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It's Sonic the Hedgehog's 20th birthday, and that deserves some recognition for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that he's an icon. In a time when Mario was dominating, a hedgehog was born. Blue and with a 'tude, he arrived with one mission: to kick Nintendo to the curb and leave it in his dust.
Sonic certainly helped Sega gain a foothold in homes across America with the Genesis console, but there's another reason it's so important that he's made it to year 20: He's kind of sucked lately.
Fans across the globe just don't go nuts for new releases containing the hedgehog like they do for the plumber. We just kind of roll our eyes and wonder what new gimmick is in store, what new way Sega will find to run Sonic's name into the mud even further.
But Sonic still sticks around. He still sells games, people still recognize him, and just last month I ate an ice cream at the Minnesota Zoo shaped like his face.
So why is Sonic still important to me? I'll tell you, and I'll make it short and quick — just the way Sonic would want it.
Like most Sonic fans, I was hooked when I first turned on my Sega Genesis and rocketed across Green Hills Zone to beat Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman, if you prefer). At the time my brother, my cousin, and I were just getting into video games — a passion that would go on to become an important part of our lives. Sonic has stayed with me since those early childhood days.
To gauge my interest of a video-game character or anime, a person only has to do one thing: look at my room. It's packed full of crap. And by crap I mean video-game collectibles and such. After Nintendo characters, Sonic and Mega Man items — followed by Final Fantasy 7 figures of the highest caliber — litter my room in greatest numbers.
That's right. I even play Sonic Shuffle.
I have a whole bin of almost every Sonic comic published over the years; they're maybe my favorite part of the character's universe, chock-full of great stories. A Sonic costume I haven't been able to fit into in years still resides next to my $160 go-out-and-not-look-like-a-nerd pants. Hey, you never know when you might want to squeeze into that thing (the costume, not the pants) and show off your geekiness to friends.
I own — and have beaten — every Sonic game. This includes the rarest ones, which I have in original, rare form and in Sega collections. I even own the horrible titles that have come out recently, usually purchased from $20 bins.
I love the blue blur. I love the stories in the comics, the action and perfection of the old games, the teeny-tiny rewarding bits of the horrible new releases, and everything in between. Sonic is very dear to me, and he deserves as much attention as Mario — and as much credit for putting me on the path to a career in this industry.
I just downloaded the Sonic Generations demo. My brother and cousin are in town, and we'll be giving it a go soon. We'll laugh, critique, and reminisce. And really, making good memories is what playing games is all about. I'll always remember Sonic as a character who made those memories for me.
(Having said all that…how about another Sonic Chronicles game, BioWare?)