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Foils for Sonic

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Foil

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No, not that kind.

I'm talking literary foils. To keep it simple, a literary foil is an element of a story with traits that serve to highlight the traits of another , with the intention usually being to highlight the differences between the two and to add some depth to the characters. Foils can manifest in different ways, but the most important part of them is that their traits need to be highlighted to contrast the character they are meant to be compared to, usually this is done through some sort of conflict. The most simple foil there is the conflict between good and evil.

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Good guys want to do good things, and bad guys want to do bad things, and hence they are put in direct opposition of each other. The conflict doesn't necessarily have to be good vs. evil though, it can literally be anything between two opposing forces; Fire and Ice, Air and Earth, Night and Day, etc etc.

So to bring this back to Sonic; needless to say, Sonic has a lot of foils through the years. Whether they're sidekicks, villains, or rivals they all have some type of trait that sets them apart from Sonic. So I wanted to talk about the different foils our blue main character has had through the years: how they differ from each other, what traits do they highlight from Sonic, what makes a good foil for Sonic? 

To start off, let's go over some of Sonic's most common foils

 

Dr. Eggman

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This is kind of a no brainer, of course the main villain would be one of the main foils for the hero. What's interesting about Eggman is  that beyond the fact that Eggman wants to enslave all organic life, him and Sonic share a similarly large ego and need to show off. But Sonic is far more relaxed and chill while Eggman is prone to temper tantrums when things don't go his way. Think my favorite narratives is when the two are forced to interact outside of their standard "Good vs. Evil" dynamic like in media like Sonic Boom where they're barely adversaries. 

 

 

Miles "Tails" Prower

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The classic sidekick, another one of Sonic's most common foils. What's interesting here is how Tails` role evolved over time in relation to Sonic. Originally, he was a kid sidekick who tried desperately to keep up with the experienced and self-assured Sonic and seek his approval. Tails himself wasn't as strong or confident in himself but could pull through when push came to shove. But after Sonic Adventure, Tails found his niche as the inventor of the group at which point he became the "booksmart" one to Sonic's reckless nature, which ironically also makes him a foil to the aforementioned Dr. Eggman.

 

Knuckles the Echidna

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One of the first (of many) rival characters the series would go on to create. Knuckles was unique upon his debut as he was neither an ally of Sonic like Tails, nor was he a villain like Eggman. He was simply a guy caught in the wrong place and met the worst possible person first, which put him in direct opposition of Sonic to protect his homeland. The most striking contrast Knuckles obviously has is his red fur to Sonic's blue, and his focus on power to Sonic's speed. Personality wise, he's more naive and easily fooled than Sonic but takes his role far more seriously than Sonic ever does. Obviously these traits would be a lot more downplayed over time, but they made Knuckles a big deal and helped him stand out from every other character at the time and arguably why he still has such a significant presence in the series despite having far reduced role.

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I'm not sure Sonic needs foil, he'd eat all that food cold and raw.

But uh, is this just focused on the existing characters and how they could be used more as such or new characters to give Sonic a new dynamic and/or ideological opposite?

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2 hours ago, StaticMania said:

I'm not sure Sonic needs foil, he'd eat all that food cold and raw.

But uh, is this just focused on the existing characters and how they could be used more as such or new characters to give Sonic a new dynamic and/or ideological opposite?

More or less yea, or any new kinda foil that can be used.

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2 hours ago, DryLagoon said:

I'm kind of surprised Shadow didn't make your list, too obvious?

I thought that too, but realized they likely wanted to keep the OP short and open.

Also, those are the more important characters of the cast to acknowledge first.

I'm sorry this hasn't gotten much attention yet cause I like these type of discussions, but I haven't gotten a minute to sit down for it.

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I didn't want to list Shadow because yea, he's kind of the most obvious and I wanted to focus on the other important ones.

Shadow is kind of like....the ultimate Sonic foil lol. To the point that he kind of overshadowed the ones that came after like Silver.

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Blaze the Cat is the firey ballerina to Sonic's windy trackstar. She is a princess (rooting her) while Sonic's an eternal wanderer. She is Prince while Sonic is Michael Jackson. Her more recent appearances might have played this down since she's now more or less just "one of Sonic's friends" who hangs out with Silver.

 

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1 hour ago, Kuzu said:

 

Shadow is kind of like....the ultimate Sonic foil lol. To the point that he kind of overshadowed the ones that came after like Silver.

