Happy 20th Birthday, Sonic the Hedgehog

| tim

Sonic the Hedgehog turns 20 years old today. Isn’t that great? It’s also my dad’s 61st birthday, so that’s cool, too. Like my dad, Sonic the Hedgehog’s birthday occasionally falls on Father’s Day. This makes Sonic about as much of a father to you as my father is also a father to all of you guys.

To celebrate Sonic’s birthday, I did a Kotaku. Forgive me! They offered money! The idea of the piece is that it’s “eight ways to fix Sonic the Hedgehog”, written for the target audience of a Sega who seems intent on doing the exact opposite of what people want. So I am reverse-psychologizing their reverse-psychology. It’s kind of stupid!

Though it has some fun sentences, maybe, like where I say chubbier, lighter-blue, black-eyed 1991 Sonic meeting darker-blue, longer-armed, green-eyed Sonic is “not as exciting as Superman meeting Batman — it’s more like ‘X-Men The Movie’ Wolverine meeting ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ Wolverine.”

A more sincere, heartfelt “how to fix Sonic” article is perhaps this Outrun 2 review from 2008, in which I call Outrun 2 the “16th best game of all-time”, and also “the best Sonic the Hedgehog game of all-time”, and I swear I am not trying to troll or be a jerk about that. It’s something I actually believe.

insertcredit.com exclusive: In commemoration of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th birthday, I made a Youtube playlist (below) of some of my favorite Dreams Come True songs. The bassist of Dreams Come True, Masato Nakamura, composed the (excellent) soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which is just a big, beautiful, boisterous, exuberant videogame full of confident graphical design. It’s probably the best actual Sonic the Hedgehog game — as far as I know, Brandon thinks so, too. (Brandon’s note: As much as I like Sonic CD and its music, I agree with this statement.)

I won’t lie and pretend to be cooler than I really am: it was the “museum” mode in 1997’s Sonic Jam on the Sega Saturn that introduced me to the existence of Dreams Come True. I was a resourceful, geeky jerk back in 1997, so while everyone else (and me) was playing Final Fantasy VII, I started tracking down and listening to Japanese music of the late 1980s. My mind was blown! Dreams Come True led me to Kyoko Koizumi, Jagatara, Onattars, Akiko “The Hottest Human Alive” Yano, and a whole bunch more great stuff. Though, at the time, I was studying Classical Chinese in college, I decided that, when I graduated, I would try going to Japan. I ended up staying for almost ten years. Thanks, Sonic. Thanks, Dreams Come True!

When old jerks like me say, these days, that “Sonic the Hedgehog sucks”, we’re talking about the games being these insular pockets of fanservice — service to fans of a thing that was, originally, service to the idea of showing people cool stuff. Videogames are “video” games — half of the word implies that the game is going to show us something, and the other half is that it’s going to be fun. New Sonic games are just showing us themselves; old Sonic games gave young punks like me respect for progressive Japanese funk music, among other things. Do you see what I’m saying? Also, playing new Sonic games is about as fun as trying to eat tomato soup with chopsticks.

Oh, here’s that Dreams Come True playlist! I put a couple other songs on there, too.

As if in commemoration of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th birthday, the ghost-like ice-cream truck that wanders Emeryville glided by my front door the other day. My spirit brother and Insert Credit Dot Com Intern Zak “Delicious” McCune ran out like the child he is at heart. “I wonder if they have those Sonic heads with the gumball eyeballs,” he was saying. “I’ve been hungry for one of those for five years now.” Delicious got his wish. They had the Sonic head ice cream. “Sonic!” he exclaimed. “I want a Sonic.” He put down two dollars.

“Sonic’s the shit,” the ice-cream-truck-driver said.

“The gumball eyeballs are green now instead of black,” he said, looking at it. He ate it. “It still tastes the same.” You hear that, Sega? The Sonic ice cream still tastes the same, even if its eyes are green now instead of black. This is something you might have researched before developing Sonic Generations. So there it is, Sega — exactly one year from today, Sonic the Hedgehog will be old enough to drink without shoplifting, and lord knows what’ll happen to him if you don’t put some discipline in there real quick. (No, Sonic Colors wasn’t quite good enough.)