The untold truth of Sonic the Hedgehog

Rolling around at the speed of sound since 1991, the blue blur known as Sonic the Hedgehog has had countless adventures across multiple generations of gaming, some renowned as among the best games in the entire medium. But for as much of an icon as he's become, there are still well-kept secrets surrounding the fast-footed hedgehog, development diaries' worth of untold truths just waiting to be revealed. For all the inquiring minds desperate to know about the real stuff SEGA has tried to sweep under the rug, we've compiled the most intriguing nuggets of secret history from Sonic's past.

Sonic once had a human girlfriend named Madonna

Just about everyone remembers the other human girlfriend Sonic had at one point, also known as the furry princess. But, barring that reputation-damning instance of SEGA subtly endorsing bestiality, no one really associates Sonic the Hedgehog with human women.

This means that hearing about Sonic's first human girlfriend might come as a surprise. This particular significant other never left the drawing board for obvious reasons that were later forgotten about and idiotically ignored during Sonic 06's development, but it doesn't change the fact that, albeit for a very short period of time, Sonic's fully canonical lady friend did exist

Her name was Madonna and she was a groupie who got with Sonic because he was in a rock band. That's right, before Sonic the Hedgehog made his big solo debut in 1991, he was slated to be a rock star with a human groupie girlfriend. Bullet status: dodged. At least for the next 15 years, anyway.

DeviantArt helped inspire Sonic Forces

Google "your name + the hedgehog." Go on, we'll wait.

Haha, crazy, isn't it? Now Google "Coldsteel the hedgehog," just for kicks. Yeah, it's a weird world we live in.

Here's the scoop: the Sonic fanbase loves Sonic. Like, they're his fans, after all. It makes sense. But it's the extent to which they love him that separates this fanbase from others—so much that they've invented an entire catalog of anthropomorphic animals to match up with almost every first name in the western English language. These are all original characters, mind you, and where there are original characters, there is original art. 

Where does one find this mountain of primarily American-youth-driven art, you might ask? A little California-based site called DeviantArt. This is, by sheer statistical probability, what Takashi Iizuka was referring to when he said "this whole understanding how American fans are interacting with the character was the seed" for Sonic Forces, a game in which you make your own original character and live out OC fantasies to your heart's content. So, in a very real way, this is as much DeviantArt's game as it is Sonic Team's.

The Sonic Mania development team had to remake every '90s Sonic sprite

Thanks to impeccable design choices on the development team's part, Sonic Mania looks near-identical to the original Genesis trilogy, so much so that you'd be forgiven for mistaking it as a copy-and-pasted sprite sequel. The reality is anything but: these sorry fellows had to replicate everything you see by hand. From the textures to the physics to the quirky and vibrant animations, absolutely everything you see is custom-(re)made for Mania. That high-octane spiraling ascent Sonic launches into after hitting a spring might look identical to the one in Sonic CD, but it sure wasn't lifted directly—every detail was painstakingly recreated by Christian Whitehead and his all-star development team in the service of cooking up a throwback game for the ages.

The Sonic X cartoon was a lot edgier in Japan

Whether or not you realized it, Sonic X's western run wasn't the original version of the show. 4Kids, the distributor of the series in North America, made sure to tweak plenty of things to appeal to "western sensibilities," even though some of the changes seem downright random

However, there were some things that just weren't going to fly when crossing the culture gap, such as shots of Amy Rose's panties, Rouge's breasts, and literally any audio-based instance of realistic gunshots, all of which were replaced by generic laser noises for American audiences. There were even some instances of naughty words in the Japanese version.

Sonic Lost World isn't the first time Sonic's encountered the denizens of Hyrule

Back when Sonic Lost World was the franchise's hot new release, people could hardly fathom the DLC the game was touting. A NiGHTS level? No way. A Yoshi's Woolly World level? Too cool! But then, after no one thought it could get any better, the world collectively lost its mind when SEGA revealed that the final DLC level would be none other than a Hyrulian, Legend of Zelda-themed adventure.

People were blown away by the idea of Sonic's and Link's worlds crossing paths. Yet for all the excitement surrounding this expansion, they'd be remiss to declare this a groundbreaking event. See, Sonic and Link—heck, Sonic and Hyrule as a whole—have already met before. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl's dimension-hopping campaign mode Subspace Emissary, Sonic doesn't just meet Link and Zelda—he saves their lives. So, when you see him dashing around Hyrule and interacting with its denizens in Lost World, remember, it's not the first time he's had to rescue them from dark forces.

