Then...and NOW! - Sonic the Hedgehog
When a single show, group, or even character reach a particular level of popularity that it starts to transcend any one kind of media and consciousness, you get something far bigger. Not merely a cartoon, a video game or a 'property', what spawns from it is a franchise and a craze.
But like everything in life, even the biggest of stars go through some rough times, and few know this better than Sonic the Hedgehog!
Most of us should already know the story - in an attempt to topple the then-domineering video game giant, Nintendo, SEGA needed a brand new game and mascot to go with their newly released MegaDrive 16-bit console.
Led by a team comprising of programmer Yuji Naka, designer Naoto Ohshima and game planner Hirokazu Yasuhara, the first Sonic the Hedgehog game was released in 1991 to great critical and commercial acclaim.
There's an evil mad scientist named Dr. Robotnik (or Dr. Eggman in Japan) who's capturing animals, turning them into robots and using them for his evil schemes. You're a super-fast blue hedgehog with an attitude. Race through tracks, stomp him flat, save the day. Rinse and repeat.
The more things change - Sonic's stories have evolved quite a bit since the 16-bit days, with themes of self-identity, belonging, and even uniting with one's enemies for a common good, having been touched upon in the various media.
Things stay the same - Yet, the basic flow has never veered too far from the light-speed path - people are in trouble, and it's up to Sonic to save the day. Frankly, that's how the fans like it!
These aren't your typical Precious Memories fluffy animals - these critters have personalities, and a certain edginess that helped Sonic differentiate himself from rival, Mario, especially in the early years.
The more things change - More and more characters have been added to the list; whether in the form of sidekicks, friendly rivals, anti-heroes and even love interests; the cast of Sonic's world keeps on growing!
Things stay the same - Despite the numerous additions, it's undeniable that Sonic still solidly remains as the face of his franchise, but of SEGA as a whole. Just mention 'SEGA' to any gamer worth his or her salt, and Sonic is bound to be the first thing to pop into mind!
Since his 1991 debut, Sonic's more than made his mark.
The more things change - Sonic has spawned more than his fair share of merchandise - dozens of video game titles, 2 American cartoon shows, dozens of commercial tie-in products, comics, and an anime, Sonic X... just to name a few!!
While Sonic ran into some huge road bumps in his long career; with some near-fatal mistakes being an abysmal 2006 Xbox 360/PS3 game and SEGA's own downsizing due to the heated console-competition; he's managed to weather the strongest of storms and continues to be popular today!
Things stay the same - While he might be jumping about from one competitor's console to another and showing up in just about any place ever (like Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph!), one thing's not changed: Sonic is still turned to by any gamer looking for an awesome way to have some blazingly-fast fun!
He might have had it rough, but Sonic has been treated well in recent years, and looks set for brighter days ahead. So here's to Sonic – and may he continue to zip into our hearts for many more years to come!