New Content Approaching: Big the Cat

New Content Approaching: Big the Cat

Since this article’s title, as well as my last article, reveal this month’s topic, let’s quickly thank everyone who helped me write it:

  • Wolfman_J who, despite feeling ethically uncomfortable reading a Big article, offered edits and commentary.

So, friends, something’s biting! It’s…

Big’s profile on Sonic Channel (Image: SEGA)
Big’s profile on Sonic Channel (Image: SEGA)

Big the Cat! He first graced Sonic’s world in 1998.

Sonic the Hedgehog suffered through a period of aimlessness following the release of Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, as Sonic Team pursued other projects while SEGA’s western branches struggled to keep their mascot afloat. However, Sonic Team soon returned to their namesake character and begun brainstorming a comeback for the blue icon.

And a fat cat who spent his time livin’ in paradise was going to accompany him.

Big the Cat’s History

While Sonic Adventure maintained continuity with the four prior mainline titles, it also established a new tone and direction for the brand, one based more on the “edgy” and faux-extreme attitudes of the late nineties and early aughts. Reflecting this, returning characters were redesigned, with some receiving fairly miniscule tweaks whereas others saw more drastic makeovers. New faces were also introduced to help flesh out Sonic’s world, two of whom assumed playable roles in Adventure’s story.

Our first look at Big the Cat. It was clear the fisherman was appending some diversity to Sonic’s cast. (Image: SEGA)
Our first look at Big the Cat. It was clear the fisherman was appending some diversity to Sonic’s cast. (Image: SEGA)

Big the Cat was one of those newcomers. Naoto Oshima (perhaps facetiously) accredited Big’s creation to Yuji Uekawa, and while Big’s design was toyed with during Adventure’s development, all of its iterations carry his identifiable shape.

An easygoing, peaceful creature, Big spent his days with his best bud, Froggy. The duo bunked together in their humble cottage nestled in the Mystic Ruins, although their ordinary routine was disrupted when Froggy inexplicably grew a tail. Upon witnessing his muddled friend run away with his Chaos Emerald, Big slowly followed in pursuit.

Since Adventure was the series’ first proper 3D installment, it functioned as a proving ground for reinterpreting Sonic while establishing potential new linchpins. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and fellow greenhorn E-102 Gamma represented differing gameplay styles and mechanics, yet they all retained varying degrees of the decorum one expects of a Sonic title. Conversely, fishing up the mutated amphibian was Big’s objective. Heretofore, this type of gameplay was unheard of for this series, and it failed to resonate with players.

Regardless, Sonic Adventure was a hit. And since it was such a pivotal title, it was used as a reference point for both of Sonic’s then-ongoing printed publications, Sonic the Comic and Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog. In the latter continuity, our feline friend eventually joined the Freedom Fighters, sharing sage-like wisdom whilst maintaining a levelheaded demeanor. Years later, Adventure’s story was adapted once more, this time by the bland Sonic X anime. The cat-and-frog pair appeared periodically throughout the show, notably cameoing in its pilot episode, and they also showed up in Sonic X’s tie-in comic by Archie.

Big reemerged in 2001 for Adventure‘s direct sequel. Removed from the playable lineup, Big was instead relegated to convert cameos throughout Sonic Adventure 2, making quick appearances in every Action Stage. He could also be spotted in cutscenes, infusing levity into the game’s “epic” tale. Finally, Big could be earned for use in the multiplayer mode as an alternate skin for Dr. Eggman.

Tragically, Big was almost completely exorcised from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, the GameCube re-release of the Dreamcast’s swan song. Only a few of his cameos were preserved (although most of them were reinstated in Battle’s 2012 HD re-release), and he was replaced by the Dark Chao Walker, a new entity, for Battle’s otherwise improved multiplayer component. Over a year later, Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut retold Big’s origin (even if his model wasn’t particularly enhanced in the process), introducing him to Sonic’s expanded audience. (This was my formal introduction to his character, and I quickly grew fond of him.)

Upon its announcement, Sonic Heroes was confirmed to host the then-largest roster of any core Sonic title, offering twelve playable characters split into four three-man teams. Big filled the Power Type quota for Team Rose, which was assigned Heroes’ beginner-friendly campaign. Their story began with Amy yearning for her blue knight while Cream wondered where her homicidal pet’s sibling was. Shortly thereafter, the lightweight rabbit gets swept away by a gust of wind, spurring Big – who stumbled onto the scene looking for an absentee Froggy – to catch her. Amy gratefully greets Big (addressing him by his name in spite of them never exchanging names in Adventure), and the entourage embark on their search for their missing persons. Heroes’ initial release occurred in December 2003, but it homed in on computers a year later, bringing with it a batch of cursors to spice up your user interface. This seemingly innocuous bonus is actually quite groundbreaking – it’s the first time Big was rendered in pixels rather than polygons.

