Friday, December 18, 2009

Banjo and Kazooie Guest-Star in ASR?

Looks like it...

Banjo-Kazooie will be racing alongside Sonic and friends exclusively in the 360 version of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. It makes me wonder if the Wii and PS3 versions are looking at exclusive guest racers too.

In an old leaked document (SEGA, tighten up your security!), the possibility of console exclusive characters was discussed. Ratchet and Clank were considered for the PS3 version, but that apparently didn't go through (according to the document, anyway). There was a little note that mentioned the possibility of characters from "Rare or Fable universes" (obviously referencing the 360 version, though the document is specifically about SEGA and Sony/SCEA). This leads me to think that SEGA got the OK for Banjo-Kazooie from Rare and Microsoft early on, and they started exploring possibilities for other consoles. Welp, here's hoping Mario is included on the Wii version... though I won't get my hopes up too high.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sonic VS. Mario

(Please excuse the lazy image I literally just threw together, but I don't have time to worry about whether or not it looks good. I just needed something to put up quick, so cut me some slack!) Last night on the Gadget Show, a show based in the UK, had a feature on Sonic VS. Mario. Both sides had pretty good arguments, and I especially liked what they did with the Sonic segment.

You can check out the video and results here.

But there can only be one. Unfortunately... our boy (that's Sonic for those not quite on the uptake) didn't win the battle. His greatest downfall is the poor reception most of his recent games have gotten, which is where Mario completely outclassed True Blue (the judge citing recent endeavors such as Mario Kart and Galaxy). Oh well, can't win 'em all, right Sonic? Though I will say this: considering I've been told the UK is "Sonic country," I find it funny he still lost out over there in the end.

In other news... I need to find some time to sit down and put together some content (how many times have I said that now? anyone even reading this thing?), but now that I'm at mid-term, I have to focus more on school first. Hopefully I'll get something interesting up by the end of the year... Well, until next time, later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Project: Needlemouse

An interesting development has occured today. SEGA clearly can't keep quiet about a Sonic title long enough. What am I talking about? Check out Gamespot's interview with Ken Ballough, SEGA's associate brand manager to learn more about it.

The trailer itself doesn't really yield anything outside of it being an all-new 2D adventure for consoles and that it was built from the ground up. OH, and I forgot to mention the classic "SE-GA!" opening from the original Genesis titles. While details are largely under wraps, it seems SEGA has caved into fan demand for a 2D side-scrolling adventure similar to the original Genesis games. One question that comes to mind is "Who, exactly, will be developing this title?" My guess it that it might be a collaborative effort between Dimps and Sonic Team (a la the Advance and Rush titles), but it's possible that it'll be Sonic Team only.

Gamespot is listing the game as coming out to multiple platforms: 360, PS3, Wii and PC.

One thing I'm a little on the fence about though: while I am excited to see a new Sonic adventure, especially a console game done in the style of the classic Genesis title, I'm bothered by Mr. Ballough's wording.
Old-school Sonic fans have long asked to see Sonic return to a more 2D style of gameplay. Many liked the daytime stages in Unleashed but wanted to see a game that plays purely similar to the early games of the Genesis. Project Needlemouse is that critical first step that brings Sonic back to his 2D roots.
That's all well and good, but does this mean that more Sonic games will go the 2D route instead? Honestly, I hope SEGA hasn't given up on making a GOOD 3D game yet, as I feel they are definitely close to accomplishing that if they just give Sonic Team more time. The game is slated for a 2010 release, so I'll be interested in hearing more about the game's development in the coming months. I'll probably add some extended commentary later in the week about the interview*.

*I also had some other content to work on for this site, but given that school is now in full effect, I have put more time into my schoolwork than my blog... Oh well, just because we didn't update last month doesn't mean we're dead... yet! That reminds me though, I'll need to get ahold of Rave and see if he'll have the chance to throw something up here in the future (Yo, Rave, where you at?!).

