Sonic the Hedgehog is a series with so many fans, but it's easy to forget that many of them didn't grow up with the Genesis games. My history of Sonic started in 2009 when I was 19 years old, and I've mostly had a positive experience with the franchise. I thought it'd be fun to delve into how I became a fan, and what I look for in a Sonic game. While it may not be interesting to everyone, I hope it puts an interesting perspective in place for those who grew up with the Genesis games.
Phase 1: Sonic on the Internet, and Sonic the Hedgehog for Genesis
For my whole life I had ignored the Sonic series as I just wasn't interested, and had no reason to be. I was a Nintendo kid, and just didn't care about the series. However once Youtube came around and people starting posting playthroughs of the games, I started watching them out of curiosity. Around the same time the Nostalgia Critic uploaded a video about the old Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons that was really funny and interesting. ALSO around the same time on Newgrounds, the collaborations known as "Sonic Shorts" were really popular, and I watched through all of those too. I was absorbing an entire history of a franchise in a very short time, and I found myself not only having a ton of fun, but understanding what Sonic fans had been going through during the 2000s. It was a rough time for the franchise, and I suddenly became very invested in what was going to happen next.
Around this time I decided to play my first Sonic game, and played the original through the Wii's Virtual Console. I fell in love with it, and it's still one of my favourite Genesis games. I enjoyed how I struggled the first few times through the game, and how it became so much easier as you played into Sonic's personality. Speed in Sonic the Hedgehog was a reward for skillful playing, and the level design was carefully constructed to allow you to skip difficult sections by going at full speed. In Marble Zone there are sections where you're intended to ride a block over lava, but if you run at full speed and jump over the lava, you can reach the next platform without riding the block. The first Sonic is full of little tricks like that. It was a really fun game, and a great awakening to a series I had sat out on for so long.
I played Sonic 2 and Sonic 3&K shortly after, and while I did really like them both and replayed them a bunch, I didn't find them as fun as the original. Sonic 2 is the fan favourite, but I think it's the least good of the original trilogy. A lot of the stages have very few enemies, the special stages are worse, and the level design takes control away from you a lot in order to show Sonic at high speed. It was already the start of the series losing focus of what made the speed fun, and it's a trend that would continue through the whole series. Nobody can take away how good the final boss is though, and how wonderful the ending and following credits are. There are many people who shut the series out after the second game, and there's no denying that it's a great series finale if you want to treat it as one.
Sonic 3 and Knuckles is also a popular game, but I had issues with it too. While I did enjoy it and take the time to get really good at it, the levels in 3&K were my least favourite of the trilogy to play. It's worth pointing out though that they're the most satisfying to get good at, as they're a lot more complex than the ones in Sonic 2. On the flip side, I despised how the special stages were now mandatory in order to see the final boss, and as a result I would usually play as Knuckles since you can see his whole story without getting the emeralds.
Phase 2: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
Due to the Nostalgia Critic's video about the Sonic cartoons, I was curious about them and decided to buy the DVDs of "The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog". What followed was one of the funniest cartoons I had ever seen.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is completely ridiculous, and I adored every single episode. People often describe the show as lazy and idiotic, but I couldn't disagree more. There was a probably a LOT of thought put into some of the crazier jokes in that show, and a lot of them still stick with me. There's an episode where Sonic has to melt the snow off of a mountain, so he runs to the top and rolls a book down the side. It rolls so fast that a fire trail appears behind it and melts all the snow. That by itself is already funny, but the fact that he uses a rectangular book as his item of choice is extra funny, as it's the most impractical thing you could pick for something to roll. There's another completely random gag where Robotnik's moronic minions named Scratch and Grounder are celebrating over one of their traps actually working, and they bounce around like idiots before swirling together and turning into a soup can. It's the most brain dead joke of all time, but insanely funny when you don't see it coming.
The show only gets better as it goes on, as it starts to revisit the wide range of characters that only appeared in one episode. All of these characters that you'd assume would never come back start to reappear, and the show gives every single one of them a really nice arc to close off their stories. For a show that initially cared little about its wide cast of fun characters, they're all treated extremely well in their follow up episodes. It was one of the best cartoon experiences I ever had, I think back on the show extremely fondly. While the more serious Sonic the Hedgehog show also existed, I wanted no part of it as I had already made up my mind that Sonic is, was, and always should be silly.
