We’ve brought the latest and greatest lie detectors in preparation for this…that being us.
With over 24 years of history in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, there’s a lot of information to know and remember, often very curious and interesting. But sometimes, misinformation slips through the cracks. They can spread all over the internet, and eventually be accepted as fact. Today, I aim to expose ten of these facts as the falsities they are so you can be aware if you ever see them.
Mighty the Armadillo predates Sonic 1
Let’s get this out of the way now; Mighty the Armadillo has only existed since SegaSonic Arcade, in 1993. So how did Mighty get associated with the very fabric of the franchise mascot process? This one actually has a grain of truth to it. During the development process of a character to be made to rival Mario, the rolling physics became a big focus point for consideration. Eventually, because of this, the ideas were whittled down to an armadillo and a hedgehog, both known for their ability to curl up into a ball. Over the years, however, this has been distorted a bit to where people claim that the armadillo was Mighty himself, and hence he was an integral part of Sonic’s history. Not so; here’s an excerpt from an interview in “SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: The Collected Works” that Yuji Naka, Sonic 1’s prime programmer, said about the development process;
Because we knew that the game would move quickly, we initially chose a rabbit for the character, and then experimented with further ideas –an armadillo and a hedgehog. Ohshima-san’s hedgehog illustration was very stylish and best represented the speedy qualities we were looking for, so that is what we decided upon.
Riddle me this; if Mighty had existed at this point, wouldn’t he look pretty much alike to Sonic? What would there be to differentiate them in style and embodying speed? The armadillo had to be drastically different and not Mighty.
So if Mighty wasn’t that Armadillo, who was? Well, we may actually have that answer out there already! GameTap’s retrospective on Sonic at one point recreates some of the concept art that was submitted for the development process, and this guy happens to be amongst them;
Now, could Mighty have been based off the pre-Sonic 1 armadillo? If it’s this guy, sure. Ohshima has special thanks in the SegaSonic Arcade credits, and it’s rumoured that Ray the Flying Squirrel is based off Sonic 2 concepts (although I can’t verify that so don’t say it as fact!), so it wouldn’t be out of place, but he’s not from that time himself.
While we’re on the subject of Mighty…
The creator of Mighty and Ray took the rights to them with him when he left the company
This one is often piped up to explain why Mighty and Ray don’t make appear in the franchise any more. This rumour often assumes that said creator was Naoto Ohshima, mentioned above and creator of Sonic himself (who left SEGA after Sonic Adventure, 1998), and often ties in to the idea that Mighty predates Sonic 1. First off, we’ve already shown how Mighty wasn’t from before Sonic 1 so that part doesn’t apply. Secondly, let’s just check who Ohshima did make and show how the implication of him leaving causing Mighty and Ray to be unusable is nonsense. Two of his most famous creations are Sonic and Eggman, so if he took the rights to them it would have had a huge impact on the franchise. But assuming they had special protection for whatever reason, who else is left? Well, he also created Vector the Crocodile and even retooled him for Chaotix (based on credit research), and he’s still around. And who else is pinpointed as an Ohshima creation through the Chaotix credits? Espio the Chameleon, again still around. Essentially, Ohshima did half of the original four considered part of the Chaotix at the time, but Mighty isn’t one of them.
But if he didn’t create Mighty, who did? That’s an easy question to answer. Manabu Kusonoki is a former SEGA-AM3 member who is most credited with the creation of the Bonanza Brothers, but he has a handful of Sonic games to his name as well. His first credit is SegaSonic Arcade, where he’s credited with Design along with three others (and he’s credited first). What seals the deal on Mighty being his is that he also has a credit in Chaotix, with Original Character Concept (which is where the people who came up with the other playable story-involved characters are credited. We know the cameos aren’t credited because Yasushi Yamaguchi isn’t there despite Tails being in the game). His last game for SEGA was, co-incidentally, also Sonic Adventure.
The last part of the puzzle as to why it’s not fact is common sense. If Kusonoki took the rights with him, Mighty and Ray would not be useable by SEGA in any capacity. In the time since 1995, we’ve seen him plenty of times; he’s still a regular in the Archie comics for one, he had artwork featured in Sonic Gems Collection (and Chaotix would have been a playable game there but they had to cut it for emulation issues), he had a cameo in Generations, he still appears in fanart on Sonic Channel (which is staffed by SEGA of Japan personnel) and he was even included on a poll run by them in 2006. SEGA wouldn’t dare any of that if they knew their rights were elsewhere.