EDIT (09/10/2009): It appears the concept art is actually from a fan-game which happens to also have the "Needlemouse" handle attached to it. I'm a little disappointed actually, but it would be great if SEGA were to go in a similar direction for the art style (though it might just add to the confusion!). Anyway, I'm pretty interested in the Needlemouse fan-game and it'll be interesting to follow that in addition to SEGA's new game. The guys on the project sound pretty humble and like they have a great respect for the series. Anyway, read their press-release: . It seems they've also got a message board set up. While I haven't joined yet, I'd love to check it out sometime in the future. Good luck to Jono Forbes and Matt Schoen, I'll be looking forward to the demo in the future!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sonic 10th Anniversary Booklet

So, before I get things started, I gotta give a shout out to the GagaMan(n) over at SEGA Memories for linking back to us. And I didn't even ask him! I meant to... I just didn't get around to it. I was just browsing SEGA Memories and just happened to notice we are now in their links section! That just brought a smile to my face and put me on a bit of a high. What? Yes, I'm that pathetic and it's a clear indication I need to get out for more than just running down to the local comic book shop to buy the latest issue of Sonic Universe and whatever graphic novel that catches my eye at the time. But, hey, I'm happy, so who cares? We're nothing special yet, and I can't really promise that I can send back a ton of traffic to SEGA Memories yet, but we appreciate the plug in the sidebar, man(n)!

And now, back to your regular scheduled blog post...

Remember back in 2001 when SEGA was building up Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast and Sonic's 10th Anniversary? SEGA struck a deal with SOAP, a shoe company famous for making shoes that allow one to grind on rails (SA2 was the first game to feature this ability and it's been a staple ever since), and gave the blue blur a new pair of kicks for his 10th birthday. It also introduced a dark hedgehog, who we've all come to know and love (or, for some, loathe) as Shadow the Hedgehog. It was also Sonic's LAST appearance on a SEGA console and would later be relaunched a year later on the Nintendo Gamecube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

Sonic sporting his 10th anniversary SOAP shoes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

AMV: Rewriting SEGA

OK, I know, this is a total filler post, but I swear I'll lay off linking to YouTube videos after this and get back to putting proper content onto this blog, but, for now...

Rave had linked to this video on the Find the Computer Room forums the other day and I was blown away when I saw it. Amazing editing and a great story. Using the amazing Fullmetal Alchemist theme "Rewrite" by Asian Kung-Fu Generation, editor mtarzaim has put together a great video about SEGA and their iconic mascot, Sonic.

The translated lyrics work so perfectly in telling the story of SEGA's rise, subsequent fall and the eventual revival of Sonic (credited in this video largely to Nintendo) and the SEGA brand altogether. Even the ending song's lyrics (T.M. Revolution's "Heart of Sword" of Rurouni Kenshin fame) work on some level when you apply what they say to Sonic himself. The only thing wrong with this video was that it came out before Sonic Unleashed was first leaked/announced; I would have loved to see some footage from the first trailers in this thing. Ah well. Nitpick, nitpick, nitpick. The whole video is kind of a crash course on the history of video games, with a focus on SEGA and Sonic, along with a bit of Mario/Nintendo thrown into the mix (just before the chorus we see Sonic overtaking Mario and ultimately the two former rivals running side-by-side). This video just made me smile.

This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite AMVs I've seen in a long time. I haven't kept up with AMVs in YEARS and stopped making them a long time ago partially because I didn't have the proper equipment and started losing interest as a result. That's not to say a little film doesn't play out in my head when I hear certain songs, but it's sure been a long while since I've really played with any video editing software...

Anyway... I need to start putting together more content (and probably get in contact with Rave...) for this blog. Hopefully more interesting stuff will be coming this way before the summer ends.

Friday, July 10, 2009

4Kids Redeems Themselves...

Wow. Who saw that coming? I spotted this bit of news over on AnimeOnDVD's forums. Well, I was surprised, I can tell you that much.

It seems that 4Kids is currently working on releasing Sonic X UNCUT finally. To prove they're not just pulling people's legs and watching as they cling to false hope, they put up the above clip in Japanese, with English subtitles. It would seem that these episodes will be streaming online, either on YouTube or on 4Kids' website (or both). I don't know if this means that uncut DVDs will also be released in the near future, but keep your fingers crossed Sonic X fans. As of right now, there's no word on when they will start streaming the episodes. The clip they posted is described as a "work in progress" but I think we can expect something by the end of the year.

Also, as of right now, there is no word on whether or not an "uncut" dub will be produced (similar to the canceled Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh! Uncut projects from several years back). If you're wondering why I would say "uncut" I mean to say "more true to the original Japanese script". If the show does get a new DVD release, maybe FUNimation (4Kids' distributor) will produce a new dub, just as they did with Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh! Uncut. That's just speculation though; when more information comes in you'll see a new post about it.

