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A Total Beginner's Guide to the History of Sonic


Slimybug
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Having my interest recently piqued because of the movie, I’ve decided to look into the story of Sonic the Hedgehog. To my frustration, like many video games, its pretty ambiguous, and what we see, at least in the first few games, doesn’t tell us a lot. 

 

The first game’s manual simply says that Dr. Robotnik is turning animals into robots, and Sonic must stop him.

 

The second manual says Robotnik is creating a doomsday machine, and is turning animals into robots to help him.

Robotnik still lacks the 7 Chaos Emeralds, which are located somewhere on “the island” (presumably where Sonic lives). So Sonic must find them first. However, reading the whole manual, it seems that finding the Chaos Emeralds only occurs in bonus levels, and are not necessary for stopping Robotnik. Still, it’s their first message.

I’m wondering how much actually playing the games or watching videos of them being played might help, though I doubt they show much other than simply Sonic running, beating robots, and beating Robotnik in the end. 

 

The 3rd game, Sonic CD, has a very different storyline. The important points is that it names Sonic’s planet as Mobius, and features the debut of his girlfriend Princess Sally. Though Wikipedia calls her Amy Rose, and makes no mention of the name Princess Sally.

 

The 4th game, Sonic Chaos, names “the island” as “South Island,” and has the plot revolve around Robotnik stealing the Chaos emeralds, which will destroy the world. I’m not sure if all the emeralds, and therefore the entire game, is still on this one island on Mobius, nor that playing the game will help with that.

 

Sonic 3 (actually the 5th game) introduces Knuckles, who lives on the Floating Island, where Robotnik is now looking for the Chaos Emeralds. So, are there multiple sets of Chaos Emeralds, or did the writers just ignore any kind of continuity or sense and place them in a new location? I suspect the latter.

The next few games, oddly enough, really just repeat the plot of Sonic 3, with Knuckles being tricked by Robotnik into thinking Sonic is after the Emeralds, and fighting him.

 

I guess I should ask, does the story ever go deeper? I mean, just how big a world is Mobius? Are we talking 7 billion people here? And if so, why is it always Sonic who stops Dr. Robotnik? Cause he has super powers? I mean, who, really , is this guy? How old is he (Knuckles is said in a manual to be 15, so I assume they're all teenagers)? Does he have a family? Why is Robotnik the only human around, and how did he come to be (I assume the movie is intended as something of a prequel).

 

More than actual answers to these questions, what I'd like is to know whether or not they are more-or-less answered in the coming games or manuals. I suppose watching the old TV series would help too.

 

Thanks.

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Okay, let's see if I can tackle some of these inquiries in order:

16 minutes ago, Slimybug said:

Having my interest recently piqued because of the movie, I’ve decided to look into the story of Sonic the Hedgehog. To my frustration, like many video games, its pretty ambiguous, and what we see, at least in the first few games, doesn’t tell us a lot.

[...]

I guess I should ask, does the story ever go deeper?

I'll just tell you up front; if you're looking for any big, long-running and coherent storyline in Sonic the Hedgehog... you're not gonna find it. The early games are fine, but later on things start to get messy. VERY messy!

18 minutes ago, Slimybug said:

Robotnik still lacks the 7 Chaos Emeralds, which are located somewhere on “the island” (presumably where Sonic lives). So Sonic must find them first. However, reading the whole manual, it seems that finding the Chaos Emeralds only occurs in bonus levels, and are not necessary for stopping Robotnik. Still, it’s their first message.

Regarding Sonic's home; some early material mentions that he was raised on "Christmas Island", but we haven't ever seen that location in the games. He's more of a free spirit, always running from one adventure to the next, so he doesn't really have a home.

As for the Chaos Emeralds, most of the early games treat them as bonus items you can obtain throughout the journey, in order to unlock the best ending (and get a snazzy power-up for Sonic).

28 minutes ago, Slimybug said:

The 3rd game, Sonic CD, has a very different storyline. The important points is that it names Sonic’s planet as Mobius, and features the debut of his girlfriend Princess Sally. Though Wikipedia calls her Amy Rose, and makes no mention of the name Princess Sally.

Yeah, disregard any mention of Mobius and Princess Sally. Those two names were added to Sonic CD's US manual to try and connect it to the then-current Sonic cartoon (which, as a heads-up, NONE of the cartoons over the years are canon to the games' storyline).

The pink hedgehog from CD is Amy Rose, who goes on to be one of the series regulars over the years. And the planet... well, it's either just called "the earth" or "Sonic's world" depending on what the characters feel like calling it that day.

34 minutes ago, Slimybug said:

The 4th game, Sonic Chaos, names “the island” as “South Island,” and has the plot revolve around Robotnik stealing the Chaos emeralds, which will destroy the world. I’m not sure if all the emeralds, and therefore the entire game, is still on this one island on Mobius, nor that playing the game will help with that.

