Attack of the Clones: Sonic the Hedgehog

Attack of the clones

In honor of Source Gaming’s Sonic the Hedgehog week, I have decided to give the venerable Sonic franchise a go on my Attack of the Clones series. The clones I will be examining are those of the Genesis/Mega Drive Sonic titles (the first game in particular), and as always, I will be focusing on games that took obvious inspiration from Sonic but that added their own unique spin and can stand out as solid titles on their own.

When the original Sonic the Hedgehog launched on the Genesis way back in 1991, it opened the floodgates for “cool” animal mascots, and video game developers began to scramble in an attempt to find their own Sonic. Some, such as Bubsy the Bobcat or Aero the Acrobat, followed Sonic in spirit but not in gameplay. Others, like Awesome Possum (just a word of advice, if you have to constantly tell people you’re awesome you’re probably not), tried to steal the entire formula but failed spectacularly. Still, there were a few that managed to get things right. Those are the games we will focus on today.

Rocky Rodent  (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

Rocky Rodent isn’t the most original looking platformer. The character himself looks like what someone might draw Crash Bandicoot like if they had only heard about who he was second hand from a person that played the game once, while most of the game’s environments are generic and drab, consisting of mostly urban street and/or building levels. The gameplay featured a fuzzy but “extreme” protagonist that had to run through levels that combined heavy speed elements with a few spots of precarious platforming. This is where the game most resembles Sonic. The game is fast, and for kids that only owned a Super Nintendo this made it an obvious alternative to SEGA’s blue megastar. Heck, Rocky even steals the spinning “end of stage signs” directly from Sonic.

The general mechanics of the game are actually quite a bit different from Sonic, though. Rocky has the ability to change between various hairstyles that act as powerups. Think of them as roughly analogous to Mario’s many suits and powerups. The various hair styles do a variety of things, such as give him a projectile weapon or allow him to swing from the ceiling. This powerup system really helped set Rocky apart from many of the other swift and attitude filled mascots of the day. It was not enough, unfortunately, to make the game good. Rocky Rodent is not a bad game, but uneven controls and repetitive level design keeps it from being truly memorable. Still, it is certainly worth picking up if you are a fan of the platforming genre and the price is right.

Jazz Jackrabbit PC

Now while Rocky Rodent is a good example of the sort of forgettable games Sonic inspired in the 90s, Jazz Jackrabbit is the rare example of a Sonic clone being good. Many would even consider Jazz Jackrabbit a classic, and truth be told it is much more of a clone than Rocky ever was. Jazz’s world looks and behaves a lot like Sonic’s. You have the same two tone checkerboard pattern on the earth, the same uneven grounds, palm trees, spikes, and even springs that look and function almost identically to Sonic’s. There are even several enemies in the game that act similarly. To top this all off, Jazz is very fast character, and speeding your way through levels can be just as satisfying with this green rabbit as it ever was with a blue hedgehog. One big difference, though is that this rabbit is armed.  

Yes, years before Shadow the Hedgehog was ever a thing, someone decided combing Sonic style gameplay with a gun toting hero was a good idea. And in Jazz’s case, it actually worked, and was a necessary gameplay addition since Jazz can’t roll into a ball or spindash his enemies.  The run and gun elements proved a natural fit, and the catchy music and smooth animations made the game a hit with PC gamers looking for their very own Sonic stand in. Interestingly enough, Jazz Jackrabbit was actually created by Cliff Bleszinski and Epic Megagames, who would go on to make, amongst other things, the Gears of War series.

Freedom Planet (Wii U, PC)

Rounding out this list of clones is Freedom Planet, a modern game with very direct ties to the Sonic franchise. Freedom Planet shares a general aesthetic with Sonic that hearkens back to the 16-bit heyday of platformers, and many staple gimmicks from the venerated series, from loops to swinging platforms to springs, can be found in this newer title. This it to be expected, though, as Freedom Planet actually began it’s life as a Sonic fan game. This is evident in the gameplay, character design, and even the style of music found in the title. That is not too sat that Freedom Planet doesn’t have a few tricks of it’s own, though.

