So, this post requires a video to be watched to completely understand it. The video in question regards the final boss of the 2003 video game, Sonic Heroes. The boss, called “Metal Overlord”, pits Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails (all three powered up by the seven chaos emeralds) versus, well Metal Overlord – a grotesque looking amalgamation of robot parts assembled by Metal Sonic – Sonic’s robotic doppelganger. Due to video games being a visual art form, to best understand what I am saying, please watch the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD9p5xh_wmc.
Not all of the video is essential to watch, so here are the parts necessary: 2:15 – 3:41, 7:05 – 7:10, and 7:57 – 12:11. Due to being a translation of the game’s original Japanese dialogue, please turn on Closed Captions and set them to English, and NOT the auto-generated ones. Regardless of whether or not you see the video, I will attempt to explain what exactly is going on.
To fully explain what is going on, we need to start at the very beginning of Sonic the Hedgehog’s adventure. Sonic has appeared in several different media throughout the years: two different comic book series, a Japanese manga, an OVA (which stands for “Original Video Animation”, effectively a Japanese animated film), with a Western film set to come out soon, and as of now five different television series. However, when it comes to explaining the story of Sonic Heroes, absolutely none of this counts. The only information we can go off of here are what happens in the games themselves and the manuals. So to start off is Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis released all the way back in 1991, and it is going to be a bumpy ride.
The iconic Green Hill Zone, the first ever level in a Sonic game. The red crab robot, called a “Crabmeat”, is just one of several robots created by Dr. Eggman.
The problem for attempting to explain Sonic’s origins is that there are multiple, different versions of the story. The things that all versions agree on are: Sonic is a blue, anthropomorphic hedgehog with attitude who fights Dr. Eggman/Dr. Robotnik (depending on the region depends on which name the villain is called. In Japan, he was always called Dr. Eggman, but in the West we invented “Dr. Robotnik”, although we eventually switched to Dr. Eggman. Making things worse is that in Japan Robotnik is Eggman’s actual name, but Sonic and crew always call him Eggman), a mastermind with an IQ of 300 who builds robots powered by animals he unwillingly shoves into said robots. Sonic’s mission is to free the animals from Dr. Eggman’s clutches and destroy the evil mastermind’s robot producing factory. The story is a basic plot of Nature versus Machines. If Kirksey was to look at this, she would be able to say that Sonic, being a part of nature, evolved as the result of Dr. Eggman’s interactions with the environment. However, Kirksey would not say that it is a true Emerging Ecology due to the environment not accepting Eggman, but rather attempting to eliminate him.
And she would be proven even more correct if one takes into account the “Sonic the Hedgehog Technical Files”. The Japanese manual for Sonic 1 says that the game takes place on an island called South Island, which exists somewhere on Sonic’s world. The Technical Files attempt to add more information regarding Sonic himself. Sonic is said to be around 18 years old, although it is also implied that he existed back in 1947, which would mean that the game takes place in the past. Sonic was born on Christmas Island, and simply traveled to South Island because he was bored. Ergo, Sonic 1 does not depict the existence of an Emerging Ecology as it is more or less the story of two invaders fighting one another, one attempting to take over the island, and the other attempting to stop that from happening. The timeline of the game’s events was later set to have occurred on Earth millions of years in the future. The animals of the world evolved into anthropomorphic creatures and to an extent live alongside humans. For the most part, the world is at peace, although Dr. Eggman usually breaks the peace.
The next game to discuss is Sonic CD, made in 1993. This game takes place on Little Planet (Miracle Planet in the original Japanese), a small moon that appears over the mystical Never Lake for one month of every year. In the game, Dr. Eggman has chained Little Planet to Sonic’s world and has set up his base upon the planet. Part of his defenses is Metal Sonic – a robot created to be superior to Sonic in every way. And for the most part, Eggman achieved his goal. The only thing that Sonic beats Metal Sonic in is speed, thanks to his newfound Figure-Eight Technique that allows him to accelerate faster than he could have previously. Metal Sonic challenges Sonic to a race along the Stardust Speedway, to which Sonic agrees. Dr. Eggman trails behind the two with a laser that destroys everything it touches. Sonic barely manages to defeat Metal Sonic, who Eggman accidentally hits with his laser. Metal Sonic would not appear again until Sonic Heroes.
Little Planet, after Sonic destroyed the chains holding it down.
Metal Sonic’s supposed death at Stardust Speedway
So jumping ahead to 2003’s Sonic Heroes, Metal Sonic has returned and has planned to take over the world. As evidenced in the video I showed, Metal Sonic says he was programmed to beat Sonic, yet also believes himself to be the real Sonic. This is sort of a cultural thing, as what he means is not that he IS Sonic (even he understands that he is not), but rather that he is SUPERIOR to the original Sonic. In Metal Sonic’s mind, the term “Sonic” is a title that goes to whichever one of the two are superior. In essence, if Metal Sonic were to win, he would be called Sonic and Sonic would be called Organic Sonic, or something. In order to achieve his goal, he took over Dr. Eggman’s empire and resources, claiming, in his own words “a robot kingdom requires a more-than-capable king”, or as he says in the English version “how appropriate to have a robot overlord rule a robot kingdom”. What he is saying here is Dr. Eggman, who has failed to conquer the world with his robot army on several occassions, is failing to do so because he himself is not a robot. During the fight, Sonic claims that Metal Sonic will not be able to win even though he has turned himself into what Sonic calls “a monster”. Metal Sonic replies that is of little matter, and that in the future (supposing he wins), nobody will care of what happened in the past.
This is where Haraway and her Cyborg Manifesto comes into play. As she says, robots were believed to not be able achieve man’s dream, but merely mock it. Metal Sonic cannot achieve Dr. Eggman’s intent, although he does to an extent surpass him. The game, and all Sonic games for that matter, also serves as a counter-argument to the concepts of unity-through-domination and unity-through-incorporation. Sonic can be seen as representing resistance to domination and incorporation. He fights to stop Metal Sonic or Dr. Eggman from forcing animals into robots. He fights to prevent a robot-only world. But most importantly is how Metal Sonic views the world. She claims “cyborgs are not reverent”, and Metal Sonic holds no qualms about working against his creator. Technically speaking, Metal Sonic is not a true cyborg in the sense that he is not made by combining the organic and the metallic. However, he was created to completely mimic an organic being, and in the case of the games themselves, the people around him treat Metal Sonic no different than they do an organic creature.
Blackblur 7. Sonic Heroes (Japanese) – Last Story – Cutscenes + In-Game Dialogue. YouTube, 15 July 2016. Web.
Haraway, Donna. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century. N.p., n.d. Web.
Kirksey, Eben. Emergent Ecologies. Duke University Press, Durham, 2015. Web.
Nakayama, Hayao. Sonic CD. Sonic Team, Tokyo, 1993. CD.
—. Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Team, Tokyo, 1991. Cartridge.
Oguchi, Hisao. Sonic Heroes. Sonic Team USA, San Francisco, 2003. DVD.
“Sonic the Hedgehog Technical Files”. Sonic Team, n.d. Web.