With the reveal of Sonic Mania and Project Sonic 2017 on Sonic’s 25th anniversary, it’s worth looking at Sonic’s past and how things could’ve been if they’ve gone differently.
Most people know of the original trilogy games that introduced Sonic the Hedgehog to the world and paved the way for his path to gaming stardom. Dubbed the Classic Sonic trilogy by fans, Sonic 1, 2, and 3 (& Knuckles) were originally released on the Sega Genesis and established the Sonic formula of collecting rings, defeating an evil scientist, saving animals trapped inside robots, and collecting chaos emeralds.
The first game in the series, created by Yuji Naka (lead programmer) and Naoto Ohshima (Character designer), was the result of Sega’s desire to create a new mascot to rival Nintendo’s Mario. The success of Sonic 1 convinced Sega to create two more numbered sequels. After creating Sonic 1, Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima were both tasked with creating a follow up Sonic game, Yuji Naka deciding to travel to America to work on Sonic 2 with Sega of America while Naoto Ohshima deciding to stay with Sega of Japan and work on Sonic CD.
Following the successful release of Sonic 2, Yuji Naka and his team in America would go on to produce Sonic 3 while Naoto Ohshima would create Knuckles Chaotix with his team. As you may have already noticed, once Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima split apart, they went on to create their own Sonic trilogies with Yuji’s trilogy being given the spotlight. All of the games in the Yuji trilogy follow the tried and true Sonic formula, focusing more on fine tuning the gameplay in each title, while Naoto’s games tried keeping the world of Sonic from becoming repetitive and stale by mixing things up each game.
Sonic CD mixed things up by introducing time travel, replacing animals with flowers, and replacing chaos emeralds with time stones. Knuckles Chaotix kept things fresh by introducing the elastic bond connecting two characters, replacing animals with dark rings, and replacing chaos emeralds with chaos rings. It’s clear that Naoto had a different idea of what a Sonic game is and it makes one wonder what Sonic would be like now if Sonic CD and Knuckles Chaotix were named Sonic 2 and 3 instead.
Eventually, both Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima would end up leaving Sega to start their own game development studios with the future of Sonic being left to the remaining members of the Sonic Team that stayed with Sega. It’s clear that both Yuji and Naoto had an influence on what Sonic would become in the future but its not clear if things would have been have been better or worse if the magnitude of their influences had been reversed.