Phase 3: Nintendo Power and Sonic Colours
Around this time Sonic as a series had been slowly figuring itself out, with many positive steps made in Sonic Unleashed. Sonic was the only playable character again, the world was a lot more cartoony, and the boost gameplay from Sonic Rush had started to transition into the console games. Also around this time I started buying Nintendo Power for the first time, and Nintendo Power had the hot exclusive about the new Sonic game for Wii.
The article was extremely exciting, as anyone with the slightest bit of intuition could tell by the article's wording that something big was about to happen. The article was worded with an overwhelming sense of what I'll call "professional excitement", and for the first time in my life I was getting excited about a new Sonic game. Sonic Colours released in an unbelievably packed holiday 2010 release schedule, but still ended up being one of the most successful titles of that season.
Sonic Colours delivered everything I could have possibly wanted out of a Sonic game, and I was not only thrilled for the series and the fanbase as a whole, but I couldn't have been happier with the game. Sonic Colours was fast, fun, creative, and most importantly, funny. The cutscenes in Sonic Colours are unarguably the series best, skirting that fine line of cringe worthy and hilarious that Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog danced on so perfectly. To this day I laugh at a lot of the better jokes, but there's one line in particular that sends a joyous chill up my spine every time.
At the end of one of the more lengthy scenes in the game, Tails says to Sonic, "We'd better get going. We don't have a lot of time!" to which Sonic confidently replies, "Once I get going, I DON'T NEED MUCH TIME!" and runs off. It was a scene that so perfectly captured the cheesy yet confident attitude of Sonic from the cartoon, that I genuinely exclaimed "YEAH!" when he said it. It's still magical every time I replay the game, and it's my favourite moment of the whole thing.
Phase 4: A delve back to the past, and the wait for Sonic's return.
At this point I was fully on board with Sonic, but I knew from history not to get too comfortable as a Sonic fan. I decided to go back to some of the older games while I waited for the next one. I bought a Dreamcast and played through all of Sonic Adventure, and overall really liked it. My favourite characters to play as were Sonic, Amy and Gamma, while Knuckles, Tails and Big were less fun. Sonic's story was fun for obvious reasons, Amy was fun as I enjoyed the panic inducing pursuit from the robot, and Gamma's story line caught me off guard at how good it was. Somehow I didn't see the ending coming, and I really liked it.
Of course what Sonic Adventure player couldn't fall in love with the ending character themes to some degree, and my favourites are the same as everyone else. I love Sonic's ending theme "It Doesn't Matter", Knuckles ending theme, and Big the Cat's ending theme, "Lazy Days in Paradise".
I also played through Sonic CD as it was highly recommended, but I'll be honest and say I wasn't a fan of it. I'd unironically rank Sonic 1, Sonic 2, and Sonic Chaos on the Game Gear over it.
Speaking of which, I played those three games around 2016, and enjoyed every one of them. Sonic 1 on Game Gear is genuinely great, and Sonic 2 becomes fun once you learn all of the dick head level design. It's a terrible first playthrough, but becomes fun the more you memorize it. Sonic Chaos is a weird one that's a little underwhelming overall, but it's the ending credits theme that always leaves me feeling good about it. The Game Gear games are an often overlooked aspect of Sonic's past, and I'd say a good chunk of them are worth playing. I never finished Triple Trouble or Sonic Blast though, as they were both pretty bad.
Phase 5: Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World's Portable Compromises
You'd think after the success of Sonic Colours, Sega would make it a priority to get Sonic Generations running on the Wii somehow. Yet for Sonic Generations I was forced to play the 3DS version, which I honestly don't regret. Sonic Generations on 3DS was surprisingly great, and I actually prefer the level selection in Generations 3DS over the console version. While it didn't light the world on fire like Colours did, I fully enjoyed my time with Generations on the 3DS, and haven't had much of a desire to go play the console version.