Sonic Shuffle, a 2000 mascot-driven party game by genre pioneer Hudson, was the first console spin-off to include Big. 2007’s Sonic and the Secret Rings, a canon side-story, saw Sonic getting sucked into Arabian Nights. Big was somehow whisked away too, allowing him to partake in Adventure 2-esque misadventures throughout the fantasy land. (Sadly, only a few passing nods were made to Big in Secret Rings’ sequel, Black Knight.) Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, released in 2010, is the most recent console title to include Big in a playable manner. His motorcycle, the Green Hopper, dutifully carried him across the game, and his enlarged Pollywog Pal happily stampeded their competition once Big initiated his All-Star move. Big later spectated Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’s Ocean View racetrack, owing to how SUMO Digital employees a Big fan.

Big the Cat and Froggy in Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
“Big’s got Froggy! So that’s goodbye gentle giant, and hello trouble!” (Image: SEGA)

In terms of Big’s portable appearances, he aptly starred in Big’s Fishing, one of the LCD games that spawned from SEGA’s partnership with McDonald’s in 2003 and 2004. His next somewhat relevant role in the handheld sector was in BioWare’s Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood for the Nintendo DS. After their reunion at the Mystic Ruins, Big joined Sonic’s team, contributing his immunity to toxic gas. Afterwards, the DS iteration of Sonic Colors hosted a plethora of familiar faces tasking Sonic with assignments, Big included. He remains a recurring face in the Mario & Sonic series, sitting on the sidelines as his friends compete for the gold, and a sticker and trophy modeled after the anthropomorphic cat can respectively be obtained in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Nintendo 3DS. Finally, Big was one of the many characters you could play as in the now-defunct 2015 smartphone title Sonic Runners.

Although Big has reentered SEGA’s radar, fans of Sonic’s lovable co-star were confronted with an unappealing revelation in 2012: Ken Balough, Big aficionado and former Sonic 4 brand manager, relayed how Sonic Team formally retired Big. While it was tragic news to hear, it wasn’t surprising since, missable Easter eggs notwithstanding, Big was absent from 2011’s Sonic Generations. (Curiously, Kyle Hebert, Big’s current voice actor, even recorded dialogue for Generations.) Takashi Iizuka’s reception to the concept of a Big-led title was pleasant to hear, however, and Sonic Team’s overseer might harbor some affection for the cat, even if Shadow remains his most adored talking animal.

Nonetheless, although it may not be Sonic Team-helmed, Big the Cat will soon be thrust into the spotlight! Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3, an upcoming fan game, is set concurrently during Sonic Adventure 2. Using the cameos Big made as a basis, Adventure 3’s story will finally explain his permeance throughout the Dreamcast title. Matt Mannheimer joined us during our SourceFest 2017 celebration, and he kindly discussed the big project he’s collaborating on. Additionally, while it’s “no longer in any way indicative of the final game,” a trial version launched on April 1, 2016. SEGA endorsed it on Twitter, and it’s still available.

Until Big’s anticipated headlining role, fans of the portly mammal can enjoy his inclusion in LEGO Dimensions. Purchasing the “Sonic Dimensions” expansion nets you a campaign starring Sonic and his posse. Players can also receive missions from Sonic’s friends, with Big’s challenge, “Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 4,” presenting a predictable premise centered around a green frog.

Finally, if you’d like to listen to two of Big’s voice actors, Jon St. John and Hebert, have fun in commemoration of the character they’ve loaned their talents to, you should check out the “Battle of the Bigs.”

So, what’re my thoughts on Big?

Sonic characters tend to be bluntly named after one of their dominant traits. Nevertheless, Sonic’s titular speed not only characterizes him, it also characterizes his brand and people’s expectations for its gameplay.

Our friend Zebei recently began playing through the Sonic series with minimal exposure to it beforehand, meaning he wasn’t encumbered with preconceived notions regarding Sonic’s mechanics nor was he influenced by nostalgia. In his experience, Big provided Adventure with its “strangest story,” asserting how “it isn’t good.” Zebei is not alone in his dissatisfaction with Big’s corresponding gameplay, and it’s an opinion I happen to share. (That said, Sonic Team at least kindly situated Froggy near the beginning in most of Big’s stages, so you can finish them quickly if you want.)

