Sonic vs. Pikachu
Since we last spoke there have been quite a few developments. Star Wars episode IX released a trailer, Avengers: Endgame came out and blew everyone away, Game of Thrones is coming to a close and the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer raised the stock market in therapists. So, what is there to really say about those things? Star Wars trailer - looks neat, but is everything we’ve seen in The Force Awakens trailer. Game of Thrones - Season 8 review is in the works. Avengers - What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said? I did have something I plan to write about it, but I wanted to see it a second time before that. I haven't seen it again and I think everyone's passed it (like they probably are with Sonic and Detective Pikachu, right?). Sonic - they announced they’d change the design two days later. What I have decided to talk about today is more of a life lesson. Share with you a fable. Tell you all a story. So, I present to you the story of the Sonic and the Pikachu.
Click Here for the story written in poetic verse! A long time ago, video games were colorful, fun, and adventurous, instead of gloomy, predatory, and grinding. There were many IPs (intellectual properties) created. Characters created by the gods to champion their games. A red plumber, named Mario. A Yellow circle, named Pac-man. A blue bomber, named Mega-Man. These titans carried dozens of games, spin-offs, and television shows. They entertained the people for decades. But this story today deals with two of these champions. Namely, Sonic the hedgehog, created by SEGA, and Pikachu, created by Nintendo*.
*Technically Pikachu was created by the Pokémon Company and the games were made by Gamefreak and published by Nintendo, but for the sake of the story, we will just say Nintendo. Both of these characters began as comics, and are still going on to this day. Both have had entire cartoon series. Both of these icons are present in today’s popular culture. And most importantly, both of these characters are slated to star in a feature-length live-action film this year*. *though Sonic may be delayed into next year.
Both characters have even been inducted into the ultimate gladiator coliseum known as Super Smash Bro.s, cementing their significance in video games' history.
Sonic the hedgehog is also known as the blue blur. He has an attitude, a penchant for chilly dogs, and has the iconic catchphrase, “gotta go fast”. Pikachu is a yellow electric mouse and has a cute and energetic personality. He has a penchant for Pokémon food and the iconic catchphrase, “Pikachu”. Sonic was the champion mascot for SEGA. Out of hundreds of games SEGA has published, Sonic has outran the rest, being one of the only IPs to continue appearing in video games today. For many, Sonic is the reason people played on SEGA’s consoles. Pikachu was the champion mascot for Pokémon. Out of 150 cute creatures to choose from, Pikachu became the face of the franchise. Even moreso than its trainer/tv show’s protagonist! Its adorable face shocked the Japanese and Americans alike. Even after the addition of over 650 more Pokémon, Pikachu is still the face everyone knows and loves. For many people, Pokémon is the reason people still have games on their smartphones. Pokémon has become a cultural phenomenon, and Sonic had created an internet phenomenon. Both of these characters have such unique and iconic designs. Right up there with Mickey Mouse, or a handicapped sign. But how did these characters fare against the trials that all legends face before earning their place in history? Our two heroes needed to jump over the pit of obscurity, survive the swarm of controversy, swim through the flood of overexposure in media, and stay on the road of relevance with their target demographic (children) as well as keeping the older fans on board. Many have failed, few have succeeded. Both Pokémon and Sonic had seen a healthy rate of releases of video games. A main game every few years, and a whole bunch of spin-off games. For Pokémon, they had toys and trading cards. In other media, the Pokémon tv show, as long as it has been running, always featured (Ash and) Pikachu.
Sonic, on the other hand, has gone through (as far as I can recall) five different cartoon series. All of them had different styles and themes, but they all always featured Sonic. One was a cheap silly 80’s cartoon, one was a dark and action-packed 80’s cartoon, one was a late 90’s Rock band cartoon, one was a mid 00’s action anime, and finally, the most recent CGI comedy. Of course, with popularity comes controversy. For Pokémon, there were a few choice episodes that were censored. One where the characters had a gun, one where the main character’s mom was in a bikini, and the infamous one that gave children seizures. One Pokémon was considered racist, and another Pokémon episode featured the villain army doing something the censors seemed too similar to hailing Hitler. On top of all that is the always-controversial issue of the entire concept of Pokémon is training animals to fight each other for money. As for Sonic, the only controversy I can recall is the rise of the furry movement. But if you ask me, that’s equally as bad. What’s interesting about these two franchises is how they are able to stay relevant without over-saturating the market. For Pokémon, every new main series release introduced more characters into the mix. Players could play an entire Pokémon game and choose to almost never encounter a Pikachu once! For Sonic, though, it’s a bit of a different story. The Sonic games have had a rocky history, to say the least. A generally positively-favored game would come out, followed by a universally panned game. Sonic has unwittingly kept from over-saturation by having to hide in obscurity every couple years until another good game comes out. It also created a certain unity in fans who come together to pan the bad games and adore the good ones. Pikachu and Sonic have both grown in such popularity that it was only time before Hollywood decided to make them the stars of their own feature film. And it is here, where the two icons differ. It is only in the limelight that we can see where one is cracked at the seams. The trailer for Detective Pikachu was received with mixed feelings. The live-action Pokémon were jarring. But over time, the people’s’ eyes settled to the uncanny valley, as more information surfaced. We were given a taste of an intriguing mystery and some funny jokes*. And now, live-action Pikachu is cute and Ryan Reynolds is perfect casting! *I want to point out here how well IHE explained how animal comedy works in his “I Hate ‘Sing’” video and how “Detective Pikachu”’s world is similar to “Zootopia”’s (though, admittedly not as much as I’d like to see.) Sonic, on the other hand... well... it’s the absolute worst. When his character design was teased, people vomited. Once people saw his full face and body, they gouged their eyes out. The trailer was tonally wrong and bad. The story looks so generic and the humor is non-existent*. * Again, with the IHE comparison, Sonic is like “Sing”, where the humor and world has nothing to do with the world. The people behind Detective Pikachu said that they studied tons of animals and how they behaved when designing all the Pokémon in the movie. The people behind Sonic admitted the design sucked and immediately promised to redesign him entirely. Believe it or not, this behavior is nothing new for both IPs. The film development isn’t too different from the video games’s. Each Pokémon's design has gone through years of development and testing. Sure, we laugh at the one that’s clearly an ice cream cone or a balloon, but they still all have a unique personality. Like, sure, the garbage Pokémon is literally a garbage idea, but his design also screams “I know I’m a trash concept and I’m sad about it, too!”. The Sonic games also have a recurring theme of “Let’s throw any concept at the wall and see what sticks”. The only problem is that they do that for full-fledged games. How about Sonic is in the human world? What if he’s a werewolf? What if you play as his emo counterpart who uses guns? Add to that the fact that most of these games were rushed, and in some cases released unfinished! Sonic Boom was the reboot to the franchise that would race into the hearts of the newcomers and reinvigorate the long-time fans. More like Sonic Bust! The game was nearly unplayable with more bugs than a forest section in a Pokémon game! So when it comes down to it, and you must choose the hero you want to look up to, don’t be a Sonic, be a Pikachu! Don’t try to get things done fast, take your time to build your audience! Don’t let other people change you because the charts say otherwise, be the original and creative version of yourself that people have loved you for being since the beginning! You don’t need "Gangsta’s Paradise" or hot Nike’s for the cool kids to like you. Embrace that quirky out-of-style hat YOU like and people will love you for your creativity. And most importantly, you don’t need all your teeth to have a bright smile.