So, this has no verification at all and there’s more evidence against than for it. It seems more likely that the reason Mighty and Ray aren’t in the games any more is just because SEGA don’t want to use them.
Vector is named for his ability in Chaotix
This is one I’ve been guilty of a lot. Vector is actually a common word in a lot of different disciplines, and that’s the root of this misinformation. In Chaotix, Vector had a unique ability aside from his wall climbing, where he could basically do an air dash after jumping in eight different directions around a point. Anyone who’s done higher grade maths should know about scalars and vectors, so this ability ties in lovely with his name and seems very logical as the origin of it. Except…
As has been uncovered by Sonic Retro, this is a page from an article released just before Sonic the Hedgehog came out in Japan. And right under the image, the caption has the characters for Vector’s Japanese name on keys. Either Ohshima must have been psychic when predicting the move at least four years before it came into existence, or the name simply originates from elsewhere. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you certain where his name comes in light of this, the jury’s still out on it. If someone could ask Ohshima one day then we may get our answer, but at the very least we know it doesn’t come from his move arsenal.
Nazo was his own separate character before being scrapped
This error is at least pretty well known now, but I hope to bring something new to the table. Back in the days when SEGA weren’t keen on keeping Sonic X dead and buried, it was the talk of the fandom. And when a beta screenshot was revealed with a strange unknown figure, you bet that they latched onto him like leeches. This figure, who came to be known as Nazo due to the original filename, gained even more notoriety when he was made the main focus of a web flash called Nazo Unleashed.
So what do we know about this guy? Not much. The file name which appeared on the Japanese SEGA site, Nazo, is the English interpretation of 謎, which is the Japanese character for mystery. Essentially, even they had no idea what on earth they were looking at. Some have suggested that it may be Hyper Sonic, but this was around a time when the Super Emeralds and Hyper Sonic were pretty clearly not in the canon any more (but I’ll get onto that later). I’d like to offer a bit of conjecture with a lesser recognised theory just so this isn’t a repeat of what you’ve seen before; Nazo in his picture appears to be completely colourless, with the eyes being Sonic’s eye colour. What it seems like to me is that the mystery picture is of a preliminary Super Sonic design that was shown to SEGA before the final colours were inserted, but which got rejected. For one, there’s a shot of Super Sonic that can easily be compared to Nazo in composition and show the similarities and differences between the two designs. For another, Super Sonic isn’t new to alternate eye designs, as shown by his artwork in Sonic Shuffle, predating Sonic X by only three years.
Whether this theory is right or complete bunk, what we do know is that the idea that it’s certain that Nazo was to be his own character and a big player in the series is just not right.
[Post Publish Addendum: It has been brought to our attention by xXCrush40Xx that it has indeed been confirmed that Nazo is Super Sonic! Many thanks to BlueParadox for providing image evidence of a conversation with Iizuka about this, which also clarifies that it was only ever intended for Sonic X and was reserved for just the reveal trailer he was seen in. See sources below for the link.]
The Silver Sonic confusion
Over the years, Dr. Eggman has built quite a number of replicate Sonics to counter the blue blur. In essence, the series and fandom have managed to narrow it down to three lines of robots; Metal Sonic (the famous one who’s a character unto itself), the Mecha Sonic line (which includes Mecha Sonic from Sonic and Knuckles) and the Silver Sonic line (which includes the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 robot at the end of the game in the Game Gear version, although the Archie Comic also gives this label to the Mega Drive version). Then there are oddities like Rocket Metal Sonic from Sonic the Fighters, and the Silver Sonic-like robot that cameo’d in Adventure.
Now, what would you say if I said that every robot up there bar Metal Sonic himself is actually a Mecha Sonic? That’s right, in the Japanese translations all of them are Mecha Sonic. There is no Silver Sonic to them, there’s no Rocket Metal Sonic, there’s just an ocean of Mechas. That said, this isn’t one to pin on fan misinterpretation for all of them; the Game Gear Mecha Sonic was a change made by the Western localisation, and the Sonic the Fighters Mecha Sonic is called RocketMetal in-game. The Silver Sonic to Mega Drive Sonic 2 Mecha Sonic was a fan nickname so that’s more of a myth perpetuation. And the kicker is that Sonic the Fighters hints that the lot we have here is nowhere near an exhaustive list of all the Mecha Sonics.
There’s 28 more models before this one! Even if we were generous and said we’ve seen four models prior (including the Mecha Sonic from Sonic Pocket Adventure in another zone), that leaves 24 models unaccounted for. Wonder if they got the same fate as E-102’s “brothers”…
All the classics are Sonic Team made
Time is a stickler when it comes to remembering who made what. Nowadays we can recall each modern game’s developer with relative ease, going so far as to classify Sonic Team games by which members made the game. But for anything before Adventure, the fact that so many are conglomerated as Sonic Team creations is as much a disservice as saying that Sonic Team developed Sonic Rush would be to someone more versed on the modern works.
