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Blue Streaks and Royal Regrets

A rambling entry of Sonic The Hedgehog fixation and elaboration on why there was enough to like about Hot Dog King to truly hate it.

Blue and spiky thoughts.

A Nintendo DS Sonic the Hedgehog RPG game, made by freaking BioWare, is in the works. This naturally piqued my curiosity, not only because it was freaking Bioware (makers of Mass Effect and the vast majority of good Dungeons and Dragons Windows ports) but also because I loved the Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. As far as I'm concerned, taking a platforming mascot and sticking them in a quasi-action turn-based RPG mechanic game is a bit of tried-and-true awesome that I've yet to bore of.

Caption: Sonic the Hedgehog - 2D, 3D, and on the TV screen. It's all about the power rings and chaos emeralds.

Suddenly, I have a reason to give a damn about Sonic the Hedgehog. Don't get me wrong, I know that the ludicrously-fast Blue Hedgehog has enthralled the hearts of untold numbers of gamers, but I never really got on the Sonic train before. I never owned a Sega Genesis, and so Sonic the Hedgehog's 2D beginnings never had the opportunity to permeate my (at the time) 14-year-old gamers' psyche. Consequently, the only 3D Sonic game I tried was Sonic Adventure Battle 2 which, I'm inclined to agree, sucked: it was a mediocre port job, at best, having come out on the Nintendo GameCube shortly after the decision to scrap the Sega Dreamcast.

It was time to bone up on my hedgehog game mascot lore, if only to gain a better appreciation for Bioware's take. The games available on GameTap offer an avenue to relive Sonic the Hedgehog's early years. The later games should not be too hard to give a try via my GameFly subscription. There's some gaps here and there (Sonic was truly his best on the Dreamcast, which I no longer have), but for the most part the means to catch up on the game front of this phenomenon is easily available.

What really surprised me (and what I was working up to this entire Blog entry) was what I found on Television. The main (non-spinoffs) consist of both an old 1993 "SatAM" Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog series and the much more recent 2003 Sonic X series.

The 1993 series has Sonic and his furry friends in a post-apocalyptic world, as woodsy environmental crusaders of sorts, exuding a surprising amount of overly touchy-feely camaraderie, even as they routinely face Star Wars-style deathtraps and lasers in their battle against against Dr. Robotnik's incredibly oppressive mechanical juggernaut of an empire. Throughout it all is sort of a depressing feeling as these characters have essentially had their homeland thoroughly violated and exploited. The majority of their activities appear to encapsulate blowing up factories with explosive charges (nothing short of justified radical eco-terrorism) while avoiding being captured and turned into mechanical mockeries of their former selves.

Sonic X: Judge for yourself, is this way over the top, or what? (No, I didn't upload it.)

The more recent Sonic X series has Sonic and friends accidentally transported cross-dimensionally to modern American society, where they shack up with a Richie Rich with conveniently absent parents. The mechanical juggernauts of Dr. Eggman (a common Robotnik alias) are back as anime giant robots, which rapidly subdue police and armed forces in spectacular, action movie pyrotechnic fashion. Sonic and friends, apparently endowed with powers not unlike another strange being from another planet, seem to weather explosions and punch through reinforced metal armor just fine. The human characters actually share as much time as the game characters, at times working side-by-side in battle. The third season ditches all but the central protagonist human, upgrades the apocalyptic threat to galactic-level trouble, and becomes a Robotech-style space exploration backdrop.

I think what surprised me so much about the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series' (both Sonic X and the 1993 one) were the choice to implement this kind of gritty realism. The characters are fluffy, kid-friendly icons, and they put them up against a backdrop of high technology, facing outright apocalyptic events, and force them to make tough decisions. Though dark, the 1993 series is the tamer of the two - the unedited Japanese Sonic X is even more gritty than the 4Kids translation.

What's so surprising? It just seems like strange fit for gaming platformer character... you'd never see Mario put in such a serious situation. Oh well. Watch enough episodes and perhaps the mental mold will expand to fit the gritty backdrop with fluffy characters.

Perhaps the panties were on me, so I could wear them all bunched up in irritation.

To elaborate a bit further on the madness that was Hot Dog King, I actually thought the game could be a contender. This was because it did have at least one very cool mechanic: the manifestation of virtual space.

Caption: One of many unique interiors of stores in Hot Dog King.

It starts with a large scale 3D overview of a city, options being Seattle, New York, or Los Angeles. This was very scrollable and had several hotspots that included different districts (Commercial, Harbor, Industrial, ect) places you could open a store, your rivals stores, a wholesale fool dealer, a clothing dealer, and The Don's mansion.

Then, when you actually open your first store, you're treated to a far more intimate display of virtual space. You begin with a small nook, barely a store at all, but these nooks were fully realized 3D spaces where the customer NPCs could wander in, purchase things, perhaps be entangled various misadventures (such as slipping on dirt, vomiting, or being zapped by aliens) and leave. These store 3D spaces were pretty much unique, and what's more, they could be somewhat customized by purchasing individual appliances (such as pizza makers and microwave ovens) or even expanded into larger spaces with complete store upgrades.

That was a very cool mechanic. Thus, when I discovered the rest of the game to be a tasteless presentation of weak minigames with message of sexual exploitation and comedy relief of various health hazards, I actually had something to be disappointed over. A tasteless, crappy dressing badly weakened this game. A pity, it could have been a contender.
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