Sonic the Hedgehog has been a video game staple for quite some time. Ever since his first game debuted on the SEGA Genesis in 1991 the Blue Blur has become SEGA's mascot and renowned fan favorite. Sure his games have left much to be desired as of late but it's hard denying the appeal of a trash talking, fast running blue hedgehog.
In 1993 Sonic actually received two animated series. On one hand we had the longer running Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog which went on for over 60 episodes and lasted until 1996. On the other hand we had plain old Sonic the Hedgehog. What was the difference? Adventures aired during the weekdays in syndication while the latter found its home on Saturday mornings. The tone between both shows was a little different as well with Adventures being noticeably bubblier than Sonic the Hedgehog's slightly darker tone.
When it comes to DVD releases for Sonic's animated series there has been a certain lack of cohesiveness. Sonic X (the anime) and Sonic: The Movie have already been released but the old school series have been nowhere to be found; at least not until now. Sonic the Hedgehog is coming out later this month thanks to Shout! Factory and Adventures is slated for a little ways down the road. With fond memories from both shows I naturally had to jump at the chance to check out this release when Sonic showed up.
I have said it before and I'll say it again; this is a great time to be a DVD collector. There are so many older cartoons sets coming out such as Thundercats, She-Ra, and Dungeons & Dragons. If you grew up in the 80's or early 90's there is something on the market that you undoubtedly watched on Saturday mornings or in the afternoon when you got home from school. The nostalgic value of these sets is generally high since it is the fond memory of these old shows that keeps people coming back to buy them. Unfortunately in the case of Sonic the Hedgehog fond memories are pretty much about as good as it gets.
Sonic the Hedgehog starred Sonic and his woodland buddies who formed a group of Freedom Fighters. Living in the forest with Sonic was Tails, Princess Sally Acorn, Bunnie Rabbot, Antoine D'Coolette, and Rotor. Each week they worked towards the goals of stopping the evil Dr. Robotnik and his mechanized minions, trying to restore their animal friends, and generally saving their own skins. Each plot was formulaic to the point that you could almost predict what was going to happen before it did. Robotnik cooks up a devious plan, Sonic's friends get in trouble, he has to use his speed to save the day, and then everyone lived happily until the next episode.
To say this show joins the illustrious ranks of The Legend of Zelda, Captain N, and Super Mario Brothers cartoons would be no compliment. It's hard to deny that the quality of each of those series is such that only a chosen few will completely enjoy them. Poor animation, weak script writing, low budgets, and fantastically bad voice acting were a common thread that each of those shared. Sadly these flaws can also be found in Sonic the Hedgehog.
It should really be no surprise that the quality of the show is lacking. Statistically speaking any show derived from another medium with the sole purpose of being a marketing tool is going to fail. Well, I should say that it's going to fail to do anything other than sell toys. Back in the day Sonic the Hedgehog was worthy a few giggles if you were a fan of the game franchise but I can't say that it won over a new audience. The series remained pretty steadfast about whom its target audience was and it's safe to say that 14 years hasn't changed that fact.
That doesn't mean the show is a total failure though. Out of the 26 episodes that make up the complete series there were quite a few that were actually enjoyable. For instance, I got a kick out of "Ultra Sonic" where Sonic finds his now robotic Uncle Chuck. "Blast to the Past Parts 1 & 2" and "Doomsday Project" stood out alongside "Ultra Sonic" as the crème of the crop though there were a few episodes here and there that entertained on some level (even if it was low).
In the end your appreciation of Sonic the Hedgehog is going to rest solely on your familiarity with the character and ability to withstand poor quality cartoons. This series was mildly amusing back in the day but it has not withstood the test of time well. I suppose in that regard it does indeed stand shoulder to shoulder with other video game cartoons from the same era. This is a title that should be rented if you have interest and don't already know what you're getting yourself into.
Like many other shows from this time period Sonic the Hedgehog displays its age with just about every frame. The 1.33:1 full frame image doesn't look quite as bad as the transfers for The Legend of Zelda or Captain N but I'd be hard-pressed to say that it looks "good". The picture has a slightly washed out appearance and is not as vibrant as you'd expect. Grain, softness, and dirt are other flaws that you'll encounter while watching the program. By the standards of the genre and time period that this series was released the grades for Sonic the Hedgehog are passable, but only minimally so. Come to this release not expecting to see a clean up job by Shout! Factory and you won't be disappointed.
Similar to the video quality, the audio for Sonic the Hedgehog is relatively unmoving and aged. The lackluster English 2.0 stereo presentation presents sound quality on par with, if not a little lower than, what you'd expect. There is no directionality between channels and the overall audio feels kind of deadpanned. I didn't encounter any technical flaws with the sound transfer but there was nothing that really brought Sonic to life either.
Surprisingly enough there is actually a decent amount of bonus content to be found on this collection. The first disc features some storyboards for an opening sequence that was never produced and a copy of the script for the pilot episode "Heads or Tails". Meatier content is included on the second disc in the form of an interview with Jaleel White (Sonic). He talks about what it was like working on the show and how he perceives being a voice actor. White seemed genuinely interested during the conversation and though he doesn't add a ton of insight to the behind the scenes aspect of the show fans will appreciate this segment.
The only thing that you're going to find on the third disc is a gallery of original DiC conceptual artwork. The final disc, however, includes another interview-like conversation with writer Ben Hurst. His feature is a little more involve with what was going on behind the scenes and he talks at length about his experiences with writing for the show. The rest of the content on the fourth disc include a storyboard to screen bit for the "Doomsday Project" and a collection of deleted scenes. These scenes are featured as storyboard images wedged between animations from the episodes that they would have appeared in.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun, energetic character that has lasting appeal as a video game mascot. Unfortunately the same terms of endearment can not be said about his animated shows. Sonic the Hedgehog is yet another low quality cartoon that was churned out during the early 90's and was intended to be little more than an extension of the video games. Not all of the 26 episodes featured in this collection are horrendous but the good are definitely overshadowed by the bad. In my books this show ranked as one of the better of the Nintendo/SEGA cartoons, which is truly a sad statement.
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