I get a lot of flak for being such a big fan of the Modern Sonic games. The truth is, I’ve always had a much bigger connection to Sonic’s 3D offerings than his more well-received 2D outings. Now, on the launch day of Sonic Forces, I’m here to lay out why I have such a special, deep connection to this franchise that, on too many occasions, has released games that leave a lot to be desired.
The “big three” video game franchises in my life are Ace Attorney, The Legend of Zelda and, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog. There have been plenty of franchises that I’ve sadly drifted away from as I’ve gotten older, such as Pokémon, but the big three have stuck with me the whole way. Ace Attorney is far and away my favorite franchise, as it carries a special connection between my sister and me. We know every case through and through, we’ve made Ace Attorney versions of Clue, Go Fish and Monopoly, and we’ve seen the movie and anime. Heck, I’m even taking Japanese at University to have a shot at playing The Great Ace Attorney someday.
Zelda also carries a bond through my family. Ocarina of Time came out just months after I was born, and my mom has told me I would sit in my crib or in her lap as my dad worked through the legendary adventure. So, quite literally, I don’t remember a time without Hyrule in my life, so it will always carry a top spot in my heart.
Sonic, the final shard of my gaming Triforce, has a much different story behind it. Just like how all the cheesy stories in Sonic games talk about friendships, my Sonic story revolves around my childhood buddies. I even carry fond memories related to the absolute worst Sonic games. For me, the 3D Sonic series carries a sense of nostalgia unlike anything else.
My best friend in elementary school lived about a half a mile away from my home. I would often take the bus home with him after school, and when we got to his house we would trade Pokémon cards, play Melee, and go on adventures in his backyard. Y’know, normal kid stuff. One snowy day when school was cancelled, I put on my boots and trudged up the hill to hang out. I walked in, and he was fighting the final boss in Sonic Heroes on the GameCube. I had never seen a Sonic game before, and I was immediately entranced by the epic spectacle that was unfolding in front of me, complete with a killer song to back up the action.
He beat the game, and I watched the credits roll with him. I knew I wanted to experience what I had just seen for myself. We played in the snow for a few hours, sledded down some hills and had a snowball fight. After the snow activities were done, I asked to borrow Sonic Heroes. I walked home that day with the beat-up GameCube box tucked safely under my winter jacket, clutching it until I returned home.
I ran downstairs and popped Sonic Heroes into my GameCube. I vividly remember my mom coming downstairs with some hot chocolate right as I was taking my first steps through Seaside Hill. As snow continued to cover my backyard just outside the window, I was experiencing the sunny birth of my love for the Sonic franchise.
A School Project
Although my best friend and I began to drift away, as most elementary school friendships unfold, I still carried my interest for Sonic with me. I had since completed Shadow the Hedgehog, which was one of the last games I bought at my local Game Crazy before it went out of business. I had also finished Sonic and the Secret Rings, not realizing at the time just how awful it was.
You may ask, why haven’t I mentioned the classic games yet? Well, being in 3rd grade, and not having a full grasp on how old games work, I had an unfortunate experience with the Genesis Sonic games. I bought a GameCube collection that had 1, 2, 3, Knuckles, Spinball and Mean Bean Machine. Every time I came back to the game, my save files were gone! Thinking my disc was busted, not knowing you were supposed to beat most of the games in one playthrough, I eventually got rid of the disc and didn’t experience the classic games fully until the end of middle school.
Then, in the 6th grade, I was randomly paired up with a kid in my english class for a project. I went over to his house to work on it. It was awkward at first; I barely knew the guy, and I also had to meet his entire family. Let’s just say I wasn’t the social butterfly in the 6th grade that I am today. After we finished the project, he asked me if I wanted to play a game, or something.
Into the disc drive of his Xbox 360 went Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). We played a little bit of the two player co-op mode, and then he began showing me his favorite glitches to pull off, such as using two boxes to launch himself over the peak of a snowy mountain to the end of a level. We both recognized how awful the game was, but that didn’t stop us from loving it.
Thanks partially to Sonic games, this kid I barely knew became my best friend, and it stayed that way for years. I remember having conversations about Sonic Unleashed, being very confused when our accounts of the game’s ending didn’t line up. I had the Wii version, and he had the 360 version. That’s when we discovered that the two versions had the same concept, but almost completely unique level design! We traded copies and played through the other version of Unleashed, and talked about where we were at almost every day at school.
I played countless hours of Sonic with this friend, from multiplayer battles in Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic ‘06 to kart racing in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. We would yell Silver’s famous “It’s no use!” on the daily, and there were countless references to the Iblis Trigger at all times.
His little brother had a plush of Shadow the Hedgehog. One day, out in their front yard, we were using a rope to see how far we could slingshot Shadow down the street. The plush kept slipping off the rope right before launch, so we had the brilliant idea to tie it up loosely so it wouldn’t release until launch. Shadow went flying, alright, but he lost his left leg in the process. We laughed so hard out in the front yard we were crying, as the legless Shadow rested in the grass at the other end of the lawn.
My friend and I ended up going to different high schools, but we still managed to see each other occasionally. I went over to celebrate Christmas over winter break one year, and I brought my copy of Sonic Generations. It had been so long since we had seen each other, but we spent the whole night playing Generations from start to finish. To this day, it’s one of my favorite gaming memories.
By the time I arrived at college, I had experienced almost everything from the Sonic franchise. I had played the Adventure games, Colors, Lost World, Black Knight and all of the classic games. I even suffered through Sonic 3D Blast on the Wii Virtual Console.
I eventually made friends with Kevin, another student at my school with similar academic interests and hobbies. Both being broadcasting students, we started a weekly radio show together. We told our listeners we would play through Sonic ‘06 together and talk about our experience on a future show. After my very first semester of college, we bought pizza and lemonade and sat down to play the infamous title. Kevin also invited Zach, a classmate from Japanese, to join us in our ‘06 Odyssey.
The three of us spent all night passing the controller back and forth, yelling at the TV when Sonic would just glitch through the floor, or when a boss wouldn’t take damage even when we hit it. I had the controller during a 45 minute level, and I was down to my last life. I was at one of the fastest sections of the game, where obstacles couldn’t be seen until they had already inflicted damage. Kevin and Zach were both holding their breath as I was trying to see through the tears of nervousness and frustration. I miraculously completed the level, and we cheered and had a group hug. This is the moment Sonic Club was born.
For the past year, almost every weekend, the three of us get together to plow through another 3D Sonic game. This club has led to some of my favorite memories since coming to college, like watching Zach struggle through the worst, most unfair boss in Sonic and the Secret Rings, or finally completing the 25 hour marathon of Sonic Unleashed on Xbox.
The cool thing about Sonic club is that, prior to playing Sonic ‘06 together last winter, neither Zach or Kevin had ever completed a Sonic game. It’s a blast for me to take a trip down memory lane, replaying all of the Sonic games while seeing them experience it all for the first time.
There are plenty of other stories I could tell that explain my love for Sonic. Stumbling upon the comic series at a grocery store nearly a decade ago, or even something as recent as enjoying the awful Sonic 25th Anniversary Party with some of my Nintendo Wire colleagues.
Sonic carries memories, and that’s why I’m so excited for Sonic Forces. Even if the game is underwhelming, or even better yet if it’s great, I know that come next weekend, I’ll be booting it up at Sonic Club to experience it with some of my closest friends. When I look at my collection of Sonic games on my shelf, I can associate each game with a period of my life, a time I can look back at happily with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Through the good games and the bad, I’ve always been able to count on 3D Sonic games to bring me and some friends together for a great time.Leave a Comment