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Sonic’s 30th anniversary is here – these fast facts reveal some surprising truths

Sonic the Hedgehog turns 30 today. It's time we really got to know him.

Sonic the Hedgehog RT Rewind

It’s been 30 years since Sonic the Hedgehog first sped onto our screens – the original game came to the Sega Mega Drive in western territories on 23rd June 1991, and the blue blur is still a pop-culture staple three decades later!

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But how well do you actually know Sonic? Sure, we all love guiding him through colourful levels with such speed that his legs look like a red and white circle, but not many of us have taken the time to really get to know Sonic on a deep and personal level.

Now that Sonic is turning 30 (one more decade to go until his midlife crisis), let’s give the guy some respect and really listen to all the weird and wonderful things he has to tell us about.

Read on, then, as we journey back through 30 years of Sonic with 16 fast facts about the much-loved hedgehog and bonafide gaming icon!

16. A ball in a tube was how it all started

Programmer Yuji Naka’s prototype for Sonic was a basic character just rolling through a tube while inside a life-sized ball. This basic system was then used to create the algorithm for the more complex Sonic game. Of course, Sonic would ended up balling himself up to roll through tubes on the regular, so that idea did get used in a sense.

15. Sonic was actually a rabbit before he was a hedgehog

When Sonic was being created, Mario was already the talk of the town. The idea was to create a character to compete with Nintendo, but early versions saw Sonic as a rabbit that basically would grab stuff and fight with his ears…

Sega realised pretty quickly this wasn’t a good idea, mainly because of the technology behind it, so it switched to the idea of the ball and rolling concept i.e. using the body as a weapon.

They eventually got to a battle between a hedgehog and an armadillo and here we are. There were some concerns Americans wouldn’t know what a hedgehog was but it still won out.

14. He wasn’t called Sonic

While Sonic was a good call, Sega tried a few other options before settling on that name. Designer Naoto Ohshima has said previously Sega had tried out Mr Needlemouse.

Years later, Project Needlemouse was the code name for a later game (Sonic the Hedgehog 4) during its development stage as a nod to the name that never was.

Sonic anniversary
Sonic enjoys a cake for his 30th anniversary.
Sega

13. Sonic had a whole backstory

Every iconic character needs an origin story and Sonic is no exception. A lot was scrapped before the first game was released, but it’s fun to look back at what could have been.

Sonic was the frontman of a rock band at one point. Other members included a parakeet, a monkey, a rabbit and a crocodile. Sonic was also a breakdancer, so you could say he was one skilled hedgehog.

Slightly more confusingly, he was romantically involved with a human woman rather than a female hedgehog who was called Madonna. Not a reference to the singer. We think.

12. Pop icons influenced Sonic

What’s a famous character without famous inspiration? Ohshima looked at Felix the Cat for the head and Mickey Mouse for the body when creating Sonic. His boots were also inspired by Michael Jackson’s boots from the Bad cover album sleeve, and if you’re asking why red? That was inspired by Santa Claus as it was seen as ‘familiar’. Honest.

11. Sonic was blue to match Sega

That’s the fact. Sonic’s iconic colour was purely chosen because Sega wanted him to match their logo colour. Sonic himself was picked as Sega’s mascot after the company ran an in-house competition to see who could come up with the best idea. Naoto Ohshima won the competition with his blue hedgehog!

10. Sonic’s first appearance

We all have to start somewhere and Sonic started out as an air freshener. Yes, you read that right. The hedgehog made his debut hanging from a mirror in 1991 Rad Mobile arcade game.

9. Sonic’s soundtrack sort of has movie links

Kind of. Sonic was scored by Dreams Come True, a Japanese pop group that formed in 1988. They also went on to sing for Sleepless in Seattle and The Swan Princess. While we’re talking music, anonymous sources have reported Michael Jackson worked on the soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 3…

8. Dr Robotnik had a different name

Sonic’s archenemy Dr Ivo Robotnik was first known as Dr Eggman in Japan, not a name that strikes fear in you right? Sega US and the Japanese HQ didn’t agree on this, and American developer Dean Sitton came up with a new name for the US market. He took Ivo from his sister’s boyfriend at the time (no comment on that), but other options that were floated were: Badwrench, Bad Year, Bad Vibes and Fatty Lobotnik.

Of course, the name Dr Eggman remained in the ether as an alternate name for Robotnik and both monikers were used in the recent Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

Jim Carrey as Robotnik/Eggman in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.
Jim Carrey as Robotnik/Eggman in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.
Sega

7. Sonic is pretty fast

When Sonic was created he was the fastest-moving video game character at the time – so it’s safe to say he lived up to his reputation. Sonic programmer Yuji Naka told Edge magazine: “Sonic was delivering [the kind of] high speed no other [game] was capable of, and the Mega Drive allowed this stunning demonstration of rotation during the bonus stages. This was said to be impossible on the hardware at the time.”

6. Correction: Sonic isn’t fast, those sneakers are

A common misconception is that Sonic is the fast one, when really the player manual for the game says it’s Sonic’s “power sneakers” that should have the credit. Sonic just shops for shoes well, there aren’t any superpowers here. Later, we learn that Sonic’s colour and super speed are the results of a lab accident (yes we know that contradicts the manual).

5. Sonic can’t swim

There’s a reason Sonic can’t swim. The developers assumed (wrongly) that hedgehogs couldn’t swim, so they just made it part of the game. In reality, hedgehogs can actually swim, so poor Sonic could have mastered front crawl if he wanted to.

Sonic the Hedgehog
Drowning in Sonic the Hedgehog was always a source of panic.
Sega

4. Sonic also needs sleep

Programmer Yuji Naka has also confirmed that Sonic is an eight hours sleep kind of guy, and not just for beauty reasons – apparently he will slow down if he doesn’t get enough rest, the results of which could be disastrous. Nothing has ever been more relatable.

3. There’s a hidden message in Sonic

We all love to look out for a hidden message, and lucky for us there’s one in the Sonic game. The message wasn’t particularly controversial, but the way it was put in the game did ruffle feathers.

Naka, rebelling against Sega saying no to post-game credits, included a list of names of all the parties responsible for creating Sonic making sure they were printed on the screen introducing the Sonic game. As the names were in black text before a black background they were ‘invisible’, so you could only see them using a cheat code. Clever.

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2. Sonic doesn’t seem to age

It may be Sonic’s 30th anniversary, but the character – like a lot of pop culture heroes – does not really age in the traditional sense. Apparently, he’s actually only 15 years old in all of his adventures. We need some of what he’s having.

1. Tails and Knuckles are not the same species

It might be easy to assume that Sonic’s trusty pals, introduced the second and third games, are from the same species as the main man himself – but that’s not right at all! Tails is a fox – and his full name is Miles Tails Prower. But Knuckles? He’s an echidna, that’s an egg-laying mammal.

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