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1991-1999 | 2000-2004
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most iconic computer game characters of all time, and has come to be the mascot for the Japanese Sega1 company. Although designed to help sell Sega's 1989 Mega Drive, Sonic's success has far outlasted that of the console he was created for, and games featuring him continued to be developed and played in the years following the Mega Drive's demise.
Recurring Sonic Characters between 2000-2004
Sonic the Hedgehog - The titular blue hero capable of jumping, rolling and spin-dashing. When in possession of the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic transforms into Super Sonic.
Doctor Ivo Robotnik - Also known as Dr Eggman, Robotnik is the mad scientist whose hobbies include turning the innocent animals of Mobius into evil half-robot monstrosities known as badniks, as well as constructing various contraptions to fight Sonic with, all of which are vulnerable to being jumped on.
Miles 'Tails' Prower2 - a red flying fox introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic's constant companion. In later games he is capable of carrying Sonic short distances. Tails is a skilled pilot and has a Tornado biplane.
Knuckles - An echidna who jealously guards the Master Emerald and believes Sonic to be his enemy.
Shadow the Hedgehog - Mean, moody and magnificent, Shadow was created to be the ultimate life form.
Metal Sonic - An evil, metal Sonic robot.
Amy Rose - A pink female hedgehog who longs to be Sonic's girlfriend.
Big the Cat - A purple cat whose best friend is Froggy.
Rouge the Bat - A jewel-collecting female bat.
Cream - A big-eared rabbit who can flap her ears and fly, and has a Chao called Cheese.
Chao - A cross between babies and pets, Chaos regularly appear in Sonic games and can be raised to be good or evil.
Sega Dreamcast - Sega's last game console, released in 1999, was a revolutionary 128-bit machine. It was the first console designed for online gaming and was marketed promising six billion players3 worldwide. Although popular at launch, it could not compete with the PlayStation 2.
Neo Geo Pocket Colour - A handheld console released by arcade company SNK in 1999. This was their last console due to the dominance of the Game Boy series.
Nintendo Game Boy Advance - A handheld console capable of playing previous Game Boy games. Later, smaller versions included the SP and Micro.
Nintendo GameCube - Nintendo's main console between the N64 and Wii, released in 2001. Games came on mini DVDs rather than Nintendo's previously favoured cartridges. It was considered more family-friendly than its competitors, the Xbox and PlayStation 2, but was not quite as popular as those consoles.
Xbox - released in 2001, this was Microsoft's first games console, notable for its online gaming capabilities.
The following Sonic games were made between 2000-2004:
Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast - 2000)
After a fallow period game-wise, Sonic came back with a bang for his next game which appeared on the new Dreamcast console. Not only was his new game to be the first in actual 3D all the way through, he and his friends also sported a brand new look.
Dr Robotnik (now known as Eggman) had this time busted a watery creature called Chaos out of the Master Emerald. Now the race was on for Sonic and Co to find the Chaos Emeralds before Robotnik could feed them to Chaos and transform him into Perfect Chaos.
There were six characters to play as: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose (her first game as a proper playable character) and new additions Big the Cat and E102 Gamma. Each character had a different gameplay style and story to follow. The game had a slight RPG4 feel to it due to the in-between exploration stages. To get to the levels themselves you had to solve a puzzle, find a key or just get to the area where the level is placed.
Sonic's game was the usual running around, bopping badniks style, while that of Tails was to beat Sonic (and in one case Dr Eggman). Knuckles had to find the shards of Angel Island's Master Emerald, Amy's main task was to protect a bird from a robot intent on catching her, and Big's quest was to rescue his friend Froggy who had swallowed his lucky charm, a Chaos Emerald. This had not only possessed Froggy but had also caused him to grow a tail. E102 Gamma was a newly built robot for Eggman's side, yet after he had met Amy and her bird friend his evil programming started to malfunction. He soon changed sides and freed other E100 robots in lock-on-and-shoot-style levels. The characters all bumped into each other at some point in the game but there were different endings for each of them, although Sonic and Tails met up for a victory run.
Super Sonic appeared in the game after the other character stories were finished. His game simply consisted of running back and forth as Sonic, with a collection of cut scenes which he used to clear up plot holes from the other stories. Then he had to defeat Perfect Chaos - 'Perfect' because he had negative energy from every emerald. Sonic used the positive energy of the emeralds to take out Chaos, which seemed to calm him down and so Chaos was resealed in the Master Emerald. There were no special stages to speak of here although there were a few mini games, and new supporting digital pets called Chao.
Chao were very cute little creatures who hatched from eggs. They acted like babies and toddlers, needing you, the player, to feed them and help them grow. Providing they were looked after and did not die, they went through three stages; birth, evolution and another evolution. Sadly they didn't grow beyond toddler and instead formed cocoons in order to reach the next level, yet they did breed with each other so chances of running out of them were low. They could be entered in races to collect emblems. One minor criticism is that this was little more than a distraction as there was no reward for the player when they were all collected.