I bought a Wii U at launch, but got rid of it shortly after Super Mario 3D World came out. I was initially let down by 3D World like many were at the time, but I later learned to love what it was going for. The same goes for Sonic Lost World which I couldn't wrap my head around when it first came out, and very quickly got frustrated with it and gave up. At the time I saw the direction that Mario and Sonic took as a bad sign for the system, and sold off the Wii U while it was still worth something. While revisiting the Wii U this year, I've come to realize that Super Mario 3D World and Sonic Lost World are two of the greatest games for the system, and my gaming sensibilities just weren't refined enough to appreciate how great they were when they came out.
I've talked about Sonic Lost World a lot on the site already, but the short version is that I love how simple and charming the story is, I love the villains for being fun Saturday morning cartoon villains, I love that platforming takes the center stage with speed being a reward for skill again, the soundtrack is absolutely incredible, and it's the most gorgeous looking and polished Sonic game to date. I also adore the grand finale stage during the post game, as it's one of the strangest and most creative concepts I've seen in a 2D platforming stage in years.
After selling the Wii U, I stuck close to my 3DS during the 2010s. I downloaded the demo for Sonic Lost World on 3DS, and was impressed at how much more intuitive the 3DS game was. The level design put a greater focus on the wall running ability and Wisp power ups, and overall the game felt a lot more focused than the Wii U version. I decided to buy the game, and I was still pretty mixed on the experience. While I enjoyed it more than the Wii U game at the time, I still never finished it. I did however get a lot farther than I did on the Wii U, and have fond memories of playing time attack for the frozen factory stages. I'd like to revisit this game now that I like the Wii U version, and see how it stacks up to me now.
Phase 6: Peko's First Real Sonic Slump
Having recently played and loved Sonic Lost World, I decided to look up what Sonic has been up to since. I decided to do it the same way I did before, and watch playthroughs of Sonic Forces and Sonic Frontiers.
Apparently people don't like fun anymore, so Sonic Forces aimed to make the series' story more like Sonic 06. Edge lord villains are back, Eggman is taking over the whole stinking world, bad ideas are back with the Avatar, and the gameplay is even more shallow than Colours. For as happy as Colours made me, the boost gameplay was always pretty shallow. Yet Colours at least presented some strategy by only giving you a small amount of boost that you had to ration. Boost was often required for shortcuts, so you had to conserve it for those moments and not waste it elsewhere.
Apparently Generations and Forces go back to how it was in Unleashed, where killing enemies and collecting rings gives you boost meter back. This makes it easy to spam everywhere, and the result is a game with absolutely no depth.
I then watched about thirty minutes of Sonic Frontiers, and had to shut it off in sheer disgust. Breath of the Wild's giant pile of money has impacted every video game series ever, and the worst part about it is that I absolutely hated Breath of the Wild. I've been generous about it on the site so far, but seeing Sonic Frontiers flipped a switch in my head that made me extremely angry at how desperate the industry has become to do whatever worked for someone else.
Breath of the Wild took away every fun aspect from The Legend of Zelda, and didn't replace it with anything. It's my least favourite game in the series, and the fact that it was such a huge hit never stops bothering me just by itself. The fact that it's been screwing around with other series I like has only made me hate it more and more as time goes on, and Sonic Frontiers is about as far removed from Sonic Lost World's creative, colourful and charming universe as possible.
Phase 7: The Future lies in the Past
Now that you're fully caught up on the whole story, what's next? Well until the series sorts itself out again, I'm going back into the series past and seeking out Sonic games that contain the elements I enjoy. Two of the best games on the Wii are Super Mario Galaxy and Sonic Colours, and two of the best games on the Wii U are Super Mario 3D World and Sonic Lost World. My next venture into Sonic is to stick to that mentality, and look for systems where the duo excelled.
What I want to do next is go back to the Game Cube and play Sonic Heroes, as it's about as goofy and silly as the ones I like, with a lot of the same gameplay elements. Super Mario Sunshine is my absolute favourite Game Cube game, so hopefully Sonic Heroes can result in another duo like the Wii and Wii U. I also plan to go back and play Sonic Rush on the DS, as I've also heard many good things about it. New Super Mario Bros. was a great DS game, so hopefully Sonic Rush can live up to it and create another great set for the two series.
Now you're all caught up! If you read this far, I'm both stunned, and extremely flattered. Thank you for reading the ramblings of someone on the internet.