The medium of gaming has come a long way. I won’t go down a huge history of how far, but consider the age of the Atari console days (pick one, any one) and think about the games today. Did anyone back then every think that we’d be where we are in games? Hell, as I play modern games and think back to the Sega Genesis and SNES days I’m amazed by how far they’ve come. And that’s something that I think should be celebrated. Now gaming has TONS of shining examples of video games getting their glow up, but today I want to focus on one of my favorite childhood games that I will buy to this day: Sonic the Hedgehog. Seriously, I’ve bought this game more than I’ve bought Shovel Knight (4 times). Now, know that I’ll be glossing over a great deal of characters, as I only can do so much before this becomes an in-depth retrospective. So, core casts only. Also, I’ll be talking mostly about their designs and how they’ve evolved, not so much their respective games. Okay? Nice.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a game series that everyone seems to be confused by. Not because they’re wondering what made the game fun, but are confused as to WHY the game was fun. If you go back and play the original trilogy, it’ll be pretty easy to see something that I think people forgot: speed will get you killed. Now, those setpieces where you get to go so fast the camera couldn’t keep up were rewarding, but typically speaking? Running mindlessly got you hit by a spike trap, falling into a pit, running into enemies, etc. But besides the game itself, the overarching story and characters were much simpler, too. In the original three you had Sonic, Tails, Dr. Robotnik, and Knuckles. Simple. Easy. I may be glossing over some, but they were the main charaters.
They had iconic looks that were simple and could be spotted in a crowd. How could you miss a blue hedgehog with red sneakers and a white stripe…before he got that obnoxious buckle. Tails? Orange fox with two tails wearing red and white shoes. And so on. Easy to spot, easy to draw, easy to recognize. And for the most part, that’s how they would stay. If we stayed strictly in the games, they showed their personalities through motion alone. You could tell Sonic was cocky and had attitude. His idle stance is one of my favorites as he stood there tapping his wrist telling you to hurry up. Tails was more calm and reserved, but was sometimes prone to nervousness. Knuckles was aggressive and overconfident. And Robotnik was…evil. And stupid. It was a simpler time.
Then came the Adventure games…whoo boy. That came with it a whole slew of changes. Amy Rose, who was Rosy the Rascal before, looked like an entirely new character from her appearance in Sonic CD. I personally like her redesign and am glad they kept it. Sonic was taller and slimmer and had that stupid buckle. As a matter of fact, almost all the characters got the slender and sleek look upgrade. It worked…for most of them. Remember Robotnik? Yeah, he’s Eggman now. And has enough leg to start a modeling career. Perhaps that’s just how it had to be for the new 3D space? Who really knows. But now came their biggest design change: voices. Now we have an idea of how these characters should sound. And my god, was it iconically terrible. I wouldn’t change a thing…but it was awful. From the writing to the way it was acted, it was cheesy. It was corny. It was BAD. But, it was also entertaining. However, you’d think it’d get better, right?
So, Sonic Adventure 2…WHOOOOOO. I used to defend this game tooth and nail against people. Till I replayed the PS3 re-release. Yikes…this game had problems on problems on problems. The designs were largely unchanged, but the shoes were…what the hell were with these shoes?? Why did they look so overdesigned and like they were wearing mini-computers? I get they had to have these tech shoes for…grinding, I guess? Still. The shoes, man. This game also gave us 2 new characters in the way of Rouge the Bat and Shadow the Hedgehog. Rouge, the gateway into furry fantasies, was nicely designed and had some of the better voice acting…for what that’s worth. Shadow, my obvious favorite, was nicely designed as well, but fell victim to the overcomplicated shoe trend that this game set up. I also don’t see how people confused him and Sonic. Like…black and blue are very different. Their spikes, gloves, shoes, and bodies are different. How. How can you confuse them?? Thankfully, Sonic Heroes came and simplified their looks. Except Shadow, who still wears his rocket skates to this day.
Sonic Heroes on would basically be their designs: slender designs with touch ups here and there, but nothing too major. Tons of new characters would join in with the most notable ones being Silver the Hedgehog and Blaze the Cat. They’d also change the way the games played, trying out new mechanics from the Wisps to the Boost mechanics, but design-wise, nothing major would happen. Their voices got better and finally had an established sound that could be recognized with your eyes closed.
Then Sonic Boom happened and changed a lot of thing. I mean, a lot. Their games sucked, but their show was awesome. I laughed a lot at it. As for their designs? I’ll say that they seemed to be gearing toward their looks matching their personalities. Tails was smart and an inventor. So he wore straps that could hold tools and a pair of goggles. Knuckles was an idiotic brute. So his arms got big and he looked like a bruiser. Amy looked like a fashionista and thankfully they dialed back on her Sonic obsession. Sonic looked like a protagonist douchebag. Even Shadow got a touch up with those gauntlets of his. I also thought that voice was amazing. But…the best thing they did? Eggman. My LORD, look at that man! His proportions finally looked human! Sonic 06 tried but…blegh. They knew they screwed that up, so they went back to the Sonic Adventure design. But Sonic Boom Eggman is best Eggman. Hands down. I will fight about it. Also, we don’t talk about Sticks the Badger. I like to think she was a fanfic.
The latest Sonic games seem to have gone back to basics to the older designs that have become their more iconic looks, but if I had to pick a design line I enjoyed? Clearly it’d be the Sonic Boom looks. However, their modern looks aren’t half bad either. I’m just glad that shoe trend never picked up from Sonic Adventure 2. They tried it in Sonic Riders…but..well, it was Sonic Riders. Everything looked overly designed. I could go on and on about these designs, these characters, the good looks, and the trash ones. But enough about that, what do you guys think? Which was your favorite designs? Who is your favorite? Who’s your least favorite? Let us know in the comments.