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Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Sonic the Hedgehog Story

June 1991. I was a kid with cartoons and games on the brain. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was due out in American in August and it was the must have item on my Christmas list. Being the early 1990s, this was a time without the internet. During this time period news reached us via word of mouth, magazines and one of my personal favorites, TV ads. I wasn't an avid reader of video game magazines and while all of my friends played video games, my interest in the hobby far outweighed most of theirs. The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive to my fellow gamers from the UK and Japan) had already been on the market for two years but I wasn't even aware that it was a thing. The system had some good games but nothing available really seemed to be turning heads. Nothing, that is, until SEGA's new mascot came running across my TV screen.

Sonic's debut was a real eye opener for me. Back then, Nintendo was the king of games and couldn't be touched. But then this new kid comes waltzing in to shake things up. All of a sudden, Nintendo had serious competition and I was none too pleased that Sonic was stealing Mario's spotlight. Yes, back when I was young and dumb, my dislike for Sonic, SEGA and the Genesis, stemmed from the fact that Sonic was all up in Mario, Nintendo and soon to be the SNES's face.

Sonic vs. Mario was war and I was an unwavering member of Team Mario. I was quick to jump to Nintendo's defense, rattling off reasons as to why Super Mario World was a better game than Sonic the Hedgehog. Team Sonic would argue "Sonic is faster!" and I would retort "Well, Mario jumps higher!" Pretty sure that was an exchange between myself and my friend Mathew Moses from twenty five years ago. Ah, good times.

The first comic I begun reading regularly.

Sonic's arrival worried me a great deal. The Genesis was already sitting on store shelves years before Sonic arrived and after seeing the above commercial, who wouldn't want to check out what Sonic had to offer (sane people that aren't poopy heads and know that Mario is a hero and Sonic is a zero)? Whenever my family went to the mall, I would see the Genesis in Electronics Bouquet, the slick black console with the smooth, stylish Genesis controller and of course, the game that was being showed off was Sonic the Hedgehog. That special stage in the demo looked trippy but even I had to admit to myself, not out loud to others, that Sonic the Hedgehog looked really freaking good.

I was always happy to flip through the electronics section of newspapers to catch a look at the video games being advertised. With the Genesis being all the rage, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog and the system were heavily advertised. But the SNES had recently just dropped so the console along with Super Mario World were getting ad space in the paper as well.

The usual Sonic vs. Mario arguments would pop up in school with neither side giving an inch. I remained loyal to Team Mario and my resolve was only strengthened when my parents got me a SNES for Christmas, which came packaged with Super Mario World. My friend Justin Moses got a Genesis for Christmas, which meant I could go to his house and play the Genesis and vice versa. Of course, I still wanted nothing to do with that speedy blue rodent, but my opinion of him changed one Sunday afternoon in early 1992.

Some Zone Cards from Mattel's Sonic the Hedgehog Card Game.

As is usual for Church folks to do after Sunday school, we went out to eat. At Ryan's Justin was talking up Sonic the Hedgehog. I didn't want to be rude and tell him I had no interest in the game so I just ate and listened to everything he had to say. When we finally got to his house, booted up the game and he started playing it, that was when I became a Sonic fan. I was just watching him play and my mind was blown. Watching Sonic run through loops in Green Hill Zone, use the Spin Attack to destroy enemies, more of the special stages, it was such a sight to behold. It was the most I'd ever seen of the game beyond the commercial and the demo in stores. It was as if I'd been wearing blinders the whole time and someone took them off and I could finally see.

By the time 1993 rolled around, Sonic fever had hit me full force. I was playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Genesis regularly with friends, watching Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and SatAM Sonic the Hedgehog. Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series was the first comic I begun buying on a regular basis. Sonic the Hedgehog #2 was the very first issue I picked up and I still own it to this day.

It wasn't just the comics, cartoons and console games that had my interest. That same year, my father picked up a Game Gear and he purchased Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the handheld. These games were rather different from their console brethren, but still enjoyable. I also ventured outside video games for my Sonic obsession. Mattel had a Sonic the Hedgehog Card Game that my mother bought for me. I didn't really know how to play it but I just loved the idea of a Sonic card game and the cards themselves sported nice artwork. It was nice that the card game didn't just include Zones from the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog, but the Master System/GG Zones, too. Sadly, this card game is something I no longer have but if I came across another one, I snatch it up in a heartbeat.

Here we are celebrating Sonic's 25th anniversary this year. A character I initially didn't like won me over, becoming a huge part of my childhood and has managed to stay relevant in an industry where it doesn't take much to make you fade away. Sonic has certainly had some missteps in recent years (Sonic Boom) but it isn't like his reputation back in the day was spotless (Sonic 3D Blast). Sonic will more than likely star in some abysmal games in the future and while hating on him has become a popular thing to do, the naysayers sure do have selective memory when it comes to shedding light on his better games (Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations). Sonic is going to be running for a very like time. Thanks for speeding into my life, Sonic.

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