Just to clear up the island names: Sonic 1 (and a few 8-bit titles) are set on South Island, Sonic 2 is set on West Side Island, and Sonic 3 is set on Angel Island.

39 minutes ago, Slimybug said:

Sonic 3 (actually the 5th game) introduces Knuckles, who lives on the Floating Island, where Robotnik is now looking for the Chaos Emeralds. So, are there multiple sets of Chaos Emeralds, or did the writers just ignore any kind of continuity or sense and place them in a new location? I suspect the latter.

For most Sonic games? Yeah, it's basically the latter.

For Sonic 3 specifically, though, there is a reason for them being here. Sonic actually has all 7 emeralds at the beginning of the game, but they're very quickly taken from him by Knuckles, who hides them away in the bonus stages.

...

So uh, yeah. Hope that answers at least some of your questions.

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First of all, make sure that you don't think of the movie being intended to take place in the same continuity as the games. The movie, like most adaptations, is its own thing, and in this case it's not a very close adaptation.

Secondly, well... honestly, for the most part, what you see is what you get. The early games don't focus on story a lot, and ironically, once the games start focusing on story more, it only becomes LESS coherent, not more. The best way to make sense of it is with headcanons, honestly. Or just appreciate the more minimal stories in their intended context of the game and the overall experience. That's how the classic games' stories work best.

The cartoons and comics often present a somewhat more coherent continuity, but they're usually much different from the games and in many cases have little in common with them.

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By the way as if things weren't complicated enough, the English lore and Japanese lore are completely separate for the Classic era.

Thankfully by the Adventure era this was (mostly) fixed as it's harder to massively change a 3D game compared to a 2D one where most of the story is in background details and manuals. After that point the only major western differences are the comics and Sonic Boom from what I can tell. (there are some newer games that also change the script too)

If you're interested in learning about it Sonic Retro has some good info on the original manuals and development history of each game.

For the Adventure era Windii has re-translations for the Adventure era cut scenes onward in video form. (as some were changed due to translation errors or time restraints)

Another YouTuber named Deepest Lore is also going over the Classic era Japanese lore in an easy to watch format.

Hopefully this helps a bit as I find both sides pretty interesting.

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So hi, I created an account here to try and better explain the narrative and world of the Sonic the Hedgehog games. The overall narrative can be confusing to many due to retcons and many plot important details only being explained in Japan. For example, all manuals released in the USA and Europe prior to the release of Sonic Adventure in 1998 are non-canon. They were rewritten in an attempt to better appeal to western audiences. I would like to mention that this was a common practice for video games from Japan back in the day, the western media for the Super Mario Bros games for example claimed Mario & Luigi were from Brooklyn, USA and the Mega Man story from the games was changed to claim that the series took place through out outer space on different mining planets. Thankfully the original Japanese manuals that explained the story have been translated by fans and I will link to them as I explain the overall narrative of what many call the classic games.


I'll start with explaining Sonic's World, then the Chaos Emeralds and finally ending with a basic summary of where each game takes place in the overall narrative of the games.


Sonic's world, as originally intended, was a fantastic version of our world. Humans and anthropomorphic animals like Sonic live in peace with one another, kind of like the Dragon Ball franchise. It was explained by former head of Sonic Team, Yuji Naka, that the animals like Sonic preferred to live on the numerous islands scattered throughout the Earth while the humans preferred to live on the the continents. However starting around the 2010s current head of Sonic Team, Takashi Iizuka, claimed that the games take place between two worlds: a world filed with talking animals like Sonic and a human world which Robotnik is from. It's not known why this was retconed, possibly to try and make the narrative of the games more closely align with the spin-off media like the Sonic X anime and now the movie, but regardless most fans tend to ignore this retcon because it contradicts previously established lore and just makes things harder to understand.


Next is the Chaos Emeralds, nobody knows where they came from and numerous ancient cultures have been connected with them. They can be used to infinitely power machines, though as seen in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Unleashed the power of the emeralds can be drained if they are improperly used, and it is said the when all seven are collected a miracle happens. Sometimes they can be found on Sonic's World, but other times they are found in the bonus levels called the Special Stage that take place in another dimension. The most common access to this Special Stage world is the Big Rings kind of like in the movie. It's unknown why the emeralds sometimes go to this world, but it is speculated by Sonic's best friend Tails in Sonic Rush Adventure that the Chaos Emeralds are sentient in some way, which if true, would explain why they sometimes decide to scatter through out the world or hide themselves in the Special Stage dimension.


