It's been two decades since June 23rd 1991, when Sonic the Hedgehog was released for the Sega Genesis. That was the year of the first Gulf War, Boris Yeltsin being elected the first president of Russia during the dismantling of the Soviet Union, and Linus Torvalds developing a little thing called "Linux". Much has changed since then, not least of all for Sonic.
The blue blur was unleashed on the world just as the 16-bit war was coming to a boil. Sega and TurboGrafx had laid their cards on the felt, and Nintendo was just following suit. The next few years would see a pitched battle between Sega and Nintendo for the hearts (and money) of gamers the world over, a battle which was symbolically led by Sonic and Mario. Sonic was the antithesis of the tubby plumber: fast, fast, fast and sassy to boot. To be honest, I don't remember the first Sonic game - I was a bit too absorbed by Super Mario Bros. 3 and then Street Fighter 2, but when Sonic 2 came out in 1992, everybody played it. Well, everyone I knew anyway, and when you're in grade school that's all that matters.
Sonic's 16-bit early years were kind, and he made Sega very, very rich. Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles were big deals in their own right, but then the market changed under Sega's feet and Sonic...well, his teenage years haven't been as kind. The shift to 3D was hard for a lot of franchises, Sonic included, and after the demise of the Dreamcast Sonic became a bit of a drifter - even showing up on Nintendo consoles, an idea which would have been branded heresy only a few years earlier. But recently Sega's been working hard at finding Sonic's mojo again, and it's certainly excited about his 20th birthday.
As GayGamer.net reported earlier, Sonic Generations is being released this year to commemorate the anniversary, and for the next 20 days Sega is offering a demo of the game via XBLA and PSN. Also for a limited time, you can get 50% off Sonic games on XBLA, a discounted Sonic bundle on the PSN, and a discounted 20th anniversary bundle that you can download for your PC here.
But wait! There's more.
Sonic and Tails will be hanging around Phantasy Star Universe; you can go on missions with them, and if you wish them a happy birthday you'll get swag. There's also a sweepstakes, and an announcement that Sonic will be in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
Clearly, Sega's stoked. Happy birthday, Sonic. Here's to 20 more.