I have a few things to say about the show, but I'll leave that for another post. Enjoy this teaser in the mean time.

EDIT: According to Sonic Stadium, fans outside the US are blocked, for some odd reason, from seeing any of 4Kids' Sonic X videos (probably others too).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou... Mighty?

A rumor I've seen here and there (I really wish I knew where the hell this originated from*) that makes absolutely no sense to me is that the reason Mighty the Armadillo will not be returning to the Sonic is games is because his creator left SEGA and took the rights with him.

*If anybody has ANY clue where this started, let us know!

... what? Is it just me or is this just total bull?

I call BS for the simple reason that Mighty is still a regular character appearing in Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic. Really, what other reason do you need? Archie's comic is a LICENSED SEGA PRODUCT with every issue put under review by SEGA before seeing publication. If SEGA really no longer held the rights to the character, they would have had him wall-kick his way out of the comic for good. Since this hasn't happened, it safe to say that Mighty the Armadillo is 100% © SEGA.

Now that that's out of the way, a short little history lesson about everyone's (all three of you ) favorite armadillo. Jokes about obscurity aside, Mighty is practically unknown, if not almost completely defunct character. His only exposure following his last game appearance (in 1995, Knuckles' Chaotix) is probably through fan art and the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to say about him.

Mighty first appeared in 1993 in a little known arcade game called SegaSonic the Hedgehog. He is one of the playable characters, starring alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and Ray the Squirrel, another one-off character that only appears in the comics now. The arcade game was released in Japan and saw extremely limited release in the West (as far as I know).

A flyer for the arcade game from Japan, complete with Engrish. From Sonic Retro.

In the game, Sonic, Mighty and Ray are captured by Dr. Eggman and taken to his island, where they bust out of Eggman's prison and traverse the island to escape. The game is controlled with a trackball for movement (meaning it is the first Sonic game to feature an isometric perspective, not Sonic 3D Blast) and one button used to jump. It was originally slated to be released on the Sonic Gems Collection (Gamecube, PS2 [in Japan and Europe only]), a compilation of obscure, "rare" Sonic games, but was left out because of issues emulating the trackball control scheme (why the joystick wouldn't have made a good substitute I'll never know).

Mighty's next and, as of right now, final game appearance was the only 32X Sonic title, Knuckles' Chaotix. In this game, he is again captured by Dr. Eggman, but is one of the playable characters that can be set free from the "Combi Catcher" (a UFO Catcher used to select partner characters). He joins Knuckles the Echidna, Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee as they try to put a stop to Eggman's world conquering schemes. Due to the fact that artwork for the game is featured in Sonic Gems Collection, it's possible Knuckles' Chaotix was meant to be included... but was left out for some unknown and, dare I say, stupid reason. It was a great platformer, and sort of lives on, in spirit, with the Gameboy Advance game Sonic Advance 3, but that's it. Personally, I'm still waiting for Chaotix to hit the Wii's Virtual Console. Yo SEGA! What's the damn hold up?!

In 2004, Sonic Heroes (Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox) was released and the Chaotix came back from obscurity, appearing as a private detective agency. Team Chaotix was made up of Espio (speed), Vector (power) and Charmy (flying). Whoa, wait, what?! Where's Mighty?! Unlike his teammates, it would seem he was not so lucky. But since Sonic Heroes features teams of three, it would be redundant (as if Heroes isn't redundant enough) for there to be either two speed or two power characters on the same team, just to have all four together. Also, the player already plays through the game four times (once for each team) anyway, and since there isn't a whole lot of variation in levels or gameplay, it would just be forcing the player to play the same game again on another difficulty setting. Unfortunately, Mighty just had no place. And that still seems to be the case as Mighty and his buddy Ray the Squirrel have yet to make any more appearances in the games.

Luckily, the good folks at Archie still remember these unsung heroes as they regularly appear in the Sonic comic. Mighty and Ray are members of the Chaotix, Knuckles' version of Sonic's Freedom Fighters. There was even a three-part backup story in issues 26-28 of the long since dead Knuckles the Echidna solo series showing the story of the arcade game in a series of flashbacks while Mighty goes looking for Ray on Robotnik's abandoned island prison (with Nack the Weasel's sister, Nic... don't ask).
Mighty (bottom right) and Ray (top left) fighting alongside the Chaotix and Freedom Fighters. From issue 177 of the Archie comic. Art by Tracy Yardley!

