It’s a strange feeling to be on a live broadcast; to know that your every move is being thrown across the electronic cosmos for anyone to watch. Until this past weekend, I had only brief excursions with performing arts through guest appearances on podcasts and making a schlocky movie with my friends in high school. All that changed when I joined the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity crew, and agreed to participate in a 48-hour live-stream.
Over the course of two very sleep-deprived days, our dedicated team played video games chosen by viewers in order to raise money for charity:water, an organization that establishes renewable clean water projects around the world. Some of these games were great to play, such as Tokyo Jungle and Tail of the Sun, while other titles were mind-numbingly terrible, like Superman 64 and Ninjabread Man. No matter which game I sat down to play, there was the ever-present camera watching me and broadcasting my actions to the world. It caused a blur between me and the electronic world, turning a hobby that I can casually enjoy into a performance to serve a much greater cause. Almost if I was pulled inside these video games in order to save the world…
Sonic Live! first hit store shelves in February of 1997. The seventh Sonic Special published by Archie Comics, the main plot of this 48-page comic book focuses on Sonic pulling two young children into the game world to help him defeat Dr. Robotnik once more. Unlike most of the other Sonic Special comics which focus on certain game stories, Sonic Live! reads more like a clichéd cartoon from the ’90s that somehow snuck into the printing pile. It is generally regarded as the worst of the special issues by fans of the series for its lackluster story and execution.
The main plot of the comic, “The Last Game Cartridge Hero,” begins with a showdown between Dr. Robotnik and Sonic atop a mechanical tower. Instead of an epic battle or daring rescue, Sonic is straight-up killed by a barrage of lasers on the third page of the book. But don’t worry, it’s just a game being played by a little boy on the next page! Or maybe not, since Sonic is floating in a sort of electronic limbo in the same spread. Through this strange virtual purgatory, Sonic is able to pull the boy and his sister through their television screen into the game world. Once they arrive back in Mobius, the team discovers that Robotnik has also found out about the multi-dimensional portal that brought the kids over. The evil doctor decides to teleport other versions of himself into Mobius and kidnap the (extremely American) developers of Sonic the Hedgehog in the process.
The comic continues quite predictably, with Sonic and his new friends saving the day thanks to their knowledge of video games (of course the Swatbots can be shut down with a giant Sega controller). The developers from Sega use the multi-dimensional technology to send Sonic and his fellow Freedom Fighters to their proper dimension, and the kids are returned safely to their own world. Overall, the plot of Sonic Live! isn’t outright terrible, but there are so many rough moments that add up to make a clichéd and awful story. For example, in the live-action shots of the kids “playing” video games, the boy isn’t even holding a Genesis controller: he is playing with the damn remote control for the television! Were the writers hoping no one would notice such a blatant detail or did they simply not care?
The artwork is a bit erratic, with certain characters being drawn better than others. Sonic and Dr. Robotnik look rather fantastic throughout the story, with plenty of attention given to their facial features, but most of the side characters look plain and underdeveloped by comparison. Any of the scenes with “real” people drawn next to Sonic and Co. look very odd, which may have been the intention from the start. The line work for the kids themselves fluctuates between lots of “realistic” detail and plain cartoon drawings. The entire presentation is a departure from the normally higher quality art found in the Sonic Specials, feeling more at home with the low-quality Saturday morning cartoons that the comic is clearly aping (looking at you Captain N).
After reading over Sonic Live! for the first time since my youth, I am glad that my weekend going live did not fair as poorly as Sonic’s. When the broadcast ended, the U-Pick Marathon raised over $4000 dollars for clean water projects in Cambodia and Ethiopia. We had tons of fun, plenty of memorable moments, and only minor technical difficulties. Unlike the “Last Game Cartridge Hero,” the U-Pick Crew will return in the future with more live-streams for charity and plenty more video games for good causes. Please be sure to stay tuned to our website and our Twitter account to keep up to date on when the footage from this year’s fundraiser hits and for future projects.
As a bonus to this week’s post, here’s a link to a photo-comic from Retro Nick Radio starring the beloved founder of U-Pick and yours truly. Thanks to everyone who gave their time, money, and support to the U-Pick Marathon, and have a Happy New Year!