RETROspective | The Game That Made Me A Gamer | Sonic The Hedgehog
I was fortunate enough to be able to grow up in the era that I did. I saw the resurgence of video games, thanks to the likes of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and even the Turbo-Graphix and NEO-GEO. I felt a bond between myself and these crazy pixels that helped to form a fun and memorable adventure, but my strongest love for a video game came in the form of SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
Falling for the Spiky Blue Animal with Red High-tops: Sonic the Hedgehog
Sure, I played Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, and I enjoyed my time with these games whenever I got my hands on them. But for some reason this spiky blue animal with the red high-tops just clicked with me. I knew what it was that drove me in: the speed. The first time I ever played Sonic The Hedgehog was at the home of my sister’s friend Kristen. I was handed the controller, and almost immediately I fell in love with it. Seeing the hero run through these levels at break-neck speeds collecting rings and popping off bad guys to save the tiny woodland creatures trapped inside, it spoke to me. It gave me an adrenaline rush, something that nothing up to that point had ever been able to do.
Most importantly, it got my attention. As a kid growing up on the Autism spectrum I had issues with focusing and making a connection with other students. I was the fidgety kid in the back of the classroom, with a one-on-one aide to help with schoolwork and popped up on Ritalin and Prozac to keep me at bay. However when Sonic The Hedgehog came into my life, a couple of my crossed wires became fixed, and I found myself getting the courage to chat with the other students about Sonic and his battles with Dr. Robotnik. I made friends because of that game, and to this day it has a special place in both my heart and my memory because of it.
Soon I found myself doing all I could to grab anything Sonic-related. T-shirts, dolls, sneakers at Playless ShoeSource, and the Archie Comics series, which is still one of the best game-based comics anyone could ever read. In 1993 I felt blessed that the world gave me not one, but two Sonic The Hedgehog cartoons, and I sat my butt down every Monday to Saturday to watch it. Even if it was a repeat and had learned all the dialogue verbatim, I still viewed it. Looking back one of those shows didn’t age as well as the other, but I didn’t know about cartoon quality control back then. (I was eight, for crying out loud, and lacked the critical skills that I have in my possession today!)
However it wasn’t until 1994 when I received a Sega Genesis for Christmas, which was a prime time for me to do some catching up. I played them all: 2, 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Spinball, Sonic 3D Blast, and even that weird Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Beam Machine. And these games would be played over and over, sometimes on its own and other times with a Game Genie in case I only had a few moments to spare. Sonic and Sega then introduced me to other games that was in its library, be it something original like Rocket Knight Adventures and Golden Axe or one of the better licensed games like Stimpy’s Invention and Beavis & Butt-Head.
Somewhere around my middle school days I found myself crossing the party lines, aligning myself with Nintendo when I bought a Nintendo 64. I felt like I was betraying the video game mascot that got into gaming into the first place, but in reality my subconscious was probably preparing me for what was to happen with SEGA. A few years later they went third-party, with the Dreamcast being discontinued and their franchises jumping onto the other consoles. When Sonic Adventure 2: Battle came to the Gamecube I felt like I was welcoming Sonic back into my home, right where he belonged.
Current Day Sonic The Hedgehog
Granted Sonic hasn’t seen better days since he went third-party. The Sonic game of 2006 is seen by many as when things were looking grim, with his recent foray on the Wii U Sonic Boom considered one of the worst games ever made. (I can’t even watch the cartoon adaptation of it, it’s so painful.) Yes, there were bright spots in the form of Sonic The Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors, but other than those two it has been a few years of desperate attempts to try to make him seem relevant to our times. The truth of the matter is if Sonic just stayed the same, and stuck to what he was doing instead of reinventing himself over and over, he’d still be seen in a brighter perspective than he is now.
Maybe there’s always a chance that’ll happen. With Sonic celebrating his 25th anniversary this year SEGA could hopefully bring the spiky blue hedgehog back to his roots. A reminder of why he was great to begin with, and maybe, just maybe the glory days of running around Planet Mobius will return. However no matter what sort of downward spiral the series may be on, I will always love Sonic The Hedgehog. It won’t be just because it’s an amazing video game, but because it gave me the golden ring that was my ticket into the world of gaming. Sonic made me a gamer, and from that point on it somehow drove me towards becoming the journalist that I am today.
We may have our disagreements from time-to-time, but it would take a lot to make me leave the side of the fastest thing alive.