At this year’s Game Developer Conference, Sega revealed that Sonic the Hedgehog almost looked very different. In fact, he was almost not a hedgehog at all.
Sonic designer Hirokazu Yasuhara informed the GDC crowd that the team’s primary goal when designing Sonic was to have a character that you can imagine curling up. As such, they noted that Sega considered making Sonic a hedgehog, an armadillo, a porcupine, a dog, or…an “old guy with a mustache (Eggman).” Yes, Sonic was almost going to look like his arch-nemesis. In fact, the Sonic team got a special request from Sega management to please consider that very design.
“[Sega said] we definitely want to see something like an old guy with a mustache. We also want to see something like a hedgehog, or porcupine, as well as a dog-like character,” said Yasuhara.
We personally can’t imagine how anyone thought that an “old guy with a mustache” would make for a great main hero named Sonic in a game primarily aimed at a younger audience, but it was the ’90s and the ’90s were weird, y’all. Nevertheless, the Sonic team took the idea under very serious consideration. In fact, Yasuhara remembers that the design team was having a hard time deciding which idea to commit to. The final decision was made in a pretty unusual way.
“I planned a trip to New York while this discussion was happening internally,” said Yasuhara. “We drew these on a board, and I’m in the middle of Central Park, and I’m showing people these three boards and taking a survey. The result was that the hedgehog was the most popular, second was actually Eggman, and then third was the dog. So I was like, ‘Wow, this is a pleasant surprise,’ and so I was asking myself – ‘I wonder why this is?'”
From there, the team set off to submit a final design for Sonic the Hedgehog. The developers knew he was going to be blue (to match Sega’s logo) and they knew he had to be cool, but the rest was up for debate. At one point, the team had even concocted this elaborate backstory about how Sonic used to be a pilot who married a children’s literature author. The wife eventually wrote a story about her husband and used the hedgehog character on her husband’s plane as the basis for his cartoon self.
Eventually, the team settled on the Sonic that we know and love today.