Sonic Stories: Barry the Nomad

In celebration of Sonic’s 20th anniversary, SEGAbits proudly presents a limited feature highlighting SEGAbits stories from writers and readers of how they got into the franchise and their history with Sonic. Want to share your Sonic story? Check out the dedicated topic in the SEGAbits forum.

Welcome to the first entry of Sonic Stories! I’m one of those fans who was introduced to SEGA by way of Sonic the Hedgehog. Specifically the 1991 original classic. As such, despite now being a fan of many different SEGA franchises, it always comes back to Sonic the Hedgehog. To kick off this series, I wanted to share how I got into the franchise, my favorite moments as a fan as well as open up the article series to other SEGAbits readers and writers.

In that photo above is my beloved original SEGA Genesis. I went into greater detail of this memory in a SEGAbits round table, so the short version is this: Christmas 1991 I received a SEGA Genesis bundled with Sonic the Hedgehog, thus introducing me to video games and the Sonic franchise. While I had played the occasional NES game at a friend’s house, and loved the pizza arcade Chuck E. Cheese, having a video game system all to myself was a brand new experience.

I can’t remember why my parents chose the Genesis, as I have no memory of anticipating it or even asking for it, however I’d assume it was because I had a particular interest in characters like Sonic at the time and the fact that it was a special holiday bundle made it an affordable option. Prior to receiving the system, I did enjoy drawing anthropomorphic animals like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and my own comic book creations Crocodile Man and Monkey Man (original names, right?).

As Sonic the Hedgehog was the only game I owned throughout December ’91 and January ’92, 100% of my gaming time was spent playing Sonic. I believe what I loved about Sonic, aside from the speedy graphics and music, was how forgiving the game was with damage. Before Sonic, the only platformer I knew of was Super Mario Bros. While nowadays I am quite good at the NES Mario titles, back then I found the way Mario took and inflicted damage to be frustrating. Why was it that every inch of an enemy was deadly, while I (as Mario) only caused damage if I bopped on their head? What more, when I was little Mario, one hit meant instant death with no checkpoints! Thankfully, Sonic had neither of these issues. Allowing me to explore the stages knowing that I could attack via a number of methods and should I get hurt, as long as I had rings I was safe.

In November 1992 I received Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as an eighth birthday present. By this point, I was well versed in Sonic gameplay and had expanded my Genesis collection with a number of the awesome Disney Interactive titles as well as Ghostbusters. I also began to become aware of SEGA as a company and began to figure out what was a SEGA developed game and what was a third party title. I also began to purchase strategy guides and started to read up on upcoming games via the occasional magazine. From then on out, my experiences with the Genesis Sonic titles were the same. I’d anticipate the game, I’d get the game, I’d love the game. This continued up until the end of 1994 with the release of Sonic & Knuckles.

Sonic the Hedgehog wasn’t only a central to my video gaming, but the franchise also made the leap to comics and cartoons, and I went right along with it. In May 1993, Archie Comics began an ongoing series of Sonic the Hedgehog comics based on the games as well as the two soon to be released cartoons. I encountered the first issue at a truck stop while on a summer road trip. I recall very little of the vacation now, but I still remember the moment I spotted “Sonic the Hedgehog Issue #1” on the rack, and remember reading and rereading the issue in the back of my parent’s car. I treasured the issue so much, that for the remainder of the trip I stuck it between the pages of a heavy road map book so that it would not be ruined.

After my discovery of the comic book, I learned that there had been a mini-series that preceded the main series, so I ordered every back issue and began a regular subscription. From 1993 though 2001 I was a regular subscriber to the series. While I was never a fan of the SatAM Freedom Fighters, the consistently great covers drawn by Patrick Spaziante and the occasional game adaptation kept me interested. As 1994 neared, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog premiered and I found myself waking up every morning at 6am to catch the latest episode, often having to tape the episode as the end of the show was dangerously close to my bus arrival time. By the age of nine I knew how to program a VCR, set the auto record function and began cataloging tapes.

Between 1995 and 1999 my Sonic fandom was turned down to a simmer. The lack of any main series titles, the introduction of new SEGA systems that were out of my price range and the fact that I was entering my teenage years were just a few of the reasons. I mean, I still enjoyed Sonic, but between a cartoon hedgehog and that girl in my English class, I was going to go for the latter.