While the DNA of Sonic is more than evident in this title, the game’s playable characters (including the main heroine, Lilac), have quite a bit more variety in their move sets then Sonic and friends did back in the Genesis games. That is because these characters have a dedicated attack button that can be combined with other button presses to do a variety of attacks. There is also no spin dash, but there is a “dash” button that sprints your character in various directions. The game also includes many modern gaming attributes, such as full voice acting, that the classic Sonic games were never able to take advantage of.

The Legacy of Sonic

Sonic the Hedgehog, and it’s many sequels, are the quintessential mascot platformers. An entire slew of games, most notably in the 90’s, owe their existence to the franchise. The lasting effect of the series, however, is not as great. 2D platformers have become a much more niche genre, and animal mascots have largely faded away. Truth be told, Sonic is one of the only holdovers from that era. Perhaps it speaks to how much he embodied the genre, however, as he might be the only animal mascot we really need.


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  1. Some More Info about Jazz Jackrabbit.. It got a few releases with add-ons and a sequel with it’s own add-on editions. And a GBA game that doesn’t feel right.

    OK, Jazz 1 got Several versions. Most of them added the Shareware demo levels to the actual game. I’ll will say Jazz got a pile of Share Demo games each with new levels, which included two sets of Christmas themed ones.

    Jazz 2 added Spaz, who controlled differently to Jazz, and as it was produced later, it runs in Windows. With multiple Charcters, a multiplayer mode was added, with Local Split screen support. It got a demo, and it’s own add-on/exhanced versions. In addition to new levels, the Jazz 2 Secret Levels added Lori, which borrowed skills from both Jazz and Spaz.

    Finally Jazz GBA, after digging it wasn’t made by Epic but was Licensed out to another developer, and it feels like it was baiscly a reworked game try to fit Jazz.

  2. Very cool read, I like reading about this kind of things.

    I didn’t know Sonic, Crash and Donkey Kong had a son……. (However, Rocky Rodent was made before Crash)

  3. Jazz Jackrabbit and Freedom Planet are a definite recommend to any out there who wants to play them. Although one is quite more elusive.

  4. I’ve seen Rocky Rodent before. I’ve never played it, but seen it through Game Center CX as Arino Kacho challenged it. Honestly, I didn’t like the character. It wasn’t like the box art. He was freaky…like a psychopath. But rather than being simply a Sonic clone, its almost like a combination of Sonic and Mario in gameplay.

    Freedom Planet…I’ve heard of it too, but never played because I’m not a fan of indie games. In the beginning, I thought it was a Sonic ripoff because several movements were similar to Sonic’s. Today, I don’t know if I have changed my views, as it may be okay somehow.

    But I could agree many animal mascots are disappearing now these days. Even Japan is more interested in human characters than animal characters (in erotic meaning I must say), which is why Sonic never appeared in Project X Zone series. Possibly because many view furry characters a children’s mascot and believes those will never succeed in the gaming industry. Of course I don’t believe in that. Nintendo keeps bringing in those characters and they’re still popular in many ways. Its just people view things in a wrong way without understanding anything.

  5. Am I alone in thinking that there’s something strangely unsettling in the boxart for Rocky Rodent? I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or more aptly put, a game by its boxart), but even if I has an SNES as a kid, I probably wouldn’t have picked that up. Jazz Jackrabbit does sound like the type of platformer I would enjoy, I might end up looking into that one later. I hope I don’t have to tell people here why Freedom Planet is a great game, but in case anyone here hasn’t played it; if you ever liked a classic Sonic game, Freedom Planet is that and more.

    1. No, you’re not. Granted, I think Lilac’s poses in Freedom Planet’s splash art here and when starting the game on Wii U could be a bit more… Conservative? If that’s how I could phrase it?

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