Other obscure SEGA characters like the fanged sniper, Nack the Weasel, Bark the Polar Bear and Bean the Dynamite (from Sonic the Fighters, an arcade fighter featured on the Gems Collection) also make somewhat regular apperances in the comic. Nack as a bounty hunter for hire who often manages to be a nuisance to Sonic and any of his other targets. Bark and Bean are mercenaries, currently on Mammoth Mogul's pay roll (Mogul is an Archie exclusive villain who might actually be a bigger threat than Robotnik himself!).

It's great to know that these characters have, at the very least, not been forgotten and still show up in current Sonic media, even if they don't get to share the spotlight in the games themselves. Maybe one day they will, or maybe they'll stay on as Archie exclusives. Who knows? The possibilites are never ending...

With that, I must bring this rather long winded, if not poorly written article to a close. I leave you with a great piece of fan art I found on Deviant Art, modelled by Chris "Artguy/Supernerd" Phyffer:

Chris does some great work, 3D AND 2D. He also did this amazing 3D remake of Sonic 2's ending! Yes, I know, both of these works are old as hell, but I'm still using "we just started a week ago" as my excuse until it's no longer allowed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

IIZ Trax Select #1: Green Hill Zone

I hope this isn't considered a "filler post" or anything, but in all honesty, this is sort of a "feature," if you will, that I thought I'd do should I ever get this blog thing up and running (because we all know how difficult that is [/sarcasm]).

I like music. Plain and simple. Funny that seven years ago I'd be saying the exact opposite. But, to be honest, I never really hated music. I just didn't listen to the radio or "real music." My favorite way of listening to music was always sitting down and playing a video game. Or, better yet, plugging in a game and going to the sound test menu (when it was available) and just selecting which song I'd like to listen to and let it play for as long as I wanted. I finally started listening to "real music" sophomore year of high school, as it provided some sort of escape from boredom during the school day.

With that said, I kinda wanted to do a "favorite game tracks" sort of thing with this blog, in addition to talking about all the other stuff Rave and I are likely to talk about. So I present to whoever is actually reading this: "IIZ Trax Select," our way of celebrating the music of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. I've spelled it as "Trax" as a sort of nod to all the "Vocal Trax" albums that have been made for the games since Sonic Adventure (though they started spelling it that way with Sonic Heroes and on).

So here's the first pick (thanks to YouTuber TrueSonic1 for uploading; I'll be uploading all songs personally from now on):

I was wondering what song to kick this off with, and I ultimately decided "Why not start from the beginning?" and picked the classic Green Hill Zone tune for the first pick. Cliche? Yes. But even with that in mind, it's still one of the most memorable and infectious songs of the franchise. I love loading up Sonic 1 and just zipping along the first three acts of the game and whistling along to this tune. Everytime. Can't hate. Don't hate.

I'll be honest though, Sonic 2 was my first Sonic game, so looking back, I don't think the original Sonic the Hedgehog is the absolute best of the Genesis games. It was a great start, and set the foundation for a run many thought would last forever. Has Sonic lost some speed these days? That's really a matter of opinion. For me, the franchise has never really hit rock bottom. Many will say that Sonic '06 and Shadow the Hedgehog are the lowest of the low points the franchise has seen, and I'd agree with the former to a degree, but I haven't actually played it. I've seen enough to be able to say with certainty that it actually looks awful. And I'm a Sonic nut, so for even a mainstream Sonic game to look unappealing to me in almost every way is just crazy (the music was sick though). Though, who knows? I might actually manage to squeeze some fun out of it, even with my predisposition that it probably is every bit as bad as people say. Shadow on the other hand is a spin off, and it's a decent game (I've played it A LOT), and while I hardly think it's the best of the 3D games, it's really hard for me to walk away hating it (I honestly think critics were extra harsh on Shadow).

Putting that aside though, there are some Sonic games with a less than memorable score, and the franchise has plenty of stand out tracks that easily outweigh all the weaker ones, but I think Green Hill Zone will always be the song most associated with everyone's favorite Hedgehog.

EDIT: As a bonus, I'm including the remix of the Green Hill Zone theme that was featured in Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast and Gamecube.