I kinda have to wonder if that's partly because Silver may not have been meant for that anyway.

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1 hour ago, Almar said:

Blaze the Cat is the firey ballerina to Sonic's windy trackstar. She is a princess (rooting her) while Sonic's an eternal wanderer. She is Prince while Sonic is Michael Jackson. Her more recent appearances might have played this down since she's now more or less just "one of Sonic's friends" who hangs out with Silver.

 

I'll never forgive this series for pretty much dropping Sonic and Blaze's dynamic. Because she's probably one of the better Sonic foils after Knuckles and Shadow, but she's been downplayed that it's pretty easy to remember that at all. 

 

1 hour ago, DabigRG said:

I kinda have to wonder if that's partly because Silver may not have been meant for that anyway.

Given that he was one of the main protagonists of 06 along with fellow Hedgehogs, Sonic & Shadow, and the fact that most of of his story puts him in direct opposition of Sonic, I don't really agree with that

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28 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

Given that he was one of the main protagonists of 06 along with fellow Hedgehogs, Sonic & Shadow, and the fact that most of of his story puts him in direct opposition of Sonic, I don't really agree with that

It's more that Shadow and before him Knuckles(and possibly Blaze, since she came up) were explicitly conceived & designed with "Dark Sonic" and/or rivaling Sonic in mind. Silver, from both what I heard before and what I'm reading on the wikia now,  was not:

He was designed with gameplay, the game's locales/symbolism, & Future Trunks' characterization in mind. And (this is the news) apparently, he may actually be a reused concept from a cancelled game called Fifth Phantom Saga. Him being a hedgehog(and apparently, even his distinct hair volume) were more afterthoughts borne from them throwing ideas around-- in fact, wasn't it said that there were over 50 designs tried out for him?(EDIT:It's right there in the same paragraph--how did I miss that?)

Basically, any meaningful connection to Sonic is mostly incidental and as a certain someone would tell you, he was probably meant to vaguely emulate a different character. Of course, that's not to say you can't find some interesting parallels between the two if you tried.

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Probably almost as obvious as Shadow, but what about Mario? Back in the days of the Nintendo vs SEGA console wars, it felt like Mario and Sonic were destined to rival each other and they both naturally clashed, accentuating their creators' memorable feud.

 

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Sonic's 'tude and quirkiness stood out compared to Mario's flat heroism and yet both characters remain heroes at heart. Sonic's taunts and quips (some people hate this but I love it) are an essential part of his character while Mario remains silent or simply "yahoos" and "wahoos". Mario's adventuring is mainly fueled by his desire to save the kingdom and innocent people (mainly Peach) from evil, but he also has a great time navigating the perilous obstacles in his way. Sonic on the other hand, while also having a strong sense of justice and desire to protect nature and innocents, is "just a guy who loves adventure" who wanders wherever he pleases and sometimes gets into scraps just for the thrill of it. Mario is well-mannered, humble and at times, a capable leader as well. Sonic is cocky self-assured and occasionally rude (at least to his enemies) and even though he's a great team player, he doesn't really show that much leadership and prefers fighting freely by his companions instead of leading them into battle (with a few exceptions like Sonic Heroes where he does show some leadership, but the teams switch around a lot so the whole leadership thing is ambiguous). Sonic whizzes by and enjoys blazing a trail through life while Mario explores and enjoys life one hop, step and jump at a time.

And yet despite all these ways these two can be considered foils, the two are also kindred spirits linked by their heroism, strong will, magnetic personality (Mario's bland, but his cheerfulness is contagious sometimes) and their status as two of the greatest icons of gaming. This is shown even further in the little and insubstantial times they crossover, in the Olympics games where their interactions and overall expressiveness mesh together so well that they feel seamless, yet are not indistinguishable either. Overall, the two have a lot of similarities and dissimilarities, which makes them fit tthe bill as both foils and counterparts. They're both some of my biggest heroes and they inspire me a lot too. I'm glad to be a part of both fandoms.

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I feel like SatAM and Archie provide a lot of foils to Sonic.

Sally - Strategic, level-headed leader as opposed to Sonic's rush-into-action approach.

Antoine - More polite and proper in contrast to Sonic's brashness. Traditionally cowardly in contrast to Sonic's recklessness; after he goes through character development, reflecting on his past gives him humility, which contrasts greatly with Sonic's ego.

