With the arrival of a new generation of consoles comes a fresh batch of loyal fans screaming incoherently at one another. All across the internet, lines are being drawn in the virtual sand and mindless skirmishes are waged on every form of social media. Even at my workplace, where people generally keep their geekier hobbies close to the chest, I hear soft insults hurled back and forth between cubicles; murmurs of which console provides a superior experience. Of course, none of this nonsense is new to me. I lived through the Console Wars of the ’90s, when every system had a hero to idolize and follow into battle. As a devout Nintendo Kid, I knew where my loyalties should be lain. From the Mushroom Kingdom my brethren and I launched vicious fireballs, scorching the Green Hills of Sega-Land. In spite of my family’s entertainment coming exclusively from Nintendo products, I had a hidden curiosity to learn about the edgier console that the enemy so fiercely protected.
In the darkest of night (read: mid-afternoon while my mother shopped for groceries), I snuck towards the neutral zone and gathered propaganda which was highly illegal in the Mushroom Kingdom. I have kept these remnants of my disloyalty secret until now, but I cannot hide my shame any longer.
The first issue of Sonic the Hedgehog hit store shelves way back in November 1992. Archie Comics was given the task of creating a four-issue miniseries to coincide with the debut of the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon show. Since the concept materials for the television series were shared between DIC Animation and Archie Publications, the comic closely resembled the world depicted in the cartoon. Based on the success of the mini-series, Sonic and his friends graduated into a full-fledged comic book run that started in May 1993 and continues to this day. With over 251 issues in print, Sonic the Hedgehog earned the Guinness World Record of longest running comic series based on a video game.
I picked up my first Sonic comic in August of 1995, when the debut of a certain echidna was still rocking the gamer world with stackable cartridges. Sonic and Knuckles No. 1 boasted a giant-sized 48 page collector’s edition at the low-cost of two dollars. At the time, I had only encountered Knuckles in magazine advertisements and brief play sessions at friends’ houses, but the bright red marsupial seemed so damn cool. Handled by Patrick “Spaz” Spaziante and Harvey Mercadoocasio, Archie veterans who contributed extensive work to the Sonic comics, the cover art featured all sorts of nods to Sega games. There was of course Sonic and Knuckles, along with graffiti that referenced Sonic Spinball and a Sega Saturn hidden in the pile of Swat-Bot remains. A perfect blend of elements to catch any young gamer’s eye.
The story within Sonic and Knuckles No. 1 was a sort of follow-up to the events featured in Sonic 3 (or Sonic #13, for fans of the comic book). The Floating Island (home to Knuckles and the “only great natural wonder untouched by utter devastation”) has wandered over the safe haven of Knothole Village. While Sonic and Tails have some experience with Knuckles and his hovering home, the rest of the village is highly alarmed at a giant chunk of rock floating over their humble abode. Our heroes are sent to investigate the island and find that munitions, retro rockets, and a series of robots have become part of the surroundings. After a fight with Knuckles (and the first boss of Sonic 3), Sonic and Tails explain to the echidna that someone has obviously hijacked his home. Sure enough, Dr. Robotnik has taken over the Floating Island and fitted it with all sorts of tech to turn it into a giant military machine.
Rather than watch his home become a weapon, Knuckles destroys the Chaos Emerald that powers the island, which causes Robotnik to abandon ship. As the island starts to descend, Knuckles reveals a spare emerald, which halts the cataclysmic crash and saves the day for all involved. Following the main story, there are two shorter tales that feature Knuckles protecting the Floating Island and citizens who inhabit it. The first of these stories sets up for the next special issue from Archie Comics (Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble) and the second is a sort of educational comic about a solar eclipse.
As with many of the spin-offs of the Sonic comics, Sonic and Knuckles No. 1 features a series of artists working on each story. The character designs remain generally similar to the cartoon show, but there are little nuances between each story. The main tale features art with minimal line work, mostly relying on facial expressions to convey action and moods. Action scenes are rife with comic book onomatopoeia to move the story along. The separate Knuckles tales use quite a bit more shading and lighting effects throughout the artwork, which compliments the more mature nature of the character. Due to a lack of fight scenes and limited action, the other two stories rely on extra dialogue and further detail in character drawings to flesh out the story.
Following my initial betrayal of Nintendo, I went on to purchase piles of Sonic comics (particularly the Knuckles and Tails spinoffs). For many more years, my family pledged loyalty to the great Nintendo, finally conceding to the onslaught of the Sony Militia in 1997. While I carry the remnants of my rabid fanboyism to this day, I have come to realize that dedicating oneself to something as silly as the console wars is a waste of time. There are plenty of amazing games to be played across all kinds of technology. Limiting yourself to a single console or device out of a bizarre dedication to a giant corporation only serves to cut out dozens of wonderful experiences from your life. So let’s drop all this nonsense of “Microsoft versus Sony versus Nintendo” and just concede that the Sega Dreamcast was the best of them all, shall we?