It's a great throwback to the original. Sonic Adventure 2 was the 10th Anniversary Sonic game, so it's actually rather appropriate that the classic Green Hill Zone level was included as an extra. Never mind it was a supreme pain to unlock, it was a great first attempt at turning a classic level into a modern 3D level. Unfortunately, the camera didn't work particualrly well, but it was still a nice extra and pretty fun. It's a shame we haven't seen any more classic levels remade in more of the modern games yet, but hopefully we'll see some in the future.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's Half-Past One

What the hell am I still doing up? Well, for the most part, nerding it up on Sonic trivia over at the Sonic Jam wiki. You might be thinking, "Well, what's so interesting about Sonic JAM? It was just a compilation game with a 3D world interface." Yeah, but this cleverly named wiki page is actually just a hub for EVERYTHING you'd want to know about Sonic the Hedgehog... at least as far as the games go. You'll have to look elsewhere for that SOA-Archie trash and the long-since defunct StC crap.

I jest! Comic books are the shit, man! I really want to get my hands on them like 10 years ago, along with a Genesis and a handful of games I never played growing up.

But more on my tragic life and comic books later. Right now, let's check out the Sonic Jam wiki. Bookmark it, save the pages, preserve the contents in .doc format (not like I don't do that to everything), because the makers of this Wiki have a pretty sweet gig going on. If you haven't already dived in take a look, here's what you'll find:

First thing you see are three banners for three different archives of the site: South Island Stories, which is a collection of (almost!) all of the manuals and other related items for each games spanning from the Master System to the current-gen consoles. It also has bits of the story from games like Sonic Battle and the Adventure games. While most all of the japanese manuals I've tried to download are unavailable at the moment, this section is basically meant to represent the consummate chronicles of the Sonic games continuum, whether they agree with each other or not (with the Sonic OVA as an honorable mentions!). There's even a section that discusses which games are most likely to be canon and which are not, and it's pretty detailed.

The second major archive is Angel Island Interviews, and it's got--you guessed it--just about every interview with SEGA/Sonic Team-related personnel from 1991 up until now, including this Mr. Kanata guy I've never heard anyone talk about at all. Who's he, you say? The director of the original Sonic Team around the time of the Mega Drive games? Whoops! Yeah, uh... I guess he's important, right? Right. I haven't gone through this section in it's entirety, as I'm not a full-fledged child of the night; more like a novice owl. But you go ahead! You've got nothing better to do, right? Sleep? Sleep is for wusses and babies. You don't need sleep, fight it!

The third and final archive of the wiki is more or less a compendium of every single nerdy forum discussion with pretentious primary-schoolers and bored, lonely college screwups talking about every single thing that's wrong with Sonic games now and how to improve them using the Mega Drive/Genesis games as a collective lithmus test. See, I'm not a failure. I know what a lithmus test is, and I spell it "lithmus" instead of "litmus" because I'm not a loser who debates about videogame structure and concepts. Nope.

Yeah, I'm being a funny dick. I'm just full of wit and sarcasm.

Honestly, though, it looks like a really cool, well thought-out, and thoroughly researched deconstruction into what made the Mega Drive games kick so much ass back in the day and in the here and now. Furthermore, it delves into suggestions into what Sonic Team may do to improve and so revive the respect and dignity of their team and the Blue Blur himself. I haven't read it yet, but so far it sounds like the same crap I blather on about over at the Find The Computer Room forums (Hey man, shameless plug!). Regardless of your opinion on this whole meaningless shindig, I highly recommend you check it out and submit your comments in the spirit of good discussion if you consider yourself a fan of Sonic. Note I didn't mention any black-and-white nonsense about "true fans" or not. A fan is a fan, and a fan is a person too.

Didn't think about that, did'ja, ya presumptious jerks? Eh? Ehhhh?!

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to call all 10 of you jerks. My apologies.

There's actually another site I've come across that reminds me very much of this one in intent and content, but with a slightly different aim: to discuss the ideal, universal identity of Sonic the Hedgehog and the many denominations of fans and enthusiasts for him and his parent company's divisions: Sega of America (The Western side that ruined everything), Sega of Europe (the side that doesn't matter), and Sega of Japan (God). Yeah, that's right. Sega of Japan is collectively a representation of God because they made Sonic first. It's true. Agree or die by negative labeling.

