Sonic the Texthog

So, in a long history of the franchise – Sonic 1 coming out in 1991, I believe – we have yet another offering to its legacy – Sonic Lost Worlds, which some of you may be trying out today. It’s spawned so much outside of the games as well; we’ve seen plushies, gamebooks, comics (yes, I used to read STC as a kid), TV shows and so on. What I’d like to get at the heart of is what Sonic is truly about.

Sonic from the beginning

Like most franchises, there is an illustrious, ambiguous and most often many contradictory accounts to the characters’ conception (just have a look at Hyrule Historia – nuts!). Sonic is no exception. I’m going to be a little technical [read: not] about Sonic’s history as it’s the particular one I read as a child.

Robotnik/Eggman/whatever was initially written as a peaceful character; with the rather original name Kintobor (yes, it is Robotnik backwards). His affinity for using animals as tools is shown right off the bat; with an underground laboratory in Mobius, he tends to “upgrade” animals for his own bidding; but in this way, for good. His main aim is to neutralise “evil” on the planet Mobius (if it came in a physical form, who knew?) using the gold rings scattered around Mobius (so that’s why he’s collecting rings, right!?) to transfer this “commodity” into receptacles he coins as the Chaos Emeralds in the ROCC machine (Retro-Orbital Chaos Compressor). I only studied Chemistry to GCSE, but I know the carbon structures of diamonds are understandably tight, given the pressure needed for this transformation.Β Not so sure about emeralds, but that’s by the bye.

Where does Sonic come in, you ask? He tumbles into the laboratory, without his trademark blue colour and his red and white sneakers (I have to be American here) by chance and a relationship grows between him and the doctor. Using this highly specialised treadmill, he hits the speed limit, somehow altering his outward appearance, changing him cobalt blue. The sneakers, you’ll find, were given to him by the doctor so he could attain these insane speeds with minimum discomfort (look, this is fantasy, alright!?)

This is all in aid for the final emerald to be found (which, we later discover, is in the possession of Knuckles the Echidna on Floating Island) – the Grey Emerald. There are 7 altogether (lucky for some) and this is the elusive prize that Kintobor requests Sonic to procure.

Now, I’m not going to debate over whether he spilt soda or typed something wrong or tripped over Β or he was preoccupied with a rotten egg (If only I were joking at this point), but let’s say the ROCC was unstable without this final piece to the puzzle and misfires, transforming Dr Kintobor into the abomination (in many ways) that Robotnik becomes. The chaos emeralds are scattered, Sonic is attacked by his newly birthed rival, and the rest is history.

As we know, Robotnik now enslaves animals to do his bidding, but in a different sense; they are now encased in robot suits to take down their fellow creature, Sonic. They also help him in Industrialising the level too; we see animals encased in moles with drills digging out cliff faces and mountains, installing all sorts of armaments. We see the skies ravaged by savage turtles (these always fascinated me, the robot offspring is the product of an encased animal, riding on its mechanised parent. Bizarre much?) and oceans of oil are protected by animals operating seahorses. What is interesting is why Robotnik created this hyperreal animal – a copy of a copy, but the true animal resides inside. This has chopped and changed due to the series, but the overriding design is that of an animal, like a deranged Kinder Surprise Egg. It’s surprising that he now has completely robotic cohorts to aid him, yet the animals are still used as a commodity or tool by him. I guess animal labour is cheaper, given of course the abundance of animals and the less cost-effective method of building the robots. I wonder if the animal actually has agency in the machines or that their brains are overriden. How much of themselves are compromised? It reminds me a little of the Secret Invasion storyline of Iron Man.

What we must realise is that Sonic as we know him is ultimately created by Robotnik. He has created his solution and ultimately, his own problem. In fact, I remember in Mario Galaxy, that Bowser actually mentions to Mario that he’s glad to have found a rival who has equalled him. Is that what this is all about? Does Robotnik ever wonder, if this little band that has escaped being imprisoned mechanically (one that is ever increasing – where do they come from) became mechanised or destroyed, that he would have nothing to do? He ultimately has Mobius under his control if not for this spiked crusader, but that clearly isn’t enough for him.

Obviously that has changed now, once he has for some reason enlisted this nasty team of what I can only describe as demons, to do his bidding. We know his skills-as-Iago, having convinced Knuckles the Echidna that Sonic was the enemy to be destroyed – his karmic punishment afterwards is to be the perpetually poked figure of fun; seen as both dim and relentless. Poor chap. However, the power may change hands in Lost Worlds, as Robotnik has often succumbed to; watching Sonic and Knuckles – (whom he had physically and mentally changed) get their revenge. The Frankenstein argument is frequently referenced in the Sonic series – Shadow is created to be, as he believes, the Ultimate Life form (in the shape of a hedgehog no less) by Robotnik’s grandfather, Prof Gerald Robotnik (yes, I realise this makes no sense if we’re to believe Robotnik started out as Kintobor, but I didn’t write it, mmkay?)but this is implied to not be the case – he is merely a a step below the prototype of the Biolizard in Sonic Adventure 2. Shadow is often plagued with insecurity as to his destiny and purpose, and is of course not thrilled to believe he is in second place to this reptilian rival. Strangely enough, when the beast is awoken, the Dark and Hero sides team up to vanquish the foe.

Of course, there is an overriding theme of Man vs. Nature to further this relationship between the exploiting force and the exploited, how the animals rebel and rescue their captured friends.

There’s a rather tired feeling in his attitude in Lost Worlds which may address this continually – I know he’ll be looking at the Deadly 6 sideways, just waiting for the revolution to happen (as often we see his creations backfire or turn upon him; the slaves having power over their master rather than a means to an end)Β – but it’s done very humorously. If it’s one thing that this SEGA franchise does best, it’s comedy. I was laughing until I was crying last night watching this. It laughs at the loopholes and carries it all off with aplomb.

Yes, I always wanted to write about Sonic rather than just reviewing it as a game. If I had more time, I’d write a lot more I imagine.