October 22, 2021

Xbox One X

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Unbottling Sonic’s secret sauce: the making of Sonic Mania

2 min read
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Fandom’s a funny thing, isn’t it? When a new SegaWorld opened up on the slightly tatty seafront at the foot of Brighton’s Madeira Drive a good few years back, I was at the peak of my obsession with the company who’d brought blue sky joy to so many. And so I decided to head down to the opening in the Sega T-shirt I’d made myself to show my support, and at least one person appreciated the effort; someone in a slightly tatty Sonic the Hedgehog costume, who gave me a big, bright blue lollipop that had been reserved for winners of the colouring-in competition they were running that day. I was 21. I still have that lollipop, and I’m still proud of what I did.

Some acts of fandom are a little more productive, though. Like those of Christian Whitehead and his cohorts, the Melbourne-based developer who’s been behind a string of spectacular Sonic remakes, all climaxing in last year’s outstanding Sonic Mania – a slice of pure concentrate fan service, ushered into life gracefully by Sega and offering an undoubtable high point for the series in some years. Not bad work from a small gaggle of enthusiastic Sonic fans given the keys to their favourite franchise – as well as a guiding hand from the people behind it all in the first place.

“The first game I ever really played was Sonic 2 – and that really set off my interest in video games,” says Christian Whitehead over a slightly fuzzy Skype connection. “There was this special cheat debug mode, and for me it was the first time you could see some of the tricks of how games work. That really sparked my curiosity in how games are developed.”

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