This month marks the 21st anniversary of one of the most famous and popular video game icons of all time. As a former Nintendo fanboy who became a fan for over ten years, I have celebrated this occasion by reflecting on past memories, past experiences, both good and bad. As far as I can remember, I was a budding gamer growing up on video games from the NES and Super NES when I noticed Sonic the Hedgehog for the very first time at a Sam's Club. All of the television sets displayed gameplay of the Green Hill Zone. At first sight, around 1991, I was amazed at how fast and colorful it was, nothing like I had ever seen before in a video game - Not even Super Mario World, released in the same year, had this much velocity in my eyes.
Because I was limited to only a few video game systems at the time, I could not experience Sonic the Hedgehog as much as I really wanted to. Although I was content to playing Nintendo games and systems throughout the years, I still retained my growing curiosity for the blue hedgehog, mostly through a cartoon show starring Jaleel White and the late, great Long John Baldry, and various merchandising. If I were to tell you then that I wanted Sonic to be on a Nintendo console, you would've laughed at me until my self-esteem hit rock bottom. Anyhow, I eventually got to play the games, though for a short time, and I only have vague memories of them, i.e. renting them once or twice at my local video store, and playing them at a friend's house on one occasion. I eventually diversified my tastes as a gamer; I began to experience the Sony Playstation and the Microsoft Xbox later on, but alas, I never got to play on a Dreamcast. At the time, the Playstation 2 was on its' way, and I only had one choice to make back then.
However, it wasn't until the year 2002 when everything changed. I bought a Game Boy Advance with what little pocket change I had, and can you guess what game caught my attention at the store?
That's right - Sonic Advance. A Sonic game on a Nintendo system! As a kid who grew up with Nintendo characters such as Mario and Yoshi, this BLEW MY MIND. I was now introduced to Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Dr. Robotnik, the Chao, and the Chaos Emeralds. From the very moment I popped the cartridge in, I was playing it nonstop! The levels, the music, the colors, the challenging gameplay, it was all a breath of fresh air for me. Within several months, I finished the game begging for more, much more. And then came my graduation present from 7th grade, the game that changed my life...
If you thought Sonic Advance got me excited to see the blue blur, this game brought my excitement skyrocketing toward the heavens! This was the game I wanted, nay, desired when the Dreamcast was all the rage, and now, thanks to owning a Nintendo Gamecube, I finally have it. To this day, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle remains as my favorite Sonic game. The story, the stages, the 3D high-speed action, it was beyond satisfying after being used to sinking down green pipes and slowly jumping on Goombas for so long. Hours, days, weeks, months were spent playing this treasure; it was the best Summer vacation of my gaming life. And now that there's a distinct possibility for this masterpiece to be released on Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, I can only hope that people like me can experience my teenage years again. Because I found out last year that the Wii U will not be compatible with Gamecube discs, I sold my copy. It was the worst mistake I've ever made.
Anyhow, after playing the game for months on in, came Christmastime. Not only did I get to experience the future, I got to experience the past as well! I have always wanted to play the Genesis games I kept my eye on for so long, and thanks to the power of patience, at long last, I get to play them!
This made my Christmas - Sonic Mega Collection contained many games from the Genesis era, some that look EXACTLY the way I remember them as a child. On its' own, I would've been ultimately satisfied, but comic illustrations, movies from Sonic CD, Flicky and The Ooze, and even the add-ons from Sonic & Knuckles were included! It was truly a gift from the Gods.
I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs on in, describing how I spent every Summer playing a new Sonic game from then on, and how some games were better than others, especially considering how grim things looked for Sonic during 2005 and 2006, and how I truly felt inspired again after playing Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors, but I wanted to express how that year made such an impact on me as a gamer. I got to spend ten years of fun with a blue hedgehog after his days on SEGA consoles were no more, and my love for Sonic has only gotten stronger as it's ever been.
Which leads me to Sonic Generations - this game is wonderful. I can proudly say that it's the most fun I've ever had since Sonic Adventure 2 Battle with all the familiar sights and sounds of past games. It's like a trip down memory lane with sublime visuals, and that's what Sonic games mean to me; memories of my youth that will last forever.
Which brings me to my main point. From a former Nintendo fanboy to a gaming enthusiast, Sonic the Hedgehog brought me to a whole new world of games and I couldn't have been more grateful for it. I don't know if it's the fact I wanted so much to experience every video game on the market as a child or how being patient, for longer than ten years, gave me the chance to do so, but the New Millenium allowed me to experience games I didn't have access to before. It all started with the Sony Playstation, but Sonic games left the most impact for me in terms of trying something different. Nowadays, we have HD Collections, compilation games, and downloadable content giving every gamer access to nearly everything, but nothing felt more exciting to me than diversifying my tastes after waiting for so long and I don't think anything like that can ever excite me again.
Sonic...Happy 21st Birthday. And thank you.