Sonic games of the past have just as much a variety of developers as Sonic games of the last 17 years. Even amongst the core branch after Sonic the Hedgehog, the team was split between SEGA Technical Institute (Sonic 2 and Sonic 3) and the team known internally as unit CS1 (Sonic CD and Chaotix), and we’ll revisit STI in the next question. But what about the rest, like the arcade games, or the Game Gear games, or even the SEGA Pico games. Here’s where we get a full breakdown of who did what;
Aspect Co. – A somewhat plain name, but their contribution to the classics shouldn’t be overlooked. They were responsible for the platforming line of Game Gear Sonic games, which include the famous Sonic Triple Trouble and the infamous Sonic Blast. Also included are Master System ports of said games (in Europe. America only got one Master System port), Tails Adventure and Sonic the Hedgehog’s Gameworld for the Pico.
SEGA Technical Institute – Mentioned before, but this was a different STI made up mostly of Western staff (see later for the other STI). They made Sonic Spinball, and were supposed to make Sonic X-Treme before it got hit with numerous problems.
SIMS Co Ltd. – A child company of SEGA up until 2004, the result of a venture between them and Sanritsu Denki Co. They developed Tails Sky Patrol, which was exclusive to Japan before it was collected in compilation games and ported digitally.
SEGA-AM3 – An internal SEGA team that worked on the arcade side of gaming. They made just one Sonic game, the obscure SegaSonic Arcade mentioned before, and Kusonoki would work further with the franchise.
SEGA-AM2 – A different internal SEGA arcade team, they’re known for making Virtua Fighter but also made a different fighter, Fighting Vipers. From the Virtua Fighter engine Sonic the Fighters was made, which featured a scrapped cameo from Fighting Vipers character Candy (in cat form, called by her Japanese name aka Honey). Honey would later cameo in Fighting Vipers’ Saturn port, Bean and Bark would be unlockable in Fighters Megamix and various Sonic characters would cameo throughout the Virtua Striker series.
Traveller’s Tales – A British company who handled Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island (the last Sonic game on the Mega Drive) and Sonic R.
Appaloosa Interactive – Their only involvement with Sonic was for the Pico’s Tails and the Music Maker (they were involved with a number of Pico games), but one of their other credits would be the Ecco the Dolphin series. They are responsible for dolphins fighting aliens as well as educating kids on music.
Compile – Developed the Puyo Puyo series which is still popular in Japan. It was reskinned and sold in Western territories initially as Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.
So from that list alone, it’s easy to see that a lot of companies were involved with Sonic’s classic history for good or for bad. It’s true that the only ones acknowledged nowadays are ones made by the old STI and CS1 teams, so you can keep that fact as an actual truth.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 were Western made
Here’s one where the confusion stems from not knowing how things were worked back in the day, and it all fall downs to technical classification. As seen above, Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 were credited as being made by SEGA Technical Institute, who operated in America, while Sonic CD and Chaotix were developed in Japan (whether Sonic Team or not). It’s easy to presume, therefore, that Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 were mostly Western developed, which is why SEGA of America tends to get more repute where this error is taken as fact.
The truth is that those games were almost as Japanese as the ones made by the team actually operating in Japan. That’s not to say that there weren’t any Westerners with them, but here’s the origin of the American team as explained by producer Shinobu Toyoda [SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: The Collected Works];
Mark Cerny and I met Naka and suggested he come to work for SEGA of America. He had two issues with Japan. One was the compensation structure, as in those days Japanese developers were really not paid well, and he was fed up with that lack of respect. Another frustration was that Japanese publishers did not publicise developers’ names, because they were afraid other companies would steal good people. So developers were not credited. I told Naka that we would pay him well in America, and put his names in interviews and books and whatever else to publicise his work. And of course, behind the scenes, I collaborated with SEGA of Japan management, who told me to tell Naka that we would create a team in America, called Sonic Team, and he could take any ten people he wanted. So I set up a studio in Palo Alto [California], and put Naka and his selected folks in that office.