Geoffery - Because he's an adult and "more experienced" and uses weapons I guess? ...Blah blah, not that interesting a character as conceived by Penders at least, but he seems to be designed as some sort of foil to Sonic so I'm putting him here anyway.

Scourge - Do I even need to explain?

On 1/30/2020 at 6:12 PM, Almar said:

Blaze the Cat is the firey ballerina to Sonic's windy trackstar. She is a princess (rooting her) while Sonic's an eternal wanderer. She is Prince while Sonic is Michael Jackson. Her more recent appearances might have played this down since she's now more or less just "one of Sonic's friends" who hangs out with Silver.

 

...I legit read this as Big the Cat and got so weirded out...but anyway, yeah I do agree and I think it would be fun to explore Sonic and Blaze's dynamic more. Especially considering Blaze is supposed to be a literal alternate dimension counterpart to Sonic, if I'm not mistaken.

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Blaze was introduced was more or less Alt-Sonic with Eggman Nega as Alt-Eggman (duh). Rush Adventure introduced Marine as the Alt-Tails.

As I said, her recent appearances played down that element to make her another sidekick (or even Silver's girlfriend).

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I feel like the SatAm/Archie cast were wasted potential in terms of foils, being kept in one note roles when ideally we could have had a large cast to all balance out Sonic's personality traits.

Sally could have been a brilliant three dimensional foil for Sonic, being as inflexible in her own opposite 'by the book' and meticulous approach as he was in his on the fly and spontaneous one, but they more or less just simplified to just 'Sally careful, Sonic reckless' straight man dynamic. Even when Sally WAS flawed, it was from oddly becoming as reckless and careless as Sonic was, they oddly never played on the hypocrisy of this (they did have a 'practicing is harder than preaching' moral but Sally was the one GIVING it, not learning it). I feel like this wasn't the best approach for a foil for Sonic since conveying the main character and his defining ethics as consistently on the losing end against another co-lead takes a toll on his personality. He needed an opposite that had the same success/fail rate as him to keep that good balance of competent but fallible.

Antoine was mainly there to make Sonic look more competent by being an over the top pompous loser in the show, getting worse the more arrogant and reckless Sonic evolved (and Sonic's 'oh man what a loser' lampshading getting more excessively vindictive, we get the dynamic Sonic, it's the 90s, you're cool, Ant's not). He received character development in the comics but they failed to implement it in any way beneficial to a chemistry, except Ant used to be a loser and now he isn't.

Rotor could have been a primordial Tails, and a positive geek/jock dynamic to balance Antoine's, but he largely got forgotten about for Sally who again just got treated as one dimensionally smart in all fields as they went on.

Bunnie's chemistry with Sonic was more or less non-existant, despite them being ripe as battle buddies.

Dulcy had zero chemistries, likely why she felt like such a third wheel.

 

I feel like Boom is underrated in terms of chemistries with Sonic. I think his bond with Tails was maybe the most three dimensional it had ever been in that show, especially with Tails' complexity addiction of making machines for every task over Sonic's simplistic but sometimes reckless approach. Amy was arguably a better version of Sally (even if it was divisive whether that fit her) being more level headed but also more of a control freak and over righteous. Knuckles kinda had the Antoine role but even then kept it fun but their dynamic being way more playful and bro-like. Only Sticks was kinda kept one-note being the Pinkie Pie-ish unhumanised comic relief of the group no one could figure out a dynamic with besides Amy (basically what Dulcy was in Satam). Eggman speaks for himself, they wanna do a comedic rivalry between him and Sonic, this was the best one (I also loved how Eggman was still very manipulative despite this, knowing all of Sonic and the others' vices).

Underground also tried to have all three siblings balance each other out, compared to very strict hierarchy in the Sally/Sonic/Antoine dynamic.

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15 hours ago, Sonario said:

Probably almost as obvious as Shadow, but what about Mario? Back in the days of the Nintendo vs SEGA console wars, it felt like Mario and Sonic were destined to rival each other and they both naturally clashed, accentuating their creators' memorable feud.

