form active or you fall off the screen and lose a life. Taking Robotnik down is a matter of getting the missiles he fires at you to hit the cockpit of his machine. This is just to break away the protective armor. Once that's done, have Super Sonic hit the machine eight times and you win the day. This marked the first time in the series that only Super Sonic could face the final boss.
Super Tails - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Genesis)
Super Sonic and Super Knuckles are great. Hyper Sonic and Hyper Knuckles are even greater. But you wanna know what trumps all of those forms? Super Tails. Tails must have the Chaos Emeralds and Super Emeralds to access these game breaking abilities, but the blood and tears you sweat are more than worth it. Just why is Super Tails so awesome? Four words: Flicky army of death. When Tails goes Super, he's surrounded by four golden Flickies that will assault any enemy he gets close to. So Tails can just stand there and the Flickies will do his job for him. While every hedgehog outside of Amy has gotten a Super form, Super Tails hasn't been seen since Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Probably because deep down, Sonic Team knows he's way better than any Super/Hyper form Sonic can take.
Sonic Speaks - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)
While not the first time Sonic spoke in a video game (he had a few lines in Sonic CD and some Japanese dialogue in SegaSonic the Hedgehog) Sonic Adventure was the first time there would be full length dialogue with cut scenes. Like Super Mario 64, Sonic Adventure would be the first time many gamers heard Sonic speak at least as far as games go. The first words out of Sonic's mouth? "Oh yeah, this is happenin'!"
Whale Chase - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)
Playing a 3D Sonic game for the first time was quite an experience. You're zipping along Emerald Coast, running on the docks when all of a sudden, a killer whale starts tearing stuff up! Run for your life! While I was freaked at the time, this ended up being one of my favorite chase scenes in Sonic history.
Sucked Up By a Tornado - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)
Ah, platforming in Windy Valley. Such a delightful stage with some nice music. Hey, its getting dark all of a sudden. What's that roaring sound? A Tornado?! It sucked up Sonic and Tails! Wait, now I have to maneuver my way outta this twister? Getting devoured by the tornado caught me off guard. I'm actually terrified by tornadoes but even I can't deny how cool being inside that thing was.
Tornado Assault on the Egg Carrier - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)
We flew on the Tornado back in Sonic 2 but it was never on this grand a scale. Sonic and Tails use the Tornado to chase down Eggman's Egg Carrier and this time, Tails outfitted that sucker with guns! Even without Danger Zone as background music, this section was awesome.
Running through Speed Highway - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN)
From the moment I stepped Sonic's red and white sneakers on that first dash panel, I loved Speed Highway. I got such a rush from running all over this high way that in no possible way could be designed for humans to drive through. Is it any wonder this stage was picked to be part of Sonic Generations?
Elise Kisses Sonic - Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 (PS3, 360)
What many feel is an awful moment from an awful game. This moment from the abomination 15th anniversary Sonic game made many a fan cringe. Some call it inter-species romance. Most call it bestiality.
Sonic the Werehog - Sonic Unleashed (PS2, PS3, 360, Wii)
By day Sonic is his normal, speedy self. But when the sun goes down, Sonic transforms into a big, lumbering werehog with stretchy arms. The Werehog levels are what ruined Sonic Unleashed for the majority of fans but I don't find them that bad, even with the button mashing combat. Interestingly, the HD versions of Sonic Unleashed were hit with scores in the 4 point range while the SD Wii version was given scores of 7s by the gaming press. Huh.
Sonic Meets Sonic - Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, 3DS)
Sonic teams up with his younger self to save time and space? Awesome! It was great to see Classic Sonic back in action alongside Modern Sonic for this 20th anniversary game.
It's been a long run for Sonic. Full of springs, races, loop-the-loops rails and like life itself ups and downs. But somehow, Sonic always manages to pick himself up and keep on going. I'm sure I missed what many would consider memorable moments. I haven't played Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes and an assortment of other games so yeah, I've got some catching up to do. What are some of your best and worst memories of Sonic?