So the majority of the team, and more importantly all of the core, making Sonic 2 was very much Japanese, with a handful of Western personnel dotted about in less fundamental roles (including Craig Stitt as a zone artist, who went on to join Insomniac for a decade). Sonic 3 stayed much the same, with new personnel being brought over from Japan (three additions being Knuckles creator Takashi “Thomas” Yuda, famous SEGA composer Jun Senoue and current head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka). In the end, the credit that SEGA of America can lay to these legendary games is “they paid the staff better and gave them more publicity”, they weren’t really instrumental to crafting the experiences.
There is one notable exception to this; for Sonic 3, outside composers were called in to compose the soundtrack. The famous part of that is that Michael Jackson himself may have been called up to do it, but we do know that Brad Buxer of the Jetzons was called in as he’s listed in the credits as one of the composers. Ironically, this is the part that’s gotten SEGA in a bit of hot water, as now there’s a case going on that’s supposedly involving the royalties for the music, and it’s likely why Sonic 3 struggles to get re-releases nowadays.
Well, at least SEGA Technical Institute genuinely has one American-made game to its name that wasn’t made by that Sonic Team. To be honest though, I wouldn’t call Sonic Spinball anything to be proud of.
Espio’s favourite food is apples
I’ve got to be frank; I have no idea where this popular ‘fact’ came from; perhaps some notable fanwork used it and it latched on with the masses, or maybe someone made an edit to a wiki one day and everyone took it hook, line and sinker.
Let’s make this short and sweet; there is zero official material to support this claim. On Sonic Channel, Espio’s likes are listed as training and self-discipline, which makes sense given his try hard ninja persona. You might think that it would therefore come from one of the old Chaotix game profiles that would be considered non-canon nowadays but fans still keep remnants of anyway. As it turns out, no; he doesn’t have a like in the American version of the manual, and the Japanese one has his like as camping. That’s not apples. And what about the Sonic X interim profiles that came up in the Japanese airing of the show? Even if they would still be non-canon to the games, it’d be an origin. Well, only Charmy got an individual one of those, and the Chaotix got two as a whole later, but the reptiles didn’t get an individual one to themselves, so they can’t have said it there.
It’s strange because most popular facts start from a logical origin, but this just seems to have popped out of nowhere. The truth is that we don’t know what Espio’s favourite food is, he hasn’t expressed any sort of interest in it. If you want a fact that people overlook though, here’s food for thought; in the Japanese version of Chaotix, it’s stated that Espio was a private detective who was interested in learning about the civilisation of legend alluded to in Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Sonic and Knuckles. And through finding that Angel Island was linked to it, he was envious of Knuckles (presumably because of Knuckles being part of that legend, essentially). It’s almost a shame that the fans decided to portray Knuckles saving Espio to take it as them being close friends when it sounds like it was more of a Zenigata thing from Espio.
Sonic’s name is Olgilvie Maurice Hedgehog
Oh Archie, how you can be so aggravating sometimes. In Sonic the Hedgehog #53, when Sonic’s father in that continuity comes across Sonic, we find out that Sonic has a normal middle name, and one that he hates at that. As added by later comic material, this is a name taken from his grandfather. Said father tries to let slip his first name too, but Sonic stops him before he can. In plans revealed for the comic run before Ian ended up replacing writing duties, Ken Penders disclosed that his first name was going to be revealed as Olgilvie, but this never happened within the comic pages.
It shouldn’t surprise you, therefore, to find out that precisely none of this is true in the games. We don’t know anything about Sonic’s family, and the name can simply be assumed to be what he’s always had since the start, Sonic. Further than that, it stopped being true in the comic a long time ago. It was said in 2009 by current writer Ian Flynn that Sonic legally changed his name to Sonic, making the Maurice name an artefact, and this was confirmed in print in the 2011 Free Comic Book Day issue. Further still, the continuity reboot rendered that name completely non-canon as he’s always been called Sonic in the new reality. The moral of the story is to call a spade a spade, otherwise it’s going to be a strange blight for years to come.
The Super Emeralds are still a thing (and extensions of it therein)
Ah yes, we’re back to Sonic 3 for this one. This one has a more solid root than most mistruths because it’s from actual game content, so let’s take it right from the top. When it came to releasing Sonic 3, STI found that what they’d finished making was proving too big to be on a single standard cartridge, and the SVP chip that could wouldn’t be ready in time for release. So they had to cut the game in half and release Sonic 3 early in 1994, and with a bit of programming cleverness devise the lock-on technology that allowed Sonic and Knuckles, released later that year, to join with it again. But at $120 for the full experience, it would need some bells and whistles to justify why the price point was so high. Naka had the idea to make Sonic and Knuckles work with Sonic 2 and other cartridges, giving you even more content beyond Sonic 3 (Sonic 2 would be Knuckles in Sonic 2, every other cartridge would bring up Blue Spheres). But they decided to do extra work for Sonic 3’s lock on bonuses. As it stood, you would have double the special stages but the same requirements for Super Sonic (who was story-relevant) and Super Knuckles (who was just a bonus), which would leave players without much extra incentive after that point. So as a bit of extra programming, they added in the Super Emeralds, upgraded versions of the Chaos Emeralds only available if you had Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles locked on together. This granted extra play time, extra cutscenes showing the Emeralds being upgraded and three new forms; Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles and Super Tails, the former two being even more powerful than the super forms and the lattermost bringing a Flicky army of death.
