As Sonic the Hedgehog enters his third decade, games industry insiders tell eu.playstation.com what he means to them.
Sonic Generations on PlayStation 3 celebrates 20 years of SEGA icon Sonic the Hedgehog by cherry-picking some of his finest moments and revisiting them in dazzling High Definition. Here, eu.playstation.com asks those most closely involved with creating video games to choose their highlights of a series that has been blazing a blue trail since 23 June 1991.
"Collecting those rings. Ting, ting, ting! And then rushing into a badnik and losing them all. Man that was frustrating – but then the next second you'd be off again, rounding them up."
Randy Varnell, producer, Gearbox Software
"My lasting memory of Sonic is walking down the street past a small games store, and seeing Sonic the Hedgehog running on a Mega Drive for the first time. I thought: wow! Graphics will never, ever get any better than this!"
John McLaughlin, producer, XDev Studio Liverpool
"Sonic games were where you wanted to go for a holiday. The Green Hill Zone, palm trees, blue skies, sunny music – it was my happy place. And now look at me, spending all my time creating the perfect assassination in Hitman: Absolution. I think there's definitely a link there."
Christian Elverdam, gameplay director, IO Interactive
"Sonic is an incredibly important game to me. The very first Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive arrived just a few months after I started working in the games industry, on console titles. I remember the day the Mega Drive came out in the UK. I went straight to my local games store and bought one. It was the Sonic bundle, so I came back to the office and – because it was research – I fired it up and fell in love with the richness of the environment, the beauty of the graphics and the sound.
"The playability of the game, too, the way it was what we at Naughty Dog call 'on the button': immediately responsive controls, a pure, deep and rich control system that fed into this amazingly kinetic and interesting game. It really changed my perception of video games and inspired me to keep trying to rock that same groove in everything that I've done ever since."
Richard Lemarchand, co-lead designer, Naughty Dog
"For me I still come back to the opening level of the very first game, the loop the loops, Green Hill Zone and high points like that. Something that sticks in my head with Sonic is that whenever he used to drown – and it happened a lot because I wasn't very good – I always used to feel bad. That idea of his little gasps under water, tiny bubbles rising to the surface. Look at that – emotion even back then! It has probably influenced Lara Croft's new watery world [in Tomb Raider]."
Noah Hughes, creative director, Crystal Dynamics
"Oh my, now we're going back. I can't even remember the first time I played a Sonic game, he's just always been there – on my games shelf, in my console and still doing the business."
Gareth Edmondson, studio director, Ubisoft Reflections
"From an artist's point of view, I think it's such a striking series. Bold colours and lots of greens and blues all moving across the screen in a blur. It was kind of pure. Looking back it feels like a turning point. Games could be beautiful, challenging, fast and accessible, all at the same time. When a game combines all these features, then it is called a classic."
Jonathan Jacques-Belletête, art director, Eidos Montreal
"The Sonic CD soundtrack still stands out for me. It was just an epic piece of music at the time, before the days of flashy cutscenes in games, and for me it really stands out."
Gavin Russell, producer, London Studio
"Playing it and trying desperately to get all of the gold rings. The game was so fast that you'd get to the end of the level and realise you missed two of them – so you had to go back and do it all over again. I'd just play it over and over to get every last one."
John Paquette, writer, Insomniac Games
"The memory for me is always Sonic tapping his foot. You put the controller down and Sonic tapped his foot while he waited for you. It was the equivalent of my being a kid and my mother would be like, 'You don't understand when we saw Gone With the Wind for the first time and Clark Gable said, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," it was the first time we heard someone curse in a movie!' It was the same thing.
"When a character took on a life of his own and actually expressed personality like that, it might have seemed insignificant, yet I think it played a big part in evolving video games into the art form and entertainment medium they are today."
David Jaffe, co-director, Eat Sleep Play
"When I was at school my classmate had a Mega Drive and so I used to go round to his house to play Sonic. It represents to me a very fast, clean idea of gameplay. It almost gives you hope, in a way. Joy and hope."
Jenova Chen, co-founder, thatgamecompany
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