Ya know, I've gotta be pretty scatterbrained to not mention anywhere the name or URL of the site in the paragraph where it's invariably the subject. You'd think I never took college writing class, but the sad fact is I did. Skipped over the first required class because I payed off the admissions manager, and now it started to show. Shame on me. Well anyways, here's the second site I was talking about: Concept: "Mobius". It's a really slick site, and upon clicking on the link you'll be greeted with a badass anthro-character with the power to generate obscure symbols in his hands.

Pffft. Amateur n00b recolor.

The site is hosted by TechnoGuild, which is "an exclusive 'think-tank' community for artists, writers and designers who have a main interest in the science and technology found in genres such as Sci-fi and Anime," and their purpose is as "a community for people who want to develop new concepts, sharpen their creative skill, and strengthen their intellectual prowess, regardless of theme or genre." Sounds pretty spiffy, if you ask me. Like, if YOU were a member, I'd think you were the shit. Whoever drew that whatever-it-is up top certainly is, I'll tell ya that (she goes by Shanella).

Well, that's all I've got to offer for tonight. Or this morning, as it were. It's a very, very early morning. o.o; G'nite, guys!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My First Blog Post!

So Arun told me about this Sonic fanblog he was starting up, and seeing as how we're already collaborating on something Sonic-related, I figured, "Why the hell not?" I love to talk. Here's my chance.

As you've already read from the title, this is my first blog post. I'll say it again:

I now have a blog post.

It sounds like I'm a proud owner of a sign meant to ward off travelers from bogs, but the bloody sign-maker blundered into mispelling the damned 3-letter word beyond all epxections. "Beware of Blogs."

Feeble attempt at humor aside, I'm a huge fan of Sonic, and I'm also a recent newcomer to the fandom that is fascinated with SEGA. My fandom literally started some time in the past year-and-a-half, going from Tails to Sonic. I dunno how I got to Tails, but being that he's such a cute bastard and I have a friend who loves him, I eventually got hooked. That's how I remember becoming a fan for the first time. From then on I picked up a Genesis emulator and went nuts with all the awesome Sonic games to play, although I still haven't gotten fucking Knuckles Chaotix to work. Did you know Metal Sonic's in it? I didn't. I hear he turns into some giant red demon Metal Sonic as the final boss. Good shit, I'm getting on that game soon.

Now that's not to say I never played the Mega Drive in my youth. There was that one time I watched my brother playing Sonic 1 (probably Sonic 2) on the neighbor's system for like about a level or two. Eh... that doesn't count as playing, but that's most of what I did when I was 4, or 6, or something. Besides that, I was raised on mostly Super Nintendo, then N64, then PSX, and it pretty much stopped at PS2 and GameCube. Yeah, I haven't taken the dive into the next-now-current-gen on the basis that I'm an insufferable spendthrift. Either I wait for a nice price drop, finish all the games I've got so far, or get a job. So far I'm gonna stick with playing games and doing something interesting with my time 'till the next college semester. Chyeah. G'luck with that, Rave.

Have fun at Isolated Island Zone (TM)!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gametap's Sonic Retrospective

This was put up earlier in the year. Yeah, I know, I know, I'm slow for not getting up sooner. But I wasn't working on this blog back then. Cut me some slack. Embedded the entire playlist; hopefully the formatting doesn't get screwy. Compared to the one I wrote (first post), I thought this was a great retrospective. Not like IGN's shitty overview of the series (which actually amounts to Sonic 1 was the only good Sonic game. Seriously.) Gametap's retrospective was well researched and seemed to, more or less, be quite respectful towards the series and property without saying anything particularly negative about, well, anything really. The game's may not be perfect, and do warrant some criticism (though I tend to only see the fans bitching like they know better), but some of the hate directed towards the franchise is just ridiculous.

Azure Blue World...

I've been meaning to start this thing forever, but hey, why not start now? On Sonic's birthday (and Shadow's too!)? Yeah, I know it's ridiculously nerdy (if not plain silly) to celebrate a fictional character's birthday, but what kind of fan would I be if I ignored it all together?

No, I'm not one of "those people," the so-called "true fans" who either live and die by the Genesis classics only or the irritating as hell "I'M A TRUE SONIC FAN BECAUSE I BLINDLY LOVE EVERYTHING SONIC'S FACE APPEARS ON!!!" I guess if you had to call me something, it might be well-informed fanboy. Too much? I have my insufferably nerdy moments too (believe me), but I try not to let that take over too much...

