Writing about my experience with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is long overdue. One month overdue, to be precise. On the day of Sonic’s actual birthday, I wanted to post a picture of myself wearing a blue Classic Sonic top and white Celebrity Pink pants, but a kidney stone struck with the most excruciating pain I’ve ever endured since high school. My renal issue is another story that I hope I won’t have to speak about for a long time.
Although a party wasn’t held on June 23rd exactly, Sonic Team was nice enough to host one at the House of Blues in San Diego last night. Everyone and anyone who’s a fan of the blue hedgehog was invited–those who flew in to California for San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), and those who are stuck at home observing everything on social media (either by choice or due to financial constraints preventing them from attending both shindigs). For the latter group, Sonic Team set up a link for the live stream on Twitch, a video game streaming website I haven’t logged in to since the ill-fated release of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on Wii U.
It was 8:30/5:30 PST. I jumped out of my shower, my hair tied in a turban towel, and prepared myself some instant ramen noodles much to the dismay of my mother, who told me to finish up the puré my grandmother had cooked for us earlier this week. “Too late, I already opened [my Yakisoba noodles],” I retorted as I sprinkled the dried vegetables to the bottom of the plastic black container, shook it, and poured filtered water all the way up to the indicated fill line in the middle of the container. I was planning on watching the Sonic 25th anniversary party live stream on TV via my Wii U with my new boyfriend, Christoph, but my mom was watching her novelas, Christoph was visiting a friend nearly an hour away from home, and my Wii U required the installation of Adobe Flash in order to watch the stream on Twitch, which might be fiscally painful to do. So, I retreated back upstairs to my room and logged into my Twitch account–I haven’t used it since my second year of college because I have no experience in streaming gameplay nor had the thought of streaming my video games at all–and waited for the live stream to begin. At the stroke of 9:00/6:00 PST, I expected the camera to switch on to the crowd of people dancing in their Sonic cosplays. All I got for the next half-hour was the Sonic 25th anniversary logo tilting itself right and left to its own in-game music and immature Twitch users begging for Sonic Adventure 3 in the comments section. Both the seemingly eternal delay and the users rabidly imploring SEGA to announce Sonic Adventure 3 as new Sonic game (the latter of which placed me in a threshold between scoffing, “Jesus Christ, who the hell cares?” and flat-out screaming in all caps, “‘SONIC HEROES’ IS THE CLOSEST THING TO SONIC ADVENTURE 3 WE HAVE RIGHT NOW! SO SHUT UP, APPRECIATE WHAT WE GOT, AND LET THE PRODUCERS OF SONIC TEAM DO THE TALKING!”) made me test my faith and love in the franchise I’ve grown up playing since I was 9 years old.
At 9:30/6:30 PST, the wait was finally over. The camera opened its lid to the DJ duo Hyper Potions playing remixes of Chao Garden theme songs from the Sonic Adventure saga from their Apple laptop. They were the cutest remixes ever! But the coolest song Hyper Potions ever played was their own “Porta Vista”, featured in last year’s announcement trailer for Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. Take a listen to these sick beats! (Deadmau5, Calvin Harris and David Guetta, this goes for you, too!)
This song got everyone, even the guy in the Sonic costume, jumping.
The lights slowly dimmed to black as the technicians whisked the turntable off the stage. Then, out of nowhere, the sinister voice of Dr. Eggman (portrayed by none other than Mike Pollock) announced conceitedly and humorously, “It’s finally time! My 25th anniversary party is almost upon us. Look at all these people”–referring to the audience at the House of Blues–“and even more on the live stream! You’re all here to adore the great Dr. Eggman, aren’t you?” As if he was sitting at his computer, Eggman came across a video sent to him by Sonic Team. The video began with the famous SEGA logo flashing across the screen, with the chorus belting out its name with the same 8-bit tone they did during the Genesis era. Sonic, in his Classic form, was lying down on his belly, impatiently tapping his fingers on the floor. Suddenly, a ball of bright light came down on Sonic and transported him to Green Hill Zone. He jumped through the giant, floating, spinning Portal Ring at the end of the famous first level of Sonic 1, and video clips of almost every Sonic game in the past 25 years plays in tribute to the Blue Blur’s greatness.
At the end of the opening tribute video, Dr. Eggman introduced Sonic the Hedgehog PR and social media manager Aaron Webber (a.k.a. RubyEclipse) to the stage. Webber, a blond, slender, and witty guy donning a black T-shirt of Classic Sonic, Tails and Knuckles grouped together in their own frames with the Japanese sign ソニック (Romaji: SONIKKU) popping out, broke the ice by asking the audience if they liked the memes posted on Sonic’s social media accounts–he created them!–and where they came from. After going through the free special collector’s swag in everyone’s goodie bags–including, but not limited to, the Sonic Mega Drive comic book from Archie Comics, and a silver Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary coin (only 2,000 have been made)–Webber answered the question everyone in the fan base has asked in the past year, “What’s next for Sonic?” by showing this highly unexpected trailer.
Sonic Mania is not a remake of the early Sonic games, nor is it a sequel to Sonic 4. It’s a direct sequel to Sonic & Knuckles that, along with new zones and new features such as the Drop Dash, brings the blue hedgehog to his former glory. “That can’t be the only new Sonic game SEGA’s developing [Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice aside], can it?” I asked myself, confused as to why Sonic Team shrunk Sonic back down to his chubby size and possibly lock the taller, sexier, more modern Sonic away forever.
As far as musical guest appearances go, I was expecting to see some of my favorite mainstream artists and bands like Justin Timberlake, Pink, Fall Out Boy, Britney Spears, Sia, even Panic! at the Disco, to show up and play their own renditions of the best songs from every Sonic game starting with Sonic Adventure. The only band to perform was franchise staple Crush 40–and Lord, did Jun Senoue shred his guitar! Johnny Gioeli joined Senoue after strumming to “Emerald Coast” and “Pyramid Cave.” While Gioeli sang everything from “Open Your Heart” to “Sonic Heroes” to “Knight of the Wind” remarkably well–though not as stellar as the studio-recorded versions–everyone in the Twitch chat room gave him a hard time, telling that he needs to get off the stage because his vocal quality waned with age, which I don’t agree with.
Just like I would a regular party, I left the live stream, shut my laptop down, and went to bed–but not before I scrolled through my Twitter feed and caught this next trailer by surprise.
Project Sonic 2017 is a working title, but it’s glorious. Glorious! But why we have to wait until the 2017 holiday season for this game to be released is beyond my comprehension. What I did understand was, Sonic Team has the tendency to experiment with other video game elements. They executed that fabulously in the 2000s, even going so far as to give Shadow the Hedgehog, the edgiest, hardcore character in the main canon his own game and turn Sonic into a werewolf. It’s only now they decided that experimentation is no longer working, hence they’re going back to the formula used in the early days to make Sonic the greatest video game icon in the history of the industry.
I slept peacefully, knowing that Sonic’s future is looking bright, and that I can trust SEGA and Sonic Team to do it right.