Of course, all that changed when the Dreamcast launched in 1999. Do I really need to go into it? Every SEGA fan knows the story. The Dreamcast was awesome, it had a brand new 3D Sonic game and everybody (even the too cool for school teenagers) had to have one. The Dreamcast came to be the second video game system that I received as a Christmas present, and  just like the Genesis, I received the system along with a Sonic game (although this time it was not a bundle). I have to say, Christmas 1991 and Christmas 1999 were very similar. The months that followed were almost entirely devoted to playing the new Sonic title, and I even began to go back and play my old Genesis games again. By 2000 I had a whole SEGA setup in my room, with my Genesis, SEGA CD, Saturn (bought used in 1998) and Dreamcast lined up and ready to play.

While my interest in the Dreamcast and SEGA as a whole grew, my interest in the Archie Sonic comics waned. What did I care about the ongoing stories of a cartoon canceled in the mid 90’s when I had brand new Sonic games complete with their own stories? Following the adaptation of Sonic Adventure, I let my comic subscription run out, fittingly ending with the issue containing a half-assed mini adaptation of Sonic Adventure 2.

1999, 2000 and 2001 were perhaps my last great days with the franchise until 2010. The lead up to Sonic Adventure 2 was unlike anything I’ve experienced since. Thanks to the internet, stories cropped up weekly, offering up new screens, videos and previews. The Official Dreamcast Magazine featured some fantastic sneak peaks, and Phantasy Star Online, a game which I was hotly anticipating, had a demo of Sonic Adventure 2. I’ll admit, I played the Sonic Adventure 2 trail for a good hour before starting up Phantasy Star Online. When the sequel finally released, I rushed over to Electronics Boutique to pick up my pre-order copy along with the 10th Anniversary box. Just like 1999, I had a blast playing the game and really appreciated all the improvements they made. Adventure fields, Amy and Big were fun in 1999, but I was glad they were dropped in the sequel.

SEGA’s announcement of leaving the hardware market came at around the time that I was beginning to plan for college, so while unfortunate at the time, in hindsight it was probably best that I didn’t have Dreamcast games to following me into 2003. My video gaming time dwindled, despite the fact that I purchased a PS2 and XBOX in 2003. I went off to college to become a graphic designer and brought my Dreamcast, PS2, XBOX and a portfolio of games along with me. Between 2003 and 2008 I mostly played the games that I had purchased in the early 2000’s, occasionaly renting or buying a new release. I recall buying Sonic Heroes for the XBOX on release day, though after playing through Team Sonic’s story I found the game to be nothing like what I had experienced with the 3D Sonic titles on the Dreamcast. Sonic Heroes was quite forgettable.

I also remember watching leaked video of Sonic ’06 in 2005, and being impressed. But by the time the game released, and reviews came in, I knew I made the right choice to ignore it and the next gen systems. Remember, by this point I was a poor student. No way did I have $300+ to spend! In 2007 I graduated, moved to Philadelphia with my then girlfriend now fiancee and began to make a living.

As I started to work my ass off, I realized that I was actually MAKING money! For the first time since high school I could buy the occasional game and not feel like I had to sacrifice food for a week. In 2008, Sonic Unleashed released, and to my delight there was a PS2 version! While I had yet to make the jump to the HD consoles, at the very least I could get a taste of a new Sonic title. Overall, I enjoyed the game. I knew it was a stripped down Wii port, and that it paled in comparison to the Dreamcast titles (and was nothing compared to the Genesis classics), but it was fun to be in the loop once again.

In 2009, me and the girlfriend joined my parents on a cruise, and during one lucky day at sea I hit the jackpot on a slot machine and raked in over $400. What more, that afternoon I placed 3rd in a poker tournament and made an additional $150. Upon returning home, and after taking the lady out for the requisite celebratory dinner, I headed to GameStop and picked up a refurbished XBOX 360 and a pile of SEGA games. I remember they had a buy two get one free sale going on, so I picked up Unleashed, Superstars Tennis and got ’06 for free (I knew it was shit, but I just had to give it a try). Since that day, I’ve been pretty much back into the Sonic scene. I still ignore the Archie Sonic comics, though the upcoming Genesis saga might sway me to buy six issues. I’ve also fallen into collecting the recent retro releases of Genesis era Sonic figures, produced by the awesome First 4 Figures.