Sonic the Hedgehog at Emerald Coast in Sonic Adventure
Sonic’s mobility largely defines his franchise. (Image: SEGA)

However, while he hasn’t appealed mechanically in Adventure or Heroes, I respect how the cat added something fresh to Sonic’s roster. Yes, fishing is incongruous and it didn’t stick, but there was a vacancy for a relaxing stroll to exist alongside Adventure‘s other five, more hectic stories. Sonic Retro’s defense of Big’s campaign incidentally shares this stance.

Do you recall how Metal Sonic’s silent demeanor is a contrast to his peers? Big, likewise, operates as a counterpoint to his series’ norms. Sonic supplies fast-paced thrills, Big doesn’t. This seeped into his personality, with Big’s tranquil, dimmer vibe serving as a foil to his more excitable colleagues. Big’s design is, of course, the antithesis of his slender co-stars. Really, his entire existence is an anomaly.

Sonic Adventure 2 and Secret Rings delineate an entertaining way to keep Big visible; his stray cameos were not only amusing, they were also entirely optional and harmless. If Sonic Team were to keep him around in this capacity going forward, even those who dislike Big shouldn’t be irritated.

Big the Cat in Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Trivia: Sonic Team circa early 2011 regarded Chronicles as non-canon. (Image: SEGA)

So, let’s close by discussing Big’s brainpower and how it was portrayed in one of the few titles I’ve mentioned yet haven’t played: Sonic Chronicles. I realize this might be unfair given my limited exposure to the game, but these quotes give the impression BioWare exaggerated Big’s unintelligence for “comedic” effect. Perhaps the chemicals emitted by the Marauders inadvertently crippled the purple cat’s gray matter? Moreover, although Big was one of the few heroes immune to Voxai mind control, it’s implied his simplicity was the reason.

Thing is, while Big was previously written as a plodding character, he was never outright dumb. He successfully piloted Tails’ Tornado 2 biplane in the climax of his Adventure saga, he’s dependable during a crisis, and, between him and Froggy, it’s presumably Big who scrounges for food and supplies. On the plus side, I suppose BioWare maintained Big’s commitment to his friends, which was consistently one of his most admirable traits.

Big the Cat’s a loyal guy and I hope he sticks around. He’s endearing, kindhearted, and there’s no one else on Sonic’s world like him.

Congratulations, Big! Now you’ve got nothing to worry you!

Big the Cat and Froggy in Sonic Adventure
Weighing 616 pounds, Big’s the heaviest organic individual to ever attain a playable role in the Sonic series. (Image: SEGA)

Occasionally I’m unsure who to prioritize on my massive to-do list. But, after some deep soul searching, I decided to write about both characters who currently sit on top of it. Regardless of which piece is finished first, we’re going to be treading familiar territory again.

However, if I had to guess which article will be completed first, I’m betting it’s the one that’ll be excellent!

Dr. Eggman in Sonic Adventure
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2 comments

  1. While Big was actually a first cat character before Blaze came by, he was such an awkward character to me when I first saw him in the game. Among many characters who are mainly focused on action concept, Big was the only character to focus upon fishing. I know Sega had a fishing arcade game long time ago as this may be some reference, but his mechanic and story entirely was something that didn’t seem to fit in right. The main Sonic quartets were okay as usual while I really loved Gamma’s story as his ending was a real tear breaker, Big’s story and gameplay seemed to go off the track as it seemed meaningless. But even then, I think Sega and Sonic Team needed a joke character, which Big’s appearance was the key to that part. Even his first debut in Sonic Adventure wasn’t impressive, I did like his personality as a whole.

    Although he didn’t return as a playable character, it was good to see him appearing throughout the background in Sonic Adventure 2. Not just only through stages, but in cutscenes as well. I forgot which button was it, but pressing the button many times during the first Hero side cutscene allows Big to show up from the helicopter, and I laughed a lot when I saw that. It was sad that he was removed in the Gamecube port, but it was also good to see him return as playable in Sonic Heroes as the Power side of Team Rose, which he proves that he can do many other things than just fishing.