There is also the Master Emerald, basically a giant Chaos Emerald that has the power to stop the Chaos Emeralds. I mentioned before that the Chaos Emeralds are associated with many ancient civilizations, but the most important to the Sonic story-line is the Echidna Tribe. This is the same tribe that was after Sonic in the opening of the movie. The Chaos Emeralds and the Master Emeralds at some point in history were located on an out door shrine. There, these cute little defenseless creatures known as the Chao lived in peace. One Chao in particular was mutated by the power of the emeralds into a powerful water creature. This water Chao used it's power to protect the other Chao and the emeralds. You can read more about this here, but keep in mind the translation isn't very good and as far as I know there isn't a better one available, but to summarize the Echidna Tribe sought to take the power of the Chaos Emeralds for themselves. They attacked the shrine and many of the Chao that lived there. The powerful water Chao in it's rage used the Chaos Emeralds to become even more powerful and nearly destroyed the entire world before being imprisoned inside the Master Emerald. This water chao would be given the name Chaos: the God of Destruction by the few remaining Echidnas that managed to survive. Their entire civilization destroyed, the few that remained took it upon themselves to guard the Master Emerald so a tragedy like this could never happen again. They left murals warning of Chaos in the few remaining structure they had left. The Master Emerald would then use it's power to raise a large chunk of the continent high into the sky, hidden by the clouds, which the Echidnas named Angel Island. They would could continue to guard the Master Emerald on this floating island for over 3000 years. Today, the only remaining echidna still alive is Knuckles the Echidna who continues to the guard the Master Emerald from abuse.


The first game confirmed to have happened chronologically is Tails Adventure as confirmed in the Japanese manual. Nothing really significant story wise happens in this game, but it's a good introduction to Tails as we get to see him really put his scientific prowess to good use. It's also a good hidden gem in it's own right and recommended if you enjoy Metroidvania type games. Next is the very first Sonic game Sonic the Hedgehog (1991). This game take place on South Island, a mysterious island that moves around the ocean by itself. Interestingly, according to the Japanese manual, this isn't the first time Robotnik and Sonic met and it's never been revealed in the video games how Sonic and Robotnik first fought each other. Eventually Sonic manages to stop Robotnik and collect the Chaos Emeralds before they scatter away from South Island. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) Sonic always ready to explore uses his vintage biplane, called the Tornado, to visit Westside Island. While here he meets Tails, who according to the Japanese manual was bulled and doesn't have much self confidence. Robotnik reveals that he wants to use the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station the Death Egg, a direct parody of the Death Star from Star Wars. Sonic manages to collect the Chaos Emeralds before Robotnik and destroys the Death Egg. Sonic also learns to properly utilize the Chaos Emeralds to transform into a more powerful form called Super Sonic, a direct parody of the Super Saiyan transformation from Dragon Ball Z. In Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as mentioned in the Japanese manual, it turns out Sonic did not in fact destroy the Death Egg. Instead it crashed onto Angel Island and the enormous weight of the Death Egg caused the island to fall from the sky and land on the ocean like a normal island. Robotnik then tricks Knuckles into thinking Sonic if after the Master Emerald, Sonic and Knuckles fight, Knuckles learns the truth, and finally Sonic destroys the Death Egg for real this time. The next game I want mention is Sonic CD, chronologically it could either happen before Sonic 2 or after Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Nothing important story-wise happens, but it does introduce series regular Amy Rose. Amy is in love with Sonic and self proclaims that she is Sonic's girlfriend. Sonic may seem to dislike her, but he considers her one of his best friends and it's hinted at rarely that he may have feelings for her. It also introduces Metal Sonic who would become the most famous of Robotnik's evil robots based of Sonic.


Pretty much every other game released on the Sega Master System, Game Gear, Mega Drive/Genesis, Saturn and latter Sonic Mania happens after those four games. They are mostly stand alone stories that don't affect the story much but most of them are worth checking out especially Sonic Mania. Some of the 8-bit Sonic games on the Game Gear were released on the Master System too and the Master System versions are considered to be the superior versions of the games due to the camera being less zoomed in. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Game Gear is almost a nightmare to play but the Master System version is a lot easier in too many ways to mention here.


Starting with Sonic Adventure the stories start becoming more complicated and thus it would take me a very long time to properly summarize the story of these games, one of many significant things that happens in Sonic Adventure is Tails gaining his self confidence. We also learn in Sonic Adventure 2 Robotnik does indeed have family with the introduction of his grandfather Professor Gerald Robotnik. If you have any questions I'll do my best to answer them.


If you really like the movie and want to experience more Sonic related stuff besides the games, I recommend watching the Sonic X anime. It's probably the most faithful adaption of Sonic outside the games and the plot is similar to the movie too with Sonic and his friends being stranded in the human world. The first two seasons can be seen on Netflix and can be watched for free on Youtube here. Currently Sonic X season 3 is only available on Blu-ray. The IDW Sonic the Hedgehog comics are a good place to start too. All the games up to Sonic Forces are canon to the comic until Sonic Forces, from there the comic begins and starts creating it's own unique interpretation of the Sonic the Hedgehog mythology.


