Fans of any franchise want to link together all the media available for that IP, slotting each entry into one coherent timeline. Whether it is fitting the pieces together for Kingdom Hearts, deciphering how Kojima’s stories connect, or pushing for Nintendo to release an official Zelda timeline, it’s hard to accept when something doesn’t work in the theory — or lies just outside of the canon. As humans, we want to make things fit into what we like.
Sonic the Hedgehog is (way past) cool, has an attitude, and runs fast, but how far can that take him without a bit more substance?
Sonic started strong in the original series, but as his popularity grew and he was seen as SEGA’s most profitable property, more games and shows were pushed out for him. It isn’t hard to imagine that things got weird. There were the Storybook games, they put him in the real world, turned him into a werehog, and I remember being particularly irked when the creators decided to give him a romantic relationship with a human princess.
In other words, it’s all a bit of a mess. Still, hardcore fans of the Blue Blur have a lot of the hero’s stories figured out and linked together, but even they disagree on some of the finer points and true chronology, so it is easy to imagine how tough this can be for a casual player.
Not too surprising for a character that has been around since 1991 and has multiple games, cartoons, and comics under his belt, really. In fact, add all his outings together and Sonic’s reach is nearly equivalent to someone like Nintendo’s main mascot, Mario.
Nintendoes What SegDon’t?
With almost every new game, the mustached do-gooder is off to a different strange land that doesn’t tie-in explicitly with his past adventures or potentially any of the many worlds the company has established for him. He can go to a place called Dinosaur Land, a vibrant resort on the Isle Delfino, or even into space, all while introducing odd never before seen creatures, new princesses, and entire races without missing a step. People accept this more because those worlds are so well-crafted and the gameplay is excellent, but Sonic cannot say the same.
The developers may have been too ambitious or simply strayed extremely far from what made the hedgehog’s adventures good, but something they’ve definitely done is abandon one of their greatest resources.
Sonic lives on a planet called Mobius, now at least. The first few games didn’t call his home that—deciding to focus on explaining the geography of the areas to fit the game levels—but most fans came to know the name from the cartoons or Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Sonic Spinball, as those two games were meant to coincide with the shows more.
Getting more out of Mobius
Mobius is a vibrant world that has floating islands, abnormal topography, volcanos, casinos, an amusement park, and other advanced technologies, like a space station that absolutely doesn’t look like the Death Star with a mustache. Mobius seems like a wild place with talking animals, magical creatures, beings with exceptional skills and powers who are constantly at war to stop a pending massacre or save their home and friends from being completely roboticized.
Mobius is a rich creation that has formed more over time, but the developers have been slowly stripping away all of the precious geography that made it special to the franchise for a long time.
To most Sonic historians (an ancient and highly respected profession) there are essentially two main timelines: often referred to as the classic and the modern. These two distinct histories are divided into the original games, and then the stories told beginning with Sonic Adventure, following through with most of what comes afterward. The versions of the heroes and timelines do eventually cross in Sonic Generations for a fun story that further cements the idea of there being two main realities.
Sticking the (re)boot in
Still, Sega wasn’t content with just having two main timelines. The woefully received Sonic ’06 is considered a reboot in itself , with many believing that it and Unleashed share their own universe and a unique planet. With Sonic failing to find a home in a 3D world, this new reboot was an attempt at returning to the better received Sonic Adventure — and not the original games.
More importantly to this piece, there was no return to the classic plot either, with ‘06 instead of following something that went off in its own, er, pretty wild direction.
If that wasn’t enough confusion for you, 2014’s Sonic Boom looks like it takes place on a vastly different alternate Earth. Some like to think of the games as their own set of multiple timelines, with few meant to crossover. Other hardcore fans have their theories on how each of the titles can fall into one coherent timeline featuring alternate realities, which is why the planet is sometimes called Mobius Prime. Who knew?
Move over, Marvel
Thankfully, some mediums got Mobius right. While the cartoons were a huge influence on the character’s world, the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comics developed their version even further. The strips were not the first in the medium to feature the mascot, but it was a detailed and incredibly long-running epic, spanning over twenty years and 290 issues.
In that comic series, Mobius is, in fact, Earth after many years and some gene-bombs. They even have their own alternate world called Moebius—because things clearly weren’t confusing enough. The Archie outings give Mobius a full history and progress the timeline exceptionally well, incorporating nearly all of the characters that fans loved, especially from the Sonic SatAM cartoon. This isn’t to say it didn’t go a little crazy at times, especially with guest characters like Mega Man, Savage Dragon, and even er, Spawn?!
Nonsense aside, in many ways, the comics preserved the core of Mobius far better than any of the games have. It isn’t clear why the developers moved the stories away from Mobius, but having Sonic on Earth clearly requires less overall world building and opens up to more generic armies of baddies.
It makes sense that there would be some link between the two planets, featuring characters that are based on real-world animals like hedgehogs, echidnas, and foxes, while we see the player bash open video monitors for power-ups and hit what the first manual refers to as ‘lampposts’ for checkpoints.
Many developers opt to go with familiar feeling things, over embracing an alien environment, in a bid to help players follow along easier. But the modern games have been bad at that, not expanding on the lore in any meaningful way, merely inserting new enemies and factions without explaining much, which to fans who are so invested in Sonic lore — can be extremely annoying.
Will the real Sonic the hedgehog please stand up
Many prefer their video games outside of the real world though. It’s a lot to keep up with for anyone who wants to be a Sonic fan. Whether it’s his love of chili dogs, the fact that he was in a band called Dude-itude, or his middle name being Maurice—these memorable characteristics can be completely contradicted depending where one looks.
The solution? Ditch Earth and stick to Mobius. While we know our world all too well, Mobius is just begging to be explored.
It isn’t hard to imagine the planet as this way past cool place, especially when the trailer for the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie teased it, making that rendition of the opening level look stunning, but the majority of that story will most likely take place on Earth as well—disappointing fans once again.
SEGA has spent so long distancing themselves from simply calling the planet Mobius, even having the comics drop uses of the name and change their intro from “Welcome to the planet Mobius to “Welcome to Sonic’s comic book adventures”.
Mobius has been disappearing slowly for years and that could be the answer to getting things back on track. The next games would benefit from taking it back to the home-world to the characters and storylines fans know and enjoy, getting away from some of the craziness that causes the series to get laughed out of the room.
If the gameplay can’t overpower the bad storytelling, then the intrigue has to step up in order to give new players something to latch onto — and the hardcore what they crave.
Fans like Sonic — and they want to be able to follow his adventures. They want to watch him grow, to see a conquered Mobius slowly being liberated by a small band of freedom fighters from Knothole. On modern hardware, players could see the world change as they free their animal friends and rid the areas of robotic corruption, or witness the Green Hill Zone scorched as Robotnik pulls out all the stops to rid the planet of Sonic.
Let the players find their purpose in a world to save that they care about. Yet, if that’s to happen, it’s something that will require the developers to change their minds about a dying planet. They’ll have to realize how valuable Mobius really is to Sonic.