    For Sonic Chronicles…I must be honest with this game. Although I’ve been wishing for a Sonic RPG, Chronicles wasn’t the game I was looking for. The map looked too awfully drawn along with terribly made graphics and horribly made sound and music. The story wasn’t that bad, as Shade the Echidna was the interesting new character to see, but even then it wasn’t really fascinating and impressive entirely. I could say Bioware never knew anything about Sonic, as they may have mistakenly believing that the Archie Comics were video game canon (which I do sense the Marauders were just Dark Legion rip-offs). Even the character’s personality and description weren’t the same as the original, even treating Big similar to Boom Knuckles did felt like a big no-no (and seriously, Knuckles isn’t a dumbass in the originals). Big wouldn’t be doing things like he did in Heroes if he was meant to be dumb, even piloting the Tornado 2 back in SA1. So Bioware should’ve been so shameful that they never focused upon researching deeply to the series and making things up that isn’t true. But well…at least it’s good that the game turned out being non-canon and dead at the same time since there ain’t gonna be any sequel to that game with an ugly ending in the Sonic history (but I’ll miss Shade as we’ve lost one interesting female character).

    Big’s first debut in the Archie Comics was another awkward moment of how he was filled with determination when he realized Froggy was captured by Gamma, but after he left in the end of SA1 saga, it was good to see him again and joined the Freedom Fighters, while he was on the Team Freedom side alongside Rotor, Cream, and Heavy and Bomb. It was also good to see that he still stayed on the team’s side after the second crossover comic with Mega Man, thus the comic later ended due to cancellation. Also, did you know there was this manga called “Chousoku Sonic” which was released in Coro Coro Comics? Although he didn’t show up in the manga, he did at least made a small cameo appearance in the back cover of Volume 2, alongside with other non-appeared characters like Cream and Metal Sonic. Also, it was good to see him making an appearance in Lego Dimensions too, which his appearance was a surprising moment.

    While he can hardly see now these days, I’m glad Sega still cares about him as he’s making cameo appearances throughout the series as an important joke character. And do wish Sega to continue bringing him in some form, whether that’ll being playable or not.

    Next is everybody’s favorite egg genius who have already conquered 99% of the world…wonder what you’re gonna bring him to this article? And since I’m enjoying reading these articles, I’m hoping you could continue making these if you still have more ideas who you’ll introduce. Maybe Cut Man can be an interesting one? (lol)

    1. Hey, friend! I don’t think Big was intended to be a joke character per se, though he definitely stood out in Sonic Adventure’s roster and his cameos in Adventure 2 and Secret Rings were pretty humorous. I’d love it if Forces did something similar. And I like Big’s personality too.

      Regarding Adventure 2’s opening cinematic, I wholly agree, I laughed too. In fact, I used a GIF of it when I teased this article’s impending release on Twitter. (I briefly considered using a GIF of Big running alongside Sonic in City Escape, but the GUN helicopter was too good not to go for.)

      Sonic Chronicles, based on what I’ve heard from you and others, isn’t too hot. I do plan to play it eventually, since Knuckles and the history behind his tribe is one of my favorite aspects of Sonic lore. But, while I don’t want to criticize BioWare’s work prematurely, I’m going in with low expectations. I’ve generally heard positive things about Shade, however, so hopefully she’ll be a bright spot! That said, I know how bad its OST is, and I agree Boom’s Knuckles isn’t funny. Seeing you compare BioWare’s Big to him is discouraging…

      While Kevin Eva (also known as ArchangelUK, the former SEGA employee in question) did note in his posts that Sonic Team could change their stance on any game at any time, I feel safe Chronicles will never get integrated into the canon. Chronicles is so unimportant that SEGA never bothered to finish its story, and seeing the continuity end with that obnoxious cliffhanger would be in rather poor taste. (That said, I suppose one could sort Chronicles just before Unleashed if they absolutely have to include it in the current canon.)

      Big’s characterization in the Archie comics, on the other hand, seemed much better. Shame about how the series was canned. And while I have heard about Dash & Spin Chousoku Sonic, I didn’t know Big and Metal Sonic got to make a cameo! That’s cool, even if it was only on a back cover.

      I was pleasantly surprised with Big’s role in Dimensions too, and I hope he keeps making his sporadic appearances. I’m glad you’re rooting for Big. You have fine taste, sir!

      Also, I hope I didn’t get your hopes up, but Dr. Eggman is not the focus of the next installment, though he is pivotal to the character’s creation. Eggman’s even the first thing he saw upon being born.

      Anyway, I’m glad you’re enjoying this series, and don’t worry – it will continue to be a monthly, bi-monthly pillar in Source Gaming’s output. I have a whole list of characters and locations I’d like to cover, so the well isn’t running dry! Also, I should add that I’m not super literate with Mega Man beyond a working knowledge of the classic series, and no Mega Man character currently rests on the list. Sorry!

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