I am certain that I was grounded during the summer of 1991 after earning an “E” in conduct in when such grades in that category were supposed to be “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory.” However, my 1st grade teacher really wanted to drive the point home that I was a bad kid. Consequently, my parents grounded me from video games for the entire summer. Anyone under the impression that I would suddenly turn straight arrow because of this edict must be an amateur at misbehavior; I was a pro.
The first time I went inside the townhouse of my friend Demetrius during my grounded summer was my last, though what I experienced made a profound impact upon my life. Unlike Nintendo’s best game at the time, Mario 3, and sounds and sights contained within Sonic the Hedgehog could not be constrained within that television screen, bursting forth and assaulting my eardrums and eyeballs. Yet this union was not meant to be. It was a momentary tempest between star-crossed lovers in a midsummer night’s dream. I never did go back to beat Robotnik in the Green Hill Zone that summer.
Super Mario Bros. is seminal game design. Even Sonic has to recognize the effectiveness of the immediate first enemy encounter. But wow this still looks beautiful to this day!
It would not be until 1993 that Sonic would establish himself as one of the three pillars of my personality (he other two include Raphael of the TMNT and Vegeta from DBZ). By then, my brother and I had moved to a new neighborhood and enjoyed our own Sega Genesis as a “welcome home” package that included the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Evander Holyfield Real Deal Boxing, and a mail-in voucher to get Sonic 2 for “free.” I found the games fun, especially because I was the older brother who always played Sonic while my brother would play Tails, though neither these games nor my first experience with the original Sonic would compare to when I visited another friend who owned a CDX. It was then that I would undergo a paradigm-shifting event that would trigger in me a permanent metamorphosis. My personality and taste would never be the same again.
It only strikes me now as an adult writing this that the Sega CD intro was my first exposure to Japanese Anime.
The OG US version of the Sonic CD intro blew my mind, even in all of its low-res, choppy frame rate. (Of course I now favor the modern extended HD version.) This was the equivalent of seeing Jim Henson’s TMNT (1990) for was the first time—larger than life. I was told that Sonic could run fast, but it was rare that he felt fast unless I had found some power sneakers or he was curled in a ball. Sonic CD introduced a new Mach in the illustration of Sonic’s velocity, with (Figure 8) Super Peel Out. Of course, curling into a Sonic spin is safer as it will destroy enemies along the way, but then I could not enjoy that running animation. The Figure8/Super Peel Out was a game-changer, and I was sad that it did not make the cut into Sonic 3, though I was pleased that the arms-behind-the-back form would return in the Dreamcast years….
The removal of “YOU’RE TOO SLOW!” as Sonic’s taunt as he does this in place is the only thing I dislike about Smash Bros Wii U.
The triple-whammy of Sonic CD, SatAM, and Archie Comic’s Sonic the Hedgehog would solidify my fandom. My memory fails in properly aligning the chronology of the three. Thus, I will first recognize Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog for a split second only because its title sequence borrows from the video game. Surely, it was a cartoon created to appeal to younger audiences. Alternatively, SatAMinvolved a somewhat dark story with some depth to it—a saga that would be the framework for the comic book. Gotta love that heroic soundtrack, too; I still know the words by heart!
Between Family Matters, AoStH, and SatAM, Jaleel White was getting PAID!
Even my 3rd grade mind had to adjust to the super-saturation of Sonic contained within a monthly comic book. I did not care for Ken Penders’ style, as his rendition of Sonic was…comic—short and pudgy rather than edgy. When I drew Sonic, his spines were hyper-emphasized, and it would not be until Patrick “Spaz” Spaziante joined the team during issue that I would come to appreciate the artwork because with his presence, everyone on the art team improved. Spaz penciled every cover from issue #21 through at least issue #50 (when I did not renew my subscription) Highlights of the comic series for me are issues #25, #39-40, and #50, including the Sonic CD special, the Mecha Madness arc (the TRUE Sonic vs Knuckles story IMO), and the final showdown between Sonic and Robotnik, all penciled by the top Sonic artist, Spaz!
Spaz took the artwork to new levels with excessive attention to detail. Verticality. Angles. Grids. Shadows. He brought a strong Anime style to a comic for primarily American audiences.
The next evolution in my Sonic fandom would come along with Sega’s re-imagining of the character in Sonic Adventure. Green eyes, sleek and slender, arms-behind-the-back, downhill running, Crush 40 rockin’…iconography from which I chose to run this article. Now this is the era where a lot of hardcore Sonic fans begin to falter, favoring the classic style and games, but I did not waver through his transition into 3d (Nobody counts Sonic 3D Blast, an abortion of the vaporware known as Soinc X-treme). So yes, I endured Big the Cat and E-102 Gamma, the wonky controls in Sonic and the Secret Rings, the Warehog stages in Sonic Unleashed, and the waggle-fest that was Sonic and the Black Knight. In return, I was able to enjoy Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations (I have yet to complete Sonic Lost World, and I am going to pretend Sonic Boom never happened).
The overall character design is not bad, but turning Knuckles into the dumb brute archetype was an awful decision. Probably not as bad as rushing the game to publication to meet the premiere of the show, however.
We will have to wait until July 22 to find out more about the newest game by Sonic Team. The fact that they missed E3 somewhat alarms me. Nevertheless, I will still be looking forward to finding out more. How could I not? One of gaming’s most famous icons shares my name.
Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.
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