The Sonic Second: Sonic History Video

Last time on The Sonic Second, I talked about the promotional videocassette for Sonic 2. Well, Sonic 3 got one as well, albeit one that’s less than two thirds the duration at only 6 minutes long. This time it’s not billed as a “CHIRA-video”, either, but as a “Sonic History Video”, and it focuses mostly on exactly that, with only the briefest of Sonic 3 teases at the end.

Again like last time, you can watch the whole video below, and I’ll be posting a breakdown with images of the packaging, screenshots, and my thoughts below that.

Unlike the Sonic 2 promo video, which had a paper insert in a plastic case making it look almost like a slim Genesis game, this one has a cheaper folded cardboard sleeve. It’s still cool, but for a picky collector like me it’s kind of annoying that they don’t match. (Sonic & Knuckles came in a cardboard box, though, so these are just the kind of irksome things one has to learn to move on from.) Again, the cover artwork is the same as the game’s.

The tape itself, however, does match the Sonic 2 one quite well.

And that’s it – as far as I know, no coupons or anything were included with it. So let’s get started with the video. It opens with the same “Sega!” animation as the Sonic 2 promo video.

Then oddly, there’s footage of the Sonic CD opening cartoon, complete with Sonic CD music.

This is a little confusing – if the viewer wasn’t lucky enough to know about the comparatively rare Sonic CD, they might get the impression that this cartoon and music had something to do with the game being promoted, because there’s no indication otherwise. In fact, Sonic CD music is used here and there all throughout the video.

The cartoon culminates in a deft piece of editing that has Sonic’s spinning jump smoothly transition to his jump that smashes the Sega logo in the Sonic 3 intro sequence. Then the “Sonic History Video” title is shown. Not quite as fancy as the gentle fun(?) being poked at Mario and Luigi in the previous video – just a grey background.

Like the previous video, there’s a character section that starts with Sonic, but this time they jump right into it. It’s called “All About Sonic!”, and technically, it’s more than one section, because it’ll keep coming back throughout the video for each character’s profile.

Sonic’s profile:

  • Nickname: Sonic
  • Type: Hedgehog
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 15~16 years old
  • Weakness: Swimming

For the sake of comparison, here’s Sonic’s profile from Sonic Jam (Japanese and English versions):

(I find it interesting that neither Japanese profile commits to an age here, and the American one used 16. Sega now uses 15 according to Sonic’s profile on the official Japanese site.)

Back to the video! In the case of Sonic only, the profile goes into more detail, focusing on three of his individual traits.

For “Hair”, the Sonic 2 special stage is shown, because it’s the best 3D demonstration of Sonic’s spines.

For “Hand”, Sonic 2‘s waiting animation is shown, with Sonic looking at his watch.

For “Shoes”, footage of Sonic running – actually from Sonic 3 this time! – is shown, and the narrator mentions Michael Jackson’s “dancing shoes” from Bad. Naoto Ohshima has mentioned these as the inspiration for Sonic’s shoes in later interviews (e.g. in Gamasutra).

The next section is called “Making of Sonic!”, and whereas Yuji Naka got to talk in the previous video, this one has Naoto Ohshima.

The black and white document being quickly flipped through at the beginning of the segment has some interesting stuff in it I’ve not seen elsewhere. It’s got an odd mix of Japanese and American art – I’d love to see the whole thing, I’m sure there’s great stuff in it, whatever it is. These are terribly blurry, but you can see what looks like Sonic and Tails yawning, running, and a picture of Sonic with a telescope.

After that, while Ohshima talks, a bunch of concept art for the character contest that resulted in Sonic’s creation is shown. This video is the source for many of these images you’ll see around the ‘net.

Finally it’s narrowed down to two rough sketches by Yasushi Yamaguchi (who would later create Miles “Tails” Prower) and Ohshima himself. The latter, at the bottom of the screen, is the famous “Mr. Needlemouse”, or more technically “Mr. Harinezumi” – a Japanese compound word meaning “hedgehog” made from “hari” (needle) and “nezumi” (rat/mouse).

