It has been a quarter century since Sega unleashed the blue blur that is Sonic the Hedgehog on the gaming masses. 25 years of running, jumping, and spin dashing through 2D and 3D levels. Some years our hero ran at the head of the pack, and some years he fell victim to predictable missteps. It all began with that first step on the Sega Genesis console though, a 25 year marathon of pure joy.
June 23rd, 1991 isn’t really a date that lives in infamy, but it is the day that Sega released the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis console. This was a 16-bit challenger to the previous 8-bit generation winner, Mario. Sega took advantage of their more powerful console to create a thrilling platform game that packed a ton of wow factor. The sense of speed was something not previously seen in games. Sonic managed to look faster than even some of the best racing titles of the era. This alone does not a great game make, however.
The control’s needed to be flawlessly tight to keep the player firmly planted in the driver seat of this Ferrari. This combination of speed and precision was a recipe for a mesmerizing, engrossing experience. Music also played a large factor in the immersive involvement of the player. Every level contains a memorable theme that you find yourself immediately humming along to. These songs fit the overall aesthetic of the levels, from the upbeat tropical feel of Green Hill Zone to the mysterious and dangerous feeling Marble Zone. All of these elements come together to create a work of digital art.
The success of this inaugural running of the hedgehog spawned a sequel that would go on to be even more iconic. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 would continue the legacy in much the same way as it’s predecessor, but with one large improvement: The spin dash was introduced and gone were the frustrations of losing momentum. The addition of this one simple mechanic into the formula elevated the experience to an even higher level of nirvana. Take all of that and pack it in with new consoles for free, and you have yourself a pop culture icon!
With the launch of Sonic on the Genesis, Sega laid the groundwork to years of franchise success for the blue blur. Even after bowing out of the console race, they have still made Sonic games for every device capable of playing them. The iconic hedgehog has spanned multiple genres on his way to the top. While not immune from the occasional misstep, Sonic has proven to be a majorly successful character and brand throughout the history of gaming. Here’s to going fast for 25 more years!