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If you’ve been a gamer for a few decades, you’re likely to remember the start of the character Sonic the Hedgehog, for the Sega Genesis System, and the first Sonic game released in 1991. Created to rival the popularity of Nintendo’s Super Mario, this blue cheery hedgehog, with the ability to bounce, zip around, and sometimes roll straight through rock, was a big hit for Sega. Sonic, who doesn’t much resemble a hedgehog, expect for his somewhat spiky blue hair and a cartoonish face, inspired numerous sequels, and leapt onto other platforms, especially with the death of the Genesis system, just as he raced ever onward to defeat the evil Dr. Robotnik and to save cute little animals trapped by Robotnik's nefarious designs.
Sonic the Hedgehog was designed specifically as a new mascot for Sega, and his early design and features are the collaborative results of Yuji Naka, Naoto Oshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara. He’s since undergone some image changes, but his basic appearance remains recognizable despite slight artistic recreations from time to time. After Sonic 1, also known as Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega built on the hedgehog’s popularity with a stream of sequels. These include Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Spinball, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and Sonic 3.
The early games had Sonic racing through various screens in a side-on perspective. From the second game on, Sonic was joined by other characters including the fox, Miles Tails, who could use his tail as a helicopter to lift off the ground and fly, and Knuckles the Echidna, who was excellent at climbing and busting through rock. The games were strictly G-rated affairs, especially the first one, with Sonic bouncing on “enemies” to release animals trapped inside them.
Sonic the Hedgehog changed to a 3-D perspective, a little hard for gamers to get used to with the game Sonic 3D Blast released for the Sega Saturn and Genesis. Other games followed, and with Sega platforms losing popularity, Sonic appeared on several other game systems, including Nintendo Game Cube, and Sony Playstation. The old games are still classics though, and have been reproduced for most of the major gaming platforms.
In addition to becoming a major player in the world of video games, Sonic the Hedgehog got his own animated TV series in 1993, has been featured in comics, and makes the occasional cameo in other video games. The little hedgehog has become a big star by having a balloon in the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade, and he even has a fruit fly gene named after him. New friends have joined his cast of characters including the much darker Shadow the Hedgehog released in 2005, who uses weapons, a big departure from the earlier games.