Once Ohshima’s design was chosen, Sonic started to take shape, resulting in his final design.

The segment ends with a mention of Sonic’s public reveal, at Dreams Come True’s Wonder 3 concert tour in Japan.

(As an aside, there’s some music throughout this video that’s not from any Sonic games, and it’s particularly striking in this “Making of Sonic” section. It sounds suitable for Sonic though, and I wonder if it’s just stock music or if someone from Sega composed it.)

The next section is “History of Sonic!”

It opens with this weird drawing of Sonic flying some vehicle (possibly the Tornado, although it would have to be awfully off-model) in pursuit of Robotnik, whose hovercraft has insect wings like something out of Studio Ghibli’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Robotnik appears to have captured Tails, and there’s also a very disturbed bird. There’s no real explanation for its inclusion here.

Next Sonic 1 is shown, and its subsection concludes with some nice drawings of Dr. Eggman.

Next Sonic 2 is shown, and its subsection concludes with Tails’ profile to match Sonic’s at the beginning of the video.

Tails’ Profile:

  • Nickname: Tails
  • Type: Fox
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 8 years old
  • Favourite Thing: Mechanical Tinkering

Again, Sonic Jam profile for comparison:

(You may note that Prower is transliterated into Japanese in two different ways here. The video, as well as the booklets for Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, use “PA-U-WAA”, while Sonic Jam matches Sonic 2 and Sega’s current official profile with “PA-U-AA”. The Terada/Norimoto manga uses yet a third way, “PAA-A-WAA”. None of these actually sound like “Prower” – I would have gone with “PU-RA-WAA” myself (compare “power” and “flower”) but what do I know? I also find it weird that “Miles” and “Tails” are both transliterated with a “SU” sound at the end instead of a “ZU”, despite the latter being how “Knuckles” is transliterated. But I’m probably digressing way too much here….)

Next, the video finally gets to the good stuff (from the point of view of a player at the time who’s excited for the next game). Sonic 3, and the new character, Knuckles!

Knuckles’ profile:

  • Nickname: Knuckle
  • Type: Echidna
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: Older than 15
  • Pastime: Digging Holes

Again, Sonic Jam profile for comparison:

It seems a little silly that his nickname is “Knuckle”, but even the narrator of the video calls him that. Also, his age in the video is listed as more than 15, while Sonic Jam just says 15. Seems weird for him to be possibly younger than Sonic, and I guess Sega realised this too, as he’s now listed as simply 16, a year older than Sonic.

With Knuckles introduced, the video goes on to show off the three new shields.

“Thunder Shield”, called “Thunder Barrier” in the Japanese manual for the game and “Lightning Shield” in the US manual. I think it’s interesting that the video uses “shield” despite being Japanese where “barrier” was always the preferred term, even well into the Sonic Adventure era.

“Aqua Shield”, called “Aqua Barrier” in the Japanese manual and “Water Shield” in the US manual.

“Flame Shield”, called “Flame Barrier” in the Japanese manual and “Flame Shield” in the US manual.

(Because there wasn’t any reason to match what the instruction booklet said exactly, I grew up calling them the “Lightning Shield”, “Bubble Shield”, and “Fire Shield”, just because those sounded the most natural to me at the time.)

I guess the new elemental shields were something they were really proud of, because they are the only new features of Sonic 3 that get specific attention. All the other cool stuff, like Ice Cap’s snowboarding and the new Special Stages are relegated to a tiny montage at the end, and then the video is over, signing off with a cute animation and the phrase “See you next Sonic!”

And I’ll see you next Sonic Second. 🙂


h/t Sonic Retro

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The Sonic Second: Sonic 2 Promo Video (Caution: GIF heavy)

In 1992, in order to promote the imminent release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sega produced a Japan-only promotional videocassette. It was much the same thing that Nintendo of America would do a couple years later for the likes of Donkey Kong Country and Starfox 64 so that they could crow about their new technologies in long-form video, hoping to make more of an impact than print or television advertisements. (The technique worked – seeing footage of Starfox 64 from that tape made me covet the game like nothing before or since.)