I hope this helps! The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise much like Batman or any other long running comic book series has many different interpretations. Although many can be quite different from one another, they all have that sense of adventure and high-speed thrill from the games.

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Sonic is fast blue hedgehog with an attitude. He fights evil dr. Eggman (aka Ivo Robotnik) and his robots.

That's the essence of Sonic story. Appeal of the franchise (aside from gameplay) comes from colorful characters and their varied personalities and designs, not lore and complex motivations. What lore exists is either A) similarly simple, B) inconsistent or C) is important in 1 game (2 tops) and never build on again. Characters will return, but their roles will often be unimportant.

But there's the basics
CLASSIC SONIC

Spoiler

Classic Sonic (Sonic 1, 2, CD, 3 & Knuckles and less important spin-offs) are just Sonic fighting Eggman in different islands, meeting new friends. In USA releases Eggman was known as Ivo Robotnik (which became his offical real name later) and planet was called Mobius (which isn't official name, but many people use it anyway. Similarly antroporphic animals are often called "mobians"). Basically no humans appear in those games (except for Eggman), only mobians and normal animals.

Those games are most iconic and introduces many iconic elements like  moves (Spin Dash), Eggman's robots known as "Badniks" (Motor Bugs, Catterkillers, Buzz  Bombers and many more),  and machines  (Egg Mobile, Death Egg, Death Egg Robot) stages called "Zones" (most memorably Green Hill) and objects (Rings, Springs, Monitors, Bonus plate, Capsules) and of course Chaos Emeralds.

Chaos Emeralds are 7 colorful gems with infinite power. They seemed to be connected to various magical places, creatures and prophecies, but their origins are unknown, they just main macguffin of the franchise. If Sonic has all he can turn for short time into invincible Super Sonic.

Those games introduces also "Core Cast" of the franchise
- Sonic, cool heroic hedgehog with love for speed and dr Eggman, who's character balances between silly childish buffoon and cruel mastermind. He's kinda like Joker, can be played in silly, serious and mix of the two ways.
- Tails (Sonic 2) Sonic's best friend, sidekick and "little bro" with 2 tails that he can use to fly. Despite young age he's absolute genius, but lacks confidence as he tries to be more like his idol Sonic. He owns plane Tornado.
- Amy Rose, (Sonic CD) Sonic #1 fan and self-proclaimed girlfriend. She's absolute in love in Sonic, despite blue hero not returning the feeling. Her characterization is fairly inconsistent starting as damsel in distress, through hot head with giant hammer, to "reasonable" of the group.
- Knuckles (Sonic 3) is last of ancient echidna race, living on mysterious floating island and protects Master Emerald, giant gem with great power and vague connection to Chaos Emeralds. Knuckles was tricked into fighting Sonic by Eggman and became Sonic's first rival. Since then they became friends. He's super strong, can dig, climb walls and even glide. He's serious, tough guy, but later games often show him as hot headed moron, something fandom rarely likes
- Metal Sonic, (Sonic CD) is robotic clone of Sonic (there were few, but he's most iconic) build by Eggman. He's considered Eggman's deadliest robot and of of franchise most recurring antagonists. Still, he's definitely not as "Core" or recurring as everyone above

With "Sonic Adventure", first 3D sonic games starts "MODERN SONIC". Core Cast got redesigns, voice acting was introduced, and many new iconic characters (like very popular Shadow the Hedgehog). Also humans started to show up, mostly in secondary roles. Recently Sega announced 2 very weird statements.
1 Modern and Classic Sonic are two separate entities.
2 Mobians live on Unnamed Planet ("Mobius") and Humans on Earth, even though no game for 25+ years acknowledged that fact or explained how Sonic and his friends travel between the two.
Many fans ignore those statements, due to confusion they cause.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here's what the Sonic wiki has to say, regarding what people are saying about "Two Worlds"

Quote

 

In interviews, Takashi Iizuka said that the Sonic games takes place across two worlds―one is human, and one is set on the non-human side, the latter which Sonic Colors takes place in.[24] However, has not been clarified if whether this means the games literally take place across two different versions of the earth (like in Sonic X) or across different societies. The PR and Social Media Manager of Sonic the Hedgehog Aaron Webber (to his understanding) confirms the former while former Sega Europe community manager Kevin Eva disapproves the former.[25][26] In a later interview, Iizuka stated that the portrayal and nature of the earth depends on which of these two worlds is being portrayed in each game, and sometimes there may be some crossover between them.[27]

 

 

Also, the Sonic lore is very open ended, and with tons of room for headcanon.

Sonic's origin is left vague, and is only explained in non-canon comics and shows

 

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