Skip to 1998 with Sonic Adventure, the first main game with Super Sonic in it since back then. This game changed the way the Chaos Emeralds and Super Sonic were. Now a consistent shape (not size, as future games would show), the Chaos Emeralds were said to contain infinite power when used together. Super Sonic was a lot more powerful than he had been in the 2D games, which makes sense since he was no longer restricted to a 2D plane and needed that extra oomph for the extra dimension. This does raise some issues with the past content though;
- If the Chaos Emeralds already have infinite power, what good would an upgrade to them do?
- If Super Sonic was so powerful, wouldn’t that make Hyper Sonic redundant?
A clue to the fate of the extra forms came about in Sonic Heroes. At the end of the game, Neo Metal Sonic became Metal Overlord, and team Sonic went super to fight back against him. Except not quite – Sonic went super, but he just loaned out super energy bubbles to Tails and Knuckles so they could join in. This would make sense for Tails as he needed Super Emeralds, but Knuckles, going by Sonic 3 and Knuckles, should have gone full super just fine. Further compounding this was Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), where energy was once again shared with two other characters (Shadow and Silver this time), but they became Super Shadow and Super Silver. Finally, in a Q & A session at the Sonic Boom event in 2013, Iizuka confirmed that the Super Emeralds were strictly out of the continuity (Super Tails was confirmed gone earlier than that). As he explained, they were simply added as more bonus content for locking the two games together, not something that was to be considered within the story itself. [Post Publish Correction – As was pointed out by Mr. Druid, considering them separately would entirely ruin the narrative of the Death Egg transition from the Sonic 3 ending to the Sonic and Knuckles intro. Just throw out the super stuff beyond Super Sonic and the Chaos Emeralds and call it a day.]
As for Super Knuckles, who was part of the standard gameplay? As I said before, that wasn’t involved in the plot while Super Sonic was, so it could be considered a bonus for the Sonic and Knuckles players who picked Knuckles since he was the new kid on the block at the time. Especially since other staff and those who have worked with SEGA have come out and verified that going super is reserved for male hedgehogs only unless you’re called Blaze the Cat and have a different set of Emeralds. So now, despite being Master Emerald guardian, he has no ability to use the Chaos Emeralds. Better luck next time, Knuckles.
Sonic is owned by Nintendo
There’s probably numerous more pieces of misinformation out on the spindles of the internet. Sonic’s had a long history with numerous stories about game production, world elements, characters and even the inner workings of the company’s functions. On top of that, the truth can turn out stranger than fiction, so the accumulation of these wrong (and sometimes weird) statements is inevitable. At least now you should be guarded against the ones listed above, but keep your wits about you with other unverified pieces of information, and don’t be afraid to ask if you want a check.
Sources: Interview quotations, Sonic 3 development and early Sonic Team history; SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: The Collected Works, Read-Only Memory
Conversation with Iizuka about Nazo from BlueParadox, Facebook [screenshot]
Official character bio information: Sonic Channel
Sonic X eyecatch card image list; Sonic News Network
Comic name information; Mobius Encyclopedia (StH#53, FCBD 2011 via Sonic’s character article) in lieu of not linking to the issues themselves, Ask Ian for FEB’09 – Novelty Answer Month – Finis~, Bumbleking
Super Emerald information; Sonic Boom 2013 – Part 2/3 – Q&A Session (19:38)
SEGA Bible info; GeneHF on Sonic Runners announced (Sonic Team/Mobile), Sonic Retro
Super Tails information from Summer of Sonic 2012 (no video available, confirmation of question asked on SEGA Forums)
All images belong to their respective owners.
Prototype Armadillo image from Sonic the Hedgehog GameTap Retrospective Pt. 1/4 (2:12)
Magazine Scan from JumpingRyle in New Sonic 1 Alpha Screens Discovered, Sonic Retro Forums.
Manabu Kusonoki image from [Terra Battle Download Starter]500,000 Downloads Message from Manabu Kusunoki