But I’m here to talk about the Sonic 2 video. You can watch the whole nine and a half minute video below, and if you find yourself confused and bored because it’s in Japanese, just scroll down to read my breakdown of the highlights.

Before we get to the video breakdown, let’s begin with the physical videocassette and its packaging. The cover is very similar to the Japanese Mega Drive game box, with the same artwork and a similar logo and overall layout.

(It’s called a “CHIRA-video”. Google Translate wasn’t very helpful, but my best guess would be that it means “sneak peak video”.)

The tape itself has bold blue and white labeling.

Also included is a cashback coupon which could be used to get 1000 yen off of purchasing the game. (At least, I assume that’s its function.)

Now let’s get to the video itself. It starts with the classic “Sega~!” chant, accompanied by a stop-motion clay Sonic, just like in the Japanese TV commercial for Sonic 1.

SEGA!
The 8-bit versions of Sonic 1 also do something similar.

Then, in a move more characteristic of Sega of America’s marketing than that of Sega of Japan, there are a few comedic scenes of Mario and Luigi being menaced by Sonic and Tails in a section called “Sonic Panic” (unless the whole video is supposed to be called that – it’s kind of hard to tell).

Sonic Panic
I guess years of bopping Badniks has made Sonic and Tails capable of busting through solid metal.
Mario menaced
“Little brat!”
Luigi menaced
Poor Luigi!

There’s a very brief look back at Sonic’s popularity with some footage of a commercial for the first game, and then some hype for the new one. Then there’s a section about the characters, showing some cute art (which can also be seen in the Japanese instruction manual).

(For Tails and Eggman, Yumiko Takahashi is in the picture-in-picture. She’ll be making another appearance later.)


Then Yuji Naka talks for a while, superimposed over footage of the game being played (Emerald Hill, Casino Night, and Metropolis – there doesn’t appear to be anything special about the footage since the build being played is probably the final or something very much like it). I just wish I understood what Yuji was saying!

Yuji talks
Gah! Why so many Yujis? Early ’90s video effects have never been more terrifying.

Next, Famitsu editor-in-chief Koichi Hamamura and BEEP! Mega Drive editor-in-chief Hiroshi Kawaguchi talk about the game. I assume they’re saying nice things!

After that, actors Yumiko Takahashi and Toshinori Omi take the Sonic Challenge! It’s always good to get celebrity endorsements, right? Even though I have no idea who these two are…

Yumiko Takahashi
“Sonikku Tsuu~!”
Toshinori Omi
But will your acting skills be enough to pretend to like the game?

The next section is way too short – it’s only a few seconds – but it’s pretty cool. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the Japanese Sonic 2 TV commercial. I always thought the landscape in the footage was entirely CGI, so it’s neat to see models of the corkscrew path with a camera running through it.

TVCM BtS 1
Filming a Sonic’s-eye view
TVCM BtS 2
A Sony monitor!? Don’t you know they are the competition?

Here’s the full commercial for reference:

Finally, there’s a adorable animation of Tails. They’re talking about a “Supersonic Action Quiz” being carried out, and then show some special offers like a Sonic 2 hoodie and talk about the included cashback coupon. It’s related to this – I guess they showed these “quiz” commercials and gave away prizes or something? Whatever, I just like the Tails animation.

Tails animation
He’s so cute. It looks exactly like the official character artwork, just in motion.

The video concludes with a notice for the game’s release date and price. Note that it’s not Sonic Twosday – Japan released the game 3 days early, foiling what would have been a global launch, much to the chagrin of Sega of America. (This story was told in Console Wars, which I reviewed in the last Sonic Second.)

So this videocassette is pretty cool all around. I’m quite happy that I own a copy personally, even though I don’t have a VCR hooked up to use it with. It’s a cool piece of Sonic history. And speaking of “history”… next time on The Sonic Second there’s another videocassette to take a look at. Stay tuned!


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