It is June 23rd and that marks a milestone in video gaming as one of the most popular game mascots turns 25 years old. That would be Sega’s speedy blue fuzzball, Sonic The Hedgehog. To celebrate the anniversary, let’s take a look at the various appearances of the beloved character in the arcade space (Sega’s real playground).
Before that, Sega Amusements International has been celebrating the event themselves with a little party, some cake and a BBQ:
— Sega Amusements (@SegaAmusements) June 23, 2016
— Sega Amusements (@SegaAmusements) June 23, 2016
Sonic (Hearts) Arcades
Rad Mobile (1990) – Throwing a little wrench into the mix is the actual first appearance of Sonic in a video game but since he was just a car accessory and not a primary element to the game, the anniversary sticks with the official release of Sonic on the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive. Rad Mobile was noteworthy for other reasons as well – it was Sega’s first step into 32-bit based hardware and the game cabinet was closer to a simulator ala Hard Drivin’.
Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car (1991) – A lot of kiddie rides are fairly lame but Sega gave a couple of them Sonic level upgrades with this and the following title. Granted, the games are still basic since the target audience was small children (that said, as this video shows, adults could fit into the ride):
Segasonic Cosmo Fighter Galaxy Patrol (1991) – For the second kiddie ride to star the mascot, they went a little more exciting as you play a vertical scrolling shooter. Sonic pilots a spacecraft that could not only shoot but punch enemies into oblivion. Its no Raiden but it still fits the bill:
Sonic The Hedgehog 1 & 2 (1991/1993) – Thanks to Sega’s own answer to the popular PlayChoice-10 known as the Mega Tech (also the Mega Play, which featured fewer cartridge slots) arcade patrons could experience Sonic The Hedgehog without owning the home console. Mega Tech’s are rare depending on the region however, the cabinet never attaining the same level of popularity as Nintendo’s solution at the time.
UNRELEASED: Segasonic Bros. (circa 1992) – A recent discovery showed that a puzzle game based on the Segasonic idea was in the works and by Bubble Bobble creator Fukio Mitsuji. The game didn’t test very well so ended up in the dustbin; fortunately it was
Segasonic The Hedgehog (1993) – The release of Sonic The Hedgehog was a huge boon to Sega on the home side and since they were a major player in arcades as well, it made sense to give Sonic his own arcade outing. This brought us the unique Segasonic The Hedgehog title which featured more detailed, isometric graphics running on their 32-bit System 32 hardware. Using trackballs to control the action, it also had support for 3 player co-op, where additional players could be the little known characters Ray and/or Mighty.
Segasonic Popcorn Shop (1993) – Sonic worked when combined to sell a kiddie ride so why not an interactive popcorn vendor? That’s right – play an arcade game where Robotnik is trying to steal your popcorn; end up getting real popcorn from it. This used a special hand-crank controller for the game portion of it.
Sonic The Fighters / Championship (1996) – After the Segasonic line was given some time to breath on the market, Sega decided to take the character in a different direction – down the road of a 3D fighter. The company was well known for Virtua Fighter so one can see the sense out of putting your iconic mascot into such a game. That said, this one was never held in high regard by the market.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Arcade (2011) – After Sonic Championship failed to ignite sales, Sonic took a long hiatus from the arcade market, apart from occasional cameos. That would change 15 years later when he once again became the star of an arcade title, this time a casual racing game based on a port of a home console release. There were some differences between ports in terms of performance and a few pieces of content, otherwise it stood out for the color-changing cabinet design and the option to include a ticket dispenser.
Sonic Athletics (2013) – If you haven’t heard of this one before then no worries – as an attraction for the Tokyo Joypolis, it was never developed to be a wide arcade release. It is interesting in that it seems to have set the stage for the recent Mario & Sonic Olympics game we’ll get into in a moment.
Sonic Dash Extreme (2015) – Arriving at games which are currently being sold and manufactured, Sega has gladly been making use of the Sonic image an character across several games. That includes redemption pieces like Sonic Blast Ball; air hockey tables; basketball games and a videmption game based upon a mobile endless runner title that is more commonly known as Sonic Dash. The ‘Exteme’ arcade build kicks it up a few notches by offering a huge 55″ screen and a unique, oversized D-pad controller. While this can be set to “Amusement Mode” so it plays like a regular arcade game without tickets, I’m not aware of any locations out there that use the setting.
Mario & Sonic At The Rio 2016 Olympic Games Arcade Edition (2016) – The most recent hedgehog appearance to arcades just arrived a few weeks ago as Sega Amusements began shipping this title to venues worldwide. Taking a vibe from the old Track & Field games, this Sonic game has the most unique control scheme out of all the titles mentioned here, providing exergaming entertainment based on some of the most recognizable video game characters around. The game is available in 2-player and 4-player editions, both sporting vertically mounted 55″ screens but the 4 player version comes with an additional display above each cabinet and a camera system. As such it works better for tournament style play.
The most surprising exclusion of character in the arcade space is the lack of an official Sonic-themed pinball machine. This is surprising because of pinball levels found in some of the home games or Sonic Spinball itself and the fact that Sega used to have pinball divisions.
So that’s a wrap for now – which one of these titles is your favorite?