Checkpoint: Sonic the Armadillo? Thankfully We Got A Hedgehog Instead
via Polygon - "When Sega and Nintendo battled for dominance in the early days of the 16-bit console era, Naoto Oshima and Hirokazu Yasuhara were tasked with creating a character that could take on Mario. Sonic the Hedgehog was born of a desire to create a cool, company-defining mascot for Sega — an icon that could sell millions of Nintendo fans on the Sega Genesis.
At the time, Sega did not value characters highly in terms of how marketable they could be, Yasuhara said via a translator. Instead the company treated characters as if they should be used and disposed.
That thinking was shifting a bit with the advent of Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis, Yasuhara said, and Sega wanted something that could be representative of the company, something that was iconic and could have a long lifespan.
Sega and the Sonic the Hedgehog development team settled on a hedgehog mascot, in part, because of its form. A hedgehog in a video game could curl up into a ball, roll around and do damage with its spiky covering. But Sega tested other ideas, including an armadillo, porcupine, dog and “an old guy with a mustache” (who eventually became Eggman) while searching for a mascot."
A little bit of my gaming history that you may not be aware of is that I was firmly a Sega Genesis kid. After playing the original Nintendo Entertainment System when I was about three or four, we upgraded to the Sega Genesis. Instead of blowing into NES cartridges to get them to work, we put the whole system on the shelf as Genesis was occupying all of my attention. It’s no shock that a huge reason I was such a Genesis fan is because of how much fun I had with Sonic the Hedgehog.
Reading the history of what went into making one of the most iconic figures in gaming was truly fascinating. From the outside looking in we just saw the final product. A cool, tough character with a bit of a sassy attitude sprinted into our living rooms and made such a lasting impact that he’s still revered decades later. Never would I have thought that at one time they thought “maybe we make him an armadillo?” Could you imagine a world with Arnold the Armadillo being the mascot for Sega? Me either. I’m guessing they would have faltered long before the Dreamcast ever had a chance had they made the wrong choice regarding Sonic. The work they put in is no different than any other market research that occurs daily. However, the fact that Sonic is such a legend in video games adds so much more weight to all the smaller choices they had to make along the way.
As a kid, and even now as an adult, I still prefer Sonic over the likes of Nintendo characters such as Mario and Link. Flying through levels at high speeds was far more interesting to four year old Steve than hopping around through pipes. I still proudly own a Sonic stuffed animal which I refuse to let my dog play with since I fear she’ll tear him to pieces. Spending hours rescuing rabbits and other small furry creatures from the evil Eggman were some of my earliest and fondest gaming memories. I loved this opportunity to read about the work that went into the creation of an iconic character and a personal favorite of mine. This story highlights the importance of those “minor” decisions that can go a long way into shaping how a company is received and how a legendary character is formed. Thanks for the countless memories, Sonic. Oh and by the way… Tails sucks.