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10 Things You Didn't Know About Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog, that cute little blue mascot of the Sega Genesis, turns 20 years old today. Created in 1991 by Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima, Sonic quickly rose to popularity as one of the most recognized and beloved video game icons, even to this very day.

Debuting in the self-titled game Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic featured a platforming gameplay experience that was unlike any other. The game was all about speed and split-second decisions. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the release of Sonic's first game on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis console, the following are 10 things that you did not know about Sonic the Hedgehog.

1. Sonic's Original Name is “Mr. Needlemouse”

Before he was officially known as Sonic, the blue hedgehog was referred to as “Mr. Needlemouse.” Why the cute name? Needlemouse is the literal translation for the Japanese word for hedgehog.

2. Sonic is the First Video Game Character to be Featured as a Balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

A tradition dating as far back as 1924, the Macy's Day Parade is an annual celebration most famous for the giant balloons that are put on display in New York City during Thanksgiving. Balloons of the American media's most famous characters, such as Bart Simpson, Snoopy, Spider-Man and Ronald McDonald have all had their chance to shine in the parade. Until Sonic the Hedgehog made his debut as in inflatable form in 1993, there has never been a video game character balloon in the parade's history. Pikachu from Pokémon later made his (her?) debut in 2001.

3. Sonic is Blue Because He Was Designed to Look Like the Sega Logo.

Who has ever heard of a blue hedgehog? During the design process, Sonic was chosen to be colored blue in order to match the Sega logo. But why then, does he have red shoes? Sonic's shoes are a tribute to Michael Jackson, believe it or not. Sonic's famous pair of red and white trainers are based off of boots worn by the Kking of Pop himself. Speaking of Michael Jackson…

4. Sega Hired Michael Jackson to Compose Music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Sega originally hired Michael Jackson to compose music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. However, following the infamous allegations of child molestation, Sega decided to drop the plans. MJ's song writing team carried on without him, and a part of what he wrote remained in the final build of the game.

There are notable similarities with music recorded for the game and music from Jackson's previously recorded albums such as Dangerous. Tracks from the later released album HIStory (which was composed at the same time as the game) sound strikingly similar to tracks from the game. For example, music from the Carnival Night Zone in the game is taken directly from the song “Jam,” and the songs that play during the credits sounds very similar to the song “Stranger in Moscow.”

Following Jackson's death in 2009, Brad Buxer, one of Michael Jackson's composers, told French magazine Black & White that Jackson was involved with the music composition of the game but was unhappy with the final result. He therefore remained uncredited in the final build of the game.

5. Sonic Was at One Point More Popular Than Mario

Thought that Sonic was always a step behind Nintendo's Mario in terms of popularity? Think again. In October 2008, Sonic was voted as the UK's favorite video game character by MSN, with 24 percent of the votes. This was followed by Mario, who polled 21 percent. Tomb Raider's Lara Croft came in at a distant third.

6. Sonic Has No Neck–and Has One Eye

Once you see it, you can't un-see it. Sonic does not have a neck, his torso connects directly to his head. He also has mono-eye, a single eye with two pupils.

7. Why Can't Sonic Swim?

Sonic was designed as being unable to swim because of the mistaken belief that are unable to swim. How unfair for the blue guy!

8. Sonic the Hedgehog Was Named After a Medical Term

“Sonic hedgehog homolog,” known simply as SHH, is one of the three signaling pathway proteins in a family called hedgehog in mammals. It's responsible for cell division of adult stem cells, and it has been linked to the development of certain cancers.

If you couldn't tell by the oddly familiar name of this protein, it was named after Sonic the Hedgehog. The funny thing is, a potential inhibitor to this Hedgehog signaling pathway is found and called “Robotnikinin” in honor of Sonic the Hedgehog's nemesis, Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik.

9. The Noise that Sonic Makes When He Stops is From Another Game

That “breaking” sound that Sonic makes when he stops running? That is the same sound used in Sega's 1986 arcade game, Outrun.

10. Sonic's Failed Designs Gave Birth to Many Popular Sega Franchises

During the design process of Sonic, there were a few rejected ideas that eventually were used to create characters of other Sega franchises. One of his initial designs, for example, was an armadillo. This rejected idea eventually became Mighty the Armadillo. Another example is a dog that looked like Theodore Roosevelt in pajamas, which, as you can guess, turned out to be Dr. Robotnik. The idea that a rabbit with the ability to pick items up with his ears eventually became Ristar. It wasn't until Naoto Oshima suggested a 15-year-old anthropomorphic hedgehog who can run faster than the speed of sound that the idea of Sonic the Hedgehog was born.

Check out other video game posts by Peter Mai here: