A few years back, a wineglass emblazoned with the Sonic 10th Anniversary emblem cropped up for sale on eBay. While most seasoned merch-hogs were aware of the trinity of 10th anniversary items that had been offered by the Sonic Factory in 2001 (the statue, the crystal cube and the pewter ring), this was the first time most had seen this item; its authenticity and origin (along with that of the 10th anniversary lighter) has been much debated amongst Sonic collectors.
Luckily, one fan account reveals the origin of these items, and details the happenings of the “Sonic 10th Anniversary Birthday Party in Japan” which took place a day after Sonic’s 10th birthday on the 24th of June, 2001.
More than 100 Sonic the Hedgehog fans were invited to an event that took place in Osaka, following several other events that had taken place across Japan in “national pilgrimage”. Both Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Naka (still the head of Sonic Team at that point) attended the event, with Iizuka-san returning from the US especially for the event.
In true birthday tradition, a cake with the 10th anniversary logo had been prepared (Naka-san had wanted to eat birthday cake to celebrate the occasion properly!), after which a toast took place. The toast was made with specially prepared wine glasses (yup, you guessed it!) that had been made for the event, and were placed around the tables in the hall; guests were then told that they could keep the wine glasses as a memento of the day, and which they could get signed by Sonic Team members. Sonic was then presented birthday gifts on stage by the children attending the party, which included a picture book full of drawings by the youngsters.
Iizuka-san took to the stage to talk about his history and the production of Sonic Adventure, and the history of Sonic team. Iizuka had begun working at Sonic Team after college as part of a team of five. The initial desire was to make a racing game, however at that time the demand was to build a game that would not lose to Mario. Iizuka spoke of his respect for Miyamoto’s genius, and they did not want to make a copy of the game; instead, they wanted a game that would involve high speed.
Iizuka-san explained he had received mail from all around the world asking for explanations of the missing zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the “Hidden Palace zone” of which the theme to the zone remained in the game. According to Iizuka-san, the development ROM had included this stage which was playable level at exhibitions, however it was decided that it was to be cut from the final version as a copy of the ROM was stolen. There was also desire for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 to have been a 3D game, however the limitations of the Megadrive, and the requirement to put a 3D chip in the cartridge meant that this idea was scrapped. The launch date however was never moved, and thus to meet the deadline Sonic 3 was split into two parts; from this Knuckles was born, as well as the concept of the lock-on cartridge.
Discussion moved to the origin of the characters, with Iizuka-san elaborating on the previous ideas for the characters of the Sonic the Hedgehog universe; he revealing that Sonic was initially intended to be a rabbit, the original idea for Tails had been a Raccoon, and that Knuckles was at one stage in development, a dinosaur!
The question of whether development Sonic Adventure 3 was also proposed to Iizuka – amusingly, Iizuka-san cringed at the question (something that to this day hasn’t changed!). Iizuka responded that he did not know at that time as they had just finished the second installment.
As well as the revelation the racing segments in SA2 had initially been intended as an online element of the game, Iizuka-san also hinted that those hardy enough to collect all 180 emblems in SA2 would be rewarded with something that was “pretty awesome” because of its nostalgic value (said reward being 3D Green Hill Zone!).
Interestingly enough, the report also tells of Iizuka-san’s dream to continue working on Sonic until he is 50 years old (it’s unclear as to whether that means himself or Sonic!), and then open a “Sonic Land” similar to Disneyland, where he would be president.
The Sonic Stadium would like to credit and thank Funatsu Minoru, the author of the report and the photographs.