 

spacer.png

Sonic's 'tude and quirkiness stood out compared to Mario's flat heroism and yet both characters remain heroes at heart. Sonic's taunts and quips (some people hate this but I love it) are an essential part of his character while Mario remains silent or simply "yahoos" and "wahoos". Mario's adventuring is mainly fueled by his desire to save the kingdom and innocent people (mainly Peach) from evil, but he also has a great time navigating the perilous obstacles in his way. Sonic on the other hand, while also having a strong sense of justice and desire to protect nature and innocents, is "just a guy who loves adventure" who wanders wherever he pleases and sometimes gets into scraps just for the thrill of it. Mario is well-mannered, humble and at times, a capable leader as well. Sonic is cocky self-assured and occasionally rude (at least to his enemies) and even though he's a great team player, he doesn't really show that much leadership and prefers fighting freely by his companions instead of leading them into battle (with a few exceptions like Sonic Heroes where he does show some leadership, but the teams switch around a lot so the whole leadership thing is ambiguous). Sonic whizzes by and enjoys blazing a trail through life while Mario explores and enjoys life one hop, step and jump at a time.

And yet despite all these ways these two can be considered foils, the two are also kindred spirits linked by their heroism, strong will, magnetic personality (Mario's bland, but his cheerfulness is contagious sometimes) and their status as two of the greatest icons of gaming. This is shown even further in the little and insubstantial times they crossover, in the Olympics games where their interactions and overall expressiveness mesh together so well that they feel seamless, yet are not indistinguishable either. Overall, the two have a lot of similarities and dissimilarities, which makes them fit tthe bill as both foils and counterparts. They're both some of my biggest heroes and they inspire me a lot too. I'm glad to be a part of both fandoms.

You know the funny thing is that Mario becomes a lot more competitive and aggressive in certain other games.

 

 

I also don't really agree that the SATAM cast were all that wasted potential, at least post-reboot; at that point, I did feel like they were better implemented and able to bounce off the cast better rather than being 90's Archetypes personified. 

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3 hours ago, Kuzu said:

I also don't really agree that the SATAM cast were all that wasted potential, at least post-reboot; at that point, I did feel like they were better implemented and able to bounce off the cast better rather than being 90's Archetypes personified. 

I guess it's maybe because I felt they had been altered or switched about so much in the comics that I felt their personalities were interchangeable and couldn't really connect to them, which makes it harder to solidify them as foils. The games regularly suffer a similar issue.

I feel like if the reboot had been merely a streamlining and grounding of their recurring traits people know them for, it could have worked, but we had stuff like Sally still being reckless or inflexibly cautious according to the story's whim, and Rotor now being the gung ho big guy over the more introverted nerd he was supposedly before. It's kind of hypocritical since Sonic characters change at whim according to interpretation, but at least they usually stick to one gun with each one (eg. Boom Knuckles is a different beast from Archie Knuckles, but they kept to that the whole series). How can Sonic foil a character who changes ethics every story?

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10 minutes ago, E-122-Psi said:

I guess it's maybe because I felt they had been altered or switched about so much in the comics that I felt their personalities were interchangeable and couldn't really connect to them, which makes it harder to solidify them as foils. The games regularly suffer a similar issue.

I feel like if the reboot had been merely a streamlining and grounding of their recurring traits people know them for, it could have worked, but we had stuff like Sally still being reckless or inflexibly cautious according to the story's whim, and Rotor now being the gung ho big guy over the more introverted nerd he was supposedly before.

That's partly because they were going back to how Rotor was initially characterised in early Archie as well as setting up hints of where his character arc was gonna go.

Meanwhile, Sally was evidently supposed to have moments of overconfidence due to occasionally wanting to outdo Sonic and the reboot seemed to wanna play on the idea that she'll throw caution to the wind if it means saving someone.

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I don't really feel Sally was that at all tbh; she was only really reckless in high stress situations, such as Spark of Life. And wasn't really a wet blanket to Sonic as much and trusted him to get the job done more often than not.  I will agree, she was the embodiment of "90's girl power" before and that Sonic was dumbed down to make her look smarter. But I did feel their dynamic was able to balance itself more post-reboot. 

Sally was a good strategist, but tended to get stressed out in situations she can't account for which caused her to make poor decisions, while Sonic is reckless overall, but can stay cool under pressure and make appropriate actions on the fly. 

 

 

Rotor I don't have much to comment on, but with Tails kind of filling the role of "introverted nerd", I can understand Rotor's kind of needing to be adjusted so that he doesn't feel redundant. 