Sonic Pocket Adventure (Neo Geo Pocket Colour - 2000)
The first official Sonic game on a non-Sega platform, Sonic Pocket Adventure was much in the mould of the first Sonic games. Most of the ideas for the individual levels came from Sonic 2 and 3, and there were some extras, like puzzle parts to collect and put together in the game. Sonic appeared on his own if there was only one player, but in two-player mode Tails appeared too. The only real difference in the game between the early Sonics and this one are Sonic and Robotnik's appearances, which are the style of Sonic Adventure.
Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast - 2001)
In 2001 Sonic returned to the Dreamcast with one of his most anticipated games so far. In the build-up to the release the Sonic promotions team sent out intriguing images showing a strange black and red hedgehog and hinted at new powers, but they kept the game's story under wraps until it came out.
Robotnik broke into G.U.N. military base to get his hands on a project his grandfather was working on - an artificial hedgehog called Shadow, heralding himself as the 'Ultimate Life-form'. Shadow stole a Chaos Emerald, but everyone thought Sonic has done the bad deed so Sonic escaped the military and, along with his friends, set out to clear his name.
SA2 was a definite upgrade on the graphics of SA, with smoother and more streamlined characters. The gameplay was more interesting too, with much to unlock along the way and plenty of emblems to collect that were actually worth getting this time. A two-player mode was put in for cart racing and the Chao race. The Chao system was improved; the small creatures were cuter than ever and had new types of evolution. Depending on which side you used to raise your Chao, they could become Angel Chao or Devil Chao. They could now also learn skills at Kindergarten and be taken to the doctor (though that, usually, is of little use). They still used animals to grow and gain skills but now also used 'Chaos Drives' to boost certain abilities. With all the new features the game had a lasting appeal and was more like the original than the previous few Sonic games.
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (GameCube - 2001)
A few months after SA2 came out SEGA shocked the gaming world by ditching the Dreamcast and becoming a third party game developer. Even more shocking was the news that Team Sonic was producing a ported version of Sonic Adventure 2 with some added extras for, surprisingly, the Nintendo GameCube, home of Sonic's long-standing rival Mario. Little was changed to the main game except for a few cosmetic tweaks here and there, but the Chao system had an upgrade; you could check your Chao's stats by simply picking it up (or giving it an animal), doctors gave out more info and now, as well as racing, you could watch your sweet little Chao pummel another in Chao karate. The black market from Sonic Adventure 2 website was now in the kindergarten closet and players could get much more. It also was the first game to use GBA-to-GameCube connectivity, which worked with...
Sonic Advance (Game Boy Advance - 2001)
A more back-to-basics Sonic game than any other, Sonic Advance was a nice change to the 3D treatment of Sonic's normal adventures. The game for the Neo-Geo console was good but this was better and more original than Sonic Pocket Adventure. This time there was no real plot to speak of, just that Eggman was being a pain again and you had to stop him. Sonic didn't go alone though. He could also be played as Tails, Knuckles and, making her playable 2D debut, Amy Rose. Along with just the same old run-and-bop-the-bad-guys idea there were a few new moves. Sonic (and surprisingly, Amy) could now grind rails, each character had an attack of their own and had some great sprite animations, and even the waiting animations were worth seeing. The Chao Garden also appeared (with one Chao egg waiting to be loved), serving the same function as the Visual Memory (VM) Unit did for Sonic Adventure, to raise Chao stats.
The Chao garden was very similar to the one on Sonic Adventure; you hatched an egg, fed the Chao, gave it toys and played games (one being a matching game and the other an odd version of paper, scissors, stone). Its other relation to the old VM Chao functions was that when you connected the GBA to the GameCube you could upload your little Chao in the 2D garden to the 3D one on Sonic Adventure 2.
The music included some remixes of older tunes from previous Sonic games.
Sonic Mega Collection (GameCube - 2003)
Conisisting of all Sonic's Mega Drive5 games on one disc, it was really more a rehash of Sonic Jam, but as well as Sonics 1,2,3 andSonic and Knuckles it also included Mean Bean Machine and Sonic Spinball, and Ristar and Flicky as unlockable bonus games. There were also some non-game extras including promotional material such as TV adverts for the games (including the odd but funny Japanese ones) and scans of the covers for many of the US Sonic comic (including one full issue), but unlike Jam there was no extra Sonic game like Sonic World with all the information that Jam had. Though this was more for the new generation of Sonic fans that never have played the originals, Jam also appealed to the hardcore Sonic fan.
