Yesterday during GDC, two men who worked on the original Sonic the Hedgehog game — character designer Naoto Oshima and game designer Hirokazu Yasuhara — took to the stage to show off some previously unseen proto-Sonic sketches and explain the thinking behind one of the most iconic game characters ever.
Some of what they revealed, we knew already. We knew Sonic is blue because the Sega logo is blue. We knew Sega toyed around with various animals like a rabbit and a dog before settling on a hedgehog. What we didn’t know is that all those drawings were made at once and shown off during a meeting between high-ups at Sega of Japan and America. Then they took a trip to Central Park and asked random citizens which drawing they liked best. The hedgehog won the vote.
The second most popular choice? An egg-shaped man with a huge mustache. Sega decided to keep him and make him the villain.
Now here’s where things get weird. Oshima revealed at one point, nothing about Sonic or his world was supposed to be real….because in the context of the backstory, it was all from a children’s book. Also, World War II was involved. There was an American fighter pilot nicknamed “Hedgehog” because he flew so fast that his hair stood up on end. His teammates marked his plane with nose art resembling a blue hedgehog. Later when the man left the service and got married, his wife became inspired by the hedgehog art to create the Sonic story. This was the original framing device for Sonic 1.
Obviously they didn’t go with it. Nor did they go with the idea to make Sonic dance. We have no clue how it would have worked in the context of gameplay, but Sonic was supposed to be an excellent dancer. They scrapped the idea due to a lack of available animation frames on the Genesis.
More from the conference can be learned here. By the way, Oshima said nothing about Sonic having a human girlfriend named Madonna, but that was originally in there too.