With his games once again earning the respect of gamers and a feature film on the way from the Deadpool team, Sonic the Hedgehog is slowly (odd for the speed demon) pushing his way back closer to the Mario-level icon he was in years past.
Of all the things that have changed for the blue speedster over the years, the one thing that’s stayed the same is his look. But it could’ve easily been completely different —because Sonic was originally dreamed up as a plain ol’ human kid. Just a very fast one.
Reportedly, in the third and final volume of John Szczepaniak’s Untold Story of Japanese Game Developers series, Sonic designer Naoto Ohshima said that species was never one of his main concerns in the design process.
“My pitch was that the maps of action games were, at that time, always full of squares, everything at right angles," Ohshima said. “What if we could make a game where a character was running over smooth terrain, running in circles through loops and such?"
"So I presented my proposal to Sega, and they told me that it probably could not be done. But that if anyone could program it, it would be Yuji Naka. They said that if I could get him on board, we could proceed with the project.” As long as he was moving and subverting platforming expectations, who cares what Sonic was?
But that initial spark of inspiration came from an odd place — and with an odd outcome. “I created the first design proposal for Sonic after three years in the design department,” Ohshima said. “Although it wasn’t Sonic then — the main character was a human boy. I remember the idea struck me right as I was going to bed, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t remember it in the morning. So I drew it quickly in the notebook and then fell asleep.”
One small drawing solidified the character’s start as human, but he didn’t stay that way for long. Sonic’s final form came from an internal Sega competition to brand themselves with a mascot.
Sonic the Rabbit was a short-lived solution before they finally settled (somehow) on the hedgehog we know and love. Rabbits seem much faster, but hey, so do people. Honestly, the internet should be thankful that the fan art of its resident shock of blue lightning isn’t any weirder.