Sonic Advance 2 (Game Boy Advance - 2003)
This sequel to Sonic Advance improved on some of the weaker elements of the previous game. More speed was added, it had fewer slower sections, and trick moves like the ones in Sonic Adventure 2 now added to overall gameplay. When the characters ran they really ran, and when they got to a certain speed they received an extra boost and ran like crazy with cartoon-like multiple images behind them enhancing the sensation. A new name was also introduced to the stable of Sonic characters - Cream the Rabbit.
Cream was a young rabbit who, with the help of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, was out to save her mother who had become the latest hostage of Robotnik, and this made up the main game plot. Cream, Tails and Knuckles had all become hostages at the beginning so Sonic had to save them. Cream was in the same mould as most Sonic characters; she could spin-jump, run fast and fly, and she also had a Chao called Cheese. Cheese was a neutral Chao who wore a bow tie. He followed Cream in the game and had a homing attack that was used whenever Cream pointed out a bad guy to him. This made Cream the easiest character to play in the game and therefore more suited to those new to Sonic.
The special stages harked back to the pseudo 3D stages in Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles. To enter each of the seven special stages, as always, one at the end of each level, the player had to find that level's seven special rings. Once in the special stage the player had two minutes to collect 300 rings which were scattered all around. The player was assisted in this by 'Ring multi-players' that boosted the value of the rings; collected on their own, they are worth ten points but when collected with other rings they were worth more. There was also more to unlock than Advance; for each character completed with all Emeralds, certain things would open up, such as the mini Chao garden, which was the first Emerald prize, and two more hidden characters.
Sonic Adventure DX (GameCube - 2003)
Based on the Dreamcast's Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure DX was an expanded 60-mission version and billed as a 'Director's Cut'. As well as a modified version of the Dreamcast game, the release also allowed the previous Sonic games designed for the Game Gear to be unlocked and played. A good way to reminisce but, disappointingly, Sonic Adventure DX did not deliver anything new.
Sonic Pinball Party (Game Boy Advance - 2003)
This was a sequel to Sonic Spinball. In order to rescue Tails and Amy Rose, Sonic had to win a pinball competition. Levels were not only inspired by Sonic, but also other games devised by Team Sonic, the designers behind the Sonic series. Also included were mini-games, which could be played by up to four people, provided they each had a Game Boy Advance and a connection cable.
Sonic Battle (Game Boy Advance - 2003)
The last Sonic game for the Game Boy Advance, this was a fighting game - the second Sonic fighting game following an earlier arcade game. The plot revolved around a robot named Emerl6 and the game itself involved fighting other characters. As with most other fighter games the characters had life bars which ran down as they were pummelled by the their opponent. The package included a few mini-games.
Sonic Heroes (GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2 & PC - 2004)
In this game, players chose one of four three-character teams to play as. Each character had a special ability - speed, power or flight - with one of each type in every team. Players could swap which characters were in their chosen team at will. The teams were:
- Team Sonic - Sonic, Tails, Knuckles.
- Team Dark - Shadow, Rouge the Bat, E-123 Omega.
- Team Rose - Amy, Cream, Big.
- Team Chaotix - Espio, Charmy, Vector.
The plot involved Dr Robotnik announcing that he wanted to conquer the world, with Team Sonic intending to stop him. Team Dark wanted revenge on Dr Eggman, Team Rose wished to locate missing persons while Team Chaotix, previously seen in 1994's Knuckles Chaotix, was a detective agency hired by a mysterious client. The game introduced a new character in E-123 Omega. It was enjoyable, easy to pick up and play, and one of the better Sonic games made during this period, becoming a best-seller on all the platforms it was released for.
Sonic Advance 3 (Game Boy Advance - 2004)
This was similar to the two previous Advance games, although the Chao garden had a reduced role. Sonic and Tails had to rescue their friends and defeat Dr Robotnik and his new robot sidekick, Gemerl, a modified Emerl from Sonic Battle. Players began with Sonic and Tails, and could unlock other characters including Knuckles, Amy Rose and Cream. The game involved a new 'tag play' function in which the players chose two characters to play as, rather like Knuckles Chaotix.
Sega Superstars (PlayStation 2 - 2004)
This release was for the PlayStation 2 EyeToy and featured several mini-games. The EyeToy was a webcam add-on for the PlayStation 2 which was designed to recognise players' actions and allow them to play games by waving their arms and moving their bodies. Players also used gesture recognition to complete the games on Sega Superstars, a collection of mini-games that could be controlled by the EyeToy, one of which is a Sonic the Hedgehog game.
Into the Immediate Future
The second half of the first decade of the 21st Century would see Sonic playable on new games consoles, including the Nintendo DS and Wii, the PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360. He would even show Olympic spirit and team up with his closest rivals, the Mario Brothers.
Sonic will surely continue; there are many years still to come for ol' blue spikes.Image credit: copyright Sega.