Looking back on my history with the franchise, I’ve found that I was probably exactly the person SEGA had in mind when Sonic launched. I was at just the right age for just about every release, both in games and in other media. When the Dreamcast hit, I was working the summer jobs, making just enough money for a few games a month and my SegaNet subscription. Luckily for me, and unfortunately for SEGA’s revenue, I dropped out of the Sonic scene just as the series headed south and returned just as things started to pick up.

2010 really was a great time to return to the franchise, with Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, Sonic 4 Episode 1, Sonic Colors and (yes, even) Sonic Free Riders all releasing. Considering the games the series had between 2003 and 2009, I consider 2010 to be a major improvement. What are my hopes for 2011 and the 20th Anniversary? An increase in quality and an emphasis on improving what works rather than reinventing. Good 2D and 3D Sonic games have been done, and there is no reason more quality titles can’t come. Unless, of course, 2011 brings us “Silver the Werehog: The Soleanna Heroes Chronicles”. I kid, I kid.

Happy 20th, Sonic!

Barry, known on the internet as “Barry the Nomad” is a writer and moderator here at SEGAbits, as well as the propritor of The Nomad Junkyard (hense “the Nomad”) and writer at the Dreamcast and Saturn Junkyards and SEGA Memories.


6 responses to “Sonic Stories: Barry the Nomad

  1. cube_b3 says:

    Loved your Sonic biography.

    I really liked the prequel to SA2 comic, it was one of the only 2 issues I ever bought.

    I may very well still have it will read through it again, but back in the day it made Sonic Adventure 2 10 times more meaningful. I also had an SA2 poster, which fleshed the game out with character details.

    So how was Sonic 06 given you went in with no expectations, surely you couldn't be too disappointed?

  2. The SA2 story did have art by Patrick Spaziante, so it was awesome to look at. Though it was very very odd in the context of the Archie Comic. Basically it just appeared, completely out of the Archie continuity, and then ended with "what comes next? play the game!". Reading month to month, it was an awkward adaptation (more like an extended advert), but as a stand alone story it was very good.

    By the time I played '06, Unleashed was out and was 2 years old, so I at least knew that Sonic Team was capable of a much better game. Plus, Colors was being hinted at, so I knew even more so that the series was moving upward.

    I don't know, since I had watched a full playthrough of '06 before playing, I knew exactly what to expect (load times, bugs, glitches, confusing story) but when I picked it up I had hoped that my playthrough would at least be a bit more enjoyable. Unfortunately, it didn't go well but then again it really didn't hurt my perception of the series as I knew where it was headed. Sorta like I traveled through time just like Sonic did in the game, lol. So yeah, personally '06 had very little effect on me, though I completely understand why so many were disappointed with it.

  3. Essay says:

    In many ways, your Sonic fandom mimics my own. Good read there, Barry.

  4. cube_b3 says:

    So what is the best 3D Sonic game you've played?

    I haven't played Heroes yet, but would love to. So for now my favorite is Adventure 2 cause it was technically a huge leap over the original Adventure.

    Oh btw:

    The game that came out, was not the fully realized version of the demo that was shown by Naka at TGS 05.

    But I still prefer it any day over colors or unleashed (especially the Wii/PS2 versions).

  5. Probably Sonic Adventure 2, as it was an all around improved experience over SA1. First playthrough was great fun, and the second time I played through I simply pressed start and skipped through the cutscenes. It was far better to play action stage after action stage than having to do the boring "fetch the ____ stone" missions.

    However, I prefer Sonic's action stages in SA1 to his in SA2. If only Sonic Team implemented a "play all in order" option for the action stages. I'm actually surprised they didn't, as it was possible to do a boss run.

  6. cube_b3 says:

    Well you could play through most of them in the 2 player mode. But yeah a Time Attack or something linking all stages would've been nice.

    I also enjoyed the Mech Tails/Robotnik stages although it was less pleasurable to aim at all enemies before firing. I enjoyed rapid shooting a whole lot more than targeting 10 different enemies.

    So what do you think of the TGS 2005 demonstration after playing 06; doesn't it suggest a much better experience than what we got?

    06 has that buried deep in the bugs and stupid ideas. So if you have time to kill and patience, you can have a real blast exploring the massive levels of 06 and that's what makes it the Best Sonic game on current gen hardware.

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