Sonic the Hedgehog is one hella series of ups and downs. I am well aware this article is going to be incredibly controversial with die hard Sonic fans. So you have been warned!
It’s really crazy to think that back in the 1980s, Sega believed the best way to go up against Nintendo and Mario was to create a character called Alex Kidd on the Master System. It’s bad enough that the Master System, Sega’s third console (not the first as many seem to think), which was a commercial failure outside of Europe, but Alex Kidd in Miracle World was just crap. So placing a crap introduction game to your planned new mascot that’s going up against Mario on a system that was destroyed by Nintendo’s own console is, well, a real Sega thing to do. I think this should have been an early warning sign of the type of shit decisions Sega would find themselves doing throughout their time as a console manufacturer.
There’s a lot of reasons as to why Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a bad game. I’ll go into all of this when I finally get around to reviewing it in the future along with all the other games in the series. Though, by far the best game is certainly Alex Kidd in Shinobi World and I really look forward to writing a review of that particular game. The problem with Alex Kidd as a mascot is that he’s just… how can I put this nicely? He’s shit. The name is just crap. It’s as if Sega put a real generic boys name with a surname that sounds like they asked the question “How old is this character?”. Yes Mario isn’t really an exciting name either, but there’s a difference. Nintendo named Mario after an employee of the company much like Kirby is named after the lawyer who helped them win the lawsuit against Universal. That’s an interesting case where Universal thought they could bully Nintendo after the release of the Donkey Kong arcade game.
After the launch of the Mega Drive and realising that Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle was not doing anything to improve either the hopes of making him into a mascot anyone cared about, Sega decided it was time for something knew. In short, they came up with Sonic the Hedgehog.
At the time of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive, it was fresh. It was different. It was bright, great at showcasing the power of 16-bit hardware and it was fast. Until you get to the second world at which point it becomes slow and a typical platformer. But it worked. Sega was catapulted into the lead in terms of hardware sales and it kickstarted their biggest franchise. For those of us, mainly in Europe, that didn’t upgrade to the latest console, Sega published multiple titles that were developed with the hardware limitations in mind. These were then ported to the Game Gear.
My first memory of ever playing a Sonic the Hedgehog game was in hospital, probably around 1992, they had a Master System with a few games and TV in a wooden display with doors on a trolley so it can be wheeled to the hospital beds. It’s why for me, it’s the Master System game that is my favourite. And that’s purely from a nostalgia perspective.
After the Mega Drive, Sega managed to screw up the entire Saturn generation and as part of that total balls up, they never released a Sonic title. Sega really did some insanely poor decisions during this generation and it’s ultimately led to their near bankruptcy and exiting of the console market. And they never screwed up again… oh wait.
A lot of people love the two Sonic Adventures games that released on the Dreamcast and then ported to the rival consoles. And perhaps at the time they were good games. The truth is, they’re actually not that great when you go and play them today. Maybe this is why the fans are so desperate for a remake, because they know there’s a better chance of Sega making something decent for the series for a change. I mean, Generations was pretty decent and I hear Frontiers is a good foundation for what could come in the future for the franchise. I’ll write my impressions on that game soon.
Outside of the mainline games, Sonic Mania came out and was actually pretty decent. Unlike Sonic the Hedgehog 4 which was just a cheap crap 2D mobile game they just crapped out onto consoles, Sonic Mania was actually developed by an external team of passionate Sonic fans. And then Sega never bothered to do a follow up. Because Sega decisions.
Now, in 2023 and releasing this same year, a new 2D game has been announced. Sonic Superstars takes the classic formula and brings it into a modern era in both graphics and ideas. Despite a gameplay trailer being released, I’m still taking a wait and see approach before making my verdict as to whether I want to excited or not. Sonic doesn’t just get to have instant hype. It has to beg.