Anyway, enough about me, this is SONIC's day, isn't it?

18 years ago today SEGA launched its "Mario-killer" on the SEGA Genesis (or the Mega Drive for the European/Japanese fans) to much acclaim. A franchise was soon born and Sonic soon started blazing through from sequel to sequel, quickly becoming video gaming's superstar icon. He even managed to overshadow MICKEY MOUSE at one point! Seriously, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG was more recognizable than MICKEY MOUSE (HOW I don't know, but that's what happened)

Sonic kind of hit a rough patch in the 32-bit age, with Knuckles stealing the spotlight on the 32X (in some ways, I don't think Sonic was too mad given it WAS the 32X we're talking about here) and the only thing close to a mainstream game was Sonic 3D Blast on the Genesis and Saturn (the latter version came about due to Sonic X-Treme's untimely cancellation, a decision that led to the Saturn's demise). He made due with Sonic Jam (the first of many compilation games) and Sonic R (a racing game, but not the first) but was soon redesigned and relaunched in a big way in 1999 (for the US) with the Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure. 2001, Sonic's 10th Anniversary, was SEGA's last year in the hardware game and thus Sonic's departure from first-party mascot to third-party licensed property, but he went out with a bang with Sonic Adventure 2. The following year, many believed hell had actually frozen over because Sonic started showing up on NINTENDO consoles (starting with the re-release of Sonic Adventure 2 and also Dimps launching the Sonic Advance series on the Gameboy Advance).

Many like to say that Sonic is either dead or is really having a rough time (read every freaking review since Shadow the Hedgehog and you'll see what I mean), but it can't possibly be that bad. 2003/4 (depending on your region) saw the release of Sonic Heroes, Sonic's first multi-platform game (Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox). 2005 gave Shadow his time to shine in a spin-off game that used guns (a game many hate, some love and others think it was OK). 2006 was sort of the "dark period" because of the release of the unfinished, unpolished next-gen title SONIC the Hedgehog (or Sonic '06). But, at least from my perspective, after a rough three year period of decent to terrible games (unfortunately, I'm glossing over most of the great handheld games just to get through this brief and shoddy history lesson. Gametap did it better...), Sonic is slowly getting back on track. Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii was declared by many to be the best 3D Sonic game ever (considering the act it was following, it couldn't be too hard for it to be better). Later that year, of all the things we would have expected to happen, Sonic appeared alongside Mario for the first time ever in gaming history... at the Olympics. Well, beggars can't be choosers, but it was a start. 2008 was called "the Year of the Hedgehog" (technically the year of the rat, but we all know how touchy Sonic gets about being called a rat) with just a slew of great things to come. Sonic guest starred alongside Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake in the Wii platform-fighter Super Smash Bros. Brawl (boasting speed that put Captain Falcon to shame), following up later in the year with his big console comeback Sonic Unleashed, for the 360, PS3, Wii and PS2, a game some feel (or maybe it's just me...) that things are finally looking up for the hedgehog, even if the critics will continue to hate. BioWare even jumped on board to create Sonic Chronicles: the Dark Brotherhood for the Nintendo DS, Sonic's first RPG. 2009 saw the release (so far) of Sonic and the Black Knight, a game, like Unleashed, many either love or hate (hate mostly being directed towards the concept: Sonic uses a sword).

Now it's summertime, but what's next for the blue blur? Archie Comics continues to publish their comic book series (holding the record for the longest running comic based on a video game) with the regular monthly series and the new Sonic Universe series (I'll probably be doing write ups on the first four issues soon!), and SEGA has announced Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (why not just "SEGA All-Stars Racing" I'll never know) which puts Sonic behind the wheel again and will have him race other SEGA characters like Tails, Dr. Eggman, Samba De Amigo, and many others (to be released 2010).

So Sonic has turned 18 (Shadow's 8), the franchise has seen things both good and bad, and while Sonic may never quite achieve the kind of superstar status he had when I was a kid, he'll still hold the top spot for me. Personally, even though Sonic Unleashed wasn't a perfect game, it was one of the most polished efforts to be released in years and with a lot of smart decisions being made in the course of its development, it was easily a step forward in the right direction. I see this trend continuing in the future and maybe one day we'll have a game that perfectly blends the speed and platforming we once saw in the Genesis classics.