In Sonic 3, you could actually go too fast

Sonic the Hedgehog, also known as the brand that created such snappy phrases as "you're too slow" and "gotta go fast," is, as you might have guessed, all about speed. Blazing over vast stretches of land in the blink of an eye and breaking the sound barrier are just everyday occurrences for this hedgehog, leaving you to wonder: is there ever such a thing as "too fast?"

Believe it or not, there used to be. While Sonic can no longer out-speed his games, that wasn't the case in 1994. In Sonic 3 specifically, some of the level geometry negatively reacted to Sonic's physics set and could, provided the right circumstances, result in speeds too rip-roaring for even the lightning-fast hedgehog to handle, which typically ended with him blazing through textures and bypassing portions of levels entirely. While this might sound like a nifty shortcut to be utilized by speedrunners, the reality is it could throw Sonic so far ahead of the layout that he'd often clip out of the level entirely and die instantly, or worse yet, end up somewhere game-breaking. The moral of this story: if you've got to go fast, be responsible about it.

Sonic's original prototype name was 'Mr. Needlemouse'

Sonic. Just say that name to yourself a few times and see how it glides off the tongue; how effortlessly cool it is. Now think about saying "Mr. Needlemouse" out loud. Not going to happen, right? Well, it seems the hedgehog's creators eventually came around to the same decision. Nevertheless, it was a work-in-progress name for Sonic formulated by none other than the character's own designer Naoto Ohshima. "Mr. Needlemouse" technically translated to "Mr. Hedgehog" in Japanese, so if nothing else, they got Sonic's last name right from the start.

Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were meant to be one game

Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are, technically speaking, two separate games. But what if we told you that they're actually one big game, both in concept and execution? Don't take our word for it. Take Takashi Iizuka's: he discussed the factors that went into the decision to halve Sonic 3 during a hefty interview with Game Informer

Iizuka cited multiple factors that forced the split, with the most crushing being the development team's deadline. Focusing efforts to craft the most ambitious Sonic game yet, the team wasn't prepared to meet SEGA's strict deadlines, imposed in order to tie in with an unanticipated McDonald's promotion. That, coupled with the fact that the game's levels were larger and more plentiful, compounded the time issue while simultaneously leading to another roadblock: the game was becoming too big for SEGA's cartridges at the time. 

All this led the team to split Sonic 3 in half, making the second portion of it, Sonic & Knuckles, a separate game with the ability to lock onto Sonic 3's cartridge. This feature enabled the post-launch reunification of Sonic Team's original vision for Sonic 3 and resulted in a happy ending for everyone involved: the team met their ambitious goal, SEGA reaped the profits of two separate games, and the fans got to experience everything the developers had originally intended.

Sonic & Knuckles is the only game to have the Genesis's lock-on technology

As cool as it is that Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were originally supposed to be one game, what made it much, much cooler is that an entirely unique technology was developed in-house at SEGA in order for Sonic Team to reunite the two halves of their one-big-game vision post-launch. An ambitious technological advance for gaming in 1994, lock-on technology worked by combining multiple ROM chips into a single address space, essentially tricking the Genesis into thinking that only one large cartridge was plugged in. 

It was a brilliant way to circumvent hardware limitations of the time and led to some pretty cool Easter eggs. Not only could you plug Sonic & Knuckles into Sonic 3 in order to get the fully intended experience out of both, but you could also plug it into Sonic 2 to unlock Knuckles as a playable character. And, were you bold enough to plug Sonic & Knuckles into any other cartridges released for the SEGA Genesis, you'd get a ton of playable blue sphere levels, also known as the special stages from Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The craziest part? This crazy-cool technology was made for the company's flagship franchise and never seen again, meaning Sonic & Knuckles remains the only lock-on game to ever be made for the SEGA Genesis.

Sonic Unleashed's secret version

Everyone knows about the console version of Sonic Unleashed. It introduced boost gameplay to three-dimensional environments! It revolutionized speed in video games! It revitalized the entire franchise!

What people don't know is that during the very same release window, lurking in the shadows of its bigger brother was a reject—a deformed creature born of corporate greed and lack of imagination. This well-kept secret of the Sonic franchise remained under lock and key for years.

Until now.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, behold, the ninth wonder of the world: Sonic Unleashed's mobile port! Look at its underwhelming sprites; gaze upon its unengaging gameplay. This port received so little press that few even knew of its existence, and fewer yet decided to actually purchase it. Which, though expected for a game of such minimal effort and fanfare, might actually be a shame, as the release got a smattering of decent reviews.

Point is, no one knew this thing existed and most people still don't. You, on the other hand, must now carry the burden of holding this Sonic trivia within you for the rest of your life.