Today marks 20 years since the very first time Sonic the Hedgehog burst onto TV screens around the world, kicking off a genuine phenomenon that continues to draw in new gamers to this day.
As experienced gamers ourselves, naturally the team at Nintendo Life has plenty of memories of the spiky blue one's glory days, so we invited our staff to share their fondest memories.
Sonic the Hedgehog was the very first video game I ever played.
Back in 1991 I was 7 years old, and one day I went to visit my oldest brother who had just moved into his first flat. I remember he had a PC with Wolfenstein which I played for a little while — ignoring the fact I was far too young to see such a thing! — but in his back room he had a small TV hooked up to a black box called a Mega Drive.
Now, at that time my sole experience of gaming was a few basic games on the 8-bit VIC-20, so I’d genuinely never seen anything like Sonic the Hedgehog — I remember it being so colourful, so fast, that I was enthralled from the get-go.
I was also rubbish at it, so when my brother showed me a cheat to progress to the final level, I was amazed. I had always looked up to him but this ability to choose any level you want with a few button presses was the icing on the cake.
In the weeks that followed I was persistent in my requests for a Mega Drive as only a 7 year old boy can be. The console was expensive back then, so my parents bought me a Master System instead with Sonic the Hedgehog built in. I played it to death of course, memorising the location of every Chaos Emerald, every secret room, every exhilarating speed section. Even now I remember the music and the way that young boy took in everything on screen as though it were pure magic.
Over the years my interest in Sonic grew, as I devoured everything with his face on it, from the usual comics, sticker albums and t-shirts to some stranger items — Sonic Christmas crackers, a lampshade, bean bag and even a Sonic waistcoat have all been part of my collection at one point or another. Today I am wearing a Sonic the Hedgehog tie, just because.
Brimming with imagination, I began writing to Sega to tell them about my new characters and ideas for the Sonic series. After two carbon copy replies — "SEGA does not accept ideas for new games" — I realised that was all I would get if I kept suggesting ideas for Sonic games, so I started writing to tell them how much I loved the company and Sonic (this part is hard to believe, right?)
Each time I received a personal reply thanking me for my letter and answering my questions, such as "why does Knuckles try to take down Dr. Robotnik in Sonic 2 & Knuckles then join forces with him in Sonic 3?" For the record, the answer was "Dr Robotnik can be very persuasive sometimes."
They would often enclose a small gift too, and it's likely this was also a big factor in my continued letter-writing. Over the years I received two sets of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 pin badges, a Sonic and Knuckles LCD watch and a t-shirt, but my most prized possession came in 1997.
Thrilled at Sega's "Project Sonic" — an initiative to bring Sonic to Saturn at last — I drew a Sonic R picture and sent it to Sega, asking them to pass it on to Traveller's Tales to sign and return. In all truth I don't think I expected they would, but at the least I thought it would be nice for them to receive art from a fan.
A few weeks later a package arrived in the post, addressed from Sega. I opened it to find my art, autographed by the Traveller's Tales crew, as well as a slip thanking me for the artwork. There was something else in there, though... I reached in and found a CD. It looked blank — no writing, no print, just a CD in a jewel case. I re-read the 'with compliments' slip:
"Here's a copy of Sonic Jam for you."
Sonic Jam wasn't even out yet. That made my year.
Even now, that silver disc is one of my most valued possessions, not because of its inherent financial value but because it made me feel that Sega genuinely cared to have me as a fan. Despite everything that has happened with Sonic since, I still feel that way.
I often think back to that day long ago when my big brother introduced me to Sonic the Hedgehog and wonder how differently my life could have panned out if he’d had, say, a guitar instead. At that age my whole future was a blank canvas, but once I had the Mega Drive controller in my hand I knew the main colour on that canvas would be blue. Sadly my brother passed away in 1994 so he never lived to see the huge influence that day had on my life.
Here’s to 20 years of fond memories.