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I guess I didn't really buy into since I didn't feel like their 'core' was well built enough to make these extra facets or moments of weakness work. Again, Spark of Life was about how NICOLE would be voice of reason to Sally's recklessness but then realise it's not as easy to not succumb to impulse herself. In almost two decades of stories, Sally NEVER got that epiphany of herself around Sonic, they never lampshaded her contradictions or hypocrisies enough to ground her ethics. It just furthered the idea she would change ethics based on story and they hadn't really grasped her character enough to make one more consistent except her usually being the straight man of whatever situation.

Maybe, again, it's just because I think it was wasted potential. I feel giving Sonic a super persnickety, strategic and careful to a fault type character would be a perfect foil for him, and it felt like Sally was supposed to sorta kinda be that archetype from the start, just they never really played on the flawed side of that, she could only ever be wrong if she was reckless like him, and without that in universe play on that, those moments just made her look like a hypocrite.

Twilight Sparkle would likely make a great foil for Sonic really. :P

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I mean, you're also predisposed to not liking these characters anyway based on every post you make about them. I'm just telling how I feel personally. 

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Well, admittedly true, though maybe more not liking their direction/being underwhelmed than not liking them altogether.

This after all is the Sonic franchise, a bastion of wasted potential in terms of characterisation and cast dynamics. The games are even worse for me for the large part, just I've reached the point of total apathy with how they play out. Forces was mostly laughable in character handling, but I don't think anyone was surprised by that. Boom is truthfully the most recent thing that made me invested in how these characters could play off of each other again, which is saying something since it makes a lot of liberties as well.

Again, I'd LOVE a persnickety foil for Sonic in concept, but Sally I feel failed in that role and I don't know who in the games cast could fill it and still feel in character. I don't really like Tails as a wet blanket type, he should have some mutual enthusiasm with Sonic to me. Boom Tails kinda worked in that area since while he often knew when Sonic was in over his head, he was more fond of strategy and tools than primarily cautious and play-it-safe (when he has the supposed gadget, he could be just as over eager and reckless as Sonic).

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32 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

I mean, you're also predisposed to not liking these characters anyway based on every post you make about them. I'm just telling how I feel personally. 

There was a conversation where she insisted Spark of Life was some sort of last ditch effort to make Sally a protagonist, admittedly.

But really, I think it's just a broad perspective of wanting characters to have Quirks and flaws to run by and stick with them; Winnie the Pooh was given as an example.

More introverted, logic driven characters are generally considered tricky to have be sufficient in not being considered overly inconsistent or boring.

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23 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

There was a conversation where she insisted Spark of Life was some sort of last ditch effort to make Sally a protagonist, admittedly.

But really, I think it's just a broad perspective of wanting characters to have Quirks and flaws to run by and stick with them; Winnie the Pooh was given as an example.

More introverted, logic driven characters are generally considered tricky to have be sufficient in not being considered overly inconsistent or boring.

I'm a boy robot. :P 

I admit I ramble on about this same thing a LOT (sorry for derailing this topic by the way), but again, I guess it's because on paper Sally's archetype would be an ideal foil for Sonic. I get the feeling the writers think that too, and that's why they used her so much, just they don't fully realise her in that area for it to work.

I get that having a more logical character that directly tries to be careful and think everything through is harder to execute as a flawed and colourful character without making them out of character, but I see it done well enough times to become mournful why they never quite grasp the same direction for Sally. Again Twilight Sparkle is essentially everything I want from Sally as a character and foil because they knew how to convey such a character in both a lucid and level headed AND utterly clownish and error prone way. Same traits and quirks having both positive and negative direction. Such a character could work brilliantly off of Sonic if he had the same competence ratio.

I think this is maybe why Boom ended up connecting to me better, because it was a more cartoony work that focused on chemistry and character quirks, while Satam/Archie is relatively much more serious and agenda/focused focused. Of course Boom would end up the 'hey, look how all these funny little guys bounce off of each other' one to me.

My opinion of nearly all the Sonic characters is pretty...complicated to say the least. I complain so much about the Freedom Fighters yet I made a Sally and Bunnie ROM hack, I love playing as Knuckles as much as the next guy, but generally find him to be utterly empty as a character in the recent years. Mania aside, can anyone tell when Knuckles last demonstrated any of the traits listed in this thread's opening statement? There was a long time Sonic and Tails' chemistry was incredibly underdeveloped despite being one of the most iconic bonds in the franchise. There's a weird endearment to these guys in spite of so often being disappointed with how they are showcased personality wise.

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